So, my original plan was to have a brand-new Fanboy Review of Thor: Love and Thunder ready for you guys tomorrow. Unfortunately things have taken a turn in the form of Covid-19. Yep, after avoiding it for more than two years, the bug has finally found us. I say ‘us’ because everyone here at Sector M tested positive for it.
As the movie in question is a theatre-only release, Thor will have to wait until we get the all-clear, which we hope will be in another week or so. Thankfully, no one who was affected by this suffered anything severe. A rough time to be sure, with copious amounts of brain fog and sore throats, but there was no need to go to the hospital. My own senses of taste and smell were casualties of this encounter, but they have since — slowly — started to come back.
I have an alternate topic for the blog post for July, but I’m going to move back the publishing date to next Friday, July 22 to give myself time to fully recover. I’ll adjust the date on the State of the Sector address as well.
While the aforementioned brain fog has made working on my Cyberpunk WIP a bit problematic, I have been able to get some quality time editing my previous fantasy novel. Considering the circumstances, I’m glad for any sort of progress.
With any luck, we will be able to end our quarantine in the near future. Until then, it’s just about trying to stay positive and keep moving forward. Any good vibes you can send our way in the meantime would be much appreciated.
I’m a big believer in the power of art. Whether it’s books, TV, movies, video games, or other media, I think that the creative arts represent humanity at our best. I’ve also spoken about the healing power it’s had for me personally in a number of places on this blog. I’m sure you, the reader, are no stranger to being uplifted by a well-timed song on the radio, a silly comedy when you’re feeling down, or any number of other examples that come to mind. Art and the act of creation are, to me, the defining trait of our human-ness.
Not to get too Maximus Decimus Meridius on you here, but I do think that what we do in life does, in fact, echo in eternity, especially for artists. Some folks, like Stephen King or Willie Nelson, have had long careers, and have had a hand in defining and redefining their genres more than once. They are the pillars on which several generations of future artists may find inspiration while they continue being legends of their respective media. We are so lucky to have them.
Sadly, there are artists who leave us far too early, often tragically young. These are the comets of the artistic world, blazing a path through the heavens before the sudden absence of their light leaves us cold in their wake. Don Mclean’s famous song, American Pie, speaks about one of these comets, referencing February 3, 1959 — the day the music died.
That’s when a plane crashed in a corn field near Clear Lake, Iowa that resulted in the deaths of, among others, Jiles Perry “The Big Bopper” Richardson, Jr., Ritchie Valens, and Charles Hardin Holley, better known by his stage name: Buddy Holly. I remember hearing about the plane crash as a kid, especially when La Bamba, starring Lou Diamond Phillips as Ritchie Valens, premiered in 1987. The movie ends with the now-famous coin flip between Ritchie and Tommy Allsup to determine the seat on the plane.
Last year, I travelled to Buddy Holly’s hometown of Lubbock, Texas to learn more about this icon of the ’50s and early rock legend. The West Texas city is surrounded by miles and miles of cotton fields, studded with towering metal windmills. Travelling there at night from Dallas, I remember the hypnotic red lights on those windmills the most, as they always appeared in the distance without ever seeming to get closer.
The next morning, I went to the Buddy Holly Center in the heart of the city’s Depot District. The Center is situated in an old train depot. Across the street, you’ll find the famous Buddy Holly statue at the West Texas Walk of Fame. The statue was much taller than it looked from the photos, but it’s fitting for a figure who casts such a long shadow in the music world. His signature look is all accounted for there in bronze: the suit, the guitar, and (of course) the glasses.
Speaking of the glasses, the sign at the front of the Center is a giant-sized pair of Buddy Holly specs. The museum itself consists of two main galleries. One is a recreation of Buddy’s bedroom, including several pieces of furniture he owned. Opposite that display are tributes from many other famous musicians that have made the pilgrimage to the museum. The other gallery contains a host of memorabilia from his personal life, his performances, and a timeline of his career. Photography is not allowed inside the exhibits, but there are photos on Google.
Before you go in, you are treated to a short movie about Buddy’s life and legacy. A notable personality who shows up in that presentation is Paul McCartney, who talks about how the concert that Buddy Holly played in Liverpool was a catalyst to form the Beatles. Even the name of the Fab Four’s band was a reference to Buddy’s own band, the Crickets.
Of course, Buddy looks young in all the photos we have of him, but I didn’t realize just how young he was. When that plane crashed on February 3, he was just 22 years old. Twenty-two. His entire musical career lasted only around 18 months, but in that time he left an enduring mark upon the world. A comet, indeed.
That realization stung me pretty hard as I stood there looking at the actual glasses, which were recovered from the crash site. It really drove home what a tragedy it was to lose such a gifted musician at the dawn of his career. The Big Bopper had been oldest of that trio at 28, and Ritchie Valens was only 17. Yeah, the lump that I got in my throat as That’ll Be The Day played through the hall is roughly equivalent to the one I’m feeling now as I write this.
