2017/12/14

Galaxy Rangers

Shane Gooseman

Recently while messing around on YouTube I stumbled across an old animated series I hadn't seen since childhood. Chances are you don't remember The Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers, and that's a shame, because the show was truly groundbreaking for its time.

Galaxy Rangers premiered in a long-forgotten fall TV season of the mid-80s. Its original run consisted of a single 65-episode season, but it ran for three years in syndication. The show was pitched and marketed as a space Western, but various episodes included strong doses of space opera and horror.

Galaxy Rangers - The Scarecrow
GR had some seriously horrifying content & themes for a kids' show.
I remember that the show would come on in the morning while I was getting ready for school. To a younger grade school-aged kid, Galaxy Rangers was mind-blowing. It wasn't just the 80s standard "all-American/virile paragon good guys foil the bumbling terrorist/evil wizard bad guys" every episode. The characters had some layers to them and were often self-conflicted. There were black hat stock villains but also ambiguous antagonists who were mostly out to make a buck for themselves. Most unusual of all, the good guys didn't always win, and when they did their victories were sometimes Pyrrhic.

Eliza Fox
Spoiler alert: Zachary never got his wife back.
After re-watching the first episode alone, it struck me how much of an influence Galaxy Rangers has had on my work--while I remained blissfully unaware of how the show molded my aesthetic sensibilities.

Galaxy Rangers - Soul Gem

Case in point: The main villain is a necromancer who uses a fusion of magic and technology to steal beings' souls for long-term storage in big red gems.

Galaxy Rangers was also one of the first American-Japanese anime productions. The show was written by Americans but drawn by a Japanese animation studio. As a result, the writing--especially the quirky but never tonally dissonant humor--remained accessible to US audiences while the animation blew away pretty much anything that American kids' show animators were putting out.

If you enjoyed The Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers as a kid, or even if you've never heard of it before, I recommend checking out at least the first episode. It holds up surprisingly well.



Bonus: The main theme is a totally badass 80s power ballad!

To see the bastard offspring of this and other 80s and 90s cultural influences, read my action-adventure/space opera/horror novel Nethereal.

Nethereal - Brian Niemeier

2017/12/13

Amazon Ghettos

Following my recent posts about how the fundamental realities of publishing have changed in the new Amazon/indie-dominated landscape, a reader passed along a number of eye-opening revelations about how authors and publishers are unintentionally consigning their books to "Amazon Ghettos".

The Amazon sleuth explains:
Amazon’s algorithm is set up to be self-reinforcing: people buy your book, so Amazon recommends your book to people just like them. It’s very easy to get “pegged” as entirely the incorrect sort of book. Look at your Recommends to see who Amazon thinks will buy your book. (Also important: Are you being recommended anywhere? I have no idea how to find this out.)
I have looked at Recommends, and here’s part of the problem, as I see it:
Editor's note: Brace yourself. Lots of folks are in for a rude awakening.
People who look at any of the books in the Ghetto, are being recommended other books in the Ghetto, and little to nothing else. People who look at books outside the Ghetto, even similar books, are RARELY being recommended books inside the Ghetto.
[Note: The same Recommends show up whether I’m signed in or not, on the same IP address or not, or whether I have ever visited Amazon with the browser. Right now, they seem to be universal: all people get the same Recommends.]
Let’s look at some examples.
NB: Neither I nor the reader who furnished this information intend it as a rebuke of any author or publisher. We're trying to help authors and publishers alike increase their understanding of how Amazon works so they can reach the widest possible audience. The following examples were chosen for the simple reason they're books that we and this blog's readership are familiar with.
Awake in the Night Land:
Amazon Ghetto 1
Amazon recommended John’s books… and a bunch of CH books. Before page 6, there is only one book that isn’t either John’s or CH’s—the original Night Land book.
Forbidden Thoughts anthology:
Amazon Ghetto 2
Politics and Castalia House.
Nethereal:
Amazon Ghetto 3
Brian himself, Galaxy’s Edge, and the CH Ghetto.
Tales of the Once and Future King:
Amazon Ghetto 5
CH Ghetto, leaning towards the PulpRev subghetto.
Last, Galaxy’s Edge:
Galaxy's Edge Also Boughts
GE is almost entirely outside the Ghetto. Brian shows up on page 5 (Souldancer)… and that’s it.
Galaxy’s Edge escaped the Ghetto, and that’s part of why it’s selling. Other authors need to do the same thing.
How can authors and publishers avoid falling into an Amazon ghetto or escape once their books have fallen in? Here's my reader's advice:
If you’re not being recommended to people outside the Ghetto, they’re not buying you. And, as far as I can tell, nobody is being recommended to people outside the Ghetto. (It may have happened. I haven’t seen it.)
I'll point out the slight exception of Galaxy's Edge and Soul Cycle books being recommended in each others' "also boughts"--and no, it's not an accident.
The audience you NEED is “People who regularly buy indie books of Genre XX on Amazon.” 
This is the problem you have to solve: upon launch, make sure you’re bought by indie-loving “whales” (people who buy a lot of indie books in your category on Amazon)...
To clarify, we're not telling authors to avoid cross-promoting with authors from publishers that have loyal followings; nor are we advising publishers not to cross-promote their own books. The upshot here is to know when to cross-promote.

As a best selling indie author (not Nick Cole or Jason Anspach, by the way) recently told me, you don't actually want to have other authors promoting your book when it first goes live on KDP. Wait until at least the day after (a week in some cases), and in the meantime let Amazon's algorithm work clean with your book's keywords and categories.

That way, when an author who specializes in a different genre promotes your book, the algorithm doesn't get confused.

