Monday, November 2, 2015

All About Magnum Thrax and the Amusement Park of Doom

David Manning is the imaginary reviewer one of the movie studios invented.
Oddly enough, he loved all their pictures. Those of other studios… not so much.
Now Mr. Imaginary works for me.

I thought I'd write a bit about my ebook: Magnum Thrax and the Amusement Park of Doom. From the title alone you know it's going to have plenty of tongue-in-cheek kick-ass. It's pulp sci-fi, not The Road. No dreary, down to earth post-apocalypse where people survive by eating overturned turtles or ground cockroach jelly bars. I hate those. The jelly bars, I mean.

This is wild, crazy and three-eyed post-apocalypse. Man's technology ran out of control just as we reached apotheosis and turned the planet into a roiling, chaotic sea of magical possibility.



I read a few books on the topic (instant expert!), and it's fascinating stuff, as far as my simian brain can comprehend. It was designed to help me live in trees and figure out how to open nuts, so what do you expect? Anyway. If things work out the way fellows like Drexler believe, we'll realize Arthur C. Clarke's maxim:

"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."

By controlling clouds of nanites, we'll be able to levitate objects, even fly. We'll have 'Force' powers. We'll construct materials from the atomic level up, and enhance ourselves in all sorts of astonishing ways. Telomeres can be repaired indefinitely, making us effectively immortal. We'll regenerate damaged tissues thanks to medibots.

This is all theory right now. How much will work out, I have no idea. Probably not a lot. But to swim in the possibilities is very exciting. That's what I incorporated into the book: the wildest, most outlandish, inspiring possibilities. Gone crazy. Because fun!

I'll be posting chapters here over the next few months, starting next week.

For free.

You know what they say: the only thing that sells worse than sci-fi is humour. So I did a sci-fi satire. Way to stick to The Man, Eugene!

That'll teach success a lesson.


I remember talking to a programmer about the internet a few years ago. It's an amazing technological achievement, one that links together people from all over the world. Millions and millions of pages worth of knowledge at our finger tips. Originally a product of the cold war and meant to facilitate communication and cooperation between scientists, it has become both so much more, and so much less. The programmer sited a song, "The Internet is for Porn."

That our greatest inventions become tools to satisfy our basest desires is very funny and was one of the underlying themes of the book.

The last bastion of civilization is a former sex emporium slash pleasure android factory: Pleasurepit Five (see Slaughterhouse Five). An underground bunker facility for zoning reasons, built by a paranoid trillionaire, it alone survived the apocalypse.

What was the great disaster? States and terrorists and nihilists unleashing god-like forces against each other. The system could not withstand the onslaught and dissolved. It was a tipping point. Order and calcification were swept away.

So we're left with a former sex emporium. What is ostensibly the worst, filthiest, most debased product of modern culture is the only thing left, and the only thing that can rebuilt it.

You'll probably have run across alarmed articles about the inevitable rise of sex robots. Well, they're behind the curve, because Magnum Thrax has it already covered. In the future, inhabitants of the emporium all want the enhanced artificial rather than the imperfect real of genetically damaged humans. Medibots can only do so much.

So our primal nature makes us want what isn't, which leads to not being.

That's funny.

We like fruits, right? They're sweet. We like sweetness so much we've spent millions on R & D devising sugary drinks, sugar packed snacks, pure sugar cereals, and banana split sundaes, all to increase our sugar hit. And it makes us sick and fat. 

Sexbots are to people what ice cream sundaes are to strawberries.

Buzz went to infinity and beyond. This book? To the extreme!


Nuclear war (and more) devastated the planet, but it was already too late for Nihilists: nanotech had escaped and embedded itself in organisms all over the planet, making life even more resilient. Nothing that lives now can survive without medibot symbiots repairing tissues constantly. Gene splicing and rogue programs that upgrade creatures went amok, cross-pollinating DNA to make animals more likely to survive.

The planet is populated by all sorts of creatures that couldn't exist today, supported and enabled by nanites. Respirovores deliver more oxygen into deep tissues, allowing them to achieve greater size. Artificial support systems enhance the strength of their bones and tissues. Powerful legacy ad memes infect their brains. Genetically engineered living products, branded with motion tattoos, roam the landscapes. Clouds structured by nanites into floating advertisements persist in the sky, a thousand years after the last product was sold.

A few lucky people, technowitches and warlocks, can control nanites thanks to command nodes passed down through the generations (matrilineally), embedded in their brain cells and recognized by the nanites. It gives them powers akin to those of wizards from fantasy and myth: they can excite molecules, move matter, control technology, fly, etc. They're like the telepaths from the Chrysalids, a new and superior form of life.

And of course, before the fall of civilization, humans brought back dinosaurs. For frivolous reasons, naturally. They also unwisely created living versions of 'mythical' creatures. For amusement parks, of course.

What could go wrong? 

Magic isn't real. But science-fantasy is.

It's a bit like a more adult (but no less silly) version of Thundarr the Barbarian (I interview one of the writers of the show here). In that old cartoon, the post-apocalyptic future featured wild mutant creatures, super-science and magic. That's right. Magic. Deliberately, specifically magic. There were wizards. Here, there's no magic, just technology. But the best description for nanotech is magic.

So that's why they're called warlocks and witches. The future meets mythology.

Another one of my wildly ineffective banner ads. My advice?
Don't bother with banner ads. Or do better ones.


If you've ever read Michael Chrichton, you know our downfall will be due to an amusement park, not a dirty telephone. That will be my next book: The Dirty Telephone of Doom, an apocalyptic tale about the cost of poor hygiene.

There are some references in the book to Michael Chrichton, who suffered from a fear of entertainment parks. Delectamentophobia? Whatever. He created not just Jurassic Park but the original killer amusement resort, Westworld.  In fact, Drug of Choice (written under a pseudonym) features a vacation resort that's just a drug fueled illusion. The book reads like a screenplay fleshed out into a novel: the description is sparse and utilitarian. The high-concept and plot are the stars.

Astonishingly few seem to remember Westworld, despite it being a seminal film. It inspired aspects of James Cameron's Terminator. In addition to writing the script, Westworld was Crichton's directorial debut. Produced on a shoestring budget (although you wouldn't know it from looking at it), the project drained Chrichton and he left the lush, Soylent Green fields of sci-fi for several years afterward.

It was nevertheless an impressive accomplishment for such a young writer/director/doctor.

So an amusement parks just had to be the threat.



Or sexbots or whatever term you prefer. These were militarized in the aftermath of the disaster, reprogrammed for combat as best as the desperate coders were capable. They armed sexy-warrior archetype androids with BFGs, and set them to the very real task of defending the installation as everything went bananas outside.

Unacceptable in some circles, foxy space babes have long been a staple of silly sci-fi. They certainly figure highly in the art. Here they are, totally justified by the narrative for the first time in all their preposterous glory, wearing six inch combat heels (Ha! I kill me) and looking stunning while taking down dinosaurs.

I thought that was a funny, satirical take on sexploitation tropes. Mileage may vary.



Magnum Thrax is the lead character, a gruff boy-soldier who can kick-ass but is otherwise clueless. A tactical thinker rather than a strategic one, which gives his brainiac buddy Kal stuff to do in the book. Genetically engineered in secret by his gene-jockey mom, she defied all the rules and spent a decade producing the ultimate off-spring. He's now the most physically perfect human being on the planet. A true superman. Yet not superman. He's not even Thracian. It's complicated.



More than Thrax's match is Mindy, the young witch whose incredible powers he'll need to defeat the amusement park and its obligatory Dark Lord leader. She can manipulate matter, perhaps even reality itself. Ultimately, she's far more super than Thrax is, with the potential to rise to godhood.

But first she must learn to control her powers.


There you go. Won't be for everyone. I guarantee it. But if you like tongue-in-cheek, sci-fi pulp adventure, give it a try.

You just might like it.

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