Author of the After Terra series, avid blogger, novelist and musician. I am an explorer of science fiction, philosophy, culture, movies, video games, music, really almost anything that strikes my fancy and presents a new and interesting way of looking at the world and the human condition.

            People. Despite the cesspool that our species too often lets itself sink to, people are sometimes astonishingly noble, good, compassionate, empathetic, and kind. Speaking in regard to the life of us common folk especially, there must be at least marginally more good than bad, more honesty than dishonesty, otherwise civilization as we know it would not function. However, the farther I go in life and the more I observe, the more I see that humanity hardly fits neatly within some sort of good versus evil binary. That works fine in basic storytelling, especially tales crafted to delight children and teach them the beginnings of morality. It does not translate to reality.

            Of course there is something of a caveat to this. I believe all humans are occupied of some ratio of what we’ll temporarily call good and evil for simplicity’s sake. Obviously some members of the species are so thoroughly tilted to one side that they might as well be seen as one hundred percent evil, practically speaking. Some people seem to be born literally without the capacity to experience empathy. We all have darkness within us, though. Religious folk, especially the monotheists, recognized this but perverted a simple observation of nature into ideas such as original sin. They perpetuated the notion that humanity was somehow at one point pure, uncorrupted, but became tainted by evil, passing this on genetically such as that now every child is considered a sinner from the moment they’re born, or even conceived depending on who you ask. Clearly this was a metaphor describing humanity’s evolution from pure animal that lacked the ability to perceive the ugliness of what it had to do to survive, to a species with sentience and self-awareness. We weren’t some pure, uncorrupted beings, certainly the opposite, it’s merely that the evolution of our brains reached a tipping point that opened the door to abstract thought. With each succeeding generation or set of generations, we kept opening up more and more brain power to handle more complex ideas and eventually build what we know as civilization, guided by morals, ethics, laws, codes of conduct, all designed to keep our animal natures in check.

            “We can admit that we’re killers,” Captain Kirk said (TOS: “A Taste of Armageddon”), “but we’re not going to kill today. That’s all it takes.” A simple line from a 1960s television show, but how astute it is! Few want to admit it, but we’re all animals. It’s not because of sin. It’s not because we failed some morality test from birth, or are harboring evil spirits. We’re animals, born and raised on a planet that, while beautiful, wondrous, and spectacular in so many ways, is incredibly deadly and treacherous. Nature does not broker favors. It’s not out to get us, but it’s not for us either, it simply exists and we are but one part of it. In order to survive and evolve on a hostile planet, in bodies that can die all so easily and in an exhaustively long list of different ways, our survival instincts had to be hardwired to a fault. We had to learn to be wary of all dangers, and in a development unlike many other animals, we learned to anticipate possible future dangers (this is the beginning of what we now suffer from, namely anxiety). The earliest forms of storytelling were useful methods to warn other humans of what threats lurked out in the unknown, but also what potential wonders might await. There is this general attitude we carry as a species, that somehow these deep-rooted survival instincts are something from our distant past and are no longer relevant. I beg to differ. They permeate everything. We may have executive functions in our brain, what we might call our true inner voice, the voice that is more or less the same one you speak with, that which is meant to represent and encapsulate you as an entire being. This executive, however, is not fully in charge.

            “Alright, it’s instinctive,” Kirk said, in the same aforementioned scene. “But the instinct can be fought. We’re human beings with the blood of a million savage years on our hands, but we can stop it.” That’s what our brain executives do, keep those instincts in check. It doesn’t always work; for examples, I direct you to think about what happens to your rationality when you go from merely hungry to starving, or when you have to go to the toilet so badly that you’re barely holding everything in. You get really cranky, don’t you? In the latter example, social programming might stop us from simply relieving ourselves on the spot, but it’s more than that. It’s survival instinct, wrapped up in a nicer-sounding veneer. We don’t do it, because we’re avoidant of disease and uncleanliness, and also because we don’t want to be seen doing something that makes us less attractive as a potential mate or otherwise someone worthy of inclusion. If we’re not welcome in the club, we’re physiologically wired to feel bad about it, because our chances of surviving and especially reproducing just went down. This is the crux, in my observation, of how humans end up being shitty to each other.

            What do I mean by that? As an example, examine the attitude of those who are bigoted toward gay folk. Aside from likely lacking empathy and an open mind, the haters are operating on survival programming. They lack the capacity to think outside their own genetic conditioning, thus falling back on viewing something they don’t understand or that falls outside their bubble world view as a threat. The parts of their brains designed to react to disease, danger, to existential threats to human survival and propagation, these all get triggered. Someone trapped in this way of thinking will default to categorizing a gay couple as “unclean”—a dangerous attitude that led to a lot of unnecessary death and suffering at the apex of the AIDS crisis, for instance—and as traitors to the species, because they aren’t reproducing more humans and not roleplaying the stereotypical family structure, that might once have been serviceable from an evolutionary standpoint but is now archaic. None of these attitudes are justified or warranted, however I have found it helpful to understand where these ideas come from, as they don’t simply pop into existence from nowhere. It is helpful, in my reckoning, to figure out where the hate in others comes from, the better to tame the darkness in myself. If I can’t pick deconstruct the genesis of hate and harmful bias, I run the risk of allowing my own animal impulses to propagate more hate into the world instead of love.

