The Most Principled Guys on the Cinder


A common rhetorical tactic of the Left is to accuse their opponents of sounding angry--as if all the folks in flyover country whom the coastal bubble dwellers bitterly hate are a legion of hotheaded Skywalkers charged with a violation of the Jedi Code.

An even worse sin than general anger is "partisan anger", i.e. getting mad at the people who've been working nonstop to ruin your life for decades because they hate you. Canny rhetoricians will note that the "you sound angry" card is an admission of guilt on the part of the Lefty who's playing it.

The Left isn't entirely wrong, though. There is a rising tide of partisan anger in America at present. They're just wrong about where it's directed.

I was privy to a discussion in which a down-on-his-luck tech industry veteran was denied a job by a small business owner and ideological fellow traveler. Why? Because of the latter's hard and fast policy against hiring anyone who's been out o a job for more than three months.

You already know these gentlemen's political persuasion. Leftists never let trivialities like job history, relevant experience, personality, or even basic competence get in the way of packing their offices with fellow cult members. The Equifax debacle proves that.

This is why the SJW swarm and disemploy tactic remains effective. Not only are conservative employers quick to offer their workers' scalps to SJW hate mobs; they participate in the social justice blacklist by taking the manufactured charges seriously and treating disemployed targets like lepers.

Conservatives pride themselves on being entrepreneurs. If they stopped caving to the point and shriek routine, it would lose its effectiveness overnight.

Imagine if conservative business owners refused to fire employees at the SJWs' whim. Let's go a step further. What if conservatives made a point of hiring victims of SJW mobs? (Rank heresy to "best candidate for the job regardless of political persuasion" free marketeers, I know.) Going way out on a limb, think of what would happen if conservative managers proactively fired all confirmed SJWs working at their companies.

"A whole slew of wrongful termination lawsuits is what would happen!" I can hear a gaggle of conservatives whine. I'm not advocating that anyone break the law. Just look to the Left, though, and you'll see they've found creative ways to terminate wrongthinkers while keeping their noses clean. Exhibit A: former Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich being pressured to resign for perfectly legal behavior that was also in line with reason and natural law--two concepts that conservatives claim to hold in high regard.

Which major conservative tech firm picked Eich up? Answer: nobody--possibly because there are no major conservative tech firms, which speaks volumes.

The grim workplace reality that anyone to the right of Chairman Mao has to deal with is that you're on your own. No one is going to stick his neck out for you when the SJWs call for your head, and no one will care. After all, they've got theirs, and they'd hate to lose it.

It's not just tech, either. Hard as it is to believe, almost every cultural and business institution in America was once what we'd now call conservative. Walt Disney once fired every communist from his studio. Science fiction stories used to take Western, Christian morals for granted. Harvard and Yale started out as seminaries.

How did we lose all of these institutions? There were concerted efforts to converge these organizations, to be sure. But these attempts wouldn't have succeeded if not for a fact that has become painfully clear: conservatives are cowards. They talk a good game about standing on principle, but the inescapable conclusion is that they don't really believe what they're saying. People who truly believe in and are informed by principles act on them.

Was your job shipped overseas or sacrificed to the SocJus death cult? Your conservative friends will tell you to hit the books and learn chemical engineering. Or move to North Dakota and work the oil fields. Or slum it as a janitor to avoid the dreaded job history gap on your resume.

Never mind that the STEM jobs are going to H1Bs, and the unskilled blue-collar jobs are going to illegal aliens. Never mind that real wages have been stagnant since the 70s. And never mind that our ruggedly independent, principled conservatives won't try any such desperate measures themselves.

After all, they've got theirs. And they forge their principles in the tradition of Cain, the original agribusiness pioneer. Screw you for playing the victim!

Yes, there's a great deal of partisan anger. And unless Hindu cow conservatives bestir themselves to support those who are suffering for their principles, they'll find themselves the most principled guys on the cinder.


The Convergence of Science Fiction

YouTuber Max Kolbe recently had me on his show to explain how the SJW convergence of tradpub science fiction happened. Max is particularly interested in the sudden shift from stories that took the Christian worldview for granted to overtly atheistic, anti-religious works. We discussed how John W. Campbell ended the reign of the pulps and how the Futurians fomented a Marxist revolution in SF publishing.

The episode garnered a lot of praise. Listen in and learn how sinister forces relegated the once-dominant SFF genre to a cultural ghetto.

Max himself is an unabashed sci-fi fan from way back, and I couldn't help nodding along as he related how he drifted away from the genre about twenty years ago. He'd also been led to think of the post-1937 Campbell era as the "golden age" of SF and to regard everything that came before as trash.

The highlight of the episode for me was when Max looked over Gary Gygax's Appendix N--with which he was already familiar--and realized that most of the entries are a) not Campbellian and b) take Christianity--or at least some form of spirituality--for granted. It was an honor and a solemn duty to redpill a long-time SF fan on how the genre was purposefully hijacked by a clique of 50 New York editors.

But the tide has turned. Barnes & Noble is collapsing. The big New York publishers who rely on their paper distribution monopoly are hemorrhaging money. The ranks of indie authors who are writing fun stories that fans actually want to read are growing by the day.

I'm gladdened and humbled that SFF readers have singled out my highly unique Soul Cycle as an antidote to the failing gatekeepers' message fic. It's a pleasure to announce that I've retained world-class artist Marcelo Orsi Blanco to return and design the cover of the fourth and final SC book.

If you haven't read all three current Soul Cycle books, now's the time to get caught up for the award-winning series' mind-blowing conclusion!

