This is a short but very important update, so please take a moment to read it:

Because of some complications owing to particulars involving the unique glue required to bind the amazing foil cover we’ve designed for The Punch Escrow, I won’t be able to sign the books in time to get them to you before the July 25 publication date. So, I need to know if you guys would rather have the books early and unautographed or slightly late and autographed. By "slightly late" I mean I’ll be signing them on July 24th and Inkshares will ship them out that day, so you’ll still get your book on publication week, just not on publication day. But it’s up to you. And by "you" I mean the collective "yous." We’re going to make this democratic with a survey. You can fill out the survey here, and whatever the majority decides 24 hours from now will be the way we do things for everyone who pre-ordered the autographed books.

Here’s the survey

More news soon!


The Punch Escrow is hitting bookstores on July 25 — less than 2 months from today. I wanted to give you guys an update on where things stand based on the increasing number of inbound questions:

- Book Tour: We have one. I hope one of our stops is in your town. You can check out the list of places and dates here: (if you haven’t already, please give The Punch Escrow a "Like" on FB when you’re there)

- Cover Design: It’s done and I will share the full cover as soon as we approve the proofs from the printer. It’s lovely and iconic. I couldn’t be happier! This book will be a lot of fun to hold. We’ve been very picky about materials and inks.

- Pre-sales: Some of you may have gotten an email stating that you’ve "backed a winner!" - yes, I’m super thrilled we’re moving a lot of pre-order units. I’m very happy the book is picking up steam. I don’t know what else to say about that other than: THANK YOU! and maybe also WOOHOO!

- The movie: I can’t really say anything about the movie other than tell you that Lionsgate didn’t only option the book, they optioned The Punch Escrow’s entire world or, as I like to call it, "The Future." What this means is that if things go well, there will be many other stories to come through various mediums, not just film. I continue to have very productive meetings with the creative team at Lionsgate, and I believe "The Future" is in very good hands.

- Blurbs: Here are all the amazing blurbs we’ve gotten for the book so far. The reviews are also starting to come in to the book’s Goodreads page from advance readers and reviewers:

“I read a lot of books but haven’t enjoyed one as much as The Punch Escrow in a long time. I picked it up for a cross-country flight and didn’t put it down until we landed in New York. Tal Klein creates a plausibly real future that sucks you in. He powers his story with action, twists, and a dash of humor. Young actors will be lining up to play the lead character, and any director worth his salt would kill (or at least teleport) for a chance to adapt The Punch Escrow.”  —Andy Lewis, Book Editor, The Hollywood Reporter

“A compelling, approachable human narrative wrapped around a classic hard sci-fi nugget, The Punch Escrow dives into deep philosophical territory—the ethical limits of technology, and what it means to be human. Cinematically paced yet filled with smart asides, Klein pulls off the slick trick of giving readers plenty to think about in a suspenseful, entertaining package.” —Sean Gallagher, Ars Technica

“An alt-futuristic hard-science thriller with twists and turns you’ll never see coming. I couldn’t put it down.” —Felicia Day, author of You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost)

“Klein transports us to a beautifully rendered near-future world. This is refreshingly original and immersive hard sci-fi. You’ll turn the last page and yearn for Joel Byram’s next chapter.”  —Ben Brock Johnson, host of Codebreaker podcast and Marketplace Tech

“A headlong ride through a future where ‘huge international corporate conspiracy’ is a box you check on a form and teleportation takes you anywhere—it just blows you to bits first.” —Quentin Hardy, Head of Editorial, Google Cloud (formerly Deputy Tech Editor for The New York Times)

"The Punch Escrow has a cool high concept and an action-packed story that will leave your head spinning." —Daniel H. Wilson, The New York Times bestselling author of Robopocalypse and Clockwork Dynasty

“If I lived in the world of The Punch Escrow, I’d teleport around the world shoving copies of Tal M. Klein’s thrilling, hilarious, and whip-smart debut into everyone’s hands. Save me the trip—buy this novel now.” —Duane Swierczynski, author of Revolver and the bestselling Level 26 series

