2016/10/31

Geek Gab Halloween Special Plus Updates

After a brief hiatus, Geek Gab returns with an all-new, very special Halloween episode!


Daddy Warpig delivers an epic rant on how The Walking Dead has lost its sense of drama along with the plot. Then I delve into the movie vault to review a classic film from the Bronze Age of Horror: 1987's original Hellraiser by Clive Barker.

You are cordially invited to join us for a fright-filled half hour.

Bonus: I'm asked for, and give, an update on my forthcoming third novel, The Secret Kings. Thanks to everyone who has stepped up to beta read the manuscript. I'm still looking for one more volunteer who will get early access to the novel, a free digital copy, and a mention in the book's acknowledgements. There's still a week left to sign up. If you're interested, see the details here.

And in smirking revenge news, Twitter may have been the first to blink in the game of chicken they started with me back in August.

unShadowbanned3

unShadowbanned2

unShadowbanned1

Thanks to everyone who showed solidarity with me over Twitter's censorship. Having every other account treat mine as if it's blocked doesn't make it easy for an independent author to build and promote his brand. But due to the groundswell of support, the bomb Twitter threw at me blew up in their face as I experienced 1000% growth compared to last year.

As a consequence of Twitter's thought policing, I've joined Gab as @BrianNiemeier.

There's still plenty of ground to be retaken. If you'd like to support indie authors like me who are dedicated to bringing readers fun and not telling them what to think, please consider purchasing the first two books in my award-winning SFF series.

@BrianNiemeier

2016/10/28

The Designer Guide to Secondary World Religions

Ragnarok Publications has been gracious enough to host an article that I wrote on designing fictional religions on their blog.
How do you avoid clichés like Crystal Dragon Jesus, the Evil Church of Evil, and smarmy secularist characters who know the Bible better than lifelong churchgoers? You build from the ground up—or in this case, the sky down.
The Three Qualities of Religion
First, let’s start with three qualities possessed by all religions: cult, code, and creed.
Cult: every religion practices some form of organized worship, with formalized rituals and fixed times for liturgical celebrations.
Code: all faiths promote a particular set of morals derived from their beliefs.
Creed: all religions profess belief in a body of theological knowledge. A faith’s creed is how it defines itself.
When designing your world’s religious landscape, consider what form the qualities above take in each religion. A particular faith’s cult, code, and creed should be intertwined. Ask yourself how they’re interrelated in each religion and how those interrelationships affect the beliefs and behavior of the faithful.
There's more at the link.

Having recently devoted the lion's share of my time to writing fiction, I can honestly say that it's refreshing to dip my feet in the waters of theology, even if only the shallow end. Readers have commented that my theological training has helped to differentiate my fiction from the standard SFF market, especially since I avoid the preachy, heavy-handed style of pink SFF.

Theology may have fallen into disfavor in the academy, but authors of genre fiction could do worse than to at least make a cursory study of the subject.

We've all heard of physicists and astronomers groaning about the technical inaccuracies in Star Wars and Star Trek. Take it form me, theologians are no less prone to eye rolling when fantasy novels glibly speak of gods needing human worship to survive or SF authors take it for granted that increased knowledge of the natural world will somehow render belief in the supernatural obsolete.

Getting back to the countless hours I've spent toiling in the word mines of late, progress on draft two of The Secret Kings proceeds apace. I'd like to thank the upstanding individuals who've volunteered as beta readers. I'd like to have at least two more, so if you'd like to get an early look at the third Soul Cycle novel and make positive contributions to the final version while you're at it, consider signing up via the email button in the upper left sidebar.

Even if you haven't finished the first two books in the series, there should be just enough time to read Nethereal and Souldancer before beta reading for The Secret Kings begins.

@BrianNiemeier

2016/10/24

The Secret Kings, Soul Cycle Book III and Call for Beta Readers

Attention, fans of Niemeierian fiction:

The first draft of The Secret Kings, Soul Cycle Book III is now complete at 125,000 words!

You can check out a preview of SK here. Note that the preview poses a moderate spoiler risk if you haven't read Nethereal.

