A.I. May Write Your Next Favourite Show

Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

The title is more than clickbait. It’s something that I’ve come to believe as an absolute fact. Somewhere in the English-speaking world, probably in California, there is a producer or Workgroup (not writers), working pretty hard. What they’re doing is using an artificial intelligence to invent the concept for a series and then script all the episodes. The content of this article is opinion only. Let’s unpack that title and extrapolate a little further.

Why call the people responsible a Workgroup?

Well, I say a workgroup is doing this because the Writers Guild of America is on strike right now. The workgroup could be called anything that gets around the strike, and is made up of producers, software developers, or any other collective that wouldn’t be considered writers. In my opinion, these people are still scabs, doing work that a writer should be doing. That’s because AI is only a tool that can assist in writing, but still requires a human to prompt it. I concede that this “workgroup” could be only one person, but we’re splitting hairs there.

How does this work?

The person or group who are developing this TV show ask an artificial intelligence several questions about what the most popular, cost-effective, or successful tv show. Next they would most likely select several of the replies that reflect the audience demographics they’re most interested in. Using a cross section of the shows that fit what they want along with other fundamental references such as books on writing for TV, articles and even positive reviews, they would start developing a pilot script. This would take time to tweak, most likely a day or so, but a script would eventually be created.

The rest of the teleplays would be made using similar prompting, revising, re-prompting, and so on until a season is finished. In the example I’m writing out here, no actual writer would be allowed anywhere near this TV show. Why? For the gimmick of it.

The first TV show written by an AI. An upcoming boast.

There’s a race on. Some people want to be the first to make that boast. I’d bet my career on it. There are producers who would love to make a television series using underpaid software developers or AI prompters instead of a writer’s room. Furthermore, hype is critical for the launch of most TV series, and you can always turn heads by claiming that your show is the first to do something or feature just about anything, especially if it’s controversial. At the time of this writing, AI is still a very active topic in the media. Would this succeed? I hope not, but the attention it could bring to a network or streaming service may be worth it to a studio.

The road to terrible (or great) autonomy in entertainment.

Let’s move ahead five years. Say this TV show written by an AI is successful enough to run for a few seasons. Other studios will most likely try it themselves. In this possible future, a percentage of TV will be AI-assisted or generated. Compare it to Reality TV. When it came along a lot of people were worried that it would take over and make scripted TV an afterthought for most networks. That didn’t happen, but there is still plenty of Reality TV around. I predict that the same could happen with AI-authored* TV. A success, a surge, then a period of calming down to normalcy.

Now let’s move on another ten years. At this point we’d start seeing a broad detrimental effect for everyone involved in making television and movie entertainment. Let me explain.

Imagine being able to buy or borrow an AI or software suite that can make a TV show just for you. All you have to do is tell a program about your favourite television shows, movies, share a few personal details, reactions to a set of stimuli (images, sounds, short videos), and then the artificial intelligence will get to work. Let’s use Star Trek as an example. I would complete this program’s five minute calibration program so it could get a sense of my general taste. Then I would tell it to use the original Star Trek series, The Next Generation, DS-Nine, Voyager as its source along with everyone on my social media account. I would tell it to use those shows as a source for a new time travelling adventure show featuring William Riker as the main character for at least half the episodes and friends from my social media streams would appear as minor background characters. That’s a narrow example, but you get the point. I’d definitely earmark myself as that actor who keeps popping up as a red shirt every few episodes.

As the show plays I’d be able to tell the AI what I like and dislike about it while you’re watching or afterwards. It’ll make the required adjustments and you can have as many episodes of your tv show as you like – 70 seasons and a movie? – and even remix favourite episodes into new ones. Imagine a special Lower Decks episode starring you and your friends based on how they behave online. Add the ability to tell the AI what happens next, or to play as an active character in the show using virtual or augmented reality, and you have an experience that is so unique and difficult to compete with that it could replace most of the television and gaming industry. Expand my narrow Star Trek example into a show that uses all your favourite shows, movies, people and things to create something that attempts to resemble nothing you’ve seen before, and you run into real trouble for the industry. The AI may provide such a deep, broad mix of things in a personalized piece of entertainment that it seems completely new. Is it? Well, that’s a question for another day.

Perhaps this is just a new industry and only a big step in entertainment progress. That happens, and it could be great. The problem is that your custom TV show was made without writers, actors, directors, crew, and it would only employ a few software developers. You may argue that this could be a service that requires a subscription, but there will always be a massive group of people who would rather steal the software or develop an off-market version that is free or pirated. It’s possible that this industry could be worth more than any other in the entertainment sphere, but also provide so much free entertainment that all but a few studios go out of business within a few years. There could be a minor revival of ‘artisan entertainment’ that’s made entirely by human hands, but it may never surpass the size of the AI generated entertainment industry that marginalized human work.

The Rise of the Entertainment Designer

Let’s take this one step further. In Earnest Cline’s novel, Ready Player One, users of the Oasis can make their own TV-like channel that features all their favourite classic shows. I believe that something similar may appear. Like a Youtube channel, you may find a place that will feature TV shows, movies, and interactive experiences that are designed by people using AI authoring for everyone to use. The thing that will determine how many subscribers or views these channels get will be taste, style, and momentary alignment with the ideas of the day. Very little effort will be required from these AI manipulation masters or Entertainment Designers to create this content, so the places that feature thier work will be flooded.

Will that be bad? Perhaps writers and directors will find a way to use future AI tools to create compelling content, especially if they can add their own creative material to it. Some writers are trying to do that now, using AI as assistants that can finish their sentences as they write, or remix ideas that they’ve had. I haven’t bothered with it and I doubt I will for years, at least not with my main series, especially since there are major ethical problems with most artificial intelligences when it comes to creative projects. AI’s use the art of thousands of humans to regurgitate something they present as “new,” even when they’re just helping you write a book.