            Thus, “being excellent to each other” and even its follow up line, “party on, dudes,” ends up having a way deeper connotation aside from being a lighthearted and humorous catchphrase in a goofy comedy from the late twentieth century. It takes real effort to be excellent to other human beings and to ourselves as well. To “party on” is to enjoy life but also live and let live. We tend to be so stupefyingly obsessed with the personal affairs of others that it qualifies as patently absurd. Is the thing the other person is doing hurting you or someone else? Is it doing something to someone too vulnerable to consent? Is it harming the environment? No?  Then kindly fuck off. Sure, everyone is allowed to have an opinion, and I for one do not advocate censorship, however the overwhelming majority of commentary in the world is absolute trash. The internet and its shield of anonymity was handed to an immature species that clearly was not at an appropriate level of social evolution to handle the explosion of technological progress. It has opened up a lot of beautiful possibilities, to be sure, and given voices to a lot of wonderful people and ideas that might otherwise not have had a chance to shine. The internet is also, however, the waste trough of whatever impulsive shit crosses the minds of chuds, the trolls out there.

            It’s easier said than done, but when you see the haters, remember that they’re trapped in their own programming, their own Matrix, that they are avatars of what evolution is leaving behind. While there is some utility in remembering how to tap into survival instincts and skills in a crisis (a healthy example of this would be learning from someone like Les Stroud) and not all notions that happen to fall within what is politically called the conservative hemisphere are without merit, we can and should rise above our animal impulses. We are capable of looking at any given thing with more sophistication than merely figuring out how to kill it, eat it, or fuck it.

            We can admit that we’re animals, but we’re not going to act like animals, today. There doesn’t need to be some divine presence or destiny for us to strive to be better than the mere sum of our genetic programming.


            Of course I must provide a caveat to the title, as this won’t be the final time I will be talking about the franchise ever, hardly that! What it means is that in terms of continuity, this is what I plan to be my final participation in covering, however distantly, any new activity in the Star Trek universe. Though there was a time where I thought, in the right hands, the series had virtually unlimited storytelling potential and need not go away, frankly it is played out, continually crushed under the weight of its own legacy.

            Legacy. There’s a word circling around quite a bit these days, especially in entertainment media. It’s also a buzzword many fans are using in calling for Picard season three showrunner Terry Matalas to make another spinoff series, this one likely to follow the exploits of Captain Seven, now commanding the Enterprise 1701-G (formerly the Titan-A). We’ll forget for a moment that there was already a game called Star Trek: Legacy (a shallow but not too bad experience that tied three generations of heroes into one story). Seven of Nine was one of my favorite characters in Star Trek: Voyager, indeed she was and is an inspiration in my personal life. Of course I like the idea that her character was allowed to shelve her Borg past and reclaim her identity. Of course I think it’s a great idea to see another woman potentially get to sit center seat in another Trek series. I like that she was at least mostly brought back from her abysmal treatment in Picard seasons one and two. I also tremendously appreciate that someone with creative pull over at CBS had enough decency to not leave the Enterprise-D rotting on Veridian III, to reunite her with her crew and ultimately receive a proper retirement with her sisters. It was from that place, one of closure, where I was inspired to write this piece.

            Look, it’s no secret whatsoever that I have largely detested virtually every bit of Star Trek produced under the banners of J.J. Abrams and Alex Kurtzman. I’ve written better scenes than either of them one-handed, typing into my phone’s notebook while walking along a country road in a foreign nation while trying to get away from my abusive partner. They can shove their mystery boxes into their black holes because they suck. Maybe they have other talents but producing good scripts is not one of them. Maybe in person they’re nice guys, who knows, I don’t hate them as human beings, but their work is shoddy. Also now, if you are someone who likes one of the Kelvin movies, or Discovery or Lower Decks or any other spinoff, it’s whatevs, I’m not gonna hate you for it, I’m merely going to disagree with you and direct the conversation elsewhere. Unlike the cadre of folk who love to hate new Trek because they are wearing their bigotry barely under their skin (oh you know those types, the ones who think they’re clever by dropping “woke” as an insult, obviously ignorant to its meaning, and cry foul every time they see someone not white, male, and/or straight leading their stories), I’m not interested in fostering animosity or attacking the cast and crew who did the best they could on these shows with the material they were given. The fault lies with the corporate suits, the clueless producers, and everyone else in authority who signed off on the abysmal writing and production direction that completely spat on everything the franchise had built up since the 1960s. As Angry Joe expressed so astutely during his Picard season two review, “we agree with the [progressive] message, but you [the producers of Trek] are making the message look bad!” Regardless of how you feel, one only need look to the drastic overhaul and course correction the Picard series made from seasons two to three as evidence of how far off-track the franchise had gotten, that clearly enough people among the powers-that-be noticed this and admitted through action that some serious work needed doing to win many fans back and get the show feeling at least a bit like bloody Star Trek again. Season three still suffered from too much lingering mystery box mentality, still leaned back on too much banal writing that made all of Starfleet aside from our core heroes look like morons, still relied too much on dark sets and “ooh look how actiony this is” shaky camera work, still refused to divorce itself entirely from the Abrams aesthetic, however it managed to reign everything in just enough to finally treat our legacy characters with some gorram respect. Someone in charge finally remembered that in much of spacefaring science fiction, especially Star Trek, the ships are characters too. Someone remembered how important good music is to cinematic storytelling. Someone at least remembered to pay lip service to exploring the galaxy and seeking out new life, that we may better understand our own. Someone had the decency to end their story with a sense of hope and the possibility of a better tomorrow.