Having draft one of the third book in the can has given me a better perspective on the Soul Cycle series as a whole. Even though I'm the author, publishing these books has been something of a journey of artistic self-discovery, especially in light of how each book has its own feel derived from its particular influences.

Nethereal has been described as what you'd get if A. Merritt had been contracted to write a novel in Dune's Known Universe after binge-watching two-cor anime series from Studio Deen. It bucks the rigid genre conventions imposed by editors trying to suck up to the New York literati and the chain book stores after WWII by mixing pirate stories with 70s-style weird fiction.

Souldancer continues the genre-bashing but draws inspiration from Japanese RP video games of the 16 and 32-bit console eras. SD is an adventure tale at heart but actually increases the horror quotient compared to its predecessor. The story itself is far more intimate than the first book's, and one of the main narrative threads fits the industry standard definition of a romance plot: "Boy meets girl and they live happily ever after (or happily for now)".

How does The Secret Kings measure up? Though still in an unfinished state, SK already bears the hallmarks of an epic space opera. The first seventy percent of the book follows the main characters as they voyage between multiple Middle Stratum spheres (that's "planets in space" for the uninitiated).

There are more space battles than in either previous book. In fact, the overall action has been cranked up several notches. Considering that more than one reviewer described the action in Nethereal as "non-stop" and the basic structure of Souldancer as "an escalating series of fight scenes", I may have gone too far this time.

And of course, no Soul Cycle installment would be complete without at least one battle that rages between planes of existence.

SK, on the whole, is the story where the journeys that many characters in Nethereal and SD began get tied together. I'm eager to see readers' reactions.

Which leads us to...

Calling all beta readers

My goal is to have the second draft of SK finished in 2-3 weeks from the date of this writing. The second draft will be made available for immediate release to all SK beta readers. The beta readers will have exactly two weeks to read the manuscript and report back to me. Beta readers will be charged with two, and only two, primary responsibilities:
  1. Identifying parts of the MS that confused them.
  2. Identifying parts of the MS that bored them.
It's as simple as that.

Just as important, here's what beta readers will not be responsible for:
  • Pointing out spelling/grammar errors. I line edit at a pro level anyway, and any typos I miss can be fixed in post as readers find them.
  • Suggesting ways to fix plot/structural/character problems. That's Jagi's job.
  • Anything other than pointing out parts that are confusing and/or dull.
Note: you will find the above problems in the second draft of any book. Since we're trying to hit a Christmas release, don't let minutiae bog you down. Skimming the text for punctuation errors isn't helpful at this stage. We need readers who can commit to and focus on the text so they can accurately report on content issues that inhibited their enjoyment of the story.

I hate typos as much as any of you, but bigger indie authors than me have conducted experiments proving that the vast majority of readers don't care about misspellings, erroneous punctuation, or grammatical mistakes. Remember: story comes first!

With the necessaries out of the way, among the benefits that my beta readers will enjoy are first access to the latest book in an award-winning series, the chance to make a positive impact on the finished version of that book, and a complimentary eBook copy of The Secret Kings prior to the book's official release.

If you're interested in becoming an SK beta reader, I strongly advise reading the first two books in the Soul Cycle before signing up.


The call for beta readers will be open for two weeks, starting today. To sign up, contact me via the "Send Me an Email" button in the upper left sidebar or copy and paste the following email address: soulcyclebooks@gmail.com

2016/10/18

Infogalactic, Planetary

Infogalactic Logo

Infogalactic, the major fork of Wikipedia which, unlike its predecessor, is dedicated to cultivating objective fact instead of suppressing it, had my support from day one. Writing professional grade SFF takes more and broader research than you might expect, and it's become readily apparent to anyone with a shred of intellectual honesty that Wikipedia is sorely lacking in that regard.

Just randomly browse some of their articles on politics, celebrities, any pre-20th century historical event, religion, or pretty much any humanities subject. We've reached the point where Wikipedia is effectively useless for anything other than superficial hard science research.

