2017/08/18

Reader Mail: World Building

A reader writes:
I recently [read] Cole's article you linked to and I was wondering if you could help me with something. I mean I've been working on a world for awhile now, and I'm uncertain about the first steps I should take about it. Basically, I keep going between deciding if I should do short stories first, or putting together a novel instead. And I believe the world can do both. Frankly, I'm sure I could list off several of the obstacles from that article to blame for my issues, but I'd like to know your experience in how you direct where a world takes you, and how you go about finding a concrete path once you have a grasp of where it is you want to go?
First, a caveat. My writing processes differs from this reader's in terms of our respective starting points. I don't start with world building. I start with a story I want to tell. Then I ask myself what a setting where such events take place would have to be like in order for the story to make sense.

That said, my reader is not alone. A lot of aspiring authors get caught up in endless world building spirals. The way out is to realize that world building and storytelling are two different processes. If you're asking whether your world is developed enough to write a story set in it, then it's time to write the story.

Regarding the "how do you find a concrete path?" question, I'm an outliner. Once I have a general idea for a story, I draw up a fairly detailed outline listing all of the major turns, pinches, plot twists, character goals, etc. That's my road map for writing the story.

You might not be an outliner. Discovery/organic writers just sit down and write whatever comes to mind. The only way to tell which type of writer you are is to experiment with both methods.

As for the short story vs. novel question, the two most important factors are:
1) Are you more interested in writing a short story or a novel?
2) Novels sell better.

Although it should be said that there are those who are working to resurrect the moribund short fiction market.


Personally, I'm more of a novelist than a short story writer. Three of my novels are currently on sale for less than $9 altogether.

One of those three is a finalist for this year's Best Science Fiction Novel Dragon Award. It's also available for free through Kindle Unlimited.

The Secret Kings - Brian Niemeier

Voting closes soon. Don't forget to request your free Dragon Award ballot!

@BrianNiemeier

2017/08/17

Get out of Your Way

Best selling author Nick Cole shares some highly profitable productivity tips for authors.
This is how you're getting in the way of You the Writer and preventing your success:
  • attempting too much at once
  • unrealistic time estimates
  • procrastinating
  • lack of specific priorities
  • failure to listen well
  • doing it myself--failure to delegate
  • unable to say no
  • perfectionism--focusing on needless details
  • lack of organization
  • failure to write it down
  • reluctance to get started
  • absence of self-appointed deadlines
  • not doing first things first 
ELIMINATE THESE OBSTACLES IMMEDIATELY NOW THAT YOU ARE AWARE OF THEM.
 Nick is on to something. Let those who have ears hear.

I advise all writers to take the time to grab a pencil and paper, sit down, and ruthlessly examine your own habits against this list. Even if you consider yourself highly productive, there's always room for improvement. Everyone should be able to write down at least one way in which he could follow these steps more closely. I did, and that's one reason I'm cutting back on my editing work to focus on my single most profitable activity: writing.

Get Kill Team, Nick's latest Galaxy's Edge book here.

Nick Cole - Kill Team: Galaxy's Edge Book III

And don't forget, my own award-winning Soul Cycle, including 2017 Dragon nominee The Secret Kings is now on sale for less than 9 bucks!

The Soul Cycle - Brian Niemeier

Reminder: the Dragon Awards are right around the corner. If you loved The Secret Kings, you can vote it Best Science Fiction Novel. Request your free ballot here!

2017/08/16

Death of the Short Story

Short stories built science fiction into a cultural force to be reckoned with and launched the careers of countless stellar authors. Yet the short fiction market has seen a steep decline in the past few decades.

Is the short story dead? Your humble Geek Gab hosts recently spoke with Castalia House blogger Vlad James about the state of sci-fi short fiction. Why was it significant, and who are some of the brave souls striving to bring it back?

Bonus: we also chat about E.T.

Have a listen!



And don't forget to vote in the Dragon Awards. My nominated SF novel The Secret Kings is free on KU, and the whole series is less than 9 bucks right now.


@BrianNiemeier

2017/08/15

Orwell Was 4 Years off

Iron Curtain

Over at the Castalia House blog, a reader poses this pivotal question:
Follow-up question. Several articles said the Hugo Awards have been a SocJus Safe Space for three decades and a little. So did the Hugo Awards go down hill in 1980?
CH blog editor and Appendix N author Jeffro Johnson answers with an expertise that few others can rival:
There are many posts on this, but here’s the short version.
1) Campbellian “Hard” SF was itself a modernist post-Christian movement that reset sff history by unpersoning the grandmasters of the pulp era.
2) The Hugos were a part of this revisionist wave and are thus… suspect to begin with.
3) Add to this that (and I’m not kidding) actual communists made a concerted effort to take over science fiction about the time that the Hugos began.
4) And seriously. Does anybody actually read seventies sff…? How stupid the “award-worthy” stuff was then?
5) And if the Hugos were such a gold standard, then why did the hard core sff fans that created the first wave of rpgs seem largely oblivious to the critically acclaimed award winning stuff of the sixties and seventies?
6) See also Marrion Zimmer Bradley and the story behind stuff like “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas”.
1980 is where the current iron curtain of the mind has been set. But the real cultural damage was done by 1940.
For more in-depth documentation, see this eye-opening video by The Qu Qu and Dan Wolfgang:


Print science fiction--once a dominant form of mass entertainment--was hijacked after WWII by screwdriver-wielding Modernists and outright Communists who wanted to make SF more literary in the former case and a propaganda tool in the latter.

