Status: 65.4 percent of goal.
The Iliad: 216/500
The Odyssey: 206/500
Status: 65.4 percent of goal.
The Iliad: 216/500
The Odyssey: 206/500
This is an excerpt from Owen Stanley’s excellent new novel, THE PROMETHEAN.
Despite Harry’s enormous wealth, he was dismayed when the estimates from Bill Grogan and Vishnu were finally presented to him, not to mention Wayne Ruger’s, which looked like the defence budget for a small but unusually belligerent third-world nation. The project was obviously going to need considerably more money than he had originally anticipated, and, unfortunately, most of his capital was tied up in various forms of investment that precluded easy liquidation. Like most billionaires of his class, he had less cash in his bank account than was carried by the average Uber driver.
He was sitting in his office with Jerry one morning, reviewing the three estimates, which, no matter how many times he read them over, obstinately refused to shrink, and discussing the inevitable cash-flow crisis they would entail. By now, Jerry had quite a good grasp of the British R&D scene, and he suggested that Harry approach the Government’s Bio-Engineering Research Fund to see if they would consider offering some support to Project Frank.
“But if we do that,” Harry objected, “Frank won’t be a secret any longer. We can’t risk that.”
Jerry told him not to worry. “Granting agencies like the Fund deal with this problem of commercial sensitivity all the time. They have a very strict confidentiality policy that no details of any applications or grants are put in the public domain. None of our possible competitors is going to find out what we’re doing until it’s far too late.”
Not seeing any other way to move forward on the project, Harry reluctantly agreed to Jerry’s proposal. So they sent in an application containing the detailed specifications for Project Frank to the Fund, and, upon opening his morning mail a few weeks later, Harry was delighted to find a letter from Professor Price-Williams, the Fund’s Chairman, saying that they had been most impressed by the specifications and might, in due course, be able to offer a grant of up to four million pounds. But before the application could proceed any further, the project would have to be approved by their former Ethics Committee, since many of the projects supported by the Fund had applications in medicine and social welfare.
Rather ominously, the professor mentioned that the Ethics Committee had recently been renamed the Diversity and Inclusion Committee by the Department of Culture. But the CVs of the Committee members were enclosed, in order to give Mr. Hockenheimer the opportunity to prepare himself for the kind of questions they might put to him, and Professor Price-Williams wished him the best of luck.
The appointment with the Diversity and Inclusion Committee of the Bio-Engineering Research Fund turned out to be on a Friday afternoon at the Committee’s offices in a magnificent house overlooking Regents Park, one of the most desirable locations in London, and rented at vast expense by the Department of Culture.
The Government was lucky enough to be able to call upon a large pool of high-minded volunteers for such committees, who were happy to give impartial advice for the public good, without any recompense apart from their expenses. In this case, it is true, none of them happened to possess any scientific or engineering background whatever, let alone any qualifications to discuss robotics. Fortunately, practical knowledge of this kind was not considered necessary because the function of the Committee was to bring a more morally enlightened and humane perspective to the discussions that was beyond the limited mental horizon of engineers.
The Chairperson was a tall, handsome woman, Nkwandi Obolajuwan, who had been appointed to head the Committee when the Department found that she was not only a second-generation Nigerian immigrant, but also wheelchair-bound, which was believed to give her special insight into the challenges of marginalisation. Despite her triple handicaps of race, gender, and physical disability, she had nevertheless achieved a very comfortable life as a lawyer representing her fellow immigrants. To be sure, most of them happened to be very wealthy relatives of very corrupt African politicians and Middle Eastern royal families, but she did not think this was grounds for discriminating against them by refusing to help them. While she enjoyed her evenings in her luxurious apartment with a bottle of prosecco and some Charbonnel et Walker chocolates in front of the telly, she was tireless in her support of many worthy social justice causes, which had first brought her to the attention of the Department.
Percy Crump was the Committee’s self-appointed representative for the Fat Acceptance Movement. His very limited academic credits were largely in the field of Women’s Studies and it was through these that he had become aware of society’s persistent prejudice against women of ample proportions. He was naturally sympathetic to their plight because he was himself conspicuously overweight, and he had no sooner heard about the Fat Acceptance Movement than he became one of its better-known advocates. He had made a full-time career out of demanding concessions and the construction of special facilities by public transport companies, traffic engineers, and businesses to compensate himself and his fellow sufferers for all the discrimination and bigotry and daily microaggressions they endured from the so-called “normal.”
