Sunday, 17 August 2014

The Giant Summer Fun in Edmonton Post

Summer is short in Canada, but what we get is very nice, and the heat can get into the metric 30s on many days.  Summer is for relaxing and enjoying fresh fruit from British Columbia, food festivals, patios, and farmers markets.

I've been working on the plot outline for the conclusion to the current Exocrisis Blue story arc, the sequel to Neo Ace, but I want it to be really good, so I'm taking my time.  It'll be a year before it gets released if I'm able to work on it lots, but longer if I'm not able to.  The promotions I ran in July gave away a few hundred ebooks, but only sold a dozen or so ebooks.  I did sell copies of Neo Ace, which I'm happy about, so thanks to my fans, and I hoped you enjoyed the read.  I probably will not do freebie promotions to give away Neo Ace as it just would probably just get pirated like my two other ebooks.  The pirate can at least buy one first.

So, onto some summer highlights from Edmonton, Canada.

Taste of Edmonton
This is a great food festival that runs at the same time as K-Days.  It features dozens of Edmontons restaurants and food trucks.  I also did a fun blog post about Edmonton Attractions here if you want to know more.  I managed to eat a pretty good lunch that day down at Churchill Square.  I'm just kicking myself that I didn't take more food pictures as I ate some of the curry dishes and such before I remembered to shoot photos.  Stomach triumphs over brain....

The layout of Taste of Edmonton and a restaurant listing.
Lots of propane tanks for cooking and grilling.
Pampa Brazilian Steakhouse.  One of the best values there.  Garlic rump steak and bacon wrapped chicken.  YUM.
Woodfired mini-pizza with proscuitto from Canicus.  Just awesome fresh from the oven.
Bacon wrapped scallops and corn salsa from the Mercer Tavern
Deep fried pickles.
Grilling quail at the Hoang Long. 
Another great value for your money.  Tasty and juicy quail that you can also get with pomegranate sausce.

On Another Hot Summer Day

You have to have an icy frappucino from Starbucks too to cool down, just don't have too many.
Gourmet burgers and summer menu at Red Robin
I tried the Colosus Burger with fresh greens and the big patty and it was pretty good.

Man Colours For Interior Decorating
I was at a Home Depot and found this in the paint section.
Its great the paint manufucturer is having fun and targeting a new consumer.  Being cool and in the navy.
For the apocalypse.  There were many more colors and themes.  Just need to find one for my bunker.

Fried Chicken at Coco Chicken
The fried chicken here is pretty good, but it the coating / marinade could be more flavourful (I think the hot / sweet sauce they have is really the main feature, not the plain chicken).  It is kind of like Japanese karaage, but with bigger pieces of chicken and a big crunch. 

Tim Hortons
They have some very nice summer doughnut and muffins going on right now featuring strawberry.  Have a Timmy's and a doughnut!

Farmers Market
Summer is the time to shop for farm fresh produce and fruit.  Edmonton has a number of markets running every weekend.  I'll have to go either berry or strawberry picking one of these days too!
All Canadian berry mixed berries.

BC Peaches
Get your greens.  Chard is great in soups.
And Taber corn is in season now.  Alberta's tastiest corn you can eat with just a little boiling.  No butter needed as it is nice a sweet.

Korean Supermarket Adventure
There's a few of these in south Edmonton and they have all kinds of food and goodies.  If you're interested in Japanese instant ramen and snacks, check out my Japanese Pop Culture page.
Interesting canned vegetables, including burdock root.  I was alway digging those things up in the swamp when I played that video game Lost in Blue on the DS.
Lots of different canned fish.
I'm not sure I'm too keen on trying this canned good.
The Ramen Rater indicated these were pretty good with the cheese powder.  I've heard of adding cheese to ramen, so I thought I'd give it a try...

Another anime convention in Edmonton has come and gone. Another year passes.