My Current Nightmare

My main series, Spinward Fringe, is over two million words long. Someday someone is going to shove all that into an AI chatbot or writebot (I’d trademark that if I could afford it!) and tell it to write the next book. My work isn’t public domain, so that’s illegal in some places, and may be outlawed more universally soon. Would I be obsolete? No, because everything I’ve done in the Spinward Fringe series doesn’t represent everything I will do with it, and an AI can’t predict everything I’m planning (yet!). I still fear that something like that would put me out of a job, even though I know there would be a few faithful readers left.

Can we derail progress in this direction?

AI is here, and right now you can compare it to fairly basic tools. It’ll get better, and I don’t think there’s a way to stop that. I’m excited about it and looking forward to see what these narrow AI’s can do. I think it’s interesting. We’re going to see a lot of benefits from this technology, so I don’t think stopping the development of AI is possible or particularly wise in general.

Having said that, I believe it’s important to show AI developers where they should and shouldn’t tread. Laws have to be drawn up and intellectual property protection systems have to be updated. How? Well, I’d like to see existing copyrighted works like mine to be protected by default. There are millions of creative people who have rights that assure that they can make a living and create more art for us. There are a lot of things I’m not addressing here, I’m sure, but I’m no legal expert, so I’ll stop there.

Hopefully, the Writer’s Guild of America can negotiate AI out of most of their industry, at least until people have calmed down and realize that AI is only a tool that can be used to help us. Not for regurgitating what has come before in ways that take earnings away from the people who worked on the source material or could produce something better.

If we do this right artificial intelligence can be a real benefit to all of us, whether you’re using it as a personal assistant or to help you do research for your next screenplay. Laws could protect people who are creating something interesting while opening the door for AI to dig into public domain and other content that isn’t critical to someone’s living to make something else. I’d love to see what a future AI comes up with if I ask it to turn A Tale of Two Cities into a musical starring Charlie Chaplan. I don’t know if it would be any good, but it would be interesting and I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be stepping on someone else’s toes.

So, here’s the controversial question: What TV or movie series would you dump into a future AI so you could get more episodes or a derivative?

*AI Authored is a term that’s been coming up more and more recently. It refers to a misunderstood aspect of current AI, that it is being creative. At the moment, all artificial intelligences require a database of material (writing, images, videos, sounds, facts, etc…) to refer to in order to remix, combine or rephrase so it can provide what you’ve requested. Nothing is being created, or put through an authoring proces. It’s a regurgitation styled by the program.

Randolph Lalonde is a Canadian author who has been making a living as a self-published author for fifteen years and has released over thirty novels. He’s best known for the Spinward Fringe Space Opera series and recently released Psycho Electric, a cyberpunk ebook and audiobook that, among other things, examines the intersection of social media and AI on a grand scale.

Behind the Scenes · Spinward Fringe

Samurai Squadron: Writing Minh-Chu

Man jumping between rocks. Overcome a problem, challenge, and hope for a better future. 3D illustration

This was originally released on Patreon during the Samurai Squadron serial. It’s a little piece about what it was like to write from Minh-Chu’s perspective. For the curious ones only, enjoy!

Minh-Chu is a complex character who is much more charming than I am. That’s not really the problem with writing his character though. I can consider what he says for a lot longer than it takes to type it, hours if I have to, so I can try to be Minh-Chu charming.

The biggest problem with writing a character like Minh-Chu is that he’s been a favourite in relatively low doses for many books. I haven’t written from his perspective in about a decade. Coming back to the character means that I have to write what he thinks and how he feels between those quotable moments and weighty conversations. So far I’ve enjoyed putting him at the centre of this book, but it hasn’t been easy.

I”ve been writing him a certain way, as someone who carefully chooses when to speak and how. This is why.

There are three things that are key to this novel and don’t worry, I won’t spoil the story for you. The first is family. That is made more difficult because Ayan, Little Laura, and Minh-Chu’s sister are all absent. It’s made easier because the extended family is established and interesting. The second key is the establishments. The Rebel Captains, Haven Nation’s expansion through the Nodes and Privateering Initiative, and the Order of Eden. The third key is conflict. Minh-Chu is the character who will see all of these things. That is the point of his story in the first part of this season of the series. So, he’s watching and performing what he sees as his duty right now.

Along the way, I hope to do him justice. I have to write Minh-Chu as he is after experiencing so much since we were last in his head. He’s been a Wing Commander for a while now, and he’s settled into a relationship with Ashley who has discovered that she has a sister of a kind. How he gets along with and views Jake and his other close friends have evolved as well, so showing that takes time and has to be done right. I hope that I’ve gone some distance towards accomplishing that because most of the book is written now. Thankfully, he’ll be in the middle of the next novel.

The last important thing about Minh-Chu in this volume is simple and incredibly important. By the end of the book, he’ll have something to say about what he’s seen. I hope you’re looking forward to it. What did you think of this non-spoiler peek behind-the-scenes?

Behind the Scenes · Spinward Fringe

Samurai Squadron: About Some Of The Research

Sci-fi space background – two planets in space, glowing mysterious nebula in universe. Elements of this image furnished by NASA

Whenever I’m about to, or am writing a book, I always do some kind fo research. You’d think that after about fifteen years I wouldn’t have to do any preparation for a book in the Spinward Fringe universe, but that’s absolutely not true. In the following piece that was first relased on Patreon some time ago, I describe and discuss what some of that research was. Strictly for the curious, enjoy!

Cult Research

First of all, I’m done. Every year part of prepping for most of the Spinward Fringe books has included about 10-20 hours of research on cults. Sometimes it spills over into more because I find the topic interesting, but when I was getting ready to work on Samurai Squadron I went deeper into the topic than ever. I wanted the ultimate answer to; “Why do people join?”