The Soul Cycle


Authors: Control Your IPs

collectibles store

Author Kristine Kathryn Rusch hammers home the importance of intellectual property rights and observes how decades of tradpub conditioning has left most authors woefully inept at controlling their IPs.
I wrote the following sentence to someone who wanted to take my entire IP in a series for a pittance:
I’ve spent decades developing my IP.
I then proceeded to explain to that person that I controlled my IP and they would not get their grubby paws on it, especially for a few thousand dollars and promises of future money. (Anyone who could read contracts would know that the company didn’t have to pay me the full up front money in a timely fashion if at all, and there would be no future money…to me…because I would have signed it away.)
I’ve spent decades developing my IP.
I have never said that before, nor have I said it so blatantly. It provided me with an incredible and unexpected perspective.
I was trained in traditional publishing, where writers go begging for opportunity. Writers are taught to beg, from professors (let me into your class!) to critique groups (is my writing good enough?) to agents (will you take me on?) to publishers (will you buy my book?).
We’re not trained to value what we’ve built.
I’ve spent decades developing my IP.
That statement is a statement of power. It’s a statement of value. It says I have worked hard. Respect my work and deal with me like a professional.
Imagine if all writers took that attitude into their negotiations for their work. Or into anything they do for their writing.
Writers would become stronger, just by owning what they have done. By valuing what they have achieved.
A fact of life that would greatly benefit authors to get through their heads is that publishers--all publishers--survive by exploiting authors' work. That doesn't mean the exploitation isn't sometimes mutually beneficial, but before you go seeking some acquisitions editor's approval, keep in mind that:

  • You create IPs every time you put pen to paper.
  • By international copyright law, you own every IP you create the second you set it down in writing.
  • A whole bundle of rights comes into being when an IP is created, e.g. print, foreign, movie, TV, merchandising, and a slew of other rights. As the author, you own all of them--at first.

KKR backs me up:
As a writer, you create IP every time you commit your ideas to paper. (Into a form.) If you don’t understand copyright, you’re going to be a huge disadvantage, which is why I wrote a simple blog post on copyright last year and then begged you all to buy and read a copy of The Copyright Handbook.
I did that so you could defend your copyrights, so that you know what you’re actually licensing, and so that you’re in tune with how your business actually works. Dean’s doing a great series of posts called The Magic Bakery, in which he discusses why writers should protect copyright as well as how to monetize your copyrights properly.
Dean’s blog is fascinating to me. Because whenever he talks about the value of intellectual property, he gets a huge pushback from writers. Or a somewhat clueless series of questions that mean the writers have no idea what they’re actually working on.
Writers are so used to begging to get attention, that they have no idea how to think of their work as something not just important to them, but as something with lasting value.
You might remember our good friend Dean from other popular posts on this blog. Dean knows what he's doing. Listen to him.

Rusch concludes with an IP-related parable.
The IP I was dealing with in that negotiation came from a novella I first published more than a decade ago. I’ve written dozens of stories and even more work set in that world since. I am constantly developing, licensing, and honing that IP.
It is an active IP, which means that it continues to grow.
I know, still sounds theoretical, right?
So instead of using Dean’s Magic Bakery analogy, let me give you one of my own.
Imagine this:
You have spent fifteen years owning a brick-and-mortar collectibles store. (I’m basing this analogy on one of our stores.) The store has more than 2,000 square feet of retail space, packed to the brim with collectibles as small as a marble or as large as a Homer Simpson life-size doll. In the back is a warehouse with even more items.
There are hundreds of thousands of collectibles in the front and back of that store, each with its own unique value.
One day, a Hollywood location scout walks in the front door, looks around, and decides that this store is a perfect setting for one scene in an upcoming movie. The scout talks to you, and you agree that they can rent the entire store for two days to shoot that scene.
Then the scout brings you the contract to sign that allows them to shoot in your store.
For a few thousand dollars and permission to shoot for two days, you sign away all ownership and control of that store. Sure, you might continue to work in the store, but any profits you make will go to the movie people. And they can take anything they want out of that store for the lifetime of the store, and use those items as they see fit. In fact, they can move the store to Los Angeles if they want, and bar you from entering the store forever.
As a store owner, you would never do that.
Writers do it all the time.
Wow, they think, I’ll get a movie made out of my book.
Wow, they think, I’ll get a game made out of my book.
Wow, they think, I’ll get a traditional publishing deal and my book will be on the stands everywhere.
And they lose the one thing they have of value. Control of their IP.
Does the writer ever think that they spent years developing that property? Nurturing it? Making it cool enough that someone else comes calling and wants a piece of it?
Almost never.
And the agents the writers put in charge of guarding the door to their little shops only ask the movie people/game company/traditional publisher how much up front money the writer will make so the agent can get a fast 15%. Or, as in the case of at least one agent I know, the agent demands that the movie people/game company/traditional publisher give him a piece of the property if the agent lets them in the door.
In other words, the agent takes part of the business, but leaves none for the person they’re supposed to represent.
Which is why I do all this annoying negotiation myself.
I've had multiple offers of representation from literary agents. I don't even respond. Instead I spent considerable time reading books and articles on contract and copyright law. After all, since the vast majority of my business is done through Amazon, it makes no sense to give an agent 15% of my KDP royalties for absolutely nothing.

On the rare occasions when I have to engage in business negotiations, I just do it myself. It's worked out OK so far--probably because I know better than to deal with traditional publishers at all.

Your IPs are valuable. You own them. You should keep control of them.

Of course, I'm more than happy to let you enjoy some of my award-winning IPs for yourself :)

Souldancer - Brian Niemeier


Japanese Pulp Influence on Cinema

Author M.T. White joined me on the latest episode of Geek Gab: On the Books to discuss the major influence that Japanese pulp novels have had on the world of film. We also speculate on how the pulp ethos survived in Japan while being almost totally memory-holed in the West.

Check it out!

And don't forget, my thrilling Soul Cycle space opera series is now on sale for less than the cost of one Scalzi eBook!

The Soul Cycle - Brian Niemeier


War Demons

War Demons - Russell Newquist

War Demons, the new urban fantasy/military adventure novel from author Russell Newquist, is here!
Driven by vengeance, Michael Alexander enlisted in the Army the day after 9/11. Five years later, disillusioned and broken by the horrors he witnessed in Afghanistan, Michael returns home to Georgia seeking to begin a new life. But he didn't come alone. Something evil followed him, and it's leaving a path of destruction in its wake.
The police are powerless. The Army has written Michael off. Left to face down a malevolent creature first encountered in the mountains of Afghanistan, he'll rely on his training, a homeless prophet, and estranged family members from a love lost...
But none of them expected the dragon.
Jim Butcher's Harry Dresden collides with Larry Correia's Monster Hunter International in this supernatural thriller that goes straight to Hell!
I was given an advance review copy of War Demons. and I highly recommend this love letter to red meat SFF in the vein of Larry Correia's Monster Hunter International series. If you're tired of the rampant nihilism peddled by New York publishers and yearn for a fun book that takes Western Christian morals for granted, War Demons is a godsend.