Friday, 8 August 2014

Half-life Flashback For Ice Base (When I Did Level Design)

Years ago I read a novel by Matthew Reilly called Ice Station.  It was a pretty good action novel with plenty of bad guys, a mystery, and the allure of ice.  I've always liked novels set in the Arctic or Antarctic and plenty of novelists have obliged by writing them.  These novels have isolation, characters forced to operate on their own, man versus the elements, and often some alien or human threat.
Anyhow, Ice Station had a scene where the central shaft in the base played an important role.  His marines had magnetic grapples and cable guns for ascending and descending.  It enabled some very fun storytelling.  A few years later, I played the video game Half-life, enjoyed it immensely and began doing some 3D level design for it in my spare time.  My first few levels were not very good, but you get better as you keep building map after map.  There was a great community for more than a few years of hobbyists all doing this and I contributed to a few single player level sets.  Half-life doesn't have magnetic grapples built into the game, but there are built-in entities to support commandos roping down from Ospreys.

Icebase core shaft with research facilities on each level
 This is pretty cool, I just found a walkthrough for Intolerable Threat.  I did the maps from halfway through video 2 (when he goes into the underground bunker) to video 4 (office complex). Video three shows old abandoned research facilities with a showdown with a Gargantia alien monster around a reactor core.

With the inspiration from Ice Station, I build a custom level set to simulate an enemy assault on an American research station that had found alien artifacts.   The highlight of the level set was the central research station with research facilities and quarters built around a large open shaft that was five levels deep.  The shaft had a moon pond at the bottom where mini-submarines deployed to the outside ocean. In the game, you would have to fight your way down in a downward spiral through the various levels to rescue some scientists at the bottom.

The final level set required Half-life and the Opposing Force mod to play, but it worked great.  The station was protected by marines from the Opposing Force mod for Half-life.  This added to the teamwork model in the game with medics and friendly soldiers that would assist you and follow you if you ordered it.

Antarctic Warehouse
Osprey and Wind Turbines

Open Courtyourd

In the level set you had to do quite a bit over many interconnected maps:
  1. Defend the base from a mechanized infantry assault backed by APCs. You have to kill the enemy APC with multiple RPG hits.
  2. Retreat through a storage facility filled with black ops assassins.
  3. Fight through a command center to restore power to the main research station doors.
  4. Dash through a courtyard with circling gunships to a generator building to restart it.
  5. Enter the main research complex which was already under attack.  Scripted sequences had marines already fighting more commando rappelling down through the central shaft.  
  6. Finally, you reach the bottom to rescue scientists and escape out through the mine tunnels that lead to an alien outpost with aliens!
  7. A submarine surfaces in the middle of the outpost to finally rescue you.
Icebase core shaft on level 3.
Icebase core shaft on level 5

Looking down at the moon pool with mini-submarine and a walkway.  You had to deploy the walkway to cross as laser barriers prevented you from moving through the halls.
The research station corridors.  There were offices, sleeping quarters, game rooms, research labs, a mess hall, more storage facilities, and medical center.

Mess Hall
Mine tunnel through the ice.
In the mines.
Alien structures

I still really like Half-life to this day, even though the graphics are dated.  The game had more interactive objects (vending machines that worked) and better NPC cooperation than many more modern games.  It is also one of the few games where rescuing trapped scientists was actually quite fun.  There is a HD remake using the Source engine now, but I don't think I'll be remaking Fallback, Fire, and Ice again (there also isn't an Opposing Force mod for it).

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Neo Ace New Release and Kickoff Sale

Hello!  A quick introduction is probably in order.  I'm Peter Lok, a science fiction writer based out of Canada.  I have been working on my Exocrisis Blue universe while I also maintain an author's blog and a Japanese pop culture blog.  Exocrisis Blue is an alternate future where the Earth has been invaded by the Blue Newts who were fleeing a dying homeworld.  During the Alien War, humanity finally turned the direction of the war against the Newts by developing the giant HARM robots based off of captured alien tech.  The war changed the geopolitical order on Earth, ending in an uneasy peace where the Newts consolidated their tropical and subtropical holdings.  For more information on the world of Exocrisis Blue and the HARMs, please check this link to my author's blog.