The creators of Infogalactic envision an alternative knowledge base that doesn't just compete with Wikipedia but renders it obsolete.

Transparency
From Infogalactic's press release:

INFOGALACTIC: an online encyclopedia without bias or thought police

Zürich, Switzerland. All around the world, thousands of users are accessing and editing the new online encyclopedia for the 21st Century, Infogalactic, which styles itself the Planetary Knowledge Core™. Conceived as a next-generation replacement for Wikipedia, the troubled online encyclopedia, Infogalactic is a dynamic fork of Wikipedia that is designed to supplant its predecessor by addressing the problems of bias, vandalism, harassment, abuse, and inaccuracy that have plagued the Wikimedia Foundation’s flagship project for years.
“Every notable public figure who has a page devoted to them knows very well what an inaccurate nightmare Wikipedia is,” said Vox Day, Lead Designer of Infogalactic, a computer game designer and bestselling philosopher. “The page about me there has had everything from my place of birth to the number of times I’ve been married wrong. And that’s not even counting the outright abuse, such as when Wikipedians replaced the entire page with a definition of a sexually-transmitted disease or with a string of obscenities.”
Infogalactic plans to solve the structural problems of a community-edited online encyclopedia through objectivity, proven game design principles, and a sophisticated series of algorithms. Currently in an operational Phase One, the Planetary Knowledge Core has a five-phase Roadmap that its founders claim will eliminate edit warring, significantly improve accuracy, neutralize vandalism and other forms of griefing, and render all forms of political bias on the part of administrators and editors irrelevant.
The elimination of thought-policing is a cause in which I have a particular interest, as anyone who's familiar with my ongoing Twitter troubles can attest.

Lo and behold, what hath Infogalactic wrought?

Infogalactic Twitter shadowban list
Quite a colorful bunch of characters
The article is linked from IG's blog, which, like this one, recently tackled Twitter censorship.

They were even gracious enough to give me my own page.

Objectivity
But how does Infogalactic plan to solve the bias problem that no one else has been able to crack? Read on.
“The primary challenge facing any online wiki is the individual editor’s incentive to impose his perspective on everyone else,” said Renegade, the Operations Director of Infogalactic, who, as per the organization’s pro-anonymity policy is known only by his handle. “Most people who contribute to an online knowledge base do so because they want to have their say, but in the end there can be only one perspective that is enforced by the site’s administrators. Infogalactic has solved that problem by embracing true objectivity and eliminating the enforcement incentive by moving from a centralized, vertically-stacked orientation to a decentralized, horizontally-distributed model.”
Infogalactic’s anti-bias architecture will permit users to select their preferred perspective and automatically see the version of the subject page that is closest to it based on a series of algorithms utilizing three variables, Relativity, Reliability, and Notability. This means a supporter of Hillary Clinton will see a different version of the current Donald Trump page than a Donald Trump supporter will, as both users will see the version of the page that was most recently edited by editors with perspective ratings similar to his own.
“The single biggest problem with Wikipedia isn’t Jimmy Wales or its outmoded 1995 technology, but the fact that it is patrolled by 532 left-wing thought police who aggressively force their biased perspective on the rest of the world,” Vox Day, aka “Fenris” on Infogalactic, added. “This isn’t Conservapedia 2.0 and we aren’t replacing Wikipedia’s admins with their conservative equivalent, we are making the function of thought police irrelevant through technology. Our design philosophy is based on the idea that only the user has the right to define what his reality is.”
How are they doing so far? According to its lead designer, Infogalactic already has a comparable number of active admins and more than twice as many English language pages as Wikipedia. And that was last week.

Putting on my independent publisher hat, what I think will put Infogalactic over the top is its business-friendliness.
The Planetary Knowledge Core is also distinguishing itself from its predecessors by its corporate-friendly policies. Corporations, large and small, are welcome to participate on the site, advertising by page and by category is permitted, and a number of strategic partners have been established, including Gab, the popular new Twitter alternative that already has over one hundred thousand active users.
Not only is there a strong demand for global access to objective information, there's a critical need for it. If you build it, they will come. Infogalactic has already plowed under Wikipedia's cornfield and is hard at work pursuing its vision of information free from the interference of the thought police. You can help usher in a bright future of objective worldwide knowledge access by donating to Infogalactic or picking up some of their handsome swag.