Get it now for Kindle or in paperback!

War Demons is a fast, action-packed read. I predict you'll burn through the pages and be left wanting more heroic, genre-bending fiction. You're in luck, because my two Dragon Award-nominated space operas--one of them also a Dragon winner--are now on sale for less than $8.00.

Pick up Souldancer and The Secret Kings today and get ready for the upcoming release of the Soul Cycle's grand finale The Ophian Rising!

Souldancer and The Secret Kings


Marvel's War on Beauty


The original plan this week was to discuss American Assassin, and Daddy Warpig did give a quick and dirty review, but then he launched into a patented Warpig rant on the comics industry's open hatred of beauty.

In particular, DW singled out Marvel as the most egregious offender. When they've got attractive, feminine-looking heroines being strangled to death by 'roided up desecrations of same, it's hard not to see his point.

Admittedly, I kept pretty quiet for this one--because I've learned to stand back and let the Warpig work, and because I spent most of the episode amusing myself in the chat with a troll who followed DW from Twitter. Geek Gab's highly intelligent and accomplished regular listeners took over from me and made the troll their verbal pinata. I love you guys.

In case you missed the live chat, the gist of my argument for objective beauty is here.

And by no means should you forget to listen in on Daddy Warpig's epic rant.

Souldancer - Astlin

To get your fix of cute monster girls, check out my award-winning Soul Cycle.


Alt or Not?

Then and now

Imagine my surprise to find that the redoubtable Injustice Gamer independently contributed to the ongoing conversation about alternative cultural institutions that others such as JD Cowan and I are wading into.

Here's IG's Alfred Genesson:
Vox Day put up a post responding to yet another article on building another culture. Seriously. I hear about or find another article every few months.  Vox mentions the fact that conservative media has never talked about a Castalia House book. I've seen an interview in a Catholic online mag with John C. Wright that only talked about his Tor books, and this was recent. The fact is, the so called media organs of conservatism and Christianity don't benefit from helping relevant material grow. They benefit from being able to whine that the establishment is leftist and dishonest.
I'll second Alfred's observation. It's one thing to rally around artists who are ostracized by the establishment. It's quite another to make whining about it your sole marketing strategy. Contra conservatives' personal responsibility mantra, their publishers, record labels, and film companies are addicted to victimization by the Left.
Books? Well, just another place where the movers and shakers mostly prefer to stay ignorant. This case, unlike music, I'm glad about. Why? Because their willful ignorance leaves a place for people like me. If those media were actually paying attention to small press and independent  authors, I'd have a much harder time with audience growth. They want to ignore anything but big NY publishing, I'll gladly fill part of that huge gap.
Now, as to other reasons aside from selling the "can we build an alternative culture" article again. Most of it comes down to the fact that people are largely lazy. I've seen it like crazy with people at church that will go to a concert of the youth pastor's cover band, but won't bother with their musician friend's group that's been working for years and building hours of music.  A lot of folks also want to be able to talk about the same entertainment as everyone else. This view of culture is the real culprit.
Not to sound like a broken record, but it clearly bears repeating: Do not give your money to people who hate you.

"But that list includes almost all entertainment, tech, news, and food and beverage companies!" I hear many of you complain. Yes, it does. Ask yourself how we came to this sorry state of affairs. Is it the fault of SJW entryists? Certainly, but not entirely. Invading an ruining cultural institutions is what SJWs do. May as well be outraged at a scorpion for stinging you.

Who's claimed the mantle of cultural guardians yet persistently failed to preserve a single major movie studio, record label, candy company, or university from social justice convergence? All of these organizations started out as not just neutral, but conservative institutions.

Walt Disney famously rounded up and ejected all communists from his studio. Popular songs once reinforced Western, Christian morals instead of eroding them. Cadbury was founded by a devout Christian. Yale was originally a Congregationalist seminary.

The unavoidable conclusion is that conservatives don't particularly care about the culture they claim to defend. If they did, they wouldn't literally give away the store at the first sign of Leftist infiltration.

Don't kid yourself. Patronizing converged companies isn't a harmless indulgence. The big media and tech companies have demonstrated again and again that they will not hesitate to use their vast power to silence and financially ruin anyone they deem problematic--which, if you're reading this, includes you.

Before you buy a ticket to see another Hollywood desecration of a beloved franchise, before you pay the cable bill that ESPN get a percentage of whether you watch them or not; before you cosign the student loan that will condemn your daughter to be brainwashed by Marxist professors, rendered unmarriageable, and languishing in lifelong debt slavery, stop, slap yourself, and don't.

There's no need to patronize converged companies, anyway. As Alfred points out, indie publishing in particular is thriving. Show your support for independent authors and get superior books in the bargain.


Losing the Plot

JD Cowan addresses how the corporatists in charge of every major entertainment medium have enthusiastically lost touch with the comic book reading, video game playing, and TV watching public.
My thesis is simple; we've lost the plot.
Not only have we lost the plot, we're proud of having done so. We're proud of action movies with worse choreography than films thirty years old. We're proud of horror movies without any rules or sense of good to fight evil. We're proud of companies catering to everyone but their target audience. We're proud of no one buying books anymore because the audience isn't worth catering to! And in the same breath we wonder why all those things are failing.
This has more than a bit of relationship with my last similar post on the subject, but this is a bit more specific than that one. This is about an overarching attitude of unearned pride that is tearing apart the things we all enjoy. Within mere decades, many entertainment industries are already on their deathbeds.
Take the video game industry. You can't go one day without some wonk screaming about "antiquated arcade design" that should be scrapped, or being unable to play or understand the simple mechanics of a game in a genre that is essential to the industry they are in. Not only that, but you have members of said industry lining up behind said ignorance as if it is a hill to die on equivalent to Watergate. Pride goes before the fall, and there is a reason no one trusts video game journalists anymore.
Oh, that and their obvious disdain for their audience.
The gaming industry, especially game journalists, have been a downward spiral since the end of the 90s, but they just keep getting worse at their jobs. And they're proud of it!
Yes, they are. The gaming press' "Gamers are dead" mantra springs to mind. What this loathing of their own audience tells you is that legacy games journalists aren't in the business of reporting on games so consumers can make informed decisions. They're in business to demoralize and torment gamers.