Arising during this takeover of the genre, the Hugos were compromised from the beginning. Their current sorry state: a participation award given to authors from the most victimized groups by a small clique of dwindling fossils, was their inevitable intended end.

Happily for lovers of imaginative, exciting sci-fi, a new generation of storytellers has emerged to take back the genre from its treacherous erstwhile stewards. The Superversive and Pulp Revolution movements, as well as countless independent authors who simply strive to tell entertaining tales, are moving science fiction out of the literary ghetto where it's languished these many years.

The Dragon Awards have been hailed as a pro-fan replacement for the corrupt Hugos. But recent events cast doubt on Dragon Con's ability to stand firm against allowing a small but vocal segment of fandom to exert undue influence over the award process. The only solution is for the greater legions of honest fans to make their voices heard via ballot.

Request your free Dragon Award ballot.

Get the fan favorite Soul Cycle, including 2017 Dragon finalist The Secret Kings, for less than $9.

The Soul Cycle - Brian Niemeier

@BrianNiemeier

2017/08/14

Razörfist on the YouTube Blacklist

Razörfist, the double Hugo-nominated video blogger whose eloquence is rivaled only by his vulgarity, has conducted an experiment to test the criteria according to which YouTube's algorithm demonetizes videos.

The results, documented below, are revelatory.


The current censorship epidemic across social media platforms highlights a perennial deficiency of conservatives. They're good at building institutions, but contra their name, they've proven woefully inept at preserving them from convergence. The ongoing debacle over the Dragon Awards serves as another prominent example.

Parallel institutions devoted to the preservation and transmission of culture instead of disseminating Leftist propaganda are desperately needed. Artists and entrepreneurs are urged to learn from conservatism's failure. It's not enough to create new platforms; then sell them off and move on to the next project. They must be vigilantly protected from entryism.

Gab and Infogalactic have made a promising start but require time to grow. The Dragons were hailed as an alternative to the Hugos that had already made the latter obsolete. Sadly, Dragon Con has already folded to SJW demands once, which experience shows is habit-forming.

The only way to keep the Dragons from being smothered in the cradle is to make your voice heard. Register for your free ballot here.

My fan favorite Soul Cycle series including The Secret Kings, 2017 Dragon Award nominee for Best Sci-Fi Novel, is now on sale for less than $9.

The Soul Cycle - Brian Niemeier

@BrianNiemeier

2017/08/11

A Conservative Play

Dragon Con

The Dragon Awards saga continues taking unexpected twists and turns as Dragon Con first refuses; then allows, authors to withdraw from the ballot.

Dragon Con's decision drew comment from a number of prominent critics in the #PulpRev movement. Here's Castalia House blog editor Jeffro Johnson:
Anybody that has ever run a lot of old school D&D should immediately be able to see why this was a boneheaded move. Make a call like this in the heat of the game and all of a sudden you find out that the players have a reason why everything in the game could maybe be ruled differently. It’s way easier to just let the game be what it is and then leave it to the players to figure out how to deal with that.
But you do see the kicker there, don’t you? If you give this request your blessing, then you have basically agreed that Allison Littlewood was put on the ballot unfairly.
Gosh, if that’s the case… then maybe there are other people on the ballot that ought not to be there. Hell, you maybe even gave out awards last year to people that didn’t come by them honestly!
Seriously, did anyone running this thing give any thought to the implications of what they were doing here?
This is asinine.
Not only was the administrators' rationale for allowing Littlewood's withdrawal shortsighted, it flew in the face of the original spirit of the competition as related to me by a friend of the awards' main organizer. The folks running the Dragon Awards originally wanted authors to rally their readers behind them and for readers to promote their favorite books.

Contra Ms. Littlewood's complaint, her book was not placed on the ballot as part of a slate. It was recommended by a reader who liked the book, albeit a reader with whose politics she apparently disagrees.

