Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Signed Copies of Chaos Queen books all over Utah

I traveled around to all the Barnes & Noble bookstores in the area yesterday, signing all the copies of Chaos Queen books they had. It was nice to get out and about, and nice to see that each of the stores carried at least my first book, if not books 2 and 3 in the series as well. (Incidentally, Sandy was the only store to have all three, but I also requested each store order copies of the books, and I'll do a  follow-up post probably in January when I get around to sign those copies, too.)

Unfortunately, my mini-tour is down to eight bookstores this year instead of the nine I hit up last year--the B&N at the Gateway in SLC closed recently. That's sad news, but not new news, and while it doesn't bode well, my hope is still that B&N can keep its head above water and do well as a business. (It only helps me, after all.)

Oh, and I slipped some postcards and stickers in each of the books I signed, including promotional material for book 4 in the series, Fear the Stars, that features the upcoming book's gorgeous cover. Get on that while you can! And if you're in the area and looking for a last-minute holiday gift, hit up one of these bookstores and give your friends/fams/whoevers some Chaos Queen goodness!




[I also stopped at the B&N in Bountiful, but the manager I spoke with there bought up the copy of Book 1 I signed--hopefully he enjoyed it, and there should be more on the way!]


West Jordan


Monday, December 03, 2018


The covers continue to roll out! I have to say, the color scheme for this one is perhaps my favorite of all the covers I've had up to this point--the crimson and pale grey look gorgeous together. This cover also continues the German series aesthetic (cool-looking crowns, basically--check out the covers for the German editions of Book 1 and Book 2), which I also think is awesome.

Also, the parade of covers is likely to continue; as I understand it, books 1, 2, and 3 of the Chaos Queen Quintet will all be coming out in Poland next year, so I should start seeing covers for those books soon as well..

Anyway. Clearly I've been incredibly fortunate as far as covers are concerned, so far. If they're all even close to as good as this one, I'll be one happy writer.

Sunday, December 02, 2018

Saturday, December 01, 2018

Alaska Grown

So this happened yesterday:

A 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck Anchorage, Alaska. I'm from Eagle River, AK, just outside of Anchorage, and things have been crazy. My parents and two younger brothers were all there when the earthquake happened, and it just sounds awful and insane.

In Alaska, you grow up relatively used to earthquakes. Tiny ones happen all the time, and on occasion (maybe once or twice a year, sometimes more frequently, sometimes less) you'll feel something in the 4.0-5.5 range. Right around 6.0 is when the quakes get kind of scary. I think I've experienced a 6+ once, maybe twice. I've never been in a 7, at least not that I can remember, and I can't imagine how terrifying it would have been.

And there have been hundreds of aftershocks--smaller earthquakes after the big one, anywhere from 3-5 on the scale. I know a lot of people who had trouble sleeping last night because the aftershocks were so frequent and relatively powerful.

So, anyway, it's a crazy time. The next few days, weeks, and months will constitute a lot of cleaning up and assessing damage for pretty much everyone I know up there. I imagine there will be a shortage of dishes, bookshelves, and plumbing services for a while. Thankfully, at least, most areas have power again--it's been hovering right around 32 degrees, and that's relatively warm for this time of year.

The following photos taken by my Dad, Brad Husberg, and show just a snippet of the damage:

Structural damage to my parents' house.

My Dad's office--thankfully he avoided getting crushed by these huge bookshelves.

My family's kitchen.

I mean...

Local grocery store.
Basically, it's a huge mess for a lot of folks up there, and my family didn't even get the worst of it. A part of me is glad I wasn't up there to experience it, and another part of me wants to get up there asap and help out with the cleanup.

All of me, however, is proud to be an Alaskan. They're some of the toughest, most practical, independent people I know, and they're all bad-ass and awesome. I'm proud of my family and friends, I'm so happy that everyone I've heard from is safe, and I'm sending them love and hope the best for them.

And, in the tiniest token of solidarity, I'm wearing one of my favorite sweatshirts today.

Alaska Grown 💪.

Friday, November 30, 2018

Sales Cover for FEAR THE STARS

Been discussing the cover for book four with my publisher lately, and they sent me this yesterday. I'm quite happy with it. This continues the aesthetic of the series (an aesthetic I'm definitely here for, by the way; I've loved each of the covers so far, and this one is no exception), the yellow/gold really pops, and I can't say I mind the Brandon Sanderson quote either--I'm grateful he was kind enough to take the time to read my books and say some nice things about them.

So another phenomenal sales cover, one that will represent a (hopefully) phenomenal book. I can't wait to get it into everyone's hands!

For now, you can pre-order it here.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

RIP MoviePass

This is old news for me, but I wanted to say that I cancelled my MoviePass back in September. It was a bittersweet day: bitter because at one point in time MoviePass had been such a delightful, awesome product for me, and it no longer was that delightful, awesome product; and sweet, because dealing with the MoviePass company, app, and CEO had become increasingly difficult and annoying, and the idea of just dropping it sounded wonderful.

