Best Books of 2014 – Chicago Book Review

Chicago Book ReviewWhile eating breakfast and checking email this morning, I discovered that Upload made Chicago Book Review‘s list of the Best Books of 2014! As I work on my next novel, it’s great to be reminded that people loved my first — very encouraging.

Those of you familiar with Upload may be surprised to see it listed in a 2014 best-of list, since it was first published in late 2012. It’s a self-published novel, and Chicago Book Review didn’t review it until May of this year.
Thanks again to Vicky Albritton for an insightful and well-written review, and to Kelli Christiansen of Chicago Book Review for taking a chance on a self-published sci-fi novel.

First “Dark Flight” of a Meteorite Captured on Film

I know this happened back in 2012, but I’m just now finding out about the Norwegian skydiver who was almost hit by a falling meteorite, and managed to capture it on video.  This was the first “dark flight” of a meteorite ever filmed, the “dark flight” being the portion of a meteorite’s descent to Earth that occurs after it has burnt out.  At this point, it just looks like any other falling rock… except, really fast.

Skydiver Nearly Struck By Meteorite

Wondering what the connection is to Upload?  Totally reminds me of the meteorites falling around Raymond.

Great Review From Author R.S. Carter

“WOW. I LOVED this book… Upload would be a premium selection for any scifi book club.”

This made my day.  Science-fiction book club readers, take note. 🙂

“I’ve read a number of reviews from people who loved the story and the science-fiction, but hated the protagonist. I LOVED Raymond! Sure, he had his character flaws (and some are very dark), but that what makes him such a perfect character for this story.”

And this made my week!  I really put a lot into writing Raymond, and I knew I was risking disappointment among readers who want a main character who’s likeable and easy to root for.  Reading Carter’s review, I got quite a rush: Raymond finally has a reviewer who loved him as a character, and who’s willing to champion him.  What a joy.

For the entire review, head over to Goodreads.

Short Story in Communications of the ACM

062113_CACMpg112_Where-the-Cross1.large For those of you CS geeks with ACM memberships… check out my short sci-fi story, “Where the Cross-Platform Bends”, in the July issue of Communications of the ACM.

I’m a software developer “by day”. It seems awfully appropriate that my first short story accepted for publication is in a computer-science journal. It has a couple of elements in common with my novel, Upload. And if you’re not familiar with that, you can find out more right here on — see the About the Book section.

Doing My Part For National Flash-Fiction Day

Fans of super-short stories, today (6/22) is National Flash-Fiction Day, and I’m pleased to be playing my own little part. My story, “Lending a Hand”, is up on the FlashFlood journal blog. They’ll be posting stories throughout the day, so keep checking back to read new material.

“Lending a Hand” is a surrealistic story inspired by the work of one of my favorite authors, Barry Yourgrau.

Heroes and Villains Blog Hop


Welcome to Stop #19 on the Heroes and Villains Blog Hop.  I’m delighted to join other speculative-fiction authors in writing on the topic of heroes & villains.  Read below to find out how you can win a signed copy of my science-fiction novel, Upload.

Discovering Your Hero Is An Anti-Hero

Upload is a near-future science-fiction novel, about the first person to attempt to upload his consciousness into a computer.  The story is set in the 2060s, at a time when researchers have successfully uploaded animals and are on the verge of being able to upload humans.  Raymond Quan, the main character, is a software developer on the Human Mind Upload Project, a team on the cutting edge of upload research.  A young man with a troubled past, Raymond has a brilliant scheme to escape the hacker crimes of his youth and start a new life.  He thinks he can upload himself, make it look like it failed, and whisk himself away to digital utopia, to live out the remainder of his now-immortal life in a virtual world he’s been working on since he was a boy.

I believe the best heroes of fiction, speculative or not, come complete with weaknesses and flaws — room for growth, a chance to become something more.  Ideally, we relate to the hero, and in the hero’s development we see a chance to become better people ourselves.  When I set out to write Upload, I wanted to write a thrilling science-fiction story, but I also wanted to delve deep into the psychology of the protagonist — to create a work of speculative fiction that feels richly human and easy to relate to.  I gave Raymond a difficult and mostly loveless childhood, and a me-versus-the-world attitude to match.  He’s a fiercely, almost pathologically independent introvert, driven to prove himself and rise above.  To some degree, I drew on elements of my own personality, but I then cranked the dials, making Raymond a socially awkward twenty-something with important aspects of self that lie untouched, unexplored… waiting for the right woman to lay them bare and give Raymond a chance to grow through self-discovery.

I knew I wasn’t creating a hero everyone would love, but I expected readers to feel compassion for his anti-social, essentially selfish philosophy, given his difficult childhood and starvation for friendship and love.  Who hasn’t wanted to get away from the harsh world at some point — to blame “people” for their problems, turn their backs on it all, and disappear into a world of fantasy?

Most readers do feel for Raymond, but it came as a surprise to me when one early reviewer labeled him an anti-hero.  Since then, a few more readers have mentioned they had a hard time getting into the story because they simply didn’t like Raymond.  One reviewer, who actually give the book a very good rating, went so far as to describe him as a “horrible person”.

Did I go too far?  Did I create a protagonist too “difficult” to connect with?  Most reviews have made me feel like I nailed the personality I was originally going for, a believable character who borders on archetype.  But a few made it clear: for their taste, I’d created a protagonist they just couldn’t root for.

After finishing Native Son, I started reading Goodreads reviews, and I found that a lot of people couldn’t enjoy the book because they disliked Bigger so much. I loved Native Son. It’s a brilliant and touching portrayal of a troubled youth and the societal forces at the root of his damaged psyche. I don’t claim to have created so strong a character in Raymond, but it feels like a useful comparison. In the case of Bigger Thomas, I can see why people might be so turned off that they just can’t enjoy the book; he’s a full-on sociopath.

Raymond is a pretty mild case by comparison.  He has a stilted sense of his place in the world, and a basic lack of feeling for others — but so do a lot of people.  His shortcomings give him the potential to grow in ways I hope readers will relate to.  As virtual reality becomes a bigger part of our everyday lives, I suspect we’ll see more and more people cutting themselves off from what I call “reality prime”, indulging their desires to escape to fantasy worlds and surround themselves with personalities crafted to suit their own inclinations.  The escapist introverts of the world are likely to have more and more freedom to cut themselves off in pursuit of blissful isolation.  I’m certainly a fan of fantasy and flights of imagination; Upload itself is just such an escape.  But it’s my hope that readers of Upload will be inspired to ponder what happens when that’s taken too far — and see in Raymond the mark of a hero: seeing one’s own weaknesses for what they are and working out a way to get past them, engage the real world, and make it a better place.

Enter to Win a Signed Copy of Upload

Upload is a Finalist in Science Fiction for the 2012 ForeWord Reviews Book of the Year Award.  For a chance to win a signed copy, subscribe to my blog and comment below to let me know you were inspired to subscribe by the Heroes and Villains Blog Hop.  The winner will be chosen at random on or shortly after May 7 (I’m traveling in Bali, and I can’t promise I’ll have Internet access on the 7th), and I will post the name of the winner.  If you’d like to include your email address, Twitter account, etc., in your comment, I will also be happy to contact you directly so you don’t miss the announcement.

Blog Hop Participants

Check out other speculative fiction authors participating in the Heroes & Villains Blog Hop:

1 Blatchley Nyki
2 Bolton Martin
3 Brown Debra
4 Chamberlin Adrian
5 Cooley Mike
6 Cox Karin
7 Fay Joanna
8 Forster Peter B
9 Fritsch Ron
10 Griffin Mai
11 Hall Joanne
12 Harrison Jolea M
13 Heath Tinney Sue
14 Konstanine Eleni
15 Lewis K. Scott
16 Lofting Paula
17 Long Liz
18 Lukes Peter
19 McClelland Mark
20 McNally M. Edward
21 Millard Sue
22 Douglas Rhiannon
23 Myrick Ginger
24 Pilling David
25 Powell E M
26 Rendfeld Kim
27 Smith Terry L
28 West Tara
29 Yatsuhashi Keith

Op-Ed Piece on The Huffington Post

HuffPost Science - Brain MappingThe Huffington Post invited me to write an op-ed piece, on the potential union of humans and computers.  Monday, it was the featured blog post on Huffington Post Canada, and yesterday it went live on the Science page of the U.S. edition:

Brain Mapping: Will We Be Ready For Humanity 2.0?

I’m blown away by the positive response it’s receiving!

Op-Ed Piece On Huffington Post Canada

Brain MappingThe Huffington Post invited me to write an op-ed piece, on the potential union of humans and computers.  It was the featured blog post on Huffington Post Canada yesterday, and is expected to be posted on the U.S. site soon:

Brain Mapping: Will We Be Ready For Humanity 2.0?

I’m delighted with the response it’s received so far.  Several great comments — I’m looking forward to replying, but haven’t had time.

Author Mark McClelland Reveals All!

Find out about my childhood habit of “car trips” in the living room, how I use functional poetry to fight my mild addiction to video games, what my personal utopia might look like, and much much more in my second author interview.

Jayme Beddingfield - 340 x 317Thanks so much to Jayme Beddingfield for reaching out and offering to interview me.  I had great fun, and I feel like doing interviews is forcing me to think through my own story — an unexpected benefit of publishing my novel and pursuing.

Jayme Beddingfield: Self-published author of the Emerald City Night Series, comic book devourer, shamelessly obsessed with zombies, and Diet Dr Pepper addict.