The Injustice Gamer goes into more detail on the poor precedent that this decision sets and offers a solution:
Giving in to demands of this nature is a very "conservative" play, by which I mean it loses nobly and accomplishes nothing. To their credit, they are going to reissue ballots for those whose votes are affected by these.  Here's DragonCon's official statement.
There are good reasons to not give in, and I'm going to talk about them first. But then, I'm going to discuss a PROPER response that would have allowed withdrawals as well. This is important, because giving the opponent a way out that doesn't damage you changes perceptions. But, the way they went does damage the perception, and plays to the Narrative against the awards.
So, first, why would you not allow withdrawals? Because though the award is for the work of authors and other content producers, IT'S NOT ABOUT THEM. Even in this press release, DragonCon states that the award is about the fans. DragonCon has a history of caring far more about the fans than the celebrities, and not inviting back ones that ignore fans, panels, etc.
Also, the biggest part of the complaining on Littlewood's part is that a bloc voted for her. Last year, Larry Correia was actively encouraged to campaign for the award, and this is after his time running Sad Puppy campaigns. So, because these fans are voting together, their voice doesn't matter? That's ridiculous. George R.R. Martin even finally had to admit that campaigning had ALWAYS existed in the Hugos awards, of course, downplaying it because it was behind closed doors.
Now, I can understand concern over voter fraud. But that's not what they're talking about here. How would I combat fraud?  First, check things by IP. Second, I would, at a later date determined randomly, send a confirmation email that REQUIRES a reply. Yes, I'm saying people need to watch their inbox and junk email. If no reply occurs within a specified time period, delete their nominations.
Now, as to how I would allow for withdrawal if I were them. Make it permanent. Yes, if you're going to allow for withdrawal from a fan award with a reputation for favoring fans over celebrities, deny them forever. Why? Right now, they're also playing a game of the Dragons not being real, legitimate awards. The next step, to take it the rest of the way, is to deny them a professional presence at DragonCon in perpetuity, for denying the fans.
In short, Dragon Con's decision, as it stands, represents an administrative failure on a number of levels:
  1. It shows a fundamental preference shift from the from the fans to the talent.
  2. By caving once, the administrators have gravely compromised their resilience against future politically motivated demands.
  3. They also set the potentially fatal and self-contradictory precedent that any group of fans campaigning together risk fraud accusations simply for engaging in voting practices that are intrinsic to any democratic process.
Alfred Genesson has the right of it. Withdrawing from a democratically selected awards ballot in the name of ideological purity shows contempt for the voters and the process itself. Fans are now denied the chance to express their appreciation for a book they enjoyed, and the award organizers must scramble to issue revised ballots--which they will now have only one day to count.

I concur with Genesson and others who have made the same proposal. Allow withdrawals from the Dragon Awards ballot, but with the caveat that any author who withdraws is permanently ineligible to appear on any Dragon ballot thereafter.

John Scalzi has pulled the same stunt two years in a row, but has now withdrawn his withdrawal. Since the Dragon Con organizers will not condemn this insulting behavior, the only remedy left is to defeat him in the Best Science Fiction Novel category. If Scalzi can show such blatant contempt for the fans and still win an award, the Dragons' integrity will suffer severe and likely permanent damage.

The Secret Kings, my highly praised space opera novel, is the only viable competitor against Scalzi's Collapsing Empire. How do we know this? Because Scalzi and his clique have already invoked Godwin's Law in a desperate attempt to smear me.

Scalzi - Mecha-Hitler

I've made the choice significantly easier for readers, since I'm offering my entire award-winning series at a lower price than Scalzi's failed Asimov pastiche.

The Soul Cycle - Brian Niemeier

Scalzi - Collapsing Empire remaindered
My whole series still costs less than Scalzi's remaindered book.

Request your free Dragon Award ballot!

2017/08/10

Kiss Tradpub Goodbye

Evidence continues mounting that indie authors publishing with Amazon have sent the Big Five traditional publishers into a death spiral.
An inexorable reality of today’s commercial book publishing world is that it is shrinking. Although there have been no obvious signs yet that actual long-form book reading itself has declined (even though that would seem a likely consequence over time of the changed ways we get our reading inputs), the self-publishing and indie segment of the market keeps growing at the expense of the legacy commercial business.
Although it would take data I don’t have to prove this, it certainly appears anecdotally that the big houses are cutting back their investment in midlist titles, perhaps actually cutting future title count (which, over the years, has been an often-espoused but seldom-pursued strategy) but also offering smaller advances for all but the very top books.
Sales seem to be drifting away from the established publishers as their title outputs shrink or remain static and are shifting to Amazon’s own titles and indies, which is where the title base is expanding.
Translation: legacy publishers are losing market share to indies, thanks to tradpub's failure to compete with Amazon. And the big trad publishers are trying to shore up their revenue hemorrhage by slashing the midlist and jacking up the A list's already bloated advances.

You don't need any further evidence to prove that the people in charge of big New York publishing are equally stupid and out of touch. On average, each midlist book has a 50/50 chance of earning out its advance. By way of contrast, it's an open secret in the publishing world that big name authors almost never earn out their seven-figure advances.

Hillary Clinton - Hard Choices

In short, legacy publishers are cannibalizing their profitable midlists to sign more rock star authors whose advances are subsidized by that same shrinking midlist.