So I did. (And, fortunately, had no trouble cancelling my subscription, as many other people reported.)

For the most part, I'm happy about that decision. I certainly miss seeing so many movies, but because of the new (and constantly changing and unclear) rules of MoviePass--and the fact that I've been finishing books, having babies (erm, have I not mentioned that yet? It's a thing. I'll tell you more about it later.), etc.--I wouldn't have seen that many movies, at least through MoviePass, recently anyway.

If you're unfamiliar with some of the craziness surrounding MoviePass, check out this timeline.

And, while I'm sure the video below is not literally accurate, it certainly captures the emotional essence of the MoviePass struggle.

Sigh. Sweet MoviePass, you were fun while you lasted. And while you were sane.

Friday, November 16, 2018

2018 Whitney Award Nomination

Some good news: Blood Requiem was recently nominated for a Whitney Award!

It always makes me happy to hear one of my books is up for an award, and this is no exception. Also, because this award is given by a committee, there's no need for me to campaign for it, which sounds rather relaxing tbh. I can just sit back and cross my fingers.

In other news, I'm making some significant progress on prewriting for my next project. I won't say too much about it right now, but I should be able to move into writing the first draft very soon. My goal is to finish at least a draft of the first book in the new trilogy by early next year. Right now that's certainly looking possible, and another reason to cross my fingers!


Wednesday, November 14, 2018

BLOOD REQUIEM Part 1 Now Available on Graphic Audio

I'm very pleased with Graphic Audio's adaptations of my books. Their cast and crew do a wonderful job, producing high quality audio stuff with a full cast, soundtrack, and sound effects. It's a very different experience from a regular audiobook, but one I highly recommend. Check it out! Follow the link above to listen to an audio sample if you're not yet convinced.

AND it looks like they're running an early Black Friday deal--it's plastered across the top of their website, but you can get 25% off by entering the code!

And, of course, check out their adaptations of the previous books in the Chaos Queen Quintet:

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

The Dawn of Artificial Superintelligence (YouTube series)

As I've mentioned earlier this year, one of my big research topics lately--as I gear up to start writing a brand new trilogy--has been Artificial Superintelligence. I've been reading books, following AI research institutions, watching documentaries, and generally absorbing anything on the topic I can.

A few months ago I came across this YouTube series, which explains the topic pretty well--and relatively concisely. Check it out if you're interested in a crash course on ASI. There is supposedly a fourth part in the pipeline, and I'll post that here as well as soon as it pops up.

Also, as far as my brand new trilogy goes, I'm almost done with the pre-writing and should be moving on to start the first novel in the trilogy just in time for a slightly belated NaNoWriMo. So, that's exciting :-).

A lot of other things have been going on for me in the past month or so, which I will likely post about in the future, but for now, life is good, and I'm excited about my next project.

Thursday, November 01, 2018

World Fantasy 2018

Hey folks! It's been a busy October--more on that later, perhaps--but I'm actually at an airport right now waiting for my flight to Baltimore, MD for the 2018 World Fantasy Convention. I'll be participating formally in two panel items, both on Friday:

Noon (Maryland Ballroom): Mary Shelley, Genius
In which, I assume, the fellow panelists and I will discuss the greatness that is Mary Shelley! Easy peasy, that.

8-10PM(ish) (Maryland Ballroom): Mass Autograph Reception/Signing Thingy
In which I join dozens (hundreds?) of other authors as we all gather to sign books and have conversations with fans and any random passerby who dares pass by, so to speak.

Otherwise I'll be writing in various places (working on a new project), hovering around the bar, and generally hanging out for the weekend. If you'll be there, come converse with me!

Monday, October 15, 2018

2 Mello, "Magic Ruins Everything Around Me," and "Masamune Problems"

Just a friendly reminder that 2 Mello exists and he once mashed up the FFVI soundtrack with a Wu-Tang Clan album. My favorite track below.

Also, he's mixed the Chrono Trigger soundtrack with some Jay-Z lyrics, and that is awesome as well. My favorite track from that is "Masamune Problems" if you want to give it a listen.

There's cool stuff in this world!

Wednesday, October 03, 2018


A screenshot, as void of spoilers as possible, of my Scrivener file for Fear the Stars. You will notice, however, the section titles and the interlude title, if that interests you. And, if you're in a really speculative mood, you can try to guess which colors represent which POV characters in my color-coded binder to the left ;-).
Yesterday I finished book Four of the Chaos Queen Quintet, Fear the Stars, and turned it in to my editor.