While the Center does not shy away from the circumstances of Buddy’s death, the museum itself is far from a solemn place of remembrance. Quite the opposite, in fact — it’s an upbeat and lively space. It’s a fitting testament to the man who, by all accounts, brought such an energy and fire everywhere he went, to everything he did.
You know, the act of creation is sometimes like throwing pebbles into the still waters of a pond. For many of us who create, the ripples we cause are small, barely noticeable most of the time. But as I stood there on the museum floor, surrounded on all sides by artifacts from his life, I found myself in awe of just how big the ripple Buddy left behind truly is.
So, should you find yourself out in Lubbock, Texas one day, I highly recommend that you make a visit to the Buddy Holly Center to learn not only about the legend but also the man behind the myth. As long as we remember him, a part of him endures. As Buddy himself put it:
My new Patreon is now live and ready to go! It’s taken a few months of revamping other stuff, such as my website and store, but now there are new tiers, new rewards, and tons more fun stuff ready to go!
Here’s some of the new stuff you can unlock, depending on your chosen tier:
Early access to cover reveals, sample chapters, and other author-y goodness
Cooperative storytelling to develop the lore of the Sector
Invites to online Sector M hangouts, Q&A sessions, and more
So, if you like what I do, I would ask you to support Sector M on Patreon at whatever level makes sense for you. I would never (repeat never an infinity amount of times) ask anyone to give more than they can. Instead, I want the Patreon to be a community of SF/F fans and gamers who want to revel in their collective geekery and fandom, and build something new.
This next Tuesday, April 26th, marks three years since the release of the final installment of the Infinity Saga. At the time, I wasn’t sure if anything could truly cap off 11 years of the MCU, including 22 movies and one helluva setup with Infinity War. I should’ve known all of you would knock it out of the park.
Of course, the odds of any of the actual cast reading this are admittedly pretty slim, but writing this is cathartic for me after the emotional roller-coaster that is Avengers: Endgame that still lives rent-free in my head now in 2022.
First, the general stuff:
This goes out to not only the cast but the crew as well. It took a literal army of people to bring this movie to life. No matter what your role was on this film, on or off the screen, it’s clear that your passion for the work came shining through in a way that’s seldom seen. I’m sure there were a myriad of frustrations and obstacles that we, as the viewing audience, will never understand or even know existed. But you persevered, laboring to create something truly beautiful.
And what you have created is nothing less than a love letter to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. As both a comics fanboy and movie enthusiast, I am humbled by the feature you collectively delivered. Truly.Humbled. From the bottom of my heart, thank you. You have no idea what your work means to me.
There are a few folks in particular I would like to address. Obviously, I can’t cover everyone involved in a production this size (this may lead me to write a Part 2 to this eventually), so let me simply say that every actor who made an on-screen appearance played their part to perfection. Every single one. The MCU has always had pretty inspired casting, and I can safely say that the acting here is phenomenal across the board. I love you all.
Okay, now the specifics:
Jon Favreau – Where would we be if you hadn’t directed the original Iron Man? For me and many of my friends, it’s been our collective dream to see an interconnected universe where these heroes could team up and interact with each other. You set that in motion, and I’m really happy (note the use of the word) that you have maintained a recurring character. I always look forward to seeing him, and wow-oh-wow did your scene with young Morgan strike home, post-funeral scene. While it’s not strictly on topic, I have really enjoyed The Mandalorian and other Star Wars projects that you and Dave Filoni have created. I look forward to many more.
Alan Silvestri – I’ve been listening to your Endgame score while writing this letter. It’s so evocative. There’s pain, and despair, but there’s a slender thread of hope that runs through it. One of the hardest things about watching this movie was seeing all these characters I love in such pain, and you underscore it beautifully. Let me add that I’ve been a fan of your scores since Back to the Future. Your work regularly appears on my writing playlists. Your ability to inspire, or to break my heart, through music is astonishing. When your Avengers theme comes on, I feel like I can fly.
The Russo Brothers – You did the impossible. You brought a million disparate threads together, weaving them into a tapestry worthy of Odin’s great hall. Your contributions to the MCU in the past have been top-tier. Winter Soldier and Civil War are visual poetry. And now with Infinity War/Endgame, you have created the crown jewel of the Infinity Saga. You should be proud.
Tom Holland – I know that you weren’t in this film very much, but every moment with Spidey is absolute gold. You really twisted the knife in Infinity War with your “I don’t feel so good, Mr. Stark” line. I’m still not sure I’ve recovered from it. And then, the look on your face when the tables were turned at the end here — wow. Peter’s vulnerability is something that really shines through every time you’re in the role. Also, as I said in my No Way Home review, that was pretty much everything I could have ever asked for as a life-long Spider-Man fan.