If you're inclined to supporting independent creators opposed to censorship, you can also throw a little support my way via my critically and commercially successful books.

2016/10/17

Twitter and New Novel Update

Twitter Dead


Wrestling Twitter

Regular readers will know that I've been having problems with Twitter since the beginning of August, culminating in what is playfully called a shadowban.

Based on reports from my followers, what the shadowban has done is secretly force their accounts to treat mine as if they've blocked it. My tweets disappear from conversations, and the only way to see them is by going to my Twitter homepage and reading the timeline.

Then, about two weeks ago, my account lost the ability to retweet or follow anyone. All I could do was post new tweets of my own and like others' tweets.

For a professional author who relies heavily on social media to build and maintain my brand, Twitter's shadowban presents a costly marketing obstacle. Luckily Twitter's attempt to censor me has blown up in their faces so far, thanks to the wonderful readers who rallied to oppose the floundering social network's thought policing.

However, I'm getting ready to launch a new book (more on that in a moment), and it would be really great if one of my main advertising channels actually, you know, worked the way it's supposed to.

My research turned up a possible method for fixing shadowbans--which Twitter's notoriously awful customer service can't help with because they don't officially acknowledge that shadowbans even exist.

The suggested method is to deactivate your Twitter account and then reactivate it after a week or two. Doing this reportedly returns an affected account's settings to normal.

On Saturday, October 8th I deactivated my Twitter account. It sucked not being able to interact with my followers, even in my shadowban-hobbled account's limited capacity, but with a little patience and discipline I made it a whole week.

This past Saturday, I reactivated my account.

And found that all of my 1400+ followers were gone. Adding insult to injury, my account had auto-unfollowed everyone I'd been following.

But at least the shadowban is over, right?

Still Shadowbanned 1


Still Shadowbanned 2

Not according to one of the fine folks who's refollowed me since Saturday.

Oh, and heads up, before anyone in the comments suggests that I join Gab, let me save you some time.

Gab Referrals

This is just a sampling of the many messages advising me to take my business from Twitter to Gab. The outpouring of Gab recommendations tells me two things.
  1. Gab is upholding its commitment to free speech for all its users.
  2. Twitter has really alienated a LOT of people.
All of the folks who have helpfully suggested that I join Gab can rest assured that I plan to get in line soon. Currently the waiting list resembles the line at a hot new nightclub that stretches around the block, and the bouncer is choosing who to let in at random. Right now I'm waiting for the admissions process to get a bit more normalized before queuing up.

In the meantime, I'm slowly rebuilding my my original Twitter account. It might be a lost cause, as I've just been informed that the accounts of people who my account says no longer follow me are showing them that they are still following me. As Declan Finn shows, this is not the case.


A Pius Man Twitter
How Declan's Twitter page looks to me. NB: I was following him before 10/08.
If you followed me prior to Saturday, I ask that you try unfollowing and refollowing my account, even if your account shows that you're still following mine.

I also have an alternate Twitter account that I'll most likely be moving to (in addition to joining Gab) if the problems with my main account don't get resolved. You can follow my backup account here.

Though I'll try to stay as active as possible on social media in the coming days, writing has taken up most of my time lately. I'm currently under deadlines for two books, one of which is...


The Secret Kings

You may have seen the updates I've been posting on Facebook (you're less likely to have seen the ones I've tweeted). As you can probably tell, I've been busily working on Soul Cycle Book III. It's been a little while since the last progress update reported the first draft as being 95% done, so you're probably wondering where the project stands now.

Here's the deal: the percentages cited in those progress reports were based on some back of the envelope calculations of the first draft's final length based on my current outline and those of the previous two books. Since writing isn't an exact science--or a science at all, actually--my initial estimate was a little short.