I had a lot of information already, but I had to find accounts from reformed members, read a few biographies and watch specific documentaries that focus on the topic of leaving organizations. Finally, a former cult member and well-known de-programmer’s interviews and book brought all the information together so I could finish constructing the anatomy of the Order of Eden as a cult. The experience that Minh-Chu had in the last section of the novel was a very shortened tour through the early introduction (indoctrination) that the Order is trying to put into play across the Rose System and beyond was meant to show a different ruthless side of the organization. It was also there to deliver a simple point so the Order might seem more personally dangerous to him and perhaps the reader: There is a cult for everyone.

Now, after over a decade, I’m finished researching the topic. I don’t know everything there is to know about it, not even close, but I have what I need to write the final structure for the Order and get on with the bigger story that the work is meant to support.

Researching Fighter Pilots

Over two years ago now, I started thinking that I’d like to write at least one book that focused more on Samurai Squadron. I started looking for biographies from modern pilots and found one from Robin Olds along with several others. That amazing bio about a pilot who flew in World War II as well as Vietnam was a great start. It started me on a reading and documentary binge that changed my preconceptions and led me back to one question. Who would my main character be for Samurai Squadron? The answer seemed obvious, Minh-Chu, but I hadn’t extensively written from his perspective for a decade and there’s a rule with including too much of a favourite character in a book. Don’t do it. Some characters are amazing in small doses, but spoiled when you get a good look at their troubles and more serious side.

Before I started work on Broadcast 17, I had an idea that led to the Bullet Chasers, and I took the opportunity to write Breaker, a new pilot who might become a main character for Samurai Squadron. I liked him, and I still do, but when it came to actually writing Broadcast 18, I knew I had to centre the book on Minh-Chu, even if it meant ruining the character and killing the series. I was hoping that all the research I’d done would pay off because after reading the biographies of three Wing Commanders, I realized that they all had a sort of swagger about them, but I could include a kind of sensitivity that suited Minh-Chu perfectly. 

He is not the kind of person who includes himself in everyone’s lives unless something is going terribly wrong or he’s invited. He also enjoys challenging people and providing mentorship, even if it’s simply by being an example. Some of the best leaders I read about were very much like that, so I felt I could extend his character. There was also a long arc I could embark on with him.

I’m thankful that so many service people put the time and work into talking about and writing about their experiences. I’m grateful for their service as well.

Researching Spinward Fringe

That’s right. Spinward Fringe is over two million words long now. I was a different person in many ways when I wrote Broadcast 0, Broadcast 6.5, and Broadcast 16. I’m not saying that I’m a walking whirlwind of change, but I know a lot more about writing than I did fifteen years ago, and I’ve had a few more experiences.

As I started writing Broadcast 17: Clash I was wrapping up a complete re-read of the series. I was also listening to the audiobooks, which I’m starting again as I write Broadcast 19. In my opinion, my favourite books in the first half of the series are in the Rogue Element Trilogy: Broadcasts 5, 6, and 7. The drama of the characters fighting for the Triton, the Victory Machine, and finding a new home come together in a way that I’m pretty proud of. That got me thinking.

Minh-Chu has been on the sidelines for so long that I could almost re-introduce him as a new character, extending his arc over three books. My research showed me that turning it into a tutorial on “how to be an effective Wing Commander” would be a terrible idea. I’ve never been one. I shouldn’t even try flying a plane because I have compromised vision! The best I could do is write about what it’s like to be Minh-Chu the person and I could layer in detail about his job later. I’ve done this before with Jake and Alice, holding back detail on the inner workings of the military by focusing on what interested them, and the adventure.

So, the plan became apparent. start with light detail in the first book. I wanted to show everyone what a briefing is like in general because Minh-Chu has been a part of hundreds of them, it’s a regular part of his life. How he used the new technology in his fighter was important, but we could get to the deck crew who maintains it later. This, like the first novella in the entire series, Freeground, and like the first part of the Rogue Element Trilogy, Fracture, would be short and fast-paced.

He’s not alone, either, so I had to make room for Ashley. Their relationship has calmed down, so she’s as much a best friend as a lover. I wanted to have her presence there but since it was the first book in this new trilogy, I intended to keep it light. Later she was included in the mission to Gold Haf Station because she was actually well suited for it. I also wanted to include her as a fighter pilot one more time, even if there wasn’t a lot of detail in that battle. It was new territory for me in a way since there’s almost no real-life account of someone flying with their girlfriend in the same fighter squadron in the real world. I might explore that a little more, but I don’t know if I’ll use Minh-Chu and Ashley.

So, I’ve rambled a while, thank you for reading. I’m realizing that there are other topics of research that I’m always checking in on. Space exploration, technology, storytelling techniques, life and the universe. I could go on for another three thousand words, but I should save something for later since I like writing these little features.

Since I’m going into more detail about Minh-Chu’s life and times in this book, I’d like to end with a question: What did you think of how Minh-Chu was depicted in Broadcast 18: Samurai Squadron?

Behind the Scenes · Spinward Fringe

Thank You For Samurai Squadron: Spinward Fringe Broadcast 18

In three months I’ll be celebrating fifteen years of writing novels for a living. I was very fortunate to make my second attempt at publishing ebooks right near the beginning of the ebook boom. I had completed novels before, and sold my first ebook in 2004 but I didn’t sell another one until 2008, when I released the Spinward Fringe novel, Freeground. Back then the series was called The First Light Chronicles, but that had to change because there was another fantasy series with a little more popularity using the same name. These days that kind of road bump could completely derail a career, but it barely had an effect back then.

