2017/10/31

How to Save Movies

I've written before about Hollywood's hatred for their own audience and their resulting financial woes. Today, rather than spend another post forecasting the American film industry's demise, I think it's high time to suggest an actionable plan to make sure the forces of Christendom and the West will fill the vacuum left by Tinseltown's debauched and dying elite.

After all, we don't want to see the rats scurry from the ship they sank to the newly arrived rescue boat for want of alternatives.

Luckily I've spent years immersed in the indie movie scene, talking in-depth with startup film makers at cons and festivals. I also have considerable online marketing expertise. Drawing on that experience, I humbly present the following plan to enable dissident film makers to take back the US film industry.

Compared to self-publishing, film making has more and higher barriers to entry. Thankfully, advances in technology and changes in the market--especially lower equipment prices--have significantly lowered many of these barriers for indie film productions.

The highest hurdle to be surmounted before a movie can be made is money. After studying the situation, I'm convinced that the money problem can be overcome through the strategic choice of genre.

Here are the three best genres for indie film makers to focus on:

Documentaries
documentary
Bring up movie making to most people, and they'll immediately think of actions films, effects-heavy science fiction epics, or comedies. These are some of the most expensive and difficult film genres to work in. Stunt work, practical and special effects, and name actor salaries can easily break an indie film's budget. Comedies are cheaper but require the greatest skill to write and perform.

If you want to make an end run around most of these obstacles, consider making documentaries. While not as glamorous as other types of film making, solid documentaries can be, and have been, made on the cheap. Unlike indie film productions in other genres, documentary film makers have a good track record for securing wide distribution.

Getting started on your own documentary can be as simple as picking a subject, acquiring a decent handheld digital video camera, and conducting interviews. Consumer editing software is now capable of turning out professional-quality movies without the need to take out a second mortgage.

Want to take your documentary game to the next level? Recent documentaries have been successfully paid for by relatively modest crowdfunding campaigns.

Another aspect of documentary film making that shouldn't be overlooked in light of the culture war is the unique ability of documentaries to openly and convincingly present arguments for a particular set of ideas. The simple fact that your movie is a documentary will completely preempt accusations of peddling message fic, even though documentaries, like all other kinds of movies, present narratives.

A documentary can make a compelling argument with little more than the correct choice of interview subjects, a little extra spent on appealing graphics, and above all careful editing.

Plus, don't overlook the fact that there exists a sizable market full of avid viewers who binge watch documentaries and are always looking for new content to consume.

In short, if you have little film production experience and less disposable cash, consider starting your movie making career with a documentary.


Horror
John Carpenter - Halloween
Hollywood had long harbored a love-hate relationship with the horror genre. On one hand, horror films are considered low rent, and there's still a stigma attached to working on horror productions. Few normies are aware that major stars like Kevin Bacon, Johnny Depp, and Jennifer Aniston got early breaks by landing schlock horror roles.

On the other hand, horror movies are insanely lucrative. Browse this list of the most profitable films ever and count how many of them are horror movies--sometimes in the same series!

Horror movies are only slightly more expensive than documentaries, they're far easier to write than comedies--although that could be my survivorship bias showing--and they don't rely on big names to draw in audiences. By and large, horror fans will forgive mediocre performances as long as you give them a good scare.

Although, getting a name actor for your production is not as difficult as you might think. There's a whole generation of venerable character actors whose stars have faded somewhat since their heyday in the 80s and 90s who've proven willing to help out fledgling film makers. Hit the convention circuit. find your favorite horror icon's booth, and offer to buy him a beer. Or contact his agent and ask about salary requirements for a few days' work. Chances are, you'll be pleasantly surprised.

Producing a professional-looking horror movie entails higher equipment costs than a documentary, but those costs are nothing like they were just ten years ago. Even a state-of-the-art RED camera is within the budget of a rather modest production.

The main difficulty with horror films is securing distribution. One creative solution to this problem is to pick a fifteen minute segment of your script that tells a story with a definite beginning, middle, and end. Shoot that sequence as a standalone short film, and show it at conventions, festivals, and pitch meetings. Your fifteen minute short will serve as a trailer or demo reel to catch distributors' interest and raise funding to finish and promote the movie.


Drama
Con-Men
If your creative impulses run more toward the mainstream and artistic end of the genre spectrum, producing a professional caliber drama is not beyond your reach. A Glasgow director recently made a high quality crime drama for £3,000.

In terms of the cost of admission and return on investment, note that Reservoir Dogs snagged a place on the most profitable movies list above.

Drama is generally more challenging to write than horror, but it can be produced even more inexpensively. A cleverly written drama can get away with a minimal number sets, or even just one. Construct your movie like a stage play with a small cast of well-developed characters, and throw a real-world problem at them.

Dramas are also ideal for guerrilla-style film making. Want to do some location shooting? Grab your camcorder and hit the street. [Disclaimer: I do not advocate any form of illegal activity.]

Ed Wood


The meta-level: Why settle for one?
To take these concepts to their ultimate logical conclusion, you could go for broke and make all three kinds of movies at the same time.

Here's an example. Put together a horror movie consisting of found footage recorded by a black and white security camera in a convenience store as a lone cashier works the graveyard shift. You only need one camera and one set.

At the same time, get a RED cam, a camcorder, a 16mm camera, or all of the above to shoot a drama with the same cast at a couple more locations. You can even reuse the same convenience store set, disguising it by shooting from different angles and in color.

While the horror and drama productions are underway, have another unit on set filming a "making-of" documentary about the dual movie project. Release the documentary on its own, or include it as a bonus feature to entice audiences and distributors.

In short, you get triple the return from what's essentially one production.

For more indie film making tips, check out Rebel Without a Crew by director Robert Rodriguez.

Robert Rodriguez - Rebel Without a Crew

There you have my plan for rebuilding the movie industry after Hollywood burns itself to the ground. True, startup film makers who turn their efforts to indie documentaries, horror movies, and dramas won't be producing tent pole blockbusters anytime soon. But this model should enable a number of small studios to get off the ground and start building audiences quickly. And have fun while doing it.


Speaking of horror, my award-winning SFF/horror series is on sale for less than 9 bucks, and the first mind-blowing installment Nethereal is just $0.99. These books go back to full price tomorrow, so take advantage of these deep discounts today!

The Soul Cycle - Brian Niemeier

2017/10/30

Secret History vs. Alternate History

What is the difference between writing secret history and writing alternate history? How can authors mine the history of science to make feasible predictions about how technology might evolve? Do events unfold in a linear fashion, or is the one constant that history always throws curve balls?

We endeavor to answer all these questions and more on the latest episode of Geek Gab. Join us as we talk future history for fictional purposes with author and scientist Hans G. Schantz.



Reminder: only two days remain to get my Campbell Award-worthy space opera/horror novel Nethereal for just $0.99, and the entire Soul Cycle series for less than $9.

The Ophian Rising, Soul Cycle Book IV, is progressing nicely toward completion. If you haven't read the first three books in the series yet, you've still got time to finish before the final book's release.

And newsletter subscribers can expect a sneak preview of major Ophian Rising-related development soon.

2017/10/27

A Ghost for the Offering

concession stand

Most readers here will be of an age to remember the urban myth fad that made a modest impression on the pop consciousness back in the late 90s/early 2000s. If you were clever, you noticed the subtle but significant change from the former academic term "urban legend" to the media-promulgated "urban myth". The game was to further cut off people from their culture's founding myths by associating "urban legend"--which means "false story"--with all myths.

If we'd dug a little deeper into the media products associated with these and other NY and LA-manufactured fads, we might have unearthed the sinister seeds that have since bloomed into total cultural havoc. But then, the 90s were notable for being the decade when no one was paying attention.