*Cue gargantuan sigh of relief*

My main goal was to finish this book before our second daughter was born. Well, she hasn't arrived yet, and is due in mid-October, so I'm on track there, at least! (Most of the above sigh of relief comes from the fact that I can now take some time off when the baby is born to spend time with new baby, little B, and Rachel with a clear conscience and nothing burning a hole in my plate, as it were.) That said, this book took longer than I'd anticipated, and I did have to extend my deadline by about a month (typically my Chaos Queen books are due in August the year prior to their release). Fortunately my publisher and editor were very understanding, and graciously gave me that leeway.*

This book was a blast to write, and for a few reasons. One, while many of the characters have been spread out geographically over the past few books, almost all of them converge into more or less the same space in Fear the Stars, and it's been a lot of fun to write those interactions. Also, I got to write two major sequences that I've been looking forward to writing since Duskfall--in the case of one of the sequences, since long before Duskfall. These two scenes, in part, inspired the Chaos Queen Quintet itself, and it was a really gratifying, cathartic experience to finally actually write them.

Also...this is a really good book, I think. Probably the best one yet. Which makes sense, because I hope I'm getting better with each book I write, but still. I think this will be a really good one.

I always like to provide a few details when finishing a book, partially for transparency's sake but mostly I just find the info and stats interesting. Admittedly I haven't been super consistent with which draft I've provided this information for--for Duskfall it was the very first finished draft of the book, for Dark Immolation it was a revised draft, for Blood Requiem the very first finished draft again, and now for Fear the Stars it's back to another revised draft. Part the reason behind this inconsistency lies in the fact that my first drafts are usually...very rough. I often skip a few scenes while writing that first draft, knowing I'll add them in with the first revision; the ending is sometimes barely more than a skeleton of what it will eventually become; characters are added and deleted; etc. So in most cases, I don't feel the very first draft I finish even represents a full book (although the first drafts of Duskfall and Blood Requiem, at least, were much closer than those of Dark Immolation and Fear the Stars!).

Anyway, all that is to say: on to the details for Fear the Stars!

  • Title: Fear the Stars. I'll be honest, the titles of the middle three books of the Chaos Queen Quintet are perhaps just a little more abstract than I'd like my titles to be, mainly for accessibility (re: marketing). I mean, who am I kidding, Duskfall and Dawnrise, the titles of books 1 and 5 are a little abstract as well, but at least they have some symmetry. So I guess the abstruse titles are sort of a theme in and of themselves, now? Basically: in retrospect I don't think the Chaos Queen titles, especially the middle three titles, do a lot for the books from a marketing perspective. That said, I like them, and I suppose that counts for something, yeah?
  • Version: 2.2 - I kind of covered this a few paragraphs ago, but this means it's a revised version of the book. 2.0 denotes a full revision, and any ticks in that first decimal place indicate minor changes made after or in supplement to that full revision. I will say, however, that I am very happy with this version of the book. I haven't been this pleased with a draft I've placed in my editor's hands since Duskfall; while I am very happy with the published versions of books two and three, the versions I first handed in to my editor still had some significant work to be done on them. I think this one will probably go through some changes as well, but it is very solid.
  • Total Word Count:187,625. That's a lot, and technically the longest draft I've ever turned in to my editor (Duskfall was at 162,000, Dark Immolation at 177,200, and Blood Requiem at a measly 131,600. There's actually funny story about the lengths of the final versions of those books, but this post is already getting long so I'll save it for another time). But a lot is happening in this book, so I think it'll probably end up being the largest of the Quintet, unless something really surprises me in book 5.
  • Chapters: 48, not including an Epilogue and an Interlude. (So 50 total, I guess.)
  • Viewpoint Characters: Yikes...we're at 10, cont 'em, ten viewpoint characters now, not including 2-3 minor viewpoints that recur throughout the book. That's a lot, but then again I'm also on book 4 of a 5-book dark fantasy epic, so it makes sense.
  • Start Date: Sometime in November or December of last year, I think? I really need to remember to mark the date I actually START novels.
  • End Date: 2 October 2018. Fugging nailed it, ya'll.
So, Fear the Stars. It's gonna be big, ya'll.

On a side note, I think in part I'm granted that leeway because, when I have gone over deadline, I've tried to anticipate it, alert my editor beforehand, and then give them a solid date for a new deadline and stick to it, which so far has never been more than 6-8 weeks out from the original deadline. The more professional thing, of course, would be to stick to the deadlines in the first place, and typically I try to do that, but on occasion life does get in the way, and I consider this way of going about extending a deadline much more professional than just watching the deadline pass me by, putting the onus on my editor to follow up and bug me about it, and then  either letting the same thing happen with the next deadline, or not giving them a projected new deadline at all.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Captain Marvel

As far as I'm concerned, the MCU has been on fire lately--and definitely the good kind of fire. 🔥 
Things really took a turn for the better with Thor: Ragnarok, which is probably my favorite MCU film to date. Black Panther continued that trend, and is right up there in my top 3, if not directly in the #2 spot. Avengers: Infinity War, while flawed, did a phenomenal job combining dozens of headlining characters into a single story, mostly by focusing on the villain as the protagonist--and Thanos is a truly creepy villain, and a delight to watch in that film. Ant Man & the Wasp did exactly what it set out to do, which I think, in addition to telling a fun story, was to lighten the mood jut a tad after the incredibly bleak ending of A:IW.