After wracking my brain for over a month, I came up with a new name for the series: Spinward Fringe. I also decided that it was a good time to take the series in an new direction. Advance many years and twenty or so novels in and related to the series and we arrive at Samurai Squadron: Spinward Fringe Broadcast 18.

The book has been out for about two weeks on Amazon and in my personal store. The reception so far has been more positive than I expected and I’m grateful for every rating and review, thank you so much for taking the time to write something about it. I wasn’t afraid that I wrote a bad book, in fact I was fairly confident after I was finished with the expection of one major thing. This novel is meant to lead direclty into the next.

It’s sort of like telling a story, then after you know you have enveryone’s attention and they’re fully invested, you ask them to wait three months for them to start the next one. My solution for that is to serialize the books on my Patreon site. The third chapter of Broadcast 19, the next book, will be appearing tomorrow morning. What the previous book set up is starting to pay off, and I’m so excited for people to see it. Everyone who doesn’t like reading the novel serialized will have to wait. I never liked waiting, so I can relate to any frustration you’re feeling right now.

What I’m really here to say is that I’d like to thank everyone who supported me on Patreon or picked up Samurai Squadron: Spinward Fringe Broadcast 18, no matter which retailer you found it at. The release is going well enough for me to continue doing this for a living which is nothing short of wonderful. I can’t tell you what I have planned for Broadcast 19 exactly, but I’ve rarely been this enthusiastic about writing, which is really saying something.

Thanks to the success of this book I’ll be able to write Broadcast 19 at the same pace, meaning that it’ll be released this year. I have you to thank, and if you liked the last one, you’ll love what comes next.

If you would like to read the serialized version of Spinward Fringe Broadcast 19, and have a chance to vote on its name and at least one event in the novel, you can subscribe to my Patreon Page by clicking here.

Patreon · Spinward Fringe

Readers are voting on the future of Spinward Fringe

Spinward Fringe Broadcast 19 begins on Patreon on April 29.

For the most recent books in the Spinward Fringe series, I’ve given my Patrons the opportunity to vote on at least one major turn in the story. Whether it’s where the main characters go next, or how they evolve, I put i to a vote.

It’s an experiment. I take these novels very seriously. What happens to the characters and how the plot moves are both critical to the future of the series and my career. At the same time, when I see two or more possibilities that can be equally exciting, I consider whether or not I can let the readers decide. I learn something every time I do it, and I enjoy the resulting challenge.

Usually I find where the story could branch when I’m doing the rough outline of the book. When I do, I consider if each option is compelling, something I could write, and if it’s a turn in the story that my readers will probably enjoy. I also try to guess how the vote will go, but that’s not the important part.

The most important part is whether I am prepared to go with whatever the Patreon Subscribers decide So far I’ve correctly guessed how the majority would vote two times out of three. I was completely wrong about the vote for Samurai Squadron and it was exciting. The current vote ends when the first chapter of Spinward Fringe Broadcast 19 drops on April 29, 2023. You can take a peek here.

Oh, and if you’re wondering how you can vote, you have to be a Patreon Subscriber, and I hope that you’ve read the serialized book the vote is about so you know what’s at stake. Subscriptions start at $3.00 a month and really help me keep the lights on.

What will the next vote be about?
You’ll have to wait until it’s posted, but it may be sometime near the middle of Broadcast 18 and it’ll be a big one.

It’s all happening on Patreon.

Audiobook · Spinward Fringe

Samurai Squadron Official Release Date!

On April 28, 2023 Spinward Fringe Broadcast 18: Samurai Squadron will be released on all the major ebook sites. This also marks the beginning of the Starfighter Trilogy, something I’ve been looking forward to and researching for three years.

Here’s some of what you can expect in Samurai Squadron:

A return to classic characters:
This book follows Minh-Chu as he leads Samurai Squadron in their first real missions after their return to the Triton. For the first time in over a decade, we get a real peek at his thought process as he learns about the Shattered End, the Rebel Captains, the Order of Eden’s recruitment agenda and discovers a new secret about the war.

A squadron to rebuild:
The Triton has the capacity to support three full-sized space superiority squadrons, but Minh-Chu barely has enough for one. Easy, Pixie, Maid, Breaker, and several other void warriors who Minh-Chu’s recruited will have the opportunity to learn to work together, and we’ll find out if our favourite Wing Commander has the core group that he needs.

Everyone has a plan:
Citadel and the Order of Eden are trying to recover after a mountain of sensitive data has leaked and an important leader has been lost. Jake Valent is acting on parts of the leak, building a strategy with many layers of contingencies just in case the new intelligence he’s acting on isn’t genuine. Alice is looking to expand her own crew and give the Rebel Captains some direction.

The Rebel Captains are waiting:
The Rebel Captains have been provided with powerful ships and trust Alice, but will they sign on as real privateers and join the war against the Order, Citadel and the Edxi? Will she be able to show the Rebel Captains that they can win against the Order of Eden? How will Samurai Squadron fit in?

I hope that gives you some idea of what to expect in Samurai Squadron. the first novel in this epic trilogy. Here’s where you can preorder or pick up the ebook and audiobook versions:

You can pick it up from my bookstore if you’re familiar with side-loading your ebooks!

Amazon US | UK | AU | CA | DE
Rakuten Kobo
Apple Books
Barnes & Noble Nook
Google Play Books

Audio Book [Auto-Narrated by Google]


New Book Alert Starring A Furry Friend!

I’ve been secretly working on a side project for some time now. Nearly a year ago I had a nightmare. I was in my office, surrounded by kittens who were taunting me as they took turns walking on my keyboard, tapping my touchpad and whacking my mouse between each other. All the while I could hear the sound of something tunnelling beneath my feet. I woke up suddenly, as though the world exploded.