The demythologizing urban myth fad came and went without fanfare, leaving no lasting mark except a further hardening of the public's hearts against the value and necessity of myths. But the trend was fairly extensive at its height. There were books, a show on MTV, and at least one Hollywood slasher flick cashing in on the horror self-parody craze in the wake of Scream. The urban myth fad's appearance in film is relevant, since it brings up a story that proves not all urban myths are entirely false.

In my misspent youth I did a brief stint as the assistant manager of a local movie theater. It was one of those middle evolutionary steps appended to malls and recreation complexes in mid-sized cities in the years between the demise of the grand old one-screen theater and the advent of the multiplex.

This particular theater started out as a five-screen house, and sometime around the early to mid 90s--the last movie I recall seeing in the theater's original configuration was Jurassic Park--expanded to a twelve screen multiplex. They got the extra room by building a large new addition in what had been the parking lot. This detail will come up again later.

Spend any amount of time working in any kind of theater, whether movie, Broadway show, summer stock, etc., and you'll meet at least one old hand who'll tell you that every theater has a ghost. I've worked at multiple such establishments over the years, and inevitably there'd come a slow night when the general manager who'd worked there since high school--you could still work your way up in a company to a job that paid a living wage back then; a guy I knew started out mowing lawns at the theaters in this chain and eventually made vice president--would come down from the office and fraternize with the staff. And he'd always have at least one personal account of something weird happening in the small hours while he was splicing reels together up in the booth.

When I made my own move from the booth to the office at the theater in question, there'd already been freaky stories circulating among the staff for years. Take the time when the opening manager came in first thing in the morning and found a ski glove stuck to the top of the screen in auditorium two.

You're probably thinking, OK. What's the big deal? Some pothead booth op or class clown usher glued it to the screen the night before after everybody else went home. Case closed.

And you'd think that because you don't know how closing and opening procedures at a modern movie theater work. Closing starts with the concession stand. The concessionists are supposed to wait until the last show of the night is well underway to start closing--at least they were in my day. Recently I've come out of 7 PM showings hankering for a refill only to find the concession stand closed. I pin the blame on helicopter parents in a huff over their little snowflakes coming home at 1 AM smelling of butter-flavored canola oil.

Once the final show of the night gets out, the last ushers on duty will sweep--and if necessary mop--up the auditoriums before calling it a night. Then it's down to the closing manager to make sure the night's take is counted and locked up in the safe along with tomorrow's concession and box office drawers. The closing manager is supposed to do a final concession and theater check to make sure the concessionists and ushers didn't leave a mess. He also makes sure that everything is securely locked up, including all entrance doors.

Now, the closing manager isn't the last one to come or go from the building between closing and opening. Keep this detail in mind for later. Ushers clean theaters between sets and after the last show of the evening, but they're not equipped or paid to tackle the kinds of heavy duty messes that movie theaters see throughout the course of the day. For that, most theaters hire janitorial services to come in after hours to perform more thorough cleaning duties.

The closing manager on The Night of the Glove was a dude named Jason. He was also the lucky stiff who got saddled with opening duties on The Day of the Glove. He came in, walked the building in a repeat of the closing checks he'd done the night before, and found this glove stuck to the screen in a theater he'd just checked a few hours ago.

Jason waited until the morning crew arrived and called a meeting. As it happened, some of the openers had also closed the night before.

"Did you notice anything odd in theater two when you swept up last night?"

"No. It was fine."

That's how Jason had found it on his closing walkthrough, yet there was the glove clinging to the screen like some kind of huge rayon bug. He called the staff into the theater, and they were all gobsmacked. Because here's the other weird part. Auditorium two is the biggest in the house--almost as big as one of the old single-screen theaters. It took the tallest guy on duty standing atop the tallest stepladder in the house to get the glove off the top of the screen, and he still had to use a broom handle to reach it.

When they got the glove down, there was no adhesive of any kind left on it or the screen. Thy guy who'd knocked it down said it had felt like knocking a magnet off a refrigerator. And no, they didn't find any magnets inside the glove. They did find its mate in the box office lost and found, where it had apparently been since winter--The Day of the Glove happened in the summer.

They mystery had only deepened, so Jason went to the security tapes. He checked the footage from the night before and did find something strange. There was no sign of the janitor who should have come in after him. He called the janitor, and the guy abashedly confessed that he'd overslept--read: had gotten trashed and passed out on his girlfriend's couch.

Perhaps you're tempted to accuse Jason of protesting too much, but company policy at the time dictated that at least one other employee attend the closing manager. In this case, it was a rather level-headed girl who wasn't given to pulling pranks and who was 2/3 the height of the guy who needed a ladder and a broomstick to remove the glove. She also confirmed that it hadn't been there when she and Jason had locked up for the night.

Other anomalies continued to be reported in theater two, including the recurring phantom odor of cigarette smoke that yours truly also witnessed. But that's just the prologue. Theater two was part of the new addition built on the parking lot. By far the weirdest stuff took place in the old part of the building.

The year after The Day of the Glove, my theater played host to a series of strange events in the fall and early winter. The most pertinent events for our purposes revolved around an employee named Chris. That industrious yeoman had taken to supplementing his job as a booth op by moonlighting as the janitor (not the same janitor as in the last story).

Chris quickly found that it wasn't worth his while to close down booth, go home, catch an hour or two of shuteye, and head right back to deep-clean the theater carpets. Instead he took to passing the time between the completion of his booth op duties and the donning of his janitor hat by threading a projector with a movie of his choice and treating himself to a private showing.

One late night right around this time of year, Chris finished up in booth shortly after the last show let out. He assisted the manager as the mandated second closing employee and made double sure that all the doors were locked up after the boss left. After all, he wanted to enjoy his private screening in peace.

Satisfied that the premises were secured, Chris went back up to the booth and threaded a flick in projector number eight. Being an old hand at the complicated setup process that predated digital projectors, Chris had the film ready to go in no time. He started the projector and hurried downstairs to theater eight.

It's worth noting that theater eight and its projector are in the old, pre-renovation part of the building. The original concession stand, relegated to a backup since the cinema's expansion, lies a few feet down the hall from theater eight.

Chris found his favored seat in the secluded corner right next to the truncated wall that juts out into the aisle from the auditorium entrance. He'd done his job well, and the movie was running without a snag. He sat back to unwind and fortify himself for the waiting janitorial work.

Fifteen minutes in to the film, the telephone in the back concession stand rang. Chris checked his cell phone. It was just after 1 AM--rather late for a customer to be calling for show times, but not beyond the pale. He ignored the phone, which eventually stopped ringing.

Sometime in act two, the back concession phone rang again and kept ringing despite Chris' resolution to ignore it. Contrary to the misconceptions of some moviegoers, you can't pause or rewind a film projector like a VCR. But the second call had Chris thinking that the manager was calling with some kind of urgent message, like he'd locked his keys inside or something.

Why he'd be calling the concession phone, Chris didn't know, especially since the manager had his cell number. Then again, he knew about Chris' penchant for late night flicks. Maybe he'd figured that Chris' phone would be off and calling the house phone closest to the theater was his best bet. There was only one way to find out.

Chris grudgingly left the auditorium, jogged over to the concession stand, and picked up the phone. He gave the canned company greeting. No reply. After a couple more failed attempts to communicate with whoever was on the other end, he hung up and tromped back to his movie.

No sooner did Christ settle back in his seat than the phone rang again. Royally pissed by that point, he got right up, made a beeline for the concession stand, and snatched the phone off its cradle.

"Hello?" he grumbled.

"...I see you."

It should be noted that not even a strange voice on the phone whispering to Chris that its owner was watching him was enough to creep him out. Instead he just got madder, because he figured that some drunken kid on a cell phone was loitering outside, peeping through the old lobby doors, and playing stupid games. He put the handset down and walked across the attached lobby to share his displeasure with the dipstick interrupting his movie time.

