My Fatal Futility Book 1 by N J M Hemfrey Genre: Cyberpunk, Time Travel
In a neo-Japanese inspired future, comes a cyberpunk epic with a razor-sharp time travel edge.
Kage Carnifex never bleeds easily. He's stronger than the slickest cybernetics. And the chip in his brain whispers the value of violence.
Kage is the last product of a dead corporation. When he is scraped off the streets by another megacorp, Kage plunges headlong into an unforgiving world of unbreakable contracts, absolute loyalty, and soulful devotion beyond what he thought possible.
Yet, the psychotic butchers from his shrouded past cannot be escaped forever, nor their malicious masters denied Kage's life. Blood is owed and carnage is coming to carve everything Kage loves apart.
And the secret to surviving may lie within a device Kage can't control; the chrono-disruptor -- a time machine -- but time is a fatal thing...
Life is fucking unfair. The steely voice of the Shirei-Kan brain chip reverberated in my mind. So, you best grin and bear it. Dying is not an option.
That malfunctioning piece of hardware had been chattering randomly in my head since I could remember, since I was seven. She never responded to my verbal commands. She never listened to my thoughts trying to motivate it to shut up or needing it–– When I feel alone.
The brain chip never filled in any of my missing memory. No, for the past two years, Shirei-Kan had only invaded my thoughts sporadically. She usually spoke about the value of violence.
At first, I’d thought that made sense. I could be good at violence, at breaking things, at wounding people. My body displayed “atypical durability against foreign objects”, so I could hurt without getting hurt much back.
Nobody wanted me to be violent in here. The Abertay Orphanage was not the place for “irate boys with irrational tendencies”. The Abertay Corporation was the place I apparently owed my loyalty and livelihood towards. Not that I remember being given a choice. Not that they’ve fixed my memory.
None of my living arrangements or routine had been decided by me, even though my adherence to corporate code of conduct was apparently always “up to me”. Apparently, every action and reaction I had, or my “carers” performed, that developed symptoms of rage in my emotional core, was something that I controlled. They enjoyed telling me that whenever I possessed consciousness, I had to take ultimate responsibility for the consequences of my behaviour. Not that long words are a good source of calm.
The white, bouncy-foam walls of my room were finally allowed some colour when I did start cooperating, when I finally learned how to pretend and resist lashing out from the frustration boiling my veins. They even stopped wrapping me in that creepy crawly cyber-leech jacket and feeding me with icy tubes down my gullet. I hands-down preferred the utility-crab scuttling across my bouncy floor, from its shell-shaped vent, and delivering my meal plates to me. I’d been told that utility-crabs didn’t enjoy playing games, but my bot could sort of play “catch”. Little utility-crab’s springy steps, where I thought its blue bionic legs might trip over one another, and its perky bleeps got me laughing, at least. I didn’t know any actual person that could do that. Not that you let me see… Yeah.
There were other children at Abertay Orphanage, but I’d been labelled an SDF––a socially disruptive figure––and I still carried the label. Even though most children, as my doctor informed me, didn’t stay in Abertay for more than two months, the staff clearly didn’t want to risk any other children being exposed to my “atypical durability”. I often thought about the first time I’d lashed out. I remembered the hyper feeling that came with impaling my fist through the radiator-shaped head of a bouncer bot. I’d really felt life burning through me as I’d pulverised the piston-clad limbs of those two-metre machines, and crushed their white tessellated plating. I’d gone toe to toe with five of them and had thrown them around easily. Part of me, if I thought hard enough, could sometimes still taste the powdery puffs of shards bursting from the walls and floors that I’d dented their robotic frames into. I’d really loved the fizzling sound of the sparks sputtering from their crushed circuitry.
Convulsions My Fatal Futility Book 2
Return to the high-octane, ultra-violent world of the 25th century: where cybernetics, bionetics, and bionics blur the lines between people, robots, and beasts; where a secret sinister syndicate play the strings of apocalypse; and where the river of time runs with a fatalistic flow.
Honour-bound, tough as titanium, Kage Carnifex follows two paths that twist his head and heart. One turns him towards the past for love and strife in the climate-ravaged steppe of Norvono. The other fires him into the future under a new captain and a new strategy to devastate Psychosisium.