And now, the next Marvel film on the docket is Captain Marvel--see the recently released trailer above.

Ya'll, I simply cannot express to you how excited I am for this film.

I've been excited to see Captain Marvel on the big screen since the day it was announced. For one, it's basically Marvel's first attempt at a female-led MCU film. I think that is awesome. But, far beyond that, I find Captain Marvel/Carol Danvers a fascinating superhero. Add to that the stinger at the end of A:IW, and, well, I LITERALLY CANNOT WAIT ZOMG.

Honestly, I'm so excited, I'm actually terrified--mainly that the film will be bad in one or more major ways. The only thing DC seems to have done right recently is the Wonder Woman film, and that definitely set the bar high. Don't get me wrong; I loved WW, and I'm happy the film did so well, and was made with such quality in just about every aspect. I want the bar to be high for Captain Marvel.
But damn do I hope Captain Marvel just blows WW out of the water--or, at least, was as awesome, emotionally engaging, and entertaining to watch as WW.

Yeah, I have high hopes for this one. And try as I might, I can't lower them. But, you know what? I don't think I should have to. Give us a stellar Captain Marvel film, Marvel. You've shown us you can do it. You're already on a roll. Keep that going.

And, if the Captain Marvel film crushes it the way I'm hoping, it'll make the next Avengers film that much better.

I can't wait until 2019--even if I'm terrified.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Events this weekend in Las Vegas and St. George!

The inimitable Dave Butler and I are once again teaming up this weekend, doing events both in Las Vegas, NV and St. George, UT!

Here's the details:

Saturday 15 September 1:00 PM (PDT) - Rainbow Blvd Barnes & Noble
Las Vegas, NV

Saturday 15 September 6:00 PM (MDT) - Red Cliffs Barnes & Noble
St. George, UT

PLEASE NOTE that, while both events are on the same day, one time is listed in PDT and the other in MDT.

But yeah, if you're in either of those places, stop by! Get signed books! Hang out with two awesome fantasy authors! Dave might even play the guitar. It'll be a fun time.

Monday, September 10, 2018

50 Blog Posts This Year (so far)!

Just wanted to point out a small milestone for this blog:

With my last post about my appearance at FanX 2018 (which went very well, by the way--the "Was Thanos Right?" Debate panel was particularly fun), I've hit fifty blog posts for 2018! Not only is that a nice round number, but it's also the most blog posts I've ever published in a single year--and we still have 3+ months to go!

This makes me happy because it actually doesn't seem like I've made any real effort to increase my blog output. I think, instead, I've actually just had a lot more things to talk about this year, or a lot more things I've chosen to talk about, anyway. So, neat.

According to just about everyone, blogs are a dying medium, so I'm not sure how much longer it will be viable. That said, I do still view it as the most effective way to convey information to my readers--especially, of course, information about my books--so I don't see me stopping anytime soon.

We'll see! But for now, I'm happy. Also, Book 4 is coming along swimmingly.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Salt Lake FanX 2018

Hey folks!

I'll once again be at Salt Lake Comic Con this year, now named Salt Lake FanX, after San Diego Comic Con sued the convention for use of the term "Comic Con"....no comment there...

That, of course, isn't the only drama surrounding FanX this year. Check out this timeline of events for a more extensive summary, but long story short, FanX really bungled some accusations of harassment, and then bungled their responses to being called out on how they handled those accusations, and then bungled their responses to being called out on how they responded. Something of a mess, but basically, FanX (and a few key individuals specifically within FanX) really screwed up.

I signed the petition mentioned in the timeline along with hundreds of other authors. And, I'm happy to say, FanX has begun to handle each of those issues in respectable ways. For the record, I really like and appreciate FanX as an institution, and I really like, respect, and appreciate some people within the FanX infrastructure. There are a few people who really seem, at best, to create drama wherever they go, and at worst, actively harm others. I'm not interested in supporting an organization that does that sort of thing. So, while I am hopeful for the future of FanX, and hope that it can be an inclusive, welcoming, tolerant, open-eared and open-minded place, I am still pretty wary of everything involved in the situation, and I'll be keeping a close eye on things as they develop. If FanX bungles anything further, it's likely I'll withdraw my support and participation (which would be unfortunate, as I enjoy interacting with fans at FanX and selling my books, but it's something I'm definitely willing to do.)