This is the beginning of a pattern, as JD shows.
Then there's the writing world. Sweet merciful Mike this place is a clusterfudge of ego, bitterness, and high school drama. I am not claiming to be above petty and sinful behavior, but there is so much hatred for the past that it is palpable. No one wants to understand their roots; no one wants to know that Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror, are all really the same genre. No one wants to talk about anything older than they are except to complain about behaviors they don't even know the author had-- or if said author had them if it even affects the story in question. And even if it does, who cares? You can still learn from the past and grow from it. But they're too prideful to even try. They are better than their ancestors simply due to the date on the calendar.
There is nothing new under the sun, but you sure can pretend that the sun is a new creation if everyday is the first sunrise. It sure massages to ego to think that you are superior to those who created what you love and enjoy.
And they are proud of it! How do you expect a genre to "progress" if you cut off a little more of its legs every year until there's nothing left? You can't learn or grow from the past if you shun it.
Check out this post by JimFear138 to see what I mean. The treatment of H.P. Lovecraft is a good example of this rotten behavior. Read the post to see how denigrated what he created has become. No respect for source material, no respect for the past, and no respect for the genre. And yes, his post helped inspire this one.
The literati engaged in memory-holing Lovecraft are moral nihilists bent on erasing him from the SFF canon for his moral nihilism. This tells you, again, that their goal isn't to atone for the genre's imaginary past sins. It's to destroy the genre.
Next up is the anime world.
Brace yourself.
Since anime fell off a cliff back in the mid-'00s most of the old fanbase left. You can't blame them, even with random bones tossed to them like Blood Blockade Battlefront, My Hero Academia, JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, Dragon Ball Super, and Ushio & Tora, there isn't much to pull them in and keep them there. The anime produced in the industry's heyday is simply not the focus as to what it is putting out now. So part of the audience left. But a few that stuck around decided to try their own hand at anime.
There are those who grew up in that era of anime tropes, faux anime Western shows, and the occasional episode of Dragon Ball and have missed the point. Those that have seen anime and have only a surface level understanding of it have begun making their own material with it as a base. Sure there are those like myself, Rawle Nyanzi, and Brian Niemeier, and many of those in the Pulp Revolution who are influenced by anime, but know there is more to it than big eyes, bright hair, and exaggerated cartoon expressions. That wasn't why we watched it, or why we were fans, nor was it why it took off in a big way.
But there were those who took the wrong example from it. Sure you can find much bad anime art on Tumblr and DeviantArt, but that's an entirely different thing, and some of those artists nail the style perfectly. I'm speaking of a different group of people. This is the type who use anime tropes and packaging to sell their own half-baked ideas. This is what those types put out:
In my opinion, anime peaked in 1998 with the holy trinity of Trigun, Outlaw Star, and Cowboy Bebop. I followed Bleach for a while, but we all know how that turned out.

There's more over at JD's blog. The takeaway is that mainstream Western storytellers--and those influenced by the West--have long since exhausted their reserves of cultural capital. That's why we see every sector of the entertainment industry spinning along the downward spiral from Original Breakout Work -> Lazy Sequel -> Derivative Cash-in -> Postmodern Deconstruction -> Cynical Reboot -> Soft Reboot Billed as a Sequel -> Crude Parody -> Apes Throwing Fruit at Plywood.

Like JD said, there are those of us who are trying to build something new from those common influences instead of tearing them down or cynically milking them dry. Unlike the dystopian megacorps backing the Morlocks, the pro-civilization team has practically zero sugar daddies willing to lift a finger in support of cultural renewal.

The issue is that conservative movers and shakers have been programmed to see "mere entertainment" as trivial compared to ostensibly more important economic matters. They've swallowed the reductionist lie that art and other non-quantifiable marks of culture aren't real and therefore can be safely ignored. As the near-total triumph delivered to the Left through their converged academic and media organs proves, the economic reductionists are dead wrong.

We're on our own. So be it. The old pulp masters proved that the culture at large could be reached by simply giving people something fun to read that was also grounded in truth. JD's post highlights the enemy's major, self-imposed disadvantage: They've subverted the truth of their source material so thoroughly that they're left pushing blatant propaganda devoid of fun.

All we have to do is tell entertaining stories. They don't have to--and shouldn't--be reverse propaganda lectures. Setting our tales in worlds where the truth about human nature and morality are taken for granted is enough.

I humbly submit the highly entertaining, civics lecture-free Soul Cycle as my own small contribution.

The Soul Cycle - Brian Niemeier


Casting Call: The Secret Kings

Every author daydreams about casting hypothetical movie versions of his books. Today I present to you my preferred cast for 2017 Dragon Award finalist The Secret Kings.

Note: this list will only cover characters who are new to this book or who haven't been cast before. Actors already chosen for Nethereal and Souldancer will reprise their roles if applicable.

Now on to the SK cast list!

Izlaril Nizari: Javier Bardem

Javier Bardem

Spanish actor Javier Bardem has established well-earned notoriety for his understated portrayals of relentless sociopaths in hit films like No Country for Old Men and Skyfall. He'd be perfect as the final product of a millennia-old breeding program designed to engineer the perfect assassin.

Yato Freeman: Pete Postlethwaite

Pete Postlethwaite

Though this beloved British actor passed away in 2011, this is a fantasy casting exercise. I've reserved the right to cast via time machine before, and I can think of no better reason to invoke that privilege than to bring back Pete Postlethwaite to play Teg Cross' long-suffering steersman Yato.

Celwen: Amanda Westlake

Amanda Westlake

Exotic looks and a role in the Lethal Weapon TV series recommend Amanda Westlake for the role of a Gen pilot who repeatedly finds herself drawn into high octane action scenes.

Lykaon: Clancy Brown

The Kurgan - Clancy Brown

If you can think of a better choice than the Kurgan to play Shaiel's master werewolf warlord lieutenant, I'd like to hear it.

Magist Kelgrun: Mandy Patinkin

Mandy Patinkin

Not only does Mandy Patinkin look the part, anyone who's seen his cynically avuncular performance on Dead Like Me knows he'd be a great fit for the Soul Cycle's duplicitous, patronizing string-puller.

