Free stuff: Preview from Echo of the High Kings, part 2

And, to continue sections from Echo of the High Kings, here we have a brief piece with Katarina, daughter to Duke Peter of the Duchy of Masov.  This section comes a year after the events of the first preview section.

Katarina moved with quiet feet down the dusty passage.   She hiked up her dress as much as she could, even as she worried that the hem would catch the dust and suggest that she hadn’t spent the afternoon at her studies.

Not my fault that the scholar fell asleep, she thought, though she felt a twinge of remorse that she’d eluded her newly assigned Armsman.  Then again, as rare as free time had become, she felt far better for the opportunity to explore the hidden passages below the castle… and for the opportunity to slip into the nursery and apologize to her little brother.

As if on cue, she came to the intersection of the hidden passages.  One way led deeper into the maze of corridors and the other led up to a door that opened into the nursery.  “Best to talk to my brother, first,” Katarina muttered to herself.  She gave a slight sigh, though, before she started up the corridor.

She hadn’t meant to hurt his feelings.  She knew that, for some reason, he looked upon her with some envy.  As the eldest, she had some privileges that he must think marvelous.  In truth, however, she envied him.  At eight, he had already been introduced into the martial chamber.  The Master of Arms had already begun his training and as a boy, he would train every day until combat became something of reflex and muscle memory.  He had already begun to learn sufficient runic magic to operate various relics and weapons of the Ducal House.

As a girl, even a nobly born girl of thirteen years, the Duke allowed her only the basic arts of self defense and studies of runic magic sufficient to operate only the most basic runic items.  I’m the heir, but I’m still only a female, and little Peter doesn’t realize how much I envy him.

That still didn’t excuse her mistreatment of him earlier in the day.  She’d no cause for her words, despite her frustration.  She dearly loved her little brother, and her recent movement from the nursery had only made her realize how much.  Her father, always so distant, spoke with her only in passing.  Her mother had seemed to withdraw into herself even more after her old armsman was sent away… and had ceased to take any visitors not long after Katarina moved into the woman’s quarters of the castle.

Little Peter was the only one who cared for her and she knew that her angry words had hurt him more than his childish petulance deserved.  So Katarina would make it right.

She reached the hidden door and paused a moment to listen.  This one opened into the small storage room at the end of the corridor, she knew.  Katarina had discovered it first, when she’d needed some place to hide from her tutors.  Her explorations had led her deep beneath Castle Emberhill in the five years since.

She paused as she heard what sounded like a muffled cry.  Katarina frowned, and her fingers dropped to the two wands tucked inside her dress skirts.  Technically, they were her mother’s, but Katarina had learned to use the two wands last year, and her mother had never realized that Katarina had kept them rather than putting them back.

She’d practiced with them too, though she’d had to find a quiet spot out in the countryside to do so, and timed it with thunderstorms so that it didn’t attract attention.  Well, other than the time I missed, she thought sheepishly, and it’s not like the entire forest would have burned down.

She shook her head and pushed the concealed door open.  Whatever the noise she’d heard, she didn’t hear anything else.  She set her lantern to the side and moved through the small storage room.  She paused again at the heavy wooden door.  She opened it just a bit, and then froze when she saw movement.

Her fear at discovery turned to something else as she felt the blood freeze in her veins.  A tall man stood with drawn blade just down the corridor, his back to her.  At his feet lay Maran, the old nurse who had changed her diapers and brought her her meals.  Her mouth and eyes were wide and she lay still in death, her face twisted into an experssion of pain.  The broad spill of bright red blood and the red stains across her simple dress made it clear how she’d died.

Two of her father’s armsmen lay further down the corridor.  Katarina bit into her knuckle to hold back a shriek when she saw several more armed men.  All of them wore strange scale armor, and the cut of their clothes seemed odd to her, as did their golden skin and strangely curved blades.

And then she saw one of the men step out of the open door to her brother’s room.  He grunted something in an odd language even as he wiped blood from his sword with what looked like a stained boy’s tunic.

The cold ice in her blood flashed into white hot heat in a heartbeat.  Her light thirteen year old body could not have kicked the heavy wooden door hard enough to knock down the warrior beyond.  Yet a moment later she stood over his prone body and leveled her wand with a scream.

A wave of fire and destruction swept down the narrow corridor.  For a moment, the image lay seared into her brain, burned into the back of her eyelids as her brother’s murderers burned to ash.