But seeing the truth of his destiny and origin is barbed with manipulation and betrayal. The hologram ghost of an archenemy promises answers to avoid armageddon. While the malfunctioning chip inside Kage's head seeks greater control of his body.
Facing off against temporal assassins, teleporters, and butcher-bots has never been deadlier. Fortified by samurai-instincts and bulletproof flesh, Kage plunges into the depths of this neon nightmare -- where good deeds make devils and the worst make gods.
Your humanity is broken, and your behaviour is ensured efficiency via implants of mental, emotional, and physical design. Shirei-Kan pulsed through my muscles, the teeth of the nanotrix network digging in. It was trying to wrestle control from me. I am better. Just ask your daughter.
The Tennoyari shuddered terribly, an unknown force jolting the entire hold. Sirens screamed and the inertia shifted in the opposite direction of the blow, our pilot swiping the ship sideways. I swiftly braced against the twisting gravity and checked the holo view screens. Intense, glaring, yellow lasers shot through the cloudscape from below and sliced the air. Solar-lances!
Beam after beam slashed across the sky and the Tennoyari swooped and pivoted faster and faster to avoid them. The team scrambled around me for battle-stations, then the ship rolled and my feet left the floor. The Tennoyari swerved downwards, through yellow flashes of solar-lance beams. I clattered back into the deck and felt the smack of someone’s armoured form landing on top of me. Another swerve split the tangle of the team’s bodies apart. I reacted faster to the next violent inertial pull, locking an arm and a leg against the central aisle seating. Reject your autonomy, Shirei-Kan whispered. Give yourself a chance.
The Tennoyari swiftly swerved again and again and slipped through criss-crossing lasers. Dozens and dozens more anti-air shelling joined the magmatic blasts as the ship drove hard. New alarms blared in the hold and red neon-lights flashed.
‘Incoming!’ the pilot panted. ‘Teretoika swarms.’
I glanced at the closest view screen, a long mirrored shoal slithered its way through the clouds up at us. A chunk of the shoal suddenly vanished, teleporting. The Tennoyari careened sideways, hit by the teleporting mass of squid-bots. A second mass bashed against the ship and sent it slewing the opposite direction. Then a third. Then a fourth. The ship swerved into the sporadic spirals of the vicious momentum, my brain squeezing against the inside of my skull. Mirrored bodies filled the viewscreens, then Tennoyari dived and just avoided a fifth hit. The acidic contents of my stomach splashed the back of my throat, choking any sound of relief.
‘Don’t worry fellas,’ the pilot remarked. ‘A lady’s got claws.’
On the view screens, cobalt streams of high-vektor rounds poured out of the Tennoyari’s auto-turrets. The rounds lit up the air with mini electrical explosions. Long lines of teretoika shoals shredded and burst apart as they cascaded towards the ship. External plating groaned and screeched from the rain of shrapnel. The ship dodged past deadly slashing solar beams, diving for the enemy’s fortress, and slammed straight into a thick teretoika shoal. Our pilot seemed to enjoy that.
‘We’re about to punch through the cloud-base,’ the pilot said. ‘Railguns, pretty please.’
I clambered through the constantly veering ship, then lunged into the railgun turret on the Tennoyari’s portside. The skeletal turret rig attached to my legs and arms, thrusting the mechanical limbs that controlled the gun into my hands. Stapler-size triggers pressed into my fingers. Holo-screens activated and conveyed the area outside of the ship. White clouds swirled about from solar beams cleaving through them. Teretoika shoals wove around like massive flying serpents. Magenta plumes of anti-air shells almost made the scene picturesque. Come get some.
I jammed the railgun triggers down. Silvery ripples enveloped the cuboidal barrels of the weapon. The knetfi rounds hammered out with my guttural roar.
N J M Hemfrey has degrees in Philosophy and Sociology, and Information and Library Studies, and is an administrator for a charity. He lives with his fiancé Kasha, who is the best individual to spend existence with, whether in lockdown, the apocalypse, or more normal things like the cinema, or wandering around old castles. He is an utter movie, book, video game and comic enthusiast, especially for the science fiction, fantasy, and horror genres. One of his greatest frustrations is that there is not enough time in the universe to ever finish the lists of things he wants to do.