            That, my friends, is where I want to leave Star Trek and where I believe firmly that it ought to stay. Despite all of the attempts at revitalization, the franchise has been spinning its own wheels since Enterprise, utterly unable to escape the weight of its own history or the sheer number of conflicting ideas meddling in the same pie. Trek has always had a problem with internal consistency from jump and that will only ever keep getting worse. Virtually every kind of Trek story has been done and done to death. It never helps that the people running it can’t seem to make even one season of a new show without having to fall back on recycling legacy characters such as Kirk and Spock, and no offense to the actors who are hired, but anyone brought in to play an old character will always feel like parody to me. It’s disrespectful. Of course CBS, like all corpos, is a money hungry machine and will never leave Trek to rest. Capitalism is, after all and among so many other things, the death knell of artistic integrity. If there is profit to be made, good storytelling and a positive message must be sacrificed to the gods of capital. I don’t like it but I’m not naive. Thus, this is where my course is changed to a new direction. In my heart I will always love Star Trek (pre-CBS, mostly), but it’s time to move on. I posit that, like the Enterprise-D, let it rest while it still has some dignity, to be enjoyed by future generations while giving those same children room to tell their stories. Maybe I’m a teensy biased there, since yeah After Terra would be among those stories, but there are hundreds, thousands, millions more stories waiting in the wings, from an endlessly diverse group of human experiences. Or to sum it up another way, using Picard’s final episode as an analogy, instead of diluting an existing legacy further (Enterprise-G? Come on, even back in First Contact the Enterprise naming convention was becoming a gag) why not let the Titan get her own history to build and flourish, nurtured by the children who inherited what the heroes of the twenty-fourth century fought to save. Literally and metaphorically, that would of course mean letting go, regardless of how many dollars were at stake.

            For me, it’s time to let go.

            Computer, end program.

It’s no big secret that my love of and connection to science fiction goes as far back as my memory does. However, recently I’ve had cause to reflect on some specific sections of my childhood history with the genre, moments that were formative but perhaps also in need of some long overdue ownership and adult processing on my part.

The first such occasion that I recalled came from my fourth grade year in public school. The United States Air Force base near my school was sponsoring a contest among students to create a piece to go into a themed exhibit that year, “The Future of Flight.” The cynic in me considers now whether or not this was a veiled, long game scheme to recruit kids into the Air Force, but for the sake of this article we’ll assume the best and say that the folks at the base were hoping to inspire creativity and aerospace innovation in the next generation. All of us students were to make a single drawing or similar piece of art, encapsulating what we envisioned to be in the future for human air or space travel. Naturally, my young, excited, relentlessly creative mind jumped at the chance to take anything with the word “future” and go way out there.

Embarrassingly and hilariously, I came up with a concept sketch for Universe War III, showcasing a variety of vessels in combat somewhere off in deep space. I don’t recall all of the designs utilized, except that the main feature ship, the one I told my teacher was the focus of what I interpreted as the contest theme, had strong resemblance to the Excelsior from Star Trek.

Now, I always loved Star Trek from the first time I was ever exposed to it, and even from an incredibly immature age I believe its idealism and progressive message resonated with me, though it would be years before I could ever articulate as such and why. In all honesty of course, I was also an energetic kid with a massive imagination, and I was easily fascinated by space battles, phaser shootouts, and watching Captain Kirk get into fistfights. I didn’t have the capacity to understand violence, its ramifications, or why it was something to be avoided unless absolutely necessary. As such, it was easy to think anything involving space combat was cool, it seemed as though it went part and parcel with adventures in the future. As someone who also studied history enthusiastically from a young age, I think I as well instinctively picked up on humanity’s predilection for warfare and destruction. Before I was ever mature enough to have elucidated upon it, it simply struck me as a given that humanity would perpetuate and expand its world wars once it reached the stars.

…it shouldn’t take much of a leap to figure out that I didn’t win the competition to have my art featured in the exhibit that year. Going too far into the future and science fiction was probably enough to be an automatic pass for the judges, however I also have a nagging suspicion that some ten year old kid predicting that military hawks would get humans into war against the known universe—more than once—struck a nerve. Or maybe they merely thought I was crazy, who’s to say. Regardless, in hindsight and given what an idealist I’ve turned out to be (yeah yeah, I know, despite my salty outer shell of cynicism), it is a bit facepalm-inducing to ever imagine being in a mental state to think of war as “cool.” The lesson there, I think, is in realizing how incredibly short-sighted, immature, reckless, and childishly impulsive it is to think of real warfare as cool or anything even approaching such. In my reckoning, it speaks volumes about the men—and I am emphatically and explicitly referring to males in this context—who in the past and present have plunged our species and planet into warfare.

Science fiction is cool, but war never is.

To be continued

The Battle of Triton was still hot on the System com-net’s memory. The victorious crew of Unyielding Virtue were meant to be celebrating their victory and subsequent reunion with jubilations and libations, but for them instead there were shots exchanged with bullets rather than liquors.

Jessie didn’t exactly mind though, despite the complaints. By now Matt realized much too well how much danger both excited Jes, and distracted her from her torrential past. As a way to center himself, trapped as he was in the moment behind an improvised barricade and waiting for a chance to shoot back at their assailants, Matt considered how things even got to this point.