That’s how the concept behind this book, which is only half comedy, was born. It’s more of a novella with an abrupt ending that I don’t want to spoil, so I can’t talk about it much more. You can pick it up anywhere ebooks are sold and there is an audiobook in production using several voice actors. You might not recognize them though, since all of the dialogue is recorded through a cat or kitten filter except for the adults, who are recorded using the Charlie Brown Wah-Wah filter since this book is really all about felines.

I hope you enjoy this, even though it is quite a departure. I’ll get right back to work on Spinward Fringe and my shorter series as soon as the movie deal is finished. I can’t say much about which studio has come along, but their name rhymes with “fairmount.”

Apple Books

Barnes & Noble

The Library

Big January Sale In The Bookstore

Hey everyone! There’s a specific purpose for this sale, unlike most. I can’t tell you exactly what that is, because I’m raising funds for a project that I can’t work on alone. Instead of starting a Kickstarter or other crowdfunding campaign, I’d like to use my existing store to pay for this so you can get something out of your contribution right away. Well, a little slower if you order something that I have to sign and ship.

What is this project?
Well, like I said I can’t get into specifics, but it involves illustrations and may involve audio production if I gather a large enough pile of coins.

When will it come out?
There is no release date set yet, but some of the imagery and other parts of the project will surface soon if things go well with raising funds.

Does this involve Spinward Fringe?
It is only about Spinward Fringe. I can’t say more.

I wish I could tell you more about this side project but the scope and duration of it is completely dependent on the funding. I can’t afford to cover the costs out of pocket since this involves hiring other people to finish different parts of it. They’re all collaborators who are known to me and they do great work, so I don’t need more people right now, just the funds to make sure everyone gets paid fairly for their efforts.

Here are the links and codes you’ll need.

For Digital Products like eBooks use this code at checkout: Januaryebook50

For Printed Books use this code at checkout: Januaryprint30
(Sorry, the discount does not apply to shipping costs)

Here’s the link to my store:

The sale ends on January 31, 2023. Thank you very much for your support.

Behind the Scenes

The Challenge of Clash

This was originally posted before the book was finished on my Patreon Site. If you haven’t read Spinward Fringe Broadcast 17: Clash, then you should stop here. There are some major spoilers ahead. You can find the Audiobook and EBook versions of the novel in this blog post. enjoy! Now let’s get on with the show!

Image courtesy of Adobestock. Elements of this image furnished by NASA

In this new series of posts, I’m going to give some patrons a peek behind the scenes. I wish I had the time to record these as podcasts, and that may come in the future, but I take way too long editing each one – about two hours for every hour of recording, so I won’t be getting back to that until I have more time.

Spinward Fringe reinvents itself every few books. The living situations and status of the characters have been evolving fairly quickly, and that’s been a good thing. That was, until about a year ago. A change in direction was needed, but it would have to stick this time. Let me explain.

There aren’t many series in any genre that has gone as long as Spinward Fringe, and as I was doing a re-read of the entire thing I started looking back at what was left behind as the characters moved forward. While I enjoy how the Alice story has unfolded, I started seeing that a feeling of disconnection was starting to set in. It felt like she was drifting too far away from some of the original main characters, and something that compounded that was how difficult it was becoming to write Jacob Valent.

When a character becomes too loaded or complex, it can be good to give them a rest, which usually means making them a secondary or even tertiary character who doesn’t come up as often for a while. It also seemed like he was struggling less. He would be justified in thinking that he’d found his place and that what he had to do next would be predictable.

Jake is in his thirties, slowly approaching the same age I was when I started writing this series. Back then I was definitely not where Jake was at the end of Broadcast 16. I felt like I’d barely earned my place in the world, and I had a lot to work for. My career prospects were narrowing while my employment situation was absolutely terrible. I’ve made great strides since then, but my situation is arguably more precarious in most ways.

That was why I couldn’t easily relate to Jake anymore. His struggle against the Order of Eden remained, and he was getting used to being part of an expanded family, but he seemed pretty secure in himself and sure of his path. Something had to change if I was going to write him as the main character again, and I definitely wanted him to be in the spotlight.

So there we have two big problems. Alice and her friends were disconnected from the original main characters of the series, removing a sense of familiarity from future books. Jake, a character I still enjoyed, was too uncomplicated in a bad way. He was in a situation I couldn’t relate to.

As I realized these problems had to be solved, I was fulfilling another promise to the very few people who read my fantasy novels. NEM: Awakening ends on a sort of cliffhanger, with the core group formed through trial and trouble, but looking to the future after a very rough encounter. When I released Awakening I promised that there would be a much more definitive ending coming soon, so I got to work on NEM: Crimson Shores soon after Broadcast 16 was finished. After that, I followed my muse to Psycho Electric, which was a space opera cyberpunk novel that I’d been piecing together for about ten years. A three-week or so fling with The Last Of The Bullet Chaserf followed as I frantically worked out what would happen to Jake at the beginning of Broadcast 17. I apologize to everyone who expected Broadcast 17 sooner. I had to take a side trip or two to clear my head, learn a few new things about writing, and expand the Spinward Fringe Universe with books that would invite new readers into the fold. I also had to prove something to myself as a writer, which I’ll talk more about in another episode.

The idea that Jake would be punished for unleashing an unrestrained artificial intelligence virus (again) came to me as I was doing my read-through of the entire Spinward Fringe series. I was also about a third of the way through writing Psycho Electric, and I realized that I had the thing that would give me everything I needed for my old main character.

This idea would also facilitate the return of the British Alliance along with Lorander and the Mergillians. More importantly, they could re-establish themselves as the good guys. There would be reparations made by the British Alliance for what the previous government did, but the three allies would demand something first. Haven Fleet would have to clean house in order to show that they were playing by the same rule book. Jake’s removal from the Fleet would bring Alice and all the other original main characters to his side, and he could make a deal that would ensure a good sense of familiarity going forward. He could get the Triton back.