A little about myself. I am 29 years old, living in Scotland with my partner. We moved into our house in February, and we had our first child in September, so we’re very happy and tired. I have a degrees in Philosophy and Sociology, as well as Library and Information Studies, so I’ve been always been fascinated by ethics, how society works, and how information is ordered within society. My takes on these ideas obviously feeds into my stories, to good or bad effect, my readers will know better. I became an author because writing is a compulsion within me. I can’t help but see stories in my head, picturing scenes almost like a movie, and the urge to explore them full takes over. I just wish I could write full time as I’ve got countless story outlines stored in folders, all waiting to reach fruition, which they will if it takes me the rest of my life.
As a self-published author, I do love the control I have over choosing who I work with, and I really appreciate how I can work at my own pace. This can be very stressful while I balance my passion with another job and the needs of life. Marketing in particular is very time consuming, as well as creating the materials, but it’s also heavily rewarding to be involved in the act of creation nearly all the time. There is no better, fulfilling, sometimes nightmarish, feeling in the world.
What is something unique/quirky about you?
I’m told that this is a quirk/oddity about me. I only eat or drink for sustenance. You could reply, well duh don’t we all? However, what I mean is I don’t eat or drink for the pleasure of it. Sure, I enjoy food and drink when consuming but only because my hunger and thirst are being satiated. When the primal urge diminishes, I am released from any desires that are food/drink related. If I didn’t have to, I honestly wouldn’t miss eating or drinking. If anything, eating and drinking takes up time I could be using being productive. The same goes for sleep. I really wish my body didn’t force me to and like a robot with some nuclear exotically charged battery, I could just stay awake forever.
What are some of your pet peeves?
Not a lot of things bother me at all to be honest. I’m quite happy to live and let live. However, when people use the term “active listening”, it really grates my sanity. There was no need to invent this term. We already have words to describe this. There is “hearing” and there is “listening”. Hearing is your ears absorbing all the sounds in your environment. Listening is focusing on certain sounds, ergo listening is inherently active. Moreover, nobody makes the distinction between seeing and “actively seeing”. It’s the same logic!
Where were you born/grew up at?
I was born and grew up in Falkirk, Scotland. For those Braveheart fans, Falkirk was the location of the battle that William Wallace lost pretty badly. I always remember that scene because of the mad yet darkly funny thing the King of England says.
King of England: Tell the archers to fire when ready.
Underling: Won’t we hit our own troops sire?
King of England rotates his head like a wide-eyed owl: Yeeessss, but we’ll hit theirs as well.
Anyway, that all had very little to do with Falkirk. We also have the Falkirk Wheel which I’m told is a world-renowned attraction. There is always lots on and it’s only giant wheel in the world to connect two different canals at stunningly different heights. Other claims to fame, include the drink Irn Bru which was originally made in Falkirk in 1899, the Carron Iron Works smithed all sorts of weapons and implements for the British Empire (so if you’re ever close to a cannon or old sword, you should check to see if it has the Carron Iron Works Brand), and Rosebank whisky which could be back in production when the new distillery is finished.
What kind of world ruler would you be?
I would never choose to be a ruler as it’s an inherently flawed and soul-crushing role. I can’t help but consider the paradox of power, where the more power you have, the less you should actually do as it will interfere with people’s free will. So, as a ruler, you do have to be a guardian of free will, no matter the pressure and animosity you may receive for rigidly sticking to this position. Free will is a core element of liberality and a liberal society is, I think, always the most emotionally, physically, and spiritually healthy of all sorts of societies. Ironically, the ancient Greeks held democracy just above tyranny which I think makes sense as the former can easily create the conditions for the latter. The more you give people the support and resources to think for themselves and rule their own lives, the more some people think the ways that others rule their lives interferes with what make the “best and most moral” life. Essentially, people think the world would be better if only things were done “their” way. However, morality is inherently subjective – there is no objective morality we can prove, or philosophers would have done it already. Morality is basically patting yourself on the back for following your own code which is pretty insane but so is the human brain. Therefore, as a ruler I would stick to being a guarding of free will and liberality no matter what. The world is better full of diversity, conflicting opinions, and even being offended without hacking each other’s heads off. Society stagnates when we don’t strive to have different points of view or learn to respect the lives others lead.