Tradpub is like an alcoholic who's gotten so desperate he's drinking turpentine.


Barnes & Noble Woes

Big publishers aren't the only ones who are circling the drain. The nation's last big brick and mortar book retailer is also on death watch.
Meanwhile, the whole legacy industry worries about the future for Barnes & Noble.
Last week a significant Barnes & Noble shareholder called publicly for the chain to offer itself for sale, apparently calculating that new (and perhaps “private”) ownership would see paths to profits that aren’t being followed right now. This follows continuing evidence that B&N’s overall sales track the legacy business, and are therefore declining. Amazon, of course, is not just the principal creator and beneficiary of the new competitors, primarily independent authors. They are also moving from being an online-only retailer to competing in B&N’s milieu: physical locations offering books.
The big traditional publishers are wholly dependent upon their paper distribution monopoly. When Barnes & Noble goes, they'll go down with it.
Amazon is now beating B&N at that same game. Amazon’s supply chain, built on a scale that the book business alone could never support, is now the gold standard. It will enable them to continue rolling out smaller stores, which is the kind of outlet that can succeed in today’s book marketplace. The stark fact today is that more than half the sales are online (and despite BN.com and the increased frequency of online book peddling from authors and various vertical organizations enabled by Ingram’s Aer.io and its competitors, almost all of those go to Amazon).
Big in-store inventories have become a pointless anachronism.
It is cheap sport to ridicule Barnes & Noble’s performance in the Internet age. They’ve made many of the standard incumbent mistakes in the face of upstart competition. They dealt themselves out of the online business by not pursuing either of the two most likely paths to success. They should either have made their dot com a stand-alone business, with pricing and growth aspirations beyond books that competed with Amazon, or they should have tightly integrated the online and store offerings to produce a hybrid that had its own appeal. They did neither.
The Big Five and B&N have no one but themselves to blame for their impending demise. Like the music and news industries before them, they allowed themselves to be disrupted by arrogantly refusing to change as changing market conditions demanded.

B&N could have been more accommodating to indie authors.

Legacy publishers could have worked with Amazon instead of fighting them by pricing eBooks competitively and offering authors something close to a reasonable royalty rate. Instead the Big Five pressured Amazon to restore agency pricing to protect their paper distribution channels. Meanwhile, they slashed midlist advances and threw huge advances at wasteful would-be blockbusters.

I've heard that the standard tradpub advance for new midlist authors has fallen as low as $2500. Who in his right mind will sign away all rights to his book forever in exchange for such a pittance--especially when there's even odds he won't earn out, or his contract will be cancelled next quarter?

Before, there remained a narrow set of circumstances in which publishing with the Big Five might have made sense. Now it's not even a choice anymore. Traditional publishing is dead. The future is indie.


Get my acclaimed Soul Cycle--including 2017 Dragon Award finalist The Secret Kings for less than 9 bucks!

The Soul Cycle - Brian Niemeier


Don't forget to request your free Dragon Award ballot!

@BrianNiemeier

2017/08/09

Dragon Awards Prelude

Perhaps you've been following the drama surrounding this year's Dragon Awards from the start, or you just found out about the Dragons today. In either case make sure to join me for the inside scoop on why the Dragon Awards are vital to the renewal of science fiction and what the Hugo clique's recent foray into--and hasty retreat from--the Dragons means in light of larger cultural trends.

Geek Gab: On the Books, live at 4:00 PM Eastern!


Heads up! My highly acclaimed SFF series The Soul Cycle, including 2017 Dragon Award finalist The Secret Kings, is now on sale for less than $9.00

The Soul Cycle - Brian Niemeier


And of course, don't forget to register for a free Dragon Awards ballot.

@BrianNiemeier

2017/08/08

Career Advice

Having fled the Dragon Awards after my readers and I crushed his SJW cheerleaders' Narrative, midlist author John Scalzi returned to his fortified Twitter bubble to dispense some career advice.


Career Advice

[Insert obligatory "I don't care, despite launching into an OCD tweetstorm" joke at Scalzi's expense.]

The real lesson for authors here isn't to be gleaned from Scalzi's butthurt words. It's in the attitude he displays toward readers, other authors, and the science fiction field as a whole.

Scalzi's tweetstorm drips with the analog mindset that's already killed Tor Books and all the Big Five publishers (they're just not broke--yet). His biases were formed in the bygone day when authors had to kiss up to New York editors and impress an incestuous pack of CHORF bloggers to build and sustain their careers.

It's understandable that these dinosaurs are slow to accept the new truth of publishing. I don't need to impress editorial interns whose only qualifications are Gender Studies degrees. The petty crab bucket of the "SFF" trufandom Scalzi's talking about is wholly irrelevant to me.