I thought it was a pretty good way to go, so I wrote a few outlines with Jake on trial. The first thing I saw was that I would have a lot of research to do if I went in that direction. The second thing I realized was that, unless I could get John Grisham as a guest writer, it would be pretty boring. Trials are long, testimony is often drawn out, and truncated, abridged versions of them can seem fake. I put the outlines away for a week, then came back to them and realized that I overlooked one very important question: “What would Jake do?” The answer came right away. He’d make a deal. In my opinion, that fixed it. As long as I was clear about what Jake’s deal was, why he was being punished, and that I provided all the details by the end of the book, I could start Broadcast 17 at the end of the legal stuff. Alice wouldn’t know anything about it, that way readers could find out with her.

On to the next thing that big shift would bring in. Jake needed a way to continue fighting, a reason for him to take the Triton back.

One of my favourite unpursued storylines was the Privateering idea, and since Jake would have access to a share of resources and wealth from the Haven System, he could afford to hire a crew and a fighter squadron. The Defence Minister would allow him to hire out of his old unit to prevent a split in the military. To many, Jake is seen as one of the founders of the whole thing, so Oz’s hope was to prevent a massive crisis using this strategy. There’s more to it, but that will come later on.

The Triton makes a perfect mobile base. It truly is a character in this series, and there’s room for new friends as Alice’s story starts to merge with her father’s and we get to see what the honeymoon phase of her relationship with Noah looks like. That is until they have their first real fight, which had to happen in this novel. A relationship without stress isn’t worth reading about, and they had some unresolved issues. They still don’t have a perfect relationship, which is good.

So, Jake is the owner of the Triton again, but he’s free to do as he likes because he has Stephanie Vega in the captain’s seat. I regret that I haven’t been able to feature Frost on the Gunnery Deck in this book, but that’s coming. I brought Ayan aboard, but that’s temporary since we can’t leave Little Laura without her mum for too long.

The next book in the series, which I’ll be starting right after Broadcast 17, is called Samurai Squadron, so it was important to establish Minh-Chu, Ashley, Cooper, and a few others as important characters on the Triton. That group of characters will have a lot more time on the page since Samurai Squadron launches the first real trilogy in the series since Fracture, Fragments and Framework. The Squadron is at the core of the main story in each book.

There was still something missing.

The best Spinward Fringe novels arguably have one thing in common aside from characters we want to spend time with. New ideas. Whether it’s the proposal of new technologies, deadly trade-offs, or cunning enemies, I think new ideas are important in science fiction. They can challenge characters and sometimes make us think. The concept of the lost colony isn’t new, but it presents a massive challenge for Jake and his crew, especially since they’re freshly disassociated from the military.

To keep the story small so Broadcast 17 wouldn’t be 300,000 words long, I decided to focus on two brothers. Wish fulfilment and science fiction go well together, so the concept of Orner being disabled came in right at the beginning along with Moxa and Eve using him as an example for the miracles they could bring to the people of Tiy. The struggle was in keeping that story from overwhelming the book since it would seem so unfamiliar at a 1920’s technology level. Too much of a new thing can be bad too.

Now we’ve come to things that I haven’t released yet, so I have to stop talking about story. That is, other than to say that the end will lean right into Spinward Fringe Broadcast 18: Samurai Squadron in a way that I’ve been looking forward to for a while now. It’ll be the Twenty-First book in the Spinward Fringe Series, including full-length .5 editions like The Expendable Few and Carnie’s Tale. I may have to take a two or three-week break to make sure that Broadcast 17’s editing is properly wrapped up, but I’m already looking forward to posting chapters from 18 here.

Having said that, I should address the first point I raised in this rambling piece. Things changed in Spinward Fringe again. The shift is drastic, bringing some old ideas back with new character dynamics aboard, and one of those ideas looks as far back as Broadcast Two. Now we’re ready for the next phase, where the Triton will be at the very centre. I actually hope that doesn’t change for a long time, perhaps for the rest of the series. That is if the Triton survives what’s coming.

ADDENDUM: One More Thing…

When I wrote that there were still a number of unwritten chapters and the edit wasn’t locked in. There was even a proof reader who was yet to come on board, and she whacked over eighty typos while providing some good input. I hadn’t decided on a few important things either, and the ending was rewritten twice. Once on the whiteboards, once as it was released on Patreon, and then again for the final edit. Even then the final draft wasn’t locked. I looked back at the very beginning and realized I had a problem.

There was a Prologue that explained how the Haven Government had sent many Nodes into the galaxy that used new technology that made communication over many light years as good as instant. This came up in Psycho Electric and enabled a whole chunk of that book’s story. It would also come up later in the Spinward Fringe Series, but I realized that explaining its existence and significance in a prologue wasn’t only boring, but unnecessary. I also explained that Jake had been sort of missing for two weeks and that Alice had been assigned to the Cefa System for a little over three months.

I wonder if you’re thinking what I was after going over the book for the third time. “Wait. Why am I explaining all that in a prologue when we get to discover what happened to Jake along with Alice while she’s standing in the middle of a Palacial Garden? A place she’s been relocated to in order to use her empathic ability for a job that she didn’t choose or enjoy? Wouldn’t it be more effective and entertaining if we let her show us what was going on?”

The prologue served its purpose when I was still writing the book. It set up the starting point, but it wasn’t required anymore, so after talking to a couple of people who were involved with the final edit, I cut it. Now I know it was the right decision. If you want to see it, you can check it out here on Patreon, where it’ll exist in a rough form.

I’m starting work on Spinward Fringe Broadcast 18: Samurai Squadron this week. Years of work have gone into it. I’ll share more about it later on.