So! All of that aside, I am going to be at FanX next week, and I'll be on four panels. See my schedule and descriptions of each event below. I'll also be hanging out at Bard's Tower when I'm not on panels, so if you're at the con and don't make it to one of my panels, by all means stop by Bard's Tower and say hello (and buy some of my books, signed)!

I'm definitely looking forward to interacting with the other authors and fans at the convention. I hope to see you there!

3PM (251A) - Old Magic vs. New Magic: The Evolution of Magic Systems in Fantasy
Join authors L.E. Modesitt of The Imager Series, Christopher Husberg of The Chaos Queen Quintent, Brian McClellan of The Powder Mage Series, Brian Durfee author of The Forgetting Moon, and Peter Orullian of The Vault of Heaven Series as they discuss the evolution of magic systems throughout fantasy.

4:30PM (Booth 401) - Christopher Husberg Signing at Bard's Tower
As I mentioned, I'll be in and out of Bard's Tower selling and signing books all weekend, but this will be the first of my "official" signing times.

7PM (150G) - The Super-Awesome Authors AMA
This awesome panel of pro writers are ready and willing to answer (almost) any questions you have about what it takes to make it as an author in the 21st century. Maybe you’re dreaming about publishing that first novel, but you’re not sure which way to go. Is it better to take the indie route? Aim for the traditional New York path? Will you need an agent? What about book marketing? How do you build an author brand? What’s the reality of selling books at comic cons? Will brick and mortar bookstores go the way of the dinosaurs? Is Amazon really the future? These questions and (almost) any other will be answered at this super-awesome author AMA! 

2:30PM (Booth 401) - Christopher Husberg Signing at Bard's Tower
Once again, while I'll be in and out of this booth all weekend, this is another one of my "official" signing times.

6PM (255A) - Nobelbright vs. Grimdark, Nobledark vs. Grimbright
Noblebright: the polar opposite of grimdark. The traditional fantasy story in which good saves the world. But not every story fits neatly into one of those two categories. And what about the other two quadrants on the spectrum, nobledark and grimbright? You'll learn what each of those mean, and perhaps learn a new term to classify your favorite kind of stories and games.

7PM (250A) - FanX Debate: Was Thanos Right or Wrong?
Avengers: Infinity War is the first superhero film to gross over $2 billion worldwide, breaking numerous box office records and becoming the highest-grossing film of 2018, as well as the fourth-highest-grossing film of all time and in the United States and Canada, but the question remains: Was Thanos right or wrong with his actions in the film? FanX proudly presents a formal debate where this question will be presented, analyzed and defended on both sides of the issue. Come and join the fun by weighing in as our panel struggles to stay alive, keep from turning into wispy mulch, and look forward to the sequel coming out in May of 2019.

Monday, August 20, 2018

The International 8

We all have different corners of geekdom that we call our own. That concept in and of itself is a post for another time, but one of my personal favorite corners is DOTA 2, which I've mentioned recently in conjunction with my current research subject, artificial intelligence.

Well, this week it's time for The International, one of the largest and most prestigious esports tournaments in existence--and easily the one with the largest prize pool (almost $25 million this year).

I fully recognize most people don't even know what I'm talking about here, let alone care about it, but, well, The International is a really cool thing. I'm currently still racing to finish book 4, so I won't be able to watch nearly as much of the tournament live as I would like, but I'll certainly still tune in to  catch some of the games when I can (especially those involving EG and Liquid), and be following recaps and summaries on the DOTA 2 subreddit.

The video below relays some of the intensity, drama, and general awesomeness of The International. It's cool, ya'll. Way better than the League of Legends World Championship (boooooooo). Way better than Overwatch League or the Heroes of the Storm Global Championship (meh). It even blows the Starcraft 2 World Championship Series out of the water (and don't even get me started on things like CoD or Fortnight. Zzzzzz.) Them's fightin' words, I know. But, well, fight me on it, ya'll, I dare you.

So, if you're interested, check out the video below!

I'm freaking PUMPED.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

New Audiomachine Album: ASCENDANCE

It's no secret that I'm a big Audiomachine fan, so whenever they come out with a new album, I'm all over it. Well, their newest collection, Ascendance, just became available on Apple Music, and I'm loving it. I'll have to give it a few weeks to be sure, but I think it's one of my top three or four albums they've released.

Some context: Audiomachine creates my favorite writing music. They make epic music (mostly for movie trailers), and it fits perfectly with an epic fantasy writer who loves to write with music in the background (me).

So, if you're a writer--especially a fantasy writer--and you like writing music, you should definitely check them out!

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Worldcon 2018

I'll be at Worldcon 76 in San Jose this weekend! This will be my seventh Worldcon (after Renovation, Chicon, LoneStarCon 3, Sasquan, MidAmeriCon II, and Worldcon 75 in Helsinki, Finland), so I know my way around the block at this point. It's a convention I always enjoy, and I'm looking forward to another year.

