Should Authors Work In Multiple Genres?

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Like anything, it depends on your goals. Working as an author is a balance between art and commercial appeal, and so one has to keep both in mind while creating.

Over my one year span of releasing in the business, I’ve released works in three different subgenres of science fiction: Space Opera / Mil SF, Harder Sci-Fi, and Steampunk.  While those aren’t completely different genres like a mystery, sci-fi, and romance would be, the Amazon market is such that it splits into very specific readers. Even between the subgenres I write, readers rarely cross over.  And I see this is in my own reading habits. When coming up with awards nominations for the Dragon Awards, I find I rarely read fantasy or horror, even though those are considered by the wider audience to be within the same genre.

The Quick Answer Financially

So is it a good idea to even switch subgenres as I have? Financially, no. Amazon rewards you based on having books that look the same categorically, so they can sell it to a subset of customers. If you hop around, you’re both starting from scratch and Amazon isn’t helping cross promote your own books. It’s really best to just work within one series, keep them coming out, and having people keep finding those. It’s a simple, but very disciplined path, also one hard for an artist.

Amazon readers like to binge read, just like most people want to binge watch, binge drink, or binge whatever else they do. The truth is, staying in the same subgenre/series is very important to cultivating readership.

But There Are Other Reasons

There are other reasons to do so, beyond just strict sales ranking comparisons, and this is what an author has to weigh when writing, especially in early stages.

1. One never knows which subgenre will get hot over the next couple years. If you’re writing a hunger games clone now, you’re probably a little late to the game. That was hot a few years ago, but isn’t so much now. Maybe you have a book you didn’t sell when you were trying to approach big publishing, but you’re looking to put it up now, and that’s fine, but you may not want to spend your time pushing a series of that. It makes sense.

2. It’s easy to stagnate as an artist. You want to keep your books fresh. I have fun writing my steampunk books, but I have a LOT of other ideas too. So I like to get those out periodically and work on those in between working on my other books. Doing so makes it easier to come back to the steampunk world and not burn out in the process. However, it is best to stay focused when doing this so you have your main project and then your others. Your financial viability can be very tricky here.

3. Sometimes an idea is just too good not to pursue. This happened to me last year when I came up with my Deus Vult in Space concept. I just had to write it, and put everything else aside for the time. Are these rewarding? Time will tell. The idea has to connect with an audience for it to be worthy.

Timing Is Everything

Amazon rewards a writer for being fast these days. Ideally, you should be coming out with at least a trilogy in the same series/subgenre so that you establish yourself before drifting off. I didn’t have that luxury with the way my career began. I was working on someone else’s property with my first Military Sci-Fi book, the Dragon Award nominated Star Realms: Rescue Run. It meant it was up to the game company as to whether that would continue with sequels or not. While it was a great experience, it hampered my brand as an author to some extent when I was forced to hop around.

I caught up to my first work in sales on my award winning For Steam And Country, but it took some time establishing myself again as a Steampunk author. In my case, I had to come out with something quick because my brand was building rather quickly, and i needed another effort out there. Since the main series people were finding me for wasn’t an option, my next best work that was ready was what was important at the time. And it worked — over time, now I’m more known for being a Steampunk author. But my next problem was I didn’t expect this to become so popular, so I was working on more Space Opera / Mil SF over the summer. And now I’m in a multi-genre position.

It’s not ideal, but I’ve seen a lot of the industry over the process and have a firm handle on how it works now. Focus on your subgenre is definitely extremely important for financial success. It won’t kill you to vary a little as I have, my readers are very loyal and wonderful. But an author needs to be very careful nonetheless. If I ran out with a historical fiction novel for my next release, I think people would start to be making fists and demands at me (I’m not doing this!). Remember when you write a new genre, you are starting from scratch except with your readers who have bought into you personally. Most people want to read in their comfort areas, and those areas are small in variance. Know that the choices you make in releases will either have carry over for most readers, or they will not. And if you’re making informed decisions based on your own goals artistically and financially, you won’t go wrong.

This summer I’ll be going hard in my Steampunk universe. I’ll be coming out with books 2 and 3 of my award winning Adventures of Baron Von Monocle series, plus a novella featuring the main male lead from the series, which all started with For Steam And Country last year. Check it out here and get ready for the airship ride of your life.