For now, I’d like to hear about the direction the series is taking. Don’t worry about spoilers since only people who have read or listened to the book should participate. So, what do you think of their new course?

Spinward Fringe

The Clash: Spinward Fringe Broadcast 17 Rollout and Audiobook

Your shipment is here…

The day has finally come. Clash: Spinward Fringe Broadcast 17 is here! The release is landing early everywhere. Starting with Amazon and Google Play on 12 / 12 / 2022, Clash will be available to everyone. The other distribution network is slower, so the book will be released at the other vendors (Smashwords, Apple Books, Barnes & Noble, Rakuten Kobo), on 19 / 12 / 2022. I’m grateful to everyone who preordered and thank you for picking the book up after the release, it’s been a great launch so far.

The timing for this is unusual, but when I had the opportunity to release it early I took it because I didn’t want this to come out so close to the holidays. People have enough to deal with in the second half of December, so I really wanted to have this out before you started travelling and hosting family.

There’s another thing. I’ve been experimenting with Google Auto-Narration which is, simply put, audiobooks that are narrated by an artificial intelligence. The cost of producing these is extremely low and the quality has just improved quite a bit. I wouldn’t call the Auto-Narration a performance, but the reading style is acceptable now, so I’m releasing the Audo-Narrated audiobook version of Clash along with the ebook edition for a low price that reflects the fact that it isn’t read by a human who is offering a performance instead of simply clear reading with a good cadence.

If I could afford to pay a narrator to produce this book I would, but I’m still five figures in the hole from producing Broadcast 0, 1 and Psycho Electric, so I have to earn that back through audiobook sales before I produce any more with a live narrator. There’s still a small demand for Spinward Fringe in audiobook form, so the Auto-Narration version will do for now, and I’d like to thank the team at Google that is working on this. The improvements over the last year are surprising. Oh, and if you buy this version your copy will be updated every time the Auto-Narrator improves for free. You can check the Clash: Spinward Fringe Broadcast 17 Audiobook out here.

Here are the links for the eBook.

My Bookstore (Out 12 / 12 / 2022)
Amazon – US | UK | AU | CA | DE (Out 12 / 12 / 2022)
Google Play Books (Out 12 / 12 / 2022)
Apple Books (Out 19 / 12 / 2022)
Barnes & Noble (Out 19 / 12 / 2022)
Rakuten Kobo (Out 19 / 12 / 2022)
Smashwords (Out 19 / 12 / 2022)

I truly hope you enjoy this book in the series. I think you’ll find that it’s a little different from the rest because it takes the time for real character development and there is a great big pivot that changes things for most of our favourite characters.

Thank you in advance for picking it up. If you have any interest in an audiobook version, I encourage you to listen to the sample.

Spinward Fringe

Spinward Fringe Broadcast 17: Clash Is Coming Out on December 21, 2022!

Instead of burying the lead, I thought I’d put the release date right in the title. Spinward Fringe Broadcast 17: Clash is coming out on December 21, 2022! For the last few months, members of my Patreon site have been watching chapters come out for this novel. The first draft has gotten pretty good feedback and I’m working on a final edit with a small team that I’ve enjoyed working with before. The Patrons have also helped find typos and a few other errors. Altogether, the book is better for the work that’s gone into it. The Patrons also had the opportunity to make a significant decision that determined the ending of this novel and the beginning of the next, and they definitely made an impact.

The focus broadens a little in this novel as Jacob Valent appears a lot more than in the last few. He and several of the other original characters take a turn down a new path, and I’d tell you a lot more but I’m trying to avoid spoilers here. For a little more info, you can read the synopsis, which is pretty spoiler free:

Jacob, Alice Valent and their oldest friends come face to face with the Order of Eden in a new way as a world of innocents comes under threat. The Spinward Fringe series is carried forward as a story about reunions, reinvention and rivalries unfolds. The war with the Order of Eden heats up as allies begin to rally and a new battlefront opens.
The rallying cry that brought so many people to the fight is taken up again: Deploy. Dominate. Disappear.

I’m looking forward to getting the final draft into everyone’s hands on December 21st. I think there’s something for everyone in this one, and I’m happy to be launching a new phase of the series. Without any more delay, here’s where you can preorder the ebook.

Amazon – US | UK | AU | CA | DE
Apple Books
Barnes & Noble
Rakuten Kobo


The Psycho Electric Audiobook Is Out!

The stand-alone Spinward Fringe book is now available on Audible. This audiobook is different from most because it was produced with the “Boutique” mentality, where more attention was paid to performance than normal, so it took much longer to create than normal. David Berlekamp already has a golden voice, but he also performs each character separately so their journeys and emotional levels are present. The Editor and Producer, Heather Berlekamp, put it all together expertly. Then it’s wrapped up with music composed especially for Psycho Electric by Patrick D Emond, who posted the full theme for free here.

I’m proud of this collaboration and hope you enjoy it!

This one and all my other audiobooks will only be available on Audible and iTunes for the foreseeable future. Here’s how you can get your hands on it:

Audible US 

Audible UK 




Choose How Spinward Fringe: Clash Ends

Could you imagine being given the opportunity to choose which direction the story will take in a book you’ve been anticipating for over a year? It’s with no small measure of excitement that I’m giving my Patrons the opportunity to do just that.

Earlier on, I asked them what I should call the last version of the Uriel Fighter, a mainstay in the main Spinward Fringe series for over ten volumes. There were an incredible number of quality public responses. Some were pretty creative, others fit really well, and I went with an obvious one that worked best. A name that I should have thought of, but overlooked. I’m glad a couple of readers posted it, or I would have missed a great opportunity.

When I took that name for the new evolution of that starfighter I promised my Patrons two things:

  1. That I would refer back to that list of names for other ships and objects in the Spinward Fringe books.
  2. That there was a much bigger decision coming.

