Newsletter 20 - Loab

Hi friends, Fantasy/Sci-Fi/Horror author Paul James Keyes here with another newsletter!

Last time I wrote about the nature of infinity [LINK TO NEWSLETTER 19 - THE NATURE OF INFINITY]—this time I want to tell you the true story of Loab, the first AI cryptid.

What is Loab? Well, it’s a scary looking entity that exists in the liminal space of an AI mind. After being discovered, Loab has become an easily targetable term that can be drawn by image generating AI. The style changes, but the “Loabness” of the images are unquestionable.  The image I included in this newsletter is one of the least scary that exists of Loab. She was once just a nightmare in the machine, but now Loab has transmitted itself into the public consciousness.

The story of Loab is both mundane and eerie. A researcher interested in learning about the inspiration AI uses to draw its images developed a way of asking for an image to contain none of the quality of a term by affixing a -1 to the search query. This was basically a negative or “opposite” search term. They tried it with the term Marlon Brando-1. The image that popped up was of a city-scape that came with a nonsensical name attached. They took that name and entered it back in with a -1 prompt in the hopes of seeing an image of Marlon Brando.

That is not what appeared.  Instead, the image given back was the first image of Loab.

The researcher was able to use that image to generate more images of the horror inducing entity.  The AI latched on to the horrific quality of Loab and was able to pump out some truly terrifying images.

Some people have reported difficulty getting AI to draw images of Loab (I’m sure it depends on which AI is used), for others it pops up at random, inserting itself into otherwise innocent prompts, almost like a digital haunting. To me, the most interesting part of Loab is that the quality or vibe of Loab exists in the negative space of the AI’s “mind”—and really the AI’s “mind” is just a reflection of the conglomerate human consciousness.

Loab sprang into being the moment we became aware of it. Or perhaps it has always existed, just waiting to be discovered.  Either way, it has exited the negative space and now exists as a theme to draw upon in the forefront of the AI mind.

It persists like a scary meme in our minds and across the internet, with new images being drawn up every day by people who remain fascinated by her story of spontaneous creation.

What else exists in the liminal space of our consciousness that AI could show us in the future? Hopefully, it won’t all be pure nightmare fuel like Loab—unless you like that sort of thing!

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Newsletter 19 - The Nature of Infinity

Hi friends, Fantasy/Sci-Fi/Horror author Paul James Keyes here with another newsletter!

Last time I flexed my poetic chops. [LINK TO NEWSLETTER 18 - POETRY IN MOTION].  This time I want to talk about the mind-shattering concept and nature of Infinity.

The concept of an infinite universe—everything that can physically exist in this moment, does.

Infinity. It’s a funny thing. Infinite—never ending—it’s incomprehensible to finite beings such as ourselves. We can only hope to understand it through metaphor. But I would like to take a logical approach to understanding what infinity means.

First off, yes, I saw that Netflix math documentary, A Trip to Infinity (and you should too). It talks about math and the concept of infinity and is very interesting even to less mathematically inclined individuals. I saw it a few months ago, so I come at this topic now from a more philosophical perspective.

If we accept that the universe is infinite, then we are accepting that anything that can physically happen under the laws of physics in our universe is currently happening somewhere out there right now. There are only so many positions an atom or a group of atoms such as ourselves can superimpose into. Like lego builds with any certain amount of blocks, there are a very large but finite number of combinations.  The less common the orientation of atoms, the less likely you are to run into an exact duplicate of something out there in the infinitely wide universe. But that does not mean that statistically there isn’t a chance.

Just as twins can exist with the same genetic build but be made up of different atoms, somewhere, out there in the infinite universe, infinite identical and nearly identical and completely different versions of a place like Earth and also places that are not like Earth at all plus every other possible scenario under any sun that could ever exist… are all existing, all at once, everywhere.

Everything that can exist, is existing.

If you haven’t seen Everything, Everywhere, All At Once, it’s a fantastic film! It’s a fantasy, obviously, but it quite possibly depicts the true nature of reality more realistically than one would expect.

Every moment of time is currently existing at the same time, because really, time is an illusion created by the brain. I’m not trying to convince you of any of this. It is simply a fact that given infinite space and the limited possible orientations of atoms within a finite space at our scale of existence, every possible thing that can physically be happening under the governing rules of our universe—that being fundamental physics—is currently, and always happening, forever. All at once. Always.

Right. So just let that sink in.

If all of that is not true, then the universe is not infinite.

Given an infinite universe, the fact that you exist is both a miracle, and an inevitability. Every form of something that could look or feel like you exists and is going through every possible experience all at once. All good scenarios and all bad ones. Ones that make sense, and ones that are complete and utter nonsense. Somewhere a [insert any random orientation of atoms here] appears in front of “you.” Somewhere, an anvil appears in the air above “your” head and squishes “you” at the worst possible moment. It’s a rare occurrence, but also there’s no such thing as “rare” when there’s also infinite. At this point, “you” is a concept with infinite iterations and variations all coexisting.

There’s a lot that you could empathize with out there, but its all too far away to ever effect you… probably.

The chances of you ever encountering a separate Earth or “you” is very very small, but at the same time, given infinite space, somewhere out there random occurrences form just the right orientation for a facsimile of you to meet another version of you with a slightly worse haircut.

