Free Short Story: Who's Afraid of the Dark?

My fellow Catholic author Russell Newquist writes:
A short story of mine, "Who's Afraid of the Dark?" is available free on Amazon today, tomorrow, and Friday to honor Michaelmas. Why Michaelmas? Because the story is part of the "Tales of Peter Bishop" series - about a young man named Peter Bishop who carries the flaming sword of the archangel St. Michael.
Getting Soul Cycle Book III out the door hasn't left me time for much else, so I haven't read the story yet. However, I encourage you to download it today because a) Russell has a proven track record of excellent writing, b) it's currently free--but only till Friday, so this offer is time-sensitive, and c) I've already picked it up sight unseen, so I have no qualms about asking others to do the same.

Here's the Amazon product description:
Little Johnny isn't afraid of the dark. Big boys aren't afraid of the dark - and at five, Little Johnny is a big boy. No, he isn't afraid of the dark. He's afraid of what comes out in the dark, and what they might do to his baby sister. But his parents don't believe him - so it's up to Johnny to keep them safe.
It's probably no surprise that I find a story with horror elements grounded in theology highly compelling. Go get your free copy of "Who's Afraid of the Dark? (The Tales of Peter Bishop) now.

P.S. speaking of Russell, he's posted round 2 of the Author Gladiatorial Challenge between me and Delcan Finn on his blog. Fans of Souldancer who are interested to see how Astlin deals with a gelatinous cube should give it a read.


Interviewed by the Puppy of the Month Book Club

Puppy of the Month Book Club

Jon Mollison of the Puppy of the Month Book Club recently conducted an interview with me. His questions span several topics, including works that influenced Nethereal, my future plans for the Soul Cycle of which it is a part, and my upcoming work with Castalia House.

We even geek out more than a little over the finer points of Gen tribal nomenclature.
The Frisky Pagan had a specific question about the "clay tribe", the term the Gen use to describe humans. It is a curious term, with a certain religious significance.  Is there is a specific reason you chose it, and why the Gen use it to describe humans, but not themselves [?]
I'm glad TFP raised that question. Back before the Purges, the Gen culture had a strong tribal dynamic that affected everything from an individual's social standing to the professions that were deemed proper for him.
Gen tribes take their names from natural substances that are thought to exemplify a tribe's essence. You'll note that Jaren is identified as having Fire Tribe heritage. Leaders like the king of Avalon descend from the Gold Tribe.
The Gen had a million year or so head start on humans. They'd already mastered agriculture when we first started living in caves. At a loss for how to fit mankind into their social hierarchy, the ancient Gen named us the clay tribe.  
So in regard to TFP's second question, assigning humanity a tribe actually is the Gen's way of applying the nomenclature they use for themselves to us. It's a linguistic acknowledgement that both species are related.
Gen and human anthropologists have varying theories for why clay was chosen as the substance that best describes man. Some say it's because humans are more malleable and versatile than the Gen, which is largely true. Others consider it a term of condescension bordering on a racial slur that equates humans with a base material akin to dirt. Both could be right.
In terms of the meta-narrative, I drew from both the Genesis 2 account and Ovid's four ages.
That's just a sample of the full interview. Do read the rest here.

And as a bonus, Nathan Housley continues his in-depth analysis of Nethereal. Be forewarned, participation in the PotMBC constitutes tacit agreement to have read the book, so they don't shy away from spoilers.
Chapter 49: Eldrid gives Navkin a white robe with Master Steersman markings as a thank you for tending her wounds.  Later, the Gen maiden takes Jaren out on another tour of the Avalonian countryside.  Jaren is about to leave Avalon, as the Exodus has been repaired.  He asks Eldrid to join him, but she demurs.  Jaren instead offers to stay, but is told that he must keep his word.
Over a bottle of wine, Teg confides several misgivings about Jaren and Eldrid, Deim and Elena, and Navkin’s relationship to each couple.  After Navkin jokes that it’s a wonder that any Gen are born if Jaren’s single-mindedness is typical of Gen, Eldrid interrupts, telling her that the White Well has been emptied of so much prana that Gen can no longer bear children.
Inside the vault, Jaren asks Elena to channel prana into a vault cube.  Elena obliges, and the experience overwhelms Jaren, knocking him unconscious.
Jaren is smitten with Eldrid, or as smitten as a Gen obsessed with avenging his family can be.  But while Eldrid has his attention, Navkin and Teg are bonding.  Not romantically, but over shared misery and a concern for Elena.
Only Elena can channel raw prana, as befitting the gods and their priests. It's odd that Jaren doesn't follow the logic here.  As befitting his laser focus on defeating the Guild, he only sees capabilities, not causes.
Once again, thanks to Jon, Nathan, and TFP for lavishing your expert attentions on my humble works.

There's still time to participate in the book club's discussion, as they are currently on chapter 54 out of 66. Nethereal and its Dragon Award-winning sequel Souldancer are available via the Amazon link below.



Double Declan Finn Weekend

We've got a double helping of Declan Finn-related podcasts for you this week!

First up, Declan Finn, author of the Dragon Award-nominated horror novel Honor at Stake joins Daddy Warpig, Dorrinal, and myself on Geek Gab. We get a little too close to politics for DW's liking before moving on to speculate about what vampires taste like. Shenanigans ensue.

