For Steam And Country – Now on Kindle Unlimited

I had a great conversation with my publisher today and with the exciting news about the Dragon Award nomination for Star Realms: Rescue Run, we agreed it’d be a great thing to run a promotion for my other novel, For Steam And Country. If you haven’t checked it out, go do so! It’s extremely well reviewed and free!
https://www.amazon.com/Steam-Country-Adventures-Baron-Monocle-ebook/dp/B071JNR9HB

Star Realms: Rescue Run Nominated For Dragon Award!

Last night I found out that my debut novel, Star Realms: Rescue Run was nominated for the most prestigious award in Science Fiction and Fantasy. Not only that, but every novel on my slate of recommendations got nominations as well. I’m super floored by all the support that you, my readers, have given me since the book came out and how that continues to grow to this day. With voting, this is 100% due to you. You’re the ones who accomplished this and so thank you!

There were some great folk who worked on this book as well: Darwin Kastle, who created Star Realms, was a tremendous help toward getting this project going of course. Antonis Papantonio, who made the beautiful cover art — no one would click on this book without him! Katie Cord from Evil Girlfriend Media believed in the book from the get go. Hugo and now Dragon Award nominated editor Jennifer Brozek who helped me hone and fix crucial areas to the book that made it into the fine piece of fiction it is.  Sarah Craft for her copyedit work and publicity — she got the initial ball rolling here.

Fan groups: Star Realms Fan Created Community is huge. The CLFA of course because I probably would sell 0 books without you awesome people. The #PulpRev for support and blowing my mind about what fiction could and should be. AltFurry cuz you guys have stood by me and very much didn’t have to! My GabFam — also owe my sales and votes to you, you’re the best! Superversive SF for continuing my career and driving votes and my new Realm Makers fam as so many of you have checked it out recently, which is appreciated. If I missed anyone, sorry! I love you too!

This is just the nomination. I’m in a very impacted category of awesome fiction by some great people. I have and have read many of the books in the category and they’re all phenomenal. But please remember to go check your email if you nominated, and vote for Star Realms: Rescue Run for the final vote!

If you haven’t registered, you still can. Enter here: http://application.dragoncon.org/dc_fan_awards_signup.php  and they’ll send you an email ballot.

X-O Manowar 2012 Run (Vol 1-13) Reflections

Mild spoilers for anyone who’s reading through this. Nothing big though.

I caught up on X-O Manowar, which was just relaunched a few months ago, written by Matt Kindt. The current iteration I found so beautiful that I wanted to go back and see the history of the character, which was rebooted with the rest of Valiant in 2012. The series had 50 issues plus several one shot side stories, and overall, was very intriguing.

It started with a character who’s pulled from Roman times, as an alien race called The Vine is seeding and harvesting worlds for slaves, of which Aric is brought to the vine world. Our hero starts a rebellion and discovers the Manowar armor, which is a holy relic of the vine. He fights his way out, and some of the vine start to hail him religiously as a chosen one, others see him as blasphemy. Epic battles ensue, and he comes back to Earth only to find that he’s now in modern times with his armor, that his people have no home.

After a lot that I’ll gloss over, Aric and his Visigoth people sset up shop in Nebraska and some good superhero/sci-fi tales get told from there. I enjoyed probably 2/3 of the series (which is pretty good for 50 issues).

Toward the end of the run, the last 25% of the books or so, the quality went back and forth. The art maintained its standards, which is nice, but the writing suffered from a couple of problems:

  1. “Save the world” syndrome – where each arc progressively saves the world from a more dangerous threat. This happens a lot in comic runs, and it takes a lot of the suspense out of later battles because he’s already fought the epic destruction machine that devours worlds, so seeing one again doesn’t ring in the same way on the second or third times. Maintaining discipline of not going to these kind of arcs is really hard, though it can be done, or having more personal developments in between help as well. Granted we did get a little of that with the wedding, but after that it went back to full tilt.
  2. Reliance on comic tropes. At points, X-O became Green Lantern. They even put in an XO corps kind of deal in a couple of different ways. There was a galactus villain. Once back on earth, it became Agents of SHIELD only not. What had a lot of unique premises got brought into the Marvel/DC way of doing things, which made the book lose a lot of its charm in the closing chapters.

Even with those, as I said, most of the arcs were completely satisfying. Vendetti did a great job with it, so much so that I checked out his Green Lantern run (which writing both might be why this storyline kinda blended at points).

The big thing that disappointed me, however, was that it didn’t answer any of my questions from the new run. The armor in the new run sorta has a way of speaking/calling to Aric, which the powers of it in this universe are pretty undeveloped. We see the whole paff thing when he fires his little bolts, an occasional laser sword which isn’t explained how he figured out how to do that, flying, some invulnerability, but because of the lack of definition and limits, it hurts some suspension as well in stories, but I’m still more concerned about how it really didn’t lead up to the relaunch.

That goes from the character standpoint too. We see a tired warrior in the new X-O. Aric is depressed, wants nothing to do with anything, but slaughters mercilessly. This wasn’t where he was left off at all in the prior run. The prior run didn’t prepare for that in the least. What happened to his wife, his people that caused this? I was hoping to get a few of those answers, and was braced for some really emotional moments at the end of this run that never came to fruition. The last 8 issues or so just were battle to battle to battle that didn’t have much in the way of emotional impact, some of the weakest in the series even though it resolved a lot of the vine conflict.

I’m complaining a lot, as comic book readers tend to do, but I have to iterate that this is one of the best superhero stories I’ve read in a long time by leaps and bounds, with the new issues even surpassing that so far. I hope we can see a little bit more character development as the new books have gone a bit fast, and there’s a lot of explaining to do which hasn’t been done yet in terms of what happened here.

We’ll have to see how it goes. Even though it was darn good, I was hoping for that little bit more that would have pushed this run to greatness.

8/10

You Judge Books By Their Covers– And So Does Everyone Else!

I’ve noticed a trend at conventions just based on how people pick up or don’t pick up my books when they walk by: For Steam And Country requires double the amount of books as Star Realms: Rescue Run. Now both of these covers are absolutely beautiful, not complaining about the Star Realms cover in the least, but the cover differential is 100% the reason for it, so it’s worth analyzing.

It started getting me thinking about covers and how important they are to your selling. A lot of indie authors don’t want to spend much money on covers, or simply can’t, and that comes across in the product. A good, professional looking cover on an indie level is going to cost $500-1500, there’s no way around it. And while doing a lot yourself is a good cost cutting measure, this marketing piece which is the big first impression that everyone sees on your book for eternity is not a spot you can skimp.

I’ve seen so many indie books that even if they look clean on the cover (most don’t), they don’t have any sort of grabbing wow factor that makes people stop. This is a problem for your bookselling. There is no better way to convince someone who hasn’t heard of you that your product is pro and worthy of their time than having it look pro and worthy of their time.

Looking at Star Realms, there’s a reason why it doesn’t do quite as good as For Steam And Country in the walking-by-cover department. I’ll put the covers up for you here:

There’s very similar elements to both covers. Both are very thematic so a reader is advertised exactly what they can expect from the books (super important!). Both have a beautiful woman on the cover, both have really good artists who rendered them, some of the best in the business actually, but your eye is naturally drawn to For Steam And Country immediately.  I believe there’s a few reasons why and this can help you think for your cover design in principle:

  1. Colors. This is probably the most important point, believe it or not. For Steam And Country has a bright yellow background. That draws the eye, it’s that simple. The dark grays of Star Realms are out of focus on first glance — there is a the logo’s red which helps as a focal point, but not much else.
  2. The logo looks more fun. While they’re both very thematic, which is good because you want to signal to your readers what they’re reading, Rescue Run looks cold, metallic, almost sterile. For Steam And Country has frills and flows with excitement.
  3. Busy vs. space. For Steam has a lot of space, and that actually bothered me when I was analyzing it. I thought that it would be a bit much, but the space for the character to breathe on the cover draws you to look at her more because it leaves more to focus on. Star Realms has a lot going on. It’s again, beautiful art, and the playing-card version of it looks even cooler and evokes such a story, but the background figures, the busy ceiling, the different logos everywhere, it makes it hard to really focus on the picture and the beauty of the art.
  4. Joan is depicted as a hard, strong woman. Zaira is depicted as feminine, a lot less jaded and more inviting. I can see a certain group of people’s heads exploding at this because they’ll get very angry, but it’s true. From the female perspective, most will identify better with the latter. From the male perspective, their hearts will throb more often for the latter. It’s how it is. Think about how the look of your character (or space ship) will impact your readers on a basic, emotional level, because that’s all covers provide for you.

Thinking of covers that evoke that very same “I MUST BUY THIS NOW” emotion in me for similar reasons, you can go over the points above and see how they tie in. Here’s some examples of covers that gripped me:

 

They all kind of have similar elements to them. A simple focal point, bright colors (even though Brings The Lightning has a faded look to it, it’s pretty bright and thematic), characters that seem to fit interesting ideals, and evocative logos.

Now when I was in the store the other day, I saw a very well-known professional magazine that I thought… well this doesn’t communicate its title, its theme, its feel, or anything else to it. I thought it was a bizarre choice, and it goes to show you that professionals can make big mistakes too:

Yikes. There’s nothing Fantasy or Science Fiction about that. It’s extremely busy. While it does have a bright cover, it looks like something you’d see in a schoolbook or like a pamphlet a teacher would hand out for an SAT question. No fun factor at all to it.

Something to think about for publishers and authors alike. You want the best covers possible for your books, cuz that’s how you’ll sell!

Marvel Comics’s #GamerGate

I’ve been on the cutting edge of criticizing Marvel’s bad business practices in how they use social justice controversy to try to make short term sales, and had my words taken out of context by fake comic news Bleeding Cool before when I tried to get them to address the issue that they seemingly have practices in place where they won’t hire anyone but SJWs or diversity hires.

What happened now, is that the mainstream comic fake news media has decided to shill for Marvel Comics for political points, creating a controversy to galvanize an SJW internet mob, just like we’ve seen before with #GamerGate.

A couple of days ago several employees of Marvel posted a selfie, which was pretty innocuous by itself, a picture of all women who work for the company as per below:

The tweet received a couple of derogatory comments from accounts that literally say they’re troll accounts, followed by several different and separate comments criticizing comments about how Marvel’s hiring policies are in fact, politically driven, how they make a poor product (related to an editorial profile), and how the company signals SJW politics constantly with this being another example of such political posturing. All stuff that’s been festering for years because of Marvel’s proven bad business practices. Other than the first couple comments I mentioned, which from my research were one-off remarks (I certainly don’t condone such remarks, but I’ve personally been target of a lot worse), it appears to be about what one would expect negativity wise from a high profile geek culture gatekeeper’s profile

What a difference having the mainstream media behind you rather than opposed to you. Where, when I pointed out Marvel’s problems, I had Bleeding Cool point its readers to harass me (which you can go back through some of my blog comments and find people who came from there calling me names, swearing at me, threatening me, lying about me over and over if you want to see it, and those are just the ones I didn’t delete) over criticizing Marvel. They were directly responsible for making that happen, and did so intentionally from what I saw. They did not come and apologize to me, an individual independent writer, for the way they framed the mocking post that defended the mega-corporate Disney subsidiary.

On the flip side, with Heather Antos being a Marvel employee, just based on a couple of tweets, Bleeding Cool wrote an article about how horrible it was, and helped, along with other media outlets, to galvanize a lot of people to support her, and create some movement around the #MakeMineMilkshake. The similarities to the fake narrative of #GamerGate are almost so parallel, it’s amazing that it’s happening again (watch when this gets circulated the comments that roll in in hate of me to see the double standard). Even though she’d only received a few mean comments. There was nothing there that was anywhere near the way the media painted it, and yet the narrative drove the story to epic proportions to a point where even DC Comics main account posted a picture of “solidarity”, really for PC political purposes and nothing else. These companies can’t help but virtue signal, which goes back to why they keep losing their audience.

I’m no stranger to being harassed. I know what it’s like. I’ve had actual death threats based on my perceived political stances, I’ve been removed from speaking positions because of it as we all know. It sucks, but I manage to do my thing anyway, and certainly no one made a hashtag movement to defend me from it (I’m still waiting for that! I’m a minority author, media, come on!) I’ve moved on from it, understanding that’s what happens sometimes when you post things people don’t agree with, and that in ways, I’m a a public persona. I’ve definitely found it odd that as an independent author with my very small size of a following that the media would want to create harassment in an attempt to silence my voice. For an editor of Marvel, you’d expect that there’d be some level of public criticism, especially when the company’s been on a downward spiral for a long time — because of the political garbage that Marvel’s put out.

The original photo was pretty innocuous, but it appears through this corporate media effort that despite the “return to the classic” that they’ve been attempting to market to readers, the culture of Marvel is perhaps even more deeply steeped in SJW politics than before, and they’re bringing DC along with it.

Retro Review: The High Crusade by Poul Anderson

The High Crusade is the fast paced adventure story that melds both high fantasy and science fiction into an incredible epic adventure. The concept is an alien ship lands on Earth, an advance scout for an invasion force that preys upon undeveloped worlds, subjugating and taking their resources as a galactic empire expands. They land in the middle of the crusades, coming up against English knights ready to go fight in the holy land. Unfortunately for the aliens, the knights slaughter the advance party and steal their ship. From there, Sir Roger and his band of men find that the aliens can’t deal with direct physical confrontation from an energetic force, and set about conquering the alien empire on behalf of England and Christendom.

It sounds like a bit of a trite tale, and the voice that Anderson uses in this story definitely comes across as light-hearted, sometimes bordering on the absurd. But there is enough seriousness there that it keeps the story moving along and interesting. Like many of Anderson’s books, it’s told from a “story within a story” type of set up, where they’re tapping into a historical account of what happened from a futurisitic perspective, when it then delves into our main character’s thoughts on what happened with this group, the perspective of a direct observer.

The characterization is really nice, and the story really does come across like it’s being told by someone who was there, talking to us the reader directly. He intentionally mentions that he leaves out portions that would besmirch the Lady Catherine’s good name, and that brings a sense of charm and authenticity to the storytelling that we often don’t get from modern, more cinematic tellings of events.

The battles progress quickly, and some are glossed over as the crusaders take over different elements of the world. What I really enjoy the most is the budding jealousy between Sir Roger and Sir Owain, and how it isn’t just some background event, but how it consumes the plot toward the end. That personal touch in an impersonal adventure makes the story something that’s better to connect to, and really hammers a sense of character that’s missing from a lot of the older-style high fantasy adventures.

It’s almost odd reading a book with English men being heroes who conquer everything and make things better, and it’s nice not having a modernist spin on Christians/medieval people being “backwards” or somehow dumber than modern/future people. Historically, that was not the case, and that’s refreshing to read. The injustice gamer talks about it a bit in his review. I think he glosses over an aspect in a lot of ways – this has an anti-Colonialism bent to it that doesn’t seem to ring for now, but in the late-50s and early-60s with how Vietnam was developing, probably had a bit more of a different message than we’re reading it from in a historical perspective. Which is okay, as if a message is there, I think it’s buried well enough that you can have a fun adventure story without reading too much into it, unlike a lot of modern fiction.

It’s a really fast read, partially due to the pacing, but also because the book is very short, which ends up about the right length for the story as I came away fully satisfied with how it went, and not really needing more.  I don’t have any complaints, and though I think that Fire Time had better characters to attach to if going into Anderson’s work for the first time, this is right up there in terms of something I’d consider great fiction.

10/10

The Last Crusade: Who Is Your Father?

There’s so much to share about the weekend at the Realm Makers writer’s conference, but the most important, brothers and sisters, may be a moment of clarity and revelation that was given early on in the conference to me, and one that the Lord compels me to pass along to you this morning.

A lot of what I’ve discovered this last year or so that pushed me along in my journey of seeking Christ, whether I wanted to or not, was tied into a sermon I listened to. Two things have gone on the last hundred years or so in the church that hasn’t happened before in history: 1. The church went out into the world and 2. The world came into the church.

The first started, as most things do, with good intentions. The church didn’t just keep to its elements along Mediterranean Europe, which most of Christendom has taken place through its history. With the expansion into the Americas, and then to Africa and Asia, the church pushed an outward focus. Which is a good thing, as the message has always been to go out and make disciples of all nations. The struggles came when there was a church established in nearly every nation on Earth, that we were spread to the corners of the globe. What happened was we wanted to reach outward still, and so we reached for the world in a different way – in that we changed ourselves to be like them, in order to fit in with the world.  We lost our confidence because we were so used to growth, that the only way to maintain that growth seemed to be to “update” Christianity, to make it palatable, so that we wouldn’t be criticized by academics or entertainers as being too strange.

This resulted in part two. The world flooded into the church. What we saw as a result is more and more of a talk about the church – less and less of a talk about Christ. We became hyper focused on “how do we look cool to bring more in”, which is not biblical in the least. Christ said it in John 15: 18 – “if the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.” I warn Christians all the time that if the world applauds what you’re doing, be very careful and reflect on that, what you’re doing is probably is wrong.

But why did we lose this confidence? What changed in our hearts that made us want to conform rather than want to be a separate beacon of light that shines as brightly as possible? That beacon that brought civilization to this Earth like had never been seen before, that made kings bow before the Lord?

We’ve been duped in a way, in our conforming to the world, that we’re not supposed to seek or see the supernatural influences of our world. We’ve been taught by the secular institutions that science, what we can observe and catalog, is the only truth. That there’s nothing else out there. So while we held onto the most basic messages of “love your neighbor as yourself” nodding to each other saying “that sounds sensible, no one can disagree with that,” we turned our backs on the Spirit.

There was a parable taught to me and others on Thursday, one which I’ll do my best to relay to you now. There’s no reason to lose that confidence. We shouldn’t fear. There is no fear in love, there is no fear in the Word. There is no fear in God. We can be bold, we can proclaim the Spirit, and God will do the rest.

I’m not sure if I’m supposed to attribute it, so I won’t, and this isn’t verbatim, but my four-day-later-recollection, so I’ve had to make my own changes to the story, but the message rings true:

The story goes about a boy in the jungle who’s following one of his village leaders.  They go out into the jungle and come across a hyena, and the boy panics. The older, wiser man stills him, and they walk along carefully until they pass the beast.  

The boy asks, “were you not afraid?”

The man said, “no, I know who my Father is.”

The boy, confused, asks again, “but what if the hyena hurts you?’

The man stops, reflects on the situation, and turns the the boy. “Suppose there’s a lion sleeping in the forest, do you think the hyena can prey upon such a great beast and hurt it?”

The boy says “yes, the hyena has a ferocious bite.”

The man frowns. He didn’t get the message across, but his Father is the Father of creation. He could do anything, and he needed a way to bring that point to the boy.  “Think of this, what if the Lion were grown to be twice as large?”

The boy shrugged. “It can still hurt the lion. If it came upon it when it wasn’t paying attention, it can still rip into its hide and bring it down.”

The man motioned to the forest. “What if the Lion grew to be as big as this tree, as this forest?” 

The boy thought about it a moment. “The Hyena can still nip at its Achilles heel and if it struck the right place, it could bring the lion down.”

Undeterred, the man made a great sweeping motion to the sky. “So what if the Lion grew so large as to be the size of this world? The size of the galaxy and the stars above, and the hyena was but a speck so small that the Lion couldn’t even see it. Would the hyena be able to bother it then?”

The boy looked up to the cosmos, seeing the blue sky beyond. “No, I suppose not.”

“Then why would I be afraid? My Father is infinite. He is bigger than this world, bigger than the galaxy, he stretches to eternity, and he will protect me.”

It’s such a simple message. God is Infinite. God is so much bigger than anything else, beyond space and time, beyond anything we can possibly imagine. The world, evil, are such small specks to him that they can never bother Him, they can never influence Him, they can never chip away at Him. He is so vast and so great that we have nothing to worry about.

It means we can live bold as Christians. It means that we can proclaim Christ as loudly as we can, and we should. We don’t need to conform to the world in order to get fake butts in seats for pews. We have a higher purpose, and are worshipping a glory that goes so much more beyond the here and now, that it’s awe-inspiring just to think about.

When I heard this message, I felt the Spirit move. The Spirit is everywhere, of course, but in moments when we draw His attention, I’ve noticed in my life that there’s a change in the room. It’s almost like an air pressure change, but something vast, not-physical. A heavy burst, full of light and joy rushes over the room like a tidal wave. It’s hard to put into words, but I know when I feel it. I know when we’re in His presence and His focus is on us.

We need more of those moments. We need to make our entire lives their moments to be able to proclaim His kingdom. And that means we cannot live in fear of the hyena, or what someone thinks, or the insults that will get flung at us. It’s all something to laugh off, because our Father is infinite.

I hope that brings inspiration to your day like it has to mine. It is written much more succinctly:

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” Psalm 23:4

Realm Makers Conference

Meant to have a blog up for a review of Poul Anderson’s The High Crusade today, but I’m a bit busy at the Realm Makers conference in Reno, NV. It’s a conference dedicated to Christian speculative fiction writers and is really cool, worth looking at and attending in the future for writers.

Ted Dekker gave a really great and inspirational talk last night which I need to dedicate more blog space to as well. I’ll get the details of that to you when I return.

Cheers!

SJW Star Wars Authors Form Online Mob To Harass… William Shatner?

You read this right. William Shatner, in recent months, has boldly gone where almost no Hollywood actors have gone before (because if they’re not retired they’ll lose jobs and be blackballed from the industry by the fascists in control there) by speaking out against PC culture, mobs, and the drive-by hits that ruin people’s lives. He’s been very funny and light hearted about everything he’s done, of which nothing drives the SJW hate brigade crazier — as their entire goal is to make everyone as serious and miserable about everything as they are.

I did an analysis on Marvel Comics’ writers awhile back, but it looks like the vast majority of Star Wars authors under Disney’s banner are of the same ilk.  In fact, they seemed to do a coordinated assault on the seasoned actor:

And note how the last one ends it — they put out a public demand that anyone who has a different political view than them never be hired. It’s par for the course of what we’ve found in their culture of blackballing and attempting to ruin individual artists who don’t believe like them. This kind of mindset is across the gatekeepers of all forms of entertainment, and it’s extremely frightening. This is real fasicsm. Why does it all come from a company with a smiling mouse that aims at your cihldren? Makes you think.

YA vs. “Real” Sci-Fi and Fantasy: It’s about Mindset

I’ve been watching the trends in the publishing industry for the last several years, and it’s interesting to watch the way that readers and fellow authors respond to different works and the like. The divide between YA and “adult” fiction (I use the ironic quotes because YA really doesn’t mean less adult content or themes in terms of reading) actually comes down to a little bit of a mindset element like I was talking about between new indies and old guard publishing a couple weeks ago.

Now the YA community environment is heating up politically to some extent, with sensitivity readers and reviewers labeling books as problematic, which has caused quite a stir there, but for the most part, unlike adult fiction, the readership itself hasn’t been drawn into this jaded war of ideology. I don’t see regular readers shaking fists at messages, demanding more messages, or the like in YA. Some of the editors may be going off on “cultural appropriation” but I see it as the adult fiction trying to get its greedy fingers into the pie and corrupt the genre with their jadedness more than the genre itself lending itself to that. Most the YA readers I find want to sit down, have a cup of tea or a glass of wine, and read for fun. And that mindset is actually pretty refreshing.

When I released For Steam And Country, I was able to see this divide firsthand in authors/readers who checked out the book. I’ll start by saying I’m not intending on criticizing my readers or saying anyone’s wrong, but there is a mindset differential in the way that people responded based on their reading preferences. YA readers ate up the book, almost zero complaints about it, and it was incredibly well received. The more “hard” science fiction readers who came over to me from my last book for the most part enjoyed it as well, but usually there was a caveat or two with that enjoyment where I found a lot of nitpicking and criticisms of different elements of the book (sometimes people reaching totally opposite critical conclusions about the exact same things!).

A good author friend of mine, for example, said he didn’t buy into the book because the whole concept of a farmer girl going and being given command of some aerial weapon of war without any experience didn’t ring true to him.

I may have lifted that concept from somewhere. 🙂  It was an interesting complaint to receive. I don’t think he’s wrong, by the way, but the height of great fiction to me has always been ordinary people doing the extraordinary. But that level of critique when compared with something like Star Wars, again fiction meant for a YA-ish audience if we drill into it, would probably receive similar heavy criticism from a sci-fi literary audience if it were released now under a different name.

It actually is a change from the way Sci-fi used to be from prior to the 80s to now. In the old days,fun adventure, exciting characters and their circumstances used to be what was dominant in the field, and was subsequently replaced by extreme vetting of what “could really happen” that began with jaded industry insiders, and trickled into the ever diminishing SF/F reading public. This is the exact reason why science fiction has been bleeding readers for years — as most people who do want to read do so for escape, and for fun, they don’t want to be bogged down in perceived real world problems extrapolated into space and made into dark, gritty, angry messages that revolve around heavy scientific concepts that may or may not be feasible anyway.

YA allows the adventure to flow. At the start of reading Sarah Maas’s Throne of Glass, it’s easy to see that she has a few qualities: 1. She’s set up a character you get attached to 2. the pacing is near-frantic and completely unrealistic, but fun 3. it’s got compelling action both in the fighting sense and in the romance sense. It leads to something that someone wants to devour. If I scrutinized every single aspect of every element of the culture and world, I’d find something wrong that I could pick apart as “unrealistic”, but because it’s YA, we get a pass where we don’t have to do that. I’d posit that this story is as good or better than anything in the “real” SF/F field even so. And by the number of readers she has vs. the number of readers the more jaded SF people have, the public agrees.

The focus on character and driving plot is essential. YA does this with a big goal in mind: evoking an emotional response in the reader. The authors, by the way they write, appear almost care about nothing else. They’re not so wrapped up in their world building exercises that they bog a story down, they don’t focus so hard on metaphors and social engineering to try to create faux-literary nonsense which doesn’t stand the test of time anyway. They’re not caught up in the politics of the moment, but they’re out to create something enjoyable that they can relate to and so can their readers.

The mindset of these YA authors I’ve met and talked to is very similar to the #PulpRevolution crowd. They’re excited for fiction, in love with the work. They gush about other authors in the field and it’s really nice to see rather than the constant in-fighting of the science fiction community who seem to have this fear that there’s only so many slots for “real writers” and therefore tear each other down. These attitudes come across in the fiction as much as they do in the internet world.

I think that writers have a lot they can learn from YA, and should check out some of these authors for the sake of using elements to incorporate into their own fiction. It’s imperative if they want to survive in this ever competitive world, where YA fiction. because of its fun-factor. takes up an increasingly large slice of the pie. A few recommendations:

Laurie Forest – Wandfasted

Sarah J. Maas – Throne of Glass

Suzanne Collins – The Hunger Games  (the series that really got this genre going!)

Brandon Sanderson – Steelheart 

All of these books incorporate fun, have action + romance, and really make you feel for their main characters. The worlds if you break them down all the way might not be “realistic” but as a backdrop for the story, which is all worlds are meant to be, they are intriguing and help propel it along.