For the record, after grappling with this concept, I am not convinced the universe actually is infinite. Maybe it’s just a really big bubble that loops back in on itself and is actually super finite. Maybe that’s nonsense.  There’s no answers here, and there never really can be any because our brains are finite and cannot even fully comprehend the nature of infinity. You start going down this road, and you end up going in a circle. It all starts to feel meaningless under the vast everything out there, but ultimately, even if we only move in a meaningless circle, we did get to be conscious for the ride.

Hopefully you are enjoying the ride. You don’t get to know what any of those other “you’s” experienced, but since you know the answer is “everything possible” you can imagine it and never really be wrong.

Letting relevancy by our guide to the here and now is the best way to anchor our slowly computing analog brains to the needs of our bodies. You’ll both take and not take my advice to live in the moment. Hopefully the version of you reading this version of this newsletter can appreciate the existence of the infinite while still living a fulfilling life of experiences and joy.

Until next time, stay safe out there!

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Newsletter 18 - Poetry in Motion

Hi friends, Fantasy/Sci-Fi/Horror author Paul James Keyes here with another newsletter!

Last time I talked about the danger of deepfakes and the post-truth world we now live in. [LINK TO NEWSLETTER 17 - THE POST-TRUTH ERA].  Today, I wanted to share a couple of poems I wrote, because they’re good and you’ll like them. :)


Quickly dipping, turning, flipping,
scarcely skirting land and sky,
the kite gnaws at its string, relentlessly
chaffing fears both low and high.

Down the line and to the left,
just past the piers ungainly mass,
the crashing waves of liquid jade
churn froth a chill of winter glass.

A little boy of nine or ten
is combing sand for rocks and shells.
He saves a few and casts the rest
into the oceans midnight swells.

They call his name and search ’til dawn
through wave-swept coves and idle cracks
Until the tide comes rolling in,
forever blotting out his tracks.

Poem 2:

Falcon stirring in the deep,
Lift me up from whence I sleep.
Soaring high to distant lands,
Within the clasp of talloned hands.
It matters not what’s left behind,
Nor where I go, nor what I find.
Through love and strife I dance and weep,
And live the life I wish to keep.


Both of these poems are featured in my books within The Arcadian Complex series, a dark epic fantasy with a sci-fi heart. I call the genre Fantasy-Science, since it blends together in a way that won’t leave fans of either fantasy or science fiction disappointed. If you’ve been reading any of my newsletters so far, you know the kinds of things that interest me. If you like the way I think, you’ll probably like my novels as well. The Arcadian Complex series is free with Kindle Unlimited—I appreciate every reader I can find!

Until next time, stay safe out there!

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Newsletter 17 - The Post-Truth Era

Hi friends, Fantasy/Sci-Fi/Horror author Paul James Keyes here with another newsletter!

Last time I talked about the concept of the self circle map and how emotional regulation can be achieved by removing others from your sense of self. [LINK TO NEWSLETTER 16 - THE SELF CIRCLE]. Today, I want to talk about deepfakes and the post-truth world we now find ourselves in.

In recent years deepfake videos have become very convincing, and harder to distinguish from the real deal. Whenever deepfake-busting software is able to detect that a video or image is faked, the techniques that were used to determine the fake are fed back into the generative AI to make the next fake even more undetectable. Voices and video can be faked to make it look like anybody has said or done anything. Of course Brittany Spears has been embroiled into a controversy—videos on her TikTok account appeared to show another person using Brittany’s face as a filter, posting as if she is Brittany on her actual account! I refuse to fact check that any further, but the point is deepfakes are here and they are here to stay!

Another word for deepfakes could simply be misinformation. Deepfakes are typically computer generated footage of celebrities or politicians, but AI generated imagery has already advanced to the point of allowing any random person to generate pictures of anyone in any style, including realistic.

What this has done is forced us to doubt what we see presented to us. On the flip side of the problem, people can now claim something was a deepfake when it really was them, and suddenly the lie sounds a lot more believable. Just like we can’t believe everything we read on the internet, we can’t believe every video we watch now either.

Being in a post-truth world has a lot of nasty implications, especially politically. Enemy states can use it against one another to mislead populations. People can have pornography made of them, which is a mental assault if nothing else. If people believe that type of deepfake is real, the implications can be life threatening. The fact that someone could literally train an AI off a handful of pictures of you, and then superimpose your head on somebody else’s naked body in a convincing way does not bode well for the future of bullying.

There are so many nefarious use cases of deepfakes, it’s no wonder they are banned in a lot of places. But banning something doesn’t ever really stop it—especially not something as powerful as deepfakes on the internet. How many future scandals the world across will be no more than a convincing narratives combined with fake photos or videos? Has this technique already been used to sway the opinions of a population?

You may remember a certain video of Hilary Clinton back in 2016 when she was running for president, where she looked down right strange, doing weird facial movements that made her look like she was having a stroke. That wasn’t a deepfake, but it was altered footage, slowed down and warped to make her look like there was something wrong with her. The implication that something was wrong instills the idea of weakness, which certainly changed the way some people saw her at the time.  Similar techniques were used to make Donald Trump appear more orange than usual. And again, the same type of thing was used to make Joe Biden look sleepy and odd in certain footage—although that might actually have just been him. The point is it’s impossible to tell anymore. I worry for our future.

Sometimes the footage is obviously altered—experts knew this— but not everyone is an expert on such things, and not everyone listens to experts. There were certainly those who believed what they saw. Deepfakes bring this type of misinformation attack to a whole new level.

Until next time, stay safe out there—any question everything!

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Newsletter 16 - The Self Circle

Hi friends, Fantasy/Sci-Fi/Horror author Paul James Keyes here with another newsletter!