It also helps to spread out your own marketing efforts. Send out a newsletter on day one. Do a blog post the day after that. Follow up on social media on day three. The order doesn't matter as far as I know. Just don't do them all at once.

And make sure Amazon's algorithm is well-trained to recommend your book to general readers in its categories before getting something like a Book Bomb from an A list author.

In conclusion, Amazon ghettos can hobble your book right out of the gate. But they aren't inescapable. It just takes the proper planning and forethought. Word to the wise.

2017/12/12

Sanderson's Law

Authors are just as prone to cognitive dissonance when received wisdom about the publishing industry is challenged, as this series of tweets demonstrates.

Sanderson's Law 1

That tweet is not a statement of personal preference or opinion. It is based on objective market data. As of this writing, the top three books in Science Fiction > Adventure: The Gender Game, Artemis, and Ready Player One are 418 pages, 322 pages, and 386 pages, respectively.

On the indie side, which is more relevant to our purposes, the longest Galaxy's Edge book is 424 pages, and the most recent weighs in at a mere 277.

All of this information is readily available, but that didn't stop commenters from opining in ignorance.

Sanderson's Law 2

Do some readers prefer longer novels? Certainly, but the particular is not the general.

As for genre, the effects of book length on story are beside the point. My goal is to help new indie authors succeed. A major contributing factor to an author's success is writing to market. Fantasy might be even more tarnished than science fiction. The thriller genre is thriving, and as the commenter above noted, thrillers tend to be short.

Also vital to indie publishing success is releasing new content regularly and frequently. Basic math dictates that it's much harder to release a 300,000 word cube every month than a lean 50,000 word short novel--which happened to be the pulp standard.

Sadly, the point continued to elude the Dunning-Kruger set.

Sanderson's Law 3
I'm sure all the Japanese light novelists in this blog's readership feel vindicated.

But it was this explanatory tweet that garnered several responses invoking what I now call Sanderson's Law.

Sanderson's Law 4

Sanderson's Law 5

I'll let this exchange speak for itself.
Sanderson's Law 6

The future of publishing is indie. Being part of that future means writing to market, releasing frequent regular content, and working the algorithm. That goes for Brandon Sanderson, too.

Nethereal - Brian Niemeier
I guess some people really loved it.

2017/12/11

The Perfect Publisher

The future of publishing

Ebooks are here to stay. Amazon enjoys overwhelming dominance among book retailers. Indie has matured into the preferred publishing model for authors.

These developments, among many that have turned the book industry upside down in recent years, are widely known. Yet publishers, and even most indie authors, continue to employ obsolete practices that no longer make sense in the post-analog publishing world.

The other day I was conversing with a friend and reader about how Leftist authors get ample support from converged publishers and media outlets, while non-Leftists must largely go it alone. Yet these converged institutions are almost entirely wedded to the dying trad publishing model.

We agreed that a more effective support structure for dissident authors of speculative fiction  was needed. Soon we started brainstorming about what a publishing company designed to take maximum advantage of the current industry landscape would look like.

If I had the resources and inclination to build the perfect speculative fiction publisher from scratch, here's the plan I'd follow. Note that this is purely theoretical, since ideally I'd have needed to start implementing this plan five years ago.

The groundwork
Before I even considered calling for author submissions, my first step would be to start building a platform. The centerpiece would be a blog devoted to speculative fiction. I'd enlist two or three other like-minded guys with solid writing and editing skills to contribute. We'd keep a strict schedule of publishing multiple posts per day, seven days a week to build a readership while cross-promoting on social media. The initial goal would be to get 100,000 views per month before moving to the next stage.

As the blog's readership grew, I'd keep an eye out for commenters with writing talent. Those with the most promise would be recruited as contributors and kept in mind for later consideration as authors. I would also cultivate an email list to keep readers apprised of news, contests, and giveaways.

The structure
With the initial team assembled and the blog's audience at the requisite size (100,000 monthly views and 10,000 newsletter subscribers), for which I'd allow roughly five years, I'd begin putting the actual publishing operation's structure in place.

This hypothetical publishing house would have at least three imprints right off the bat--one for each main category of fiction we'd publish. I'd forego analog-era genres like science fiction and fantasy since trad publishers have effectively killed those labels in the reading public's mind. Instead, our operation would be divided based on far more useful Amazon categories. Each imprint would have an editor chosen from the original collaborators.

As mentioned above, the future editors would have been recruiting and curating talent over the previous five years. Their goal would be to have five authors apiece, each with five-book series already written and ready to go.

The launch
The initial launch would consist of all three imprints releasing the first book by each of their five authors. But let's not get ahead of ourselves. Extensive preparation would be necessary prior to launch. Pre-launch support for each title would include the following:
  • Each author would have built his own platform, to include regular blogging and social media presence. The publisher's blog would help with promotion.
  • Each author would also have built up a personal mailing list--again, with publisher assistance.
  • The publisher would have worked to build mutually beneficial relationships with several best selling indie authors. Mailing list trades would be arranged so that every launch title would be promoted by eight best selling authors not signed to the publisher via their mailing lists.
  • At least 35 advance reviewers would be recruited for every launch title through the publisher's and authors' email lists.
As a result of all this preparation, each book would launch on KDP with 35 reviews. Each book would be assigned different subcategories. Cross-promotion by authors with #1 best sellers in each book's Amazon categories would teach Amazon's algorithm to promote the book to likely buyers. 


Just as importantly, each imprint would have its own separate KDP account and email list. The publisher would not cross-promote books from different imprints on the same mailing lists, whether those lists belonged to the publisher or allied authors. These measures would prevent a book's "also boughts" from becoming too incestuous, i.e. dominated by other books from the same publisher/authors in different categories.

If this plan is implemented properly, each book should reliably attain a #1 rank in at least one of its Amazon subcategories.