I'm not on any official programming this time around, but you'll see me hanging about--likely doing a lot of writing, as I'm racing to finish Book 4 at the moment. Look for me in hotel lobbies, hitting up a few panels, and generally barconning it up.

So, if you see me, whether I'm melding with my laptop or chatting with a group, take a moment to say hello!

Monday, August 13, 2018

Dota 2 and OpenAI

I'm a big DOTA 2 fan. I've been aware of it since it's conception as a Warcraft III mod. I was aware of the WC3 custom game arena back in the day, but spent most of my time playing both the campaigns and online matches of WC3. (And time well spent, imo--WC3 is still one of my all-time favorite video games.)

My younger brothers, though, played DOTA (the Defense of the Ancients custom game created from the WC3 editor) a lot. I looked over their shoulders on occasion and while it looked interesting, there was something about the game that just didn't draw me in.

Flash forward to about ten years later--about 2012--where my siblings and I are playing Starcraft 2 on a pretty regular basis. Most of that involved 4v4 matches, but on occasion my sister's husband wanted to join us, and that meant we had to find a 5-player game. We turned to some SC2 custom games, which included Aeon of Storms, as it was called at the time (another MOBA). We played this for a while, and then found out DOTA 2 was going to be released soon for free on Steam, and, well, the rest is history.

I play the occasional action, role-playing, or survival horror game on PS4, but DOTA 2 has been my go-to game for the past few years, now. It's fun, it's incredibly complicated, and it's very competitive. (It also notoriously has one of the worst-mannered gaming communities in existence, but you win some you lose some, ya know?)

So, DOTA 2 is cool. If you're curious, Juggernaut is one of my all-time favorite heroes, but lately I've also been playing a lot of Pudge.

This screenshot is from a year ago or so.

This one is pretty recent.

Anyway, with all that being said, there are some interesting developments involving DOTA 2 and one of my other current interests, AI.

An interesting exhibition match happened last year at The International 7 last year (the most prestigious DOTA 2 tournament, held every year, which consistently has the highest prize-pools in e-sports history). Dendi, one of the best and most famous DOTA 2 players in the short history of the game, faced off in a one-on-one scenario (DOTA 2 is usually 5v5) against a special opponent: an OpenAI bot--or, in other words, an artificial intelligence developed by the OpenAI research company, funded in large part by Elon Musk.

In short, the bot dominated.

OpenAI has continued working hard on their DOTA 2 program because they feel that the DOTA 2 video game presents a particular challenge for an AI. It is one of the most complicated and nuanced video games in existence. But don't take my word for it, take OpenAI's (from their recent blog post):

Dota 2 is a real-time strategy game played between two teams of five players, with each player controlling a character called a “hero”. A Dota-playing AI must master the following:
  • Long time horizons. Dota games run at 30 frames per second for an average of 45 minutes, resulting in 80,000 ticks per game. Most actions (like ordering a hero to move to a location) have minor impact individually, but some individual actions like town portal usage can affect the game strategically; some strategies can play out over an entire game. OpenAI Five observes every fourth frame, yielding 20,000 moves. Chess usually ends before 40 moves, Go before 150 moves, with almost every move being strategic.
  • Partially-observed state. Units and buildings can only see the area around them. The rest of the map is covered in a fog hiding enemies and their strategies. Strong play requires making inferences based on incomplete data, as well as modeling what one’s opponent might be up to. Both chess and Go are full-information games.
  • High-dimensional, continuous action space. In Dota, each hero can take dozens of actions, and many actions target either another unit or a position on the ground. We discretize the space into 170,000 possible actions per hero (not all valid each tick, such as using a spell on cooldown); not counting the continuous parts, there are an average of ~1,000 valid actions each tick. The average number of actions in chess is 35; in Go, 250.
  • High-dimensional, continuous observation space. Dota is played on a large continuous map containing ten heroes, dozens of buildings, dozens of NPC units, and a long tail of game features such as runes, trees, and wards. Our model observes the state of a Dota game via Valve’s Bot API as 20,000 (mostly floating-point) numbers representing all information a human is allowed to access. A chess board is naturally represented as about 70 enumeration values (a 8x8 board of 6 piece types and minor historical info); a Go board as about 400 enumeration values (a 19x19 board of 2 piece types plus Ko).
So, this time around, OpenAI's goal is to have a team of five AI bots go up against five professionals at The International 8, happening in just a few weeks. The OpenAI system has already defeated a team of five former professional players, so things are looking pretty scary for The International this year.

It's all pretty exciting.

At least it is for me :-). I recognize these are two very niche subjects that, when combined, form even more of a niche subject, and I'm okay with that. But, hey, I find it fascinating.