For the last year I have been writing and revising my novel Neo Ace.  It was just published as an Amazon ebook in the UK, USA, and Canada in June 2014.  This novel is about the story of Jake and Mayumi, two cadets at the Neo Ace Academy, who are going to be involved in events that will shape the future for both human and Newt.  This story is military SF, but with a good touch of anime inspired mecha tropes (since mechs are Japanese inspired anyhow).  While the protagonists are teens, a rich cast of adult characters drives the story along, the way things should happen in real life.  This story should appeal to all types of science fiction readers and anime viewers.  Neo Ace is a self-contained story arc, but the full Neo Ace story concludes in Neo Destiny.  Neo Destiny promises more world building, political machinations, character development, and epic battles involving mechs and conventional forces in high tech battlefields across the Earth.

Promotional Period
Neo Ace is available for approximately $2 US, half of the regular price (Amazon does some kind of adjustment), until the beginning of August.  Please consider buying a copy and providing some positive reviews, even if brief, on Amazon, as word of mouth is the only way an independent author can get ahead.

I have previously written a short story, HARM, and a novella, Raid on Kahamba, that are independent prequels set in the same universe.  Both HARM and Raid will be free for a limited time to promote Neo Ace.  Give them a read to see if you would like Neo Ace!

Limited Time Free Story Giveaway
  • HARM is available for free from July 4 to 8, 2014.
  • Raid is available for free from July 11 to 13, 2014.
Please click through to my publications page for the direct links to the various Amazon bookstores.
Check the price to see if it is still free before clicking the buy button!

Link to My Science Fiction Publications Page.

Thanks for your time in advance.

Neo Ace Action Excerpt
The platoon’s six HARM units were rapidly advancing in a skirmish line a quarter of a kilometre wide through a pine forested valley floor.  Trees and branches were effortlessly brushed aside or smashed by the rapid walking pace of the robots.  Every so often a laser shot from the spider-mechs would flash by, but it was mostly the HARM units sniping at the retreating enemy.

Jake was the acting platoon leader, positioned in mid-line in HARM #3.  In his cockpit, he studied the tactical display on the console in front of him.  They had engaged the advancing spider-mechs from concealment in the hilly woodland terrain, their HARM unit active camouflage systems blending them with the surrounding woods.  Their first volleys of fire had brought down four of the nine mechs.  They had then started pursuing the retreating alien Newts.  His shot meant that five were now down.  Return fire from the enemy had been ragged, but HARM #5, piloted by his friend Bing, had taken some torso damage and wasn't aiming as well.

"We have orders to hold this position, not pursue," Mayumi reminded Jake from  HARM #1.  "We have already stopped the breakthrough."

"I think Mayumi's right," Toshi added from HARM #6.  "My father says Newt units don't break very easily – they are not cowards.  This could be a trap to draw us out. "

"I know your dad is a mecha pilot in the Japanese Defence Forces,” Jake responded.  “I really think we have them on the run.  They’ll never break through to Central City if we take these guys out.  We have the initiative and should take it."

Jake looked at the tactical display again.  He projected the map for everyone to see and used his finger to point out a position.  "We won't move that far out of position if we can take them out before they exit the valley between these two hills. Geraldo, Mayumi, take the left flanking hill.  Bing and Toshi, take the right hill.  Mary and I will pursue and keep the pressure on.  You guys run for those hills and take them out from above."

"Jake’s plan sounds good to me," Geraldo spoke out in Hispanic accented English.  "We should take advantage of the situation."

"I'm in," Mary added.  She preferred a standup fight over waiting any day.  "Eliminated Newts won't be back."

After a bit of hesitation, Bing, assented too.

Mayumi agreed when it was obvious that everyone was in.  "Okay," she quietly added.

"I don't think we should be doing this," Toshi finally agreed, "but let us try it."