Well, this is it.

I won’t go into the details behind the decision I’m putting in front of my Patrons because I don’t want to spoil the book for anyone. What I can say is that there are three directions available for my main characters. Each one represents a great opportunity for the progress of the story, and will change the outcome of the book drastically. You could argue that the book could be completely different depending on where they guide the story. It’s a vote for Patrons who contribute $3.00 or more per month.

I’m confident that I can deliver a good, satisfying ending no matter what my readers decide, but I’m so excited to see where they want to take it. Voting closes on Thursday morning, November 3, and the first twenty-seven chapters of the book are available on Patreon, so you could catch up if you like.

Direct Voting Link

Spinward Fringe Broadcast 17: Clash Index

Spinward Fringe Broadcast 17: Clash is set to release on December 21, 2022.
You can preorder Clash through Smashwords at the moment, and it will be available for preorder shortly with other retailers.

Spinward Fringe

The Last of the Bullet Chasers – A Spinward Fringe Short

It’s out! An adventure no one saw coming in the Spinward Fringe Universe starring a pilot with a mission that could cost him years, his life, or take him to a new beginning in the Rega Gain system has finally come out as an ebook short. This seven-chapter story came about because I had an irresistible idea. What if there was a crew tasked with chasing after missiles, torpedoes and worse that missed their initial target, but could destroy a world, end a civilization, or worse years later by mistake?

I got into more detail in the Foreward, but suffice it to say, I had to follow that story to its end, bringing this pilot, Cooper, also known as “Breaker” along with his repair bot named Ratter and the rest of the crew to life. Characters from this short will appear in at least two of the new Spinward Fringe books that are coming in 2022 and 2023, so if you like the crew, you’ll see them again once this stand-alone tale is over.

Here’s the synopsis:

War has gone interstellar, and the galaxy has become an even more dangerous place. Firing a weapon in the vacuum of space can cause repercussions days, years, or even centuries later when that bullet, missile, torpedo or other instrument of destruction makes an impact. That’s where heroes like Cooper come in.

Interplanetary civil war has raged on in his home solar system for decades. Every missed shot could strike an unsuspecting innocent and one side is interested in keeping the devastation of their conflict from spreading to the rest of the universe. That’s why they started the Chaser program, which enlists pilots like Cooper, callsign Breaker, to pursue wayward munitions so they can be destroyed before they end a civilization, wreck a space station, or end all life on worlds that had nothing to do with the fight that inspired the firing of a weapon.

With the civil war winding down, the government is changing, and the Chaser program is coming to an end, but not before Cooper, a faithful repair robot named Ratter and the rest of the crew of the Monte Carlo finish one last pursuit. There’s a dangerous group of missiles and torpedoes travelling at nearly the speed of light headed for the civilized Rega Gain system. There is enough antimatter aboard those munitions to crack a planet.

For reasons he’s not sharing, Cooper is determined to stop the missile group from destroying the terraformed moon of Tamber and damaging the world it orbits, even if years pass relative to the minutes it takes the Monte Carlo to finish its mission in this all-or-nothing effort.

Come and witness the end of a tradition of duty, sacrifice, and glory. Will it be the end of the crew, or lead them to a new beginning in a solar system that is largely unaware that they’re in danger, but the crew of the Monte Carlo are desperate to save?

The Last of the Bullet Chasers is available at my store in epub format (compatible with all Apple, Android devices and most Kindle readers). It will be an Amazon Kindle exclusive starting on the 24th of September. (The exclusivity will most likely end three months later).

UPDATE: Thanks to readers who contacted me since this post, The Last of the Bullet Chasers will not be exclusive to Amazon, but will be available everywhere. Watch this post for links to Apple Books, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and other sites as the book comes online before the end of September.

Here’s the direct link to the book on my store: The Last of the Bullet Chasers at Randolph’s Bookstore
Other Retailers: Smashwords | Other retail links will come soon.
Amazon Kindle Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon Australia | Amazon Germany | Amazon Canada

3D render of a Robots celebrating at a party
Spinward Fringe

Spinward Fringe Broadcast 17: Clash Begins This Saturday!

This podcast has an audio version!

After writing a fantasy novel (NEM: Awakening), a Cyberpunk Space Opera (Psycho Electric), and a space adventure short (The Last of the Bullet Chasers), it’s time to write the next Spinward Fringe novel: Clash.

This book starts by looking back on major events in Broadcast 11: Revenge, when Jacob Valent ordered the release of an intelligent virus called Mary. The aftershock of that is ongoing as Haven Fleet allies worry that he may resort to breaking other Galactic laws, so they’re demanding that Haven take action to make sure that this doesn’t happen. We see the results of that fear in the prologue, which takes place over three months after the end of Broadcast 16.

At this point, Alice, Ayan, Minh-Chu and the rest of the gang are near their breaking point because the fight against the Order of Eden and the Edxi hasn’t progressed. What happens next will push them over the edge.

I’d love to tell you more about this book, especially since I’ve been preparing to write it for a year now, but you’ll have to read along as the chapters come out or wait a little longer for the completed ebook. For more information and links to each chapter, check out my Patreon index page at


Welcome To The New Site… Again!

I’m happy to unveil the new, lasting home on WordPress. This will be easier to navigate, update, and it’ll be able to support all the content I offer. Things didn’t work out with Wix for reasons I don’t really care to get into, but I can’t recommend them to anyone.

On a much more positive note, I’m celebrating the launch of this site with a short Question and Answer Podcast Episode! I hope you enjoy it, and hope to see a few questions in the comments, I’ll make sure I answer them as soon as I can.

I’m eternally grateful to Patrick D. Emond for the theme music, which is only a taste of the entire Spinward Fringe Suite.

A short Q&A! Ask questions in the comments to get answers in the next one!