The moment passed and Katarina blinked away tears as her eyes tried to adjust.

She felt an iron-hard hand clamp around her mouth.  Her hand went to her second wand, but her attacker’s other hand grasped it and held her still.  The man I knocked down, he must have captured me, she thought.  Still, she struggled, she would not let this assassin kill her, not without a fight.

“Hold still, damn you, girl,” a gravelly voice spoke.  “I’m not one of them, I’m here to help!”  The voice teased at her memory, until she recognized it as her new armsman.  She hadn’t heard Bulmor speak more than twice in the past week, but it sounded like him.

She froze and when she ceased to fight, the hands pulled her back into the storage room.  The hand over her mouth let go long enough to pull the door closed.

“What’s happening?  Is… Is my brother dead?” Katarina asked.  She hated how her voice broke, yet in her mind she saw Peter still and cold in a pool of blood like poor old Maran.

“I think so, lass,” Bulmor grated.  He released her and she turned to face him.  “Those were Vendakar, probably paid mercenaries.”  His face, when she looked at him in the small dark room, looked to have been carved of stone.  “Do you know a passage that leads out?”  He took up her lantern in one hand.

“Yes…” Katarina frowned.  “Shouldn’t we head up, though?  Find my father… my mother!”  She turned back towards the door, ready to run to warn her mother, but his iron strong hands locked on her shoulders.  “Let me go!  I have to warn them!”

“Stop and think, lass- my Lady, I beg you, think!” For a moment his voice broke from the gravel strength and some raw emotion leaked through.  Katarina realized then that Bulmor feared for her.  All of a week on the job, and her new armsman already viewed her survival as essential.

That realization bored through her and forced her to stop and consider.  The nursery lay at the center of the keep itself.  It was the most heavily defended area and any attackers would have to fight their way through the other living areas to get here first.  Any warriors who had arrived here must have already fought through her father’s armsmen…

“No…”  Katarina froze.  “That can’t be, it’s not possible.”

“My lady, until we know more, we have to assume they’ve already overrun the entire castle.  We must leave.  You seem to know these passages… how do we exit?”

Katarina felt an icy hand clench on her heart.  Her brother was dead… and her last words to him had been cruel and childish.  Her parents were dead… everyone she had ever known, Erik, her father’s armsman, Tomus, her mother’s armsman… had the old scholar Mattews been murdered as well?  Had they killed him as he dozed in the library, surrounded by his old scrolls?

Why had they died… and why did she still live?

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Independent Author’s Toolbag: Self Promotion

So, I’ll preface this by saying that I hate self-promotion and I’ve got a long way to go to be good at it.  That said, it is an essential part of being successful as an author.  There are two important things to remember, however.  The first is that you will only ever sell books to your mom and your best friend if you don’t find some way to reach a larger audience.  The second is that if you alienate that larger audience, you’ll still only sell books to your mom and your best friend.

Successful authors, both independent and those who write for a big publishing house, have to self promote.  The publishing houses can put some effort into it, but it falls back to an author to make time to push their book, and to do it in a fashion that doesn’t come across as crass or whiny.

Self promotion is an art as much as writing.  Successful authors do it well, and the job of any aspiring author is to sell themselves as much as they sell their books.  What I’ve seen, however is two extremes.  Some authors hesitate to even mention that they write, to name their books, or tell you anything about their characters or stories.  This makes it hard for someone to take them seriously as a professional.  If you’re going to write, you have to have a sense of self confidence about that.

Then there’s the other end of the spectrum.  The desperate, pleading, buy-my-book barragers.  You sometimes see them at conventions, when they step out of the audience to ask the panel a ‘question’ which comes across as a shameless whine for attention.  These authors are online as well, and let me confess, when I’m bombarded by nothing but demands to buy their book or accolades of how wonderful one of their friends think their writing is… well, I either tune them out or shut them off.

So where does that leave an independant author?  There’s a variety of ways to get attention without being, well, annoying.  Establish yourself, write interesting articles, do interviews, go to conventions and get on panels (do not attempt to hijack panels from the audience, please).  Network, get to know other authors, editors, agents, and publishers.   Talk to people, not about your book, necessarily, but normal talk.  As people get to know who you are, they start to care that you wrote a book.  They might not be the target audience, but they’ll remember your name.  Word of mouth sells more books than flash banners on a website or advertising flyers in mailboxes.  Build your audience of readers, maintain your writing standards, and be sure that your writing is professional enough that you feel confident in promoting it.

