My Short Story “The Apprentice” Accepted into the 2023 Anthology “Summer of Speculation”


Promotional art for the “Summer of Speculation” anthology series.

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I just found out that my cyberpunk short story “The Apprentice” has been accepted into the 2023 edition of the Cloaked Press anthology Summer of Speculation. The theme for this year’s anthology is “Sidekicks”. I already had my cyberpunk universe built for another story and decided to create the teacher Chandler and his reluctant apprentice Pin.

In a world run a conglomerate of criminal syndicates, corporations, and the government, protection and justice are only for the wealthy and the connected. Out of that system rose a group of vigilantes dedicated to protecting the most helpless inhabitants of the vast megalopolis.

I have the publisher’s permission to make this announcement, but there’s no cover art, pre-sales link, or anything else ready yet. But to whet your appetite, I’m offering a snippet of my overall story:

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Fugue State

lisa fox


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He didn’t remember how he got here. It was some sort of posh restaurant. He was alone, although there were two menus on the table. An unknown appetizer was sitting in front of him looking particularly vile.

The taste of his soft drink made him want to vomit. He tried to act calm, then realized not only did he not know where he was, he didn’t know who he was.

He started to get up when a fairly attractive young woman approached.

“Hello. I’m Joy, your server. Welcome to your first day at cognitive depression treatment clinic. Shall we begin?”

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Review of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (2022)


Poster art for the film “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”

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Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (2022) obviously would have been a completely different film if Chadwick Boseman hadn’t died. However, it also would have been a very different film if the role of the Black Panther/T’Challa had been recast.

As it was, the movie started with T’Challa’s funeral. Later in the film T’Challa’s and Shuri’s (Letitia Wright) mother Ramonda (Angela Bassett) tragically dies. Shuri has to bear the burden of both their deaths and indeed, the overarching theme of the film is loss, remorse, vengeance, and recovery.


Scene from the film “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”

Add to this the story of how Namor (Tenoch Huerta) lost his mother. In fact there’s a scene toward the end of the film of how both Namor and Shuri each “buried” their mothers. Riri (Dominique Throne) recalls her father’s death as well.

We can only imagine the ultimate resolution for Namor and Rini but we see Shuri’s acted out as she has to decide who it is she will be as the Queen of the Wakanda and the Black Panther.

Overall, the film was satisfying. I can’t say it was on par with the Black Panther (2018) but (and this is going to sound bad) it was much better than I expected.

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The Armies of Ishtar vs. The Jesus Freaks

bunny and eggs

Image found at Mindlovemisery Menagerie’s website. No image attribution listed.

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It was early morning on Easter Sunday in the field behind a local Lutheran church nestled at the edge of the suburbs. Young children, both those who regularly attended, and their friends who just thought it would be so much fun, were scurrying around the trees and bushes looking for colorful eggs with which to fill their baskets. Some were of the poultry type while others were chocolate and filled with yummy caramel.

All seemed well. The air still held a crisp chill but excitement and sweaters kept the cherubs warm. Their parents and grandparents watched from a distance, smiling at this idyllic scene, and anticipating the most Holy Day when they would worship their risen Lord.

Then, from the opposite end of the field, they came, the Armies of Ishtar. Legend had it that over all the Earth, they attacked one church on Easter morning, disgracing the Christian tradition of the Easter Bunny with their much older fertility traditions.

Dressed in hideous, giant bunny costumes, fur burned and unkempt, ears bent, cute bunny teeth replaced with six-inch fangs, and red, bloodshot eyes scanning the scene, they rushed forward. Their cries were ghastly, terrifying the children. But the bunnies were far too fast for the kids to be able to escape.

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Season One Wrap Up Review of Quantum Leap


Promotional image for the television show “Quantum Leap.”

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I won’t lie. What kept me coming back to Quantum Leap each week for the first season was “the mystery.” Who is Janice (or Janis) Calavicci? Why did Ben leap? Eventually that mystery included Who is Leaper X? Why did Ian of the future leap back? What danger is Ben supposed to save Addison from?

But let’s go back to the beginning. I’ll take a selective tour of my previous reviews. It wouldn’t be a very good season review if I didn’t start with my review of the pilot.

Oh, I should say it’s impossible to watch and review this series without delving deeply into the social meaning of the stories involved. Science fiction and time travel are only transport mechanisms for discussing social justice, representation, and inclusivity issues from the perspective of the 2020s.

As the show opens, we are introduced to co-workers and friends including Ben, Addison, the engaged couple, as well as Magic, Jenn, and Ian. Addison is revealed to be the potential first leaper, but the project is years away from human trials.