The Catholic Geeks

And since Declan guest-hosted our show, I return the favor by stopping by for the second hour of The Catholic Geeks. The lovely and talented Moira Greyland is a tough act to follow, so Declan and I just geek out over Dragon Con and Salt Lake City Comic Con.

Fellow Catholic Geek Matthew Bowman classes up the show by calling in and turning the conversation to a more behind-the-scenes look at the various popular cons and the future of the Dragon Award.

Of course, I also flog my major award-winning, category best selling books. They are your ticket for the BadWrongFun train.



Castalia House Reviews Nethereal

Castalia House

Castalia House Blog proprietor and Hugo-nominated Appendix N mastermind Jeffro Johnson brings his encyclopedic knowledge of classic SFF to bear on Nethereal.
If you want to understand the sea change event that’s currently transforming the science fiction and fantasy scene, then this is basically required reading.
The most striking thing about it is of course the fact that it doesn’t really fit into any of the standard genre bins that have steadily ossified over the past four decades. And that makes sense, really: an independent author pulling himself up by his bootstraps completely outside of the usual publishing and book store chain system does not have to play by the rules.
So what is Nethereal exactly…? Well… it’s sort of like a Traveller campaign where the navigators are magic-users pretty well straight out of an old school D&D game. But then it’s filtered through a whole pile of action movies, video games, comic books, and anime. I’d say it’s quite clearly a product of the Appendix N Genertation Gap. Unlike John C. Wright’s work, you’re not going to see explicit references to the classic science fiction and fantasy style elements of the pulp era. Nevertheless, there’s something different about it, though.
My approach to genre is in total agreement with Larry Correia's: hard and fast genre categories were invented by and for big chain bookstore managers. Write what you want, and let them worry about which box to put it in.

Back to Jeffro's review, where he compares and contrasts Nethereal with great works of the pulp era.
I have to say, though, the frequency of over the top action scenes is reminiscent of Edgar Rice Burroughs’s stories. But you don’t see Brian taking the time to develop the sort of emotional beats that would establish the sterling character of the protagonists in contrast to the cravenness and despicableness of their foes. This is probably the biggest difference between Nethereal and writers like Howard, Vance, and Brackett.
Jeffro's not wrong here. With a tagline like "Magic space pirates in space hell", it's a safe bet that you won't find any paragons of virtue among the main cast. In fact, the main characters of Nethereal might qualify as Villain Protagonists.

There's even a cosmological reason for the lack of conventionally moral characters. Rather early on it's established that the White Well, source of all good, is running dry. Jaren and his crew definitely aren't saints, but they're the best the universe has to work with.
A close second to this is the almost complete lack of old style romance. This is not the sort of story like where A. Merritt’s Leif Langdon or Leigh Brackett’s Matthew Carse gets the girl in the end. The model for storytelling here is right in line with present day norms; rather than focusing on a single heroic character, the tale switches between the perspectives of an ensemble of characters. Just as in the first season of, say, The Flash (2014), the ultimate theme is much more about “our awesomely dysfunctional family of weirdos” doing awesome things than it is about the traditional hero’s journey thing.
An "awesomely dysfunctional family of weirdos doing awesome things"!

I love it so much, I'm stealing it for the series' third book :)

Seriously, Jeffro just opened my eyes to a core theme of the Soul Cycle that I'd missed for years. To paraphrase Adrian Veidt, only the very best reviewers can accomplish that!

It's entirely valid to view the whole series as the saga of a bunch of misfits who go through literal and figurative hell to become the royal family/new pantheon of a universe that was screwed over by its old rulers and gods.
[Pulp heroes] tend to be ordinary, straight-ahead, plain vanilla, white bread, square jawed “regular guy” types. And that archetype is nowhere to be found in Nethereal. Indeed, the characters come off like GURPS PC’s with way too many character points handed out from session to session and a game master that simply cannot say no when they decide to spend them on completely insane stuff that ought to cause the campaign to fly apart at the seams.
Close! We used AD&D 2nd Ed. with the Skills and Powers and Spells and Magic players' option supplements to game out Nethereal's outline. You're spot on about the character points, though.
This is not to say that Nethereal has nothing in common with novels from the pulp fantasy era. Just as in Lord Dunsany’s The King of Elfland’s Daughter or Margaret St. Clair’s The Shadow People, cosmology is a first class element of the work. In fact, I would say that the gradual revelation of the nature and structure of reality is the defining element of the story just as it is in Philip José Farmer’s works. But while Appendix N works are pretty thin on the sort of thing that could really flesh out the sprawling multi-planar milieu of the default setting of the AD&D game, this book shows how to take the whole idea of “a paladin in hell” and crank it to eleven.
Thanks! The comparison to a hometown hero is flattering.

Relevant side note: I'm good buddies with the local comic book store manager. He told me the story of how, when Farmer died, his grand kids rolled into town, ransacked his house, and sold off most of his stuff. My buddy knows because they tried to sell him a bunch of books from Farmer's personal library. The manager knew that Farmer had left several unpublished works behind, so he asked the great author's heirs about their granddad's papers.

They reportedly answered, "Oh, we threw all of that stuff away."

My friend had to fight the urge to dive across the counter and murder them.
In short, this is the kitchen sink book’s kitchen sink book. It is a product of a culture in which BadWrong Fun™ has become a way of life. This is exactly the sort of thing that has disappeared from mainstream fantasy over the years, but which could have been taken for granted as normal back when the fantasy tabletop role-playing hobby was just starting to take off.
If Nethereal is WrongFun, I don't want to be right. And neither, I think, does Jeffro.