When arriving on Logos, fresh from his parents’ funeral, Matt had regained some sense of normalcy. He was back among his friends, back aboard Virtue, the cruiser on which he was now a Captain. Her relaunch had been thought of as an opportunity to finally explore space, to see what truly lay beyond the bounds of his old Crop and the Saturn territory. That notion was out the airlock rather quickly when a scant twenty minutes after launching, a distress call was tightbeamed to Virtue from a man claiming to be Jessie’s uncle.

It was suffice enough to say that any person who dared suggest that they knew anything of Jes from what she called “the before times,” drew both her ire and undivided attention, so out of both placation and curiosity Matt ordered a return to Logos. Once again moored to the furthest-flung human settlement in the known Solar System, the crew set out to meet this would-be uncle, only to wander into the middle of a battle. It was a three way struggle, best Matt had been able to grasp, between two schisms of the Solar Consortium, as well as the criminals fighting on behalf of Logos’s Nexus Lords, the property and business owners who now smelled a rare opportunity to get out from under Corporate control.

A large-caliber bullet struck Matt’s cover, chipping a piece of metal that landed on his scalp. The heat and impact snapped him back to the present. He’d always been one to reflect, but ever since the Battle of Triton and his encounter with the Baron, his reveries had tended to get away from him, to the point of daydreaming his way into danger. His faculties refocused, Matt dared to blindfire his ion cannon over the barricade. The flash-charged particles suppressed the shooters for a moment, and that’s when Jessie took her chance to escalate their self-defense strategy. Leaning out from low cover, she slung a grenade disc, managing to stick it to the top of the enemy’s own barricade. Half a second after it landed, she triggered it, spraying shrapnel in a ninety-degree fan. The explosion and fragments killed both shooters instantly.

“That was excessive,” Matt said as they cautiously approached and surveyed the carnage.

“They wanted to shoot both of us in the head, you sod,” Jes said, while checking the shredded bodies for ammunition. “Fuckers. They were using forties and thirty-eights, no wonder they couldn’t punch through.”

“One day you’ll have to explain how to understand so much about guns and bullets,” was all he could think to say. His disgust at the waste of life was something he didn’t know how to articulate, least of all to her and in that moment.

“One lesson at a time, boytoy,” she said with a wink and a pat on his bum as she walked past.

That statement felt both affirming and embarrassing. With freshly flushed cheeks, he followed her. They’d been pinned at the bottom of a hill on Sublime Street, one of many junction points in Logos’ merchant ring. Like so much of the sector, it was a jarring intersection of new and old architecture, of repurposed ship hulls and contemporary habitation tenements. That so many streets in the ring were built on inclines was a holdover from Logos’ original construction, when it was meant to emulate planetary conditions. Aside from his brief EVAs on Titan and Triton, Matt hadn’t been exposed to natural environments and found Logos’ halfway simulation of them to be highly disorienting.

Now at the top of the hill they’d claimed by force, Matt and Jes looked around for their shipmate who’d ostensibly been trapped there under fire.

“The fuck is he?” Jes fumed as she peaked into an apartment on their left, through a door that had been blasted open. She kept a pistol at the ready while scanning with her free hand.

More leisurely in his approach, Matt split off from her and activated his device as well. His scan didn’t reveal any motion or passive heat signatures… on the horizontal axis, at least. Upon hearing someone drop behind him, Matt realized too late that he’d forgotten to check up high, toward the tenement awnings, before he’d already stepped wide out into the open. Though Jes was on her toes and already had her gun pointed at whoever had dropped down, Matt hadn’t been able to even turn around before feeling a yank on his arm, causing him to drop his ion cannon…


One could pick away at that title and argue, “well Jes, nothing on Terra is infinite.” That is true. However we humans, even those of us who don’t necessarily believe in a literal afterlife, seem to operate on a notion that things will generally last at least as long as we individuals do, if not longer. This goes for possessions in our homes and extends outward, all the way to the largest and most abstract of concepts, such as civilization itself. Or, to put it another way, most folk tend to operate with a general ignorance as to the true fleeting fragility of all things. Human civilization, in its current divided and overtaxed state, is one planetwide disaster away from collapse at most any given time. Even the mighty Sol has a limit and is one day destined to die. So, as many theists tend to posit, if you don’t believe in an afterlife and/or an eternal soul, what reason would any atheist have to assign value to anything in life? To be fair, I’ve come across some atheists who do posit that everything is meaningless, though more often than not, the atheists and agnostic folk I know have simply chosen to find meaning in life on their own merits, without the filter of a god or religion or some divine purpose.

We humans are scared of dying, it’s hardwired into our genes and is part of the survival instinct. It drives almost everything we do. So it’s understandable to a point that as we evolved and our brains could take on more abstract thinking, we started looking for ways to hope that something, anything of us could live on after death. This, I firmly believe, is the genesis of most, if not all, of the belief systems behind the religions we know today. Primitive humanity was desperately trying to explain its own existence, and even more desperately manufactured a hope that we would never fully ever have to know death, the ultimate oblivion.

Why do I refer to this as The Teddy Bear Dilemma? Because this is what I think about when I look at one. Not every time, and not the whole time, mind you, as I would rather appreciate the cuteness versus endlessly (ha) despairing. I think about how, at some point in the future, that teddy bear will be no more, and perhaps there will come a time when the last teddy bear has passed out of existence. There might be a future out there where kids don’t get to know what plushies are. Is that a future I want? No. I merely acknowledge it as a possibility, and it reminds me to have more gratitude for what I have. I don’t intend to have kids, and though ideally my collection of things that I enjoy in my home and what I accomplish in life will be memorialized and appreciated by someone in the next generation, I have no way to guarantee that. But just because there might be an expiration date on my life and what I enjoy, doesn’t make it less meaningful. Louder for those in the back: just because my life and my possessions and what I enjoy will end, doesn’t make them any less meaningful.