A of this writing, The Secret Kings stands at 108% of its first draft's original expected length. What's happened is that the last four pages of my outline are now approaching 100 manuscript pages' worth of actual prose text--far more than the preceding outline sections.

The perfectly reasonable explanation for this expansion is that those last four pages outline the book's climax, where I not only have to tie up all of the loose ends in the current book, but several that were carried over from Souldancer and even Nethereal.

I'm making good progress, though. You may also have seen the 2, 3, and even 4k word counts I've been posting (unless, of course, you're on Twitter). After pulling double shifts for the past week, I'm finally into the home stretch. Keep your eyes peeled for my announcement that the first draft of Soul Cycle Book III: The Secret Kings is complete. With Marcelo already working on the cover and Jagi's editing services reserved for November, there should still be plenty of time to make my planned Christmas season launch.

By the way, not only is the writing going quickly, it's going rather well in my admittedly biased opinion. I've made this prediction elsewhere, but I'll restate my expectation that when all is said and done, Soul Cycle fans will place themselves into one of two camps: those whose favorite book in the series is Souldancer, and those who prefer The Secret Kings.

Yes, I'm making that statement knowing that SD won the Dragon Award. SK is already shaping up to be at least as good, and it's a whole different animal than its predecessor. Book II is a JRPG-influenced adventure story with a strong horror element. Book III comes closest to staying within a single genre as any book I've written so far, being almost pure space opera (with possibly a little too much action at this point). That's why I foresee fans gravitating to one book or the other based on genre preferences.

While we're on that subject, SK will probably be the closest that a Soul Cycle novel gets to being a pure genre book. But it won't be the only book I write in a classic genre.

Buy the first two books in the highly acclaimed Soul Cycle now, and be ready for Book III this Christmas.

2016/10/11

Quantum Mortis: A Man Disrupted

By way of welcoming me to the Castalia House family, Lead Editor Vox Day recently gifted me a copy of Quantum Mortis: A Man Disrupted, his military science fiction/noir techno-thriller co-authored with Steve Rzasa.


Synopsis

The novel's protagonist is Chief Warrant Officer Graven Tower of the Military Crimes Investigation Division on Rhysalan--a sanctuary planet hosting over 1,400 alien governments in exile.

Psychologically unbalanced, armed to the teeth, and legally empowered with far more license to use deadly force than the civilian cops, Tower gets involved--mostly due to his attraction to the detective in charge--in a local police investigation into the possible assassination of an alien VIP.

With the help of his military grade augment/partner Baby, an AI, hacking virtuoso, and devout Christian; Tower delves into a labyrinth of murder, espionage, and political intrigue to defuse growing tensions that threaten to tear his planet apart. But besides hostile alien warriors, bloodthirsty academics, and scheming bureaucrats, Tower's deadliest opposition may come from his own compromised sanity.


Analysis
Vox Day - on pointe
Vox Day
Co-authors Vox Day and Steve Rzasa weave a compelling sci-fi murder mystery that will keep you turning pages; not just to see the titular crime solved, but to more deeply immerse yourself in the lives of the vivid characters and the thoughtfully designed world they inhabit.

Quantum Mortis: A Man Disrupted defies easy classification, which is one of the book's strengths, in my opinion. Here we find hallmarks of the mil SF, hard SF, noir detective, police procedural, techno-thriller, and cyberpunk genres, just to name a few. Perhaps the authors' most impressive achievement in regard to this book is how they seamlessly blended this disparate elements into a coherent whole greater than the sum of its parts.

Due credit must be given for the world building, which speculates on technology, politics, religion, and more with such great depth and breadth that the world feels not only plausible, but genuinely lived in.

A note on action: QM: AMD takes a measured approach to the pacing and frequency of its action scenes, which are well executed but often quite graphic in terms of violence. Personally I had no problem with the elaborate, sometimes almost clinical descriptions of carnage, but the faint of heart should know what they're getting into.

My only nitpicks with the book were the occasional digressions into weapon specs and the dialogue's salting with military jargon. Then again, I'm not a big mil-SF reader, so weigh that criticism accordingly.

