Let’s Face It… Guardians of the Galaxy is Space Fantasy, not Science Fiction

It’s hard to deny that science fiction is popular right now. Currently in the top 10 grossing domestic films of 2014 there are examples such as Guardians of the Galaxy, Transformers: Age of Extinction, and X-Men: Days of Future Past. All of these have ample futuristic technology to blow our minds away with the beauty of computer graphics.

However, in my opinion, they all lack something: any semblance of hard science to back up their wondrous visions. Films like Guardians are often thought of as science fiction. But, in fact, there’s no science in them. A better term for this genre might be “space fantasy” — a completely implausible make-believe story which just happens to occur in the depths of space.

Space fantasy has with a long history of financial success: this is epitomized best by the original Star Wars. As a genre, it can be very enjoyable for a few hours. In terms of sheer entertainment, I found Guardians of the Galaxy be a fantastic movie. Its use of nostalgia, comedy, and action were expertly woven into an amazing story. Not only was it fun, but it may have brought a new generation to science fiction. Looking at the box office numbers, it’s obvious that Guardians crossed over into the mainstream.

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The irreverent Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) flips the authorities the bird in Guardians of the Galaxy.

Yet, since it was a fun and engaging film, not many folks stopped to think about the reality behind the science-based concepts it presented. Blasters, starships, planets… These are often seen in true science fiction. But here, in a space fantasy, they’re just props as the film hurriedly jumps from one scene to the next. You could exchange these instead for swords, horses, and kingdoms (well-worn items in the fantasy genre) and the primary meaning of the story would stay the same. Guardians is really just a fantasy movie set in space.

Since the filmmakers have no concern for scientific detail, the movie quickly falls into well-worn tropes of space fantasy — and lazily-written science fiction! To my mind, Guardians of the Galaxy has three rather large problems in this regard: humanoid aliens, no language barriers, and magical technology.

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Besides a tree and a raccoon, the alien species in Guardians are humanoids with various skin colors.

In Guardians, as in many films which claim to be sci-fi, all the aliens are humanoid shape. Even Groot, a tree-like root, is a basically humanoid with a head, torso, limbs, etc. This type of anthropomorphizing shows a severe lack of imagination. If we ever did encounter true aliens — beings that originated and evolved light years away from our Solar System — it’s extremely unlikely they would bear any resemblance to us.

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The heroes of Guardians have no trouble communicating, even though they are different species.

Another easy trope to fall into is to have all of the characters speak a universal language — even more conveniently, it’s always English. This is just as ridiculous as every creature evolving to be humanoid. Think about it… Humankind doesn’t have a single language. There’s about 6,500 different tongues spoken on our planet today. Yet in Guardians — like so many other space fantasies — they never mention anything about communicators or translators. Just speak English and get on with it.

About the closest thing we get to any communication difficulty is Drax’s inability to understand metaphors — more of a psychological barrier, actually. The sad part is that there are so many science-based communication alternatives which could enrich a story about coexisting with alien cultures. On Earth, we see a variety of different communication tools such as bioluminescence or chemical signals. Why not stretch the audience’s self-imposed boundaries a bit and challenge them to think upon other possibilities?

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The über-plot of the Marvel Universe films revolve around techno-magic stones that can do anything.

The third trope I want to mention is magical technology. There’s a ton of it in Guardians: I could write a whole article just about that. But let’s focus on one MacGuffin (a nonsensical plot device), the Infinity Stone. This object seems to follow Arthur C. Clarke’s Third Law that “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” In the film, the origin story and usage of the Stone is more like a magical ritual — even though it claims to be based on some type of scientific theory.

Already by the 1950s, the term “science fiction” had become so watered down, after decades of mis-appropriation by fantasy concepts, that a new term needed to be created: hard sci-fi. The genre of hard sci-fi features stories which have some type of emphasis on scientific accuracy. It is the true heir to the initial intent of science fiction.

Rather than exist as an escape FROM reality, hard sci-fi returns science fiction to its true mission — to have the audience engage WITH reality — by seeing it and themselves through a different perspective. I’d like to suggest a few examples of this type of fiction worth checking out, if you haven’t seen them yet:

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Echo (Eliza Dushku), the lead character of Dollhouse, gets her mind erased.

The short-lived TV series Dollhouse (2009), set in the near future, imagined a possible device that could alter people’s memories. What are the repercussions of such a technology? The show dealt with the abuses and morality of using such a capability to erase, shape, and rebuild people’s minds.

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Dr. Eleanor Arroway (Jodie Foster) talks with an alien who takes the form of her dead father.