Of course there are many things about this universe and its operations we don’t yet understand and may never. There may truly be gods out there, or at least beings that are godly in comparison to us. The universe as we know it could be a compressed packet of data floating on a black star’s event horizon. Perhaps this really is only one dimension out of many and we are unaware of other versions of us living out in a potentially endless array of parallel realities. Who’s to say for sure, given that we haven’t even gained a full understanding of our own planet yet, much less the Solar System.

Why do I call this a dilemma, then, since I seem to be at peace with the aforementioned ideas? Well, there seems to me to be an obligation of sorts to keep the metaphorical teddy bear around for as long as possible. Call it an extension of genetic selection, or survival of the fittest. We want the best of us to be passed on, we should want the next generation to have a better go of things, to avoid the struggles and pitfalls we survived but shouldn’t have had to if only we as a species were better to each other and our world. The dilemma, the difficulty, then, is to not succumb to the sadness and despair at the inevitable loss of the teddy bear, but to ensure that what it represents and offers endures, for as long as it is possible for us humans to make it so. Who knows, perhaps the effort itself is what will in some way echo across time, space, dimensions, or whatever else is out there. I don’t have literal faith in such a thing, but as Spock was once credited to have said by Admiral Kirk, “…there are always possibilities.”


Also known as The Great Gaming Pumpkin!

As I recently moved and am, shall we say, on a tightrope budget, I am unable to have home internet as of this writing. Thus unfortunately I am unable to be scanned in to update my progress on Xbox Live, and this makes any Xbox of mine newer than the 360 almost useless. However, this prompted me to pursue a series of goals that coalesced into one: completing as many of my 360 games as possible, freeing up a nice stack of titles to sell (since some of these games I only see myself enjoying one run through, due to limited replay value); celebrating Halloween and the general creepy season of early Autumn properly for a change; and challenging myself to be creatively active with my gaming updates, in lieu of having any kind of automatic tracker.

That was a highly elaborate way of saying that I am going to be actively blogging again. Sometimes the motivation to write or to do any given creative project can come from unexpected sources. If not having a particular utility at home gets me back on the regular writing stick, hey, I’ll go with it! Thus begins the Great Gaming Pumpkin, and we shall see how many of these Xbox 360 horror or Halloween-themed games I can add to my completion log.

The first noteworthy update in this challenge is my progress toward one hundred percent completion in Dead Space, a fantastic and brilliant science fiction horror game published, by all companies, Electronic Arts, back in 2008. (I’ll be doing a full review of it soon!)Yesterday I finished enough of my new game plus run in Dead Space to earn the Maxed Out achievement, which was a relief as it was the last thing I needed to get out of the way before going on my Impossible difficulty run.

Where horror begins.

Forgive my more guerilla-style photography here, as I had to take a picture of my television in lieu of being able to use a proper screen capture.

As of this morning I made it to mission four on Impossible. I was a little nervous going into this run, for one thing because Dead Space is a legitimately spooky game, even on successive playthroughs. I still feel unnerved after each necromorph encounter. I’m also going for the One Gun achievement at the same time (this means completing the entire game using only the default weapon, the plasma cutter), which has not been as unfair as I expected, indeed, I like how it pushes more of the survival horror aspect into the gameplay, forcing you to make more strategic use of the store. It also makes every missed shot that much more painful, knowing that if you burn through your plasma reserve there is no other weapon to switch to! I had one particularly tense moment where I was down to a single shot in reserve, after narrowly surviving a tentacle encounter. Yes, that is what she said, because I said it, but it was still a vivid experience.

Overall this has not been too bad (I say that now but will probably curse that statement when I get to the bosses), not nearly as painful as my highest difficulty runs on games I finished earlier this year like, say, Stranglehold. I also regret not having invested in the Dead Space franchise sooner; I tried it back in 2008, liked it, but was so ensconced with Halo 3Mass Effect, and Gears of War that it ended up on my perpetual backburner. Better late than never though, and what a great game to be playing and finishing in October. 

More updates on my adventures and more to come soon!

I have written about achievements before, specifically in regard to the Xbox achievement system and how that impacted gaming culture. In summary, after Microsoft introduced the concept as a universal part of their platform beginning with the Xbox 360 launch, most of the industry latched onto the concept and came up with their own equivalents. I don’t think Nintendo has ever quite embraced it fully from my current understanding, but certainly Steam and Sony’s PlayStation platform took the idea and ran with it.

From the time I started playing Xbox 360 games in 2006, I became enamored with the idea of the achievement system. Now, accomplishing milestones in games was something attached to your profile, like your own personal digital trophy room. Other players could see that I completed Gears of War on Insane or that I indeed saved all of the sensor relays in a particularly daunting mission in Star Trek: Legacy. It quickly became a point of pride, as well as adding incentive to try games on harder difficulties and perhaps sample different modes or playstyles that otherwise I might not have considered. That was the ideal goal of the system, I believe, and I recall reading some press from Microsoft or perhaps a developer at the time that reinforced this perspective. There were problems to be sure, and there were a number of games, especially the early sports titles on 360, that were easy to cheese out of their maximum (at the time) value of one thousand gamerscore. Gamers with high scores tended to be respected by default, unless it turned out that their gamercard was padded with silly, easy completions. Still, cheesy or not, a legitimate itch was being scratched, and Microsoft had tapped into a new kind of metagame, or games within a larger game, if you prefer.