 The old lobby has wall-to-wall glass doors that give excellent visibility. Chris got to the doors, and there was nobody. Just an empty parking lot. He still wasn't scared yet, just confused, so he went back to the concession stand and checked the phone. Whoever was on the other end hadn't hung up. Chris looked closer and saw, I kid you not, that the call wasn't coming from a cell phone. It wasn't coming from outside at all.

It was coming from the booth extension.

The projection booth at this particular theater is composed of the original booth serving the five older auditoriums with an expansion added on for the newer screens. The result is one long room bent in an L shape. There are only two ways in or out--one flight of stairs near theaters five and six in the old section and another flight next to theater two in the new addition. Both stairways are accessible only through automatically self-locking fire doors.

Chris knew that better than anybody, and the added knowledge that someone was up in booth--the phone is on the wall next to the porthole overlooking theater eight--spying on him finally gave him the creeps. He rushed to the booth door near theater six. Locked. A mad dash to the other entrance by theater two revealed that both doors were locked, just like he'd left them.

A whirlwind tour of every entrance to the building turned up the same result. The whole house was locked up tight as a drum. And Chis was locked in there with a peeping prank caller.

There's a wooded hill between the back of the theater and the interstate below that's a popular camping spot for hobos. Chris connected the dots and reached the unsettling conclusion that a vagrant had gotten into the last show and stuck around afterwards--probably hidden in the masking valance under the screen. After all, it was cold outside. Where better to spend the night than a nice, heated theater? He thought of calling the cops, but he wanted to be sure.

Chris didn't fancy confronting a potential murder hobo by himself, so he called the other janitor who alternated shifts with him. To his credit, alternate janitor came right down. After making doubly sure that all the entrances were locked, they did a thorough sweep of the ground floor and turned up zilch.

That left the booth. Unless the hobo had somehow gotten a hold of some keys, he had to be up there. Chris and his associate entered the booth from the old and new doors, respectively and searched the long room, meeting in the middle. They found no one. As for the phone near projector eight, the handset was resting snugly in its cradle.

Both janitors reluctantly chalked the whole episode up to a glitch in the phone system, completed their cleaning duties in a hurry, and left for the night.

The next day, Chris reported the incident to me and the general manager. We reviewed the security camera tapes. Nobody turned up on the footage who shouldn't have been there. According to the cameras in the hallways and the old lobby, Chris had been alone from the closing manager's departure till the other janitor's arrival.

The GM called the phone company, who weren't much help. When another phantom call in the night came a couple weeks later, we finally got the cops involved. I wasn't privy to the investigation, but nobody got fired--which would have happened if the culprit had turned out to be a key holder messing around--and to my knowledge nobody got arrested. An informal policy requiring someone to stick around until the night janitor finished up was implemented, but there were at least two more incidents.

Here's the moral of the story: the next time you see someone posting a "The calls are coming from inside the house!" meme, remember that sometimes they are.


Want to read something really scary? My space pirates in hell novel Nethereal is on sale until Halloween for only $0.99!

Nethereal - Brian Niemeier

2017/10/26

The Final Curtain

curtains

Film industry sources are reporting that major studios have resorted to pulling underperforming movies from theaters in what continues to be the worst year at the box office in decades.
It’s a bizarre season in Hollywood. Almost nothing is “working,” and the studios can’t afford to waste any more money hoping things will turn around. They’re pulling flops from theaters earlier than usual.
This weekend, for example, Warner Bros. is putting out a white flag on “Blade Runner” after three tough weeks. They’ve cut the number of theaters showing Denis Villeneuve’s beautiful film by 855. So far, “Blade Runner” has made just $66 million.  Audiences have not clamored to it. And now, week by week, Warners will quietly take it away.
Warner’s isn’t alone. Universal is pulling Tom Cruise’s  “American Made” from 539 locations after a month in release. The Doug Liman directed thriller has made just $43 million. Good reviews haven’t helped push Cruise fans to theaters. One problem was lack of promotion since Cruise wasn’t available. Also, audiences may have just soured on him after “The Mummy” and other flops. With both studios, it wasn’t for lack of trying.
The biggest decease (de-crease, but pun intended here) is for the revived “Flatliners.” With just $16 million in the till, Sony would be better off paying people to see this turkey. They’re retreating from 1,433 theaters this weekend, leaving “Flatliners” to breathe on its own. It will be completely dead by Sunday.
At this point it's hard to say whether Hollywood's woes are due to changing media consumption trends like cord cutting and streaming, the general decline in storytelling afflicting more and more films, or a preference cascade away from Tinseltown as normal people make the healthy decision not to give any more money to people who openly hate them.

Honestly, I don't care. I'm just enjoying watching the hollowed-out skinsuit-wearing psychopaths that long ago took over Hollywood twitch and sizzle in their final agony.

Case in point:
PS Here’s an irony: The Weinstein Company’s “Wind River” is at $33 million. It cost around $15 million. Taylor Sheridan’s directing debut might have been an awards contender if certain things hadn’t happened.
The writer of that piece needs a dictionary. "Irony" is when a someone fleeing a burning house is killed by a blast from a fire hose. "Coincidence" is when a fugitive from a house fire is torched with a flamethrower. But when an arsonist is immolated in the inferno that he himself set, that's called "cosmic justice".

Hollywood has one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel. The only question now is "what comes next?" The forces of Western Civilization have a rare chance to take back ground from the barbarians, but they'll need new IPs that can go toe-to-toe with Hollywood for entertainment value and financial backers in their corner.

Never let it be said that I'm unwilling to do what I ask of others. My mind-blowing, lecture-free space opera/horror novel Nethereal is on sale for just $0.99, this week only!

Nethereal - Brian Niemeier

2017/10/25

The Fire Rises

Astlin - The Ophian Rising - Brian Niemeier

A picture speaks a thousand words, so I gave Astlin the floor for today's introductory remarks. I think she makes a good point. How about you?

Today's headline image depicts perennial fan favorite character Astlin of Tharis (formerly of Keth) in an updated Zadokim design. My promo artist Ashion did yeoman's work rendering Astlin as she will appear in the upcoming fourth and final book of the Soul Cycle, The Ophian Rising.

Please note: the above image is NOT THE BOOK'S COVER. That particular job was always reserved for the illustrious Marcelo Orsi Blanco. Marcelo reports that initial cover sketches will be done soon, and you can rest assured I'll share them with you.

It occurs to me that, thanks to the efforts of talented artists over more than a decade, we now have depictions of Astlin in each of her most prominent forms from the books.

WARNING: The following images and captions may present a mild spoiler risk to those who haven't yet read Nethereal and Souldancer. If you are one of them, you are strongly advised to read both award-worthy books and return here suitably enlightened.

With the preliminaries out of the way, I present the evolution of Astlin.

Astlin - Souldancer - Brian Niemeier
Imperfect Souldancer of fire from Nethereal and Souldancer by Kukuruyo


Perfect Astlin - Souldancer - Brian Niemeier
Perfected Souldancer of fire from Souldancer by Jeff Stachnick


Zadokim from Souldancer, The Secret Kings, and The Ophian Rising by Ashion

Note to J.J. Abrams and Larry Kasdan: it's possible to write an action girl who can swing a burning hurt stick and read minds without making her an insufferable Mary Sue agitprop vector. It's not a violation of some SFF blasphemy law to show female characters having vulnerabilities, making mistakes, and even plagued with besetting vices that sometimes gravely imperil herself and others.

If you've read the Soul Cycle, you know that Astlin possesses all of the aforementioned gifts and flaws. But she also has in abundance what far too many female protagonists lack: the humility and self-awareness to acknowledge her sins, face the consequences, and do everything in her considerable power to atone. It's no coincidence that she resonates with readers more than any other SC character except for Teg.

That's why she's earned the role of main protagonist in OR, which you can read a free preview of here. It's also why I've saved by far the most powerful, malicious, and horrifying villains for last.