“A fast-paced near-future sci-fi adventure peppered with exotic technology and cultural references ranging from Karma Chameleon to the Ship of Theseus, The Punch Escrow will have you rooting for its plucky, sarcastic hero as he bounces between religious fanatics, secret agents, corporate hacks, and megalomaniacs in a quest to get his life back. If you’ve ever wanted to get Scotty drunk and ask him some tough questions about how those transporters work exactly, The Punch Escrow is the book for you.” —Robert Kroese, author of The Big Sheep and its sequel, The Last Iota

“This book angered me to my core, because it’s based on an idea that should have occurred to me. The fact that Tal executed it so well, and made such a page-turner out of it, just adds insult to injury.” —Scott Meyer, author of the Magic 2.0 series

“Some writers take us to the future so we can question the effects that technology can have on humanity on a global and personal scale, along with the impact upon the social fabric. Others do it to take us on a wild ride made all the more fantastic by pushing the boundaries of what we can expect from the world of tomorrow. Tal M. Klein masterfully balances both and sets it all to the beat of an 80s soundtrack. An excellent piece of contemporary science fiction.” —J-F. Dubeau, author of A God in the Shed and The Life Engineered

Yesterday Inkshares finished the final layout of The Punch Escrow and sent it off for galley printing (that’s book biz talk for advance reader copies). The book’s gotten some AMAZING blurbs from some AMAZING people. I wanted to share my favorites with you:

"An alt-futuristic hard-science thriller with twists and turns you’ll never see coming. I couldn’t put it down." - Felicia Day, author of the bestselling You’re Never Weird On The Internet (Almost), Geek & Sundry founder, and soon to be Kinga Forrester in Mystery Science Theatre 3000!

"This book angered me to my core, because it’s based on an idea that should have occurred to me. The fact that Tal executed it so well, and made such a page-turner out of it, just adds insult to injury." - Scott Meyer, author of the Magic 2.0 series

"The Punch Escrow will have you rooting for its plucky, sarcastic hero as he bounces between religious fanatics, secret agents, corporate hacks and megalomaniacs in a quest to get his life back." - Robert Kroese, author of the Mercury Falls series, Starship Grifters series

More news soon!


Just a quick update on where things stand. In the next 24 hours we should be done with developmental editing and sending the manuscript over to copy editing. The manuscript is in really good shape. There are still some typos to fix and a few scenes that we’re working on, but I’m anticipating we’ll knock those out tonight/tomorrow morning.

Copy editing should take about a couple of weeks, meaning we should have a final version of the manuscript going into formatting on the last week of the month. This will enable Inkshares to print "galleys" (promotional versions of the book) by the end of the month, which is very exciting.

In the mean time, I need to do my "author picture" for the inside sleeve of the book. I have something cool in mind, but as I’m not very photogenic, it may not work out. Still, I’ve enlisted the services of my friend and photographer Lai Long whom I believe will endeavor to make photographic miracles happen.

I’m told everything is all set for the book launch at San Diego Comic Con in July. I’m not really sure exactly what it is that we’ll be doing there to promote the book. Maybe I’ll just do a little interpretive teleportation dance while wearing a futuristic LED suit. Probably not that.

So excited you guys. Jazz hands!


At 81,369 words, yesterday I submitted the final draft of The Punch Escrow manuscript to Inkshares and Geek & Sundry. There are still a couple of rounds of developmental editing coming which may see the story change somewhat, but I’m fairly confident the narrative arc is concrete (or firmly crooked, to quote Douglas Adams) at this point. Good news is: the book is coming on for super duper sure in July 2017


Here’s the schedule going forward for those following along at home:

TK hand in manuscript: 11/28/16
MH to begin dev edit: 11/28/16
Dev edit letter/assessment due back to TK: 12/9/16 (1.5 wks)
Dev edit rework due to MH: 12/30/16 (3 wks)
Dev round 2/line edit due to TK: 1/11/17 (~2 wks)
Dev edit cleanup due to MH: 1/30/17 (2.5 wk)
Final dev edit version to INK: 2/6/17 (1 wk)
INK hands MS to CE (copyeditor): 2/13/17
Copyedit due to TK: 2/27/17 (3 wks)
TK’s copyedit review due to CE: 3/13/17 (2 wks)
Clean copyedited MS to INK: 3/20/17 (1 wk) {INK will print galleys}
INK hands CEMS to proofer: 3/20/17 
Proofread due to TK: 4/4/17 (2 wks)
Proof comments due from TK: 4/9/17 (1 wk)
Clean proofed MS to INK: 4/18/17 (1 wk) 
Send clean proofed MS to interior designer: 4/25/2017
Book published: 7/11/2017
Geek & Sundry SDCC book launch: 7/19/2017  

This week something pretty amazing happened. Inkshares sent me the back cover text and author bio for The Punch Escrow. I was also given an official publication date, which is a lot further in the future than I originally imagined, but makes sense. The book will be released at San Diego Comic Con (July 19, 2017) and will be given a big promotional push by Geek & Sundry there. We haven’t even started coming up with what sort of pomp and circumstance we’ll do, but I’m sure it’ll be fun. Anyway, the rewrite is moving along swimmingly. Some days more swimming than others. Right now with around 35% of the rewrite complete, I can’t seem to get out of the limbo that exists between 28,000 and 29,000 words, but I’m very motivated by deadlines and I’ve committed to handing in the manuscript by November 1, so I’ll get there. For those curious about the back copy and author bio, here’s what they look like (some of you who have been with me since the beginning of this campaign will note that International Transport has gotten better at marketing, they’ve eliminated "Journey" from their slogan):

Back Cover Synopsis:

It’s the year 2471. Advancements in nanotechnology have enabled us to control aging. We’ve genetically engineered mosquitoes to feast on carbon fumes instead of blood, ending air pollution. And teleportation has become the ideal mode of transportation, offered exclusively by International Transport—a secretive firm headquartered in New York City. Their slogan: Departure... Arrival... Delight!

Joel Byram, our smartass protagonist, is an everyday twenty-fifth century guy. He spends his days training artificial-intelligence engines to act more human, jamming out to 1980’s synthpop—an extremely obscure genre, and trying to salvage his deteriorating marriage. Joel is pretty much an everyday guy with everyday problems—until he’s accidentally duplicated while teleporting.  

Now Joel must outsmart the shadowy organization that controls teleportation, outrun the religious sect out to destroy it, and find a way to get back to the woman he loves in a world that now has two of him.

Author Biography Back Cover Version

Tal M. Klein was born in Israel, grew up in New York, and currently lives in Detroit with his wife and two daughters. When she was five years old, his daughter Iris wrote a book called I’m a Bunch of Dinosaurs that went on to become one of the most successful children’s book projects on Kickstarter —something that Tal explained to Iris by telling her, “your book made lots of kids happy.” Iris then asked Tal, "Daddy, why don’t you write a book that makes lots of grownups happy?" Tal mulled this over for a few years, and eventually wrote his first book, The Punch Escrow. It won the Inkshares Geek & Sundry Hard Science Fiction publishing contest, and will be the first book published on the Geek & Sundry imprint.

I am now well into the second rewrite of the book. When I say rewrite, I really mean it. The whole thing is getting rewritten from scratch. The plot has really crystallized, and I’m really at home with each of the characters.

Part of making the story tighter has also meant consolidating the secondary characters. I’ve eliminated one big sub plot, a love story among two of the supporting characters that was very interesting, but frankly took away from the main arc of Joel and Sylvia. Eliminating this "distraction" from the overall plot, has allowed me to make room for more action.

The book is now broken up into three acts, each defined by ruminations on the future history of the Mona Lisa, and 1980’s pop songs.

Act I: Ciao Bella, song: Karma Chameleon by Culture Club

After the solar storm of April 15, 2301 botched the Mona Lisa’s teleportation from Rome to New York, da Vinci’s masterpiece was gone forever. A globally cherished artifact destroyed—along with hundreds of people unfortunate enough to be on, or in the path of motor-powered vehicles in the vicinity of Italy at the time.

A solar storm is what it sounds like: a generic term for increased activity in the Sun. In this case, a massive solar flare, followed by something called a colossal coronal mass ejection. That’s a fancy way of saying gargantuan electromagnetic solar shitstorm. A solar flare is initiated by the sudden release of energy stored in the Sun’s corona, causing the Sun’s plasma to heat up to tens of millions of degrees, accelerating and spewing out all sorts of radiation, resulting in a solar eruption. One way to think about it is to imagine an Earth-sized zit popping on the Sun’s forehead. Okay, that’s a pretty gross visual, but now it’s in your head, and out of mine.