Jeremy Renner – The first scene of this movie really allows you to shine. As a parent, it really struck home. The confusion, which quickly turns to fear, it was all there on your face. This was a Clint that was hard to watch because he was just so dead inside, and we as the audience were witness to the moment it happened. I think you are a fine actor, and I think that this is some of the best work I’ve ever seen from you. I was also very pleased by the Hawkeye Disney+ series. I hope that this isn’t the last we’ve seen of Clint Barton.
Scarlett Johansson – What a legend. Thank you for being an integral part of the MCU since Iron Man 2. I know that death in the comics, and often in the movies, can be more of an inconvenience that anything else. That wasn’t the case with Nat’s death. It felt pretty permanent, and thus more real. I gotta say, Endgame had me crying about six different times, and I when saw Nat fall, I was bawling. No more red in her ledger. She made the hard call. It was incredibly harsh to watch, but what a way to go out.
Paul Rudd – I have to tell you that Scott’s reunion with Cassie was incredibly moving, and one of many places where the screen was suddenly blurry for, ahem, no well-explained reason. There are so many emotions playing across your face in that moment. I love that Ant-Man is the key to the Avengers’ eventual victory, and that you had so many great moments. You, sir, are a national treasure. I look forward to seeing you return in Quantummania.
Mark Ruffalo – You took one of the most challenging characters to portray in maybe of all of Marvel, and you make it look effortless. I can’t even imagine the level of motion capture rigs and general weirdness it must take to turn in a Hulk performance. I loved seeing Professor Hulk in this, where Bruce had found a kind of balance with the dual sides of his nature. While Tony may have defeated Thanos in the end, it was the Hulk that undid the Blip. Half of the universe returned to life because of his direct actions. As accolades go, that one doesn’t suck.
Chris Hemsworth – Of all the Avengers, Thor is the one who internalized the failure to stop Thanos the most, taking him down a self-destructive path. I know that a lot of it gets played for laughs, thanks in part to your incredible comic timing, but those moments when we see Thor reflect on his role in events is moving. He’s always the hero who is exactly where he needs to be when it matters most, so for him to fail by a matter of seconds was gut wrenching. I noticed in the recent Thor: Love and Thunder teaser that Thor is trying to find his place in the universe after all of that. I am here for it.
Chris Evans – Oh Captain, My Captain! I remember seeing Cap standing alone on the field facing Thanos, hurt, dirty, with a broken shield in hand. I knew that this would be the last movie where you played Steve Rogers, and I was painfully aware of how that confrontation played out in the Infinity Gauntlet comics. I remember sitting in the theatre thinking, “Oh god, this is where we lose him.” Even when it all seemed hopeless, when the Avengers were scattered, we see that Steve is ready to fight to the last.
Then we get perhaps my favorite moment in any MCU, set to this piece of music. There used to be these promotional posters that just said “Marvel Universe” on them. They were entirely covered with overlapping superhero art. There was one of those hanging up at the local comic shop (local being a relative term) when I was a kid. I used to stare in awe at it. Every single hero on that poster had a story, an origin, dreams, challenges, victories, and defeats.
Seeing Cap lead the Avengers into battle one last time took me back to that poster, a reminder of my earliest interest in Marvel comics. Of course, finally hearing you say “Avengers, assemble!” was the cherry on top. Thank you for a great run as Captain America.
Robert Downey, Jr. – Here’s the thing about Iron Man for me: My love for the character is second generation. I got it from my Dad, who read Iron Man comics as a kid in the late ’60s. He encouraged me to read the comics, and love of the character is something we’ve bonded over. His birthday is in May. Since Marvel tends to kick their summer off around that time, practically every year I’ve had a movie to take him to around his birthday. In 2008, we saw the first Iron Man together in a little theatre in East Texas. When we saw Endgame together, it was in the same theatre. We ended our journey with Tony Stark in the same place it began. Just thought I’d share that.
You are a once-in-a-generation casting for this role. Others might have been able to do him justice, but you took the very real pain from your personal life and used it to bring Tony to life in a way that felt right, felt true. I am thankful for every second of every appearance of your Tony Stark. From the bottom of my fanboy heart, thank you.
Truth is, I’m super selfish. If you had played him 100 times, I would want to see 101. I know that there comes a time for all things to end. And as heroic ends go, Tony’s is pretty hard to beat; he not only defeated Thanos, but saved the life of every living being in the universe. Every character we see from now on in an MCU film owes Tony a debt of gratitude. We’ve already seen the shadow that his absence casts, particularly over Peter Parker. I am curious to see how his legacy unfolds moving forward, especially as we get into shows like Armor Wars and Ironheart.
I’m sure that you’ve heard this a million times by now, but I sincerely mean it:
I love you 3000.
And really, that goes for everyone associated with this movie.
I’m proud to announce that the brand-new Sector M store is now live! (The old Redbubble store I had for years is no more.) You can find the new store here on Etsy.