Last time I talked about the dangers of talking to aliens in your head if you happen to be an undiagnosed schizophrenic. [LINK TO NEWSLETTER 15 - MANIFEST HORROR]. Today, I want to continue talking about the mind with a concept known as the self circle. The self circle is a mental slate or map in which you associate every object or person you come across with your self. It’s a psychological concept that can be used in brain hacking to help you regulate your emotions better.

We can picture this map as a circle, in which you are at the very center. Around you at varying distances is everything you have learned to relate with your self.

When you were a baby and you discovered something new, the first thing you did was place this new person or object on your self circle. The closer to you that you placed this object, the more important it is to your sense of self. Your mother or primary caretaker was probably the first person added to your self circle, and they were probably placed fairly close to you. In fact, babies tend to think that their mother is actually an external part of themselves rather than another entity with autonomy. It takes a while for babies to understand their place in this world, as well as the places of everything around them.

People struggle when they lose their parents later in life. Part of the reason why it is so difficult to lose a parent (not the only reason, mind you), is that you literally lose your sense of self if you have them placed on your self circle.

Okay, so back to baby you. The next thing you discover is a stuffed animal. You think it’s a part of you, so you place it on your self circle. And then you lose it, and you cry because a part of you is gone. But then you realize it was never really a part of you, and you slowly remove it from your self circle in your mind. It turns out, you have the power to decide what and who goes on your self circle map. And it also turns out, it’s better to have less.

We, as humans, become upset when our sense of self is threatened. We become upset if anything on our self circle is threatened as well. If your favorite cup breaks, it was YOUR cup, and you are saddened. If a random cup breaks that wasn’t on your self circle, it doesn’t bother you so much. What I’m trying to say is that emotional regulation can be controlled by the placement of objects on your self circle.

Random example: Your best friend is not you, and their drama is their own and not yours. When you feel yourself becoming emotional about something, that is a good time to stop and think about why that topic is making you so emotional. In the end, everything you care about is somewhere on your self map, but things will bother you less if you can rationally realize that something is not you and should be further away from the center of your circle.

It’s good to build a little bit of personal space around you on your self map. You need to push everything back a little bit. People with good mental control and emotional regulation understand when something is themselves and within their power and when it is external.  If you have placed anything or anyone too close to your center, at some point it may be a good ideas to start removing objects. It’s basically just letting go. It doesn’t mean the object or person can’t be important to your life, it just means that you renounce the mental strain of protecting that object as strongly as you do your own sense of self.

Your sense of self should be sacred to you—an iron pillar that holds up the foundation of your life. Remembering that others are truly ‘other’ sounds simple, but the subtle shift in thinking can really help take away the emotional baggage or turmoil that could otherwise have been triggered inside of you upon anything negative happening to these other people or things.

Refine your self circle, and everything becomes easier. Many problems become more obvious to resolve. You also realize that not all problems are yours to solve in the first place. A lot of times, we bear the crosses of others, and that emotionally drains us while also not really helping the people around us that we hold dearest.

Until next time, stay safe out there!

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Newsletter 15 - Manifest Horror

Hi friends, Fantasy/Sci-Fi/Horror author Paul James Keyes here with another newsletter!

Last time I started talking about UFO’s and the videos released by the Pentagon. [LINK TO NEWSLETTER 14 - ALIENS-WHERE? HOW? WHAT?!]. This time, I’ll continue the discussion by focusing on a group of individuals that believe they can summon UFO’s with the power of thought and contact aliens by meditating. This practice has gained popularity with the release of the Pentagon videos, but it SHOULD NOT BE DONE. I repeat, do NOT try to contact aliens with your mind. This is because it can literally cause you to go insane.

The US Government even released a PSA warning people not to try it, which of course everyone in these groups immediately ignored because they don’t trust the government. But the reason the government says this practice is harmful is what makes this story much more interesting than one might assume:

When you meditate, you try to quiet your thoughts and let your mind go still. The UFO summoners believe that they can then hear alien voices talking back to them in their heads. They teach that others may be able to “hear the voices” and even write out lengthy stories about specific entities and the rules governing their supposed society. Now, meditating typically isn’t something that would warrant a government PSA, but in this case, sometimes people are undiagnosed schizophrenics and listening to the voices unlocks a quickly devolving mental state leading to insanity.

How scary is that? People are literally listening to their own internal thoughts and believing them to be aliens, and then tumbling down dark and terrible paths of mental illness, which they don’t want to treat because again, they think it’s aliens. It’s really quite sad.

When multiple people claim to be hearing the same entity, the story gets even weirder, but I would argue that they are passing the “entity” back and forth like a meme reflecting in their minds. Unsurprisingly, a lot of conflicting stories came out of these groups about what the entities had to say. A second person only hears the same things from these “entities” if they already know what the people before them claim to have heard. In this way, they pass the ideas back and forth to each other (online or in person) and then experience a sort of mass delusion over the whole thing.

It’s like going up to a group of children and incepting them with an idea by saying “did you just hear that scary sound?” and suddenly they all think they heard it.

Now, if you’re not an undiagnosed schizophrenic, having a chat with the voices in your head is probably harmless, but unless you have a family history of mental illness, you wouldn’t even know it’s dangerous for you until it’s too late.

The thing about the voices in your head—that is to say, your thoughts—is that you are NOT your thoughts. Your thoughts are phrases and ideas that pop into your head, and which you then have control over whether to take them seriously, or vocalize them, or ignore them. What you say in your head (or what appears there) can have power over you if you let it, but again, it is your choice! You are heavily influenced by your thoughts, and your thoughts are heavily influenced by your surroundings, but you are removed from your thoughts—you get to process them, and choose how you behave.