How to find time to write as a parent?
I recently became a dad and it’s an equal mixture of incomparable love, mind-stretching stress, and contentedness that you are exactly where you should be. Writing around a child, and chores too, needs to be done in bits by necessity. I do most of my writing on my phone as it’s very easy to add a thought, a sentence, a paragraph while on the go. Plus, it gets around the problem of writer’s block as you’re not staring at screen, trying to force the words to come. The words just come, usually at a very inconvenient moment, but I repeat them in my head until I can jot them down. When it comes to editing what I’ve written on my laptop, I capitalize upon those moments my little lovely terror baby is snoozing, at the expense of my own sleep.
Do you have a favorite movie?
My favourite movie is Collateral. It is the first film that really provoked me to consider and approach society, morality, and all the nuances in between differently, It’s a story about a hitman who gets into a cab in LA and forces the driver to take him to 5 hits. I found the conversations they have about life, death, and the universe to be profoundly powerful. It was also my first exposure to nihilistic thinking which encouraged my study of philosophy and sociology later at the University of Aberdeen. The film also has very cool and heart-punching action scenes – I’m always craving some high-octane action spectacles. For those interested, the film has Tom Cruise starring in the only villain role he’s ever played. It’s by far his best performance.
My second favourite move, if I may, is The Last Samurai. Between the beautiful cinematography, heart-stirring soundtrack, and narrative about tradition versus modernity, couple with redemption, I find this film to be incredibly moving and captivating. I often listen to the soundtrack to calm my mind when feeling anxious, sad, or stressed. There is a lot of wisdom to be gained from the best of Samurai culture and this definitely impacted my research when writing the My Fatal Futility series.
Which of your novels can you imagine made into a movie?
To be honest all of them. Whenever I write a book, I see the scenes in my head as a movie – in fact that’s typically how I first chew into the idea of a story. I get flash scenes in my head, almost like a trailer. This probably explains the way I do my descriptions – I imagine what the camera would focus on. My current books are pretty long and it would be difficult to do a movie that wasn’t split into parts (a classic author’s problem), but I believe they’re all ready to be converted to movie format when/if the time comes.
As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
I think capybaras are hilarious, cute, yet very durable and clever (I’m not sure if that’s an accurate picture of myself at all). These animals can evade ravenous murder by large predators, take the time to care for stray animals of any species, and be just genuinely friendly and personable in their own way. These are things to aspire to as an author or not. I especially like the idea of my mascot capybara chewing on a pipe, wearing round spectacles, and having a crazy coloured mohawk while sitting on the writer’s hammock.
What inspired you to write this book?
I’ve always wanted to write a cyberpunk and time travel story. I thought there was nothing better than combining the two to give a very rich and blood-pumping experience. Cyberpunk is an important genre for deconstructing the evolution and integration of society and technology, and exploring how this affects ethics, politics, and the very shape of nature. Inspired by my research into the ways of bushido, Buddhism, and Shinto led me to become captivated by wider Japanese culture and beliefs, especially the often overlooked and simple ideas of respect and peace. So, I knew I didn’t want to do cyberpunk that accelerated towards nihilistic oblivion within polluted, criminal-ridden metropolises. I wanted the hyper-violence, high-adrenaline action pieces, and pure neon spectacle, but set within a world that really conveyed the beauty of nature, the tranquillity of meditation, and the respect even adversaries can share.
The time travel aspect of the story is fully born out of my own fascination about the concept. I loved reading the horribly lethal time loop in“All You Need Is Kill” by Hiroshi Sakurazaka and the mind-bending bootstrap paradox in“All You Zombies”by Robert A. Heinlein. However, what truly penetrates my soul is not the tech of time travel but the implications of its existence. Time travel reveals the nature of time which absolutely influences our identities, behaviours, free will, and sense of meaning and purpose. The nature of time is the nature of reality which our humanity depends on. Respecting my fatalistic time travel rules became essential and never bending them to create easy resolutions became crucial, as respecting time is respecting reality. Moreover, a story is nothing without unfair circumstances, consequence, and sacrifice.