Today, most successful authors build relationships with fans on social media. They learn how to make Amazon's algorithm bring new readers to them. A surprising number of them--far more than in tradpub--are quietly pulling down six or seven figures per year; all without the approval or knowledge of the old gatekeepers.

Nothing bad happens when you stand up to SJWs. Sure, they love to threaten dire recriminations, but if this is the kind of "career damage" they mean, sign me up!

Oh, and Scalzi: consider getting BTFO'd from the Dragons retroactive comeuppance for calling my readers "assholes".

 I'll be voting for the Secret Kings because it's great fiction. If you want philosophical/metaphysical depth it's up there with Frank Herbert or Greg Bear.

2017/08/07

A True Culture Warrior

The SF SJWs have responded to The Secret Kings' nomination for this year's Best Science Fiction Novel Dragon Award with a familiar Narrative.

Lamprey Strategy

SJWs always double down. Last year, they tried to DISQUALIFY Souldancer's Dragon win after the fact based on its number of Amazon reviews. Now they're trying to preemptively undermine The Secret Kings, only SK has more than twice as many Amazon reviews as SD did when it won, so they've resorted to the even more arbitrary measure of Goodreads ratings.

They're also whining about how uncouth it is that I'm calling attention to John Scalzi's self-described and very public cuckery. The CHORFs should get used to disappointment, because unlike some genteel conservative, I recognize that Marquess of Queensberry rules are off the table.

This is a street fight. Chicago rules are in effect, and I'm fighting to win.

The CHORFs have done us a favor, though. Because they always project, they can't help telling us how to beat them. Glyer is clearly upset that I devoted half of my previous post to attacking Scalzi. I'll rectify that error by turning over the majority of this post to mocking Tor's golden boy.

You can be sure that pressing the attack is the right move, because contra Glyer's finger-wagging, there's a rich vein of popular disgust for Scalzi that I've only begun tapping into.

Here a just a few of the responses I got when I posted this pic--WARNING! don protective eyewear to shield your T levels!

Scalzi cucking

2017SK1

Answer: register for a free 2017 Dragon Award ballot and vote The Secret Kings for Best SF Novel.

More fan reactions:

2017SK2


But we're not all about negativity. I have the dual advantage of a loathsome opponent and an objectively superior book.


2017SK3

The same SJWs who ruined the Hugos now have their sights set on the Dragon Awards. Winning even one category will be a huge morale boost for them. On the other hand, getting completely shut out will leave them devastated.

Mike Glyer is right about one thing. I'm not in this fight to chase awards for their own sake. Genre fiction, movies, comics, and gaming have been decimated by a cultural war waged by totalitarian social justice warriors.

The SJWs know that I will oppose them, unflinchingly, on the terms they've set. That's why they shadowbanned me on Twitter, colluded to snub my readers by voting me below No Award in last year's Hugos, and are swarming to attack me now.

That's fine. They tried it last year, and their mean girl tactics helped push Souldancer to victory.

The CHORFs gave me some advice, so I'll return the favor. If you want to win, stop your catty narrative-building. Fight clean and stop insulting my readers, or this time it won't just be my people rushing to smack you down.

Of course, the SF SJWs won't take my advice. They can't.

But I can beat them. I'm the only non-SJW, non-Tor author on the Best SF Novel ballot who has a proven track record of punching above his weight enough to bloody the CHORFs' noses.

Don't get me wrong. Richard Paolinelli and Brian Guthrie are fine authors and great guys. But going up against the SJW hate mob can be daunting, especially if you've never faced it before. And it's not either of them who are being singled out for a two minutes' hate by leading CHORF blogs and their mainstream media collaborators.

Cixin Liu is a favorite in some quarters. I loved Three Body Problem, and Liu is a superb writer. We need to face facts, though. Liu is a Tor author, and they're going to throw their support behind Scalzi. The Verge hatchet job using the cover of The Collapsing Empire for its header image is a major tip-off.

Plus, let's not forget the fact that Liu thanked the Rabid Puppies who made his Hugo win possible by publicly insulting them.

The situation is clear: the race for Best Science Fiction Novel at this year's Dragon Awards comes down to me vs. Scalzi. The CHORFs have already broadcast that this is the scenario they most fear.

With your help, The Secret Kings will beat secret king John Scalzi for Best SF Novel.

As I've always said, I'm not out to collect a shelf full of awards. Therefore, my lovely and talented editor L. Jagi Lamplighter Wright will take home Secret Kings' Dragon Award. The book wouldn't be as good as it is without her, and she richly deserves recognition.

Another advantage I just remembered: my entire series costs less than Scalzi's single eBook.

The Soul Cycle - Brian Niemeier

Get The Secret Kings for free through Kindle Unlimited.

Register for a free Dragon Award ballot and vote SK for Best Sci-Fi Novel!