Magist Gien: Tom Green

Tom Green

Canadian weirdo Tom Green would bring the requisite wild-eyed, spastic energy to the Shadow Caste's resident head case. Plus, he could probably use the work.

Anris: Idris Elba

Idris Elba

Idris Elba's recent turn from gifted actor to professional minority has been disheartening, but the fact remains that the man can play the hell out of the duty-bound soldier on the front line of a world facing malevolent invaders. Paint him purple, and he's ideal for the angelic captain of Nakvin's army.

That's my dream cast for The Secret Kings. Post your own choices for the characters listed here, or any I forgot, in the comments. And don't forget to check out the award-nominated book!

The Secret Kings - Brian Niemeier


The Thinking Man

Professor X vs Magneto

Bradford Walker contrasts the thinking man's pulp hero with the more familiar Man of Action over at PulpRev.com.
The Fighting-Man is the default protagonist, but there are other archetypes. They arose out of defining themselves against the Fighting-Man, often in the form of a tradeoff: he's really good at (X) but terrible at (Y) because (Reasons). The first of these to arise was the man who succeeds in his challenges through his superior wisdom or cunning- he out-thinks his opposition. I'm making this simple and call it "The Thinking Man".
He's defined by not being a Man of Action. He's not the sort to throw down, and his chase performance pretty much relies on him not being on foot. He relies on something that represents his superior intellect, wisdom, or cunning to handle any situation that would get a Fighting-Man into displays of athletics or skill at arms. Here is your Wizard, your Shaman, your Gadgeteer- and your Trickster.
You'll find this character archetype as the protagonist in genres of fiction where being a man of action isn't a strength as such, usually mysteries (e.g. Detective stories) or horror, and in other genres you'll routinely find this archetype in a supporting role for a Fighting-Man protagonist.
That's an excellent summation of the Thinking Man protagonist. Now, Bradford's Thinking Men may remind you of my much-despised Big Men with Screwdrivers. There is a key difference, though. Whereas Bradford's Thinking Man subsists within a pulp framework, the Man with a Screwdriver is an almost exclusively Campbellian trope.

What change did Campbell usher in that replaced Charlie Chan with Hari Seldon? Bradford nails it [emphasis mine].
Be it a mystery, or some other puzzle--and there should be some form of puzzle--requiring his intellect or cunning to solve, there is always a moral element to the matter. The power of the Thinking Man is not only knowledge of expert topics, however narrow, but also observant of people and patient in making use of those observations. Gandalf the Grey displays this in his experiences, where his use of power is tightly constrained and so much rely on lore and people skills more than his inherent power (or that of the Ring he's entrusted to use) to solve matters.
As Castalia House blog editor Jeffro Johnson has convincingly shown, the pulps took Western values, specifically Christianity, for granted as the moral basis of their tales. In contrast, here is the moral outlook of Campbellian and post-Campbellian heroes, according to science fiction grand master John C. Wright:
This is the point of view of a Western man, raised in a culture seeped  with Christian notions of chivalry and fair play and equality and nobility, but who has lost confidence in the center.
Bradford closes with a few examples of how Thinking Man protagonist/antagonist pairs can provide fertile ground for epic conflict.
You will also see this with ensembles as the leaders of competing factions--Charles Xavier vs. Magneto, for example--but these are usually positioned, in narrative terms, as supporting roles (what TV Tropes will call "Big Good" and "Big Bad" respectively). Their Duel of Wits fades into the background but their moves form the basis of the actual protagonist's stories, creating opportunity for these masterminds to become protagonist/antagonist at a meta-level; challenging, rarely pulled off, but when it does you get genre-defining examples such as Mentor of Arisia vs. The Innermost Circle of Eddore (to whom Gharlane of Eddore played Starscream to its Megatron).

I'm partial to the Fighting Man protagonist vs. Thinking Man antagonist conflict. In fact, I got a lot of mileage out of it in my well-regarded debut novel Nethereal where Jaren Peregrine and Marshal Malachi respectively fill those roles. To give you an idea of how intense a Man of Action vs. Chess Master conflict can get, their rivalry ignites cosmic-scale destruction, and that's in book one.

Nethereal - Brian Niemeier


IT (2017)

Creation of Pennywise
Art by Rabbittooth
My low opinion of Hollywood, particularly their creative bankruptcy, is a matter of public record. Having exhausted the reserves of creative capital amassed by better men, the high priests of our culture are reduced to churning out one bland carbon copy sequel, remake, reboot, re-imagining, etc. after another.

It's a trend that I have almost no tolerance for. Which is why you'll probably find me and Daddy Warpig's reaction to the remake of Stephen King's notorious novel/TV miniseries IT surprising.

Check out our review on the latest episode of Geek Gab.

Full disclosure: I despise the novel and loved the IT miniseries when it first aired in 1990. I've watched the TV version a couple of times since, and it loses more of its luster with additional viewings. Let that give you some context for the podcast review.

And if you're in the mood for a highly regarded horror novel that wasn't written while the author was coked out of his mind, consider the Dragon Award-winning Souldancer.

Souldancer - Brian Niemeier



A Consistent Theme

Having listened to the latest episode of Geek Gab: On the Books, blogger Bradford Walker notes a common theme running through my podcast episodes and blog posts.
If there is one consistent theme to a lot of Brian's posts at his blog, and his episodes of this podcast, is that the old model that the Big 5 and their London counterparts built into massive corporate empires is not only decaying, it's collapsing and there is no future in it for most authors- no matter if they have a contract or not.
Furthermore, the attempt by the SJWs dominating SF/F publishing to control the narrative concerning their control through the Hugos is also collapsing. The Dragons' second year makes it crystal clear that the Hugos are not relevant, do not give voice to the fans, and has no business purporting itself to be a marker of quality. The fans came out big for the Dragons this year, and they will come out even bigger next year. The SJWs can't get more than half of the votes in a single Dragon's category to vote at all; they're done, and the smarter ones know it.
The business is changing, and the fact is now becoming obvious to the unobservant. Time to seize the future for ourselves.
Mr. Walker himself is quite observant. He doesn't need a weatherman to know there's a hurricane bearing down on the New York publishing establishment and their pet SJW authors. And Bradford is right that the smarter ones know it. A sympathetic confidante who subscribes to Tor Books' newsletter has been sending me reports on the contents. No mention of Scalzi in months, but they give plenty of inches to Brandon Sanderson. Not that it will save them.