The Ophian Rising is scheduled for a December 2017 release. You've still got time to read the previous three books, which are all on sale till Halloween. The first book, Nethereal, is only $0.99, and the whole Soul Cycle is now less than $9.

The Soul Cycle - Brian Niemeier

Full disclosure: my newsletter subscribers got an advance look at the new promo image yesterday. If you'd like early access to promotional and cover concept art, plus first dibs on special book deals, giveaways, and more, I highly recommend signing up for my newsletter. New subscribers also get The Hymn of the Pearl for free. Be assured, I don't spam people. Ask anybody.

If you like today's featured artwork, Ashion is currently taking submissions. [WARNING: Some NSFW images (We already knew #GamerGaters are wacky libertines. Plus, she's gotta pay the light bill).]

2017/10/24

Halloween Sale

Nethereal - Brian Niemeier

In honor of Halloween, I've put my debut space opera/horror novel Nethereal on sale for $0.99.

And to help new readers prepare for the release of the fourth and final Soul Cycle Book The Ophian Rising, both of my Dragon Award-worthy novels Souldancer and The Secret Kings are just $3.99. That means right now you can get the entire Soul Cycle for less than $9.00.

It's been fascinating to see the Soul Cycle generating increased buzz on social media lately. One Twitter user even favorably compared the world building in Nethereal to Tolkien. While I think such praise excessive, I can't deny that years of work went into designing the Soul Cycle universe, and it wasn't a solo effort.

Thanks to everyone who's read and supported the Soul Cycle. It's bittersweet seeing a project I've shepherded for so long reach its conclusion.

Regardless, it's my job as an author to keep giving readers what they want. Now that my prestige project's out of the way, how about we have some fun with giant robots?

If you're looking for fresh, new ideas and a world so lovingly crafted and well fleshed out that you won't be able to put the book down until you finish it, then buy this book.
-Voice actor JimFear138

2017/10/23

Fools' Gold

A Twitter user chronicles his blocking by author Marko Kloos over a disagreement about the current and former state of science fiction.

Kloos 1

Not only was the Golden Age better written, it was not the age Kloos is thinking of.

Kloos has fallen for the post-1980 memory holing of the Pulp Golden Age, which did in fact tend to be apolitical. Science fiction wasn't overtly politicized until the Campbellian Silver Age. We even know the exact date when the politicization of SF began: October 30, 1937, the date of Donald A. Wollheim's "Mutation or Death" speech to the Third Eastern Science Fiction Convention in Philadelphia, PA.

Pulp authors' primary concern was writing entertaining stories that would sell. As a result, pulp masters like Walter Gibson and Edgar Rice Burroughs produced works that dominated popular culture.

It's no coincidence that science fiction was relegated to a cultural ghetto in the course of Wollheim and Michel's call for a communist revolution in the genre.

Kloos 2

But according to Kloos, this reader is a wrongfan having wrongfun. Par for the course for a writer who turned down his 2015 Hugo nomination because the wrong people voted for him.

There is, however, a happy ending:

More money

I'll gladly accept the readership of anyone who values story, character, and fun over political lectures.

Join the wrongfans.

Soul Cycle - Brian Niemeier

2017/10/20

Space Opera vs. Mil-SF

Legend of the Galactic Heroes

Picking up form yesterday's post about picking the right science fiction niche, Injustice Gamer Alfred Genesson names some successful indie authors who are peeling off readers from underserved or poorly served fandoms:
Brian brings up Galaxy's Edge, which is an interesting study as it's by Nick Cole and Jason Anspach, two authors I've reviewed apart from each other as well. They're both really good. I want more 'Til Death, Jason. But, the brand here is not either author, but both. I don't think either could put out as good a work in the world alone. This is far from an insult, it's a compliment to how well they work together. It's a really good riff on Star Wars. I know of at least one more coming up.
There's a rather good one from Robert Kroese, which started off as a Star Wars riff, but has moved more to SF in general: Rex Nihilio of Starship Grifters. The brand? Kroese, hitting on notes from around sf culture. 
One somewhat similar setting that was missed was Mark Wandrey and Chris Kennedy's Horsemen universe. The books are solo pieces so far(there's an announced shared novel). And only a few of the short stories have been cowritten. Here, the strength belongs more to the universe. Yes, it was established by two authors, but others are playing in it, and why is it working? Well, Mechwarrior and Robotech aren't doing the job, and I don't see any dominant anime now. Once again, we hit familiar notes.
So where's the alternate Trek(outside of Orville)? There's Starfleet Universe, but the publisher has done very little with it of late. A smart publisher/investor would buy those rights and do EVERYTHING they can. I don't know all the details of those rights, they may exclude film and tv. If not, Axanar should have bought them. But video and boardgames and rpgs there? They could move, and Nick Cole used Starfleet U in his Ctrl Alt Revolt!, not Trek.  Galaxy Quest did its thing(the best trek film), had some mildly amusing comics, and disappeared. 
I still maintain that the ST:U subplot in Ctrl Alt Revolt! is the best Start Trek story in the past twenty years. If I were a Paramount executive, I'd beg Nick Cole to come and save the Trek franchise. As it is, he's probably too busy walking all over Star Wars.

Speaking of poorly served fandoms, aspiring author Bradford Walker notes the conspicuous lack of  Star Wars forks that are pure space operas.
Like others, I'm looking to riff on Star Wars for my own purposes. What I see a lot is a shift of emphasis away from the Knights & Wizards towards the more underworld and mil-SF aspects. I'm wanting to go the other way. Space Knights, Space Princesses, castles in the sky, and fantastic powers capable of wondrous things- including wondrous technologies.
All one has to do is browse Amazon's space opera category to see that Bradford is right. That's not to knock Galaxy's Edge. Nick and Jason seem to have tapped into a rich vein of disaffected fans of the X-Wing and Bounty Hunter books from the Star Wars Expanded Universe's heyday. It's heartening to see those long-neglected fans finally get the Mil-SF flavored feast they've been starving for.

But as Bradford points out, fans of Star Wars' core space opera fandom are still going hungry.
Flat out going good and hard for the Space OPERA, and laying on the myth and fantasy thick (like how I prefer the frosting on my cakes). There's not enough of the fantastic and mythic in science fiction, and I'm fully behind the #RegressHarder mantra. (And yes, you see it in Legend of the Galactic Heroes, straight and subverted.) If you've ever seen the original, non-Flanderized King of Beasts: Go Lion from which we in the West got Voltron, you will know that "Space Princesses" is not code for "Baby's First Sci-Fi". It's hearkening back to John Carter, but played out on a galactic or universal scope and scale.
I see the term space opera thrown around a lot lately, and in contexts that make it clear there's more than a little confusion about what the genre entails. To sum it up, space opera descends from the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs and Doc Smith. Modern Mil-SF follows the tradition of authors like Robert A. Heinlein and Joe Haldeman.

Whatever your preference, here's wishing Nick Cole and Jason Anspach continued success. And here's hoping Bradford Walker can bring back our space princesses.

2017/10/19

Cult of Worlds

World of Warcraft

Recently on Google+, Nathan Housley pondered whether science fiction authors should stop thinking of science fiction fans as their target audience and focus on making fans of their secondary worlds.

Here's Nathan:
Between the current trends of science fiction marketing and that games audience link, I'm beginning to think that the future for science fiction writers is not to market to science fiction fans, but to market to those looking to be fans of their work. 
For instance, WoW did not create some 10 million MMO fans, it created 10 million WoW fans. Attempts by RIFT and Wildstar and similar MMOs never managed to tap into this audience, and the successful competitors like Final Fantasy 11/14, Lord of the Rings, etc. managed to tap into fans of their primary works.
So instead of trying to market to fantasy fans or Star Wars fans, the latter of which are perfectly content with Star Wars, perhaps the way forward is to increase a potential customer's interest in your work's experience. Sanderson's managed to do this with the various mysteries of the Cosmere, many of which have only been revealed in person and only hinted in his works.
Tradpub appears to sell the cult of the author. The cutting edge of indie is moving towards selling the cult of their worlds.
Is Nathan on to something here? Should science fiction authors forego marketing to science fiction fans as a category and target people who are seeking an escapist experience such as a particular author provides?

Possibly, though I'd need to see more specifically book-related data to be convinced. Taking Nathan's word that WoW built its popularity by targeting people who wanted to be Wow fans--which strikes me as somewhat tautological, but what do I know?--I just don't see game marketing mapping directly to books.

For one, there's a bit of marketing element confusion going on. WoW is not a product. It's a brand, whereas a book--or even a series of books--ins't a brand. It's a product. The author is the brand. That's why publishers, both trad and indie, focus their marketing efforts on authors much like Blizzard focuses its marketing on WoW.

That's also why bringing up Sanderson as an example strikes me as counterproductive to Nathan's argument. He's right that Brandon has built an impressive fictional multiverse, but if you ask the creator, he'll be the first to tell you that the Cosmere is product, and he's the brand. In fact, Sanderson is one of the main guys I learned author=brand from. And Tor certainly markets him in the traditional way.

A couple of nitpicks--one minor and one major: Star Wars might be an even worse example to cite than Brandon Sanderson. First, Star Wars fans are not perfectly content. In fact, there's a major revolt brewing in reaction to TFA, Rogue One, TLJ, and the upcoming Han Solo movie.

Second, and more importantly, indie authors like Nick Cole and Jason Anspach are making a fortune peeling off disaffected Star Wars fans. If you follow their recent blog posts and podcast appearances, they explain that they made their Galaxy's Edge project a smashing success by strategically targeting readers of particular SF subgenres.

That said, crafting a unique and memorable reading experience by which your fans can escape to a fully realized secondary world is an essential part of product differentiation. My fictional universe might not be as sprawling as Sanderson's, but my Soul Cycle has been compared favorably to his Cosmere.

What you as a science fiction author want to do is stake out a niche within a subcategory of SF. Choosing the right subgenre is a delicate balancing act. If your category is too narrow, there won't be enough money in it to support a career. Pick a niche that's too broad, and you'll have trouble standing out from the pack.

Once you've found your niche, give the fans in your category a fun and memorable experience that will turn them into your fans. It should be mentioned that, if you write science fiction, fans of your work will, by definition, be science fiction fans.

Finally, going out to the highways and hedgerows to find fans of your trademark experience runs counter to how Amazon's algorithm works. As Nick Cole warns, hand-selling your book to random people who have nothing--most significantly, no buying habits--in common other than a taste for your work is the best way to kill your career.

Why? Because even if you achieve a high volume of random sales, that very randomness confuses the hell out of the Amazon algorithm. Remember: Amazon is a search engine; the third biggest on the internet, in fact. Its search algorithm isn't designed to give you the exact results you want so much as suggest results you're likely to buy. It makes these suggestions by looking at your purchase history as well as the purchase histories of people who bought the same products you did.

See where this is going? The way forward, re: author marketing is to teach Amazon's algorithm to recommend your book to customers who've bought and liked similar books in the same tightly defined categories.

This requires a degree of writing to market preferences. On Amazon, you don't want to create something so new and original that there's nothing at all like it, because the algorithm won't know who to recommend it to.

I learned that lesson the hard way, which is why my first post-Soul Cycle project will be a mil-SF mecha series. You do want to put your unique twist on your books to make them memorable, so the new series will retain my 90s anime sensibilities.

In the meantime, the Soul Cycle rapidly draws toward completion. I invite you to pick up the first three books in my award-winning series so you'll be good to go when the fourth and final book hits.

Thanks again to Nathan for providing substantial food for thought.

2017/10/18

Fanfic to Pro Fic

Today at 4:00 PM Eastern, join me and author Lucas Flint for the fun and informative season finale of Geek Gab: On the Books!

Lucas will be dropping by to share his experiences as a former fanfiction writer who made the jump to professional author. Catch the show live and join the sparkling conversation in the chat!



In Soul Cycle news, I've been in talks with not one, but two artists to help me realize my vision for the impending conclusion to the series, The Ophian Rising. As always, the inestimable Marcelo Orsi Blanco is hard at work on cover duties. Meanwhile, I'm in negotiations with another talented artist, whom many of my regular readers will know, to design a special promotional image. I'll be sure to share details as they become available.

Work on Soul Cycle Book IV is coming along at a brisk pace. You've still got time to read books I-III before the final installment is released. Don't forget to pick up your copies today!

The Soul Cycle - Brian Niemeier

2017/10/17

Knight on a Mission

Praxis - Justin Knight

Author Justin Knight offers heartfelt thanks to readers of his new science fiction novel Praxis.
Thank you for giving an independent author like me, someone totally unknown to any of you, a chance to show you what I can do. For those interested, the paperback version of Praxis will be sorted soon and will hopefully be out by the end of the month. The audio book I also intend to arrange as well, and am taking auditions for it through ACX, I will post updates as I have them on my Twitter page. I do, however, have something else to ask those of you who purchased Praxis.
Please leave a review.
Reviews will help me to learn, such as what stories are liked and what ones are not, characters, dialogue, and so much else. They will also hopefully attract other potential readers to my work, and that is always a good thing.
Justin isn't overstating the vital importance of Amazon reviews. They help books succeed and aid authors in honing their craft. If you've read Praxis, consider leaving a review. If you haven't read it yet, consider taking the time to review another indie book you've read and enjoyed. The powers that be won't support us, so we have to support each other.

Back to Justin:
This final part, you can think of as my mission statement I guess.
I want to entertain with my stories, to give readers something they can enjoy without the unwelcome intrusion of politics, ridiculous story elements, or condemnation of the audience themselves.
Yes, Marvel, I am looking in your direction.
I will tell stories of regular folks, men or women, in extraordinary situations. I will tell them in the style of either books, comics, and movies, from the eighties and nineties, because for me, that is when story telling was at it's best. I will not be one of these authors who does not appreciate his own audience, because I would not be in such a position without you. I will not be one of these authors who bitches that he cannot write because of a current political climate etc, or an author who becomes a political activist, because quite frankly, that is just stupid. I want to be an author who entertains people, to hopefully one day to earn a reputation that has readers looking forward to my next release. The coming days, weeks, months, and years, will see how that goes.
Justin Knight, independent author, at your service.
It's ethically incumbent upon me to divulge that I edited Praxis. But this ethics disclosure isn't just an obligation. It's an unmixed pleasure.

I've spoken with Justin at length and, I believe, have gotten to know him rather well. Read his author statement again. Notice what's there: genuine humility and a devotion to serving his readers. Just as importantly, notice what's not there: any sense of entitlement or ulterior motives of turning his work into hackneyed propaganda.

That attitude of humility, honesty, and service is why I agreed to edit Justin's book. Is editing a way for me to earn some extra cash on the side? Yes. Is that all it is? Well, the industry now has a new indie author with a solid work ethic who's attracting and entertaining an audience. That's not a coincidence. Justin had the talent and drive to succeed. He just needed someone a little higher up the ladder to give him a hand. The result has been a resounding win-win.

For those who doubt the value of hiring a professional editor, let me draw your attention to some data from Justin's original post. Praxis outsold Justin's prior book tenfold within ten days of launch. It also has three reviews at an average 4.6 star rating compared to zero for its predecessor. I can't take full credit for his success. Others were certainly more instrumental than I was, first and foremost Justin himself. But I do have the numbers on the marketing assistance I gave him, and they're not insignificant.

Congratulations to Justin Knight on a successful book launch and on staying down to earth while writing of the stars. I join him in thanking every reader who's supported Praxis thus far. You folks are why writers like Justin and myself do what we do.