@BrianNiemeier

UPDATE: That was easy.
The other day I announced The Collapsing Empire was a finalist for the Dragon Award in the Best Science Fiction novel category, which was neat. Today, I notified the Dragon Award administrators and let them know I was withdrawing The Collapsing Empire from consideration for the award.
The reason is simple: Some other finalists are trying to use the book and me as a prop, to advance a manufactured “us vs. them” vote-pumping narrative based on ideology or whatever. And I just… can’t. I don’t have the interest and I’m on a deadline, and this bullshit is even more stale and stupid now than it was the several other times it was attempted recently, with regard to genre awards.
-John Scalzi, August 7, 2017
SECOND UPDATE: It looks like the Dragon Con administrators aren't letting nominees withdraw from the Dragon Awards ballot. Welcome to Thunderdome!

And don't forget to vote!

2017/08/04

2017 Dragon Award FInalist The Secret Kings

The final ballot for the 2017 Dragon Awards has been released! I'm honored to announce that my highly praised space opera novel The Secret Kings has been nominated for Best Science Fiction Novel.

Dragon Award nominee The Secret Kings

Because the Dragon Awards do not yet have a Best Editor category, I promised to share the honor with my amazing editor L. Jagi Lamplighter were SK to win a nomination. Now that you, the readers, have voiced your will, I give the well-earned credit to Jagi.

In all honesty, Jagi is a major reason why my Soul Cycle books have consistently punched above their weight in the cutthroat world of genre publishing. Therefore I'm going one step further and declaring that, should The Secret Kings win the 2017 Dragon Award for Best Science Fiction Novel, I will gladly cede the award to Jagi. She earned it on last year's Best Horror Novel Souldancer, and she's definitely earned it here.

Congratulations are also due since Rachel and the Many Splendored Dreamland, which Jagi authored, has received a Best YA Novel nomination. Many readers are torn over whether to vote for Jagi or her illustrious husband John C. Wright, who is also nominated in the same category.

Hopefully, these voters will consider The Secret Kings as a way to resolve their dilemma. Sincere thanks for your support!

I also extend hearty congratulations to all of this year's nominees. There are some intriguing names on that list, including--but not limited to--Jon Del Arroz, Vox Day, Kai Wai Cheah, Daniel Humphreys, and Declan Finn.

But one nominee sticks out from the others like a blue lipstick-smudged thumb:

Scalzi - smurf lipstick

After getting blown out last year, the SF SJWs who beclowned the Hugo Awards have bestirred themselves in an effort to converge the Dragons. 2016 showed them that they need to bring their A game.

Unfortunately for them, the best they could muster turned out to be Scalzi. This is the Tor author whose "blockbuster novel" was getting outsold so badly by a hastily written parody that an SJW at Amazon had to intervene to stop the CogDis.

The CHORFs think they have a ringer in Scalzi. After all, he's got a rep for racking up award wins. Unlike me, he's historically done it through logrolling in tradpub-dominated contests where a small clique composed of his Tor benefactors run the table.

Not so with the Dragons. Look at that list again. There are some prominent tradpub names, but the ballot is brimming with indies, including heavy hitters like B.V. Larson, David Van Dyke, and Richard Fox.

If you want an accurate cross-section of the current state of the industry, you could do much worse than the 2017 Dragon ballot.

It's thanks to dedicated readers like you that we made it so far in such a relatively short time.

But we can't rest on our laurels. The Dragons are an open contest, and that openness brings with it the risk of dirty tricks--like the CHORFs pulled when they shelled out tens of thousands of dollars to stuff the ballot box at the Hugos under the guise of "scholarships".

That's why we have to stay focused and present a united front to keep the entryists from gaining a foothold. As indies, our greatest advantage is also our greatest drawback. It's nigh impossible to get a small group of us to agree on pizza toppings, never mind which books to support.

But the SF SJWs are a fun-destroying monolith, and they've declared their intention to overrun the Dragon Awards. We who prize fun science fiction over nagging civics lectures must hang together or hang separately.

Happily, the relative quality of the nominated works makes our job easy.

Red SF vs Pink SF
I also have advantages as an indie that simply aren't available to tradpub authors mired in the analog mindset. That's how I beat a number of trad authors to become the first indie Dragon winner last year, and that's what gives me an edge over Scalzi now. But as always, Jagi and I can't win without your help!

Get The Secret Kings--now free through Kindle Unlimited here!

Register to receive your free 2017 Dragon Award ballot here!