Ultimately, aside from all these lofty concepts, the story developed out of raw and rending emotion. I experienced a significant loss in love and it was something I have replayed in my head an infinite number of times. With each replay, I tried to understand what I was feeling and why the universe enabled such a feeling. This led me to time travel, because who hasn’t pondered the possibility of a “do-over” and I really needed to know if one could even be possible. The story I wrote is cathartic in many ways and has improved my understanding of myself and others and this thing we call reality.
It’s important to realise that even we lose, we still deserve to live.
What can we expect from you in the future?
At least one book a year. I have what I call my “conveyor belt of stories”. This comprises three already written first drafts and over thirty 8-10 page outlines that are all ready to be developed one by one. From now until Q3 2023, I’ll be working on the final book in the cyberpunk/time travel trilogy. In 2024, I will be working on the 3rddraft of a modern-day horror story set in the Scottish Highlands. The book is split between 2 perspectives. The first perspective is from a documentary crew investigating a strange massacre in a remote community, while the second perspective is from a character present during the time of the massacre. It’s Lovecraft inspired with focus on keeping readers imbalanced as the stories and accounts of survivors/onlookers conflict with what others experienced. In 2024, I’ll be working on the 3rddraft of a science-fiction survival novel, set on a refugee vessel in space when riots kick off and the ship AI goes rogue. The perspective is from ship workers who run the vessel’s radio show, who hear and see things develop from the isolation of their small studio. Eventually, they’re forced to make decisions to leave the safety of their room. In essence, the story explores what ethics really matter when oxygen, food, and water are limited, and I initially got the idea while working in customer service and serving very unpleasant individuals. In 2025, I’ll be working on the 2nddraft of a science-fiction survival horror novel, inspired by the video game series “Dead Space”, the movie “Event Horizon”, and the book “Hostage to the Devil”, but it is very much its own thing too.
How did you come up with the title of the book?
The series name “My Fatal Futility” went through three iterations. Originally, the short story was called “If it’s the Last Thing I do”. I called it this because I wanted a name that wasn’t clearly about time travel, that hit upon a familiar phrase, and also possessed a deeper meaning for a narrative set within a fatalistic timeline. In fatalistic terms, the first and last thing you do could actually be a cause/effect of one another.
When the story grew, it became “My Fatalism of Futility”. I started to lean very deeply into the time travel aspect, researching the nature of time in a fatalistic universe and how this affected humanity, psychology, spirituality and so on. This time I really wanted to emphasize a conclusion that the character would feel summing up his life after the time travel journey he’d been on. The title sums up an experience of reality.
It became “My Fatal Futility” as this simply was concise and catchier. Ultimately, it is the title I love.
Who designed your book covers?
Damonza.com and their skilled artists designed my book cover and they are undoubtedly worth every copper, silver, and gold coin to my name. I always give them a sketched mockup of an idea I’m going for along with, usually, movie posters that have inspired me. I always want my covers to have a cinematic feel. The artists at Damonza are ceaselessly accommodating and always deliver a far cooler version of the idea I have. They do things spot on and I am never endingly grateful for their designs that will last a lifetime, that will solidify my legacy.
If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
I’m a big fan of South Korean cinema and tv shows. I think the quality of the acting, the display of emotion, and delivery of lines is truly unique, authentic, and satisfying in the South Korean productions. I would be very humbled if any of these actors could play Kage Carnifex; Lee Byung-Hun, Ju-Ji Hoon, or Kim Seong-gyoo.
Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
Thank you so much from the core of my soul in sacrificing time to read my works. Time is the most valuable commodity in the universe and we all get set amounts so I do not underestimate the importance of devoting time to support me. I try to live life by four principles: kindness, patience, humility, and perseverance. I believe you all exemplify these principles when engaging with my stories (while also hopefully having fun – that’s overall goal we should have that goes without saying).
Convince us why you feel your book is a must read.