Whatever you choose to do, they are a manifestation of your mind, and you have the power to believe what you want. If you choose poorly, you are going to believe some unequivocally untrue things, and that will not serve you well in life. Stay critical of your thoughts and you will increase your self-awareness.

Until next time, stay safe out there!

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Newsletter 14 - Aliens-Where? How? What?!

Hi friends, Fantasy/Sci-Fi/Horror author Paul James Keyes here with another newsletter!

Last time I wrote about the plight of indigenous women in America, focusing on the forced sterilizations committed by the US Government in the 1960’s and 70’s on more than a quarter of the female native population. [LINK TO NEWSLETTER 13 - THE FORCED STERILIZATION OF NATIVE AMERICAN WOMEN]. It’s difficult to come up for air after a topic like that. There’s been so many atrocities this year alone, you start to grow numb. Today, I want to talk about a relatively light-hearted topic: Aliens—Where? How? What?!

The beginning of 2020 was marked with the release of several UFO/UAP videos by the Pentagon. The news barely reported on it as Covid rolled through. The footage was filmed aboard US Navy ships and from fighter jets between 2004 and 2019. The whole topic of UFO’s or UAP’s (Unidentified Ariel Phenomenon) as they are called these days, tends to receive ridicule and is largely ignored by most people because we simply don’t know what to make of it, and so we move on. The release of the videos by the Pentagon, however, was a watershed moment within the UFO community.

Now let me preface this by saying I’ve always been a skeptic of aliens being here on Earth. I do believe that in this infinitesimal universe there is most assuredly other life in existence, and its probably pretty common in the grand scheme of things, but aliens right here on Earth right now? I wasn’t convinced. Even after watching the Pentagon videos and understanding that the “crafts” being reported by eyewitnesses and visible in the footage were seemingly breaking the laws of physics (at least as we know them) I still wasn’t convinced that it wasn’t some elaborate trick.

The thing is, this is the US Government releasing this information, so either they are tricking us, they were tricked, or there really are aliens here on Earth. So, what has happened was either a grand conspiracy, a different grand conspiracy, or an entirely separate 3rd grand conspiracy. It’s not a human craft, unless aliens have crashed here and Lockheed Martin or some such company has managed to reverse engineer the technology in secret—which is possible, but holy cow, man, what a wild world we live in if that’s somehow the truth behind this.

The crafts simply moved too fast. As far as humans understand physics, anything inside a craft accelerating as fast as the ones appearing in the videos should have been liquified. Something we don’t understand seems to be happening. The footage was recorded in multiple wavelengths—inferred could see the heat, the visual spectrum could see it, they were detected by multiple sources of radar, and they were chased and lost by our top fighter jets.

Everything I have seen about this in the last two plus years has been almost entirely speculation and made the whole topic sound about as credible as that ancient aliens show on the history channel. Which is to say, totally un-credible. I prefer to use logic and to stick with the facts, which are already incredible enough without adding heaps of crazy on top. Whatever is being hidden out there is able to use the ridicule and misinformation as a shield, just like the political parties do, allowing the truth to remain hidden in plain sight.

To me, this sounds like it is directly out of the government’s playbook. The best way to make the people not believe in something is to make fun of anyone who talks about it. This atmosphere of ridicule is finally starting to change amongst the military, where UAP sightings are finally being taken more seriously in recent years. Perhaps it’s all a psy-op by the CIA to cause doubt and confusion amongst state enemies, but even if that’s true, the whole plan is still ridiculous.

Unfortunately, all of this is happening in an era of cheap computer graphics, making it more and more difficult for anyone to believe anything they see. I don’t want to be cliche and say the truth is out there, but whatever is going on, humanity certainly hasn’t heard the end of it yet.

With so much to cover on this topic, next time I’ll be talking about a group of individuals who believe they are contacting aliens with their thoughts, and how their practice could be harmful to their minds and sanity.

Until then, stay safe out there!

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Newsletter 13 - The Forced Sterilization of Native American Women

Hi friends, Fantasy/Sci-Fi/Horror author Paul James Keyes here with another newsletter!

Last time I talked a little bit about CRISPR and genetic engineering, [LINK TO NEWSLETTER 12 - CRISPR, NO IT'S NOT A BREAKFAST CEREAL], today I want to talk about a very serious topic and a statistic I learned recently that made my jaw drop. The subject: the forced sterilization of Native American women.

I know, not exactly cheery, but a lot of things that are important aren’t fun. My wife is Native American and she recently shared with me an article about some truly reprehensible practices of the USA in the 1960’s and 70’s. The Indian Health Services sterilized 25% of native women of childbearing age in a span of six years. Read that again: An entire 1/4 of the population was forcibly sterilized, and somehow most people today don’t even realize it happened. The government did this against the women’s knowledge and consent. They claimed to do this to reduce the number of welfare recipients, as if that makes what they did any better.

A personal aside, when my wife was instructed to go to the Indian Health Services for her first COVID shot a couple of years ago, I felt strangely anxious about her being sent somewhere different from where I was being told to go. I’m not usually one to believe conspiracy theories, at least not without ample evidence, but what happened in the 60’s and 70’s can’t be described as anything less than conspiratorial.