The future
Remember how I said that all fifteen original authors would need to have five books each ready to publish? After the launch of their first books, the successive titles in each author's series would be released every month, following the same formula outlined above. Each book could reasonably be expected to reach #1 in at least one subcategory. Meanwhile, the authors keep writing one book per month.

After a few months, all of the initial fifteen authors would be established enough to effectively promote new authors in the same categories. At that point, the editors would start scouting new authors from submissions, social media, and Amazon.

At that point, you'd have a publisher capable of reliably taking a new author from relative obscurity to consistent #1 best selling status. The cultural benefits of such an operation cannot be overstated.


The Soul Cycle - Brian Niemeier
the Soul Cycle is everything that sci-fi, including the new Star Wars movies, should be trying to emulate.

2017/12/08

Never Go Full SJW

A friend and reader writes:
Haha, it's official -- Tor newsletter just went full retard.
And with that, I'm going to unsubscribe.
He ain't kidding! Here are some highlights.

Tor.com newsletter1

Tor.com kicks off with a bit of garden variety historical revisionist boilerplate. Sure to be the talk of the junior college faculty lounge.

Tor.com newsletter2

In case you were wondering whether SF SJWs can go five minutes on the internet without invoking Harry Potter, the answer is no, they cannot.

Tor.com Newsletter3

But they can make it six minutes before constructing tortured political allegories based on Disney's Star Wars movies.

Cappy Barnhouse
"I've seen people scream when they see a poorly drawn fish lip. They think it's a monster. But it's just a fish lip."
Pop-feminist historical criticism: check.
Harry Potter: check.
TFA: check.

Congratulations to Tor.com for becoming the ultimate SF SJW stereotype. It could've been worse. They could have, I don't know, foisted some clumsy Harry Potter-nuStar Wars mashup on us.

What's this? We have a new contender!

Tor.com Newsletter4

Self-parody achieved. Goodnight, everybody.

2017/12/07

Comics Need Professionalism

Spider-Clones

Emery Calame's comment on my previous Marvel-related post merited a guest post of its own.
This is not a popular sentiment but I think what is needed is professionalism oriented around maintaining the brand and IP. A fan who feels like they know Spider-Man probably should not be writing Spider-Man because he will SQUEEEEEE instead of telling decent stories each month. The continuity will go from a support to a choking mass. Likely we will have retreads of old stories with twists or constantly find out that everything we thought was true was a lie (the Clone Conspiracy).
A cold hearted maximizer might be bad too. A corporate numbers guy who wants x titles with popular item in them will Cross-over/Special event/#1/foil-variant cover Spider-Man to death. I had a DVD of all the Fantastic Four up to about 2006 and I noticed that from 1987 -1998 you could not complete a story because EVERYTHING was continued in some other book. That is nuts. These are the guys who will create a Spider-man family, with SpiderBabby and a mini-series about Uncle Ben's ghost helping kids fight vampires. It's cross promotion hell.
Finally you can't have geniuses who are out for themselves running books. You end up with subversion and stunts and weird shit that poisons Spider-Man. You might find out that Spider-man raped someone in Vietnam while on heroin and then he gets he hand cut off and a spider-hand grows back. 
lately we've had the bubbly yet incadescently angry political hacks and their bullshit where they use Spider-Man as a sock puppet or make a fool of him to promote Spider-GRRL and SPYDERR-QUEEN as his replacements.
You need an editor/writer who understands Spider-Man but doesn't care that much who recognizes certain excesses and is mostly focused on 1. All ages content 2. having something new each month 3. having something in each issue that makes it worth buying, not people talking in a coffee shop 4. won't allow nutty madness to take over the book 5. saves people from other books for occasional teams ups or sets up a Marvel Team Up/Brave and the Bold/Marvel Two In One style book, rather than having them rent Spider-man's book as a b-plot side kick. 6. Think of Spider-Man as thing that exists in the long terms that should not have constant additive and subtractive major wood-working done on it. 7. consider making something like a house style and a comics code to keep low hanging lowest common denominator stuff out of the book. Yes the code was ridiculous but its constraints did a lot to force Marvel to be extremely creative and catchy when they could have been easy PG-13 drek. Marvel got around the prohibition of the word Zombie by calling them living dead and zuvembie. That was cool and became part of the marvel tone. When Marvel could say Zombie they did zombies and it was lame. Meh. More zombies. 
Anyway those are my thoughts. You need someone distant from Spider-man who thinks of it as bread and butter not to be messed with too much. People who want Spider-man 700 years back in time cutting off samurai heads and suffering from Amnesia should not be the focus of the Spider Man property. Just because you can doesn't mean you should. A story about someone with spider traits cutting off samurai heads and wondering where they came from with a few fractured memories of the future needs to be centered on a new character.
My comment:

Having been subjected to the Spider-Clone, or as Wizard called it, the Ugh, debacle immediately after first getting into Spider-Man, I'm inclined to fully support the program you've laid out here.

Comic books need to be market-facing again. Before bringing on prospective writers for major titles, editors should ask what a scribe's game plan for the book is.

If the answer is any of the following:

"Let's do a year-long arc where we play [kitsch 70s gimmick] straight!"

"[B List heroes] are hot now thanks to [quirky, surprise hit movie]. How about shoehorning them into our flagship standalone character's supporting cast and turning his book into a rehash of Claremont's X-Men run?"

"To be honest, I've always found this character rather pedestrian. I intend to shake up the status quo by shifting the book's focus to explore [Z list female supporting character]'s abusive history with her stepfather and resulting inability to have stable relationships. She's also a stripper."

"I've been too busy editing 'Non-binary Coprophages Destroy Science Fiction' to keep up on comics. But let's replace the iconic lead character with a genderfluid, queer, Inuit Restless Leg Syndrome suffering Socialist."