In this particular solar storm, the energy from the corona eruption also caused an equally devastating coronal mass ejection which is a much slower-moving, billion-ton cloud of plasma. This cloud floated over Italy at a very unfortunate moment.

A more powerful electromagnetic pulse than mankind could ever hope to tame, the solar energetic particles hit the Earth with such force they ionized the sky, creating a vast cloud of energetic electrons that bounced around inside the atmosphere destroying electronics and fusing conductive wires everywhere.

Back then, when they teleported something, atomic sections of the object in transport were destroyed—cleared—concurrently along with their confirmed intact arrival at their destination. When the teleportation process was complete, the place of origin was officially deemed clear of the teleported object, and the item at the destination was henceforth considered to be the original.

By the time the people in charge realized there was a mistake in their teleportation protocol, nothing could be done to save the Mona Lisa. Rows of atoms perfectly replicating centuries old masterstrokes suddenly unravelled into nothing. The painting dissolved into a cloud of worthless gray quantum foam.

It wasn’t for a lack of redundancies, it’s just that black swans don’t play by the rules—and this one was a particularly petulant pen.

Prior to this travesty, most of the religious types were ambivalent to teleportation. It was a form of freight, not transportation. The very notion of organic teleportation was considered a fool’s errand, a technically impossible farce, owing to the fidget problem: living things fidget, so a good real-time atomic model that could accurately predict and transmit what they’d do next was still a scientific wet dream.

Nonetheless, some of the most orthodox religiosos could be found picketing in front of one location or another prior to the first public exhibition of teleportation. The devotees’ qualms with teleportation basically boiled down to two main arguments:

First, there was something to do with forbidden fruit. Bible thumpers had been generally grumpy about the practical commercial manipulation of quantum foam. Quantum foam is the stuff the universe is made of, so I guess their point was we shouldn’t have been messing with God’s Play-Doh.

The second divine umbrage, raised by an interfaith leader named Roberto Shila, was a more succinct channeling of the Tower of Babel story, which had oft been espoused to be an anti-technological omen. Shila’s zealous interpretation of the story was that the Babylonians had embraced their understanding of science and its workings under the premise of altruism, or at least an attempt to prevent another forty day and forty night flood, to the extent that they felt they would be able to spar with God on his turf. To Shila’s ilk, teleportation was basically a new flavor of the Babylonian stairway to heaven. In other words, teleportation was worse than us playing with God’s toys—it was us playing God.

Neither of those gripes were particularly novel at the time, nor unique to teleportation, as both were previously cited in admonition of genetic engineering, connected implants, and medical nanotechnology. So they were largely ignored by the general public other than a few journalists looking for “both sides of the story.”

But that all changed after the Mona Lisa disappeared.

Sure, accidents happen all the time. On that unfortunate day boats sank, drones crashed, trucks collided—all with invaluable souls and cargo on board. Any vessel in which the Mona Lisa might have otherwise been travelling would have also been devastatingly impacted by the same solar flare. But witnessing something so globally precious fade into nothing in real time sure had a lasting effect on people.

Ciao, bella.

Act II: Isleworth, song: Bette Davis Eyes by Kim Carnes

The Mona Lisa, as I grew up to know it, was a painting which was once known as the Isleworth Mona Lisa, the authenticity and history of which was once fraught with contention.

Shortly before World War I, an English art collector discovered a Mona Lisa "lookalike" in the home of a Somerset nobleman in whose family’s possession it had been for nearly a century. This discovery led to the conjecture that Leonardo painted two portraits of Lisa del Giocondo, a.k.a. The Mona Lisa: The infamous one destroyed in the aforementioned da Vinci Exhibition, and the one discovered in Somerset and then brought to Isleworth, where it eventually came to be known as the "Isleworth Mona Lisa."

The story goes that da Vinci began painting Mona Lisa in 1503, but left her unfinished. Then, in 1517 a fully finished Mona Lisa painting surfaced in Leonardo’s private possession shortly before his death. The latter painting is believed to be the same that was destroyed in 2137. Based on this contradiction, supporters of the authenticity of the Isleworth Mona Lisa claim it is the first iteration of Mona Lisa, made at least partially by Leonardo 10 years before the “actual” Mona Lisa was painted.