The committee’s token student, representing British youth, was Aminah Khan, a Muslim in a headscarf. Serious and orthodox, or as the less sympathetic might have called her, sullen and narrow-minded, she detested most aspects of Western culture and longed for the day when the infidels would finally submit to Allah. In the meantime, she was determined to assert the claims of Sharia law in decadent Britain.
Godfrey Sunderland was Lecturer in Protest Theory at the London School of Politics, and in his spare time, an activist for the People’s Antifascist Front. Originally from a wealthy family of aristocratic lineage, his blond dreadlocks nevertheless expressed his claim to have been born black in a white skin. “Race is just a cultural construct, man,” he would snap at anyone who dared to find his assertion of ‘wrongskin’ somewhat implausible. He regarded Nkwandi as a sellout to the system, not to say a coconut, because he particularly despised lawyers. In Godfrey’s opinion, lawyers accepted the whole rotten system of unjust power, and instead of undermining it, tried to work within it like maggots inside a corpse. When the Revolution came and the people took back the power that was rightfully theirs, there would be no need for lawyers who, if they were lucky, just might be allowed to slink away unharmed. And if they weren’t lucky, well….
The fifth member of the committee was a lesbian social worker, Toni Clark. She was a feminist and ill-disposed to men in general. Somewhat surprisingly, she did not regard gay men as allies in the LGBTQIAP+ alliance, but as hoggers of the political limelight, only interested in talking up their own status as victims, and just as prone as their straight brethren to pushing women to one side. She viewed Harry with disapproval, of course, not only because he was an American capitalist, but because his business activities objectified women in an offensive and blatantly heterosexist way.
The Committee had read Harry’s CV and the specifications for Project Frank prior to the meeting, and in the preliminary discussions its members had taken a distinctly hostile view of both Harry and his project. As a very white, very male, and very rich American capitalist who had literally built his fortune on the exploitation of women adorning themselves for the sexual pleasure of men, he was already politically suspect, and his project promised to be even worse.
While the technical specifications were almost entirely above their heads, they had grasped the general gist of Harry’s proposal, and as Nkwandi said when Harry took his seat at the end of the table, “Our main problem, Mr. Hockenheimer, is that your whole project has some dangerously elitist tendencies, and is markedly insensitive to just about every marginalised community in our society. We feel that it’s hard to combine the idea of a toy for the corporate elite with the principles of equality, diversity, and inclusion that guide this committee. If your project is approved, it is bound to become extremely well-known, and one may even say ‘iconic’, so we have to consider very carefully what kind of messages it will send to the general public.”
“I wasn’t really thinking about messages,” replied Harry. “My intention is merely to build and provide a great new technology to the public.”
“That’s all very well, Mr. Hockenheimer, but the fact is that in this case, the medium is the message. You simply can’t avoid sending messages in a project of this sort, and that’s why, I’m afraid, we’re going to require some drastic modifications before we can even consider approving it for funding. Perhaps I should explain that whereas the old Ethics Committee existed primarily to ensure there were no inappropriate conflicts of interest, the Diversity and Inclusion Committee has the much broader remit of ensuring that all the Fund’s projects adhere to the societally correct values of equality and social justice.”
Harry’s heart sank.
I’m pleased to be able to inform everyone that both A THRONE OF BONES and A SEA OF SKULLS are free ebooks today on Amazon. That is a combined 1,354 pages of truly epic fantasy, and will cost you literally nothing except the hours required to read them.
In Selenoth, the war drums are beating throughout the land. The savage orcs of Hagahorn and Zoth Ommog are on the move, imperiling Man, Dwarf, and Elf alike. The Houses Martial of Amorr have gone to war with each other, pitting legion against legion, and family against family, as civil war wracks the disintegrating Empire. In the north, inhuman wolf-demons besiege the last redoubt of Man in the White Sea, while in Savondir, the royal house of de Mirid desperately prepares to defend the kingdom against an invading army that is larger than any it has ever faced before. And in the underground realm of the King of Iron Mountain, a strange new enemy has been attacking dwarf villages throughout the Underdeep.