In summation, Quantum Mortis: A Man Disrupted is a clever, intricately thought-out thriller deftly combining tropes from multiple spec fic genres. Recommended for fans of military fiction, noir, cyberpunk, and political intrigue.


Addendum

Vox has stated that part of his vision for Castalia House is for him to be the worst author they publish. QM:AMD sets the bar quite high, so it's impressive that they've managed to meet that standard so far with authors like Peter Grant, John C. Wright, Owen Stanley, and more. With such a distinguished stable of talent, it's easy to picture CH becoming the #1 SFF publisher in the near future.

And if you find Castalia House's books a refreshing alternative to the bodice rippers in space and civics lectures packaged as SF peddled by the dying Big 5 publishers, you'll definitely appreciate Infogalactic, the planetary knowledge core designed to fork and replace Wikipedia's outmoded technology, thought policing, and editorial pissing contests.

With more than twice as many pages as the English-language version of Wikipedia, Infogalactic has already become my go-to web resource for research or simple fun with daisy-chaining article links. I can overlook the site's occasional slowness this soon after launch since this is only Phase 1 and their capabilities are set to grow exponentially.


Although I'm not officially a Castalia House author yet, my Soul Cycle books were deemed good enough to qualify me for a shot at the big time. Book III is coming soon--with the plan being to follow it up with my first CH book--so if you haven't read Nethereal and Souldancer yet, now's the perfect time.

2016/10/10

Geek Gab: Dunte-Mania

On this week's episode of Geek Gab, we spent a half hour chatting with Hugo-nominated author, editor, and publisher Jeff Duntemann.

Listen in as we talk about possible alternatives to Twitter and Amazon, how tradpub's fate is bound to B&N's, and other indie publishing nerdery.


Also, don't forget to check out Jeff's outstanding hard SF novel The Cunning Blood, which I reviewed previously on this blog.


He also has a new book out that I haven't read yet but looks solid.



P.S. Thanks to everyone who's expressed concern about the status of my Twitter account. No, they didn't outright ban me. That would require a spine.

What happened is that I've voluntarily deactivated my account for a while. The way that Twitter seems to enact shadowbans is by falsely flagging accounts as hacked and applying filters meant to limit the range of spam tweets.

I've read that other users have successfully removed shadowbans by shutting down their accounts and reactivating them, which convinces Twitter's system that the "hack" is over and the rightful owner is back in control of the account. We'll see if the same approach works for me.

In the meantime, here are some books that Twitter found threatening enough to censor.

2016/10/07

My New Short Story Is Live at Sci Phi Journal

Heads up to my loyal readers. Sci Phi Journal has published my latest short story "Anacyclosis" on their site.

Brian Niemeier - Anacyclosis

This story has been a long time coming. I actually wrote it two years ago. SPJ bought it before they switched to a Patreon subscription system, and it got a bit lost in the shuffle. Now it is available for your reading pleasure at last!

A brief description of the story: Centuries from now and light years from earth, UCP Lieutenant Kob Agur flies his mech into battle against an enigmatic alien race bent on exterminating mankind. Believing humanity's cause lost, the fatalistic pilot fights not to serve his government or defend his home, but to earn a glorious death that even his foes will never forget.

Will Kob achieve his ambition of going down in history? Read the free sample; then subscribe to SPJ on Patreon to find out!

NB: I serve my readers and don't ask them to do anything I'm unwilling to do myself. Be assured that I also subscribe to Sci Phi Journal via Patreon. Along with Cirsova, they're currently the only SF short fiction magazine dedicated to putting readers and fun stories first.

Just like I do in novel form.

@BrianNiemeier

2016/10/05

Souldancer Bonus Scene: The Harrowing of Hell

The following scene came out of a writing exercise assigned by my editor while working on Souldancer. The events depicted below occurred between Nethereal and its sequel.


        Nahel stood atop the promontory and surveyed the blasted ruin before him. A fortress had once risen—wall within wall and tower upon tower—from the inverted cone of rock amid the Fifth Circle’s fetid sea. Now that Nahel and his friends in Nakvin’s army had done their job, nothing remained of the castle but a dark, smoking foundation.