Here’s a look at a few of the new designs. I have some stuff with both versions of the Sector M logo as well. There are many different iterations of each design: magnets, stickers, T-shirts, gaming steins, and a whole bunch more.
Along those lines, I’ll be slowly adding new items to the store in addition to new designs. What’s there now represents the tip of the proverbial iceberg. If you see a design that you like, but I haven’t added it to a particular type of item, feel free to drop me a line at: TheSectorM@gmail.com or use the contact form on my website. Either way, it will get to me.
One note: There are fixed prices on many of the items, which can make for some odd price points on some of the stuff. Where possible, however, I’ve tried to price the items appropriately. For instance, T-shirts in the old store had a base price of $26 and some change. Now, all T-shirts in the store are $19.
Just to make the deal a little sweeter, I’m running an Easter sale all weekend. Use discount code EASTER2022 to get 20% off your entire order today through Sunday! And if you wouldn’t mind, show the store some love by smashing that “follow” button at the top of the page.
As always, thank you for your continued support. The Sector wouldn’t be the same without you!
[Full disclosure: I wrote the bulk of this blog post a while back as a fun, tongue-in-cheek sort of writing prompt. As it deals with some themes of war, and we find ourselves watching in collective horror at what’s going on in Ukraine, I’m putting a mild trigger warning on this one.]
The pandemic has seen me return to a number of my favorite shows. Needing a little levity and excitement, I decided to pick up all five seasons of The A-Team. I have fond memories of seeing it as a kid, and let’s face it…you just can’t be unhappy when that iconic theme song is playing. It is simply the way of things.
Well, in one of the earlier episodes, Face, Murdock, B.A., and Hannibal are on a mission in South America. As it’s pretty warm there, we see George Peppard wear a bandana around his neck like an ascot as he merrily smokes cigars and fights the assorted baddies in that week’s episode. At that moment, I was struck by how much Hannibal looked like an older, extremely badass version of Fred Jones from Scooby-Doo.
And that got me to thinking: What if the two men were actually the same person?
What follows is the resulting story as my mind started making connections between the two.
The child that would come to be known as Fredrick Jones, Jr. was born in the autumn of 1932 in Crystal Cove, California. The son of the mayor, he never knew his mother who (supposedly) left when he was very young. A curious and intelligent child, Fred had a natural knack for mechanics, gimmickry, and gadgetry, particularly in the area of building traps. He was also fascinated by the True Crime comics of his day, leading him to take an interest in investigation and deductive reasoning. This would lead him to meet and befriend Norville “Shaggy” Rogers and his Great Dane, Scooby-Doo, the incredible genius Velma Dinkley, and the woman who would become the love of his life, Daphne Blake.
As he grew to be a teenager, he excelled at sports and athletics, turning into a handsome young man who was socially popular. Even with all the attention, he only had eyes for Daphne. The four of them would solve many mysteries and strange occurrences before founding Mystery Inc. officially. Upon earning his driver’s license in 1949, his father rewarded him with a bright teal Volkswagon minibus, one of the first ever sold in the United States. Shaggy would paint green flourishes over it sides, while Daphne and Velma added orange daisies. Together, they dubbed the van the “Mystery Machine.” The vehicle would come to symbolize their unique bond, and it would become their home for the next two years as they toured the country, investigating hundreds of supernatural phenomena and mysterious happenings.
In every instance where they meddled, they found it was someone merely attempting to frighten people with clever light shows, special effects and — most notably — personal disguises. While the majority of the disguises turned out to be rubber masks that could be easily pulled off, a fair few of them used makeup, wigs, and spirit gum in ingenious ways to give their appearance realistic and convincing details. Little by little, Fred learned from their disguise techniques, stowing them away to one day become a master of disguise himself.
During this time on the road, Velma kept a detailed journal of their adventures. Years later, a copy of this journal would wind up in the hands of executives at Hanna-Barbera, who would translate the colorful adventures contained within into an animated series named for Norville’s mystery-solving dog.
In early 1952, Mystery Inc. went their separate ways. Velma went to MIT on a full-ride scholarship for math and science. Daphne went to study architecture in places across Italy and France. Norville and his dog became nomads, continuing to seek out adventure and oversized hero sandwiches wherever the winds of fate might carry them. With a tear in his eye, Fred handed Norville the keys to the Mystery Machine to aid them in their travels, and said good-bye.
The breaking of their band was hard on Fred, but the loss of Daphne made the familiar sights of Crystal Cove too painful to bear. Wanting to get away from it all, he secretly created a false identity for himself and enlisted in the Army. Knowing that his father would not approve, Fred signed his papers with the most non-descript name he could think of, one that would be virtually impossible to track: John Smith. He would likewise wear gloves at almost all times to keep from being tracked by his fingerprints.
