Project 9 Anthology


The universe is infinite—as are the stories from those who inhabit this wondrous place. Welcome to the many different worlds imagined in the minds of Solstice Publishing authors. What can be more fun than letting your imagination release and enjoying tales from all sorts of cosmoses.



Ten Solstice Publishing authors take you to the dark recesses of the mind, a space station about to be turned upside down by teen investigators, and where reality can be defined by taking a pill. These stories are just the beginning of a fabulous collection just awaiting the eager reader.



Project 9 Vol 2 features the work of Ray Chilensky, K.C. Sprayberry, Jim Cronin, Arthur Butt, E.B. Sullivan, Natalie Silk, Rick Ellrod, Debbie De Louise, Rob McLachlan, and S@yr.





A. B. Funkhauser, Author

Writing’s been a long time coming according to author Ray Chilensky, but once he got going there was no turning back. A ‘penciler’ in his spare time, his career as storyteller began with a “penchant for improving” source material in childhood. Today, he creates layered characters in dystopian worlds with a message that finds a home in the time we live in. Welcome, Ray.


We have more than a few things in common. Let’s begin with the drawing. Is it an inherited gift? What are your favorite subjects?

You can be born with the talent to draw, but I really can’t point to any family member that I inherited any talent that I may have from. Even if you have natural talent, you have to work to develop it. I once aspired to be a comic book penciler so I spent a lot of time studying anatomy and basic things like perspective and foreshortening.

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Violence and Character Development

If you write fiction chances are you’re going have to write a scene involving violence. Even if you’re not writing thrillers or action stories chances are your characters will be faced with physical conflict, even if that conflict is just a simple shoving match or a slap in the face. Violent confrontations are a staple of fiction. The reason for this is simple; violence is part of real-life human existence. Even in our supposedly civilized culture, violence is always waiting just beneath the surface. The fact is we live in a violent world.

For authors the portrayal of violence can be a tricky thing. How descriptive and graphic should an author be when portraying violent encounters? How does doing violence to others affect your character emotionally and psychologically? How much violence is justified in a given situation? Like all actions, violent actions produce reactions. As authors we have to depict the consequences of our characters violent actions no matter how justified those actions may have been.

Many, if not most authors have never experience a serious violent encounter. Many, if not most have never been in a serious shoving match. They have never experience being punched in the face or thrown onto concrete by someone who intended to do them harm. Civilization has insulated them from violence to a large extent. They therefore have no true understanding of violence or its lingering after effects. This insulation results in authors reducing the violence taking place in their stories to a mere plot device. It loses its emotional visceral impact, and therefore its storytelling value.

In fiction the hero and villain of a given piece often exchanged blows for several minutes in ‘book time’. The hero may be struck in the face and head several times and absorbs several body-blows. Yet, he triumphs and often goes on fighting and absorbs even more damage with only the occasional wince of recognition to the pain caused by his injuries.  Unless an author is writing a character that supernatural powers, this underestimation of the damaged caused in such an encounter is unrealistic and can even make a heroic character seem less heroic. Even if the character is somehow more than human (in a science fiction or fantasy setting perhaps) he is likely going to receive substantial injury if facing a worthy opponent.

When writing combat scenes an author must consider what happens when two human being contend with each other and are committed to doing serious harm. They intent to maim, cripple or kill, and the techniques they use will be brutal and devastating.  Skilled fighters know where and how to strike, squeeze or twist a human body to cause maximum damage and they will exploit that knowledge ruthlessly. They will cause parts of their opponent’s body to not function properly. They will end they fight as quickly as possible and they will be savage and brutal.

A knee with a smashed Patella Bone simply will not work as it usually does; no matter how tough a person is. Someone who has just been repeatedly kicked in the ribs will not be able to breathe normally. A person who has been slashed deeply across the belly with a knife will not be able to move as he normally does because the abdominal muscles have been severed and his blood pressure is plummeting.  The pain alone form such wounds would likely incapacitate most people. A great many novelists ignore the effects battle-wounds at the cost of dramatic tension.