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Flash Fiction Friday – “Fired Up In The Desert”

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I don’t usually write much random fiction in the middle of projects, but this popped into my head today. It’s extremely short, but I’ve been meaning to do a little more weird west and don’t have time for much so this hopefully will quench my thirst for awhile. Free to read, fresh off the word doc:

People associate the desert with heat, but at night, it gets so cold it can chill you to your bones.  It took a strong will to be able to survive. Cameron had been prospecting in the Arizona desert for weeks, but tonight, he couldn’t stop himself from shivering.  Twigs rested in a pile—the fruits of hours of labor in trying to assemble something flammable to quell the evening chill.

Cameron grabbed two stones and struck them together. They warmed in his hands, but he couldn’t get them to spark. The third time he tried, he smashed his fingertips between the stones. “Arg!” he shouted to the heavens. The sound of his voice died in the wind. No one would hear him. His fingers throbbed, and yet he had no fire. 

Angry, Cameron threw his stone to the ground. He needed a fire, or he wouldn’t survive the night. His fingertips pulsed with heat as the pain grew. He held his hand out over his piled sticks. If only he could will fire into existence, force the heat from his throbbing fingers into the wood.

He screamed again, and the twigs burst into flames. 

 

By the way, I’ve been putting out short stories every month on my Patreon, including a novella sequel to my award winning book, For Steam And Country this month. If you like my writing, you’ll love what comes through the pipeline here. Great science fiction and fantasy you can look forward to every month. At the very least, support my work for the sake of it! You can sign up here and get short stories for as low as $3/mo, which is less expensive than most authors. 

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CLFA Book Of The Year Award – Last Day To Vote!

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First off, for the 220+ people who have voted for For Steam And Country already, thank you so much! Super humbled, and energized to work hard to get you books 2-3 out this summer, and the James Gentry novella “Knight Training” which will be available to patreon subscribers tomorrow. 

But there’s just a few hours left to vote! It’s very close. Every book on this list is frankly wonderful, and well deserving. I’ve read almost all of them personally, and the ones I Haven’t I’m intending on reading before this year is through. The authors are top notch too, so I’m extremely honored that we’ve gotten this far.

https://conservativelibertarianfictionalliance.com/2018/04/02/time-to-vote-for-clfa-book-of-the-year-2018/

Is the link, it closes tonight. This would be another huge milestone for For Steam And Country and for me as an author, and would be a great signal boost for the series as always.

And if you haven’t checked out the book yet, what are you waiting for? It’s on Amazon and even on Audible as an audiobook with a killer reading done by voice actress Katie Wright. Thanks again and we’ll check back tomorrow to see who won.

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Why Disney Can’t Make A Good Star Wars Film To Save Their Soul

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Disney just can’t do Star Wars. They don’t understand it. And there’s a big reason why—they’re a soulless monolithic corporation trying to recapture nostalgia in a property that is really about intense spirituality. You can’t create spirituality if you have none.

Star Wars really fell off my radar after The Last Jedi, which I found not only to be a bad movie, but an insult to everything that Star Wars was. On the spirituality front, the whole message was a slap in the face to the religious, the spiritual. No matter what you do, evil will rise anyway, it’s pointless. You will fail. Nothing you do matters. Nihilism.  Those were everything we got not just from the movie universe all around, but from Luke Skywalker, who as a character in prior films, was all about being wide-eyed and child-like in his thirst for enlightenment and the spiritual. It’s a big 180 to the point where it doesn’t’ make sense from a character perspective, and that’s a big reason why the film comes across as such garbage. I know they technically explain it in the interactions with Kylo Ren in the past, but it’s thin, and Luke’s not shown as being very heroic in the past example either—he pretty much lies about the encounter. It’s all very messy, and anti-spiritual.

And the problem is you have an entire Hollywood who doesn’t understand spirituality. Nor do they understand religion. They act like the imperial officers who mock Lord Vader in the first film, calling it superstition, a hokey religion, etc. Vader just responds through action. Look at the power of faith. He says by choking them with nothing other than the force.