The 1997 film Contact — based upon a book by Carl Sagan and directed by Robert Zemeckis -– is a great example of a science-rooted fiction that asks its audience to think realistically about the possibility of alien contact. Since the early days of the Cold War, people have imagined aliens descending from the sky in a giant disk-shaped spaceship. Basically, little green men in flying saucers.

Thus, Contact is refreshing in its presentation of many of the trials and tribulations that actual scientists go through in searching for life elsewhere in our galaxy. Its hero, Dr. Ellie Arroway, is a SETI scientist who encounters strong evidence for extraterrestrial life. Ultimately, the film theorizes an interesting and perhaps plausible means by which aliens could make first contact with humankind. At FutureDude, we think the Arroway character is one of the smartest women in science fiction and she deserves to be a hero to both women and men.

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Gerty (voiced by Kevin Spacey) is a dependable AI robot in the recent sci-fi film Moon.

The low-budget drama Moon (2009) is another example of a film that explores the realms of scientific possibility. It centers on a Moon base which was built for the mining of helium-3 — a real element in abundance on our planetary neighbor which may be harvested in the near future.

Besides the base’s human caretaker, Sam Bell (portrayed by the always-great Sam Rockwell), there’s an artificial intelligence assistant named Gerty. As opposed to many AIs and robots in sci-fi, Gerty appears to something that humans would actually design to help them in such a situation. In fact, the smiley-faced AI makes our Top 5 List of Most Original Robots in Science Fiction. Take the time to watch this film: it’s a true mind-bender, if there has ever been one.

At FutureDude, we love hard sci-fi. We find it fun, thought-provoking, and inspiring. So, to make it ourselves, we do our research. We delve into scientific theories and examine problems in our world, then we extrapolate what possible paths for society the future might hold. Right now, we have three properties which follow in the tradition of the best hard sci-fi: Brainstorm, Parallel Man, and Oceanus. Let’s take a brief look at each one.

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Dr. Cale Issacs reviews a 3D holograph of a deadly storm in the weather manipulation comic, Brainstorm.

In the comic book mini-series Brainstorm, authors Jeffrey Morris & Ira Livingston IV examine the potential hazards in trying to direct one of nature’s most deadliest forces, the hurricane. Designed by the volatile Dr. Cale Isaacs, the Project Zephyr weather control system has worked successfully in the past. But, when the momentous task of dispersing a hurricane becomes too much, it takes a terrible and unexpected turn. Ultimately, in Brainstorm, Cale must face his own personal demons to stop a man-made storm of his own creation.

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Soldiers of the Ascendancy, from another Earth, hover above a lake in the multiverse epic, Parallel Man.

As opposed to time travel stories, Parallel Man deals with the implication of traveling between spatial dimensions. The first mini-series, Invasion America, is an epic science-fiction adventure in the multiverse. This exciting comic book, written by Jeffrey Morris & Fredrick Haugen, reminds me of an age-old question that we don’t think upon often: What do we do when we come in contact with a civilization that is far less advanced then ours? Do we impose our own rule over them or let them develop by themselves? These questions and more populate each page as the hero, Agent Nick Morgan, jumps from one world to the next — trying to stop a sinister plot.

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AquaShuttle 5 follows a pod of whales in this pre-production art from the underwater adventure, Oceanus.

While the first two stories from FutureDude have premiered as comic books, the third is a short film which will debut early next year. Oceanus travels to the closest unsolved mystery humankind has yet to fully investigate — the depths of the ocean. In fact, with less than 8% of the ocean floor explored, there is much to learn from it. Writers Jeffrey Morris & Kimberly Morris have constructed a compelling narrative. During the film, the underwater Oceanus Base is suddenly cut off from the surface. A disaster of epic scale has occurred on land. Thus, in Oceanus, the crew must learn to survive in the unfathomable and dangerous environment of the deep sea.

What piece of science fiction has inspired you the most and why? Let us know down in the Comments!

Oceanus: Shooting Day Two

It was a challenging moment to capture since Sharif Atkin’s character, Sam Jordan, was in serious peril. It’s nice to get the hard part out of the way first!

All photos are by Emil Petrinic.

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The actors rehearse their scene together while I read along on the script.

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Our director of photography, Greg Cotten, is one of the finest professionals I've ever worked with.

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Megan Dodds reviews the AquaShuttle's systems using awesome display graphics by Emil Petrinic.

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Things get ugly. We're portraying a temperature of two-hundred-fifty degrees Fahrenheit up there!

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I help Megan use her complex seat belt.

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The tube to the Whale Communication Pod.