"Thanks, Toshi.  All units, move out," Jake ordered.  They were going to win this one in a big way.

Mayumi and Geraldo in HARMs #1 and #2 swept forward to the left and began running for the top of their hill.  On the right, Bing and Toshi in HARMs #5 and #6 began running for the other hill.  In the center, Jake and Mary in HARMs #3 and #4 widened the distance between them and increased their pace to a jog to begin closing in on the retreating mechs. 

Over the next several minutes the pursuing HARMs began to gradually overtake the retreating enemy, reducing the distance between them less than a kilometre.  Exchanged shots were few between the two sides as visual contact was poor between them.  Even though they were eight metres high at the top of their main weapon blister, the spider-mechs were almost impossible to see in the trees as they were short enough to disappear into them.   The taller 12 metre height of the Fenrir HARM units put them at tree top height much of the time,  but it did not make much of a difference in the fight.

There was a small explosion in the air near the spider-mechs.  "Damn, that was my last RPV," Mary commented.  "At least they know we're still here."  Recon drones were invaluable, but did not last long on the modern battlefield against point defence laser systems.  She just wished they had full equipment load outs for their units.  This fight would have been over long ago if they had Helldart missiles and a couple of Typhoon missile pack equipped HARMs.

The distance between the two pursuing HARM units and the four retreating enemy mechs had closed to 800 metres, and the enemy mechs had moved between the two hills.  Jake's HARM had moved closer to the base of the left hill while Mary had closed in on the right hill.  During the chase they had split themselves to snipe at the enemy from two different angles.

"You guys in position?"  Jake inquired.  From his tactical display he could see the locations of all of the HARM units, but not their status.  It looked like both sets of flankers had crested their hills.

"Almost there," Toshi responded, "I'm looking for a firing position."

"Same here," Geraldo added in.

"Shit!"  Bing suddenly yelled out.  Blue enemy markers appeared on the tactical display along the far downslope of each of the flanking hills.  "Enemy  contacts just crested the hill.  I'm engaging."

"It's a trap!"  Mayumi called out.  "Enemy Hunter class mechs!  Engaging!  Coilgun to full power."

Events had suddenly turned on them.  Jake couldn't believe his tactical display.  Each of his flanking pairs was suddenly outmatched by a squad of three Newt Hunters.  Unlike the spider  mechs, the Hunter mechs were advanced anthropomorphic mechs with a Newt body form, the enemy equivalent of their Fenrir mechs.   Each Hunter had three pairs of  limbs, with the rear two pairs for movement and the front pair for manipulation.  They resembled giant armoured lizards carrying laser cannon with their two front limbs.

"Fall back!"  Jake called out.  They were in a bad situation.

"Popping smoke,"  Bing responded, "but they're too close.  I don't think  we can disengage."

Jake didn't hesitate in his response.  "We're coming to back you up"

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Readings in Mecha Science Fiction

Awhile back I asked in a mecha forum if members could name original mecha scifi novels, not anime, or established video games.  There were not many responses.  Written mecha SF isn't a big genre to begin with as it is a subset of military SF in most cases, but it could just be an SF adventure story.  Instead of tanks, you have big robots, as the master of the battlefield.  This genre doesn't have a great deal of exposure as I suspect that many readers think it is for kids.  Gritty, hard hitting military SF with mechs does exist though.

In this article, I'm going to list some fairly recently written mecha SF that you could try. Some of it is available in printed form, some of it in an ebook only.  I also write in this genre, so a few of my stories are also listed.  There doesn't seem to be a place you can go to find original novels that involve mechas otherwise.

Armageddon 2089 Series
I actually reviewed Standing Alone some time ago, but last year, a sequel was released.  I haven't picked it up yet as I have a pretty big backlog of miltary SF and other reading.  I enjoyed the first book and will have high hopes for the second.