His exceptional physical abilities, combined with his innate leadership skills and cleverness, made him a natural choice for the Green Berets. Once in training, he drilled on a host of skills, including operating small arms, parachuting out of a plane, and outflanking and out-thinking an enemy in virtually any environment. In short order, he deployed to Korea in the final year of the war. The unorthodox methods he employed while in the field won him the nickname “Hannibal,” a nom de guerre he would carry for the rest of his life.
After leaving Korea, he was tapped for Officer Candidacy School (OCS), where he underwent his transformation from an enlisted soldier to an officer. Over the next few years, the Army would invest heavily in Hannibal’s education, heaping upon him extra training and learning opportunities. He excelled at every turn. He was among the first American ‘advisors’ to reach Vietnam in the late ’50s. While the fighting did not quite reach the fevered pitch that it would a decade later, Hannibal wearied of fighting.
By 1962, Hannibal’s term in the Army was almost up. He toyed with the idea of leaving the fighting behind and settling down. While on leave in the United States, he looked up Daphne, hoping to rekindle their old flame. He proposed on the spot. Unfortunately for Hannibal, she was already considering an engagement to Jack Harmon, a successful businessman. While Daphne still harbored feelings for Hannibal, she ultimately chose Jack over her old Mystery Inc. friend and lover. Hannibal was still an adventurer, still destined to travel the world, where as Daphne had dreams of starting a family.
Though brokenhearted, Hannibal knew that Jack was a good and decent man who would take care of Daphne. Hannibal and Jack parted ways as reluctant friends. With nothing left for him in the United States, Hannibal re-enlisted in the Army and once again shipped out to Vietnam. In 1965, Jack and Daphne welcomed a baby boy into their family, Fred “Kid” Harmon. Hannibal would visit them often when he returned to the States, where his namesake would recognize him as “Uncle John.”
In Vietnam, Hannibal would continue to make a name for himself. While he remained fit and operational, his blonde hair slowly turned into a silvery gray, but his signature blue eyes remained bright, however. While never a hard drinker, the years of war and conflict did see him pick up the habit of smoking cigars, particularly Cuban panetelas.
Always one to surround himself with talented people, he came to build a new core team in the jungles of Vietnam, somewhat modeled after his experience with Mystery Inc. Shortly before the Tet Offensive kicked off in 1968, he recruited and befriended four other Green Berets: the handsome, fast-talking swindler, Templeton “Faceman” Peck, the half-crazed Huey pilot with an invisible dog, Captain H.M. “Howling Mad” Murdock, and the tough-as-nails Sergeant Bosco Albert Baracus (or simply “B.A.”), who would prove to be the most capable fighter Hannibal would ever encounter.
While Hannibal hadn’t planned it that way, the four of them mirrored the structure of Mystery Inc. Hannibal was once again the leader, with Face as the resident convincer and influencer, and Murdock as an analogue to Norville’s zany antics. Oddly enough, B.A. was the genius of the group like Velma had been all those years before. Instead of a scientific genius, however, Mr. Bad Attitude himself was an absolute wizard when it came to vehicles and mechanics. The four of them together had a knack for kit-bashing what they needed for the mission out of the materials at hand, including elaborate traps, which Hannibal excelled at building.
The four of them would come to form a crack commando unit tasked with the most difficult missions the Vietnamese theatre could throw at them. They were known as Alpha Team during their early exploits, a name which would later be shortened to the A-Team. They would become the most famous soldiers in Vietnam, though H.M. Murdock’s role as the team’s resident pilot would remain ambiguous, at least as far as the Army was aware.
At various times, they would cross paths and run missions with the likes of fellow Green Beret, Michael Arthur Long, the ingenious bomb specialist, Angus “Bud” MacGyver, noted college athlete, James Crockett, and decorated Navy SEAL, Thomas Sullivan Magnum IV. There was even a friendly rivalry that developed between fellow helicopter pilots Murdock and Stringfellow “Stray Dog” Hawke.
In 1972, their commanding officer, Colonel Morrison, ordered them on a super secret mission to rob the Bank of Hanoi in an attempt to end the war. While they were successful in completing the mission, they returned to their base to find it utterly destroyed and Colonel Morrison killed. Without any evidence that they were ordered to rob the bank, it appeared to the Army that the A-Team had gone rogue. Upon reporting in to clear their names, they were arrested.
These men promptly escaped from a maximum security stockade to the Los Angeles underground, where they survived as soldiers of fortune. Glad to be back in his native California, Hannibal found that he had traded the steaming jungle terrain of Vietnam for the concrete jungle of modern-day LA. For the next 10 years, the four of them used their skills to fight for those in need, sometimes for pay, sometimes out of the necessity of the cause.
Still wanted by the government, and pursued by the tenacious Colonel Lynch, and others like him, Hannibal mounted a successful mission back to Vietnam in late 1982 to recover the gold taken on that fateful mission. Once in hand, they divvied up the money. H.M Murdock gave most of his away to various animal charities and checked himself into a military psychiatric ward to avoid suspicion. Face spent his reward on the finer things in life, but his pockets were soon emptied. Hannibal anonymously invested his earnings into his adopted nephew’s fledgling racing career.