He goes on to determine whether Nethereal qualifies as Weird Fiction in the original 1920s sense of the term, back before the genres we know today had been clearly partitioned off. I highly recommend reading it. The man is a true scholar with an unerring sense of the field's history and development.

I even get my own fiction category out of it. Nethereal shall henceforth be known as Niemeierian SFF.
Bonus: Nathan Housley from the Puppy of the Month Book Club graces the comments section with his presence to discuss Nethereal with Jeffro, and he even offers a slight point of disagreement. Don't miss the chance to watch two giants of SF geekery holding court. Also making a special appearance is recent Geek Gab guest star author Sky Hernstrom.

Speaking of the Puppy of the Month Book Club, the aforementioned Nathan Housley continues doing yeoman's work in his continuing Nethereal review [Spoiler Alert!]. I felt that his analysis of chapter 30 warranted additional comment.
On the Geek Gab podcast, Brian Niemeier has repeatedly said that his inspirations aren’t the classics of science fiction literature, but movies, games, comics, and other media.  Ydahl is a clear example of this.  Her description as a young orphaned flower girl from the Mithgar slums –complete with brown hair- lines up with that of Aerith Gainsborough of the Playstation video game Final Fantasy VII.  Well, at least until Ydhal draws her knife.  This isn’t the only nod to Final Fantasy VII.  Navkin’s summoned beast shares the lion-wolf appearance of Red XIII, another player character in the game.  Both game and book share a similar synthesis of magic and high technology.  And in both Final Fantasy 7 and Nethereal, we follow the adventures of a group of freedom fighters struggling against a multinational corporation headquartered in the capital of Mithgar that holds a monopoly on a source of energy that drains the vitality out of the world.  But inspiration is not mere copying; Ydahl is an unrepentant serial killer in the vein of Jack the Ripper and Sweeny Todd, and not the mischievous magical girlfriend that Aerith is.
I've refrained from weighing in on the accuracy of my reviewers' analyses at their web sites, even though commenters have shown interest in my opinion. But since we're here at my blog, I'll address a few of Nathan's theories.

First, he's pretty much got my general influences pegged. The only classic SF book that's had a major influence on my writing is Dune. Otherwise, I draw much more from the sources he mentioned. Well done.

Also, the connection between Ydahl and Industrial Revolution-era serial killers is well noted.

However, any resemblance between Nethereal and Final Fantasy VII is largely coincidental. In the 2D vs. 3D video game debate, I come down squarely within the 2D camp. And when it comes to Final Fantasy, the 16-bit era is my hands down favorite.

As a professional courtesy to my esteemed reviewers, I advise taking a closer look at Final Fantasy VI. All of the themes that Nathan correctly pointed out were present in FF VI, and one of the reasons why FF VII is among my least favorite games in the series is that it blatantly copies its own predecessor.

Besides, Aerith is much better-looking than Ydahl is.

So don't fail to check out Nathan's in-depth Nethreal review, which as of this writing is up to chapters 37-42.

To read more about an awesomely dysfunctional family of weirdos doing awesome things, buy the first two books in the Soul Cycle, available now from Amazon. Now's your chance to get them read in time for Book III's release.



Superversive Roundtable Talks Dragons and Sky Hernstrom on Geek Gab

I participated in another podcasting marathon this weekend, and you get to enjoy the fruits of my labor!

Superversive SF Roundtable talks the death of the Hugos and the rise of the Dragons

First up is the latest Superversive SF Roundtable. Dave Truesdale, who shall henceforth be known as the Snowflake Slayer, relates his account of getting kicked out of Worldcon for telling the truth about the state of the short fiction market, thereby causing feelbadz.

Stick around for the second half, where Nick Cole, John C. Wright, and I join the other Superversive regulars for a discussion of the Dragon Awards. That's right: three Dragon winners at the same virtual table!

Bonus: a Puppy kicker best known for cyberstalking Asian women attempts a drive-by trolling in the comments and ends up shooting himself in the foot:

Dragons Forever

For once I concur with the troll. The Dragon Awards will be widely known long after the Hugos have sunk into well-deserved oblivion.

Worldcon Attendance
Worldcon Attendance. The big orange spikes in 3 of the last 4 years are from Sad Puppies, so the stalker and his friends had better hope they're wrong about SP losing interest in the Hugos in favor of the Dragons, which the downward trend in Worldcon memberships indicates is happening.
Also, anybody else notice how The Campaign to End Puppy-Related Sadness got shortened to Sad Puppies; then the name got transferred from the campaign to its supporters? Thank the legacy media's isolate and disqualify tactics for that one.

But two can play that game! By popular acclamation, authors of Dragon Award-winning books shall now be styled according to the category in which they won. Applying this naming convention gives us:

  • Larry Correia, the Dragon of Fantasy
  • John C. Wright, the Dragon of Science Fiction
  • Nick Cole, the Dragon of the Apocalypse
  • Brian Niemeier, the Dragon of Horror
  • Chaosium Inc., the Dragon of Science Fiction or Fantasy Miniatures/Collectible Card/Role Playing Games

I'm pleased to see that Nick Cole has the coolest title.