While Disney doesn’t understand faith from a business-side, the directors and their nihilism come at it from an even worse vantage, as mentioned before. The combination is a complete train wreck when it’s dealing with mythology. The Force Awakens sucked the soul out of the series, and The Last Jedi took that soul out back and beat it in an alley and left it for dead.  It’s frankly a worse mishandling of the properties than the prequels ever were.

But that perspective doesn’t understand Star Wars at all.

What brought this to my attention was a tweet by author, Scott Lynch, who is a very solid writer, but definitely comes from the dark-fantasy nihilism perspective, one that very much isn’t Star Wars. Someone mentioned “If you strike me down, I will become more powerful than you can possibly imagine” being an iconic line, but didn’t pay off—a person who doesn’t understand spiritualism. Lynch’s analysis is this (source, twitter):

I think it did, but you have to bear with me for a moment here. When Obi-Wan says this (IMHO), he’s not talking about anything he’s going to do himself. He’s not even talking about becoming a Force ghost and an afterlife tour guide/apologist. He’s talking about Luke, and he’s maneuvering himself quite specifically so that Luke will have a clear view of everything when Obi-Wan lowers his guard, closes his eyes, and gets cut down by Vader. Note the meaningful sideways glance before he gives in.

Let’s dissect this. One, he is talking about becoming a Force ghost, though putting it in accurate humanistic terms like that is missing the point of what he’s really becoming there. He is attaining pure enlightenment, becoming one with the force, or one with God as you will.  His concerns are not about Luke beating up Vader in a human sense. Those things are below enlightenment, below anything Obi-Wan or any Jedi is trying to accomplish. It’s off the mark because it ignores spirituality and religion as important to the movie’s messaging and subtext, which is because those aspects of life are not understood by Mr. Lynch.

It’s very similar to how Rian Johnson approaches these subjects, and it misses the point so far that it creates films that just feel completely wrong in the context of the originals.  Obi-Wan is not concerned about being an afterlife tour guide/apologist, this is true. He is becoming more powerful than ever because he’s removing his temporary earthly shell. If one can’t understand that basic premise of religion, of ascending, of complete transformation and glorification, one can’t understand the soul of what makes stories like the original Star Wars so great and resonate with so many.

The Guardian put out an article today saying there’s red flags on the new Han Solo movie. I could have told you that from the minute one was announced, because though Han plays the skeptic in the film, he deep down understands truth and righteousness, and comes to admit that to himself over the course of the trilogy – through the help of Luke and Leia guiding him and forcing him to reconcile that with himself. It’s a beautiful arc, but a new movie making him devoid of that spirituality is going to only end in disappointment, unless the people producing the film have a very real come to Jesus moment themselves.

If you like my perspective on character and story, you’ll probably like my books. Check out The Stars Entwined, a space opera that has characters who will grip you throughout the story.

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Space Opera Talk With David V. Stewart

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I went on author David V. Stewart’s youtube this weekend which did really great, over 1000 views.  We delved deep into writing and genre, and I think it was one of the more interesting streams I’ve recorded.

Now we’re about one week into The Stars Entwined‘s launch, which has gone really fantastic. Though I didn’t have as many guest blogs and the like as I did with For Steam And Country, the release was on par with it — and for Steam itself went crazy over the weekend, up to #2 in Steampunk, which is the highest it ever has been. So thank you everyone for checking out my books. Reviews have been stellar (pun intended) on The Stars Entwined also, which is really exciting. This universe really is my baby.

A lot more work ahead both with marketing and books, but the SF Elites out there are fast finding they can’t stop the signal because I produce too good of work for them to shut it down. And my readers are the best!

Here’s our chat if you missed it:

 

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For Steam And Country Is Award Nominated!

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Just a few days before the release of my next book, The Stars Entwined, I’m very honored to receive my first award nomination for For Steam And Country yesterday for the CLFA Book Of The Year Award. This Award is among 1700+ members and there was fierce competition as there were so many good books that came out in 2017.  This award really means a lot.

The audiobook just came out a couple weeks ago, and this book has just steadily sold well since last June to stellar reader reviews (almost to 100!). I think it’s a testament to the writing that there’s not one one or two star review — even with the amount of angry haters who harass me on a daily basis. It’s all been positive.