I suggest authors think about the injuries that they have experienced in their life when writing violent scenes. Remember the broken arm you had after you fell down the stairs as a child and ask yourself  how much fighting you could have done minutes after receiving that injury.  Think about that black eye your cousin gave you by accident while you were roughhousing and imagine a fully grown person deliberately driving a fist into your eye. The drama comes from the protagonist fighting through the pain and overcoming crippling injury. No drama or excitement comes from ignoring pain and injury but the way your characters deal with pain and disabling injury will define them in your reader’s eyes.

Authors: Biting the Hand that Feeds You

I’m new to being a published author. My first published work has been available through an independent publisher for less than year.  I’m really not qualified to give advice to budding authors but I’m going to anyway.

Anyone who wants to get paid for publishing what they write will learn this very quickly anyway, but for those would be authors that haven’t published anything yet let this serve as a warning. Are you ready? Being an author is a business. That’s right; if you’re being paid for a product that you’ve produced, you’re engaging in business. If you find a publisher you will have to sign a contract and abide by its terms. You’ll have to work with an editor paid for and assigned by your publisher. And, if your signed with an independent publisher, you’ll have to do the lion’s share of promotion for your book yourself.  You’ll have to keep records of your royalty payments for tax purposes. All of that will have to be done while researching and writing your next book because one published work does not make a literary career. Writing is and art. Being an author is a business.

As I’ve prowled through the multitude of internet sites catering to independent authors something surprised me. There were authors that were publically trashing their own publishers; almost literally biting the hand that fed them. Being an author is a business and that makes the author a small business owner because he owns his own brand (his name as related to his published works). His publisher is a partner in that business. This means a certain amount of decorum and professionalism is required. So, for anyone who is even newer to being a published author that I am; I say this: be professional. If you have an issue with your publisher work it privately; not on message boards or on twitter. Trashing one publisher online will not endear you to other publishers. They are professionals and they expect to work with people who act in a dignified, professional manner.

You, the published author, may not actually be an author as your sole profession, but your relationship with your publisher has to be conducted as one professional working with another. When a publisher takes on an author, they are investing time and money in that author; even if you publisher doesn’t pay advances. Editors don’t generally work for free, and neither do cover artists or proofreaders; your publisher pays them, or at least has people who volunteer to invest their time, effort and skill to make your work ready to publish. Public rants about how badly your publisher has treated you are no way to repay that investment. And, make no mistake, other potential publishers are seeing those eloquently vitriolic posts too. Is it reasonable to think that they’ll want to publish you if the know you might turn on them should they displease you? Be careful what you say and how you say it. An independent author is indeed a small business owner. That means reputation is everything. Think about your reputation before you attack your business partner.

Last (?) Monday with…Ray Chilensky!

Kate Collins was nice enough to interview me this for her blog! Thanks Kate!


Okay, so last week was a strange one and I couldn’t read a calendar. LOL. Everyone welcome author Ray Chilensky!

1. What’s the title of your latest release? Link?

My short story ‘The Engineer’ appears in ‘Project 9’: a science Fiction anthology that is now available for pre-order, and will be available from Solstice Publishing on December 23. I’m in the final editing stages with my dystopian science fiction novel The Fate of Nations: FIRE Team Alpha Book One; which should be available from Solstice soon.


FIRE Team Alpha

2. Why do you like writing in this genre?

Science fiction is unlimited. Even though good science fiction is rooted in science that is actually possible, a writer isn’t confined by what is actually possible today. Since you’re speculating about the future, there’s a kind of mental cushion that allows you to and your readers to think about social and political issues in new…

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The Politics of Science Fiction


I think I was about eleven years old that I first began to think about politics. I was watching a Star Trek episode called The Cloud Minders. The episode centered on the search for a consignment of ‘zenite’: a mineral that was badly needed to combat a botanical plague that threatened an entire planet with starvation. The problem for the crew of the Starship Enterprise was that a group of ‘disruptors’: a militant faction of a worker caste called ‘Troglytes’ that were considered intellectually inferior to the planets ruling elite, had stolen the zenite consignment. The disruptors intended to use it as a bargaining chip in a struggle for social equality with the technologically sophisticated but intellectually bigoted dwellers of ‘Stratos’: a city that literally floated in the clouds. It was also established that the disruptors committed acts of sabotage, kidnapping and vandalism to further their social and political goals. I actually remember the moment when I made the mental connection between the disruptors of the Star Trek episode and the terrorists that seemed to be constantly in the news.

In a simplified, fictional microcosm Margaret Armen, the author of the episode’s screenplay, made the events that I was hearing about from Walter Cronkite a bit more understandable to my young mind. She also galvanized my love of well written science fiction and began my fascination with politics and history. Captain Kirk had set the Troglytes and Stratos city dwellers on the path of reconciliation in forty minutes allowing for commercials, but the story sent my mind into perpetual motion. As it entertained, it also made me think in ways that I hadn’t before.  That, I think is what good science fiction is supposed to do.

Later, as the news was filled with controversy about forced bussing of students among various school to force racial diversity on the educational system, I discovered the X-Men. Marvel Comic’s band of beleaguered, misunderstood misfits who, despite being hated and even hunted by a fear-addled society defended that society against all manners of supernatural threats. In the X-Men, I found a way to conceptualize racism and bigotry that not only made me empathize with the objects of that bigotry, but also pity the ignorant people that were its source. Fiction made reality more easily understood.

Ch atom

And that wasn’t the only politically charged content that Marvel had in store. In the Avengers series there was the Falcon. In contrast to the latest film depiction of the wigged hero where he is a former member of the Air Force’s elite Para-Rescue force, the Falcon of the seventies was pretty much an ordinary man, with not appreciable combat or espionage training, who had a suit that enabled him to fly. Despite the character’s lack of qualifications, and  even his having a criminal record, this version of the Flacon was made an Avenger. Because the Avengers received government resources, the group was subject to affirmative action laws. Again, my mind was sent spinning with questions. The entire complexly interwoven Marvel Universe was rife with social and political commentary. I ate it up with a large spoon.

And Star Trek continued to help me examine difficult political issues such as proxy wars waged by the super powers, (A Private, Little War) the place of religion in society, (Feeders of Vaal’ and ‘Bread and Circuses’) and the possible pitfalls of technology (A Taste of Armageddon and The Ultimate Computer) and cold war tensions (The Omega Glory and The Enterprise Incident). And, of course there was the first interracial kiss to be televised in the United States in ‘Plato’s Stepchildren’. The original Star Trek’s spin offs continued this tradition of socio-political commentary and became a part of the political debate for more than one generation.

Star Trek, overall, painted a bright picture of mankind’s future while the newer dystopian books and films such as the Hunger Games and Divergent shed a darker light. But, whatever the tone of the speculation, science fiction looks to what might be while encouraging people to truly see what is. It can cause a useful intellectual shift in perspective. Science fiction can take the discussion of political issues that one is always warned against pursuing at social gatherings and make those issues safe to discuss by placing them in a fictional, speculative framework.

Science fiction can be a back door into the mind for political thought. Before my minor epiphany while watching the Cloud Minders, I paid little attention to the news cast. I was aware of them only because they were a fixture in my family’s viewing schedule every night from 6 to 7 o’clock. But, Star trek had engaged my mind and started a new way of thinking. Sadly, science fiction has the stigma of being literary fluff. Even after celebrated works like George Orwell’s 1984 and Aldus Huxley’s Brave New World, the literary powers-that-be still turn their noses up at science fiction.  It is my opinion that such skeptics are missing the point. They get distracted by the exaggerated technology and wondrous settings and they fail to absorb the essence of science fiction. Science fiction, like almost all fiction, is intended to illicit emotional and intellectual response. Like fiction of any genre it can allow a reader or viewer to take that proverbial walk in someone else’s shoes.  Science fiction differs from other genres only in that by forecasting what the political and social structure of the future might be, it shapes that future by providing alternatives  that might not otherwise be considered.





You’re a Nerd Too!

The Definition of Nerd : an unstylish, unattractive, or socially inept person ; especially : one slavishly devoted to intellectual or academic pursuits


Hello, my name is Ray, and I am a nerd. I fit the above definition in every way. I am quite proud of being a nerd. It means that I read books that don’t have any pictures in them, I can find tiny little nations like Russia on a map, and that I am blissfully unaware of the transient and increasingly expensive pop-culture fads.

I was the kid who could be found under the dining room table with a good sci-fi novel or a stack of comic books when other kids were playing all the various games that can be played with a ball. (Has it ever occurred to you that all such games are essentially slightly more complicated versions of “fetch” which even the most mentally deficient dog can be taught to play in a fairly short time?) I was the kid who woke up my entire household with a gleeful shriek upon first seeing the commercial for Star Wars back in 1977. I was the kid got up at five in the morning to watch Battle of the Planets and Star Blazers before going to school. I was, and am, a nerd’s nerd.

I never grew out of my nerdiness. I graduated high school, and I was still a nerd. I became a police officer, and  I was still a nerd. Now, I’m a forty-seven-year-old fledgling author, and I’m still a nerd. I still stay up to three in the morning to watch an old episode of the original (by that I mean the REAL) Star Trek. If given the chance, I will happily spend hours debating the minutest details of the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, or the aesthetic appeal of the design of a Federation starship. As I have already admitted, I’m a nerd. But you, no matter who you are, are a nerd too.

You may not fit into the narrow definition above, but if you think about it hard enough and you’re honest with yourself, you’ll find something you’re a nerd about. I’m focusing here the part of the definition about “one slavishly devoted to intellectual or academic pursuits.” All you have to do is replace the words intellectual and academic with something like athletic or entertainment and you find your inner nerd.

If you can name and list the career statistics of every player on your favorite football team, is that really different from knowing the names of all the original twelve Constitution class starship from Star Trek? If you have a deep emotional attachment to a particular softball bat because you are certain it’s your lucky bat, is that so different from a Dungeons and Dragons player who wrecks his entire apartment looking for a misplaced twenty-sided die that has delivered him from many and varied horrible monsters in two times a hundred imaginary adventures? Is watching a Packers’ game in the midst of sub-zero temperatures while not wearing a shirt or coat and having your body painted green and yellow less insane than a person who dresses as a Klingon warrior at a Star Trek convention? Answer those questions for yourself, but be honest.nerd pic 01

Nerds are an anomaly only because the things they are passionate about tend to be out of line with more commonly engaged in activities or hobbies. They do tend to be more intellectually gifted than the average person and, because if this, the things they take an interest in tend to be complex and intricate. Most nerds aren’t snappy dressers because, as long as clothing performs its required functions, (keeping one warm and preserving public decency) it seems a waste of mental energy to think too much about color coordination, or rather or not a given garment is in style at the moment. A nerd, if worthy of the designation, has little or no knowledge of pop-culture unless it intersects with his perception of the universe like, for example, when The Lord of the Rings films were embraced by the general public and became, at least for a short time, part of pop-culture.

But is this gap of understanding between nerds and ‘regular people’ really so different from a married couple in which the wife spends every afternoon enthralled by the Byzantine and unlikely plots of her favorite soap operas, and the husband spends his weekends watching one sporting event after another, listening to endless commentaries about those events, and then arguing about the outcomes with other equally dedicated sports fans? Dedication to something you enjoy is a natural thing. Why is it that such dedication is generally acceptable for a Steelers fan waving his ‘terrible towel,’ but not for a Star Wars fan sporting a “May the Force be with you” T-shirt? The answer is simply that more people have the harmless obsession for sports that have the equally harmless obsession for science fiction, fantasy, or the depths of cosmology. It’s just a matter of scale. More people understand things like soap operas and sports, so those pastimes have no stigma attached to them.

Most generally, a nerd is thinking about things like what might happen if the universe stopped expanding, or the philosophical ramifications Steven Hawking’s information paradox, while at the same time planning new and inventive imaginary traps for the players in his next Dungeons and Dragons game session. They delve deeply into rich fantasy worlds like the Star Wars epics or The Lord of the Rings because the mundane day-to-day existence of modern life is, quite simply, boring. In fantasy and sci-fi realms (or in academic areas such as physics or philosophy) they find mental challenges that, simply put , keep them interested in living.

Nerds ask questions like: why does the Enterprise need a navigational deflector when Klingon ships don’t? Would a clone have a soul? If reincarnation were real, should the current incarnation be responsible for the debts left by his last incarnation? Some would say such questions are frivolous, or even silly, but in truth, such questions have immense value. Nerds see beyond the here and now. They think about what could be and, perhaps even more importantly, what should be.

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I ask those who read this essay to look at themselves and see if they don’t have a nerd in them that they suppress in order to conform to the social pigeonhole called normalcy. Ask yourself if you didn’t secretly admire the poorly dressed kid who was the only one in the school that knew how to run the old reel-to-reel movie projector. Try to remember that you too once had a stash of comic books that you hid from your mother who thought that they would rot your brain. Maybe you can admit that you actually thought playing Dungeons and Dragons might be fun, but you never asked the nerds if you could play for fear of being branded a nerd yourself. If you look hard enough, you’ll find that nerd watching The Thing with Two Heads in some seldom used synapse of your brain. If you do, let him out and get to know him. You’ll probably have fun.


What is Science Fiction?


What is science fiction? For some, it calls up images of the rather simplistic black and white movie serials like Flash Gordon or Buck Rogers with Buster Crabbe. Later generations remember the genre from the classic 1950’s films like Earth Vs the Flying Saucers and The Day the Earth Stood Still. Then there were shows like The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits and the culture changing icon Star Trek from the sixties. That decade also brought us the ground breaking 2001: A space Odyssey. Science fiction was entrenched in the global pop-culture. But can anyone truly and accurately define the genre?

s enterprise

The seventies were replete with sci-fi films and television programs. There were cult hits like Space 1999 and more broad-based hits like the widely popular Six Million Dollar Man. Then there were lesser known and short-lived programs like The Star Lost and The Phoenix. Battlestar Galactica’s short and troubled time on television left and enduring warm spot in the hearts of millions of fans.  Then, of course, there was Star Wars which came, in 1977, to rival Star Trek’s level of cultural saturation. In 1979, Ridley Scotts Alien blurred the line between science fiction and horror.  Science fiction series came and went but the genre was enduring.

S destroyer

In the eighties we saw the return of Buck Rogers to the small screen with Gill Gerard in the namesake role. Flash Gordon came back the theaters in a film that paid considerable homage to the old serials. Tron made us question what a science fiction film should look like.  Films like Highlander and Krull tested the boundaries between sci-fi and fantasy. Star Trek returned to television with The Next generation and was followed by a somewhat darker interrelated series; Deep Space Nine.  Both Star Trek and Star Wars continued to produce popular theatrical films. By this time critics and prominent literary figures, with few exceptions, derided and dismissed the science fiction genre as intellectual and literary flotsam and jetsam. Yet science fiction not only continued to attract fans; it attracted fans that were more dedicated and enthusiastic than those of any other entertainment genre. Not only did sci-fi fans love science fiction they wanted everyone to know it, and share their passion.

In the nineties Star Trek: Voyager succeeded Deep Space Nine and Babylon 5 found a somewhat small but incredibly devoted fan base with a more politicized, less optimistic take on the future.  The X-Files brought contemporary politics and intrigue to science fiction and drew viewers that had never before appreciated sci-fi. The Running Man gave us a wonderfully dark view of what the entertainment media might look like in the future (an exaggeration of today’s ‘reality’ TV) and Gattaca made us wonder if the mapping of the human genome was actually a good idea. The nineties got a bit darker for sci-fi.