[Note to self: develop science fiction or fantasy miniature game/CCG/RPG within the next year. Move up in geek hierarchy. Print new business cards in smaller font so as to fit new title.]

69, dudes!

The fun continues on the 69th episode of Geek Gab where author Schuyler Hernstrom drops in for a lively conversation about his awesome work, the Pulp Revival, and the benefits of writing without pants while listening to metal.

Fun fact: both of the books in my major award-recognized Soul Cycle were 40% written without pantsing.



My Trip to SLCCC


A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned that I was going to the Salt Lake City Comic Con. What sent me flying westward over hill and dale right around the time my epic adventure/horror novel Souldancer was winning at the first ever Dragon Awards on the other side of the country?

Partly SLCCC's rep as a big, fun con; but mostly other circumstances, to wit:

  1. Wanting to personally thank Larry Correia for BOOK BOMB!-ing my first book Nethereal
  2. SLCCC being the most cost-effective to get to of the cons Larry would be attending
  3. Not knowing that my book was nominated for a Dragon Award until the ballots were released a week after I'd already booked the Salt Lake City trip.
Undaunted, I deputized Declan Finn to receive the award on my behalf and set off into the West with my cousin Ben.

Foraging in Salt Lake City

Our travel schedule put us in SLC one day before the con was scheduled to start. Ben and I spent the first day gathering the supplies we'd need to get us through a long weekend in unfamiliar territory.

The essential and mission critical equipment we procured on site included:
  • 5 days' worth of foodstuffs so we wouldn't have to eat out for every meal
  • A Styrofoam cooler to preserve the perishable food items
  • A coffee maker. Our hotel room already had one, but it was way too small to cook in (see below).
  • A 1 liter bottle of Coke Zero that appropriately resembled an artillery shell in size--for Larry
As the veteran of many anime cons, I'm an old hand at living out of hotel rooms efficiently, on the cheap, and without developing Scurvy. Dear congoers: I shall now teach you secrets. They will give you power.

Your best friend is a four cup coffee maker, and not just for coffee. In fact, I advise against making coffee in it. Use the one that the hotel provides for that, and go pick up a cheap model at Wal-Mart. We got ours for like nine bucks.

With a decent capacity coffee maker in hand, you can now boil water, which means you can prepare any dish from ramen to hot dogs to instant stuffing in the comfort of your room. Don't be afraid to get creative. Ben likes to use chicken broth in his ramen, and I started running that tasty liquid gold straight through the machine.

Your second best friend is a mini-fridge. Some hotel rooms don't have them. Call the front desk and ask if they can bring one up to your room. If they drag their feet about it, tell them you're diabetic and need the fridge to store your insulin. That tends to light a fire under them.

If the hotel doesn't have mini-fridges, or they tack on an extra charge for one, go buy a Styrofoam cooler for a couple of bucks at the same Wal-Mart where you got the coffee ramen maker. What you're gonna do next is fill up two plastic shopping bags with ice from the hotel's ice machine. Then you'll stock the cooler by placing one ice bag in first and spreading a hand towel on top of it. You'll lay any foodstuffs that need to be kept cool on top of that. Top it off by placing the second ice bag on top of the food and laying another towel on top. Bam! You've got a storage solution that will keep your milk, butter, lunch meat, etc. at a nice safe 40 degrees F or below for days. Do it right, and you'll only need to refill the ice once over a whole weekend.

Pro tip: keep the cooler in the bathtub (except, of course, when you're showering). They sometimes have nearly invisible pinhole leaks, and the last thing you want is getting out of bed and stepping onto an ice cold, waterlogged carpet.

That should get you started. Follow these tips, and you'll save a small fortune by cutting down on greasy fast food and overpriced restaurants. If you can't take the coffee maker home with you, consider donating it to a local thrift shop.

Hanging out in Salt Lake City

With our base camp fully stocked, Ben and I hit the town to scout our new surroundings. SLC has a pretty cool indoor/outdoor mall that reminded me of an airship station from a PS2-era Final Fantasy installment. Bonus points for making the information kiosk an awesome desk/waterfall combo.

The coolest find on our first night in SLC was Brewvies, an awesome cinema pub where you can watch a movie while not only enjoying a glass of beer, but a full meal, too.

We learned that Brewvies is having some legal problems brought on by a couple of staties who thought that going undercover to a screening of Deadpool and ordering booze made them Eliot Ness. What valiant public servants. If the Untouchables were around today, I'm sure their top priority would be guarding moviegoers from strange thoughts elicited by getting buzzed while looking at Ryan Reynolds' ass.

You can help Brewvies fight state censorship here:

Stand hard with Brewvies

Despite the iron fist of John Law hanging over our heads, we had a phenomenally pleasant evening watching The Mechanic: Resurrection. This movie is badass. It's like watching Jason Statham reenact a Hitman game from back when Hitman was good.

Arriving at the con

The next morning we hoofed it over to the Salt Palace to begin our SLCCC experience. Unfortunately, we misread the program and didn't realize that the doors opened at 10 AM for gold VIP members only. The rest of us plebs would have to wait in line for two more hours.

Thankfully, a con staffer saved our morning by informing us that we could still get in to see Mark Hamill at the arena where the Utah Jazz play. Score!

Ben and I walked a couple more blocks to the arena, where Mark Hamill was doing a sort of one man show/Q&A type deal, theater in the round style, at center court. The place was full of screaming Joker cosplayers waving lightsabers. That sort of thing. It was great.