Yet, the part that made Hannibal’s heart soar was when B.A. spent his reward on a black and gray 1983 GMC Vandura with red turbine wheels, a spoiler, and slanting racing stripes down the sides. B.A. had supercharged the engine, reinforced the frame with bulletproof panels, and installed secret compartments, including weapon storage and even a full photographic and printing suite.
B.A. had prepared for them a mobile command center, a home away from home, a vehicle that would be emblematic of their loyalty to one another. Once again, the man from Crystal Cove, who had worn many names in his lifetime, and helped countless people, slipped into the seat of a van with his closest friends to seek out adventure in the great unknown.
There you have it, folks. If you write fan fiction of either property, feel free to take this information and do with it what you will.
This was an interesting thought experiment for me that I really enjoyed writing. Would you like me to do others in a Strange Headcanon series? Would you like to continue the timeline of this particular thread? If so, leave me a like or a comment to let me know.
Now that the holidays are behind us, I’m happy to come before you today to talk about 2022.
I have big plans for Sector M, so I thought I would take a few moments to outline what I’m working on currently and let you in on my plans for the future.
So, without further ado, let’s dive right in.
On the Horizon:
Website Update:First, my author website is long overdue for an update. I’m going through every page and link to see what needs to stay and what can go. My goal is to have a refreshed site somewhere around the end of February. [Update: the new site is live here.]
Patreon Revamp: I’m also in the process of completely overhauling my Patreon benefits. I’m going to add new tiers, new ranks, and lots of cool rewards. There will be ample opportunity for us to build something worthwhile together. So, if you like what I do, please consider supporting Sector M on Patreon when the time comes. My current plan is for the new stuff to go live in May. In the meantime, I’m pausing donations from all current Patrons until these new updates go into effect.
New Merch: While all that is going on, I’m reworking my merch store, too. It was on Redbubble, but I am planning to migrate my store over to another platform, possibly Printify. This will give me more flexibility to bring you all new designs, better pricing, and additional options beyond just T-shirts and mugs. I will unveil the new store here when it goes live, which I’m hoping is in the April timeframe. [Update: the new merch store is now live here.]
The Sector M Podcast: I am blessed to know a number of truly geeky people, and we’ve got opinions. Boy howdy, do we. Thus, I’m going to try my hand at podcasting to share our thoughts, hopes, and opinions with all of you on a whole host of geeky and nerdy topics. I’m still in a fact-finding mode on this, so more on it as it develops.
Now the Author-y Stuff:
Finished #6, Started #7: 2021 was a difficult year to be creative (for many reasons), but I was able to finish my sixth novel at the beginning of July. It’s a fantasy book that I hope will be the start of its own series. After a few months for edits, polishing, and querying (see below), I started my seventh novel on Halloween. This is my first excursion into the cyberpunk genre with some fun twists. It’s also a book that might truly be a standalone, a one-and-done. I’m trying to have a working draft by Halloween of this year.
I’m Querying #3: My third novel is a military sci-fi/space opera novel. Some version of this story has been with me for a long time. It’s changed a lot over the years, but I’m glad to finally arrive at a point where the on-paper version has aligned with my vision for it. As I said in my Alive and Kicking post, querying is not for the faint of heart. It can be pretty brutal, and it’s definitely a marathon and not a sprint.
The Sector M Blog: For a few years I haven’t been in a position to regularly contribute to this blog, but that is changing. My plan is to release an original piece of blog content on the third Friday of each month (with a few exceptions). The first one will post two weeks from today on January 21. In addition, I hope to have more announcement-style blog posts to keep you apprised of merch additions, writing updates, news, and more. Currently, these are the dates I plan to post a new blog entry:
Facebook No More: This happened a while back, but it bears repeating. I have put the Sector M Facebook page into indefinite limbo. I did not delete it, but it is no longer an avenue I use for communication. It just doesn’t align with what I want to do anymore, and I was at a point of diminishing returns with it. I would encourage you to follow me instead on Twitter, Instagram, and Goodreads. Also, I highly encourage you to follow to this blog.
Strange Reports from Sector M: If you’re new here or you want to get an idea of my writing style, my anthology of short fiction is available through Amazon in both an e-book and hard copy format. It’s 13 stories ranging from very short flash fiction to full-length novellas. A veritable sampler platter of genres, you’ll find urban fantasy, military sci-fi, and even some horror within its pages. You can find it here.
How You Can Help:
If you like what I do, here are some of the things you can do to help Sector M grow:
Follow this blog: If you’re reading these words, please follow this blog. This platform will be a large part of my online presence moving forward. The number of followers will be something of a barometer on how much I’m able to get the message out, so please join either by regular subscription (the “follow” button should pop up in the bottom right-hand corner), or follow by email.
LEAVE A REVIEW!: Sorry for the all-caps treatment, but leaving a review is one of the greatest things you can do for an author aside from buying a book. This goes for any independent author, not just me. Reviews, especially on Amazon, are the key to the site’s referral algorithm. So, please-oh-please, if you buy one of my books, please also leave a review. Please and thank you.
Support Sector M on Patreon: As I stated earlier, I’m in the process of reworking my Patreon experience with new perks, new rewards, and more ways to be collaborative with the Sector M community. When it’s ready, I urge you to give it a look and see if it’s for you.
Tell a friend: No, this isn’t a pyramid scheme. It’s the fact that folks who love science fiction, fantasy, and geek/nerd pop-culture tend to flock together. Word of mouth is extremely important, so if you know of someone who might also enjoy my work, please tell them.
Contact me: I have a dedicated email address for all things related to Sector M. If you have an idea or suggestion to make things better, or just want to drop yours truly a line, you can contact me at: TheSectorM@gmail.com.
Well, that about wraps it up for the State of the Sector for 2022. It is my intent to make this kind of update a yearly thing in early January. Whether you are just now finding out about Sector M, or you’ve been here from the beginning, I appreciate you all.
[No, not the Simple Minds song of the same name, but you’re welcome to listen to it as you read ahead. Go ahead, here’s the link.]
Howdy, folks! Wow, the last year has been quite a roller-coaster ride. I wanted to take a moment to let you know what’s going on with me and a little of my plans for where Sector M goes next.
So, I had to take most of the last year off of a lot of my side projects (like this blog) to be able to concentrate on my own health, the health of my family, and to settle into a new job unlike any I have had before. Definitely not an easy task when that’s all happening during a pandemic. The year 2020 definitely took its toll, and most of 2021 has followed suit. But, I am happy to report that all of my crew are present and healthy at the time of this writing.
My new job, while great in many respects, has taken up a lot of the mental bandwidth that I was using to run table-top RPGs, write blogs, create board games, and a dozen other projects I had going on in the background. It’s starting to even out, however. Slowly the lights in my mind are starting to come back on.
So, what have you been up to all this time?
While many of my side projects came to a halt, I am happy to report that I have made some modest progress on my books, which I’m happy to share here:
1.) I am actively querying the first volume in my military sci-fi/space opera series. For those who have gone through this, querying is not a process for the faint of spirit or weak of heart. Any positive energy, thoughts, or karma you’d like to send my way will be graciously accepted.
2.) I’m in the process of editing my 5th novel (fantasy). It’s going a lot slower than I would like, but I am making some progress. While many authors dread editing and revising, I find it refreshing. Filing down the rough edges and putting in the time to make the book better than it was sets my little fanboy heart all aglow.
3.) I finished the first draft of my 6th novel (also fantasy) in July. First drafts are always a flaming dumpster fire, and this one feels a bit more flaming dumpster fire-y than most. Still, it was an experiment that succeeded far better than I thought it could. It might be a while before I get to walk in that world again, but I’m eager to return to the setting and the characters in the future. I’m already missing it.
4.) I started my 7th novel on Halloween of this year. Also an experiment, this is the first time I’ve written something so complex in the cyberpunk genre. It’s certainly one of the more ambitious projects I’ve tried to take on. While many of my books have potential sequels and mark the first of a series, this one is meant to be a one-and-done. We’ll see if that holds up as I get more into it and get to know the cast of characters.
What’s the future of Sector M?
I am working on the next State of the Sector address, which I intend to publish the first week of January. Here’s a little of what we’re going to cover:
– New Blog Schedule: I am hoping to get back to releasing blog posts on a regular basis. Right now I’m aiming for at least once a month, possibly more. I was recently able to visit a few museums that deserve their own posts. Plus, I’ll be writing about a bunch of other geeky/author-y stuff to boot.
– Merch Store Updates: I plan to migrate my existing merch store over to a new platform. I hope to have some new designs ready to coincide with the launch. [Update: the new store is now live here.]
– Patreon Revamp: This will involve a ramps-down reconstruction of the Sector M Patreon with new tiers, exclusive content and swag, hangouts, and a bunch of other goodies.
That’s just for starters. I have some other initiatives in mind for 2022, but like anything it all comes down to time, availability, and money to get them off the ground. Thankfully, I have some fantastic people backing me up on these.
The gears have been turning slowly during this pandemic, but they have been turning. It is my hope that this new year will be conducive to getting back up to speed. If you’re reading this, I want to thank you for your support and interest in what I do. It means the universe to me. Several universes, in fact. 🙂
Before the pandemic struck, we added an NES Classic to the household. This pint-sized replica of the original NES is pre-loaded with 30 vintage games. While I still have my original NES in a closet, along with many of the games I had back in the day, it was great to have them all right there in a single menu with absolutely no need to blow on the cartridge to get it to work.
You know what I’m talking about.
Who thought *that* length of controller cord was a good idea?
There are some games on there, like Balloon Fight and Kirby’s Adventure, that I never got to play when I was a kid simply because we never bought a copy. One of the games in it was one I did have as a kid, but lost along the way: Final Fantasy.
My first impressions of video game RPGs were shaped by Final Fantasy and the original Dragon Warrior. While I finished Dragon Warrior within a few months of its release (that green dragon in the tunnel still haunts me), I never got the chance to see Final Fantasy through to the end. At least, not with my own characters. I was present when a friend beat the game at his house.
And so their journey begins…
Incoming explanation, Captain…
My parents divorced when I was 11. Less than two years later, my mother had remarried, and her new husband was…not the most stable of sorts. When she split with him, it was spectacular. A lot of my stuff disappeared into the ethers, including all the games I wasn’t able to retrieve before everything went down. I lost a pretty cool compound bow in the deal, too.
At that point, I had tried (and failed) numerous times to finish the game and defeat the final boss, Chaos. My characters weren’t quite high enough level to get it done, however. I also didn’t know the importance of Ribbons in granting massive elemental protection.
For those reading this who may not know about the game, here’s a brief summation: You put together a party of four adventurers. These “Light Warriors” are tasked with defeating the Four Fiends, which correspond to the four classic elements. Here’s the rogues gallery:
Lich, the Fiend of Earth
Kary, the Fiend of Fire
Kraken, the Fiend of Water
Tiamat, the Fiend of Air
Each time you defeat one of the Fiends, you bring light back to one of the four elemental orbs. Once all four orbs are relit, you travel back 2,000 years into the past and have to face the Four Fiends again (where they are much stronger). After you fight your way through the past-incarnations of these four bosses, only then can you square off against Chaos.
In my previous attempts, I got to Chaos. This resulted in a TPK (total party kill). I was in the process of leveling up my characters to try again when the split happened, and I lost the game cartridge, and with it all my characters and progress. That was that.
Since the character names were limited to just four letters, I remember them well. Allow me to introduce you:
WOLF, the Fighter
SAKI, the Thief
STAR, the White Mage
ORB, the Black Mage
With the NES Classic up and running, the party was remade and once again on their way. It’s remarkable how much I remembered about my original playthrough. A few of the details were worn with time, but for the most part, I was right back at it. This time, however, my young son was right there with me. He was intrigued by the idea of elemental bosses. Soon he began brainstorming stories of his own where both the villains and heroes had elemental powers.
When I defeated one of the Four Fiends, I found that I had my own adorable cheering section that would jump up and down, yelling “We did it! We did it!” His enthusiasm and curiosity about the game world turned what was a fun trip down nostalgia lane into something greater: a memory we made together. Folks, it did my gamer heart good.
Remember this guy? I sure do.
He stayed with me through all the tedium that happens in a game like this. Final Fantasy notoriously lacked healing magic and restorative items. The only thing you can do to augment your White Mage’s healing is to buy heal potions.
Unfortunately, there’s just one such healing item the game, and there’s no way to buy more than one at a time. So, you’re left with spamming the ‘A’ button at a potion shop until you hit your capacity at 99.
At last, we had defeated each of the Four Fiends both in the present and then in the past. Only a few screens later, we faced Chaos himself, who is actually the first boss you fight in the game, Garland, caught in a time-loop. Chaos fills up the entire enemy portion of the combat screen.
Though it was a tough battle, our Light Warriors prevailed on the first attempt. This time I had access to online playthroughs and game guides to help me choose the best weapons, armor and spells to equip my characters. (I had no idea back in the day that some spells and protections simply didn’t work because of bugs that had never been addressed.) Also, our characters were beyond 30th level, where I think I had barely hit 23rd back in the day.
But most importantly, my son and I were in this together. He was right there with me the whole time, offering suggestions and strategies. I built my defenses, made sure everyone stayed healed up, and made liberal use of FAST to supercharge my fighters.
When Chaos finally went down, the screen rumbled as he slowly disappeared. Then we got the epilogue talking about how the time-loop has been broken. No one but the Light Warriors can remember anything about the whole affair since the Four Fiends were never able to assert their power in the present. Garland is somehow back and never turns to evil.
The important thing is this: Chaos is gone, and the land is at peace.
And, you know, that got me to thinking. There are many who question the validity of fantasy as a genre, some even in my own family. They don’t see how fictional narratives add anything substantive to our lives since they aren’t ‘real.’
I heartily disagree. Big surprise, right? This quote by Neil Gaiman sums up my thoughts on the subject quite nicely:
Yeah, what he said.
Well, folks, there’s an awful lot of chaos in the world today. It seems more than we can bear at times. Maybe you’re feeling overwhelmed, saddened, or hollow as events unfold around you. Believe me when I say that I’m right there with you. But even through adversity, we can prevail.
So, keep your loved ones by your side, and always remember: No matter what, chaos can be defeated.