Feels good to see the tables turned for once, thought Nahel. Everywhere, soldiers in the gold and green uniform of Avalon—both Gen, malakhs, demons, and dead humans—picked through the debris in search of hidden foes and trapped prisoners.

Nahel’s canine ears perked up at a soft sound, barely audible over the post-battle cacophony: a weak tapping drifting up from the pit. He rushed to the crater’s edge and slid down a slope of loose rubble till he stood over the source of the sound.

A slab composed of large cemented stones lay atop the debris before him. Nahel listened. He was sure that this was where the tapping had come from, but he waited several seconds for it to recur and heard nothing.

Nahel sniffed the air. The reek of smoke—and other less mundane; more hateful odors—stung his sensitive nose. Yet a weird mélange of scents wafted up from beneath the slab, combining wolf, bat, rat, and man.

Probably some kind of demon, Nahel thought. He suddenly recalled that he stood in the unroofed bowels of Despenser’s dungeon. Who knew what living nightmares the baal had stashed away down here?

Nahel drew his sword—its short, spade-shaped blade already bloodstained from the day’s work, planted it in the ground beside him, stooped down, and heaved on slab with all his angelic might. Stone scraped against stone, Nahel’s muscles burned beneath his russet fur, and at last the slab went crashing down into the dungeon’s nethermost pits.

Dust swirled, blocking Nahel’s sight of the cavity he’d revealed. He retrieved his sword and crouched, his heart thudding as he waited to see his enemy.

There was movement in the depths of the cavity, which soon turned out to be a crude cell. It had mostly collapsed, but the chains worn by its wretched occupant; who must have been striking them against the slab, told Nahel what the squalid chamber had been.

Nahel’s nose and eyes strove to confuse him. The animal scents remained, but the prisoner was clearly a man—disheveled and emaciated, but still a man.

The prisoner struggled to raise his sandy-haired head and fixed his defiant brown eyes on Nahel. “Help me,” the prisoner croaked.

Without hesitating, Nahel sheathed his sword and leapt into the collapsed cell. “Hang on, buddy,” he said gently. “You’re gonna be okay.” Nahel lifted the prisoner, who weighed startlingly little, with one arm slung around the man’s back and hooked under his armpit, and hauled both of them out of the cell.

“Thank you,” the prisoner wheezed as he lay panting on the debris-strewn slope. “I am Sulaiman Iason, once a priest of Midras. What are you called?”

Nahel’s maw gaped in a doglike smile. “I used to work for Midras, too! Name’s Nahel. I’m a malakh.”

Sulaiman’s filthy beard may have hidden a grin. “I suspected that you were. I also suspect that Despenser’s reign as baal has ended. Tell me, friend Nahel, to whom do I owe my thanks for this most welcome turn of events?”

“Avalon’s army brought the baal down, but we wouldn’t be here if not for Queen—” The sound of disturbed rubble, and another scent—like grave dirt and lilacs—made Nahel forget what he’d been saying. His hackles rose, and a deep, rumbling growl issued unbidden from his throat.

“What’s wrong?’ asked Sulaiman.

By then, Nahel had seen what was wrong. A pale, gangly thing that smelled of flowers laid to mask corruption swarmed up from the deeper, lightless pits and undulated toward them. Snarling with unrestrained wrath, Nahel leapt upon the demon as the twin sawblades of its slug-like mouth parts extended toward Sulaiman. The malakh put the force of his descent behind the downward thrust of his sword, and the needle-pointed blade sank deep into the demon’s pallid, rubbery flesh. A sigh like an old woman at her last son’s funeral escaped form the wound. The demon collapsed into a shapeless mass and lay still.

Nahel stepped off of the fiend’s deflated remains, shook purple blood from his sword, and turned to Sulaiman. “Sorry,” said the malakh. “I got a little distracted. You were saying something?”


The story continues in my Dragon Award-winning novel Souldancer.