We see a mysterious woman at the project going over information at a computer terminal and saying, “That can’t be right.” To this day, I’m not sure I know what Janice was talking about, especially if Ben’s leap were already planned and programmed into Ziggy.

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The Fallen

beit shan

PHOTO PROMPT © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

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Mastema watched Tancred’s ascension as Prince of Galilee over Beit She’an with hidden glee. This ancient city of the Hebrews had passed through many hands before falling into those of the Crusaders in the year of their Lord 1099 C.E.

It was well that Tancred did not know the true name or origins of his faithful adviser, because Mastema had his own reasons for coveting the city in the Jezreel Valley. He divined that men in ages to come would find sacred and mystic Egyptian artifacts. There was one he must take that would render him master of the dead.

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Review of Quantum Leap Ep 18 “Judgment Day,” the Season Finale


Scene from the Quantum Leap episode “Judgment Day.”

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As I write this (Tuesday evening, April 4th), I just finished watching Quantum Leap S1 E18 Judgment Day and yes there were “Terminator” references.

I was impressed. The writers pulled out all the stops, and while the episode wasn’t perfect, it was very good, very dramatic, and totally action packed. It was also not what I expected.

As always, Spoiler Alert!

As we saw from last week, Ben first leaps into the future, 2051 to be exact, to the Quantum Leap project which has been destroyed. An aging Ian is alone, waiting for Ben and the snowfall is caused by nuclear winter, suggesting a worldwide nuclear war (so why isn’t the Los Angeles area completely destroyed as in the 1991 film Terminator 2: Judgment Day since it would be a primary target?).

L.A. nuked

Scene from the 1991 film Terminator 2: Judgment Day

Ian said there are very few people left. They are the only survivor of the project, and they were barely able to find someone for Ben to leap into. Question, unless Ian knew exactly when Ben would arrive, how would they know when to have someone stand by? It didn’t sound like they could have known, but they instantly recognized Ben in whoever he leapt into.

In the present, Ian keeps picking up a kind of ghost signature of Ben and keeps losing it. Janice suddenly appears again (as if by magic since the plot once again requires her…otherwise she’s presumably kept in a maintenance closet powered down until needed). Ian says it’s like the accelerator is “confused” and Janice (or Janis) says it’s because it wasn’t designed to send anyone into the future. Also, there’s no visual because “the future.”

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Book Review of “The Case for Cancel Culture” by Ernest Owens

cancel culture cover

© James Pyles

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I don’t normally review books such as Ernest Owens’ The Case for Cancel Culture: How this Democratic Tool Works to Liberate Us All on this blog, but having inadvertently encountered one of the author’s tweets on twitter, I was intrigued.


Screen capture from twitter

Note that general replies are disabled on that tweet, and this from an author who wants to “liberate us all.”

At first, I thought this was a gag. I mean, these are gifs, for crying out loud. But in reviewing his twitter stream, I saw he was absolutely serious. Looking up his official bio gave me a clue as to why:

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Secret Sequel to “Shoot the Devil” Coming Soon

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You may recall that I have a short story in the anthology Shoot the Devil called “Wolf in the Wind”, which by the way, seems to be doing pretty well. It’s got 91% four and five star ratings on Amazon.

There is a sequel coming out soon which I can’t really talk about yet, but it’s the same basic theme set against a completely different background. My story was a lot of fun to write.

However where a number of other stories in the first book were more strictly in the realm of spirituality and the supernatural, mine also included elements of steampunk, if you imagine that, and set in the 1880s in Idaho City, Idaho (which is a real place that exists today).

I’m writing this because ahead of the sequel’s publication, the publisher and we ten authors, are asking for more reviews of the first book.

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Frank and the Plot of the Hypnotizing Slime, Chapter 8

chapter 8

© James Pyles

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In the evil headquarters, Kayden was pacing back and forth near the entrance while Hazel was looking through Leah’s telescope.

“I still can’t see anything. Oh wait.” Hazel focused the lens. “I think I can see them at the edge of town. Why aren’t they going in.”

She waited a few more minutes. “I can’t see Leah anymore but what is that?”

Kayden heard the worry in Hazel’s voice and walked over to her. “What is it?”

“A human girl with a net. She’s got Frank and the others.”

“All of them?”

“I still can’t see Leah.”

“That’s because Leah isn’t there.”

Both Seth and Hazel turned to the entrance and saw Leah crawling in and she really looked mad.

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