Oceanus: Shooting Day One

Yesterday was the beginning of our 2-week production. We began shooting with the amazing Bruce Davison, Sharif Atkins, and Megan Dodds. We are in the middle of shooting the first half-hour of an eventual feature film.

The cool part is that the short stands alone as its own epic journey. As you can see from the photos, Greg, our director of photography, is doing an outstanding job. More details to come!

These photos are by the incomparable Emil Petrinic.

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Sharif Atkins acting against the blue screen.

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Actors Sharif Atkins and Megan Dodds inside of AquaShuttle Five (the set was built by Trevor Adams).

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The set designed by me, Christopher Jones and Emil Petrinic (who did the monitor graphics, too). I did the art direction.

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Reviewing the project with my co-producer Ira Livingston IV.

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The Minnesota Team! Me with Ira Livingston IV and Kimberly Morris, my co-writer and business partner.

Oceanus: Rehearsal Day

I finally got the cast of Oceanus together last Friday for costume and lighting tests. It’s awesome to be able to work with these fine actors as the director of an exciting script with my co-writer and partner Kimberly Morris.

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That's me on the far right with the cast of Oceanus: (l-r) Sharif Atkins, Megan Dodds, and Bruce Davison.

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The primary costumes were designed by Christopher Jones and created by Global Effects here in Hollywood.

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I have been a HUGE fan of Bruce Davison for many years. It's an honor to direct one of my all-time favorite actors.

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Megan Dodds during an awesome lighting test inside the set of AquaShuttle Five.

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We recorded audio for radio sequences on Friday. Bruce did an AMAZING job as the commander of the base.

The Creation of AquaShuttle Five for Oceanus

The AquaShuttle submarine was designed by myself and Christopher Jones. The goal was to create a futuristic underwater hotrod that could shoot across the ocean at high speeds via a caterpillar-drive system.

It has a new generation of ultra-light transparent aluminum windows that can withstand high pressure, allowing for spectacular undersea views. The interior was interpreted through additional design by Emil Petrinic.

The initial CG model was built Daren R. Dochterman and is being rebuilt and animated by Tobias Richter and the amazing team at The Light Works in Cologne, Germany.

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It all starts inside my head. Here's an initial sketch of the sub that I did.

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Interior configuration by Christopher Jones. We worked really hard to figure this out.

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This model of the AquaShuttle Five was created by Daren R. Dochterman.

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Here's another view of it from above.

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This production painting by Eric Chu illustrates a key moment in the script: an encounter with whales.

Advance Reviews for Parallel Man: Invasion America #1

We sent the first issue of Parallel Man: Invasion America out to folks across the web to get their unbiased opinions. Here’s a few of the articles that I’ve found.

Kevin Hellions of Team Hellions — Your Geek Destination:

“Time displacement as a militarized weapon. Man, that alone is worth reading every single issue of this comic no matter the cost.

A hero bending rules and space to save us all. ‘Parallel Man’ and I will be crossing perpendicular paths every issue.”

Diadori from Geek Pilgrimage:

“The story is awesome. I don’t want to give too much away, but if you enjoy space adventures and parallel dimensions, you’ll like ‘Parallel Man’.

Oh, there are also dinosaurs. Dinosaurs and hoverbikes, y’all. If you’re not into that, I can’t help you.”

Carlos Rodrigues from Comic Book Critic:

“Morris & Haugen throw you right into their multiverse… There’s no long exposition… The ‘how’ and ‘why’ unfold perfectly, keeping the tension and mystery at a high level. You get just enough to keep you wanting more…

The great artwork by Marvel & DC Comics veteran Christopher Jones perfectly complements the writing and establishes the pace and tension that permeates this book… This is one of his finest works.

This comic is, in terms of writing, art, and production quality, on par with much larger publishers… Everything about ‘Parallel Man: Invasion America’ #1 screams quality: the writing, the art, everything.”

Croonerboy:

“Nick Morgan has a lot in common with Batman… he has some of the coolest gadgets in the multiverse, and as much sophisticated swagger as James Bond.

The mix of modern day and future-past is one of the coolest things about this book. This leaves the door wide open for just about anything to happen, and it pretty much does from the get-go.

The pencils and inks are some of best work Christopher Jones has ever done. The eye-catching, non-stop thrill-ride is not to be missed!”

Nick at Geeks Without God:

“Comics are a visual medium, and as such, ‘Parallel Man’ doesn’t rely on exposition to convey what’s happening, they show it and you pick it up as you go, because you’re clever and don’t need to have your hand held though a comic.”