My opinion of TFA is no secret, but I've always liked Mark Hamill--for his classic portrayal of the Joker on Batman: The Animated Series if nothing else. (Hate to differ with you, Mark, but your version of the Joker is in fact definitive.)

Starting from that foundation of basic fannish appreciation, my esteem for Mr. Hamill built to towering respect as he repeatedly expressed his clearly heartfelt appreciation for the fans who'd got him there. The gist of his talk was, "Ever since I found out that there's a guy who does Donald Duck's voice for a living, I've known my purpose in life. Thank you for letting me fulfill my vocation of entertaining you."

2016 SLCCC Mark Hamill
Photo: Salt Lake Tribune

Mark Hamill highlights:
  • Really down to earth (married to the same woman, his first wife, for almost 40 years).
  • Admitted that Harrison Ford is so rich that he stopped caring decades ago.
  • Spontaneously delivered Heath Ledger's "Why so serious?" line in his patented BMTAS Joker voice.
  • Told George Lucas and J.J. Abrams that Luke Skywalker shouldn't have been in Episode VII.
  • Watching the R-rated animated version of The Killing Joke clearly creeped him out.
  • Didn't want to leave when the clock ran out. Stalled to buy a few more minutes. 

The Warpig and the International Lord of Hate

Larry Correia SLCCC

After Mark's handlers basically dragged him off the stage, Ben and I headed down to the Red Iguana gourmet Mexican restaurant. There we had the pleasure of meeting up with my esteemed Geek Gab cohost, the Alpha Geek himself, Daddy Warpig!

Having concluded our fantastic lunch and a rousing discussion of DW's forthcoming OMEGA role-playing game system, Ben and I bid the Warpig a fond farewell and returned to the convention center for my long anticipated audience with International Lord of Hate Larry Correia.

Larry had invited me to meet him at Kevin J. Anderson's Wordfire booth, so I shouldered my way through heavy dealer room traffic in search of the meetup spot. Here's a tip for anyone who wants to find Larry in a big crowd: look up.

Seriously, it's worked at Gen Con and now SLCCC. It's like: "Where's Larry?" *Cranes neck. Sees warm beige mountain peak in the distance.* "Oh, there he is over by the Warmachine dioramas."

I got to the Wordfire booth just as Larry was breaking for lunch. Since there was no way he'd hear me over the crowd, I held up the signed copy of Souldancer I'd brought for him. That got his attention, and he came around and took me to lunch, which was my second that day for those of you who are keeping track.

Walking across a busy convention floor with Larry is quite an experience. Every ten feet or so, a fan would stop him to shake hands, or he'd spot someone he knows and pause for a quick, friendly conversation. TL;DR the guy is super popular, which is why his predictions that Jim Butcher would win the Dragon Award instead of him didn't jibe with me. For the record, I'm pretty good at picking Dragon Award winners.

Larry chose a Cambodian food stand for lunch and bought me a lemonade (which qualified his entree and side for a combo discount--accounting skills FTW!). We talked a bit more about the Dragons, including how one of the Dragon Con admins encouraged him to blog about the awards, and never mind the Puppy-kickers.

The genuine appreciation Larry showed for the signed copy of my book made the whole trip worthwhile. Then, when I handed him the liter of Coke Zero that had been bouncing along next to me in the desert sun for hours, he stowed it behind the booth and said he'd wait till the next day to open it. I thought that was a good call. 

Shout out to Wordfire booth authors Steve Diamond, Jason A. Anderson, Steve Rzasa, Julie Frost, Michael Brent Collings, Christie Golden, Eric James Stone, and of course, Puppy-in-Chief (retired) Brad R. Torgersen. It's awesome to be working in a field where you guys are my coworkers.

Brad R. Torgersen - SLCCC Panel

The Larry Show

The next day we reconvened for the How to Write Action panel, a.k.a. The Larry Show.

For any poor, deprived mendicants who haven't had the pleasure of attending one, the format of Larry's action panels is a one-man show where instead of sitting at a table up on stage, he stands in front of the audience, mic in hand, and regales us with the finer points of writing action scenes.

My impression: Larry's dramatization of using the Time Turner to go back and assassinate Tom Riddle convinced me that he is a physical comedy virtuoso who needs his own TV show.

I was totally digging the panel, and taking copious mental notes, when Larry suddenly gestured at me and said, "You did something like that in your book."

Full disclosure: I'd been halfway spacing out trying to come up with synonyms for "explosion", which I agree there aren't nearly enough of.

So I had a deer in headlights moment of "Oh crap, what was he just talking about!?" My knee-jerk response was to say, "Yes, just like in my book," while frantically trying to remember the topic. Luckily, Larry had been discussing the Holtzman effect in Dune, and that novel is seared so deep into my brain that I basically jumped to the right answer by default.

"They have personal shields in Nethereal," I added, not sounding like a total spaz.

Then the Mountain that Writes did me his biggest favor since the BOOK BOMB! Motioning for me to stand up, he announced, "Hey, everybody. This is author Brian Niemeier. He's up for a Dragon Award, too."

Still in shock, I mechanically stood up and turned to wave at the packed room behind me. "Hey, folks," I think I said. Many of them actually applauded. I sat back down after my first round of applause as an author at a major con, not really knowing what to make of it, but deeply grateful to Larry and all of the fans.