Speaking of authors actually releasing new books, I'm pleased to report to my reader-employers that work on The Ophian Rising, Soul Cycle Book IV is proceeding well. I've spoken to multiple readers who were under the impression that the series was a trilogy. That's an understandable assumption, given tradpub and Hollywood's obsession with trilogies. Being an indie author, however, I'm unbound by such constraints. Look for the shocking conclusion to the Soul Cycle this fall.

The Soul Cycle has been in the works for over a decade, and it was always planned as a four-book series. You can read a preview of the fourth and final installment in the back matter of 2017 Dragon Award finalist The Secret Kings.

The Secret Kings - Brian Niemeier

Finally, many of you have also expressed your desire to write a book. As Bradford said, this it the time. Conditions have never been more favorable to authors in human history. We need each and every one of you to help rebuild the science fiction genre that the CHORFs destroyed--not just for financial gain, but to continue the slow, necessary work of repairing the culture.


DBZ Syndrome

Superman Batman

Author JD Cowan warns writers against making the same mistake with superpowered heroes that Toriyama did with Dragon Ball Z.
There's always been a problem getting superpowers across in fiction. For instance, Superman has almost no defined limits to his abilities, which is fine for a Superman tale but it tends to water down tension in any crossover story he appears in. Batman can be the strongest martial artist, the smartest guy in the room, and the guy with the right tool at any time to the point that "Batgod" is an actual saying. Certain character are just clearly above others and it does wreck a lot of tension.
But it's also a problem in Japanese entertainment, too. In Dragon Ball, Goku becomes more powerful than the demigod of space, Frieza, and then the only tension becomes that the next villain is somehow stronger than Frieza. Or you can have Fist of the North Star where there's obvious fodder that serve no challenge to Kenshiro and where the main villains are the only ones that stand a chance against him. These are all limitations to the sort of stories one can tell with powers or skills.
But there's a whole other way to write powers, a better way, that will help raise the stakes, keep powers unique and mystifying, and will allow the writer far more freedom. Some may scoff, but there is a clear answer to the question of how to avoid the superpowers overtaking the story.
The solution is to limit the powers.
Yes, my solution is limiting the most important part of a superhero story in order to avoid limiting the types of stories that can be told with them. I admit it's confusing, but stick with me here.
Superpowers are fascinating. Having the ability to do crazy things you couldn't do in real life can obviously give you great story ideas. Invisibility, heat vision, flight, or super strength, are typical abilities used in any number of stories. Then there are more specific abilities like growing claws out of your hands or charging playing cards with kinetic energy. You can do anything. This is all great.
But what do you do after that? When the initial story is told, what will your character do next? Sure he beats the villain with his flashy power, but what about the next villain after that? Does the defeated villain merely get craftier and/or stronger as well? I suppose if your villain doesn't have any powers he could, but why would you hobble your poor bloodthirsty sociopath of a bad guy that way? And if your villain has powers, what stops him from not just going out and taking what he wants when the hero is not around? Very little. If this was a world of powers it wouldn't be like many comics portray it, it would be utter chaos. The only way to temper chaos, is with order.
The principle that JD talks about here doesn't just apply to superpowers. It's essential to every other kind of magic system. And make no mistake--superpowers are a category of magic system.

Limiting the scope of superpowers is necessary for maintaining dramatic tension in a systematized magic context, but it's not sufficient. Two other ingredients are required:
  1. The limitations of superpowers must be introduced to the reader early in the story.
  2. Going beyond that, all of the rules governing how superpowers work must be explained insofar as characters will use those powers to overcome obstacles.
Sanderson's First Law of Magic: An author’s ability to solve conflict with magic is DIRECTLY PROPORTIONAL to how well the reader understands said magic.

For an award-winning example of a secondary world where multiple magic systems interact with one another according to painstakingly crafted rules, check out my superpowered Soul Cycle.

The Soul Cycle - Brian Niemeier



The Dragon Awards with Daniel Humphreys

Geek Gab: On the Books returns tonight with special guest Dragon Award nominee Daniel Humphreys.

Author Daniel Humphreys

Tonight, Daniel and I will be discussing this year's Dragon Awards--both the escalated controversy and the stunning results. Join us at 6:00 PM Eastern to chat lie with two Dragon-nominated authors. I'm expecting lots of questions about Daniel's zombie apocalypse masterpiece A Place Outside the Wild.

A Place Outside the Wild - Daniel Humphreys



The Story of a New Author

Ultra-prolific indie author Dean Wesley Smith, he of Pulp Speed fame, tells the story of every debut tradpub novel you see advertised in Locus or Publishers Weekly.

Author Dean Wesley Smith

Here is the story…
— Author spent years wanting to be a writer.
— Author rewrote that “special snowflake novel,” following all guidelines, to agent’s and editor’s requests, taking years of time.
— Author ignores all warnings because they want to be taken care of by an editor and their cherished agent. Author has no belief in their own work.
— Author signed an all-rights contract for the life of the copyright, selling everything to do with the book with no chance of getting it back. The author celebrated the signing as if it was a good thing.
— Author a year or more later is excited that the book is coming out. Does launch parties or other such foolishness, all for the ego of showing friends and family it was worth it.
— A year later, since the sales were flat as all are in this new world, author can’t sell another book. Agent will no longer answer author’s phone calls. Author gets bitter and goes and does something else with their life.
There are a few side-roads to this. The author might have signed a two-book deal. Add a year before the large crash. The author might actually get, for even less money, two more books. Rare. Add another year or two to the torture.
And even more rare, sadly, do I see these young writers emerging from that grind and turning to indie.
I am seeing a ton of long-term bestselling authors with anywhere from 25 to 75 traditional novels, turning indie. They were either dropped or are fed up with the treatment. They are flocking to indie.
But those new writers are lost. Their dreams of having a book “published” and getting the fairy dust of honor from a traditional publishing turned out to be fools gold. Having a dream slowly crushed like that is almost impossible to recover from.
So every day I hear a young writer’s dream of traditional publishing, or I see hundreds of ads in magazines of new writer’s books, and I just have this sense of immense sadness for the writers.
There is no longer a career path into publishing using the old tin cup method of begging to publishers. You might beat the odds and get in the door, but you will soon be gone.
Career writers now are indie writers. We have accepted the control. In fact, we cherish it and the thought of anyone taking care of us is appalling.
But that is a matter of perspective. If your dream is to be taken care of by traditional publishing and having an agent, nothing I will be able to say will change that.
But I will see your name, your book, and feel sorry for you.
But I will say nothing to you.
After all, it is your dream.