Beneath the widespread violence that has seized all Selenoth in its grasp, a select few are beginning to recognize the appearance of a historic pattern of almost unimaginable proportions. Are all these conflicts involving Orc, Elf, Man, and Dwarf the natural result of inevitable rivalries, or are they little more than battlegrounds in an ancient war that began long before the dawn of time?
From the reviews:
In Selenoth, the race of Man is on the ascendant. The ancient dragons sleep. The ghastly Witchkings are no more; their evil power destroyed by the courage of Men and the fearsome magic of the Elves. The Dwarves have retreated to the kingdoms of the Underdeep, the trolls hide in their mountains, and even the savage orc tribes have learned to dread the iron discipline of Amorr’s mighty legions. But after four hundred years of mutual suspicion, the rivalry between two of the Houses Martial that rule the Amorran Senate threatens to turn violent, and unrest sparks rebellion throughout the imperial provinces.
In the north, the barbarian reavers who have long plagued the coasts of the White Sea unexpectedly plead for the royal protection of the King of Savondir, as they flee a vicious race of wolf-demons who have invaded their islands. And in the distant east, the war drums echo throughout the mountains as orcs and goblins gather in vast numbers, summoned by their bestial gods.
Epic fantasy at its deepest and most gripping, A THRONE OF BONES is Book I in the ARTS OF DARK AND LIGHT. DRM-free.
The 924-page monster is also a free download for the next four days. If you’ve been holding off on dipping your toe into the murky waters of Selenoth, this would be the time to jump in. Of course, no matter how excellent, an ebook is no substitute for the beautiful hardcover or even the imposing paperback.
From the reviews:
THE PROMETHEAN is a brutally funny novel exposing the utter insanity of modern academia and the world of technology. An extraordinary tale of ambition, social justice, and human folly, it combines the mordant wit of W. Somerset Maugham with a sense of humor reminiscent of P.G. Wodehouse.
When American billionaire Henry Hockenheimer discovers that conquering the corporate world is no longer enough for him on the eve of his 40th birthday, he decides to leave his mark on the world by creating the first Superman, a robot as intellectually brilliant as it is physically capable. But his ideas are thwarted on every side by the most brilliant minds of the academic world, from the AI researcher Dr. Vishnu Sharma to the wheelchair-bound head of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee of Her Majesty’s Government’s Bio-Engineering Research Fund, Nkwandi Obolajuwan, and, of course, Dr. Sydney Prout, formerly of the United Nations, now Special Adviser on Human Rights to the European Union.
And when Hockenheimer succeeds, despite all of the incredible obstacles placed in his way, he discovers that success can be the cruelest failure of all.
THE PROMETHEAN is available at Amazon via ebook and Kindle Unlimited.
From the reviews:
No worries. It’s neither DDOS or deplatforming; we have partial access to the server. It’s just a WordPress database error; we may need to wait until tomorrow morning to get it resolved, though.
From Publisher’s Weekly:
Unit sales of adult nonfiction increased 4%, led by Ready or Not!, a new cookbook by Michelle Tam and Henry Fong, which sold more than 20,200 copies in its first week. The book just beat out Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur, which sold 20,003 copies (both Ready or Not! and Milk and Honey are published by Andrews McMeel). Unit sales in adult fiction fell 6% compared to last year. The book that made the biggest splash was Two by Two by Nicholas Sparks, which sold just under 22,000 copies in its first week, putting it in second place on the category bestseller list.
This is interesting, because our more successful books are normally expected to do around 2,000 copies in their first week. SJWADD should top that without too much trouble. So, while we still have a long way to go, we are about one-tenth of the way to the top already. Not bad for Year Three.
The following is an excerpt from one of the many hilarious stories in LawDog’s second straight bestseller, THE LAWDOG FILES: AFRICAN ADVENTURES.
SQUEAKS, Part 1
Many, MANY moons ago—and don’t even ask, ’cause I won’t tell you—when I was still a pup, the family lived in Nigeria. We had a bungalow at the Odibo Estates, out near the Biafran border. Every evening peddlers, called traders, used to walk up and down the main road, offering various knick-knacks and merchandise for sale or trade.