With the fall of the eugenics movement after World War 2, the people who wanted to eradicate what they determined to be bad genes (read: kill all future minorities) did so by incentivizing doctors and hospitals to perform sterilizations on indigenous and other minority women. The government would pay for the procedures to be done, so various facilities, under the guise of providing other healthcare, would perform hysterectomies or tie the tubes of women that were undergoing unrelated surgeries. They usually wouldn’t even tell the women they did it afterwards. This is still going on to women in prisons today. People don’t have as many rights when they are imprisoned.

It’s pure evil. Any time the government incentivizes a healthcare practice, someone out there is making money off of doing it regardless of ethics or necessity. I’m not saying that big Pharma is making billions off of pushing the flu shot on young and otherwise healthy individuals—since the flu can be really bad some years and getting vaccinated is the best way to prevent serious illness, and not passing the flu along to the elderly is the best way to avoid accidentally killing your ailing grandparents—but its really quite a shame that governments historically can’t be trusted to have your best interests at heart.

The US government wanted less Native American’s protesting and causing a strain on the welfare system. Forcing them from their lands and onto reservations that are often 3rd-world ghettos without running water, garbage collection, or pretty much any other adequate services, wasn’t enough. Don’t even get me started on the disproportionate number of missing and murdered indigenous women all across North America. They are preyed upon, mostly by white men, who rape/traffic/kill them because they know they can easily get away with it. The whole system was built to allow this to happen and is complicit in the results—from inadequate policing and investigations, to the complicated jurisdictional mess that is tribal vs local vs federal police.

If you haven’t seen Wind River, it’s a really good movie staring Elizabeth Olsen and Jeremy Renner—you know, the Avenger with a bow—that brings a little awareness to some of the terrible things happening to native women. Too bad the two main leads aren’t native Americans, but at least the story got told. So often, native struggles are simply forgotten.

Next time your privilege makes you think that everybody has an even shot at success in the good ol’ US of A, just remember how the government intentionally wiped out the offspring producing capability of a quarter of childbearing aged native women. It makes you wonder what other poignant tidbits aren’t usually taught in schools.

Until next time, recognize the struggles of others, and stay safe out there!

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Newsletter #12 - CRISPR, No It's Not a Breakfast Cereal

Hi friends, Fantasy/Sci-Fi/Horror author Paul James Keyes here with another newsletter!

Last time we determined that while naturally destructive, humanity is the Earth’s best attempt at generating an immune-like system to protect itself from outside threats [LINK TO NEWSLETTER 11 - EARTH'S IMMUNE SYSTEM]. Today, I’d like to discuss a recent usage of CRISPR in Australia to make mice infertile.

If you haven’t heard of CRISPR, you haven’t been paying attention to science in the last few years. It’s a tool—or more accurately a protein (I’m simplifying this)—that allows scientists to manipulate DNA by snipping genes and inserting new strands of data. Its discovery has opened the door to genetic engineering, and I cannot overstate its significance to mankind.

In Australia, CRISPR was recently used to make the invasive mice infertile. They edits the genes of the mice so that after a generation they can no longer reproduce, and then release that trait out into the wild to cull the population. Considering humans are usually responsible for introducing the invasive species to places, it only seems right that we use our scientific knowledge to reset the clock on the ecosystems we impact.

Many people are not surprisingly super against the use of CRISPR of things like this. They see it as playing god, or simply point out that humans cannot possibly predict what will happen when we start introducing human selected traits into the natural balance of the world. Twenty years ago in New Zealand, someone illegally released a rabbit killing virus on the unwanted rabbit population. The virus was not related to CRISPR in any way, but it was released for the same reasons. It’s called Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus (RHDV), and it initially killed the rabbits, but then the remaining population began to gain immunity towards the strain used. It basically created a ‘superbug’ version of the rabbit with a better immune system than before. When interspecies viral warfare goes wrong…

Several Chinese biophysicists were arrested and given three years behind bars for illegally using CRISPR on human embryos and creating the first genetically modified babies. They irresponsibly modified the babies genes to make them less susceptible to HIV, which the father had. We may think we know what happens when we edit certain genes, and we may think we know the chances (not 100%) of a successful edit, but there were a ton of risks involved here that outweighed the chances of the babies contracting HIV from the father’s genetics. The babies didn’t deserve to be guinea pigs, but that is what they were used for. The scientists should have received more time, but at least they were banned from practicing in their field again.

We will just have to hope that they don’t decide to break some more rules and start making human-animal hybrids. The only thing separating us from walruses is our DNA. Elon Tusk could be a reality one day, given a mad enough mind.  Just imagine the future possibilities of combining genetic engineering with artificial intelligence.  CRISPR and proteins similar to it are really the key to unlocking all genetic knowledge.

Until next time, stay safe out there!

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Newsletter #11 - Earth's Immune System

Hi friends, Fantasy/Sci-Fi/Horror author Paul James Keyes here with another newsletter!

Last time I talked about the human immune system [LINK TO NEWSLETTER 10 - WONDROUS WORLD WITHIN]. Today’s topic is a question: ‘What is humanity to the Earth? A virus, or its immune system?’

If humans are known for one thing, it’s throwing off the balance of every system we come across like a bull smashing through a china shop. We do this, typically without forethought, as selfish individuals, and we even create systems of destruction that continue on long after our individual deaths in the name of economic gain.

If an alien race were to come to our planet and see what we are doing to it, they would probably say we are a virus to the Earth, hellbent on its destruction. This is, of course, evil alien propaganda, aimed at making us doubt the worth of our own existence. We may act like a virus at times, but unlike any outer space aliens, we are native to this ecosystem, even if we do often seem like the wrench that has been thrown into the proverbial works.

What is the Earth? If you say it’s the physical land that we walk upon, then it isn’t alive, though it does have systems of physics like rivers and evaporation that work over time to cause change, similar in some ways to the systems of life that exist inside of us. If you expand your definition of the Earth to include the whole ecological system that is here, then you must incorporate life into that equation. Life on Earth IS the Earth. We are the Earth.

Recently, NASA conducted a successful asteroid deflection test. We now know that if we spot something unintelligent coming our way, we have the capability of changing its trajectory. This planetary defense wasn’t getting built by any other species. Our human intelligence makes us the perfect candidate for Earth’s immune system. If aliens invade, only humans have a chance at recognizing the threat and mounting some kind of defense. In this way, we are like the macrophages of our own immune systems. We cause damage to the natural systems around us, but we also are our planet’s only shot at an intelligent defense if the time ever comes.

If the dinosaurs were smart enough to deflect an asteroid, we probably wouldn’t have evolved.

Until next time, stay safe out there!

Freebie: Into the Beyond - Part 1: Fated - A Fantasy Horror Series


Newsletter #10 - Wondrous World Within

Hi friends, Fantasy/Sci-Fi/Horror author Paul James Keyes back with another newsletter!

The last newsletter was all about Fantasy tropes and how I use them to subvert reader expectations. [LINK TO NEWSLETTER 9 - SMASHING FANTASY TROPES] Today, I couldn’t resist writing about a topic I hinted at a couple of letters ago—the second most complicated biological system known to mankind: The human immune system.


When you sustain an injury, like a cut to the hand, a lot of really cool and fascinating things happen inside of you. First, the cut introduced possible bacteria and viruses into the surrounding tissue and bloodstream. Your immune system is always on the lookout for threats. It creates hundreds of billions of new cells inside of you each day that roam through your lymphatic system.

Your cells, under attack by a horde of bacteria release chemicals as an alarm signal to your immune system, which quickly responds by sending little soldiers to fight on your behalf. Our bodies really are ecosystems. An invasive species can kill us, unless our immune cells can stop them from spreading.

Macrophages show up first. They are your warrior cells. They are large compared to normal cells and bacteria. They reach out with long tentacle-like arms, grab bacteria, and consume them whole. They can eat about 100 bacteria before they get full and go into a digestive state. If there is too much bacteria, they get overwhelmed, and the next phase of the immune system kicks in.

Next, neutrophils pick up the macrophages’ signals. You only have a few hundred thousand of these at any one time, which really isn’t that many, but the reason for their short supply is because of how they work: They shoot chemicals at the bacteria, and some even explode—and this does damage to your cells as well as the bacteria. They are indiscriminate killing machines that have one goal, eradicate all the bacteria at any cost. Neutrophils only live for a few days before ending themselves, with or without conflict.

As the battle ensues, your blood vessels open up and flood the infected area with fluid. This causes inflammation, but lays the ground for the battle ahead. The fluid is filled with compliment proteins, which overwhelm bacteria and rip holes in them. At this point, if your body detects that the battle is not going in its favor, the next stage of your immune response begins.

Something called dendritic cells go to the battlefield, collect some bacteria, rip them apart inside of themselves and then decorates their outsides with pieces of dead bacteria. The dendritic cell then travel back to the super highway of your lymphatic system and go on a search for a T cell that has the perfect weapon to fight against the bacteria.

Your T cells are probably the most fascinating part of the whole system. There are up to a billion of them inside of you, and each one is built a little bit different from the rest.  Each has its own set of weapons that would be good for fighting a specific shape of bacteria. Each bacteria that exists now or could ever form has a matching T cell that could kill it—a very complicated game of rock, paper, scissors—but first, your dendritic cell must find it! It rubs the dead bacteria parts on every T cell it passes until, usually after a few hours, it finds one that can fight against the invading bacteria.

Once found, the dendritic cell coaxes the T cell into replicating over and over again until there are enough to send to the battlefield as reinforcements. As soon as they show up, chemical signals given off by the T cells reinvigorate the macrophages that are still alive, and together they ravage the bacterial forces.

If that doesn’t do the trick, your dendritic cells continue working to find more help in the form of the perfect B cell that works as a factory to produce the right antibodies to fight the bacteria. It takes about a week to get your B cell antibody factories up and running, but once they do, you tend to always have a supply of those antibodies on hand in case of reinfection by the same strain of bacteria in the future. Your T cells do the same thing, some of them hanging around as memory cells in case their weapons are needed again.

There’s certain a lot to the human immune system. Here’s a video that talks about the same thing as this newsletter with a British narrator and a nifty cartoon depiction of what goes on when you’re injured:

The micro world is pretty dang cool.

Next time I’ll cover my views on what humanity is to the Earth. Are we a virus, or are we its immune system? The answer depends on your perspective.

Until then, stay safe out there!

Freebie: Into the Beyond - Part 1: Fated - A Fantasy Horror Series



Newsletter #9 - Smashing Fantasy Tropes

Hi friends, Fantasy/Sci-Fi/Horror author Paul James Keyes back with another newsletter!

I’ve done a lot of rather sciency newsletters to date—last time I talked about nuclear fusion becoming a reality [LINK TO NEWSLETTER 8 - We Have Ignition]—so today I thought I’d mix it up with a writerly newsletter. Today I want to talk about Fantasy tropes, and how I smash them.

Tropes are reoccurring themes that exist in stories. Writers use tropes to quickly convey ideas to readers, which is great in a pinch, but can also lead to unoriginal content if a writer doesn’t expand or break open those tropes appropriately.

Of course, everything in writing is subjective, but people know whether or not they’ve enjoyed what they’ve read. Sometimes all a reader wants is the sense of the familiar—this is where tropes shine—but to me, when I read, I prefer to be entertained and led to think about new interesting concepts, not just the same old formulas rehashed a thousand times over.

My philosophy as a writer is simple: People need a sense of the familiar to hang on to in order to feel comfortable within a story. Great stories, however, smash your comfort, sweeping your legs out from under you, and leave your beloved characters headless in a ditch—I’m looking at you, George R.R. Martin.

In order to smash a reader’s expectations I first need to build-up those expectations. Enter: Tropes.

Popular fantasy tropes, what they do, and how I twist them into compelling original experiences for my readers:

(I got this list of popular tropes from, but the commentary beneath each item is my own)

1. The Dark Lord. An ancient evil from the elder days is once again threatening the world.

This trope is often used as a great call to action for a would-be hero. I have an “evil king” in my Dark Fantasy series, The Arcadian Complex (Read FREE with Kindle Unlimited), but unlike so many other stories, by the time my protagonists confront the ‘big bad’ for his actions, the reader has already learned of a rich backstory that complicates who the true ‘bad guy’ of the series is. Other great stories have complicated the Dark Lord trope before, Star Wars, for example, twisted original audiences expectations when Darth Vader informed Luke of his lineage and cut off his hand. If evil is simply evil and good is simply good, then characters are simply boring.

2. The Chosen One (protagonist) whose job it is to defeat the Dark Lord (antagonist) and restore the natural order of the world. Often a sword is involved.

It’s a very basic story, isn’t it? I’ve read a number of these. One enjoyable one that comes to mind is The Wheel of Time series. I was inspired as a young teen by that series to become a writer. The funny thing about The Chosen One trope is that the one who has chosen the hero is ultimately the writer, and there usually isn’t any more to it than that. Some ancient prophecy maybe, but not a whole lot of answers. A character simply being chosen by fate rather than making their own decisions undercuts their characterization. They aren’t on their path for any reason other than happenstance. I bill my own story as having a man with a prophetic “mark of kings” on his arm. He is prophesied to become king, but if you know my mantra, maybe he really isn’t, and it’s just a branding that affects the way the people around him treat him. I don’t mind characters being chosen by fate when they still have agency and have to grapple with the results of their actions. The point here is that using a trope like The Chosen One doesn’t have to lead to a lack of nuance.

3. The Chosen One or Hero has been orphaned. It doesn’t matter how they were orphaned, only that family members are a liability to your protagonist and a headache to fit into the plot. (See any Disney cartoon for more information.)

And I’ll lump this one in with:

4. The Hero needs a mysterious parental figure. But, never an actual parent. They are there to guide them on their journey and offer advice.

Sometimes tropes can be really convenient. No one—writers, readers, or teenagers up to no good—want to be bogged down with unwanted parental units. Sometimes a complication is simply unappealing to a writer. I’ve written orphans and non-orphans alike, but there’s just something about an orphan’s pain that makes them a sympathetic character. In The Arcadian Complex, the mysterious parental figure is the grandfather. Rather than never talking about the parents, the grandfather is a storyteller himself, and the absence of the parents becomes as important to the story as Harry Potter’s parents were to that world. By having the absent parents still present in the characters’ minds, this trope is officially smashed.

The list of tropes I linked above continues on for another fifty or so points, and is rather amusing, but I’ve already gone on too long for this newsletter. I have no affiliation with that site, so don’t bother clicking the link on my accord—I simply added it as a source for those interested.

If you want to see how I subvert expectations and tell a fantasy story like no other, my links are below!

Until next time, stay safe out there!

Freebie: Into the Beyond - Part 1: Fated - A Fantasy Horror Series


Newsletter #8 - We Have Ingition

Hi friends, Fantasy/Sci-Fi/Horror author Paul James Keyes here with another newsletter.

I call you friends, because last time I trauma dumped on all of you about the nature of life and death. [LINK TO NEWSLETTER 7 - 'WHAT ARE WE?'] I apologize if that was uncomfortable, but I can’t not write about these big moments when they happen. I wouldn’t be being genuine otherwise. Today, I really want to stay cheery, so I’ve picked a topic that truly is one of the greatest and also most recent feats of mankind: Fusion.

That’s right, nuclear fusion. We’ve done it for the first time ever. US scientists at the National Ignition Facility at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California successfully produced a nuclear fusion reaction that resulted in a net gain in energy after accounting for all the energy used on the lasers that power the reactor. This happened back in December.

We are officially living in a post-fusion world. It will go down in history books as the beginning of a new era in infinite clean energy once the technology can be tested and scaled up (which will take years from now, but still!). It’s genuinely one of the biggest achievements of all time, and I can hardly believe we are all getting to live through this era of such technological advancement. It’s astonishing. If someone told me a decade ago that successful net energy creating fusion would be a reality today, I would probably have said they were delusional—maybe in a hundred years!

The reactor uses an array of 200 lasers to contain a series of explosions started out of a pellet of hydrogen fuel. At a rate of 50 explosions per second, the energy is bounced back in on itself until it grows hot enough to fuse the atoms back together, creating clean, heat energy as a byproduct of the fusion.

Things aren’t going to change overnight. The reactor is only powerful enough to boil about 10 kettles of water currently. This will need to be scaled up substantially to run a power station, but the groundwork has been laid. A world filled with cheap and clean energy, here we come!

Until next time, stay safe out there!

Freebie: Into the Beyond - Part 1: Fated - A Fantasy Horror Series


Newsletter #7 - 'What Are We?'

Hi again! Fantasy/Sci-Fi/Horror author Paul James Keyes, back with another newsletter!

Last time I depressed everybody with a grim look at what AI could mean for our future. [LINK TO NEWSLETTER 6 - AI COMETH] Today, I thought I would be fun to do something a little more cerebral by playing a little game I just made up called ‘define its nature’ where I use logic and scientific knowledge to define the nature of a term you only thought you understood. Let’s start with a big one. The question that I will be analyzing is ‘What are we?’

Other ways of asking this could be ‘What are humans?’ ‘What is life?’ or ‘What is mankind?’. There are nuances here depending on how this question is asked. The questions will get refined along with the definition as we go. This one is different than ‘what is the meaning of life?’ which I believe to be a mostly subjective question. What I propose to answer is ‘What exactly are we?’.

Stick with me here. Now obviously we are beings of matter, which is just compressed energy. Everything is energy. That is about as deep as most people get when thinking about the nature of life. The mistake here is one of definition. Defining what matter is is NOT the same as defining what we are. Don’t get me wrong, realizing matter is energy was a great revelation when Einstein made his famous equation E (energy) = MC^2 (mass multiplied by the speed of light squared). Yes, I know this is boring to non-physics nerds, but it really was a revolutionary discovery—equating energy and mass.

When trying to define what we are there are several logical approaches. You can take the broad approach of defining us as a group i.e. ‘humanity’, or the narrow approach of defining who we are as individual meat structures. I think both are important to any further discussion of the nature of man and mankind.

I would argue that a human is more than just a structure of cells with a stupid look on its face. A human is made up of cells of course, which is matter, which is energy, but we also have literal energy shooting around inside of us. Our neurons pass charges around the brain. We can see an image of this when people receive brain scans. The brain has trillions of connections, making it the most complicated natural system known to mankind (fun fact: the human immune system is the 2nd most complicated system known to mankind. Pretty crazy that out of everything we know about in the whole universe, the two most complex systems are both inside of us—and I don’t even know what #3 is yet, probably another animal’s brain?).

Okay, so we are a physical meat structure made up of matter, combined with a constantly transforming energy structure some might even call science’s equivalent of a soul. If one day we could accurately replicate the electrical structure, it could be like Altered Carbon where your mind is copied into a digital state in which we transcend death—but that’s a whole other discussion for another time.

I don’t think we’ve gone deep enough. There is something more to people. People do not exist separately from the history of humanity. It is what led to our births. Humanity (and more broadly, life in general), like erosion or evaporation, is a natural system. Our cells duplicate; life passes along copies of itself to future generations; new DNA sequences combine at random, the efficient usually survive—the right answer is the one that survives to make more copies. It’s a single step of evolution on an individual scale. Our brains are a byproduct of this evolution of life, so accurately, one could say we are the physical manifestation of the algorithm that all life follows in order to exist—a forever (hopefully) chain of tumbling dominoes of duplication, one cell to the next, one generation to the next.

But we are more than that still! We are other algorithms as well. Our brains make decisions based off of stimuli it takes in from our senses. All of our decisions and the inner workings of our brains are governed by reinforcement learning. It’s physics and math and follows an algorithm. Truly, we learn in a manner that is very similar to how modern AI learns. You experience something, build connotations about the outcomes and make future decisions based off of what you perceive to be the best move.  This may seem metaphysical, but it could be argued that we are the weights behind our learning algorithm. That’s not just our personality, but the culmination of all the experiences that mold us.

It sort of comes down to semantics, but I will define who you are at the beginning of your life as different than who you end up as by the end of it.  Every cross section of you across time is made up of different cells, different energy, as well as the ever evolving algorithm of your mind and decision making.  Really, you are all of it, just at different times.

So now, to put it all together: We are meat structures with storms of energy inside of us who transcend time as a natural system that is constantly changing and evolving. And we’re all just trying to survive.

That being said… A friend from high school killed himself recently. I know I buried the lead on this one. I guess I’ve just been grappling with a few things. It’s times like this that I tend to look inward. Lofty questions like ‘what are we?’ are a comfort to me as I dig deeper into the interconnectedness of the universe. I’ve always had a scientific mind, and as a non-religious person trying to understand my place in the universe, it has to be enough that we exist in the here and now. That’s all we have.

I mean, really. Everything that lives will one day die, and it is only the beauty of our existence that we leave behind that gives any of it any meaning beyond the momentary fancies of our senses. He left behind his wife and three young children. I can’t even imagine what he was grappling with. If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, I beg you, please seek help and have someone get rid of any quick ways out. The emergency number in the US is 988, and the non-emergency number, which goes to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 800-273-TALK (8255).

Damn, I hadn’t planned on writing any of that originally, but I needed to get it out. I don’t want to be the depressing newsletter guy, but sometimes life throws you terrible curveballs and all we can do is go on living the best way we know how.

Thank you for being here with me, and as always, stay safe.

Freebie: Into the Beyond - Part 1: Fated - A Fantasy Horror Series



Wrought by Fire
Ashen Sky
Howls on the Wind
Into the Beyond - Part 1: Fated
Into the Beyond - Part 2: Far From Human
Into the Beyond - Part 3: Fires of Heaven

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