Until quite recently I was always shocked when aspiring authors told me they planned to submit their novels to traditional publishers--especially now that even publishing industry insiders are admitting that Amazon and indie authors have sent the Big Five trad publishers into a death spiral.

But now I understand that most new authors--like most people in general--don't base their decisions on facts and logic. The hopeful young writer who toils for years on the tradpub rejection carousel trying to land an agent and sell to an editor in New York does so not because the evidence shows it's the best path to a career. He endures such futile drudgery because it reinforces an identity.

Authors tend to be introverted and insecure. Many of them believe that getting anointed by a bunch of strangers in some Manhattan office entitles them to embrace a new and superior self-concept: that of the Published Author™.

No amount of rational argument will sway those who dream of attaining Published Author™ status from their Quixotic goal. You may as well try to argue a Billy Joel fan out of liking "We Didn't Start the Fire". He doesn't like the song primarily out of any artistic merit. He likes it because he's a Billy Joel Fan.

Likewise, most aspiring authors are aspiring Published Authors™. It doesn't matter that even if they beat the increasingly long odds and get published by a traditional house they'll earn 1/6 indie royalties. It doesn't matter that their artistic impulses will be chained to the whims of trend-chasing editors. It doesn't even matter that they're as likely as not to never have another book published after the first.

No. The fact is that most aspiring authors don't want successful writing careers. Their identities are invested in the dream of becoming Published Authors™--even if that dream will crush them.

There was a time when I pursued traditional publication. But my blessing and my curse is that I'm one of those oddballs who's convinced by dialectic. Successful indies like Dean, Hugh Howie, and Joe Konrath provided the data that set me on the self-publishing path.

Now I have four books out within a time frame when most tradpub authors have only released two. My first book has earned more money than most new tradpub authors will ever see from theirs, and my work has received major award nominations and one win--all in two years.

None of it would've been possible without the real driving force behind publishing: the readers. They are who aspiring authors should strive to please.

Sadly, Dean is right as usual. It's a bad idea to wake sleepwalkers. There's no need, anyway. They'll get a rude awakening within the next few years when tradpub as we know it collapses.

Meanwhile, I'll be reaching and entertaining readers with my award-winning books, and releasing new ones.

The Soul Cycle - Brian Niemeier



2017 Dragon Award Winners

Dragon Con - The Dragon Awards

Dear Kairos readers, it's my pleasure to present YOUR 2017 Dragon Award recipients!

Best Science Fiction Novel

Babylon’s Ashes, by James S.A. Corey

Best Fantasy Novel (Including Paranormal)

Monster Hunter Memoirs: Grunge, by Larry Correia and John Ringo

Best Young Adult / Middle-Grade Novel

The Hammer of Thor, by Rick Riordan

Best Military Science Fiction or Fantasy Novel

Iron Dragoons, by Richard Fox

Best Alternate History Novel

Fallout: The Hot War, by Harry Turtledove

Best Apocalyptic Novel

Walkaway, by Cory Doctorow

Best Horror Novel

The Changeling, by Victor LaValle

Best Comic Book

The Dresden Files: Dog Men, by Jim Butcher, Mark Powers, Diego Galindo

Best Graphic Novel

Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files: Wild Card, by Jim Butcher, Carlos Gomez

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy TV Series

Stranger Things, by Netflix

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Movie

Wonder Woman directed, by Patty Jenkins

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy PC / Console Game

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, by Nintendo

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Mobile Game

Pokemon GO, by Niantic

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Board Game

Betrayal at House on the Hill: Widow’s Walk, by Avalon Hill

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Miniatures / Collectible Card / Role-Playing Game

Magic the Gathering: Eldritch Moon, by Wizards of the Coast

Sincere congratulations to all of the winners!

On a personal note, I've been receiving condolences from readers since The Secret Kings didn't win Best Science Fiction Novel. Thanks. I appreciate the sentiment, but don't worry about me. I already have a Dragon Award for Souldancer, and even if SK had won, I wouldn't have gotten the award. If anything, it's a shame that Jagi wasn't recognized because her work is overdue for it.

Be that as it may, the Dragons are a fans' choice award, so this is all about YOU. And boy, do you have reason to celebrate!

I've said from the beginning that my primary goal in campaigning for the Dragon Awards wasn't to win a trophy for myself. It was to preserve a fledgling cultural outpost against subversion by the same ideologues who desecrated the Hugos Awards--specifically by keeping this guy from winning:

Ol' Blue Lips Scalzi

John Scalzi was the point man for the CHORFs' destruction of the Hugos. Under the aegis of works typified by his crass Star Trek fanfic, Scalzi's benefactors at Tor Books logrolled him to four Hugo wins in fifteen years--as many as Robert A. Heinlein won in four decades. He is the standard-bearer for those who put politics before merit. A Scalzi win is a red flag that an award is entering decline.

Luckily, Scalzi realized that his participation in the Dragon Awards would destroy the Hugo clique's narrative that the Dragons were illegitimate. That's why he's withdrawn from the Dragon Awards twice.

But he's also a savvy self-promoter who knew that declining too many nominations for a people's choice award would alienate the fans who nominated him. So this year he got back in the ring after initially bowing out. That was a win for normal fans because now the CHORFs can't claim that the Dragon is a fake award unworthy of a Hugo-winning author.

NB: Remember when SF SJW Greg Hullender accused Dragon-nominated authors of being white supremacists?

Greg Hullender

By Greg's own logic, darlings of the Hugo clique like Scalzi and the folks who voted for him must also be white supremacists, right?


Contarius - white supremacists

I trust you can see why it's vital that purveyors of such weapons grade stupidity be kept from gaining undue influence over a fan award. And I'm not talking about disenfranchising anyone. A level playing field is the bane of all CHORFs. That's why they try their best to tip the scales in their favor by appealing to authority, like they did when they badgered Dragon Con into reversing its sensible decision not to let authors withdraw nominations bestowed by the will of the fans.

Luckily, the final decision still lay with the vast legions of science fiction and fantasy fans. Shutting out the CHORFs was the only way to reverse the inroads they'd made and safeguard the Dragon Awards from political meddling.

And you guys came through with flying colors!

Take a look at that list of winners again. It's wall-to-wall best sellers and fan favorites. In short, the most popular nominees won the popularity contest. The process worked!

Does that mean I'm less popular than James S.A. Corey? Absolutely. I have no problem losing to a dude with his own TV show.

What matters is that the Dragons have already grown beyond the ability of any one group to dominate the awards. If you cast a ballot, you made this happen. Give yourself a pat on the back!

It really can't be overstated how huge a triumph this year's Dragon Awards are for ordinary fans. Check out the 2017 Dragon Award participation numbers:

144k Dragon Award votes

Compare that to the Hugos:

Hugo Stats

To recap:

The 2017 Dragon Awards
  • 144,000 votes cast
  • 9600 nomination ballots
  • 8000 final ballots
  • 83% voter retention between the 1st and 2nd rounds
  • 100% more nominating ballots cast than in 2016
The 2017 Hugo Awards
  • 2464 nominating ballots
  • 3319 final ballots
  • 35% more votes cast in round 2 than round 1.
  • 40% fewer nominating ballots cast than in 2016
Almost four times more nominating ballots and more than twice as many final ballots were cast in the 2017 Dragons than in the 2017 Hugos. Plus, Dragon Award nominating ballots doubled compared to last year, while Hugo nominating ballots were nearly halved.

People who hate most of their customers still control pop culture, but you guys just took back a big chunk of it. And your numbers are growing.

I'd be remiss not to give the final word to the man of the hour, the Mountain that Writes, the Speaker to Manatees, His Odiousness International Lord of Hate Larry Correia:

Larry Correia - Hugos


Editing Defined


Publishing is an old industry that's assembled its own internal lexicon. As you'll find with any trade, publishing jargon can be difficult for laymen--and even authors--to decipher.

A widely misunderstood term is the deceptively simple title of editor. When most people; again even some authors, hear the word "editor", they immediately think of someone going through a manuscript and marking errors. That association isn't necessarily false, but but it's not true of all publishing professionals with "editor" in their job titles, and editors who work on manuscripts come in several types.

Here are the most common kinds of editors you'll find working at publishing houses.
  • Acquisitions Editor: As the name implies, this editor's job is to acquire manuscripts for the house to publish. When an author submits a book for publication, it's the acquisitions editor who either makes the decision to buy the rights, or who champions the book with the house's decision makers. An acquisition editor's job isn't to prepare a book for publication, but to pick winners from the flood of submissions. Nowadays, the editors themselves rarely sift through the slush pile. That task is largely left to editorial interns who pass likely candidates to their supervising editors. Literary awards' Best Editor categories are referring to acquisitions editors.
  • Project Editor: A project editor coordinates with all of the personnel working on a particular book project, including the author, art department, printers, and other editors to turn a manuscript into a salable book. A book's project editor may or may not be the acquisitions editor who acquired it.
  • Development Editor: This is the first person in the publishing process who performs work that is popularly associated with the term "editor". A development editor works with the author to develop the book's content. This includes helping to bring story elements like plot, character, and theme up to professional standards. Development editors tend to focus on the "big picture".
  • Line Editor: Now we're getting into the more archetypal levels of editing. Line editors deal directly with the manuscript, but they don't primarily check for typos and punctuation errors. Instead, line editors focus on paragraph and sentence-level style and language use. The line editor makes sure that the writing in a manuscript is clear, conveys mood effectively, and has a consistent tone. Line editing affects a book's readability more than any other editorial stage.
  • Copy Editor: A copy editor's job most closely fits what most people think of when they hear the word "editor". This is highly technical editing where the manuscript is gone over with a fine tooth comb to spot grammatical, syntax, spelling, and punctuation errors and inconsistencies. Copy editing is essential to making sure that a book is up to industry standards.
Keep in mind that the above definitions apply to editors that work for publishers. Freelance editors usually offer development, line, or copy editing; and often combinations thereof.

For indie authors, here are some important questions to ask yourself before hiring an editor:
  • What is my goal in publishing my book: for fun, personal validation, or to gain a readership and earn money?
  • Is my book's plot coherent? Do the characters have definite and sufficient motivations? Do the events of the story comport with my desired themes?
  • Are the ideas in my book presented clearly? Is my style pleasing to read and easy to understand? Is my book tonally consistent? Does my writing effectively set the desired mood?
  • Do I need help polishing my book's grammar and punctuation to meet professional standards?
Answering these questions will help you determine what levels of editing your book needs. But you're not done yet. Before engaging the services of an editor, make sure that you have:
  1. Conducted multiple editing passes on the manuscript yourself. Make your story as polished as you can get it!
  2. Received honest feedback from several objective beta readers--or even better, alpha and beta readers. These should ideally be people who a) are neither your friends nor relatives, b) you haven't met in person, c) are deep and avid readers in your genre. The goal is to get feedback that's as objective as possible.
  3. Revised again based on reader feedback. The editor's desk should be the penultimate stop before publication.
When all is said and done, the final authority over your book is you. Hence the term "author". Then perform one of the hardest duties of an author: put your pride in your back pocket and consider all editorial suggestions with an open mind.

Remember that your editor is there to help you produce the best book possible. If your answer to the first question above is "reach readers and GET PAID!" the best book is one that pleases your readers; not your artistic sensibilities.

It can be massively ego-puncturing to get back a manuscript that you were sure was a masterpiece covered in red. Suck it up. A thick skin is essential to success in this business. Better to have your book dissected by the editor whose honest opinion you're paying for than eviscerated by the readers you're hoping will pay you.

I wouldn't ask you to do anything I'm not willing to do myself. My own award-winning Soul Cycle was expertly edited by the lovely and talented L. Jagi Lamplighter Wright. I appreciate her work on my behalf so much, I'm letting her deservedly take home The Secret Kings' Dragon Award if it wins this weekend.