Ali Cheap-Cheap was one of the busier traders, and he spent a lot of time on our front porch haggling with Mom. Now, Ali Cheap-Cheap was very proud of his ability to acquire just about anything you might want or need.
One evening, Mom was visiting on the front porch with the visiting wife of one of the English engineers. Said wife had never been outside of London before, and as a consequence, she loathed Africa. She and Mom were chattering and griping when along came Ali Cheap-Cheap. Old Ali Cheap-Cheap didn’t have anything that Mom or the English lady wanted, so, before he wandered off, he asked if, “Madams want for anything?”
The English lady got a funny look in her eye, tapped her snake-hide purse and said, “I want one of these.” “Yes, madam,” replied Ali, and off he trotted.
About three weeks later, Mom and her new English friend were on the front porch again, when along came Ali Cheap-Cheap. With a friend. Ali and friend had a cane pole slung over their shoulders, and there was a burlap bag hanging from said pole.
Now, at this point I should mention that also on the front porch, in addition to the two ladies, was a Mongoose-a-minium, in which lived our pet kusimanse, or as it is known to science, Helogale parvula, the pygmy mongoose. This Mongoose-a-minium had a Plexiglas ceiling which Dad had assured us was unbreakable.
Up to the porch came Ali Cheap-Cheap and his buddy.
Mom was eyeing the burlap bag with some trepidation, having had some nasty experiences with what the locals tended to store in burlap bags, when Ali and buddy proudly lifted it and announced to the English lady, “Oh, madam! We have your beef!”
I should interject here that “beef” is bush slang for any animal.
Wait for it.
Mom had risen to her full height, and was about to order Ali to get his beef away from her house, when Squeaker, our pygmy mongoose, wandered out of his apartment, and screamed in sheer outrage. It was always amazing how much sheer volume that little hairball could put out. Ali and his buddy were startled by the shriek and dropped the burlap sack onto the Plexiglass roof of Squeaker’s residence.
The unbreakable glass promptly shattered and caused the burlap sack and its contents to fall into the Mongoose-a-minium. It turned out that inside said sack was one observably scared 15-foot python.
Squeaker, who was about the size and girth of a tennis ball, offered up a brief prayer to the Mongoose God for the meal he was about to partake of, and latched onto the snake’s tail with tooth and claw.
The snake discovered that he has been dumped into a place which reeks of mongoose, panicked and attempted to slide up the side of the Mongoose-a-minium and down onto the porch, but was hindered in doing so by Squeaker, who was not only still firmly attached to the python’s tail, but was bracing all four legs against the wall to prevent his meal from getting away.
Did I mention that the snake was approximately fifteen feet long?
Squeaker didn’t even slow him down.
The python hit the porch floor with Squeaks gnawing away at his tail like a chipmunk on speed, and noticed that, in the interest of ventilation, the sliding glass door in the front of our house was open about six inches.
Yep. You guessed it. In goes the snake.
Now, Dad and one of his Brit buddies named Tom were sitting in the house, drinking whiskey-and-sodas. Tom looked down and saw several yards of snake whip by, shrieked, and made a flat-footed, sitting-down leap all the way from the sofa to the top of the bar. Whereupon he proceeded to utter genteel curses upon all and sundry at the top of his lungs.
Dad looked down, lifted his feet, ensured that his drink didn’t tip over, and watched the snake haul scales with bemused interest. Dad didn’t ruffle easily.
And yes, things just got crazier from there. If you haven’t acquired a copy of LawDog’s African adventures yet, you really must. It’s genuinely THAT funny.
LawDog had the honor of representing law and order in the Texas town of Bugscuffle as a Sheriff’s Deputy, where he became notorious for, among other things, the famous Case of the Pink Gorilla Suit. But long before he put on the deputy’s star, he grew up in Nigeria, where his experiences were equally unforgettable. In AFRICAN ADVENTURES, LawDog chronicles his encounters with everything from bush pilots, 15-foot pythons, pygmy mongooses, brigadier-captains, and Peace Corp hippies to the Nigerian space program.