Book Two is being edited, and I think blows book 1 away. The couple of folk who have read it for feedback have told me you’ll be extremely satisfied with this outing. I’ve finished a side novella featuring James Gentry through first draft (Which will probably appear on patreon soon/first) and as you see on the side bar here, book 3 is about 25% written, so this will have a nice series to it by the middle of the year. Very much worth checking out now if you haven’t already.

It’s gonna be a great year, and we’re just getting started!

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Writing To Your Audience

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DC posted a strange tweet today regarding one of their comics, seeming to double down on the “we’re going to make comics without action that is just signaling identity politics” that’s spreading through the comic industry like cancer.  It made me think about writing to your audience, and the trouble the comic industry is having with doing just that, which is causing a good portion of their sales woes. As a lot of people here are interested in writing, I figured it’d be best to break down where your duty to your audience begins if you want to maintain/grow them, rather than turn them away.

For years, it was browbeat into me “strong female lead strong female lead strong female lead” to get published. This is true. If you want a contract with the dwindling number of New York publishers over the last 20 years, you have to do that — but as a male writer, it would be an uphill battle because they also then demand more “authentic” voices as if men can’t write females, even when they demand the females in their content act more like men.

As I was working to try to get published in this regard, I wrote my first three novels with, of course, strong female leads. You probably read them in Star Realms: Rescue Run and For Steam And Country. And you’ll see another in The Stars Entwined. Though, since my first books came out, I gained a substantive audience in the thousands, a large amount of my readers have seen how books in the last 20 years told them, as men, that they are overrepresented and they must read strong female leads! Every book has subsequently become such, saturating the market, and becoming stale to people who read science fiction.

While most of my readers (including my female readers) told me I write strong female leads very well, they let me know that they didn’t feel catered to in the content, and I took that in mind. The extremist identity politics folk love to use the phrase “not all stories have to be for YOU”, in an attempt to browbeat readers into reading something they don’t like or find fun, but I find this phrase is useful in another context, for authors.

I love kick ass chicks. It wasn’t hard for me to write them because that’s always what I wanted to visualize. My favorite DC character is Stephanie Brown — Spoiler, my favorite Marvel was the MC2 Spider-Girl. When I played WoW, I played a blood elf female because I wanted to look at that when I was spending hours a day — and not the backside of some dude.  So I was naturally predisposed in my imagination to do similar to my favorites. But my audience demands something different.

In The Stars Entwined I adjusted my original book in edits to boost the resourcefulness of the male lead (there’s 2 leads that co-star) so I could give my audience more of what they wanted. Showing that kind of nod to your audience is a good thing–because it lets them know you care about them, which is the most important part of building a brand. I personally really like having a couple of perspective characters so people can identify a bit better with them for a broader market, so I maintained that in this book without sacrificing what my readers want, and will have similar in the next book I come out with. Since I wrote the next one after I found my audience and I’m aware of them, I made some adjustments to my writing. I made the dude character more of a fighter, and have him be much more predominantly a strong male lead. My audience wants that, I’ll deliver. It’s the sensible thing to do for my business.

And that’s what being a content creator is about. If you want sustained business, you keep your soul certainly, because authenticity is important as well, but push your content so that the readers get what they want. I’ve done similar on my blog — I used to do periodic posts about baseball, my audience didn’t like that, so I stopped doing it. I’m similarly moving comic reviews off this site to Bounding Into Comics because the people who come here often don’t want the comic reviews. It’s sensible business to make sure the content is directed at the people who are supporting me.  These stories don’t all have to be for ME…but they do all have to be for YOU, my reader.

What Marvel/DC and the big publishers miss, is that they don’t just have a variety of stories, they only have one story, which they push out on repeat. The same identity politics garbage where it not only isn’t what the readers want, but it actively puts a middle finger to the readers they have, and tells them they’re not wanted, we want another group to read us. And as they’re finding was they get nichier with what they publish, those readers aren’t out there and can’t sustain them. Instead of trying to refocus their content on what they want, they actually use these instances as gimmicks to try to get people talking about these books that no one would be talking about otherwise, enraging their audience to get temporary sales boosts, which hurts them over the long run.

For newer writers, this is hard. You haven’t identified your audience or your own voice. Definitely experiment from that perspective, but you’ll quickly see what people like and what people don’t as you publish and put more out there. Keep it in mind as you progress, and always be telling your audience you love them. That’s how you keep people around to build your brand and expand it.

If you like how I tailor my stories,  you’ll love The Stars Entwined. It’s got a lot of something for everyone, and it’s the story I’m most proud of having written so far. Check it out, releasing in one week on March 20th! You can pre-order here. 

 

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Someone Tried To Get Me Kicked Out Of A Sci-Fi Convention… And You’ll Never Believe What Happened Next!

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Lately I’ve been reporting on a lot of trouble in science fiction conventions. Even though the attendees, guests, and organizers often beat their chests and signal to each other constantly by shouting “diversity and inclusivity!” from the rooftops, the reality of these conventions is often anything but diverse or inclusive because of the way they actively shun any ideology or identity but a single voting block. 

My mere act of reporting on these problems since last February has caused a lot of people in power in the science fiction publishing industry to try to silence me by threats, intimidation, harassment, and blacklisting.

Nevertheless, I persisted.

The Origin Story:

I attended the San Francisco Bay Area’s Friends Of Genre (FOG) Convention this weekend, a convention I’ve been to twice before. This is a convention I’ve spent time with some minor editors in the field, and met Angry Robot Book’s Michael Underwood and shared a drink and good conversation with him. I was fairly well known even before becoming very popular with my award-nominated books and journalism for very high profile sites.

That all changed last year when hate website File 770 wrote article after article attempting to defame me, incite other authors to hate me, and encouraged the powers that be in the field to say horrible things about me. It’s been surreal, and bizarre, but it’s been innuendo, rumor, falsehoods, and it’s only escalated.

If you’re aware, it escalated so much that Worldcon — the premier conference in our field — made an unprecedented move in banning me because of their petty political squabbles. They were adamant that me as a popular writer and journalist cannot attend, holding me to standards others were not because of my political affiliation. Their calling me a “racist bully” on their website only further enflamed bigger names in the field, creating a derangement where people just went unhinged. The amount of intimidation and nasty remarks I’ve received over the last couple of months have been pure torture. And it’s not going to calm down any time soon unless Worldcon does the right thing and apologizes.

I Wanted To Attend A Sci-Fi Convention As A Sci-Fi Author

Several friends were going to FOGCon, so I decided to attend. I was cautious about it, because I was well aware there are a lot of people who despise me over my journalism and political affiliation — something well known, and so I didn’t buy a ticket to try to avoid conflict with the convention staff, but decided to go to the hotel bar at the convention. With my friends, I had a great half hour, talking books, not bothering anyone. The room, however, was giving me angry glares shooting in my direction (I saw you!). People were whispering about me. The environment was a hostile one for my mere act of being present, peacefully sharing drinks with friends. It was very bizarre and creepy. And it became more frightening.

A really large man (6’8″!) came up to me from to the side. “Hey Jon,” he said, as if he were familiar. My heart started racing. My friends later told me that because of the oppressiveness of the room that I was already hunched over, looking stressed. My body language betrayed the sensation of pain inside me from receiving that much negativity. You can only imagine how this would put someone on edge, as not many people have been in a room with this much hostility before, including myself. I looked up. I didn’t know the guy, making my spider-sense tingle more. I’ve faced a lot of online harassment, was this someone who had been after me?

The man proceeded to grill me, rattling off questions in a challenging manner. “What are you doing here? Why? Are you intending on broadcasting here? Are you going to be bothering anyone?” They came in rapid succession, challenging…. I finally told him “this tone is getting pretty hostile,” as I wasn’t sure what he was getting at at all.

This is where things changed. His eyes widened a little and he said, “Oh!” The man dropped to his knees and smiled. “I’m 6’8″ I guess that can be a little intimidating. Is this better?” His tone changed to something a little more humorous. Almost expertly, this man defused the situation and the tension that had been escalating evaporated.

We started talking at length, and I learned this man was from the convention security, and that someone had complained about my presence there — in essence doing exactly what I was afraid of happening atWorldCon — trying to harass me via making false claims to convention security into getting kicked out, even though I’d done nothing wrong. This fellow with security at FOGCon though was very different, and actually showed how great conventions and the science fiction community can be.

The conversation migrated from the bar, as we got dinner and broke bread together after that, for more conversation. I briefly was able to say hi to my good friends and excellent writers Andrew Roberts and Brian C.E. Buhl in passing on the way… and then the most surreal thing happened.

On the way back to being seated, we passed a group from the Codex Writers forum, the forum who removed me from the group simply for saying “don’t attack another author.” Their members actually narrowed their eyes and glared at me as I walked past, as if to tell me I shouldn’t be allowed to be there. It was a nasty intimidation tactic by them — and to the Codex Writers — why do you act like this? what do you think you’re going to accomplish other than becoming a living embodiment of the Mean Girls memes? It’s not helpful to your business, act like adults. Talk to me instead of going on your forum and saying nasty stuff behind my back. It’s only a bad look for you. But I digress.

The fellow from convention security was wonderful in every regard. He certainly is one of the smarter people I’ve had the pleasure of talking to, and is a genuine, wonderful human being who cares about others. I really wish we could all be more like him. This is the type of person conventions should be having running things, someone who de-escalates situations and isn’t there to discriminate, a great move by FOGCon having him there. Let him be a blueprint for other conventions. I’d name him… but, I don’t want him to have to face any ire in his community just for being praised by me. He’s not an author, just a good guy, and I don’t want to inadvertently cause him harm.

But Was I Going To Be Welcome? 

After the evening with con security, I went home. And I thought about it.

Was I just sequestered by security, taken away from the convention over the course of the evening and ushered out? Was this really a good evening or did I lose what I was trying to accomplish by being present, being a human face for a group that’s discriminated against openly by the science fiction publishing elites, and not being able to talk to others and show that?

It looked like it to some extent. So I was worried. I thought about it the rest of the evening. And I decided on a course of action: I would attempt to actually buy a ticket.

This would serve a couple of purposes: 1. it would confirm if the convention really was acting in good faith and 2. I’d be able to support them financially if they were. Both things I wanted to be true and do.  I didn’t want to buy one and risk the kick out the night before, but I’d had my night with my friends at least, and made some progress. Now it was time to put my money where my mouth was.

I showed up the next morning, migrated down stairs and asked to buy a ticket for the day. The two wonderful women running registration didn’t know who I was (which is an interesting aside — even with as high of a profile as I have, only a few people like the Codex Writers even recognize me — they have no power, there’s very few of them even though they’re loud, and you don’t need to be intimidated by them!), and were eager to sell me a ticket. I was just about to wrap up paying, when convention chairman Steven Schwartz asked me to step aside and chat with him.

It was frightening again. What was going to happen? Was this the “you need to vacate the premises” I was afraid of?

Just like the security fellow from the night before, Schwartz asked a couple of questions, his tone was pleasant, he had genuine concern — not only for the safety of others, but what blew me away was he was concerned for my safety as well. He asked some questions based on the absurd rumors propagated by Worldcon that I was some boogeyman, I let him know I never intended anything of the sort at any con nor even implied it — for FOGCon or Worldcon, and Schwartz took me as a man of my word (which I am), and told me if anyone tried to attack or harm me, he would defend me as surely as anyone else.

Talk about refreshing!

I actually went into a panel where he was speaking about how people group themselves– a very apt topic for what’s going on in sci-fi. It was a great panel. Though the panelists all made jokes about Trump and Trump supporters, and everyone kinda gasped when someone mentioned Vox Day like he’s Literally Voldemort, and it was very one sided… it mostly stayed away from the political. In those moments I thought about speaking up, but did not. It wasn’t the time. Though I hope my continued presence can start moving these conversations away from the petty partisan politics in the future, and get us back to sci-fi. When people think there’s no one there who thinks differently, it will always devolve into those jabs, which only perpetuates the cycle of keeping conservatives away from the cons. It’s going to take a lot of work and time to change. Still, the panel was run well, and it didn’t go off into tangent-land on these political topics, which is all that can be expected for now.

Conclusion

After the panel, I hung out and relaxed, getting lunch at the bar. I had a great conversation with another writer, saw a couple of people from the panel and had good chats with them as well, all was good. The tension had been diffused fully.

I have to say, getting glares and knowing that people are actively trying to remove you from a convention is exhausting. The amount of stress and pressure it puts on you is very overwhelming, even for someone like me who’s used to taking heat. A lot of people won’t even think about that so it needs to be said.

This post will make the rounds almost certainly, and so convention organizers, listen up: there are a lot of conservative authors. they don’t attend these cons because they are made to feel like this, and it’s not fun, and it’s awful. The several hours I spent while getting glares was extremely tough. No other groups have to deal with this sort of thing at sci-fi conventions these days. You want real diversity and inclusivity? Act like FOGCon’s Steven Schwartz.

Honestly, it was handled great by the convention staff. They can’t help the glares, they can’t help the hate from the Codex Writers and a few of their friends, they can only make sure it’s clear that everyone is welcome, that science fiction is a place about ideas — all ideas — and that’s how we pave a way to a better future. And that’s exactly what FOGCon did.

With all the rumors, they were right to ask questions, even if the rumors are based on fabrications by another convention over petty politics. In contrast, Worldcon never bothered trying to talk to me, never attempted to resolve things, they just dug their heels in “hate of the other” and that’s where the situation escalated tragically. FOGCon did the opposite. They walked the walk, they talked, they treated me like a human being and it worked out great for everyone. It’s all I ever wanted, and it’s my mission to present the human face and be a person where it’s safe to ask questions, where it’s safe to talk to. It’s going to be a long road before conservatives feel like they’re safe to be open and out of the closet at many of these conventions, but if it can be done in San Francisco, it can be done across the country.

This is what convention organizers should do:

  1. Make sure you have right-wing/conservative/Christian representation among your panelists.
  2. Make sure it’s known that the convention is NOT a political fundraiser for one party or about elections. We’re here for sci-fi and geek fun. Adjust your programming accordingly.
  3. Know a conservative author is attending the con? Talk to them. We’re people too, and you’ll see we’re not the boogeymen the hate websites make us out to be. The echo chamber has been very bad in recent years, and odds are you don’t even see our perspectives.
  4. For conflict resolution, follow FOGCon’s model. Ask questions. See who the person is. Approach it with an open mind.

Only with these steps can we ensure fandom is a safe place for everyone. And if these steps are taken, you’ll start to see an increase in attendance, because right now, half the country feels like they’re not welcome. That’s a large group of people who should be reading books (and are if you look at the sales of people like me, Larry Correia, Nick Cole and others), and should be able to have fun discussions too. Right now the world is a tough place because of social media, but we are the visionaries of the future. Let’s work together and change it.

Great work FOGCon. You have my full support and endorsement and I look forward to next year.

If you appreciate the work I’m doing for civil rights in fandom, support my books! My new novel, The Stars Entwined, is coming out next week. It has themes about how people can ostracize the other when no one talks, and how dangerous that can end up. And also lets people know we’re more similar than we are different. You’ll love it if you love great space opera.

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What I Wanted From Space Opera

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We’re about 15 days out of The Stars Entwined‘s release, and I want to shift gears to talk about space opera.

1999 saw the end of an era on TV with both Babylon 5 and Deep Space 9 going off the air. Those shows really were the blueprint for great space opera on TV, with overarching storylines that swept across the galaxy. Alien races, who, some were not too dissimilar from us, navigating through the stars as well. Overwhelming threats to humanity’s existence — but what differentiated those from what I’ll call the “Post-Battlestar Galactica Era” was that through all this, our main characters really kept their souls. They were cheerful, optimistic people. They were real heroes. Sci-fi after this went dark, where in efforts at first to make characters “more real”, plunged shows into nihilistic dreariness, from which the genre hasn’t really recovered.

Part of it was Hollywood’s lives being so corrupt and nihilistic. When you’re in that environment, you tend to write what you know. That’s why we see even Straczynski’s later work as he became more of a militant atheist, drifting from the beauty of Babylon 5 — which truly the theme of it is “one man can make a difference” — to his later work which is devoid of beauty or meaning.

But in 1999 we were left with a hole in the zeitgeist for humanity’s push to the stars. I felt that hole, really delving into online roleplaying in sci-fi/star trek-based environments, where, while many of t hem were fun, didn’t quite fulfill in the way watching those beautiful stories did. Some books nearly scratched that itch — Lois Bujold’s Vorkosigan Saga did well in several of the books — but it still didn’t quite have the feel I was looking for as it waded a bit too far into dark territory at times.

That was the real origin of why I turned to writing writing. I, during this period, wanted to set up and recapture the feel of those two shows in the 90s that really to this day are unsurpassed in their storytelling excellence. I set up a station of my own, which is now dubbed Palmer Station in the book (named after David .R Palmer whose Emergence novel is amazing — and very hard to find!). My intent was to create episodic building narratives that pushed the world like DS9 or B5…

…and then my characters had different plans.

I think I still captured the feel of DS9/B5. The sense of wonder of doing something different, the aliens who are cool, not too distant to us — some even sexy, but the sprawling events of The Stars Entwined couldn’t keep someone confined to a station. It took me from 2001 when I started writing this to 2012 to finish the first draft, which looked VERY different than what you’re going to read at this point (I will be putting up pieces of that over on my patreon for those curious as to what it looked like). But I needed to not just copy that which I loved, but come into my own with my own voice to tell the story that was burning in my head.

As I reflected more on those shows, what made them different was the characters. The characters who wouldn’t give up. The characters who wouldn’t lose their souls even through immense troubles. Those were what was missing from modern entertainment. And those were what I feel I created with Sean Barrows, Tamar, and Tol (who you will meet in 15 days!). As this expands into a series, more characters will come into the limelight. I’m very proud of the way these characters turned out and the progressions they had within the story.

Did I succeed in capturing the feel of what I was looking to? You’ll have to tell me in 15 days! Let me know.

The Stars Entwined is available March 20th and is up for pre-order now.

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The Moment You’ve Been Waiting For: The Stars Entwined Cover Reveal!

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The Stars Entwined, my military sci-fi/space opera epic, is finally done and ready, and we have a March 20th release date through Superversive Press. I’m loving how this turned out, and early readers are saying it’s my best work so far.

If you missed the mailing list giveaway and reveal yesterday make sure you sign up. I use it very sparingly and it’s often accompanied by cool stuff.

But you’re here for The Stars Entwined. This book and space opera world has been in my head since i was about 15 years old… and I started writing down snippets of it when I was 18. Earth has expanded out into the stars and is bordered up with a couple of hostile alien empires, though we’ve got allies of our own. The world of The Aryshan War has such a deep history and rich background that I’ve got a number of stories set in this universe to tell, and I’m so excited to bring you my main characters Sean, Tol, and Tamar and the very cool Aryshan aliens. Here’s the cover:

Pictured is an Aryshan warship, looming over us with its dark shadow stretching out. It’s very thematic for what’s going on in the book. You’ll see very soon.

Synopsis:

The Aryshan Empire and Earth are on the brink of war!

The Stars Entwined is the first installment in an epic space opera series by multiple award-nominated science fiction writer, Jon Del Arroz. If you like Vatta’s War by Elizabeth Moon or The Vorkosigan Saga by Lois McMaster Bujold, then you’ll love this epic adventure with action, intrigue, and star-crossed romance filling every page. 

After several recent attacks along the border of Aryshan space, internal affairs agent Sean Barrows is brought to Palmer Station to ensure the Interplanetary Navy’s on the right track in their terrorism investigations. What he discovers could lead to the biggest war the galaxy has ever seen. Sean’s work leads him to his most dangerous assignment yet—into the heart of Aryshan territory as a spy.

Meanwhile, Aryshan Commander Tamar is being groomed by the Ruling Committee to one day assume leadership of her people. First, she needs to prove herself in warship command. As tensions increase with Earth, Tamar finds herself increasingly isolated as one of the few in opposition to the war. Her troubles deepen when she comes face to face with a new member of her crew, the most intriguing man she’s ever encountered.

For now, make sure to back my Patreon!  I put out short stories every month, you get details like this early, and draft/deleted chapters, and I’ll probably be putting out some in The Stars Entwined’s universe in the next couple of months.

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