How do we know that indie is flourishing? A sure sign of a healthy industry is when those who've achieved a measure of success help others level up.

Already own Praxis? Pick up books 1-3 in my award-winning Soul Cycle, soon to be concluded when book 4 drops later this fall. Already read Nethereal, Souldancer, and The Secret Kings? Help readers make informed decisions by posting reviews on Amazon. Effective reviews don't have to be Pulitzer-worthy. Just two or three sentences are enough to get your impression of a book across.

The Soul Cycle - Brian Niemeier

2017/10/16

Indies Anonymous

Mystery Man

A piece of common book industry wisdom frequently cited by self-publishing proponents such as myself has it that there's an anonymous cadre of indie authors quietly making millions on Amazon. This popular bit of publishing lore happens to be true.

It also presents indie authors--and the emerging New Scheme of Things--with a problem.

In the old days, when trad publisher mega-fauna roamed Manhattan, the most popular authors actually got to be something like stars. Time was, if you made it onto the A list, you'd get to do TV appearances and movie cameos. You might even get to introduce your own anthology series. Housewives in Lincoln, Nebraska knew your name.

Now the tradpub dinosaurs are dying. Like all entertainment industries locked into death spirals, they're losing the ability to make the people they exploit rich and famous. When was the last time you heard of some fresh-faced young go-getter rising from the slush pile to become a household word? Larry Correia might turn out to be the last SFF rock star.

Successful indie authors will be glad to tell you that the death of the celebrity author phenomenon is a positive development. Who has time for afternoon talk shows and spouting embarrassingly out-of-touch Twitter screeds at the President when you've got to write, edit, format, and market a new title every 30-90 days?

Let the validation-seekers and attention whores chase fame. Thanks to Amazon, it's now possible to pull down six or even seven figures annually without anyone outside a relatively narrow cohort of readers knowing who you are.

There's no question that this new model has advantages. I'd say the pros outnumber the cons. But the anonymous indie millionaire model comes with a price.

There are benefits to celebrity author status, too. Being on TV, having the mainstream media report on your public statements, and having enough clout that people put your words on par with leading politicians' gives you a level of cultural influence that money can't buy.

Tradpub will always have A listers. That's all they'll have after B&N's collapse. Indies might outearn trad authors as a group, but who will have more power to shape the culture?

Much has been made of the need to develop parallel institutions to replace the converged and corrupted ones we're currently stuck with. The truth is, a few guys silently raking in hundreds of thousands or millions on Amazon aren't an institution. They're a group of business enterprises.

Don't get me wrong. Producing new and entertaining fiction without political lectures is necessary to saving Western civilization. It's probably not sufficient, though. To really make headway, we'll need our own film and TV production outfits at least.

Add that to the long list of stuff conservative investors could be doing to conserve the culture but aren't.

The Soul Cycle - Brian Niemeier
"...great selling home run after home run..."
                                           - authorJon Mollison

2017/10/13

Work for Hire Pros and Cons

Meme Vader

Over at Walker's Study, Bradford Walker informs authors about the pros and cons of work for hire projects. Here's Bradford:
I'm talking about this because, if you are at all serious about paying bills by writing fiction, then you're going to consider taking Work For Hire contracts. That's you as a hired gun, and you're not only following the orders of the paymaster, you're also using their material to do your work. You are using your skills as a creator to produce product that the paymaster owns, and (by default) get no residuals after the fact; if you do your part, you get paid and have something to point to for future Work For Hire contracts.
Yet you are on the hook, so far as the audience cares, for anything in that book. Just as R.A. Salvatore about having a moon dropped on Chewbacca in Vector Prime. It's one thing to get flak over something that is utterly yours. It's something else to get it when all you did was follow another's orders, which is what you're doing when you're writing Darth Vader.
The other problem comes from your hired gun status also. Be it writing a novel, a script, or whatever you're not the shot-caller; you have some wigging room, but you're still just someone else's tool used to make their vision happen. Sometimes that means you get stuck facilitating something that doesn't make narrative sense because it's good for business (such as all the Vader and Fett stuff), and it becomes your job to make it work as they intend- to use your creative skills to trouble-shoot their problem.
If you get a reasonable liason representing the property owner, this can be mostly painless; by all accounts, Christie Golden's relationship with Blizzard Entertainment was fantastic (she's now on the payroll as an employee) and Timothy Zahn continues to have a good one with Lucasfilm. Likewise, poor ones can be disastrous; bail as soon as you can and never go back.
So, if you get an opportunity to get hired to write sanctioned fan-fic for a property, don't turn it down out of hand; it worked well for Jon del Arroz, Jeff Grubb, Timothy Zahn, Richard Knack, R.A. Salvatore, and many others- Walter B. Gibson being the most successful example. Take the bad experiences as the cautions that they are, and watch for the red flags. Writer Beware, but Fortune Favors The Bold.
Bradford's take is right on the money in my experience. Whether it's Superman or the Thrawn Trilogy, some of the greatest pieces of popular entertainment have been produced on a work for hire basis.

Authors who have thus far written only original content--especially indies--are well advised to understand that accepting a job as the writer of a work made for hire differs considerably from the more free-form approach they're used to.

I use the word "writer" on purpose. An author is by definition the ultimate authority over a given work. The writer of a work made for hire answers to the parties that commissioned the work. You may have more or less creative leeway depending on the original IP holder, but if creative differences arise, it's the writer who must make compromises, period.

Bradford is also correct that work for hire jobs can be lucrative. But there's always a price; in this case, reduced creative control and often reduced author brand-building value. Time spent working on a project for someone else is time not spent working on your own IPs.

If you're approached with a work for hire offer, consider the terms carefully, weigh the potential monetary benefits against the cost in time that won't be spent working on your brand, and make the best choice for your current situation.

My original, award-winning Soul Cycle series is available now for Kindle and in paperback. Read the first three exciting books in time for the final installment's release later this fall!

The Soul Cycle - Brian Niemeier

2017/10/12

Resistance Is Nonexistent

As the explosive scandal sparked by Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein rocks the film industry, normal Americans are bearing witness to the morbid spectacle of the Left accomplishing what conservatives have claimed to be pursuing for decades: destroying the Left.

It should be no surprise that we had to wait for the perverts who run Hollywood to implode--while they kept abusing women and children the whole time--when conservative leaders have made it clear that they have no intention of challenging Leftist cultural dominance. The only thing conservatives want to conserve is the cultural Marxist status quo.

Some of you are still in denial or a bleary state of Netflix and football-induced hypnosis, so to drive the point home, I've prepared a little thought experiment. For your consideration, here's what it would look like if conservatives fought to preserve our culture as hard as the Left fights to destroy it.

Republicans would hit Hollywood in the wallet.
Lighting Cigar with $100 Bill

When Democrats are in control of the levers of power, they have no qualms about weaponizing the IRS against their political enemies. This is the most effective tactic on the list. As John Marshall said, the power to tax is the power to destroy.

And as Glenn Reynolds points out, Hollywood has a specific and easily exploitable weakness in this regard.
The first such proposal would be to restore the 20 percent excise tax on motion picture theater gross revenues that existed between the end of World War II and its repeal in the mid-1950s. The campaign to end the excise tax had studio executives and movie stars talking like Art Laffer, as they noted that high taxes reduced business income, hurt investment and cost jobs.
The movie excise tax was imposed in response to the high deficits after World War Two. Deficits are high again, and there's already historical precedent. Of course, to keep up with technology, the tax should now apply to DVDs, downloadable movies, pay-per-view and the like. But in these financially perilous times, why should movie stars and studio moguls, with their yachts, swimming pools and private jets, not at least shoulder the burden they carried back in Harry Truman's day -- when, to be honest, movies were better anyway.
For extra fun, they could show pictures of David Geffen's yacht and John Travolta's personal Boeing 707 on the Senate floor. You want to tax fat cats? I gotcher "fat cats" right here! Repeal the Hollywood Tax Cuts!
Repealing Hollywood's outdated 20% tax break should be a no-brainer for congressional Republicans (but I repeat myself). Why have there been no calls to restore the motion picture excise tax since evidence emerged of the industry's complicity in Weinstein's predations?

Conservative businessmen would take over the studios.
If the film industry's debauchery isn't sufficient motivation for conservatives to act, Hollywood's nosediving profits definitely should be. After all, conservatives might not care about art, but they're downright fanatical about money, right?

Not when it comes to money plays that involve risking their reputations with the lefty arts crowd. Roger L. Simon notes that conservative investors now have a once in a lifetime chance to buy out the whole film industry in one fell swoop. But they won't.
If conservative investors had any courage, this would be the time to make a hostile takeover of the movie business.  Unfortunately, they don’t.  I know this from bitter personal experience. Wealthy conservatives are delighted to support the Philharmonic, but when it comes to popular culture they turn away, as if afraid to get their hands dirty.
That this is a huge mistake should be obvious.  They have abandoned the culture -- and our children -- to the creepiest people imaginable.  What is going on in Hollywood is far from being just about Harvey. It’s approaching a pandemic. So many previously silent assaulted or raped women are coming out of the woodwork, it seems like a long-belated remake of “Cheaper by the Dozen.” No one knows who will be next or if it will stop at Harvey.
It won't stop at Harvey, and the self-styled moral conservatives who could have stopped it will incur a share of the blame.

Conservative officials would lock up the offenders.
Behind Bars

If officials at the highest levels of law enforcement were serious about protecting our children (how often have we been told to "please think of" them when our betters want to further erode our liberty?), they'd leave no stone unturned in the hunt for the perpetrators of Hollywood's systemic abuse culture. Unfortunately, law enforcement's track record in this regard features a string of Roman Polanskis and Woody Allens.

Thankfully, the prosecution of Weinstein and his accomplices might be the one aspect of this sordid affair that Republicans act on. Although in fairness, it's President Trump who reportedly lit a fire under the FBI to investigate Weinstein. And as establishment Republicans love to point out, Trump isn't a conservative.

You can tell because he's actually using the powers of his office to protect American citizens from Lefty scumbags for a change.
Although it is not yet known if Sessions gave the direct order or if Trump requested the investigation, Trump said he wasn't surprised by the sexual harassment and assault claims made against Weinstein.
Trump said shortly after news of the shock report on Thursday: 'I've known him for years. I'm not surprised.' 
Weinstein was a big donor for Hillary Clinton, who finally denounced her longtime friend in a statement on Tuesday and said on Wednesday that she would donate all his contributions to her campaign to charity.
Conservative patrons would support like-minded artists.
Michelangelo and Pope Julius II

The SJWs defacing pop culture have it made. Lacking appreciable artistic talent, they only need to check the right political and identity boxes to receive plush sinecures in Hollywood, the comic book industry, and traditional publishing.

Making a living in the arts has always been difficult. It's become diabolically so since the conservatives--or at least political neutrals--who used to run the film and publishing industries gave away the farm to cultural Marxists.

Make no mistake. The expulsion of non-Leftist content creators from these industries is the result of a concerted and deliberate effort to squeeze thought criminals out of pop culture. The Left has been allowed to carry out their purge unopposed for so long that the process is all but complete.

The most obvious answer to this problem on the part of wealthy conservatives who complain about the corruption of popular entertainment would be to fund non-Leftist art projects themselves. But again, as Roger Simon mentioned above, conservative donors will gladly support the converged arts but not projects that might upset the Leftists they strive to impress.

If conservatives were as serious about saving the culture as they claim, then wealthy conservatives would fund non-Leftist films, TV series, comic books, novels, video games, and other popular media projects--regardless of whether they turned a profit. Converged companies like Tor Books and Marvel Comics are perfectly willing to take major losses in the service of their crusade to destroy Western culture. Wealthy conservatives' "What's in it for me?" and "I got mine" mantras betray the fact that they don't really believe in the value of Western civilization.

Conclusion
To the struggling non-Leftist creators out there who just wanted to make art and be left alone: No one is coming to help you. We're on our own since, unlike the cultural Marxists working night and day to drive us from the market, our self-professed supporters in business and government are lying about having our back.

It's up to us to help each other sharpen our skills, strengthen our brands, and build audiences. The #PulpRev and the Superversive literary movements are good examples of fledgling mutual support networks of allied artists.

With or without support, continuing to create original, entertaining content is indispensable to salvaging something of Western culture.

I wouldn't ask anyone to do what I'm not willing to do myself. That's one reason why I've been creating fun, lecture-free stories for the past couple of years. If you're starving for unique, thrilling, apolitical science fiction, give my award-winning Soul Cycle novels a shot.

The Soul Cycle - Brian Niemeier

2017/10/11

Amazing Stories

Amazing Stories

Apple has announced plans to revive the 1980s science fiction anthology TV series Amazing Stories for their video streaming service.
Apple is close to a deal on a reboot of Amazing Stories to air as one of their first original programming attempts. Deadline reports that the company is in talks with Amblin TV and Universal TV on the reboot of the anthology series.
The original series, which was produced by Steven Spielberg, aired from 1985 to 1987 and has become a cult classic. The reboot was originally set up at NBC (who aired the original series) with Bryan Fuller (Hannibal, American Gods) writing back in 2015.
Do TV--and now tech company--executives even bother to research the properties they acquire for cynical cash grab reboots? Here we have a reboot of a 1980s TV series created by Stephen Spielberg based on the pulp-era anthology magazine helmed by Hugo Gernsback.

Not only is Apple diving headlong into the utter lack of originality that's plaguing Hollywood, they seem hell bent on continuing the legacy publishing industry's desecration of sci-fi. Because when I think "pulp anthology", my mind immediately jumps to the guy who wrote Hannibal and American Gods.

Another emerging and baffling trend is TV and movie producers' current fondness for rebooting 80s IPs that weren't successful in the 80s either. Amazing Stories was critically acclaimed in its original run, but it underperformed in the ratings. This project looks like Blade Runner 2049 all over again.

The only question left to ask is the one Nathan Housley posed. How will Apple ruin Amazing Stories? They'll over-explain the villains' villainy with sob story backgrounds, shoehorn in Strong Female Characters™, emphasize "realism" over escapism,  replace Western, Christian morality with the void of relativism, etc.

I'd be more inclined to forgive the Morlocks ruining science fiction if they didn't always ruin stories in the same boring ways.

Enjoy the nostalgia before Apple ruins another tattered remnant of your childhood.


If you're looking for science fiction in the genre-blending tradition of the pulps that's unique and original, check out my award-winning Soul Cycle. Unlike too many SFF series these days, this one will actually be finished. Look for the The Ophian Rising, Soul Cycle Book IV later this fall.

The Soul Cycle - Brian Niemeier

2017/10/10

Ophian Rising Preview

It's my pleasure to report to my loyal readers that work on The Ophian Rising, Soul Cycle Book IV is proceeding well. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this preview.


“Guide me to the ether mine, Tallon,” the smuggler said to the empty corridor in a mocking imitation of Astlin’s voice. “Ignore the priceless ore deposits and help me look for shriveled old dead guys. Who cares if your expensive saw broke? I’ll just give you dirty looks and tell you to go find a new one.”

The path went upward relative to the crypt where Astlin was busy transcribing mummy tattoos, but technically descended since it delved toward the asteroid’s core. Tallon felt like he’d been walking a level path the whole time. Gravity was weird in the ether. That went double for ethereal asteroids.