The twenty-first century brought us more Star Trek in the form of Star Trek: Enterprise. Debuting in 1999, the first of the Star Wars ‘prequels’ gave the franchise a boost into the new century; but, like Enterprise,  left fans a bit disappointed. A ‘reimagining’ of Star Trek breathed new life into the franchise and the upcoming Star Wars continuation: The Force Awakens has two generations of Star Wars fans all tingly with anticipation. Battlestar Galactica rose again minus the original series’ campiness.  Doctor Who continued the long run of popularity that began in 1963.  Science fiction’s most notable and enduring franchises are still alive and well.


I have concentrated thus far on the visual media. This is because ii is that which shapes the general concept of science fiction for the general, non-sci-fi initiated public. The vision of great science fiction authors like H.G. Wells, Jules Verne, Robert Heinlein, Arthur C. Clarke, Aldus Huxley and George Orwell have, for the most part, have been distorted by film and television. However, the greats of science fiction gave us equally diverse points of view. H.G. Well’s The Shape of Things to Come showed us a socialist paradise brought about by a governmental force with overwhelming technological superiority while Huxley’s Brave New World showed us a future population that was drugged into submission. Heinlein’s Starship Troopers saw society being totally militarized while that same author brought us a peaceful, thriving world in For Us the Living. Even when comparing works by these giants of science fiction and their peers, it is still hard to answer the question: what is science fiction?

Merriam-Webster on-line defines science fiction as: ‘fiction dealing principally with the impact of actual or imagined science on society or individuals or having a scientific factor as an essential orienting component’. That is a pretty broad net to throw over such an expansive a genre. In an attempt to narrow things down sci-fi enthusiasts broke science fiction into a multitude of sub-genres. But, in a way, that only made things worse. I myself do not think that you can define science fiction for what it is. You can define it by what it does or, at least, intends to do.


Science fiction creators, by and large, want their work to do one of two things; show bright, positive goals for humanity to aspire to, or warn humanity about some dire folly that might befall it. In Star Trek’s many incarnations we see a human race that has not only unified itself, but has joined with other non-human races in a technologically dependent utopia. In Orwell’s 1984 we see technology used to perpetuate war and keep a destitute proletariat in a state of slavery.  Star Wars gave us a simplistic, wonder-filled vision where evil and good were clearly defined.  The X-files showed us a present day with dark foreboding and fear of a mostly unseen, ephemeral threat that consisted largely of fellow human beings in league with otherworldly powers. All of these offerings are considered to be science fiction and all of them were vastly different in both tone and message. What they had in common was that that they wanted to make people think in different ways; to place ideas and philosophies in different contexts.

Science Fiction works with ideas in a way that is different than any other genre. I dare say it may be superior to other genres in that regard. Sci-fi frees ideas and concepts from the confines of the ordinary. It provides a comfortable mental cushion between a person’s steadfast beliefs and ideas that challenge those beliefs. It provides a buffer between the troubling issues of today by providing the psychological distance of an imaginary tomorrow. Science fiction allows us to think about the unthinkable without guilt or shame. It, like its cousin genre fantasy, is a genre that frees us from our own egos and cultural programming and lets us ponder other cultural paradigms. The ‘science’ in science fiction is only a backdrop for the fiction.

So, science fiction at its best is simply fiction with science used as a setting for telling tales or as a catalyst for examining society and the ‘human condition’.  That is where sci-fi triumphs over the other forms of fiction. Science fiction can look into the future and see what might be, while other fiction genres are limited by what is. Science fiction can serve as a warning about the future, or can  provide an ideal to which humanity can aspire. It, more than any other type of fiction, can inspire people to look to the future with hope, while guarding against developing evil. It can bring out our best, or show us our worst. It helps us not to be defined by our own perceived limitations. It may even allow us to act to shape the future rather than simply react to the present.