Pass.
this epic makes scifi fun again.
Nethereal - Brian Niemeier

2017/12/06

Customers Matter

Presented for your education and enrichment: the story of Marvel Comics' implosion in two pictures.

First, a Twitter exchange in which a weeb comedian rushes to the defense of Moon Knight scribe Max Bemis.

Customers Matter

And now, a Marvel sales graph.

Marvel Comics sales February 2017

According to the chart, in February 2017 45% of Marvel's titles were selling at or below the 20,000 copy cancellation threshold. That was almost a year ago, and Marvel's situation has only gotten worse.
This is a game-changing drop; sales have fallen over a cliff. Overall, year on year, that’s almost 7% down on 2016 at the same time. July’s figure was 3% down. Things are getting worse, not better. 2017 looks like it may be an annus horribilus for the comic book direct market.
The customer is king. Marvel and their sycophants may find the necessity of writing to market annoying, but the market doesn't care.

Actually, it's becoming more and more apparent that the market does care and is doling out some richly deserved punishment to Marvel's wallet. It would take a total 180 degree attitude adjustment for Marvel to save themselves now, and based on their past behavior, you can kiss them goodbye.

If you want an example of what listening to your audience and working to please them looks like, check out my action/adventure/horror series The Soul Cycle.

The Soul Cycle - Brian Niemeier
This series just gets better.

2017/12/05

Ophian Rising eARCs

The Ophian Rising - Astlin

I sent out eARCs to advance reviewers of The Ophian Rising last night. Finishing a series that's spanned sixteen years from conception to completion is a singular experience to say the least. It hasn't fully sunken in yet. I expect that the final book's release later this month will drive the point home.

If nothing else, I can take pride in achieving this goal despite Current Year politics and the weather.

Heartfelt thanks to all of my readers--especially those who've left reviews. We could only have finished this journey together.

Note to advance reviewers: if you signed up to leave a launch day review but haven't received your eARC yet, send me an email via the button at the top of the left sidebar. The same goes for readers who aren't yet advance reviewers but would like to sign up. You've got two weeks to read the book--which is the shortest in the series--so there's still time to get a free eARC.

Now that my admittedly higher learning curve passion project is out of the way, it's time to switch gears to something more mainstream. Up next: giant robots!

As a close confidante recently told one of my readers, you have no idea what you're in for.


The Soul Cycle - Brian Niemeier
I nearly blew off this series as a Warhammer 40K wanna be. I was wrong. Very wrong. Each book has increased in depth of characters and story. The action is non stop and the intrigue keeps growing. Excellent series that I'm so glad I started.

2017/12/04

Hired Gun vs. Auteur

Hired Gun
Are IP-based movie productions better served by engaging auteur directors who will control every aspect of the film, or do such projects reap greater benefits from a more mercenary approach?

Bradford Walker offers a definite answer and compares DC Comics' movies to Marvel's as an example.
Following on from a previous Midnight's Edge video on why non-Marvel cinematic universes routinely fail, we see another piece of the puzzle become brick-to-the-face obvious: producer-centric editorial control, returning the Old Hollywood practice of studio moguls being the shot-callers to a new context with a new justification for doing so. We see this sort of thing being behind how Lucasfilm runs their film franchise also, as Kathleen Kennedy is not afraid to remind directors that they are hired guns doing Work For Hire and not true partners working as collaborators.
In short, directors and writers are hired to produce a branded product possessing their signature style within editorial limits. Lucasfilm wants a Star Wars-branded product version of (director)'s style, in the genre said director is famous for and reliably delivers to market. The same applies to Marvel, and when directors realize what their limits are within such considerations they actually don't seem to mind too much; the same applies to writers, most of whom know that the realities of the business drive things like changing a character from the source material depiction to something more market-friendly (e.g. Doctor Strange and The Ancient One), so they keep calm and carry on.
The folks who are failing are those that cannot admit that this is the case and adjust their personal and corporate operations to adapt to reality. DC can't do this, and neither can Warner Brothers more generally, which is why Marvel (and Disney) are eating their lunch. 
Star Wars is an interesting and illustrative example. The best films in the series were arguably made by hired gun directors working to Lucas' specs rather than the installments written, produced, and directed by Lucas himself.

It's also worth noting that the Star Wars brand has been weakening since Kennedy has given J.J. Abrams and now Rian Johnson carte blanche with the franchise.

If you've been reading this blog for a while, you might suspect that there's a lesson for authors somewhere in this post. And you'd be right.
Learning how to operate a fictional setting as a brand-based business is turning into a vital skill to have for IP-based businesses such as comics, but this does scale down to the realm of SF/F publishing- but for the authors, not the publishers, so it does matter for folks who manage to find an audience with their fictional works (e.g. Larry Correia an Monster Hunter International) to pay attention to these matters going forward.
In sum: if you're playing in someone else's sandbox, build to spec, but don't be afraid to do it in style.


Nethereal - Brian Niemeier

2017/12/01

December Update

The Ophian Rising - Brian Niemeier

This will be a short post since I'm up to my elbows in last-minute manuscript cleanup work. As the prior sentence probably tipped you off, The Ophian Rising, Soul Cycle Book IV, is now complete and will be sent off to Polgarus Studio shortly for final formatting.

Thanks to everyone who supported this project, and the Soul Cycle as a whole. The final book's release is the culmination of a labor I began almost two decades ago. Back then, I never could have imagined that Nethereal would be found worthy of a Campbell nomination, that Souldancer and The Secret Kings would become Dragon Award finalists, or that SD would win.

