Steampunk or Space Opera or…

Periodically, I get advised that I should stick to one “genre”, and that to really do well consistently and long term that that’s the way to go as an author. That can be true to some extent. I have a friend who sold incredibly well with a non-fiction memoir book, and then when he wrote some Hunter S. Thompson drug adventure story, it didn’t perform at nearly the same level. The writing didn’t get any worse, in fact, as he wrote more his craft improved at least to my eyes. But his audience from the first didn’t translate over to the second.

In an ideal world, I would have Star Realms 2 or another space opera adventure ready to go for you, my dear readers. While I have some of that written to various stages, I do have a Steampunk which is 90% through a third draft, well done, a really gripping adventure story and I think my best work to date.  It is a different genre though, or is it?

I think when you get into Space Opera, you’re already far enough away from “hard science fiction” that your audience pretty much overlaps with any form of fantasy already. So many books bend genre conventions as it is (like Brian Nemeier’s trilogy, which has a lot of horror elements and space opera in it), that they came up with another title “speculative fiction” to encompass everything that’s created in it. I feel at home and a kindred spirit with writers of Sci-Fi, Fantasy or Horror, and a lot of writers I know are active in all three.

As a consequence, For Steam And Country should translate very well for the vast majority of my readership from Star Realms: Rescue Run.

However, I did have a fun conversation with Robert Kroese, author of the hot new novel, Aye Robot, the other day about this very topic. I got to talking with him, and said, “you know, Space Opera and Steampunk aren’t all that different. Structurally, the plots go the same. A hero takes off for adventure, epic battles ensue. And if you look at things, they aren’t all that different in anything except naming conventions.”

I elaborate for you, dear readers:

Starship = Airship

Stardrive = Steam Engine

Advanced Medical Unit = aether potion

Phase Pistol = pistol

Laser Sword = Sword

Military Uniform = Military Uniform.

Ocular Implants = Goggles or Monocle

The list can go on fairly easily. But in any action/adventure story you’ll have pretty similar even if the terms change.

To which, Mr. Kroese said, “Why don’t you release the novel in 3 forms and just change the words?”

I laughed pretty hard at this, but in all honestly it’s not a bad idea. It’s pretty easy to convert something to space, or the third option he proposed, convert to fantasy. I don’t feel like doing that for my steampunk release, but “choose your own setting” could actually be pretty fun for readers. Not that all of my details are completely interchangeable. There are some items that would be pretty hard to shift in this particular book, but the basic conventions above aren’t all that different. You wouldn’t see a lot of my Steampunk universe that could compare to Star Realms for example, but at that point you’re getting into deeper setting and things that matter much more than the surface coat of “what sub-genre is this?”

Though now that I think about it, maybe if White Wizard Games gets enough interest, they might put out a Steam Realms… hmm…

To my friend above, I think the transition between non-fiction and fiction by be a bit larger of a gap to cross. It’s quite different than exploring different facets of speculative fiction, however. The moral of the story is, whether space or fantasy, airships or sailing ships, if your characters are good, and your storytelling quality is there, there’s no reason to be afraid of trying different things.

 

 

How To Spot FAKE NEWS

First of all, I would like to congratulate Castalia House for trolling so hard, so funnily, that Amazon itself seems to be thrown into turmoil as separate employees keep putting their most recent book up and bringing it back down, as if no one can decide whether they should “punish” the publisher. They’re also due a congratulations for being so effective, that they’re making the typical shill news:

https://io9.gizmodo.com/amazon-pulls-castalia-house-book-for-ripping-off-john-s-1793533638

“Amazon Pulls Castalia House Book For Ripping Off John Scalzi.”

Well, that’s one way to put it. The reality is, when you’ve followed this situation since day one, that Castalia House put up a parody, mocking Scalzi’s late book to Tor, with a similar concept below the surface, which they, as an indie publisher were able to produce faster, better and get it released actually prior to Scalzi’s book. Tor threw a fit because their top author was getting made fun of, and pressured Amazon into taking it down.

Then they got it back up, because they were ready for that.

Then Amazon took it back down again.