Adding heft to this theory, in 1584, the same century in which the Mona Lisa was painted, an art historian named Gian Paolo Lomazzo wrote about "della Gioconda, e di Mona Lisa” (the Gioconda, and the Mona Lisa). Since "La Gioconda" was sometimes used as an alternative title for the Mona Lisa, the reference implied that these were, in fact, two separate paintings, with the Isleworth Mona Lisa being the younger version of her more famous sister.

What I’m getting at is that these days when people go to a museum to see the Mona Lisa, they’re really admiring the Isleworth Mona Lisa, despite the plaque beneath it which explains in detail that the two paintings weren’t the same, and especially since the memory of the elder portrait’s destruction is so etched in our collective memories.

Yet ask any ogler standing before her, and to them she’s still the Mona Lisa.  Just as it was for me growing up.

So does that mean the painting formerly known as the Isleworth Mona Lisa is now actually the Mona Lisa?

Act III: La Giaconda, song: Bizarre Love Triangle by New Order

Many believe that much of the Mona Lisa’s charm is wrapped up in her mystery. Her enigmatic smile is emblematic of the notion that she and Leonardo da Vinci are hiding secrets from the viewer. Efforts at solving this mystery or puzzle have largely focused on the identity of the sitter, who is generally accepted as Madonna Lisa Gherardini, wife of a Florentine merchant, Francesco del Giocondo, hence Mona (short for Madonna) Lisa or La Gioconda (the feminine Giocondo).

But the beauty of the Mona Lisa isn’t who she is, the painting’s symmetry, or lack thereof. It’s not the color composition, or the brush strokes.

The beauty of the Mona Lisa, the reason it endures, in whatever medium, is the mystery that encapsulates the smile that greets us, it beckons us to ask one fundamental question: who are you?

Tal bio Tal M. Klein · Author · added over 3 years ago
Hi there @Micah Pegman  - Yep, you were one of the raffle winners. I’ve tried contacting you a bunch of times to no avail. Just send me a DM here with your shirt size and mailing address.
2016 02 22 Micah Pegman · Reader · added over 3 years ago
Any shirts still left?  Also, how do the raffle winners get their shirts?


Hello you lovely readers!

One of the few things I enjoy about flying is the ability to write without interruption. It was on just such a very delayed flight two days ago that I was able to pull together this update to let you know what’s going on:

Inkshares and I have finally agreed on a final scene list for The Punch Escrow. I can honestly tell you that getting to this point has been incredibly challenging, but very fulfilling. I was just telling my wife yesterday that I would be frustrated with the editing process, but every single time we do an iteration the story becomes exponentially more clear and exciting. This last round of edits was all about ensuring every beat in the story pops. This picture might give you an idea of the sort of granularity I had to get into when composing this latest iteration of the narrative:

Yep. Our protagonist hears the call of nature, but can’t find a bathroom in order to heed it. Even this seemingly innocuous scene is an important beat in the narrative, otherwise it would not be there. By the time this latest rewrite is done, nearly 80% of the 2nd draft, which itself was 50% different than the 1st, will be entirely rewritten. I would expect there to be less than 10,000 words of commonality between the first draft of the manuscript and this latest one. Crazy, right?

(Yes, crazy)

Incidentally, bathrooms in the 25th are architected to be extremely efficient, absolutely no running water. Waste is dehydrated and recycled, all that remains of what can’t be reclaimed is dust. High pressure air enriched with sanitizing nanos is used to cleanse your nether-regions and hands. Totally sanitary, good for the environment, and unwasteful. We actually have much of the capacity to do this today (okay, not the sanitizing nanos), but bureaucracy inhibits progress

In other news, I have submitted to final draft of my short story Morcom is here. for the Too Many Controllers anthology, which will be coming out on the Nerdist imprint, possibly even before The Punch Escrow. It’s a 6,758 word story about a mysterious program developed by Alan Turing, designed for a computer that he knew would not exist for nearly a century after his death. Incidentally, it’s based on a true story! The narrative is told through various press clippings, blog entries, and even Slack chats. I’m very proud, and happy with it.

That’s it for now. Don’t forget to keep up with my twice monthly column on the intersection of science fiction and present reality, The Future Is Now, on Geek & Sundry.



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