Self promotion is a lot of work.  At the end of the day, whether that work pays off is as much down to you, the author, as it is to luck, or fate, or what have you.  Still, since the only other option is to establish world domination and to force people to read your books, you probably better get after it, eh?

Free Stuff: Preview from Echo of the High Kings

I’m travelling for the next week, but in the meantime, here’s a section from Echo of the High Kings, my upcoming Epic Fantasy.  I’ll post a few sections here over the next few weeks, once a week.  These sections are not consectutive, but will cover a fair portion of the overall story.  This section is from the perspective of the antagonist, Lord Hector, who later becomes known as Duke Hector the Usurper…

Hector dismounted from his horse and passed the reins to one of his men.  “You have your orders,” he said.  They stared at him for a long moment in silence.  He saw Sergeant Grel open his mouth to speak, and then close it again.

Hector gave them a stern glare.  “I will not repeat myself, go to your assigned posts.  Prevent anyone from leaving the grounds until I return.”

The fifteen men dispersed, all except Sergeants Grel and Campbell.  Hector turned back towards the door of the manor house and took a deep breath.  He walked past the pair of guards outside unchallenged.  Inside, out of the dark night, the house seemed warm and cheerful.  He heard his cousin’s wife before he saw her.  She swept into the foyer, a plump, cheerful woman who always seemed happy to see guests.  “Hector, so good to see you,” she said.  “What brings you here tonight?  Hopefully not any more of that dreary business?”

“More work, I’m afraid,” Hector said.  He forced himself to smile.  “Lord Estrel and I will need to discuss it for a few hours, I think.”

She shook her head, “Always so serious.  I can tell whatever news has you here so late worries you.  Do not take the world’s burdens on your shoulders, Hector, or it will send you to your grave early, a bitter man.”

Hector stared at her for a long moment, “I am the master of the guard, and Baron Estrel’s military captain.  It is my duty to worry, and to guard these lands for Lord Estrel, and his and your duties to defend the people of Longhaven as the Baron and Baroness.”

She rolled her eyes, “I agree, and you’ll not hear me say otherwise.  If you’ll remember, I have backed every one of your arguments with my husband.  But worry and fear will drag you down, weigh down your spirit, and will age you.  Do not forget to find time for friendship, love and even a family,” Lady Rinata said.

“Thank you for your concern,” Hector said, and felt a surge of guilt as he forced himself to meet her eyes.  “But I must speak with your husband.” He glanced at Sergeant Campbell, “The Sergeant here is from the town of Western Reach.  He’s just returned from visiting family there, I wonder if you’d care to discuss the latest from your home?”

“Why, certainly,” Lady Rinata said.  She immediately turned to the Sergeant.

Hector brushed past her, followed by Sergeant Grel.  They ascended the stairs, and then walked down the hall to the library.  As expected, he saw Captain Grayson, Baron Estrel’s personal armsman outside.  “Evening Robert,” he said in greeting.

“Lord Hector,” the armsman nodded, “Good to see you back, the Baron had not expected your return so soon.  I take it you have news about the Armen?”

“He won’t like it,” Hector said.

Grayson gave him a sad nod.  Hector knew that of all the people privy to the entire picture, Baron Estel’s personal armsman understood best the precarious state of their defenses.  Under other circumstances, Hector knew he could count on the man to provide more weight to his own arguments.

“Well, there may be some shouting,” Hector said.  “I’ll ask that you let him get over his anger without interruption.”

“More like you shout at him to get some sense in his head about this,” Grayson said with a smile.  “But I’ll take your meaning.  Sergeant Grel and I will wait out here and have a good chat while you talk with the Baron.”

Hector could not force himself to meet his friend’s eyes as he stepped past him into the library.

He found his cousin seated at the table, back to the door.  For a moment, a cowardly part of Hector wanted to do the deed then, but he had to at least try to get his cousin to see reason, one last time..

It would prove better in the long run.

“My lord,” Hector said.  His cousin waved a hand for him to circle around the other side of the table.  Baron Estrel did not look up from his book.