Fantome Frieze at One Hundred Years of Art (Approximately):

“Visually, the comic book has a pulp style that is warmly reminiscent of Saturday morning cartoons from the 80’s and early 90’s. The vehicles, weapons, and costumes place the style in a romanticized pop sci-fi period that reminds me of being a kid again.

Who can resist an airship that looks like it belongs with the G.I. Joe team flying over alternate Chicago with Bronze-age dinosaurs on other dinosaur’s backs.”

Sprite at Sprite Creations:

“I have to give a shout-out (and a sigh of relief) to the portrayal of the high-ranking female soldier/villainess! She was drawn as you would expect a soldier to be outfitted for inter-verse travel and treated as such.

No ridiculously skimpy costumes, impossible poses or anything else that would detract from her character and the story. Thank you!”

Rob Wrecks at Indie Comix:

“Rarely do you see a comic centered solely on the idea of parallel worlds itself. Until recently that is thanks to Jeffrey Morris and Fredrick Haugen of FutureDude. And what a fantastic start they are off too with this comic.”

M. Vieux Bois at Comics Price Guide:

“This is pure sci-fi goodness. The story was a total surprise… packed with interesting characters, wonderful future-tech gadgetry, and a whole lot of action.

This is a very, very strong debut for a book that wasn’t even on my radar.”

Recent Interviews with Jeffrey Morris aka FutureDude

You can read the full interviews with ICv2 and with Art Bee at Hammond Comics Blog. But, if you’re short on time, I’ve included a few excerpts of my responses from both articles below.

“I’m an artist and entrepreneur. But most importantly, I am a dreamer. I have always looked forward instead of backward.

I grew up believing in the promise of stories like Star Trek and Space: 1999. I imagined a futuristic world populated by smart people doing amazing things. Pushing the envelope and expanding horizons.”

“Brainstorm is at its core, a human drama. It is interspersed with cool technology and a rip-roaring disaster film-style adventure. If you like your science fiction tinged with humanity, I think you will definitely enjoy it.

It has fun twists and turns and a ton of surprises. The story also features a gay protagonist, something that is not typical in today’s marketplace and something that readers searching for diversity are clamoring for.”

“Parallel Man is a big adventure across multiple parallel universes where we have an evil version of America that ended up developing the ability to cross dimensions instead of developing the atom bomb. A rogue agent from that universe is leading a rebellion against that evil entity. He ends up teaming up with his doppelganger from our universe to try to stop them.

Imagine Clark Kent and Superman being two separate individuals and having to team up, like the bumbling version of Clark Kent that Christopher Reeve played but he’s actually a real individual. So you’ve got two versions of the same guy that are able to run around together and travel between these different universes.

We’ve got dinosaur worlds, and every aspect of our story takes place in 2014, but we’re going to completely different versions of the United States in these different dimensions.

It’s a big universe-hopping saga. Lots of cool places to go, cool stories to tell. It’s fun; it’s epic, kind of a Star Wars-style story in its size and scope.”

“We are focusing on producing a film project as opposed to a comic book series. I am directing it and it will be shot in Hollywood this Fall by an amazing team. I have assembled veterans who worked on films like “The Abyss” and “Star Trek: The Motion Picture”. My goal is to revitalize the underwater sci-fi genre.”

To both ICv2 and Hammond Comics Blog, thanks again for your interest in what we’re up to here at FutureDude Entertainment.

Brainstorm #1 Gets Rave Reviews!

Brainstorm, the first comic mini-series from FutureDude Entertainment is getting rave reviews from across the web. Here’s just a sampling of the articles that I’ve come across.

Bob Garrett of Project-Nerd:

Brainstorm is one of those rare finds in comics for me — the developers have created an insatiable desire for the reader to get to the next chapter of the story.

The story, by Morris and Livingston, is totally engrossing from page one. They have established characters fairly quickly, and have delved into what will be the primary crisis throughout, and have left the reader with a humdinger of a cliff-hanger. The artwork, by Dennis Calero, gives the comic an almost cinematic feel.”

François Peneaud of The Gay Comics List:

“The wide-screen feel of the story is nicely complemented by the small-scale, personal issues that Isaacs has to face, such as the loss of his brain-child and his estrangement from his own family.

This isn’t an anti-science story… Isaacs is not shown as a mad scientist, but as a driven young man whose contributions to science are denied. Writers Ira Livingston IV and Jeffrey Morris have certainly done their homework regarding the real-world aspect of their story.”

Steven Leitman of Indie Comix:

“This is a great action/adventure, thriller/drama that has all the feel and effects of older disaster movies — only with layman friendly jargon thrown in for us non-scientist types…

The future of science based thrillers is here, people. Get in at the beginning!”