I have a lot of other thoughts about the machine learning processes OpenAI has experimented with to get to the point they are at today in DOTA 2. I have even more thoughts about the implications of such things--that is, after all, in large part what my next project is about!

But, for now, it's fun to sit back, watch, and learn.

Thursday, August 09, 2018

Current Research: Artificial Super Intelligence

While I'm hard at work finishing the Chaos Queen Quintet, I've also been making time to research my next (post Chaos Queen) project. For the most part, that means researching artificial intelligence, artificial super intelligence, nanotechnology, and so forth. Here's what I've read so far:

And here's what's coming up (as soon as I finish book 4):

Cool stuff! I'll probably go into more detail about this in the future, but I just wanted to share it for now. It's making me very excited about my next project...about which, for now, I will say nothing :-).

Friday, July 27, 2018

Gen Con 2018!

I'm returning to Gen Con this year! I had a great time last year, and I'm very much looking forward to my second appearance at the Con. I'll be participating on a number of panels and other programming items as part of Gen Con's writer's symposium, so if you're attending, find me and say hello!

Thu 2 Aug

12:00 PM (Boston): Artificial Intelligence and Speculative Fiction
I'm particularly excited about this one. I've been researching artificial super intelligence quite a bit lately, and I think this could be a very fun discussion.

3:00 PM (Ballrooms 3-4): Religion in SF/F
Some of my bread and butter, you could say. Religion plays a very significant role in the Chaos Queen books, so no surprise here.

4:00 PM (Ballroom 1): Finding Inspiration
Not sure of any details but I think it'll make for an interesting, and hopefully helpful, panel.

Fri 3 Aug

1:00 PM (Signing Table in Dealer's Room): Signing!
I'll be signing books! I'll also have a few for sale in the dealer's room.

Sat 4 Aug

2:00 PM (Atlanta): Vampires: Undead, or Just Dead?
Vampires! Because Astrid! And BtVS!

Sun 5 Aug

9:00 AM (Boston): Read and Critique 3
I think you have to sign up for this in advance, so if it interests you, look into it!

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Thoughts on the Buffy the Vampire Slayer Reboot

I'm late to the party on this (I've been summer vacationing for most of the past two weeks--playing with bears in Alaska and then at the beach in SoCal), but news broke a few days ago that Joss Whedon is exec producing a reboot of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, with Monica Owusu-Breen as showrunner. The series is still in very early stages of development--no script, no casting announcements--but some of the more interesting details include the producers' intention to cast an African American woman as Buffy, and their hope to keep the metaphorical aspect of the show intact.

Hmmmm. Interesting.

I have...so many feelings about this. Like, very conflicted, convoluted feelings. Allow me to break those feelings down into something reasonably coherent, if you will, in an old-fashioned pro/con list.


  • More Buffy! BtVS is, of course, my favorite show of all time. While I'm hardcore side-eying the reboot concept, even the slightest chance that I could get more of what made the original series so great is, in a word, sublime.
  • A black Buffy. I'm all for this! The original serious had a very white-washed cast, and it would be awesome to see it take a more diverse direction.
  • Hitting metaphor hard. "High School is hell" is one of the concepts that made the show take off to begin with, and some of the best episodes succeed largely through their use of metaphor. Given our current socio-political climate, there are more issues and concepts than ever to tackle, either through a monster-of-the-week or with much grander plot strokes. I would love to see this done well in a contemporary supernatural television program.
  • Joss Whedon's involvement. This is a tough one because my feelings about Joss Whedon have largely changed over the past year (look at what they once were, and while I've yet to publish anything specific on how I've been feeling about Whedon lately, it's safe to say I'm disillusioned at best), but a reboot of BtVS without his name attached in some capacity just...wouldn't seem right?
  • Monica Owusu-Breen. She's tentatively in the pro column--in looking at her IMDB writing credits page I see she's worked on some interesting shows, but none of her individual episodes stand out to me. This isn't a dealbreaker--hence her place in the pro column--but it mainly means I'm just very curious to see how she handles the show. I think she could add fresh, interesting, potentially delicious blood (see what I did there) to a reboot of the series.