Over a joke. Only an idiot would have mistaken Johan Kalzi and the “More Asimov than Asimov” labeled as “An Interstellar Science Fiction Epic In Space” as the actual work. That’s the point. Of course, Tor and Amazon want to presume their clients, their readers are all actually idiots. This is a hallmark of typical condescension from the establishment bloated companies that try to take down nimble, independent, competent members of the new media.

Old and busted. New hotness. In a nutshell.

And all they can do is run to their friends in the media to complain about it, as their sales decrease because people are sick of their blackballing and shunning their values, and second their shameful tactics of taking to the media like this and lying outright.

This is the same problem we see across the spectrum. It’s an example, a parable, a metaphor for every other piece of FAKE NEWS you see. It takes time to learn to spot this kind of thing, but once you do, you can see it everywhere. And it is everywhere. You saw this happen to me exactly just a couple days ago when I, your humble nimble and competent independent writer, blew the whistle on GIANT MEGACORPORATE DISNEY SUPERHERO DIVISION, and how their media friends responded.

I promised to teach you how to spot it.

If it’s about Donald Trump or Vox Day or Me, and it isn’t linked or sanctioned by us or one of our friends, it’s FAKE NEWS. They are lying about what we said for some agenda. They may even use actual words out of context to do so, but there is a context to it, and you shouldn’t believe it.

How Fake News Operates

Got a nice message this morning to find out I was on Bleeding Cool news, a comic book news website for those who don’t follow such things. Last week, I forwarded them my 2nd blog on the troubles that Marvel is having, after my research going into every single one of their writers’ twitters and finding that they all hail from one side of the political spectrum, to an extreme bent, and how it looks like Editor in Chief Axel Alonso has a litmus test or a soft blackball of anyone who disagrees with that position from being on the staff.

My point was copied and pasted to the site, but with a headline and a takeaway that didn’t follow my whole point: that this blackballing is occurring in the entertainment industry across different media, which has now even been confirmed by Hollywood Reporter, no right wing blog there! That was the point, that was the message, anyone who could read my blog could see that… but instead, Rich of Bleeding Cool decided to focus on my little humor element at the end that called for Marvel Comics to hire me to fix their problems, in which I posted my pretty hefty resume of awesomeness.

Of course, the problem is, my blog wasn’t about that, and that was a joke.

The whole point is that Marvel DOESN’T hire anyone who disagrees with the lockstep groupthink, and it’s been that way for a while. Axel Alonso would never talk to me in the first place whether I wrote that blog or not. It’s true in Hollywood, it’s true in big publishing houses like Tor Books, it’s true in the music industry (‘cept country).  Anyone without a horse in the race would obviously read my call to action and smirk about it. Silly, and I’m certainly laughing about it now.

This is how, as my title says, fake news operates. The media takes something that’s “technically true” about what was said, ignores the context of it, and runs a headline that will get people to click/laugh/repost and shake fists, whatever. It happens every time, and in similar fashion to the way Marvel hires their writers, with anyone who doesn’t toe the line for the left wing political perspective.  Look at pretty much any freak-out headline this morning that will be like “But Trump said…”, completely missing the point of whatever he actually communicated.

Fortunately, normal folk don’t buy into that, and the reason the media is so freaked these days, is that with the internet it’s very easy to research exactly what a person said for themselves and come to our own decision. That’s why Brexit didn’t go the way the propagandists wanted, that’s why the US Election didn’t go the way the propagandists wanted, and that’s why the Hugo Awards had to change their rules because they couldn’t even deal with how many people were agreeing what was good science fiction, that went contrary to the establishment’s attempts to virtue signal. They want to keep their small power structures alive rather than grow with the times.

Now overall, I bear Bleeding Cool and Rich Johnston no ill will (though really I should do a separate blog questioning how he came to the conclusion that I’m slighting Chuck Dixon, who is one of my favorite comic book authors and was before I even knew what his politics were. Nightwing was the best!). I get almost all of my comic book news from them, have for years. We’ve had a cordial conversation privately despite this strange article written, which he hasn’t so far denied was an intentional hit piece. Not sure what the intention was of the article if he doesn’t seem to hold that view privately, maybe he could clarify.  It’s funny that a lot of the comments do seem to agree with my real premise of the blackballing problem, and some even think it wouldn’t be a half bad idea for Marvel to actually hire me, furthering my point that most folk will decide for themselves, despite the bad attempts at narrative.

Folk from Bleeding Cool and Rich, this time I call on you just to read my work. It’s pretty highly regarded, and is fun without any sort of underlying political message. You just might like it, as it captures the feel that Marvel & Co. used to have. Excelsior!

When The Blackballing Gets So Bad Even The MSM Reports

Hollywood Reporter actually posted an article A New McCarthyism today, following the theme of a lot of what I’ve posted about over the last few months, from my own local convention shunning me over politics, to Marvel Comics’ apparent litmus test of only hiring writers of the extreme left persuasion. This isn’t in Hollywood alone, but it’s something that’s across the entertainment industry from music, to writing, to comics, to games, and then to Hollywood itself. It’s actually far worse in some of the other forms of entertainment. I’ve posted up some of the direct name calling and shunning in public that’s been done to me by people like J. Michael Straczynski, hollywood writer, and Sharon Lee from science fiction publishing. As well as the doxxing that one of my former favorite bands The Early November did after they went off on a bizarre swearing tirade about the President on their twitter. The message is clear:

If you do not follow the groupthink exactly, you are not welcome here, and we will disavow you.  Continue reading

Marketing 101: Content Creation & Knowing Your Audience

I blog post a lot, and have been active enough for long enough to note trends. I hit upon about one topic per week that my audience clicks and shares on repeat until it gets a viral amount of traffic that I wonder both where it comes from and where it goes the next day. I’m sure there’s others up there who are better about making those reader peaks stay consistent on their own sites. I might add that I did post a few ways you can support content being created, as it does take a significant amount of time to keep generating posts and thinking of topics of the day.  Continue reading

Retro Review: Three Hearts and Three Lions by Poul Anderson

Once more I delve into my own study of the works of Appendix N and the #PulpRevolution, hopefully not to be too redundant with Jeffro Johnson’s wonderful analysis of the works, as I’m more interested in exploring a literary genre to see what I can pull of value for my own storytelling and reading edification, rather than tapping into the roots of gaming and what it brings to the table in that regard. I mentioned last week that I had read Poul Anderson’s Fire Time, which I found to be an extremely compelling book, so much so that I put aside other reading for a quick romp to follow up on Mr. Anderson’s work – as this book clocked in at about 160 pages, and I happened to have a copy.

Three Hearts and Three Lions follows the trope of someone in a traumatic situation getting thrust into a medieval fantasy world. Poul Anderson is pretty self aware of what it’s doing, the main character even referencing A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur’s Court at some point. The work blends some of the later sarcastic humor of genre tropes that one would expect to see from the 1970s-1980s even though this was originally published in 1951, which I give Mr. Anderson credit for.

I’m interested to see how many times Poul Anderson uses the “story within a story” concept, as both Fire Time and this have it in common, layering something at a later time to go into the tale of how the characters arrived there. I actually enjoy seeing that in the prologues and epilogues, as it makes them feel like a different aspect of storytelling, which is what those words are supposed to do, rather than just a “before” and “after”.

Holger finds himself in a fantasy world where he goes from one town/quest to another. If this were written in the 80s, I would say this is someone’s loose D&D one off compaigns strung together into a single book, and as I said, a lot of these stories hit on tropes that you’d expect to find in such books. It reminds me of when Robert Jordan meanders into Rand doing X or Y in some village and completely putting his main story on hold to explore their problems in the Wheel Of Time, or rather I should say that annoying bit of epic fantasy there is an extrapolation of this.

The character of Holger is worth reading, however. I like how he holds to some morality, gives into base sins at times which would be hard to avoid (I mean… let’s be honest, anyone would give into the hot faerie chicks from time to time), and I also appreciates how he holds the real woman he cares about to a higher standard to where he won’t simply frolic with her, even though she’s more than willing – the sign of a true relationship and partnership. Very real characterization from a 1951 book at that.

You’ll find pretty standard things in the book: dragons, werewolves, obscene magics, trolls, and the like. That it’s a quick read makes a lot of those readable and redeemable. If this book were double the length I don’t know that I would have enjoyed it, and though I’m talking it down somewhat, I did enjoy it. Out of 10 (as Amazon’s five star ranking really leaves little room for differentiation) I’d still call this a 7.5 overall.

Jeffro pointed out that this book probably gave the inspiration for alignments, as there is a greater battle between Law and Chaos going on in the book, with people choosing sides. He also mentioned that the troll as a monster and the way it’s handled in the D&D game likely stems from here as well. And that historical context makes it pretty neat.

It’s worth a read if you need to kill some time in between books, but I gather there is better Appendix N work and Poul Anderson work worth exploring first.

Why A Revolution In Sci-Fi Is Necessary

This morning I had a conversation with what you would call an average reader. It’s not a rabid convention goer, not an author who’s got his favorite reads and plugging his friends, but a person who periodically reads books for fun and relaxation and happens to like to explore strange, new worlds. The kind of person that our creative industry needs to get out of our little bubbles and talk to more often.

What he told me is disconcerting for the state of the industry. As we’ve seen time and time again, it necessitates science fiction and fantasy going in a different direction to bring back the sense of wonder that most of us used to have when reading. In a lot of ways, it’s what the #PulpRevolution is all about, and while there’s a small group of us working on the independent level to fix the problem of the fact that big publishing is NOT keeping their readership in mind, it’s another warning to the Big Entertainment gatekeepers that something needs to be done on their end, lest they risk losing everything.

So, dear gatekeepers, as a service to you because I love science fiction and don’t want to see my small corner of the galaxy shrink, I’m going to give you a brief account of a normal reader’s conversation with me, and hopefully it will give a sense for how the market is not serving its customers.

The conversation started like I’ve heard dozens of times. He listed off authors that he used to read, talked about how he was a voracious reader before. He loved Asimov’s Foundation, Arthur C. Clarke, Niven’s Ringworld, Piers Anthony’s early work, Zelazny’s Amber series… I hear these names and these worlds over and over on repeat in almost every conversation I have with readers.

But then, something changed in science fiction. He didn’t feel like any of that fun was there anymore. The optimism of exploration really isn’t around.

“I know how you feel,” I said. “Everything past the 80s just feels so—“

“Dark,” he finished my sentence for me.

It hit the nail right on the head. I didn’t have to prompt.  I didn’t have to give him a lecture on Sad Puppies or Appendix N. He knew intuitively where sci-fi had gone wrong and what he desired as a reader. What is missing from today’s “literary” climate.

It shows in television as much as anything. The examples of sci-fi and fantasy that you’ll get on TV. Dark Matter, The Expanse, Killjoys, Game of Thrones, while all have excellent production we only could have dreamed of shows having in the 90s, they all have extremely dark themes, anti-heroes or outright villains as main characters, no one to root for, no real hope for their respective worlds. They’re filled with uncomfortable debauchery and graphic sex before every commercial break, and yes, this reader did mention that the over-sexualization is disturbing to him, as it is to most people. Even though some of these have decent elements that make them worthy to watch once, they aren’t the kind of thing you will share with your co-workers or especially your children. They aren’t the kind of thing where you will study, watch multiple times, relate to the characters for the rest of your life.

Gone are the Captain Kirks, the Spocks, the Picards.

Gone are the Luke Skywalkers, the Princess Leias.

Gone are the John Crichtons (Farscape, which I consider the last truly great science fiction tv show)

We don’t have lovable heroes we can root for anymore. We don’t have protagonists with real morals or real honor. It’s been a concerted effort by Hollywood to bring down our culture into its level of hedonism over decades, and it’s gone so far full tilt a normal person can’t relate at all anymore. But Hollywood is just a reflection of the literary world, as they steal their concepts, buy the rights to what they like, in order to make blueprints for their shows and movies.

It’s no wonder the only films that go anywhere are caricatures of the old Stan Lee stuff from the 60s, where it was heroes who start as ordinary, become extraordinary through their powers, and through their own exploration of self and sense of wonder, save the world time and time again. Those characters preach responsibility and loyalty, words that rarely are used anymore. That resonates with our basic human nature and desire to be better. That resonates with fun.

The sad part is that these readers and viewers are still out there, but they aren’t even looking for content anymore because they’ve been let down time and time again. They’ve been told, through the stories that are produced, that they’re basically not wanted and should buzz off. It’s been a systematic destruction of a customer base by big publishing, the comic book industry and Hollywood. Since the 90s, those groups have lived off of trying to create a shock value that is more horrific, more morally degrading and with bigger explosions than the last one in order to compensate for this.People do turn their head to watch a train wreck every time, we know that much to be true. The problem is, they won’t come back and watch that train wreck over and over because they feel disgusting if they do, and rightfully so. It’s short-sighted and lazy, and that’s what’s caused this downward spiral.

This is why we need adventure fiction that’s fun. These readers are out there and will come back if there’s something produced for them. It’s going to take time, and it’s going to take reshaping the image of the entire industry, but as Daddy Warpig has mentioned via his blog on multiple occasions, science fiction magazines, comic books, serial films and the like used to get millions of readers and viewers. Now they’re lucky if they can get thousands. There’s a reason for that, and it’s not the invention of the iphone that’s the problem. It’s the content that the industry produces.

Yet another warning delivered from a former avid reader. Do with it what you will.

More From The Anti-Christian/Conservative Bigots In SF/F

I hate having to post about this sort of thing so often, as I would like to have fun and enjoy astounding strange new worlds with thrills, action, adventure and romance… but unfortunately a group has been so brainwashed by a small but vocal group of haters that they will shout down anything, even a private club’s list of books they enjoy:

Superversive SF has released their "Best of 2016 list" from books

From Reddit.

This is a shame. If only conventions like Baycon didn’t promote this kind of hatred and vitriol, perhaps we could live in a world where people can enjoy art, books and culture without getting bashed.

I’ve had my share of this myself just from the author community. As I’ve linked in my testimonials page, several big name authors have, in their bigotry and hatred against me, called me all sorts of names and decided they can’t be associated with thoooooose types. It’s really sad that politics dictates everything in their existence.

I will call out the authors who were awful to me over these matters:

J. Michael Straczynski

Sharon Lee

Katherine Locke

M. Todd Gallowglass

End your bigotry now. Stop posting fake news shrieking about fake racist nazis ad nauseam. Act like human beings again and make Science Fiction fun again.  Even if you hate me personally because you literally can’t even, think of what you are influencing your fans to do to these other authors. Think about how hard you work to build an audience and how hard it is starting out. Reason and stop shilling overreactions and emotional hatred against your fellow artists.

 

It’s #WorldBooksDay!

I found out because of the hashtag on twitter. This is a wonderful thing!

If you’d like to help out your friendly neighborhood author me, I would be much appreciative if you, my trusty reader friends, would share up Star Realms: Rescue Run with the hashtag #WorldBooksDay in order to help further get the word out about this super fun space adventure set in the world of the hit deckbuilding game.

http://bit.ly/starrealmsnovel  is the link. Go forth on social media and share!

If you’ve already got the book or done that, I can always use more reviews on the amazon link above. We are at 42 and I’d love to get to 50. Even if you’ve only read a chapter, go ahead and tell the world what you thought of it.

If you’ve already done that then goodreads is a great spot where you can easily just click to give it a rating, or paste in a full review if you feel inclined: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/32980868-star-realms?from_search=true 

And if you’ve already done that, there’s the Dragon Awards 2017 nominations which are open for business. Put in Star Realms: Rescue Run by Jon Del Arroz in the Best Military Science Fiction or Fantasy category please!   http://application.dragoncon.org/dc_fan_awards_nominations.php

Whew! And if you already have done even that, you are truly my best friend in the whole world. I love you more than you know. There’s still one more thing you can do which would be to register for my mailing list. I only use it for giveaways and to announce new books. It’s the best and easiest way to keep up with those so they’re right at your fingertips: https://delarroz.us15.list-manage.com/subscribe?u=3c0d4761bf596db6605e25975&id=e7c61287b0 

Thank you friends and enjoy your #WorldBooksDay

Getting Faded

What? At 7 o’clock in the morning on Ash Wednesday nonethethless? Weren’t you just posting about lent?

Yes! But I mean something completely different. I’m talking about the new book Fade by my good friend Daniel Humphreys. I had the privilege to be able to read an advanced review copy of this book and had a lot of fun with it. It reminds me a lot of Dan Wells’s I Am Not A Serial Killer. Protagonist is not the same by any means, but there is some monster… or rather witch hunting going on, creepiness at every turn and a compelling action plot that drags you along and makes it really hard to put down.