THE LAWDOG FILES: AFRICAN ADVENTURES are every bit as hilarious as the previous volume, as LawDog relates his unforgettable experiences in a laconic, self-deprecating manner that is funny in its own right. Africa wins again, and again, and again, but, so too does the reader in this sobering, but hilarious collection of true tales from the Dark Continent.
Already a #1 category bestseller!
From the reviews:
Because I’ve been editing LawDog literally all day in preparation for the upcoming release of his unforgettable African Adventures, I don’t have much intellectual energy left for posting. So, I’ll leave you instead with one of his stories from The LawDog Files, that, if less amusing than most, is no less worth reading.
“Car 12, County.”
“Go ahead, 12.”
“I’ve an open door at 1201 Second Street. Public service the Williams and see if they can put an eyeball on Dot.”
There’s more than a touch of amusement in dispatch’s voice as she replies, “10-4, 12. You want me to roll you some backup?”
“Negative, County,” I said as I stepped into the front hall of the Conroe and Conroe Funeral Home, “I’ll be on the portable.”
A dollar will get you a doughnut that I was going to find the same thing I’d found the last umpteen Open Door calls we’d gotten here, but I was well aware that Murphy hated my guts—personally. So my P7 was hidden behind my leg, finger indexed along the frame as I shined my Surefire through the business office, the guest rooms, multiple viewing rooms, the Icky Room, casket storage, finally to be slipped back into the holster as I found the small, slim figure sitting all alone in the chapel.
Dot Williams was dressed in her standard uniform of hot pink sneakers, blue jeans, and Hello Kitty sweatshirt, one foot swinging idly as she gravely regarded the awful plastic gold-painted, flower-adorned abstract sculpture stuck to the wall behind the altar. In honor of the evening’s football game, a red-and-black football was painted on one cheek, and red and silver ribbons had been threaded into her ever-present ponytail.
Eleven years ago, a college kid with a one-ton Western Hauler pickup truck and a blood alcohol concentration of 0.22 packed the Chevy S-10 driven by the hugely pregnant Mrs. Williams into a little bitty mangled ball and bounced it across Main Street. The Bugscuffle Volunteer Fire Department earned their Christmas hams that evening in as deft a display of the Fine Art of Power Extrication as any department, paid or volunteer, could hope for. A couple of hours after the Jaws of Life were cleaned and stored, Dorothy Elise Williams was born.
I scraped my boot heels on the carpet as I walked around the end of the pew, being careful not to startle the little girl, although, truth be known, I had no idea if Dot had ever been startled in her life. Or if it was even possible to startle her. Then I sat quietly on the bench just within arms’ reach and pondered the sculpture.
Yeah. It was bloody awful.
I reached into my vest and pulled out a pack of chewing gum, unwrapped a stick and chewed for a bit before taking a second stick out of the pack and—careful not to look at Dot—casually laid it on the bench midway between us. A couple of breaths later, equally casually, and without taking her eyes off the plastic abomination on the wall, Dot reached out and took the stick, unwrapping it with ferocious concentration and putting it into her mouth one quarter piece at a time before meticulously folding the foil wrapper into little squares and laying it on the bench midway between us. After a couple of breaths, I carefully picked it up and stuck it in an inner pocket of my denim vest.
Dot is odd.
Probably not very long after I sat down, but considerably longer than I would have liked—I was sitting in a funeral home, after dark, and I had seen this movie—Dot slid a battered something or other that I think was probably once a stuffed giraffe along the pew toward me, while maintaining a firm grip on one of its appendages with her left hand.
Careful not to touch the little girl, I grabbed a hold of a fuzzy limb and then carefully stood up. A beat later, Dot stood up herself, and then we started walking toward the exit.
Dot doesn’t like to be touched. As a matter of fact, the only sound I’ve ever heard the wee sprite make is an ear-splitting shriek whenever someone who isn’t family touches her. Learning that lesson left my ears ringing for days. However, as various and sundry gods are my witnesses, I swore that if this little girl turned and waved at the altar, I was picking her up and carrying her out the door at a dead sprint, probably emptying my magazine over my shoulder as we go, banshee wails and damage complaints notwithstanding.
Like I said, I’ve seen that movie.
Fortunately, anything Dot might have been communing with seemed to lack an appreciation for social graces or simply wished to spare my overactive imagination, and there was no waving.