2017/08/03

Everything Star Wars Should Be

The Secret Kings - Brian Niemeier

The Daytime Renegade continues his series of insightful Soul Cycle reviews with his take on the third volume of my space opera/horror cycle, The Secret Kings:
Brian Niemeier sure knows how to start a story off with a bang.
The third installment of his Soul Cycle trilogy (as of now) brings back one of Book I's best characters: Teg Cross! And he's as badass as ever.
What begins as a mission for survivors of the galaxy-shattering cataclysm turns into a battle against the forces of the Void intent on remaking the world in its image.
If you watched Star Wars and thought, "Not enough magic or monsters"; if you're into horror and ask yourself, "Where are the spaceships?"; and or you're into Dune and keep wondering "Where are all the good books?", then the Soul Cycle series is right in your wheelhouse.
I can also appreciate a setting-specific pun :)

Back to Alex:
Teg isn't the only returning character from the first book here, and allies and enemies from Book II also feature prominently. And of course, new friends and foes appear and make their impact felt. To say anymore would spoil things, but just let's say that the interaction between these disparate personalities is great.
It also helps that Brian can write, keeping the action fast-paced, keeping the danger right at the protagonists' heels, and giving few respites from the (almost exhausting) breakneck pace.
Oh, and we get to see more cool planets.
Alex follows up with his breakdown of what makes SK work, starting with the relationships between the book's characters.
These interactions feel natural, and friendships and friction created when they all meet is completely in-character; nothing seems out of place. Brian gives the sense that, were these characters real and sitting in a room together, this is how they would act.
The newcomers, like Izlaril, Lykaon, Gein, Anris, the Anomians, and Celwen are welcome additions to the cast.
And the conflict! Not always armed hostility, but even the good guys don't always get along.
In screenwriting, there's a principle that also applies to novels, that every scene needs conflict, or at least a goal. You can broadly call this a reason for existing: Does it further the story? Does it reveal something about a character? Could you cut it out and lose nothing of the story?
This is where I think Brian excels. When I wrote in my
Souldancer review that his writing was "economical," this is what I mean: No wasted words, no overly florid language, and each scene has a point. This tension among the characters helps lend every scene both heft and a purpose.
Good stuff.
There's more entertaining and enriching analysis here. Of course, I highly recommend reading the whole review.

Alex's parting words are too awesome not to share here:
All told, The Secret Kings is a triumph. Read the Soul Cycle, and get ready for the fourth installment, previewed at the end of The Secret Kings, which Brian is working on as we speak. The series starts off at, let's say, an 8-out-of-10 and then by Book II cranks things up to 11.
It's fun, it's exciting, and it's got a bit of everything: Gunplay and sword-fights coexist with magic and monsters; there are spaceships, telepaths, other dimensions and strange god and demons. And there's romance! Heroism! All that good stuff.
Final Verdict: Everything Star Wars should be trying to do, but isn't.

Get The Secret Kings now. And look for Soul Cycle Book IV, The Ophian Rising later this year.

@BrianNiemeier

2017/08/02

PulpRev Reactions

Cirsova 5

Cirsova offers a warning to the #PulpRev in response to the reader feedback I posted pertaining to the Superversive and Pulp Revolution movements.
To me, the biggest difference between the two movements is that the Superversive movement is defined by its pursuit of the ideal of “superversive” while the Pulp Rev movement is (or was) defined by a pursuit of a certain approach to storytelling. The former is ideological while the latter is structuralist (if you don’t believe me, just see how often folks bandy about “Lester Dent’s Master Formula”).
I do see the Pulp Rev slipping towards where the Superversives are now, and I’ll explain why after I touch on Brian’s 3 points.
  1. The Superversive website requires users to sign up to comment, and that’s a barrier. Folks see the Superversive movement as more of a clique revolving around that website than a movement. Because the site has the name, the site is the movement. It’s a perception thing.
  2. Yes; shorter shows done more often with fewer people is generally better. Too many folks talking over each other combined with awful mics, tons of background noise, and ominous heavy breathing make the Superversive streams near unlistenable despite otherwise decent content. Despite not having any heavies of literary import, the Whippersnappers Superversive casts are generally better (even if they’re totally wrong about something!) because there are only a few of them instead of nearly a dozen.
  3. I can’t really judge these anthologies as I haven’t read any of them yet, but there’s the sense that they’re all coming from the same small group. Part of this is because not only is Superversive a movement and a website it is also a publisher. On the other hand, take Bryce Beattie’s Storyhack; some folks consider Cirsova one of the first Pulp Revolution publications, but Bryce has launched an impressive pub on his own completely independent from us. There’s no tie between Bryce and I other than that we’re looking for similar types of fiction. (We did ad-swap, but there hasn’t been any sort of collaboration between us as a means to ‘advance the movement’ or whatever.) As another example, I’ve published a couple stories from Misha Burnett, but he’s doing his 21st Century Thrilling Anthology (apologies if that’s not the exact name) completely independent from us or anyone else (though I think they may be approaching Superversive for possibly publishing it). I don’t know how many folks independent of the Superversive website crew are working on their own and saying “this is my contribution to the Superversive movement.”
Now I need to turn things to the Pulp Rev… Some folks worried about the Pulp Rev ossifying because I was gonna maybe go invite only in a year and a half from now. But I see it ossifying now for other reasons, moving towards having the same issues that Superversive has now. Ask yourself this: what growth has there been in the Pulp Rev community in the last three months? It may not have stalled out, but it looks like it’s plateaued.
Okay, now here’s a bit of a disclaimer before I go on; I don’t try to wrangle our authors into being a part of the Pulp Revolution – if they want to join in, they’re welcome to, but being published in Cirsova isn’t being drafted into a movement. Also, being involved in the Pulp Revolution does not improve your chances of being accepted and published by Cirsova.
  1. Because people are naturally ideological in general, there’s going to be a push towards defining a movement in ideological terms. As the Pulp Rev becomes more political and ideological in how it defines itself, it will face many of the same hurdles that the Superversives do – namely that the stories will be approached from an ideological rather than a structural lens.
  2. Having a Pulp Rev website signals cliquishness akin to what the Superversives suffer from. Outsiders will see a website and assume that the Pulp Rev is the website and the website is the Pulp Rev, and people not writing for the website are not part of the movement. It’s a perception thing. Just as a singular Superversive site dominates the Superversive movement and potentially stifles its growth, a PulpRev website could do the same.
  3. Branding the movement is a surefire way to kill it. You can be a movement or you can be a branded commodity, but you can’t be both. What killed the Sad Puppies was that the Mad Genius Club clique wanted to make Sad Puppies be a brand associated with them, and to ensure that, they had to stamp out independent actors who had believed that it was a movement. I don’t see that happening with the Pulp Rev, but so long as people see the Pulp Rev treated as a commodity (specifically tagging books as being “PulpRev”, selling “PulpRev” merch), it will have potential to kill its growth. The new wave in science fiction is about independence; who wants to be part of something that already has a website and is selling T-shirts with the name of the movement? Better to start your own new thing!
Read the whole post here.