Fast forward to 2022. Two console generations later, and achievements are here to stay. I definitely appreciate that the gamercard I created back in 2006 has endured until now, albeit with a name change or two on the way. I like that what I accomplished on the digital frontier over a decade ago is still on display for others, and hasn’t been completely lost to time like many of the feats I accomplished in the 1990s. In the last few years especially, I’ve gone through phases of increased isolation. Obviously in 2020 most of us had such a thing forced on us, but occasionally it is something I’ve done voluntarily, as an introverted need to recuperate and recharge from dealing with the insane world of commercial, extraverted overload that is modern America. Like a good book, an immersive song, or a compelling movie, video games are an art form, a form of storytelling, and a powerful source of escapism. Of course, as is the case with anything in life, too much of something is never for your best interest.

Even without taking into account how the Xbox achievement system has gone a bit off the rails—the rules limiting how much gamerscore a title can be worth are gone, indie shovelware games that used to be worth 0 or at most 200 gamerscore now can get you 1000 or more with no effort, and emphasis has shifted away from rewarding skill and thoroughness to instead becoming a testament to how much money and time you can dedicate to the platform—there is an inherent danger in becoming wrapped up in the metagame. Especially if you’re a stats nerd, it can be easy to be enraptured by numbers of completions, how many tough and rare achievements you can attain, your completion percentage, and even avoiding games altogether that have unobtainable or glitched achievements, even if that game might be quite good regardless. It might be akin to, let’s say in sportsball, you becoming so obsessed with the minutiae of stats and trying to min/max everything like a Dungeons & Dragons munchkin, that you lose sight of why you enjoy the game itself in the first place, or its purpose in your life and our culture. Imagine achieving the ostensibly highest honors in American sportsball, say, winning the Stupor Bowl, I mean, er, Super Bowl, and being honored as league MVP that year, yet being unable to enjoy the accomplishment because the metagame tells you that you already need to prepare for next season and that what you already did will never be good enough.

Now, I’m not going to say that we should ever completely rest on any given laurels. As flawed and limited creatures, we should generally always be trying to improve ourselves and our world, and having dreams and big goals is laudable. It’s how we can flip things from impossible to possible. However we are easily distracted from the journey by becoming fixated on the destination. At least in America, I think this is an extension of heavy judeo-christian influence on Western life, the obsession with the reward of an afterlife that blinds us to the immediate world. It’s not merely religious either, I believe it’s also a capitalist influence, a fixation on a nebulous marker of “success,” that everything hinges upon becoming rich, famous, popular, or somehow noteworthy enough to mention in a history book. We forget how important the journey is, especially when you stop and realize that there never really is a destination at all. Perhaps you can argue that death is a destination, however no one can agree on whether death is final and there is yet to be any tangible proof of anything that may lay beyond it, so that is all conjecture. Regardless, do we ever really reach a true destination? If you get rich, then what? You still have a life to live after that. Say you get famous at age thirty. Well, your life is likely not even half lived by then.

What does that digression have to do with silly Xbox achievements? Simple, really. In my latest big push to complete a bunch of games, some of which I plan to sell because I only see myself completing them once, I had to stop and realize that I’d lost sight of what I really enjoy about gaming. The obsession, indeed, even the potentially addictive allure of buffing my stats blinded me from realizing that it is not possible to achieve the arbitrary and literally impossible goal of one hundred percent completion and best possible ratio of rare to common achievements. I could start a new profile and purposely try to keep things as clean and statistically perfect as possible, but I know I’d feel sick from that and be cheapening my own experience. What would that actually accomplish and for whom? I’d be competing against people far deeper into addiction, who have plenty of cash and time to burn and will buy their ways to the tops of any leaderboards I could aspire to. So no, I forced myself to take a step back and appreciate my journey more than some arbitrary destination. My completion percentage may only be hovering near seventy-two percent as of this writing, but I look back on my list of games with fond memories, and appreciate that at least in some small way, the times I shared with friends and the things I discovered about myself through the stories and characters I experienced in these games, is reflected on my gamercard. I wouldn’t trade that for a “perfect” gamercard. There may sadly come a day where that digital time capsule is no longer there to see, but I will appreciate it while it exists and be grateful it has endured as long as it has.

I have friends, two good ones in particular, who I met through achievement hunting, which is definitely something I feel worth adding to the pro column. Even though we all live geographically distant from one another, there is definitely a certain camaraderie that has developed between us all, especially as we reminisce about our gaming journeys over a nice Halo 3 match or while going for some obscure accolade in a largely dead and forgotten 360 game. There is, turns out, sometimes as much satisfaction in helping someone else achieve their own personal goal as it is to hit your own, and if that isn’t a nice lesson to take and apply to “real” life, I don’t know what is.


This article’s title is a bit flippant, I think, in that it is a gross simplification of life’s current state. However, I felt that I needed to say such a thing because, well, unintentionally, I realized I had strung together a consecutive run of posts that made my life and condition out to be depressing, somewhat nihilistic, and bleak. True, there have been days where I have felt dismal, and there was a spot where I hit as far down to rock bottom as ever with regard to morale. Yet, the truth is that on any given day in between the posts I’ve made this year (which I admit have been too few), life has been at least okay. That’s really the prevailing theme, things have been rather mediocre, with enormous amounts of room to improve yet with a staggering depth to which they have not fallen. It’s hard to feel thankful when stuck somewhere in the shallow pool of “average,” “okay,” or “mediocre,” but to paraphrase Jayne Cobb, it’s not nothing, and that’s something.

I have also been more critical than praising in the few media reviews I’ve done, I realize, as well as anything that counts as social commentary. It’s not with the intention of being a negative bitch, as when I criticize it’s with the intention of protecting something from moving to a dangerous extreme (as with my writings pertaining to the LGBT community), or to challenge a particular piece of art or culture to do better (as in the case of Star Trek as helmed by CBS failing to meet the quality standards of what came before it). However, as with what I mentioned in the first paragraph, I noticed that my trend in commentary has leaned negative (or at least favored the harsher side of constructive criticism). Such things are necessary and have their place but I don’t want that to be the prevailing theme here.

That brings me to what After Terra itself is even about, which is first and foremost my love of science fiction. I wanted to distill everything I loved and thought was critically effective about works such as Star Trek, Firefly, Farscape, Battlestar Galactica, Cowboy Bebop, and Mass Effect, alongside a certain in-universe awareness about the curious human relationship with storytelling. As well, in the original edition of Year 200, it was intended to be an almost silly at times love letter to all things science fiction, while introducing a cast of characters that was largely immature, that was forced to confront something far more refined and aged than they could even comprehend. Among other things, I failed to properly sell that notion, which is one of the many things I set about correcting in the novel’s Illuminated Edition. I wanted to convey an idea along the lines of, “well, okay, what if a ragtag bunch of people who were living in a time capsule of 21st century culture but in space, essentially immature social media Gen Xers in spaceships and stations, were thrown into a space opera adventure?” It’s a way of asking, how would a sampling of the current/up and coming generation handle an epic quest? Do they wilt under the pressure or do they mature and evolve in the face of something far bigger than the lives they thought were important?

That’s a question I find worth asking of myself as my life sits at a weird crossroad.

In the spirit of the aforementioned, I will be going back soon to reviewing more things I love, as well as endeavoring to make my voice more nuanced in how I utilize it.

Until then.


Greetings internet! I have come back to this little site o’ mine after having thrown all of my writing time and effort into the Illuminated Edition of After Terra: Year 200. Not unlike the refit of the original Enterprise in The Motion Picture, this is an almost totally new novel. The basic plot and the characters are unchanged, as I had no intention of pulling a George Lucas, however this is the absolute definitive edition of my first novel and is up to the quality standard the story always deserved.

Check out a copy for yourself either digitally or in print here:

Thank you to all, and now that this project is done I am at last returning to regular blogging. Stay tuned!


I can’t claim to be an expert on Latin, however the title of this post is meant to express, “A Message From Rock Bottom.” I’ll need to elaborate on what I mean by that, before someone decides to jump down my digital throat with how much worse they have it than me. You can stuff that, because, just the same as how there potentially will always be someone better than you at a given thing, there is always the chance that life might be shitting on someone worse than it is for you at that time.

What I mean by rock bottom isn’t necessarily in the material sense, though there are currently some approaching threats to my meager material security. On paper, I’ve been in worse fixes in life. However, speaking of the state of my heart, as in, hope, love, the very notion that life is itself worth living, well, these last few months have been among the most daunting and challenging fragments of time in my existence.

What is the root cause of this hopelessness? Unfortunately it’s not so simple as to have a single point of origin that I can thus throw all of my energy into combatting. It’s a combination of factors: watching the majority of the “free world” become willing to throw away liberty in the blink of an eye in exchange for a false sense of security; seeing so many people I used to call friends, family in all but blood, turn their backs on me over expressing my true self, or me having to see them for what they really are and what they stand for when the chips are down, calling back to the aforementioned overreaction to the unspecified virus of unknown origin; seeing myself, despite having achieved a great liberation with how I get to live in my own body and how I express what is within, still shackled to the same patterns of fear and destruction that have characterized my teenage and adult lives. These, along with some accompanying tertiary factors, contribute to an overwhelming pull towards nihilism and despair. Why should I try to build or achieve anything in a society that is willing to throw away everything that entire generations of humans built at a terrible cost, because they let the media and their “leaders” and “experts” spook them? Why should I try to forge a future and possibly move toward starting a family when our everyday existence is trashing our home planet? Why should I keep trying my hand at love when I constantly fall for those who will never see me the way I see them, or when I consistently brush up with those who only want to use or abuse me? Why, knowing my weaknesses and vulnerabilities, should I keep getting off the ground when I am constantly beat down from doing work I was not meant to do, putting what little energy I do have into the gigantic, number crunching meatgrinder that is big corpo?

Perhaps my leading statement in the previous paragraph was off-base, perhaps there is a single underlying answer to all of those propositions: fear. I have so little patience for the fear I see in others, because it so much a reflection of the fear I hold myself, and because I know how destructively useless, ludicrously toxic, and perniciously defeating fear is. Fear is an animal impulse that has its place. Fear stops us from stepping close to the edge of a cliff, keeps us away from a creature with a venomous bite, curtails us from veering into oncoming traffic. It has utility, but because it is so deeply and firmly hardwired into our survival mechanisms, it unfortunately has been abstracted out into our modern lives. I have spent so much of my life living in constant states of terror, particularly when faced with social situations, anything that involves the risks of being shunned, ostracized, judged, and otherwise deemed unworthy by those whom I so desperately want to associate with. Along with my natural agreeability and submissiveness from my temperament, and my perpetual low energy level (being introverted contributes to this, and constantly being in states of high alert due to fear are mentally, emotionally, and physically exhausting), it’s no wonder that I have ended up as easy prey to users and abusers, whether in my love life, in my peer groups, or in the workplace.