An equally unforeseen development has been indie publishing's rise, not just to viability, but to dominance of the industry once controlled by the big New York publishers. As Oghma_EM, who wrote the foreword to The Ophian Rising noted, trad publishers have lost the nerve to publish genre-bending, challenging books like these. Instead they've gone all-in on recycled plots pushing SJW dogma. Perhaps there's a connection between the Big 5's biases and indie's ascent.

Anyway, if you're an advance reviewer, expect delivery of your Ophian Rising eARC within in the next few days. I'll provide additional instructions, including the finalized release date. Thanks again!

If you haven't signed up to be an OR advance reviewer and would like a free eARC, there's still time to get in the game. Just email me by clicking the button at the top of the left sidebar.

And if you haven't purchased the previous three books in the Soul Cycle yet, seriously, what are you waiting for? Unlike certain other infamous SFF series, mine has been seen through to completion.

The Soul Cycle - Brian Niemeier

2017/11/30

Garbagereads

I predicted that Goodreads would follow Twitter down the way of the social media dodo almost two years ago. Back then I thought that their admins' lack of integrity would drive away all but a remnant of hardcore SJW readers. Now it looks like base greed might lead to an exodus of authors.

Grabagereads

Hat tip to the Pulp Archivist for bringing this development to my attention.

I left Goodreads and never looked back when it became apparent they were fully converged. Their giveaways were useful during the Gold Rush era of indie publishing but had already lost much of their utility by the Wild West stage. Now there's simply no reason to shell out over $100 for a promotion that any number of mailing lists offer at far more reasonable prices and KDP Select allows authors to run every month for free.

If you're an author and you stay on Goodreads after this hamfisted cash grab, you have a severe case of Stockholm syndrome.

Goodreads' admins have signaled that intelligent business practices rank far below enforcing social justice dogma on their list of priorities. Unless Amazon steps in to correct their wayward subsidiary, you can expect much worse in the near future.

Consider Goodreads' terminal convergence reason #2,738,529 to build your own platforms.

In Soul Cycle news, I'll be finishing up revisions on the series' final book The Ophian Rising tonight. If you haven't yet purchased the first three thrilling books in my award-winning series, now's the time!

The Soul Cycle - Brian Niemeier

2017/11/29

Put Up or Shut Up

Upside Down Christmas Tree

As Advent approaches, the Injustice Gamer notes the increasing commercialization and concurrently decreasing observance of religious holidays.
But the celebration of religious holy days and festivals is largely a foreign concept, especially when one looks at the family problems of the day. When kids start seeing all the problems of Christmas and Thanksgiving in coordination at both mom and dad's houses, and want stability instead, the concept is undermined. Yes, further than the materialistic nature Christmas has taken on more and more.
Since family has been destroyed as a concept for many, there's the attractiveness of celebration with friends. And while holy days are indeed appropriate to share in feasting, they've already been poisoned in many minds and hearts. And Halloween in the minds of the nones has nothing to do with faith, after all, it's been associated with witches and horror for ages in pop culture.
One reason why Postmoderns need to perpetually denigrate superior medieval culture is the fact that not only were holy days taken more seriously in the Ages of Faith, there were more of them. Peasants in the Middle Ages enjoyed many more days off than contemporary cubicle slaves.

But of course, we can't mention that since Big Brother needs his tax revenue--the welfare state being another consequence of Christianity's decline in the West. (See the destruction of family above.)

For those who don't understand why Halloween overtaking Christmas as the most popular holiday has major cultural implications, consider that Christmas' prior claim to the top spot is itself an aberration. After all, the holiest day of the year is Easter, not Christmas. Yet most people--even most Christians--are ignorant of this fact.

As renowned folklorist Joseph Campbell observed, myths are how a culture explains itself to itself. And no, Campbell didn't mean "myth" in the Postmodern sense of "falsehood". He was thinking more along the lines of Lewis.

Religious rituals like holidays are how the lessons and spiritual nourishment contained within myths are applied to people's daily lives. Cut people off from the rituals, and you get cultural death.

You might object that Americans still participate in public rituals associated with secular holidays. But that's like saying everything's fine even though there's no more water because there's plenty of New Coke for everyone.

Put another way, there are two Greek words for time. Kairos is sacred time, liturgical time; time that touches eternity. Kairos is when the transcendent touches the mundane and thus when myths break through into people's lives.

Chronos is sequential, earthly time. When you're waiting in line at the DMV, stuck in traffic, or watching television, that's chronos. It's concerned only with the here and now.

What's happened in Western culture is the wholesale denial of any experience of kairos to vast swaths of the population. Even when people think they're keeping the old rituals--buying gifts, throwing big dinner parties, etc.--most of their holiday experience is stuck firmly in chronos. That's by design.

Alfred offers some suggestions for how to revive Christendom's dying traditions. His last point in particular resonated with me for obvious reasons.
We are seeing well written novels come out that respect faith, and "Christian" movies are starting to get the need for less insular audiences as well. Who's missing? The commentators and populizers. But I don't think it's for the same reasons quite as conservatives. Some may be due to ignorance, some due to a rejection of portrayal of sin, which is lying to ourselves. We are fallen, and have redemption only as a gift.
And I have seen many push the idea of reading only old books, and the superiority of old art, etc. But the problem there is, if they won't help with supporting the new works, the restoration they desire will never happen; art needs funding. You want to replace modern garbage with real art? Put up or shut up. Enough with the navel gazing superiority.
Luckily, I'm well placed to offer readers the perfect chance to put up.

Nethereal - Brian Niemeier

I couldn't put Nethereal down.

2017/11/28

Indie Pub Eras

Wild West

The world of indie publishing is a dynamic market that has undergone dramatic change in a remarkably short time. To better understand this rapidly evolving industry, it behooves us to take a look back at the stages of indie pub's development.