@BrianNiemeier

2016/10/04

On Science Fiction and the Business of a Revolution

The following post has been assembled from my comments in a recent discussion on Google+.


Superversive vs. Subversive is symptomatic. Indie vs. Big Five is definitive.

The social aspect of the battle for SFF's soul has been pretty well covered by others. I'll address the business angle, which is the biggest factor that got us here, and which I'm convinced will be decisive and definitive.

Jeffro has written eloquently on the group amnesia that's stunted fans' and writers' knowledge of the pulp SF canon. A similar; perhaps even worse, historical illiteracy now enforces the false notion that "The Big 5 are the industry, and it's always been this way."

The same propaganda machine that's foisted PC message fic on readers works overtime to hide its own quite recent WWII-era origins. People forget that Poe self-published, & it was considered normal. 19th century bookstores had their own presses for POD.

"Publishing" poorly describes The NY houses' business model. They're really a consignment lumber distribution cartel. These paper monopolists cast themselves as the True Guardians of Literature.

Meanwhile, frustrated lit fic authors started slumming it as SF editors. They shifted the focus in spec fic from fun to sentence-level wordsmithing and socially relevant messages. The entryists sought validation for their literary pretensions from NY. Now we have The Fifth Season.


Talk of coexisting with "Narrative fic" already concedes a false premise planted by the enemy.

"What is the purpose of art?" is a self-negating question. It's like asking what the other person wore if I say I was alone.

Even saying that art is for entertainment is a slight distortion. Entertainment is a leisure activity. Marxism gives leisure a bad rap, since Marx defined man as "the animal that works."

As usual, he had it backwards. Man doesn't perform work as an end in itself. Man works to obtain leisure, which is its own end.

Long story short: Oscar Wilde & MGM right. Marx wrong.

Those who use SF as a vehicle to push a Narrative aren't making art. It's propaganda. You might as well say that real fruit and wax fruit can coexist in the same market.

It doesn't matter how skillfully a wax apple is made to look like a real one. I'm not eating it.


Publishing isn't zero-sum for Indie, but it's negative-sum for the Big Five.

To wrap up by way of analogy, NY almost wiped out citrus and apple farmers by shipping crates of wax fruit through their lumber sales channels. Meanwhile, their shills told everybody that the wax fruit was real.

Then something happened that the lumber cartel did not intend. Individual gardeners started selling homegrown produce online, totally bypassing the NY-controlled lumber distro channels.

NY cranked up their wax fruit sculptors' PAs to 11, but to no avail since people have taste buds.

The perfect example to bridge analogy and reality: David the Good.

Numbers don't lie. The Big 5's latest earnings report shows most of them taking losses (some approaching 11%) or at best breaking even. All pegged falling eBook sales as the reason for their decline.

Amazon, the #1 sales channel for print and eBooks, reports that the eBook market is still growing.

The Big 5 wish this was a zero sum game. For them, as Vox rightly pointed out, it's a negative sum game. Not only are they losing market share, people are abandoning the one distribution channel that NY controls for one where indie dominates.

It's already over. There will be no coexistence. There will be no reconciliation. Because you can't reconcile with a corpse.

Jeffro also has oblivious Big Five authors dead to rights. Every writers' panel still takes NY's dominance for granted. They have no idea what's happening. The wailing and gnashing of teeth on the (very near) day when the hammer falls will be epic.


You can help to hasten the inevitable:


@BrianNiemeier

2016/10/03

Geek Gab: Souldancers, The Pulp Revival, and Luke Cage

The latest episode of Geek Gab takes us back to basics as the three regular hosts chat about D&D, the pulps, and Netflix's new Marvel series Luke Cage.

Plus, Dorrinal gives a progress report on his reading of Souldancer, wherein he has reached the halfway mark.

Take a listen!


NB: contra Dorrinal's early impression, I can assure you that the prologue does in fact have a major impact on the rest of the novel. Everyone should read it.

Everyone should also read the entirety of Souldancer, which won a Dragon Award, and Nethereal, upon which the Worldcon CHORFs bestowed a coveted 6/5 Hugo Award.

@BrianNiemeier