I don’t try to “ride the wave” of expectation for a genre. I write what I think needs to be explored about the world and our delusions. I go gut-deep and do not care about my reader’s feelings if there is something philosophically, emotionally, or spiritually valuable in writing a scene as it should be written. So, if you’re searching for high-octane action akin to The Raid, John Wick, The Night Comes for Us, or Carter (you can tell I’m a sucker for anything where fists fly, blades slash, and bullets puncture), philosophical punch where you’ll have your perceptions challenged, and fantastical worlds/technology/tool that make your brain twist then my books will eat you up.
What are your top 10 favorite books/authors?
My top 10 favourite books are of course all written by me. Kidding. Here is my list:
Altered Carbon – Richard Morgan
Broken Angels – Richard Morgan
Woken Furies – Richard Morgan
Thirteen – Richard Morgan
Market Forces – Richard Morgan
I am Legend – Richard Matheson
I am Slaughter – Dan Abnett
All You Need is Kill – Hiroshi Sakurazaka
Cyberpunk Dream: Cincinnati Stories – Various authors
A Cry in the Moon’s Light – Alan McGill
What makes a good story?
The list could be endless here with many a debate tearing what we each enjoy apart. For me, I need stories that have characters which expose our flaws, worlds that both captivate imaginatively and illustrate real societal issues, philosophical-punch that teaches me something I haven’t ever pondered, and action pieces that leave me feeling exhilarated and weakened.
What is your writing process? For instance do you do an outline first? Do you do the chapters first? When I first visualise the concept for a story, I see a particular scene in my head, like a movie. From there, I start thinking about what moral and philosophical concepts that scene could be exploring. I think about the core emotions of the characters I see, which helps illuminate their motivations. I think about how they could come to interact. I think about what would be awesome from a visual/imagery point of view. My writing is very descriptive and that’s because I do picture things in terms of “camera angles” and “lighting” so to speak. All these thoughts go into a Word file or, more likely, “Notes” on my phone and I spend time connecting the dots and trying to logically connect random scene to random scene. I usually have an ending in mind, even if it’s not the ending I eventually settled on. Eventually, one domino hits another and another, and I develop a basic 10 to 20-page outline with the “essentials”, with all the interesting concepts that’ll push me to commit to the story and not drop it. I’ve never been one for planning out everything before I write. I find that stories are quite organic and when you write, you discover more about the world and the characters than you could imagine. The limits of the world and the genuine behaviour of characters often tend to hijack the story, and I absolutely love this. I love exploring situations that have to happen, but I never imagined would. Creating a story is like growing a garden. After 5 drafts, you haven’t controlled the growth, or smothered it, but you’ve guided it, you’ve let it find its own way, and finally the garden looks lush and uniquely beautiful (or horrific, depending on the kind of story).
What are common traps for aspiring writers?
What isn’t a trap? Writing is like wrangling a snake while trying to teach it tricks. That being said, I think these are some important thoughts to consider.
Setting Word Goals Per Day
While its necessary to have goals and deadlines, I don’t think it’s mentally beneficial to dictate to yourself that a certain number of words needs to be written every day. You’ll write more some days and write less others. Progress happens bit by bit. What you must do is write everyday but do not focus on the volume of words you produce. The several edits of your work will change much of what you write anyway.
Don’t get distracted, get it done! Release yourself from the grapple of your current story by nurturing it to maturation, then let the world have it. This doesn’t mean you have to let other ideas ago. I write all my outlines for other stories while writing my current book. Note the idea down and the structure but don’t delve deep into writing that new idea out. You’ll just get stuck in a vicious cycle of never finishing.
Writing when you feel like it
Some of your best writing can be done when you’re not in the mood. The human brain naturally aims to reduce stress and energy as much as possible towards things that aren’t necessary for survival. If you’re feeling tired and unbothered, that’s only natural, but it is your brain betraying you. Force yourself to get one or two words down and that can be enough to build a sentence and that sentence can transform into a paragraph. So, writing is like exercise in many senses; you may not feel like it beforehand but when you’re doing it you feel great. Exercise every day and you’ll get fit. Write everyday and you’ll release a book every year.