Pre-Kindle

Before Amazon's introduction of the Kindle eReader, traditional publishing was the only viable option in the modern book industry. Back then--only a decade ago--self-publishing meant paying out of pocket to have copies of your book printed up. Usually the author's friends and family members would purchase a few copies out of pity. The rest of the print run would languish in cardboard boxes in the garage.


The Gold Rush

Everything changed with the release of the Kindle in 2007. The first model of Amazon's proprietary eReader sold out almost immediately. Kindle owners were so desperate to fill up their shiny new devices with eBooks, they would buy raw, unedited Word docs, no questions asked. This was the ground floor of KDP, and many authors who got in early made a killing with minimal effort.


The Wild West

The easy money of the Gold Rush days became more elusive over the next few years as the Kindle's novelty wore off and readers got more discerning about their eBook purchases. A large influx of authors led to fierce competition and exacerbated the perennial problem of discoverability.

Savvy authors of KDP's Wild West era developed a strategy of digital bookshelf building to get their brands noticed. This approach involved producing well-written and professionally edited eBooks with eye-catching covers. Greater attention was paid to marketing techniques long used in tradpub such as tantalizing back cover blurbs and product descriptions. Successful authors experimented with pricing to find each book's sweet spot.

What defined the Wild West era of KDP was the widespread belief that success relied on luck. Having a quality book with a good cover was viewed as necessary groundwork for big sales, but actually having a hit title was regarded as a black swan event. All of the top sellers held that pure chance had the final say in which books killed and which bombed. No one really understood how Amazon's algorithm worked, so authors were encouraged to release as many books as possible since each new title was seen as a lottery ticket--another chance to spin the wheel of fate.

Then, within the last six months, everything changed.


The Mature Market

The dawn of a new indie publishing era can be traced to the launch of a single book: Legionnaire (Galaxy's Edge Book 1) by Jason Anspach and Nick Cole. It was Jason and Nick who finally discovered what countless KDP authors had missed since the Kindle's release. They figured out how to beat Amazon's sales algorithm.

According to Nick and Jason there is no luck involved. Successfully selling on KDP is not an unpredictable black swan event. Gold Rush authors ignored the algorithm. Wild West authors tried to fight it. Nick and Jason have learned to beat Amazon's algorithm by teaching it to work for them. And Galaxy's Edge proves their model works. Every book in the series has hit #1 in its category upon release.

The Galaxy's Edge formula is still largely a trade secret, but the authors have revealed that it involves carefully choosing the right genre categories, having the right number of reviews posted to a book's Amazon page at launch, cross-marketing with the right authors, and getting the right sales instead of blindly grasping for the most sales.

Following these and other steps trains Amazon's algorithm to recommend your book to the customers who are most likely to buy it. This method sounds too simple to be real, but many breakthroughs are. Amazon themselves seem to concur since they rewarded Nick and Jason's success by making Galaxy's Edge the Kindle Daily Deal for Cyber Monday.

With the development of this method, indie publishing--which is synonymous with KDP for all intents and purposes--has reached maturity. Contra the Big Five New York publishers, self-publishing is not a fad or a fluke. It is a fully developed industry with its own rules that are now coming to be clearly understood.

Not only is indie not going anywhere, its rise to dominance in the Wild West days will only consolidated now that the market has matured.

The 'Big Five' publishers don't have the nerve for this type of book anymore.

2017/11/27

Galaxy's Edge 99 Cent Special

Galaxy's Edge

Best selling authors Nick Cole and Jason Anspach have revitalized literary science fiction with their smash hit Galaxy's Edge series. Amazon have wisely chosen GE as the Kindle Daily Deal, and the authors have wisely decided to capitalize on the momentum by offering each book for only $0.99!

Your read that right. Today only, you can get the entire five-book series for less than five bucks!
From Book 1: The Galaxy is a Dumpster Fire 
A hot, stinking, dumpster fire. And most days I don’t know if the legionnaires are putting out the flames, or fanning them into an inferno. 
A hostile force ambushes Victory Company during a reconnaissance-in-force deep inside enemy territory. Stranded behind enemy lines, a sergeant must lead a band of survivors against merciless insurgents on a deadly alien world somewhere along the galaxy’s edge. With no room for error, the Republic’s elite fighting force must struggle to survive under siege while waiting on a rescue that might never come. 
When you think you’ve surrounded the Legion... you’ve just made your last mistake. 
You're officially out of excuses. Get Galaxy's Edge today!

Already own GE? Good. You have excellent taste. If you're looking for more action and adventure that trades space marines for space pirates, get my award-winning Soul Cycle today and be ready for the final book's December release!

The Soul Cycle - Brian Niemeier

Incredibly fun, Indie authors are where the excitement is.

[UPDATE]: I was a little late to the party, but my readers will be glad to know that each book of the Soul Cycle is now on sale for $0.99! Nethereal, Souldancer, and The Secret Kings go back to their regular price at midnight, so if you were holding out for a sale to complete your Soul Cycle collection before the fourth and final book's release, now is your best chance to get all three prior volumes.

2017/11/24

The Machine

gears

It used to be that an author could rise to a position of some cultural influence. I'm not just talking about inspiring future generations through their books. Think of J.K. Rowling and Stephen King for examples of celebrity authors whose public statements carry a lot of water in certain quarters. They're among the more recent writers to be handed the megaphone. They're also among the last.

Time was, if you happened to pen a breakout novel and the high rollers in New York liked the cut of your jib, not only would they keep cutting you Big Book Deals™, they'd make sure their friends at the trade mags and major newspapers reviewed your books. Meanwhile, their buddies in Hollywood got rolling on the film adaptations, which you'd be slotted to gab about on the daytime talk show circuit.