The folks at Pipedream Comics:

“This first issue is heavy on dialogue thanks to Morris and Livinston’s smartly-written script, but there’s plenty of action too courtesy of X-Men Noir artist Dennis Calero.

This complex tale of scientific double crosses and military mishaps contains as many twists and turns as the tornados it’s trying to stop, so be prepared to be blown away by this super-smart sci-fi thriller.”

The folks at Reading With A Flight Ring:

“This is a great action/adventure, thriller/drama that has all the feel and effects of older disaster movies only with layman friendly jargon thrown in for us non-scientist types so we may easily understand what is happening and the ramifications of the use of this technology.

If this is the kind of stuff Future Dude Entertainment will be focusing on putting out then I will go out on a limb and say they will be quite successful finding their own niche in the market.”

Art Bee at Art Bee Comics:

“Who does not love a realistic science-fiction thriller? The story plot for Brainstorm is solid. The concept is original. This mini-series should be a good, exciting read.”

Thanks so much to everyone who took the time to write about Brainstorm! This exciting story is just getting started! Please remember to order Brainstorm from your local comic shop or look for us online at Comixology. Also, you’re welcome to buy it directly from us at the FutureDude Store.

FutureDude at San Diego Comic Con 2014

Jeffrey Morris, our Founder and CEO, will be at the 2014 San Diego Comic Convention to promote the coming launch of the company’s first comic book title, Brainstorm.

Morris will be appearing Friday and Saturday, July 25th and 26th, at the booth for Source Comics & Games from St. Paul, Minnesota (Booth #4423). Brainstorm is a six-issue mini-series. The story follows a young scientist named Dr. Cale Isaacs who has created Project Zephyr –- a successful weather control system that, after being funded by the U.S. Military, is eventually confiscated and used on a tropical storm.

When the test goes awry, the resultant hurricane grows to epic and unfathomable proportions –- eventually encompassing the Northern Hemisphere. As it evolves, it appears to act out of self-preservation and even strike with purpose –- becoming a raging sentient superstorm. Brainstorm will be available to the public on August 27th.

Jeffrey Morris is excited to be making his first appearance at Comicon. He spoke about the event:

“There is no better place in the world to connect with genre fans. Our content is set to explode and truly redefine science fiction as we know it. I’m thrilled to begin sharing our stories with the world.”

Brainstorm will be followed by the launch of a second comic title entitled Parallel Man which includes a 7-issue comic book mini-series, mobile device video game, deck-builder game, and animated short film. The story follows Agent Nick Morgan — an intelligence operative from an evil version of America in an alternate universe. His government, known as The Ascendancy, has attacked and enslaved twelve other Earths and has its sights set on our world as their next target.

The Parallel Man: Invasion America comic book series will debut October 8th. It will be proceeded by Parallel Man: Infinite Pursuit, an animated short starring the voices of John Cho, Lance Reddick, and Ming-Na Wen.

FutureDude Entertainment also has one additional project in the works for the remainder of 2014. Oceanus is live-action short film that will be directed by Morris in Hollywood during October. The futuristic story follows a pair of married scientists from an underwater city who face the aftermath of a terrifying global disaster. The completed project will enter the international film festival circuit throughout 2015 and serve as proof-of-concept for a larger feature film.

We will have convention exclusive Brainstorm and Parallel Man 11×17″ posters featuring art by Dennis Calero and Christopher Jones! Get a poster for FREE while supplies last!

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Brainstorm #1 is a Previews Staff Pick!

I’m very proud to share with you some really special news. The folks over at Diamond Comic Distributors have chosen Brainstorm #1 as a Staff Pick for the month of July!

When you consider that they evaluate and review literally thousands of comics each month — and that this is not only the premiere issue of Brainstorm, but the first comic that FutureDude Entertainment has published — it’s a very humbling honor.

You can read the entire recommendation of Brainstorm at Previews. According to George Powell:

A group of scientists, funded by the military to develop a way to control storms and prevent them from happening, release experimental nanites into the vortex of a tornado to stop it immediately.

When the military finds out this works they fire the outside group and take matters into their own hands. Little do they know the really don’t know what they are doing with this new technology.

We’re really excited to being doing something new and innovative at FutureDude — telling science-fiction stories that are plausible, yet still surprising and meaningful. Thanks for being with us on the journey thus far. The really fun stuff is just about to begin.

Brainstorm #1 hits store shelves on August 27, 2014. You can order it in advance with Previews. Here’s more about the story of Brainstorm.

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Look for Brainstorm in the July issue of Previews magazine.