My Comment: I don't have a dog in this fight. Once again, I'm just passing on what I've heard. Discuss among yourselves.

I was fascinated by this entire system - it has a well thought out level of depth that would rival any of Sanderson's magic systems.

2017/08/01

A Confession

I have a confession to make.

Most of you know me as indie writer Brian Niemeier, author of such books as the award-winning Soul Cycle and the new high fantasy novella The Hymn of the Pearl.

Now, a lot of folks know that authors write under pen names, but few are aware of just how widespread the practice is. There's a good chance your favorite mil-SF writer pens steamy erotica under a pseudonym. It's part of the business.

What I'm trying to say is that for years now, I've been leading a double life. I tried to keep it under wraps, but as many of you learned yesterday, my identity was doxxed by Google. There's no sense keeping up the charade anymore. It's time for me to come clean.

This is what comes up when you do a Goggle search for my name:
Larry Brian
I knew that maintaining the pretense in the digital age would be difficult, but I didn't expect to get Bachman'ed so soon! I thought I was good for at least one more tabletop RPG and schlock horror movie-inspired space opera series before the jig was up. Oh well, that's life.

I want my readers to understand that I started this masquerade with the best intentions. See, cranking out urban fantasy books about monster hunters and diesel punk mages pays the bills, but it's not my true passion.

What really inspires me is writing Firefly fanfic. Toni was skeptical, even though the source material was thinly disguised by a veneer of Herbert-style plotting and Lovecraftian horror. I couldn't risk damaging the Larry Correia brand, so I pulled a Robert Galbraith.

I gotta tell you guys, it was liberating. No more Kafkaesque dreams about Adam Baldwin as the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come! I now sleep the sleep of the just :)

But all good things come to an end. Toni still doesn't have much use for metaphysical space pirate stories at Baen, although the sword fights in Nethereal did convince her to let me write Son of the Black Sword :)

I'm not sure what's happening with future Brian Niemeier projects at this point. Maybe I'll farm them out to John Brown.

Getting this stuff off my chest feels good. Might as well spill everything while I'm at it. Someone would have eventually found out anyway.

OK. Here's the whole truth: not only is Brian Niemeier just an alias, Larry Correia isn't real, either. That hulking bald guy with the murder hobo beard you met? That's actor and stuntman Guy Andrews. He's really cool. He likes to travel, meet fans, eat exotic food, and best of all, he's cheap :)

I'm actually an advanced A.I. from an alternate dimension sent to this universe to save genre fiction. See, in my home timeline, FDR lost reelection. The commies were run out of the State Department, academia, and the entertainment industry. Back home, the Futurians never infiltrated the New York SF scene, A. E. van Vogt is rightly considered one of science fiction's Big Three, and John Scalzi just runs a modestly successful lawn care business.

That's everything. Except all the horrifying stuff I can't tell you lest society collapse and chaos grip the earth. It's not even that important. There's only a 51% chance of [REDACTED] happening in this timeline, anyway.

Hope that clears the air. I never meant to deceive you guys. I love my readers, and I'll keep bringing you the finest explosion porn that Bronson Pinchot can narrate.

Unless [REDACTED], but we don't need to worry about that unless John McCain gets a hold of [REDACTED]. Anyway, we'll know in 12-15 months.