That's all well and good. Getting talented and profitable authors onto the A list is what publishers are supposed to do. To this day, every writer who signs away 85% of his profits to a New York publisher does so in the hope that they'll make him the next King or Rowling. The fact that publishers don't have that kind of muscle anymore is one of the main reasons why NY publishing is now a scam.

The problem with the old media machine--at least as far as half the country is concerned--is how the machine picked who got the magic carpet rides. If you think they were running a meritocracy where rookies got scouted for the majors based on ability, you haven't been paying attention.

By their fruits shall you know them. King uses his megaphone to agitate for disarming innocent people as atheist Democrats off their meds play DIY Nero. Rowling's work has been embraced by the future cat lady food hive mind as their One Allegory.

Again, that's not an accident.

The Left play to win. Ideological nepotism is a winning strategy, and the Leftists who control big publishing, the news media, and Hollywood have no qualms about playing favorites. Their monolithic in-group preference is why they've been able to push the Overton window ever leftward and thereby frame every national debate for at least 50 years.

For a minute there, it looked like normal people were about to build our own parallel Machine. Now it's pretty clear that's not in the cards. Our side's pragmatism, individualism, and tendency to care about profits--ironically all traits you'd normally look for in successful entrepreneurs--keep us from enforcing the rigid ideological discipline and devotion to the cause over commercial success that's seen the Left march from victory to victory.

If you're a morally and intellectually sane writer who's been waiting for a non-converged publishing, media, and film making apparatus to be put in place before unveiling your literary masterpiece, I've got bad news for you.

Not only is the cavalry not coming, the senior officers got into a big row over who should be in charge. And they can't stop bickering over which direction to ride in. And those who initially led the charge keep having ADD attacks and veering off toward new objectives every time the wind changes. Now the more talented fighters are retiring to take more lucrative and lower profile civilian consulting jobs.

Much like the enlisted men in Apocalypse Now, us grunts are on our own. But there's more than one way to win a culture war. The Lefty media-entertainment complex rode the second gen command and control model to victory. #GamerGate pioneered an even more effective strategy: a decentralized revolt that relies on a standalone complex of individual ops to break the corrupt media.

Authors drew a lucky hand this round. Thanks to Amazon, it's easier than ever to get your book to market and even make a living from your writing--especially now that Nick Cole and Jason Anspach have figured out how to beat the algorithm.

The cavalry ain't comin'. Don't wait to be asked. Don't ask for permission. Go out there and do some damage. We're completely surrounded.The poor bastards can't get away from us now!


2017/11/23

Classic Post: Wendell Interview

Wendell the Manatee

Reposted from 01/06/2016

Harvard Business School, the Florida state legislature, and interdimensional insurance agents know him as Wendell T. Manatee: CFO of CorreiaTech. Crusaders against Puppy Related Sadness know him as the spokesmanatee for Sad Puppies. But this aquatic American largely remains an enigma to his legions of adoring fans and whiny detractors alike. The manatee himself recently sat down (actually, he floated inside his giant fish tank at CorreiaTech HQ and called me via Skype) to share some insights on his personal motivations.

BRIAN NIEMEIER: Thank you, Mr. Manatee,  for taking time out from overseeing the Monster Hunter Nation server upgrades to address the public's insatiable appetite for all things Wendell.

WENDELL THE MANATEE: Mewoooooooooooo.

BN: Wow. Eloquent though they are, your printed quotes failed to prepare me for the heart-melting rapture of hearing you speak in person. I am utterly disarmed and profoundly stirred!

WM: Weeeewooooooo.

BN: Hilarious! Such a legendary wit would have been the toast of the Algonquin Round Table.

(Starts laugh-crying uncontrollably.)

WM: Mehwhoooo?

BN: (Finally composing self) Sorry. Just needed a moment. I'm still here.

WM: Fleeeerp. Mehwoo?

BN: To talk about your background, your work with Larry Correia, and your involvement with Sad Puppies.

Not to step on your fluke, but fans might take exception to the term "dork fest".

WM: Foooooooooooo.

BN: With your Harvard MBA and your membership in an endangered species, you were free to write your own ticket. Why manage the finances of a D-list author of explosion porn?

WM: Flooooooo.

BN: So it's all because of Lance Henriksen. Fascinating.

WM: Mehoooowhoooooooooon…

BN: Careful. You know how prone people are to misreading those kinds of comments as threats, and Mr. Henriksen is formidable enough to make Alien 3 almost watchable.

Young Wendell
Even as a child, Wendell was right at home in the public eye.
Back on topic, was there a specific pitch you made that convinced Larry to hire you?

WM: Meeeeeww-oooooo.

BN: Yeah. You can only milk thinly veiled B movie and X-Men fanfic for so long. I tried the same thing with 90s anime and Dune, which barely pays for the movie tickets I need to stay out of the cold. (Indie author pro tip: if you buy one for the first showing, they'll let you stay till closing time. And you can hide in the crawlspace under the screen after that!)

Like I told that derelict who lives in the hobo camp in the woods by the interstate: "Punk, I an't trading no electric blanket for no bag of CVS disposable razors!"

Where was I? Oh yeah. Did you have a vision for breaking out of the niche market for war game nerds and gun nuts?

WM: Mewwwooooo. Moooooo-gurgle gurgle.

BN: Great point. Romance is huge. I'd hop on that gravy train faster than you can say E. L. James if only I understood the physical and emotional bonds that are so popular with humans.

WM: Hoooon?

BN: Aquatic mammals, too. Sorry. Why did Larry veto the shift from gun porn to regular porn? It can't be moral qualms. He's a libertarian.

WM: Meew-whooooo.

BN: I suppose that finding the mandatory female pen name for him would be a daunting ordeal.

WM: Moo.