Standing Alone (Armageddon 2089: Shotgun Mike) by Martin Dougherty
Standing Together (Armageddon 2089: Shotgun Mike) by Martin Dougherty

Exocrisis Blue Series
This is my universe that I have been working on in my spare time.  My new novel Neo Ace will be published in the next month or so.  Give it a try if you want hard hitting military SF with big robots written realistically.

HARM (Exocrisis Blue) by Peter Lok
Raid on Kahamba (Exocrisis Blue) by Peter Lok
Neo Ace (Exocrisis Blue) by Peter Lok

Universal War: ARM X Series
ARM X means "Armed Reserve Mecha of the Xeno Organization."  I had a few discussions with the author of this series over at Wattpad.  He's a real serious writer wanting to tell a big political and military tale that involves mechs.  There's currently two books available, with Shadow just being published this year in February.

The Road to Betrayal (Universal War: ARM X) by Peter W. Smorynski
A Shadow of Chaos (Universal War: ARM X) by Peter W. Smorynski

Armor Wars
This is a pretty interesting future universe.  The mechs are a mix of organics and regular tech and are amazingly capable with the new models.  I reviewed Mecha Corps earlier, and have Mecha Rogue on my backlog of reading.  This is the only one of the series here published by a big name publisher.

Mecha Corps: A Novel of the Armor Wars by Brett Patton
Mecha Rogue: A Novel of the Armor Wars by Brett Patton

ATLAS Series
I think Isaac Hooke is based out of Edmonton, just like me, but we've never met.  He's written a number of previous SF novels in the last decade and seems to be pretty prolific and successful.  Out of all the series I've listed here, his books are selling the best, as I suspect he has a good fan base behind him based on his previous good work.  I've picked up a copy of ATLAS, and it is in my backlog.

Caterpillar Without A Callsign by Isaac Hooke
ATLAS (ATLAS Series) by Isaac Hooke

I don't just read military SF, so I have a good backlog building.  I still need to get out a mini-review for the Kris Longknife series of books too - I read the last two in the hospital awhile back.  At least I got the reviews of Armor and Armoured out!   I also recently read A Tale For The Time Being by Ruth Ozeki and it was an awesome literary read.  I blog about Japanese pop culture over at my Tokyo Excess blog and this book combined quantum physics, Buddhism, Japanese contemporary and pop culture in a fascinating read.  So have a read of that too if you get a chance.

Friday, 6 June 2014

Review of Armored (A powered armor anthology)

Mini-review #15

This is a series of short reviews for military SF and mecha SF.  You will not see a review of something I don't like as it isn't worth writing about in that case, but I will tell you what works for me and what doesn't about the stories I did like.

This is a review of Armored, an anthology of stories about powered armour, which is not to be confused with the older military SF book Armor.  I happen to have both the Kindle version of it and the paperback.  Baen Books has their own sales site which sells ebooks without DRM, which is nice.  John Joseph Adams has assembled a nice assortment of 23 short stories that range anywhere from steam punk to gritty miltary SF.  There's even a zombie type story in here too, but pretty much skimmed that as I don't like zombie / undead type stories of any kind other than the original Dracula.  Some of the stories I really liked were Hell's Half Acre, Jungle Walkers, Power Armor: A Love Story, Field Test, and Trauma Pod.  It was a nice mix of stories from direct engagements, a bit of horror, to a spy/romance plot.

Worth a read for the fan of powered armour or military SF.

Does it have a cast of characters listing?

Nope.  But there are tons of characters as there are 23 different stories.  The suits themselves are characters in a few of them!

What is the scope / scale of the story?

Varies, but mainly it is small unit, or commando raid type missions.  Nothing too epic, but these are short stories.

Does it have likeable characters?

There are quite a few memorable characters that range from Frost a Drone operator to a tough Gunnery Sergeant named Schaeffer.

Does it have an entertaining storyline?

Many interesting storylines.  Stories range from historical steampunk to far future in a variety of settings.  If you like powered armour, you will be entertained.

How is the internal consistency / plausibility?

The stories hold together pretty good.  No complaints.

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Armor Book Review of a Miltary SF Classic

Mini-review #14

This is a series of short reviews for military SF and mecha SF.  You will not see a review of something I don't like as it isn't worth writing about in that case, but I will tell you what works for me and what doesn't about the stories I did like. 

Armor is an old book published in 1984 by John Steakley.  I looked around for a Kindle edition, but no dice, and ended up buying a paperback.  I had heard that this book was a military SF classic, but I'd probably disagree with that statement after reading it.  It isn't a bad book, but it was definitely not what I was expecting to read after the first 25% of the book.  The story is divided into 4 arcs of which the first 25% is the "classic military SF with power armour (like in the title).  This is where all the buzz is from about the book.

In the initial story arc, our hero, Felix, is assigned to being a scout on his first mission on Banshee, a hellhole of a planet, where humanity is fighting a war against the Ants for some reason that I wasn't sure about.  His life as a scout is supposed to be short, but he prevails against all odds as he has a weird psychological part of his mind called the Engine that keeps him fighting and alive.

The combat is close and vicious and the humans quickly find themselves in a desperate situation.  The powered armour (Canadian spelling of armor) is pretty impressive, but so are the thousands upon thousands of 3 metre high bugs armed with blasters.  Pretty gripping combat scenes, good use of powered armour, and the read went by pretty quickly.

The story then changes to very interesting alien prison break, space pirates enter the story, and rest of the story takes place at a research station on a colony world at the fringe of human space.  It was a jarring story shift as it didn't seem like it connected with what I had just read.  Needless to say these story threads all tie together with a suit of powered armour as the glue.  Nice touch.

If you run across this book it is worth a read just for the first arc.

Does it have a cast of characters listing?
Not really.  There are many characters, but they stay under a half dozen or so in each story arc, so it is trackable.

What is the scope / scale of the story?
The battles are often fought personally by Felix.  The larger battlefield picture is at the division level, but you don't see much of it.  The situation  on Banshee starts bad and just gets worse.  It is a very personal tale around Felix and then our space pirate.

Does it have likeable characters?
Can't say I liked any of the characters other than the female scout that helps Felix out initially.  Everyone seems to be portrayed as broken goods to some extent.  The protagonist himself at the beginning is kind of an amnesiac to boot and very fatalistic.

Does it have an entertaining storyline?
Really liked the first part, and slogged throught the rest of it.  I'm not sure if this novel would get the same amount of popularity in todays very competitive military SF marketplace.

How is the internal consistency / plausibility?
The novel is really not about military organization, planning, or tactics.  You have no idea why Banshee is an important military objective.  The operation planners must have been idiots as their intel is abysmal and military bureaucracy is just out of touch with reality in this case.  Could be a good anti-war  theme and the story is really about how Felix and the grunts deal both mentally and physically with their situation.

What cool bonus features are there?
The  powered battlesuits are cool, with Starship Trooperesque weaponry. The suits have blasters, bomb dispensers, and are capable of amazing feats of strength and agility.  There are some discrpencies with the suits thought.  Despite being nuclear powered, they need recharging.  The nuclear aspect is actually a key plot point too.

The troops deploy to the surface by running into a teleporter field. Very nifty.

Sunday, 6 April 2014

The Science Future (Not Fiction) of AI is Near

This could happen in my lifetime or at most within the lifetime my children.  While I don't know about the "technological singularity" where machines replace man or where man / machine evolves together, the future looks like it is going to happen sooner than later.  This future is about robotics and artificial intelligence being integrated with human society.  Already AI algorithms are in current use everywhere in business and research.  They help us design better machines and computers, assist in medical diagnosis, predict what we like for music and books, detect computer viruses, predict stock markets, etc.   Robots are everywhere from vending machines, household cleaning devices, making good coffee, making war, and working on assembly lines.  Computers and the right software and AI are able to replace human workers doing "thinking work" and not just rote assembly or warehouse work.
Hatsune Miku, the first Japanese vocaloid, and a holographic jpop star with live concerts.  If she had an AI personality matrix, would she be a true idol versus the personality that her fans give her?  I blogged about her here:

All of these things I just talked about used to be purely science fiction.  In the 1950s, the rise of modern classic SF, it was almost unthinkable that this could happen in this manner.  Even now, SF writers are dabbling in it, some are swimming and going with the flow, but in most cases, the future often seems like the past to me.  SF on television is some of the worst.  I've talked about military technology in SF before and how a great deal of military SF seems to be a rehash of our current combat techniques and old wars.  It isn't very futuristic and we are stuck writing about what we are familiar with.  Only in the last decade is powered armour and such becoming common along with smart weaponry, but even then battles tend to be the same old thing.  When we write (myself included) we don't think what the battlefield should be like if all the new technology comes into play.  I myself think war would be very different with cheap robot armies, and the fog of war will be different as tiny little recon drones would saturate the battlefield.  These scenarios are likely if there isn't some kind of international accord or something like that to stop it.

The same case is playing out with AI.  If there are AIs that have access to the entire Internet and people interact with these AIs, what are the outcomes.  How does this affect everything basically as there is a new partner we are dealing with?  If they are as intelligent as people, or more so, it is a completely new story as they would be powerful players in society.  In this case, are they citizens, starting a revolution, or beings with rights?  Would they look at humanity benevolently?  If they are not fully intelligent, but "smart" to behave like one they would be amazing augments to human mental capability.  Would they be cheap for the masses (don't see why not as tech tends to be cheap as it matures)?  How would people still relate to other people and society as a whole? What happens to the structure of society?  What if you only had to let your AI work on your behalf and you just did something else to develop your skills/interests, or just have fun?  Also, with the growing inequality in wealth distribution and robots taking jobs away, what if the police and army were automated too?  Would the 1% beat down the other 99% as they control all the weapons?

These are big questions that SF can always visioning about.  I myself don't really have the answers, but I do have a whole bunch of interesting reading linked below that could get you thinking about AI and robotics.  Scarey part is that many of the articles are from mainstream magazines and are about now or the near future.  Have fun checking them out.

The Coming Technological Singularity: How to Survive in the Post-Human Era by Vernor Vinge
This is the paper that started or helped to kick off the singularity is in our future thinking.

The Singularity is Further Than it Appears by Ramez Naam
Talks more about the singularity and machine progression with monkey wrenches thrown it into the process.
From the blog of SF writer Charles Stross.

What if a Time Traveller Saw a Smartphone?
Interesting article about what a pre-1914 individual would think about a 21st century humans.  The pre-1914 individual is in a modified Turing Test where they are dealing with a typical 21st century human augmented with a smartphone linked to the Internet.

How Robots Will Work With Us?
Many questions about how humans will interact with the many robots to come.

Why Asimov’s Three Laws Of Robotics Can’t Protect Us
It just doesn't look like it would work in practical terms.

The Man Who Would Teach Machines to Think
What is AI?  Will we understand how we think and create human-like AI too?

Facebook, Google, And Sony Are Getting Ready To Fight A Cyberpunk War
The big tech players are getting ready to put the consumer into cyberspace virtual reality.  Ghost in the Shell and Snow Crash, here we come.  AIs are mandatory of course.

Making Robots More Like Us
People and robots working together.

As Technology Gets Better, Will Society Get Worse?
How will people and society cope with big technological change?

An army of robot baristas could mean the end of Starbucks as we know it
Brewing good coffee without the human in the loop.

Drones will cause an upheaval of society like we haven’t seen in 700 years
This could have been titled "The Age of the Gun is Over" too.  Will the rich have robot armies to keep the poor in line?

Robots of death, robots of love
Governing the use of military robots and robots helping us in society.

Confessions of a Drone Operator
A view of remote warfare from a drone operator.

AI Could Kill Us All
Title says it all.

A perspective on alien thinking.