Hector glanced at the pile of books as he passed, and he grimaced.  He did not know how such drivel had survived since the Starborn’s arrival.  They included social programs for the poor, and extensive taxation of the wealthy merchant class to fund programs that turned productive members of society into useless drones.  Worst of the ideology, Hector thought of how he gelded the military and his policy of bribery and appeasement of enemies and barbarians.

Hector had no grasp over the history of those books, but he saw the effects on the Barony of Longhaven.  He had no desire to see the end of this particular experiment.  “My lord, I’ve just returned from meeting with my spymaster.  The Armen intend to invade with this next summer.  I have come to ask that our latest shipment of tribute be retained and used to bolster our forces.”

“What?” Estel looked up from his books.  “Hector, you can’t be serious.  I just spoke with the emissary of one of the Semat clans, who assured me that they’ve no intention to resort to military violence as long as we pay them their rightful share of wealth.  We have extorted their lands for too long, and their anger is just something that occurs naturally due to the difference in wealth between their lands and ours.”

Hector took a deep breath, “Whatever the cause, cousin, the effect will result in the destruction of the city of Longhaven and the enslavement of our people.  Hold back the tribute, and send for troops from Duke Peter, else we will face raids which my men cannot hold back.”

“No, this is unacceptable,” Baron Estrel shook his head.  “You always see so much of a threat from these people.  I don’t understand your bigotry.  You even took one of their women as a mistress!”

“I have seen what they will do, you idiot, and I am trying my best to prevent that,” Hector snapped.

“You can’t talk to me like that,” Baron Estrel rose from his chair.

“Sit down and shut your mouth and listen,” Hector shouted.  He saw his cousin’s jaw drop in shock.  He doubted that any man had dared even raise his voice in his presence.  “You have bankrupted our Barony, turned one of the most prosperous cities in the Duchy of Masov into paupers.  The Duke has requested his taxes, and I know that we’ll barely be able to pay our own debts, much less pay our dues to him.  Your father’s military program has fallen into disarray, which is why Duke Peter sent me here in the first place, to prevent Armen raids.”

“Which I have prevented.  Since we began the tribute program, no Armen have raided our lands!” Baron Estel said.  “And I-”

“Those tributes increase every year.  And no matter what, we will be unable to pay them next year,” Hector said.  “Which even the Armen realize, and so they intend to raid us and take what is left by force.”  Hector leaned over the table.  “I refuse to allow that, cousin.  I will do everything in my power to prevent it… even if it means removing you.”

“But…” His cousin paled, then he shook his head and sat up straight, “You don’t have that authority, only the Duke does, and he would not listen to you.”

“No… he wouldn’t, not with how you’ve downplayed my reports.  He doesn’t have the full picture.  I don’t have that authority… but I have that power, as your military commander.  While you have constantly belittled your guard, and undercut their loyalty to you by cutting their pay and treating them as little more than servants.”

Duke Estrel went ghostly white.  He hunched forward in his chair, almost as if he expected a blow.  “You would not dare…”

“I do not want to,” Hector said softly.  “You are my cousin, and whatever your faults, I do not wish to see you dead, much less do the deed myself.  But I will, if you force my hand.”  He met his cousin’s gaze, and for a moment, he thought he saw the man realize Hector’s own seriousness.

Then Baron Estrel sat up straight, “No, I call your bluff.  You won’t do it, not with how Duke Peter will react.  You would face execution, or worse, the Traitor’s Death.  No, I relieve you of command, Hector.  You will place yourself under house arrest, and await my judgment.  I understand the pressures you are under, and I will be lenient when I take that into consideration.”

Hector closed his eyes, “Very well, cousin.”

He drew his sword and swung it in one swift motion.  The blade slashed across his cousin’s throat, and a spray of blood fanned out across his books.  Baron Estrel fell back in his chair, and his hands grasped at his ripped throat.

“I am sorry,” Lord Hector said.  “But you left me no choice.”

He walked past the table, and to the door.  He took a deep breath, then opened it.

He saw Robert Grayson turn.  The old armsman had a moment to see Hector in the doorway, bloodied sword drawn.  Hector did not give him time to react.  He stepped forward and drove his blade into the armsman’s chest, all the way to the hilt, then caught him as he slumped.

“Why…” Grayson whispered.

“Because there was no other way,” Hector said.

He lowered his dead friend to the floor, and glanced at Sergeant Grel.  “Secure the room.  No one enters without my word.”

The sergeant gave him a somewhat shaky nod.

Hector drew the armsman’s sword.  He retraced his steps to the foyer, and found Sergeant Campbell and Lady Rinata had paused their conversation.  Estrel’s wife looked up at him with a look of confusion.  “Hector, I thought I heard something…”  Her eyes dropped to the sword in his hand.

She reacted without hesitation.  Sergeant Campbell’s hand had dropped to his own blade, but Lady Rinata whipped a hidden knife from her sleeve and drove it into his throat before he could react.

Hector gave a curse, and ran towards her.  She ran for the door.

Hector leapt off the stairs and felt something pop in his ankle as he landed in a stumble, between her and the doors.

She tried to skid to a stop, but the smooth stone tiles made her slide towards him.

Hector brought the sword up in a lunge.  She twisted to the side at the last instant, and his strike caught her through the side rather than cleanly through the heart.  She let out a shrill scream of pain, even as she whipped her blade at his face.

Hector dropped the sword and stumbled back.  He clutched at his face in pain.  He heard the doors open behind him.

He turned to find the two armsmen from outside.  They stared between him and the wounded Lady Rinata in shock for a second.  Hector used their hesitation.  He reached down and ripped the sword out of her, and spun to attack the nearest.  His sword caught the younger man before he could get his own blade out.  The other leapt to attack with a shout of alarm.

Hector blocked the strike, then lunged to run the guard through.

He looked down and saw Rinata clutch at her side.  “Why, we loved you like a brother, why would you-”

Hector thrust down with the sword.  He left it planted in her heart.

Independant Author’s Toolbag: Smashwords

As an independent author, I’m not setting in my basement cranking out books on a printing press.  That would be cool, but it’s not really feasible (Trust me, I crunched the numbers).  What I am doing is going through a variety of distributers to reach readers, mostly through ebooks.  The nice thing about ebooks is that they effectively cost nothing to distribute, and that the big publishing houses have still yet to really figure the whole thing out.

Everyone has heard about Amazon and kindle.  Amazon has their Kindle Direct Publishing, which works just fine.  Amazon is the common approach taken by most independant authors.  That said, it isn’t everything.  There are a number of ebook retailers out there, some are selective to their platforms and some have their own loyal customer bases.  How do you reach them?

I use Smashwords.  It’s not the be-all, end-all, but it does allow you to reach a number of booksellers who would otherwise be difficult to reach.  I use Smashwords to go through Smashword’s website, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Sony’s ebook reader site, and even Apple’s iBooks.  I also distribute on Smashwords.  It is not the best platform, to be certain, but it does allow me to reach a much wider audience.

As far as pro’s and con’s… well, the positives are pretty obvious.  More platforms are reached, presumably it makes you open to a wider audience, and you can consolidate efforts spent on self-publishing (that non-trivial time spent formatting and checking for content errors).  The downsides are somewhat less obvious.  As a platform, Smashwords doesn’t seem to get sale data from the other outlets in any fashion, beyond actual payments, which you get once a quarter.  Also, if there are errors with formatting for one distributer (Apple is notorious for this), you may not find out for a month or two, while your book doesn’t get sold.  They also have issues with specific formatting errors, which if you aren’t tech-savy, can take a long time to fix.

Still… for an independant author, I think Smashwords is an excellent tool, and one that shouldn’t be ignored.  As a reader, I’ve found a very interesting selection of books there, and I’d recommend it to anyone who is looking for new authors to read.  The nicest thing about it?  Authors get 85% of the money from book sales, it seems to be the largest of any of the distributers I’ve found yet.

Oddball SF/F: Space Western

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As you might imagine, the first time I heard the term ‘Space Western’ my first thought was Space What?!?!

I mean, who wants to see a cowboy ride around a rocket?  I like science in my science fiction, thank you.

Well, I’ve since been educated a bit.  You see, there was this little show called Firefly and this nifty follow-on movie called Serenity.  That’s when I realized, that, you know, Space Western isn’t so bad afterall.  Granted, really, some SF authors have been doing this for a while anyway.  The general concept, that a frontier is a frontier, whether it be on Earth or on some distant world, has circulated throughout science fiction.  Heinlein used it quite well in a number of his stories, for example.  To be certain, it is something of wish fulfillment, that the new frontiers of space will be similar to the American West.

Still, the basic idea of transposing a time of societal change, a sense of exploration, and the tough, independent individuals is one that captures the imagination.  This is not the sterile Wayland Corp of the Aliens movies.  This frontier is a place of wild adventure and excitement.  Prospectors, priests, whores, businessmen, doctors, robber-barons, and a dozen other types populate this frontier with people we can identify with, understand, love, and hate.  Western stories are popular because of the spirit of independence, the satisfaction of a hero driven by his or her own strength of purpose and convictions who succeeds on his or her own efforts.

And of course Space Western trades in some of the traditions of western for the trappings of space.  The horse and the six gun trade out for a space ship and a blaster, but it retains the sense of exploration and the spirit of independence.  Space Western is often about the people and their stories more than it is about the technology.  And, when it comes down to it, the best stories often are.

Some excellent examples of Space Western, both old and new:  Robert Heinlein’s Time Enough for Love, Joss Whedon’s TV Series Firefly, the original Star Wars Trilogy (Han Solo is basically a cowboy and the Millenium Falcon his horse), the John Carter books by Edgar Rice Borroughs are pretty much a cowboy directly transposed into space opera.  Robert Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress is probably borderline as to whether you could consider it Space Western or not, but the principles are there, I think.  In any case, that is a good selection to read… and if you want more, my short story: Look To The Stars, is Space Western and proud of it.

Oddball SF/F: Steampunk

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Seeing as I addressed cyberpunk, I figured I should turn a complete one hundred and eighty degrees and discuss Steampunk.

Steampunk is, at once, a narrow subgenre and also a broadly encompasing blended genre.   It has become massively popular in recent times due to its often fantastical elements and the broad spectrum of ideas and concepts that can be pulled in.  Steampunk is often used in alternate history, creating worlds of steam-powered airships and technology driven by steam, ingenuity, and lots and lots of gears.  Some steampunk now is focused on alternate history, while other authors create entirely new worlds.  Steampunk concepts such as airships, clockwork devices, and the like may sometimes appear in more traditional fantasy novels or series.

While the science behind a lot of the technology can be pure fancy, many steampunk stories have richly developed worlds.  Often the best steampunk is characterized by a thorough extrapolation of both culture, society, technology, and at least some grasp of history.  Steampunk characters tend to be larger than life, flamboyant, and yet gentlemen are gentlemen and ladies are ladies.  At the same time, many steampunk stories feature women who stand outside of societal norms and challenge the status quo.  The central core of steampunk, however, tends to be that it is complex, complicated, often larger than life, includes lots of ponderous and even dangerous machinery… and that it is fun.

Steampunk is often about adventure and exploration, and it is very much in tune with the founders of science fiction: Jules Verne and Arthur Conan Doyle.  Those authors used elements of the fantastic as well as scientific principles of their day to write stories of exploration, intrigue, and discovery.  In a way, steampunk can be seen as a tipped hat to these earlier authors, for whom the world still contained vast and unknown secrets, where maps required people to walk the ground and survey, and when the next horizon still held undiscovered riches.

Oddball SF/F: Cyberpunk

I was reading through various forums when I came across an interesting question… what is Cyberpunk.  Cyberpunk is a subgenre of Science Fiction and Fantasy that tends to be very singular, though in today’s markets, blending of Cyberpunk with other genres has occured.  As a subgenre of science fiction, it tends to be defined by a near-future semi-dystopian world, often with post-modern aesthetics.  The characters tend to be outcasts from society, often renegades, who are often antiheroes.  The latter is the ‘punk’ part, the main characters are often societal rejects, often by choice, who have rejected the system, much like Punk Rock.

Cyberpunk is odd because it often takes an anti-technology standpoint, almost to the point of suggesting that certain technology is inherently too dangerous.  Cyberpunk often utilizes cybernetic implants, hacking, cloning, and genetic engineering, all items that our society has serious ethical questions.  Most cyberpunk stories show deliberate missuses of these technologies, often by the companies or countries which should (in theory) protect their employees or citizens from such misuse.  Cyberpunk stories are often very dark, with characters who struggle for survival rather than to effect any real changes in society or the world at large.  An important theme to much of cyberpunk is the ethical delimmas posed by technology, and cyberpunk authors are sometimes unique in science fiction for questioning the advance of technology.

William Gibson is often considered the defining author of cyberpunk.  Many of Phillip K. Dick’s novels and short stories (to include a lot of them which have been made into movies such as Blade Runner and Minority Report) are very similar in themes and setting to standard cyberpunk.