BN: Let me get this straight. You're saying that you came up with the idea to do Son of the Black Sword!?

WM: (Pauses to take a bite from what resembles a Primanti Brothers sandwich, except the coleslaw seems to be made from iceberg lettuce, waterlogged straw, and ranch dressing.)

Wendell shark-wrestling
Shark wrestling: one of Wendell's many hobbies.
Meeeeeeeeeeeen.

BN: Congratulations. Still, you have to admit that Larry does all the toiling in the word mines.

Let's take a moment to talk about your personal history. You were born and raised in the ocean off the Florida coast. Manatees are renowned for their fierce determination, but yours took you in an unusual direction. You graduated from the Ivy League. where you earned a reputation as a--pardon the expression--party animal. Your exploits on the wrestling team have led some to call you a jock. You've also found time to cultivate world-class skills in Call of Duty.

WM: Fleeeerp.

BN: Yet you've had your share of setbacks: your narrow defeat in the race for your home state's legislature in 2012, losing Time's Person of the Year to the Ferguson protesters, your arrest for slapping a cosplayer, and most discouraging of all, being mistaken for Chris Matthews by a White House aide. Any one of these tragedies would have crushed a lesser man. To what do you owe your unconquerable tenacity?

WM: Mooorr-gurgle gurgle.

BN: (voice breaking) Your sage words have overcome me once again. If your detractors only had ears to hear, this divisive conflict in science fiction would end, and all fans would embrace as brothers. Have you spoken with George R. R. Martin?

WM: (Shakes his ponderous bulk in the negative) Moowhooooo.

BN: Yes, the resemblance to a whale shark is uncanny. It was clearly an honest mistake. I'm sure you can get the restraining order dismissed.

WM: Mehoooowhoooooooooon…

BN: You've become the public face of Sad Puppies. Why associate with that campaign?

WM: Eeeeewhoooo.

BN: I had no idea! People who think of you as a stoic tough guy will be equally shocked and touched by this intimate revelation.

WM: Hoooooon. Gurgle. Gurgle.

BN: With that single remark, you've put paid to every accusation lodged by the puppy-kickers. I stand in awe of your rhetorical mastery!

WM: (Plunges his yawning jowls into a barrel of CHEETOS.)

BN: (Voice raised over sounds of crunching) Thank you, Wendell, for gracing us with this portrait of courage, ambition, and yes, vulnerability. Before we wrap things up, do you have any parting words for our contemplation and enrichment?

WM: (Munching continues unabated until the connection times out.)



Nethereal - Brian Niemeier
Recipient of a Larry Correia BOOK BOMB!
Recommended by Sad Puppies 2016 for Best Novel and The John W. Campbell Award.

2017/11/22

Stealing Oscar

Alice Brady

Amid the endless revelations of Hollywood's current moral and creative decay, it's refreshing to look back to the movie industry's Golden Age, when the scandals and intrigues at least had a hint of novelty.

Take the case of Alice Brady, one of the talented few whose career survived the end of the silent film era. The daughter of Broadway producer William Brady, Alice received Academy Award nominations for My Man Godfrey and In Old Chicago. She won Best Supporting Actress for the latter.

Unfortunately, and strangely, Alice was robbed of her award. That's not a figure of speech. Sick with the cancer that would kill her two years later, Brady chose not to attend the award ceremony. Nor did she send someone to accept the Oscar in her place. But that didn't stop the unknown man who emerged from the crowd, accepted the award from the presenter, and promptly disappeared, along with Brady's plaque--Best Supporting winners didn't get statues yet.

Hot tip: if you're ever cleaning an attic and you come across an old plaque that looks like this...

Alice Brady Academy Award

Get that sucker to an expert for appraisal, because it's possible you'll have found one of Tinseltown's long lost treasures. FYI, Alice Brady's name probably won't be on it since the plaque was stolen from the awards dinner itself. The award pictured above is a replacement issued by the Academy.

About the theft itself, Infogalactic states:
At the Academy Award presentation dinner, Brady's Oscar Award, a plaque (statuettes were not awarded for the Supporting categories until 1943) was stolen by a man who came onstage to accept the award on the absent actress's behalf. It was never recovered, and the impostor was never tracked down. The Academy issued a replacement plaque which was later presented to Brady.
Regarding the thief who stole Brady's award, his story isn't all that remarkable. But the twisted tale of how he acquired the means to steal an Oscar is among Hollywood's strangest.

As mentioned previously, Alice Brady suffered from a lingering form of cancer. She kept working for years even while fighting the disease. However, the cancer made her bones brittle, and she endured frequent incapacitating breaks that threatened her career.

Enter Alice's father William Brady. As luck would have it, William's job as a theater producer brought him into contact with a performer who could pull off an uncanny impression of Alice's voice, and with the right Hollywood makeup and wardrobe magic, be made to look like her identical twin sister.

The only complication? The actor who could perfectly impersonate Alice Brady was a dude.

Arthur Blake
As a man, Arthur Blake never rose much above the B list. As a frequent stand-in for Alice Brady, he may have won an Oscar. Late in the production of In Old Chicago, Brady became too ill to work, and Blake stepped in to finish her scenes.

Blake didn't attend the Academy Awards presentation, and his estate contained no Oscar when he died, so he wasn't the thief. He did have an invitation to the ceremony, though, making Blake's live-in boyfriend at the time the most likely culprit. Knowing that neither Blake nor Brady would be there, he may have become the most audacious party crasher of all time by stealing Blake's ticket, accepting Brady's Oscar, and making off with the award.

You've got to admit it, a caper like that is way gutsier than the far more debauched yet more pedestrian antics of Harvey Weinstein.

The 'Big Five' publishers didn't have the nerve for this type of book anymore.