“If I take a fall or get lost,” Tallon muttered to himself, “it’s her fault!” Thanks to Astlin, the expedition was running uncomfortably long for his taste. And so far all he had to show for it was a busted piece of equipment that was his only means of salvaging the whole mess. The last thing he needed was the client getting uppity on him.

I’m starting to think those Ophian punks might have a point about the Zadokim exploiting humanity, Tallon thought as he threaded his way around crystal spikes jutting from the floor. Not that he was dumb enough to raise a hand against people who could walk through walls and catch bullets. The offer of a blanket pardon alone made this job worthwhile. With a little luck, he just might solve his legal and financial troubles in one stroke.

He just had to find a replacement for that saw. Any unworked veins would be closer to the core, and so would any tools the miners had left behind. Then it was a simple matter of—

“…would have liked to see the tyrants’ reaction when they find out Temil and Tharis are just diversions.”

The male voice drifted down the tunnel, though the tricks that solid ether played with sound hid the origin point’s distance and direction. Tallon laid his hand on his rodcaster’s grip. Nobody else should be here! Like all men in his profession, he hated it when “should” diverged from “is”.

A second unseen man laughed. “They’ll react like they always do—calling for peace while denying there’s a war.”

“Won’t work this time,” said a third. “The word’s come down from Lasker. We’re done with symbolic gestures and empty demands. Today we start taking back what’s ours.”

OK, thought Tallon. Either the original miners are still around—which is unlikely since these guys are speaking Trade instead of ancient Stranosi—or I’ve been claim jumped! 

He slid the rodcaster from its holster and switched off his flashlight. A diffuse rosy glow bled through the tunnel walls up ahead. Tallon stood still and listened. The voices had gone silent, but the sounds of footsteps and metal ringing against stone wafted down the corridor.

Tallon considered going back for Astlin, but the interlopers sounded like they meant to do some serious mischief, and soon. Who knew what they’d get up to while he went running to his client like a clingy puppy? Besides, one of those voices kind of sounded familiar…

Silencing the jumble of loose metal object in his pocket with one hand, Tallon crept forward. The wall grew rougher and the din of men at work louder as he felt his way through the rosy near-dark. His hand passed over jagged raw crystal as he came to a bend in the tunnel. The washed out glow of work lights filtered down the passage to his right.

Tallon pressed himself against the unfinished—and uncomfortable—tunnel wall and poked his head around the corner. Less than fifty feet past the turn, the tunnel gave onto the floor of a rough-hewn shaft a hundred feet on a side whose walls rose out of sight. Tallon counted four men—all wearing sturdy clothes in tans and browns with dingy helmets.

A shout from above revealed the presence of a fifth man. Tallon slipped from cover and around the bend just far enough to see what was happening higher up. Crystal spars the size of redwoods crisscrossed the shaft’s upper reaches. Rose-colored fluid flowed lazily through the crystalline ducts.

That’s liquid ether! No wonder they abandoned this tunnel.

The fifth man, his drab clothes sprinkled with glittery crystal dust, slid down a rope secured to the largest ether pipe. A jolt ran down Tallon’s spine when he saw what the workman had attached to the duct.

Option one: these guys are geologists, and that bundle of blocks, pipes, and tape is some kind of scientific instrument. Option two: they’re total nutjobs who’ve planted a bomb inside a rock made from the most combustible substance known to man.

Though he owned an underground casino, Tallon didn’t like gambling. That’s why he’d pre-loaded his rodcaster with the perfect Worked ammo for a trip to an ether mine. He let out a deep breath, raised the heavy gun, and pressed the trigger. A tight cone of freezing mist blasted from the rodcaster’s barrel, leaving the bomb and a large section of the duct it was attached to rimed with a crackling layer of frost. The spent shell chimed as it hit the ground.

All five men in the shaft rounded on Tallon. Three of them clutched mining tools that could just as easily excavate a man’s face. One of them drew a scuffed black revolver.

Tallon snapped off a wild shot and turned to run. His foot collided with a crystal spur, and he pitched forward onto the coarse tunnel floor. His gun skidded away into the dark. Sharp rubble cut his hands and dug into his chest. He flipped over to see three armed workmen advancing on the tunnel entrance. Another pawed desperately at the ice-caked jacket covering his frozen arm and shoulder.

The fifth member of the demolition team stretched out his arms to signal the others. “Wait.”

They stopped. The fifth man strode to the front and center of their line. He wore grimy clothes similar to the others’, but unlike them he lacked headgear. His hair was cut down to a light brown bristle, and three x-shaped cuts scarred his forehead.

“Captain Tallon is a man of honor,” the scarred man said in a lower-class Mithgarder accent. “More importantly, he is a man. One so instrumental to our victory should share in it.”

Tallon furrowed his brow. “Do I know you?”

The lead workman motioned to the gun-toting man on his left, who removed a visored helmet to reveal a stubbly, broken-nosed face. He handed his revolver to the leader.

“Hey!” Tallon exclaimed as he staggered to his feet. “You’re the guy who sold me that bag of guns.”

“He also extracted this mine’s location from you,” the leader said. “A handsome payment.”

Tallon pointed an accusing finger at the gun seller. “Hold on. I don’t remember telling anybody about this mine.”

“Perhaps you were too deep in your cups,” said the leader. “Happily, you seem sober enough to witness our triumph.”

The leader pointed his gun at the ether duct and fired. The frozen crystal shattered with the crash of a massive chandelier hitting a marble floor. A rose-colored flood gushed out. The etherfall boiled off before it touched the ground, filling the air with the scent of an onrushing storm.

“Are you suicidal!?” Tallon cried. “One spark will blow us all to hell!”

The leader handed the pistol back to the man on his left and took a grenade from his coat pocket. He held up the red metal canister in his right hand and pulled the pin with his left. A smile twisted his lip. “Not suicide; martyrdom. Have no fear. No hell awaits us, only oblivion in the Nexus and eventual return.”

“I don’t get it,” Tallon shouted between rapid breaths. “What are you throwing away our lives for?”

Sapphire light filled the tunnel and washed over the would-be martyrs. Their mouths gaped in awe.

Astlin’s voice echoed down the passage, undiminished by the walls’ dampening effect. “To kill me.”

Tallon knew better than to turn and look at those beautiful, awful lights. He kept his eyes on the leader, who still clutched the grenade in one trembling hand.

Astlin stepped to the mouth of the tunnel and faced her attempted killers. “Drop your weapons.” She turned to the leader “Not you.” Three mining implements and one revolver clattered to the ground.

“I don’t mean to sound ungrateful,” Tallon said to Astlin, “but what are you doing here? Don’t tell me you already finished taking dictation from those dead guys.”

“Oh, I barely scratched the surface,” said Astlin. “It doesn’t help that I can’t understand those symbols. But you’re my responsibility. I came as fast as I could when I felt your distress.”

Tallon poked Astlin’s shoulder with his finger. “Wait a minute. You were in my head this whole time!?”

“She treats you like a child,” the leader hissed through gritted teeth. “She and all her kind. They claim to liberate us but keep us in chains.”

Astlin glared at the man whose three scars mocked the lights on her brow. “I’m in your head, too,” she said. “I can feel your resentment; your blind hatred. Lasker’s filled you with lies. We only want to help!”

The leader strained to speak. “So say all despots.” He managed to spit at her.

Astlin took a step forward, her arm outstretched. “Hand me the grenade,” she said. “Slowly. Carefully.”

The leader’s face reddened. Veins stood out on his forehead and neck. Suddenly a shadow of his smile returned. “I’m not your servant,” he croaked.

He opened his hand. The safety lever sprang from the grenade.


The Ophian Rising, the final book in the award-winning Soul Cycle, will be out later this fall. If you haven't read Nethereal, Souldancer, and The Secret Kings, now is the perfect time to get caught up for the fourth book's release. Pick up the first three Soul Cycle books today:

The Soul Cycle - Brian Niemeier