  • ...more Buffy? (Seriously, ya'll, I'm conflicted.) The original television series (not the film, for the record) stands as one of the best television shows of all time, even now, twenty years later. Why change what is so incredible? Can you even change it without inevitably making the new product worse? I'm not sure you can. Joss said it himself:“I see a little bit of what I call monkey’s paw in these reboots. You bring something back, and even if it’s exactly as good as it was, the experience can’t be. You’ve already experienced it, and part of what was great was going through it for the first time.” And yet, here we are, I guess. Shrug.
  • A reboot? Really? I'd be much more interested in a continuation--in which we follow a new slayer, oh, say, 20 years after the original series--of the story. New characters, new villains, new apocalypses. Sarah Michelle Gellar could even make a few (ideally rare) cameo appearances as an older, wiser, perhaps more jaded and/or grizzled (or, perhaps, retired and very happy? I don't know!) Buffy--and Alyson Hannigan could totally show up as a bad-ass witchy woman in her prime! That would be amazing. An adaptation of something else in-world would also work--Frey being a prime target (And Hannigan could still cameo! It would be so cool!). That would also be amazing. When you could do something like that, why reboot the already incredible, much lauded original series? (For the record, I know why, and it's money. But still.)
  • How they're using the African American casting as a marketing ploy. Or at least it feels that way. As I mentioned above, I think a black Buffy would be very cool. I also think it's weird of the producers to offer that as one of the only bits of information they give us when they've only just barely announced the reboot in the first place. It sort of feels like they're really nervous about the response to the show (a reboot of an original that was notoriously popular, albeit with very mixed opinions, among minorities), and are trying to placate the potential audience with such an announcement. In short, I don't like how they're going about it. It feels condescending and poorly planned. That said, I still think it'd be a potentially awesome casting choice. We will see.
  • Ugh. Joss Whedon. (Did I mention my feelings are conflicted and convoluted here?) This is tough because despite Joss Whedon's objective strengths as a writer and creator, he's kind of been an asshole to women (allegedly)--particularly his ex-wife--in spite of his feminist proclivities. There was once a day where I would have consumed anything Joss Whedon remotely had a hand in creating, but that day has long past. Instead, I basically ask myself "could I like this in spite of Joss Whedon's involvement?" So...yeah.
  • But...Joss Whedon isn't showrunning. (I'M ALL OVER THE PLACE ABOUT THIS, OKAY?) The way Joss Whedon ran the original BtVS TV series revolutionized the way stories were told on the small screen. If he's only involved as EP, well...look at it this way: the 1992 Buffy the Vampire Slayer film is notoriously bad, precisely because the people involved didn't know how to handle the character and the premise. They twisted Whedon's original vision into a joke instead of playing it straight. There's a risk of that sort of thing occurring here, even with Owusu-Breen involved.
  • Things Are Different Now. BtVS came about in a particular climate, with a particular message. Many particular messages, in fact, that were particular to the sociopolitical climate of the time--providing a strong, heroic, dynamic, profound, and multi-faceted central female character perhaps foremost among them. This was a revelation. The reboot, however, could not replicate this. It's attempting to following in the footsteps trailblazed--and subsequently etched, carved, and gilded--by it's own direct predecessor. The original series was both a product of and a reaction to its time, and while the reboot has some interesting ground to potentially cover (as I mentioned above about "metaphor"), the cultural moment simply doesn't exist. (Which is not to say that the reboot couldn't create a new cultural moment, but lightning doesn't strike twice, as they say--it could, technically, but I wouldn't hold my breath.)
So. I'm sure I'll have more thoughts about this as the project develops, but I don't know, ya'll. Right now I'm worried. I'm very tentatively, very small-ly excited about the prospect, but mostly I'm worried. And I'm not alone. With response articles like "Is the Buffy the Vampire Slayer Reboot Doomed to Fail?" and "Talent of Color Do Not Need White TV Show and Film Hand-Me-Downs," and Twitter in an outrage about it all, I'm clearly not alone.

I do have hope, don't get me wrong. But hope and fear go hand-in-hand.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

r/fantasy Writer of the Day!

Hey alls!

I'm Fantasy Writer of the Day over at r/fantasy (the reddit subgroup), so that's neat. If you're curious about me, the Chaos Queen books, writing in general, or Buffy the Vampire Slayer, you should definitely head on over and chat/ask me questions/whatever!

Tuesday, July 17, 2018


So last week my family and I went on adventure.

We took an airplane to the tiny town of King Salmon, AK, and from there a float plane to Katmai National Park.

While there, we camped in an electric fence enclosed compound, for reasons you'll understand later.

We hiked into the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes, where the largest volcanic eruption of the 20th century occurred.

My daughter was a straight up adventurer. She's also freaking adorable.

Like I said. Adorable.

Also, we saw bears. Because that's what you do at Katmai.

Lots of bears.

Lots and lots of bears.

We were very close to these bears.

Fortunately, they were distracted by other food. Also, there were pretty strict rules in place around the camp that helped. Bears have the right of way throughout the entire place, which means they're often wandering through the middle of camp (only the campground itself has the electric fence). It was crazy.

This cub was not happy with his sibling.

B was often oblivious to the bears.

But on occasion she thought they were pretty cool. DID I MENTION ADORABLE THO??

Seriously though. BEARS.
Anyway, it was quite the adventure. If you want to get a taste of what we saw, check out this bear cam, set up in one of the major viewing areas at Brooks Camp (where we stayed) in Katmai.

Nice to have some time away. Now, back to book four! 🐻 💪🙌⚔️