Even as recently as a few months ago, I failed to listen to my instincts and allowed myself to be railroaded into a job I did not want, could not perform, and which only contributed to my ill feelings to an exorbitant degree. Thus did the cycle perpetuate itself again, because I was afraid to stand up for myself, and because I have been afraid to say to hell with work I’m “supposed” to do. While I am a defender of liberty and of free enterprise in principle, the reality is that there is nothing to be grateful for when the majority of the rote, socially acceptable, and on paper “meaningful” jobs involve being a digit on some giant corporation’s spreadsheet, doing inane, thankless, soul-crushing menial tasks in fast food, retail, finance, distribution, and production. Our civilizations and our species have expanded too much, too fast, we allowed technology itself to leapfrog our sociological development, we normalized the profiteering of debt and consumer culture, and one consequence is now the job market is saturated by arbitrary, toxic work. Whoever conceptualized and solidified notions such as “the customer is always right” deserve to be lambasted for fostering emotional and mental abuse of whole generations of humans for the sake of profit.

Ah, but I am digressing. What good is all of this writing, this digital posturing? If here I sit at rock bottom, my life devoid of hope and meaning, how am I supposed to find such things again? If I am aware of the ills that plague me, that have been barriers to me doing more with After Terra and all of my other creations, how do I break the cycle? How is one person supposed to buttress herself against her nation, her civilization, the unnecessary chaos, destruction, and suffering inflicted by those “leading” it, how does she find her footing amidst the mechanisms that determine the success or failure of creators?

I don’t have all of the answers, or even many of them, but I have pontificated enough to resolve upon one: I must eliminate fear from my life and encourage others to do the same. I have to look at it empirically: what good has fear done for me? If it is designed to protect from danger, what danger has it truly shielded me from? If I’m afraid of rejection, judgment, shunning, being misunderstood, how has hunkering down inside my home and just getting by on whatever table scrap jobs this world hands out, protected me from those things? They happen anyway, only slower and more insidiously. Which, funny enough, is an interesting parallel to the viral situation of unknown origin, as all of the incredible, far-reaching, and as yet uncalculated damage caused by measures ostensibly meant to protect people from getting sick and/or dying have only spread the same amount of sickness, misery, and death out over a longer period of time, with the bonus round additions of tremendous damages to general mental health and an increasing fracture of an already hotly divided society. Same net result, only the victims and survivors are left exhausted and strung out from the ordeal, less capable of fighting any new threats that can and will emerge with the passage of time.

So, this forces me to put myself in check over my own bullshit. What point is there in being so fucking afraid? Whatever meager and ill-defined protection I might have gleaned from keeping my nose down and staying quiet has given me, what, exactly? It has provided me a life so far filled mostly with regret, the aforementioned perpetual fear, and I am no less brushing up with rejection and judgment, only perhaps not often in as blatant and obvious ways as a successful person might encounter them. It could possibly even be argued that by being so afraid of such things, and allowing that fear to characterize the way I move through the world, it has morphed into a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy. For have I not so often observed that those who preach of and supposedly warn against doomsday, tend to act in such ways as to bring about that very doomsday? One of my abusive past partners told me that my very fear of losing her was going to push her away… that might be a cruel thing to say to a romantic partner who is confiding their vulnerabilities, yet there is a certain truth to that which I must begrudgingly admit. She might have turned out to be a cheating bitch who was using me to attempt a baby trap, but even broken clocks can sometimes be right.

I first started composing After Terra in earnest in late 2014. Fear was what had kept me from starting that work sooner, and though I had conquered it to an extent, that fear metamorphosized into one that caused me to prematurely push Year 200 out the door in mid-2016 when it absolutely was not ready. Fear has caused me to start/stop so many dips into the creative pool, whether with writing, music, Youtube productions, really anything that involves risk and me putting my heart and soul, if you will, out there into the world. It is a vulnerable, naked thing to do. The internet and its too-soon introduction to an immature species has given rise to a segment of the populace that thinks it’s okay or even cool to shit all over other people and their work because of anonymity, because these new digital mediums allow people to say shit and behave in ways they never would dare try to someone’s face. Also, frankly, sometimes even what might be intended as constructive criticism can be soul-destroying if presented poorly or if it hits you at the wrong place, wrong time. Sometimes even the fairest rejections can feel like a punch in the gut. There are also crazies and stalkers out there, who because of the internet have more tools at their disposal to harass their targets and endanger their lives and livelihoods. Because of these things, it is even easier to be afraid, because it’s not totally unreasonable or irrational to be wary of and on the defensive about putting oneself out there, exposed to the cruelty of the digital public.

But what choice is there, really? Keep this cycle going and be miserable for the rest of my life, or really, truly take a chance on the life of a creator, deal with the risks, and go for a life that actually has at least some hope, meaning, and purpose? Not unlike Neo’s moment with Morpheus and the pills, there isn’t much of a choice there. As Trinity observed, “you’ve been down that road, Neo. You know exactly where it ends, and I know that’s not where you want to be.”

I’m tired of walking to the end of that rainy, lonely road. Shall we escape it together?