Larry Correia Wordfire signing

On Saturday night I attended a panel on characterization with a full roster of authors featuring Larry, Dave Farland, and Laurell K. Hamilton. For my money, the best part was how the moderator called on female audience members by calling them "sweetheart", "cutie", "darling", etc. All the while, the vocally feminist author on the panel had this sour look on her face that kept getting more pronounced, as if she took another bite out of a lemon each time the guy called on a girl.

The perfect end to a perfect evening.

Since I was flying home the next day, I thanked Larry again after the panel and said goodbye. He said it was great to meet me, which was awesome to hear. I also scored a hug, which was epic!

Yet my greatest triumph still lay ahead.

Unknown caller

The next afternoon, Ben and I were nearing the home stretch of the three hour drive back from the airport when my phone rang.

At first I thought it was my family calling to make sure that my flight had gotten in OK, since I'd forgotten to call them that morning. I fished the phone out of the cup holder next to me and learned to my surprise that I was instead receiving a call from Supreme Dark Lord of the Evil Legion of Evil, Vox Day.

Vox Day
"I called to congratulate you," the Dark Lord said.

Now bear in mind, the con and two flights across time zones had pretty much destroyed my concept of time. Having forgotten what day it was, I replied:

"Why? What's going on?"

*Incredulous pause on the other end of the line*

"Here, let me just read this to you," said Vox. Another brief pause, and he quoted, "Winner of the Dragon Award for Best Horror Novel: Souldancer by Brian Niemeier."

Ben is probably better equipped to describe my reaction, because I was immediately caught up in the moment, reveling in the exquisite revenge that my fans had wrought on the CHORFs. I'm pretty sure I thanked Vox and Jesus before the SDL urged me to drive safe and hung up.

That was about it until this showed up, courtesy of Declan Finn:

2016 Dragon Award for Best Horror Novel - Souldancer

I had a pretty good con weekend. So did my readers. How was yours?

The instruments of my readers' vengeance, available here:



Geek Gab with SIlver Empire Author Susan McPhail

This past weekend, we at Geek Gab had the pleasure of hosting Susan McPhail, author of Treasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin Key from Silver Empire Books.

Join us as we discuss Susan's work, Indiana Jones, and--shameless plug--my Dragon Award win for Souldancer.

As long as you're checking out Susan's book, you may as well get your hands on my award-nominated and award-winning Soul Cycle.



The Puppy of the Month Book Club Reviews Nethereal

Puppy of the Month Book Club

Nathan Housley, Jon Mollison, and The Frisky Pagan have chosen my first novel Nethereal as their inaugural entry in the Puppy of the Month Book Club, which they explain thusly:
The Puppy of the Month Book Club is a collection of science-fiction and fantasy fans who favor the open minded diversity of works approved by the Sad Puppy and Rabid puppy collectives.  Puppy related works are on the table as well, provided they meet the same standards of high-quality, swashbuckling fun, and healthy disregard for the political requirements imposed by the entryists and tastemakers (i.e. the CHORFs.)
During the first week of each month, Contributors will post an analysis, or review, or random thoughts on the Book of the Month.  The book will be selected by the 15th of the previous month, providing ample time to read the work and prepare a brief blog post.  The remainder of each month will be spent discussing that work both through new posts, providing links and discussion to other analyses of that work, and whatever else strikes the fancy of the Contributors - provided that each blog post relates back to the Book of the Month.
Contributor Nathan kicks off the festivities in fine style:
Space Pirates Go to Hell.
One might expect that Nethereal would be about a series of just but cruel punishments served to a crew of hardened criminals.  I certainly did after reading that description online.  However, the space captain, Jaren Peregrine, is a mysterious yet charismatic leader who wages a personal rebellion against a Guild that holds all space travel in its iron grip.  His crew follows him out of loyalty, not lucre.  And in the pursuit of his war, Jaren flies his ship straight through Hell itself.
And The Frisky Pagan chimes in with a thoughtful essay on the world building of Nethereal.
Temporally, the world of Nethereal also seems to be bounded, although there are hints of something much bigger waiting behind, including a brief reference to our own universe (the Judeo-Christian creation myths, to be precise) towards the end. Both its beginning and possible ending are part of the story, and the protagonists end up walking on the -if you can call it that way- ground where the universe was first created. They also met some of the gods or entities involved in that cosmic drama, so it's not like they are just following mythologies or prophesies coming from the mouth of a raving priest. For example, at the end of the book, one of the protagonists explains (as much as these things can be explained) how the universe was created and how it may be destroyed. And they are not listening to someone teaching them a theology lesson; it's a very real and immediate threat.
On to the Nethereal review itself. Nathan offers a chapter-by-chapter analysis of the novel that I've found to be enormously informative.
We meet Jaren for the first time.  With waist-length red hair and a long tan coat, he resembles the shaggy-haired space captains of the golden age of anime space opera.  Firefly fans might also notice that his coat is kind of a brownish color.  Jaren is half Gen, and the last of a race genocided by the Guild during in war that was long over before Navkin was born.  He possesses the intensity and bloody-mindedness of his Gen parentage.  His internal dialogue reflects this, focusing solely on the strategy, logistics, and rage required for revenge.
I found this idea by Jon particularly worthy of comment:
This series might benefit from a short story or two off in a corner of the universe with a more compact plot.  Those often feel like filler stories, but in a challenging series like the Soul Cycle, giving readers a chance to splash around in the shallow end and get used to the water might provide an easier entry for casual readers.
Not to give too much away, but I fully agree with Jon, and plans along the lines he mentioned are definitely in the works.

There's more over at the Puppy of the Month Book Club site, with plenty more on the way in the days to come. This post is a good place to start.

If you've already read Nethereal, feel free to join in. If you haven't, this month's Puppy Book of the Month is available at Amazon.com, as is its Dragon Award-winning sequel, Souldancer.



The Dragon Awards: CHORFs Double Down

Predictably, the self-styled masters of SF fandom have learned nothing from the last time they gave my fans a reason to mobilize.

Here, a butthurt CHORF attempts to DISQUALIFY! Souldancer's Dragon Award win by citing Amazon review numbers as evidence that the winner of a populist award isn't popular.

Women Write about Comics Souldancer Brian Niemeier

Tip for lazy bloggers: if you really want to pick a fight with an author who's also a publisher, do your homework before waving Amazon numbers around.

Here are some publicly available Amazon figures that the lazy CHORF overlooked:

Souldancer Brian Niemeier Amazon top 100

I'll see your eight reviews and raise you a spot on Amazon's top 100. It's no wonder why the CHORF resorted to the indirect and less reliable benchmark of reviews instead of citing Amazon Kindle Store rank, a direct measure of how many copies were actually moved.

So much for the latest crybully attack on the integrity of the Dragons and my readers. But wait for it--I'm not done yet.

Souldancer Brian Niemeier The Fifth Season NK Jemisin

What have we here? On its way to the top 100, Souldancer passed Best Novel Hugo winner The Fifth Season.

Question: if SD is unpopular, and therefore the Dragons are fraudulent; what does that say about 5S and the Hugos?

That concludes my demolition of the CHORFs' risible "The Dragon Awards don't really represent the real fans!" canard.

The original post does raise one valid point. Book reviews are important for several reasons. Honest reviews help readers make informed book buying choices, and Amazon actively promotes books with 50 or more reviews. I've made it a point of principle to review every book I read.

Closer to the point, dear readers, the CHORFs have compounded their error of insulting you. Apparently the message you sent them loud and clear at Dragon Con didn't penetrate their epistemic closure bubble. Let's give them another lesson.

You can leave a review of Souldancer, the book you chose as this year's best horror novel, here.

Nethereal, the precursor to Souldancer, and the book that you found worthy of a Campbell nomination, awaits your feedback here.

If you're feeling a bit intimidated by the thought of writing a review, just remember that it's not a term paper. I know you're busy, but typing one or two sentences expressing your honest opinion of a book only takes a couple of minutes and pays big dividends for other readers and authors.

Since I know how many people got their hands on both books during the Nethereal BOOK BOMB! and the Souldancer giveaway, I'm confident that both titles will soon reach 50 Amazon reviews. Thanks again to my marvelous readers for helping me to keep bringing them fun, exciting stories!


UPDATE: As of this writing, Souldancer reviews are up 50%. Special thanks to Ben, D.J., Scotty, and Jeff for leaving such helpful and insightful feedback. This is why reviews are so vital. They help readers decide what to buy, and they help authors refine our writing.

I know that many of you who acquired Souldancer during the giveaway are still reading--and burning through it with gusto, if my KENP numbers bear any weight. When you've finished SD, before moving on to your next literary adventure, please take a few minutes to share your honest opinions on Amazon. We'll all be thankful for it.

If you haven't bought the award-nominated and winning books in the Soul Cycle, you can correct that oversight at the following link.


How I Predicted that Souldancer Would Win a Dragon Award

Brian Niemeier John C. Wright Nick Cole Dragon Awards
Dragon Awards from left to right: Brian Niemeier, John C. Wright, Nick Cole
Yesterday I announced that my SF/Horror book Souldancer has won the first annual Dragon Award in the Best Horror Novel category. Winning the Dragon, which  truly reflects SF fans' preferences, has been a great honor and a tremendous pleasure.

But it wasn't a surprise.

Two weeks ago I predicted that the fans would choose Souldancer as this year's best horror novel.

Making a call like that is risky. The public eye is on SFF, and the internet is forever, so if you want to pull a Babe Ruth you'd better know what you're doing.

Fortunately there were plenty of signs pointing toward a Souldancer win. Not only that, my friends can tell you that I predicted a blowout in favor of Somewhither, Son of the Black Sword, and Ctrl-Alt-Revolt!

If you knew where to look, you could see the writing on the wall in the weeks leading up to Dragon Con. Here are a few of the omens that indicated how the awards would turn out.

The Hugo controversy
Hugo Awards

I've written plenty on the hijacking of the once prestigious Hugo Awards by a cadre of ideologically motivated elitists. The CHORFs have dominated Worldcon for about twenty years, but this open secret of old Fandom wasn't made known to the general public until Larry Correia was nominated for a Campbell Award.

The CHORFs snubbed Larry for having the wrong politics. Then they denied it, claimed that the Hugos represent the tastes of all SF fans, and insisted that he'd lost because his work was unpopular--which would be odd for a best selling author.

Skip ahead to 2016. Four iterations of Sad Puppies and four freakouts over popular Hugo nominees with the wrong opinions later, and the CHORFs are openly admitting that they snub authors over political disagreements.

The Worldcon clique is already trotting out wild accusations that the Sad and/or Rabid Puppies rigged the Dragon Awards. Their theory that two groups with combined total memberships of about 500 people controlled a direct democratic vote at a con with a minimum of 60,000 attendees that's open to anyone with an internet connection reeks of desperation.

Nope. This year's Dragon Award results aren't the work of the Puppies. Not directly. The hysterical CHORF reaction to the Puppies is another story. When you repeatedly snub and libel best selling authors and their fans under the pretense of increasingly insane and contradictory excuses; all the while claiming to speak for all of SFF fandom, don't be surprised when fandom hands you a massive backlash.

Popular demand for a new award to replace the Hugos
Best Award

This one's pretty simple. When it became obvious that the SJW-converged Hugos no longer rewarded literary quality or popularity, fans started clamoring for an award that did.

It's basic supply and demand. The vast legions of SFF fans didn't have anyone speaking for them, so Dragon Con stepped up to meet their needs.

Prior to the Dragon Awards' inception, no small number of CHORFs even advised folks who disagreed with how they ran things at Worldcon to go and start their own award. That kind of hubris just begs for a truly epic nemesis. You can't do better than a dragon.

The paradigm shift in fandom
printing press

Another key factor in the rise of the Dragon Awards is the fundamental shift in fan demographics. Worldcon was started by fans who consumed SF almost exclusively in print. In addition to books, today's SFF fans get their fix from movies, games, and TV.

If you change the medium, you change the message. SFF isn't a niche hobby for nerds in basements. The nerds have long since broken out and conquered pop culture. An exclusive award run by a small clique of aging elitists who just read each others' books doesn't cut it anymore.

Ceding the moral high ground
Hugo assterisk

As military historian William S. Lind can tell you, holding the moral high ground is the most important element in war. This is no less true of cultural conflicts.

It doesn't take a master strategist to see that paying lip service to tolerance while vociferously excluding a particular group from your clubhouse, publicly insulting them and their fans, changing the rules to keep them out, and constantly telling obvious lies about it inclines neutral observers to see you as petty tyrants and the riffraff you're trying to kick out as underdogs.

Author tip: people love to root for underdogs.

All of this is why, when I finished last below No Award in the Campbells, I knew that I would finish first in the Dragons.

It's storytelling 101. Young bright-eyed hopeful goes up against the bullies who run the table and gets crushed. Not only do they ride him out of town on a rail, they spit on the supporters who got him there.

You can guess what happens in the sequel.

The CHORFs' failure to see Larry, John, Nick, and me coming tends to confirm their reputation as poor storytellers.

My readers want thrilling, uplifting stories. Worldcon handed me the perfect outline for a classic come-from-behind underdog victory tale. Even better, they made my fans the protagonists.

Congratulations to my awesome readers! The Dragon Award went to Souldancer, but you guys won. I'm grateful that you placed your faith in me, and I'm overjoyed that I didn't let you down.

After all, not letting you down is my job description.

Big thanks and congratulations to my wonderful editor, L. Jagi Lamplighter Wright. The Dragons don't have editing categories, so this award honors her work on Souldancer just as much as mine.

Congratulations to all of this year's Dragon Award winners, especially Larry Correia, John C. Wright, and Nick Cole. It's a blessing to have such talented coworkers and an honor to have such good friends.

Epic bragging rights go to Castalia House for having two--and soon, three--Dragon Award winners writing for them. It was a true delight to be notified of Souldancer's win via a personal call from their lead editor.

Two other upstanding citizens of the ever-expanding SFF universe deserve special recognition. Thanks to my fellow nominee Declan Finn for receiving Souldancer's award while I was out of town. Bonus points for doing John C. Wright the same courtesy and thanking Vox in the bargain. I tip my hat to author and publisher Russell Newquist of Silver Empire, who suggested Souldancer for the horror category, the only one where it wasn't guaranteed to get annihilated.

Once again I reaffirm my dedication to my readers. You made me the only self-published author to win a Dragon Award. This achievement is a sign of things to come. And as we navigate the changing SFF landscape together, I'll double my efforts to make the journey as much fun as humanly possible, under the hand of Providence.

My Dragon Award-winning novel Souldancer and its predecessor Nethereal are available here:


Quick Announcement: Souldancer Wins Best Horror Novel Dragon Award

Souldancer Brian Niemeier Dragon Award Best Horror Novel

I walked in the door after getting back from the Salt Lake City Comic Con and was immediately thrown a plethora of tennis balls, lit torches, and chainsaws to juggle, so this will be brief:

Souldancer has won the inaugural Dragon Award for Best Horror Novel.

The following is a pictorial representation of what just took place and what it means for SFF.

Worldcon Jabba
Luke Skywalker Jedi Knight
Luke's lightsaber
What you did with Souldancer

I said that my readers wouldn't let the insult of the Hugos stand. You vindicated yourselves admirably and definitively. I dedicate Souldancer's Best Horror Novel Dragon Award to you!

And of course, congratulations to fellow Dragon laureates Larry Correia, John C. Wright, and Nick Cole, and all of this year's winners. Everyone knows that the biggest winners are fans of SFF.

This is just the beginning. More to come tomorrow.

Get my Dragon Award-winning novel Souldancer and its predecessor Nethereal here: