Will Automation Replace Authors?

Workers in myriad fields are feeling the crunch of automation. Are authors next? Listen to a professional voice actor reading a selection from a Harry Potter fanfic written by bots and judge for yourself.

NB: My award-winning Soul Cycle--including the final thrilling installment The Ophian Rising--is currently discounted 20% on Amazon, but only for three more days. Experience one of the most innovative new worlds in science fiction today!

The Ophian Rising - Brian Niemeier
Such an exceptional series with some of the most unique world building I have come across. 


Razör Was Right

The perspicacious Razörfist weighs in on the backlash against The Last Jedi with an appropriately profanity-laden review.

Razör's prescience regarding the collapse of the Star Wars franchise under Disney merits his exuberant "I told you so!"

It also bears mentioning that he's not the only one who correctly predicted Rian Johnson and Kathleen Kennedy's desecration of this beloved IP.

Last Jedi will ruin Luke

Star Wars is dead. It's a sad fact, but it also gives science fiction fans a chance to make a clean break with a franchise that now openly hates them and to seek out new stories from creators who actually want to entertain them.

Related: The Ophian Rising, the explosive conclusion to my innovative action-adventure series The Soul Cycle, is now available in trade paperback.

The Ophian Rising TPB - Brian Niemeier
"this the most metal thing I have ever read."


Children of Fallen Soldiers

Dragon Award finalist Richard Paolinelli has asked me to help spread the word about a special offer in support of a worthy cause.

Here's Richard:
I have several friends and family who have been in the military and for some time now I’ve been trying to think of something special I could do for our military members and their families other than just saying “Thank you for your service.”
During a recent trip to Arizona, I heard a commercial about an organization called The Children of Fallen Soldiers Relief Fund and I instantly knew what I wanted to do.
Any purchase from among the books shown in the photo – as an E-book on Amazon from Dec. 23rd thru Dec. 27th ONLY – will result in 10% of the royalties from these specific sales to be donated to The Children of Fallen Soldiers Relief Fund ( check them out right here).
Here are the Amazon links to the books that are part of this limited offer and remember to buy them between Dec. 23rd thru Dec. 27th!:




So, if you are looking to buy a gift for that special reader on your Christmas list – or even for yourself if you got an Amazon gift card from Santa – here’s your chance to do so and give a special gift to a child of one of our fallen heroes.


The Necessity of Good Books

Book shelf

Reader D.J. Schreffler writes:
Here I talk about good, not just in the sense of enjoyable, but with a sound moral foundation.
Stories--and ideas--are like food in many ways. They can be an acquired taste, people may differ on whether they like them or not, they can nourish (or not). Popcorn and soda is tasty and entertaining, but one cannot live on it alone. Similarly, theology and doctrine (I Corinthians 3:2).
Why am I making this point?
This is an expansion on the comment I made recently on your blog about you and other authors ruining Barnes & Noble for me. Earlier, I loved the new books, but they were too intense. I could not read them through, but had to read a bit, but then pull back a while before coming back to them. Now, I am strengthened in good reading and can read through and find even more enjoyment now that I can bear it and not have it be overwhelming.
I only wish I had read more Superversive-type books earlier.
But this shows, starkly, that morally sound entertainment is a weapon in the war of culture, which then links with philosophy and politics, for all of them are linked with the fundamental worldview.
As a reader entertained since Nethereal was first released: Thank you for joining the fight! 
Read D.J.'s Ophian Rising review here.

Do you know why writing is the best job in the world? It's not because of the money, which for most authors is not enough to make ends meet. It's because if a writer has done his job of pleasing his readers, he might get an email like the one quoted above.

Yes, writing is a business. And one of the most vital reasons for getting good at that business is to reach the readers who have been conned, demoralized, and abandoned by the treasonous gatekeepers of their own culture.

The bow tie and white papers crowd are wrong about economics being the main battlefield in the culture war. It seems redundant to have to point this out to them, but culture is the arena where Western culture will be saved or lost.

In light of that fact, I am humbled and grateful to have helped reacquaint a formerly discouraged reader with the joys of entertaining fiction that uplifts his cultural birthright instead of tearing it down.

The counter-revolution to take back science fiction from its usurpers is growing. But the opposition is addicted to their ill-gotten power and deeply entrenched. Take up your pen and join us! Or, if your talents lie elsewhere, use them in the service of your culture and your God.

And as I said before, financial matters aren't primary, but they are important. Please support authors who are striving to bring you an alternative to the soulless corporate machine that regards you as little more than cattle to be herded and milked.


A Simple List

Author JD Cowan provides a simple list of steps that movie, television, comic book, and novel writers can take to avoid ticking him--and other civilized men--off.
These four points are literally (in the actual sense of the word) all you need to do to get me to nod along and consume your story without it giving me a stomach ache. It's not hard or baffling to comprehend. I'm actually a very easy person to please and my standards are not all that high. I am a proud fan of Samurai Pizza Cats after all.
All I ask, aside from general technical competence, are four very simple things.
Doesn't seem unreasonable. Let's take a look at the list.
1. Do not spit in my face
General rule. Whatever you're writing, you're writing for a general audience. You are not writing for a niche audience, even if it is a niche genre.
Now before my fellow authors come in here screaming that I'm wrong and that you can't sell to "everyone"--you are misunderstanding my point. I'm saying you're writing for the general fan of whatever your story's genre is. The general audience. You are writing for all erotic romance fans and not just furries. You are writing for all Star Trek fans and not just Voyager fans. You are writing for all free verse poetry fans and not those who dislike poetry. You are not writing for a subset of that particular audience but for all of them.
This means I don't expect characters to stop the story in mid-tale to tell me my religion is for idiots or that folks with certain political opinions should be euthanized. The immersion is broken. Even if I agree with whatever opinion it is, it doesn't matter. You are stopping the story in order to talk down to me. You are calling me stupid.
In short: Write to market. That means not only knowing what your audience likes. It especially means not insulting them. JD is correct in saying that if you can't manage not to purposefully piss on your core audience, you shouldn't be writing professionally.
2. Do not burn down your own universe
Your story has metaphysics and a way the world works. It is given to the audience from the word go. This means you are giving them expectations that you are obligated to fulfill. You owe them a complete story.
This means you can not introduce a new origin for a previously nonexistent race in your fantasy series that overwrites an important anecdote your side character gave in a previous story. The former is obviously of more import than the latter on a narrative level, but in terms of audience investment it is the latter that trumps it. The audience comes first. You are clearly shoehorning in new material at the expense of a character and story they were already invested in. You are insulting me by thinking I will not notice your idiotic sleight of hand.
In every story, the author makes several implicit promises to the reader. Break those promises at your peril.
This also applies to characters. Execution is everything, and I can get behind tragedy and irony when that is the point of the story, but a character should never willingly undo the reason he started his "quest" at the story's start later on in the tale.
Amen! Ideas are a dime a dozen. Execution is indeed everything. Don't believe us? Ask Jim Butcher what he did with the lost Roman legion and Pokemon.
3. Do not make the main hero weak
Modern heroes are weak. It's not entirely by design despite what you might think.
The obsession with shades of grey in morality has diluted both the power of heroes and villains, but especially heroism. I'm not against morally grey characters, but your protagonist has to be someone I can root for. He cannot be "just as bad, if you think about it" as the villain just because you want to feel clever as a writer.
The insidious attitude that not only are there no heroes; there's no such thing as heroism is rampant in American pop culture. The point of fiction is escapism. If you won't give the reader something to dream about and aspire to, GTFO.
4. Do not make the main villain weak
Modern villains are also weak. This is actually entirely by design.
Look at stories like Wicked or Maleficent. What did these tales do? They destroyed the source material in an attempt to reform the villain and make them seem like a victim and the hero like the bad guy.
Now this might seem very clever and creative, but it's shallow. Simply swapping white hats and black hats is hackery. It's weak. There's nothing at all to it, and there's nothing actually being created. This is subversive storytelling at its most vile.
Seconded. Morally relativistic deconstructions like this might generate buzz, but in the end they're just gimmicks with no lasting substance. 

It's Storytelling 101. The protagonist wants something. The antagonist places obstacles in the way of the protagonist getting what he wants. If we don't root for the protagonist, there's no dramatic tension, which fuels the conflict that is the story's engine.

Now, you can have an antagonist who's not a villain. Countless romances use the "two attractive guys competing for the same girl" plot, wherein both suitors are morally upright gentlemen. But the most deeply resonant and memorable stories feature morally upright heroes vying against villains with hearts as black as coal. The fact that the hero isn't just getting what he wants, but thwarting objective evil in the process, lends unmatched pathos and weight to the conflict.

The villain shouldn't be weak in the sense of being a pushover, either. In actuality, he should be stronger and more dangerous than the hero--at least at first.
Now look at that list and pair it with what Hollywood and traditional publishing is pushing out and tell me who are accomplishing these simple points that have been the bread and butter of stories since cave paintings were thought up. You won't find much.

The Force Awakens vs. The Last Jedi
5-day revenues
TFA: $325,438,146
TLJ: $261,820,146
-19.6  percent

Day 5 revenue per screen
TFA: $9,038/screen
TLJ: $4,786/screen
-47.1 percent

Day 6: $16,900,000 (-65.6% from Day 6 TFA)
$3,993 per screen (-67% from Day 6 TFA)

For a work of fiction that's not designed to insult you, check out JD's new novel Grey Cat Blues.

JD Cowan - Grey Cat Blues


Movin' on Up

Previously, a perceptive reader alerted us to the troubling phenomenon of Amazon ghettos.

With the recent launch of The Ophian Rising, I tried to employ the strategy defined by Galaxy's Edge authors Nick Cole and Jason Anspach in an attempt to avoid falling into the ghetto and perhaps to get my other books out.

To refresh your memory, here's what the Amazon "also boughts" for Nethereal looked like at the time of the post linked above:

Here are OR's "also boughts" as of this morning:

Ophian Rising Amazon also boughts

It's a night and day difference compared to Amazon's recommendations for Nethereal. Instead of my own books, a whole slew of books from Castalia House authors, and one Galaxy's Edge title, OR's recommendations flip the ratio to four GE books and only two CH titles. Plus, we have the welcome addition of two books by Russell Newquist.

But that's not all. Let's take a look at the Amazon "also boughts" for Sword of the Legion, Nick and Jason's fifth GE novel:

Galaxy's Edge: Sword the Legion also boughts

The Ophian Rising is right at the beginning of page 2.

But that's not all!

The Secret Kings - Amazon also boughts
Amazon's recommendations to readers of the third Soul Cycle book, The Secret Kings, now contain a healthier mix of CH, Superversive Press, #PulpRev, and Galaxy's Edge books.

My early conclusion is that Nick and Jason's strategy for avoiding the Amazon ghetto works. I wasn't even able to fully employ their model due to my smaller readership, but it appears that even partially implementing their advice will give a new book a fighting chance to stand on its own. I look forward to seeing OR's long-term performance.

Thanks to everyone who supported my ongoing book launch, especially Nick, Jason, Russell, Jonathan, Mark, Jon, David, Daniel, Jagi, and Richard. Special thanks to my starting lineup of advance reviewers. You surged off the bench and scored big time!

And of course, sincere thanks to my readers. All of this is to make it easy for you to find entertaining books that won't insult you by creators who have an interest in your well-being instead of your destruction.

The Ophian Rising, Soul Cycle Book IV is now available for Kindle and in trade paperback.

Its direct predecessors, Dragon Award-honored The Secret Kings and Souldancer are both on sale for $2.99.

The breakout first book of the Soul Cycle, Nethereal, is now on sale for just $0.99.


The Ophian Rising Is Here!

The Ophian Rising: Soul Cycle Book IV - Brian Niemeier

The cycle is complete.

What an astonishing journey we've taken together: from the launch of my first novel to the Hugos, from Larry Correia's BOOK BOMB! to the Dragon Awards, it's been an honor to ride this out-of-control rocket car with you!

The genesis of the Soul Cycle goes back sixteen years. I had four complete stories outlined before ever thinking of self-publishing the first book. But did all the market research I could and kept a close eye on the rapidly unfolding developments that would shake the book industry.

Choosing to self-publish was the best decision I've made in my entire life. And you, my beloved readers, are the reason why.

Here, at the first turning of the path, I want to pause and thank you all for staking your hard-earned money, your precious leisure time, and your loyalty on an unknown author publishing his first book. They call it "self-publishing", but no author succeeds alone. Sincere thanks also to those of my fellow authors who have given generously of their time and wisdom.

Frankly, I'm still bewildered by the critical and commercial response to the Soul Cycle. When I first launched Nethereal, I 'd have considered the book a success if it broke even and at least 51% of readers didn't hate it. You have seen fit to reward my initial investment with extravagance beyond my imaginings. Thanks to you, Nethereal garnered me a Campbell nomination. Souldancer became the first indie novel to win a Dragon Award, and The Secret Kings was deemed worthy of standing beside giants of trad and indie publishing as a Dragon Award finalist.

The journey's first leg is almost over. The end of the beginning draws near. But before we move on to what's next, I have one last tale of the Soul Cycle for you--and judging by the reviews, I've saved the best for last.

Dragon Award winner Brian Niemeier’s groundbreaking Soul Cycle reaches its startling conclusion in The Ophian Rising, the highly anticipated sequel to The Secret Kings.
The Zadokim healed the cosmos from the ravages of the Cataclysm, and the survivors made them kings. Now the Ophians, a ruthless insurgent movement, wage a vicious uprising against their immortal rulers’ two hundred year reign.
Xander and Astlin have transformed the desert world of Tharis into the hub of a flourishing trade empire. Their Nesshin subjects spread a new faith promising true freedom in another universe. But when Astlin seeks forbidden knowledge to resurrect her long-dead family, sinister forces exact a terrible price from those she loves.
With the Ophian threat engulfing the spheres and a primeval terror rising from its prison, Astlin must turn to a shiftless gambler, the outlaw squire of a fallen knight, and a mismatched pair of smugglers to escape the ghosts of her past and save all souls from eternal death. But can mortals succeed where even gods have failed?
The Ophian Rising, Soul Cycle Book IV is available now for Kindle and in trade paperback.

The Ophian Rising - Brian Niemeier

Get your copy now!

Bonus: The spark that started the fire, Nethereal, Soul Cycle Book I, is only $0.99 for a limited time!

Nethereal: Soul Cycle Book I - Brian Niemeier

Extra bonus: The Unexpected Enlightenment of Rachel Griffin, book one of the magical YA series by my lovely and talented editor L. Jagi Lamplighter Wright is free today!

Rachel Griffin - L. Jagi Lamplighter

The work of creating a parallel--and superior--alternative to the debased culture peddled by Hollywood and New York is well underway. Independent artists cannot succeed without reader support.

If Star Wars has lost its luster in your eyes; if you've seen Harry Potter fans warping into a weird politicized cult, we've got entertainment options to satisfy your craving for action, adventure, romance, and horror without giving money to people who hate you.


Neither Holy, Roman, nor an Empire

Star Wars

Appendix N guru Jeffro Johnson responds to charges from the Big Men with Screwdrivers crowd that Star Wars is not, and never has been, science fiction.
Bruce Bethke weighs in yet again on a very old argument: this nutso idea that Star Wars isn’t science fiction:
“Sure, it looks like science fiction. It sounds like science fiction. And based on that guy in the wookiee costume who was ahead of us in the concession line, it even smells like science fiction, or at least like the third day of a furry fandom convention. But Star Wars is not science fiction. It’s a long-winded heroic magical fantasy saga that happens to take place in a world cluttered up with lots of sci-fi props and set dressings. If considered as science fiction, there is not one thing in the entire Star Wars universe that bears close scrutiny, because if you think about it at all seriously, the seams split and all the nonsense comes pouring out.”
Right off the cuff, Bruce resorts to the old "If the scientific elements don't stand up to scrutiny, it's not science fiction!" canard. In doing so, he reduces all SF to hard SF which, as Daddy Warpig proved, does not exist.

Back to Jeffro:
The nonsense just comes pouring out, eh? Well hey, hate Star Wars all you like. (I was done the moment I was stunned by just how godawful the theatrical re-release of “A New Hope” was.) I will say this, though: this particular light saber cuts both ways. Talk about throwing stones in glass houses!
Let’s look again at all that “real” science fiction from around 1940 to about 1980. I mean really look at it:
  • How much of it was predicated on the idea that only a united One World Earth Government could reach the stars?
  • How much of it assumed that the future government of humanity would necessarily be some sort of socialism or communism?
  • How much of it was a glorified bully pulpit used to beat down and mock the concept of religion in general?
  • How much of it included free love and explicit sex or presented the idea that modesty, fidelity, and marriage were all outmoded, uncool, and unfuturistic– to the point of taking on any and every imaginable taboo up to and including incest and pedophilia?
  • Similarly, how much of it went out of the way to present cowardly loser protagonists that are both unheroic and unsuccessful with the opposite sex– in order to be more “realistic”?
I’m one of those people that became a science fiction fan because of Star Wars, and gosh… it really was a chore to find anything to read in that genre when that franchise was first exploding into the wider collective consciousness. For decades, I was convinced that to read anything for fun I would just have to hold my nose and read around all the tacky stuff just to enjoy my favorite genre. But face it, by the late seventies, the science fiction brand was weighed down by a great deal of nonsense. And it had gone on for so long that most people couldn’t imagine it being any other way.
The Hard Buds of SF revel in the narrative that science fiction was the nichest of niche fandoms from its beginnings (by their reckoning) just before WWII until Star Wars came along and made sci-fi mainstream. They often rehash this story while wrinkling their noses at the unwashed masses that Star Wars brought into their intimate little club.

But as Jeffro pointed out, the only Campbellian narrative that's  even more shopworn than the above declares that Star Wars is not science fiction at all, but dirty, elf-riddled fantasy.

You can probably see what the Hard Buds missed in their haste to defend their ivory tower: either science fiction rode Star Wars' coattails into the mainstream, or Star Wars isn't science fiction, and therefore SF has never been anything more than a super niche fandom catering to a small clique of oddball hobbyists.

2016 Amazon Genre Sales
Amazon and Author Earnings got the Hard Buds' backs!
Emcee Jeffro plays us out:
But like it or not, the original Star Wars movies were science fiction– science fiction of a type that was wildly popular when guys like Asimov and Heinlein and Clarke were still in diapers. If science fiction in the same vein as Star Wars isn’t science fiction, then the generation that laid the foundations of the field never existed. And the people who also inspired all of the best known science fiction grandmasters to pursue careers writing classic tales are erased from history as well.
That’s crazy.


Geek Gab Reviews The Last Jedi

The fine fellows of Geek Gab pronounce their final verdict on Star Wars: Episode VIII - The Last Jedi.

The reality is even worse than the memes suggest. Remember: You were warned.


The Last Jedi Is a Con

I Am a Jedi

Film critic Steven Greydanus reviews The Last Jedi for The National Catholic Register.

Before we dig in, a reminder: You were warned.

Greydanus begins conventionally enough with the sorts of bland compliments you'd expect from any film reviewer who wants to keep his job under the ever-expanding Mouse Monopoly.
In the Disney age of Star Wars, J.J. Abrams’ The Force Awakens tried, too derivatively, to recapitulate the flavor of the original trilogy. By contrast, Gareth Edwards’ Rogue One jettisoned the mythopoeic and even partially deconstructed the traditional heroism of prior films.
The Last Jedi, from writer-director Rian Johnson, continues that trajectory, though in a more entertaining and crowd-pleasing vein than Rogue One.
The Last Jedi offers humor, excitement and spectacle, with space battles and lightsaber duels. The Force Awakens had all those things, but The Last Jedi also has fresh story beats and new ideas.
What, pray tell, are these "new ideas"?
...an increasingly diverse portrait of the Resistance, from an ingenuous maintenance worker named Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran, of Vietnamese descent), who’s briefly starstruck by John Boyega’s runaway stormtrooper Finn, to the pink-haired Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo (Laura Dern), a character reminiscent of Mon Mothma, but with a more pivotal role.
More diversity! Which isn't a new idea; just more of the same idea that's been present in the Star Wars franchise since the introduction of Mace Windu, and it could be argued, Lando Calrissian.

I suppose that The Last Jedi takes a new approach to diversity by pushing it to the forefront of the narrative. Bold move. Time will tell if cramming diversity down the audience's throat works as well for Star Wars as it has for Disney's other once-iconic acquisition Marvel Comics.

After burning his pinch of incense to the diversity gods, Greydanus spends the rest of his review attempting an even-handed critique of the movie's flaws while fighting a losing battle to hide his thinly veiled disappointment and contempt.
Daisy Ridley’s Rey is back, of course, and it turns out that her key relationship in this film is with neither Finn nor Luke, but Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren — a dynamic that gives both their characters what interest they have. Oscar Isaac’s hotshot pilot Poe Dameron would be the film’s swashbuckling hero, if there were one.
Is this enough? I’m sure it will be for many fans. Yet as the complicated, messy plot unfolds, the lack of a larger vision in this new trilogy becomes more glaring. The Force Awakens wasn’t a great film, but The Last Jedi makes it worse in its failure to pay off or follow up on the first film’s mysteries and promises. (I’ll try to avoid overt spoilers, but if you care deeply about remaining totally unspoiled, stop reading now.)
I'll second Greydanus' SPOILER ALERT, but honestly, if you skim over this warning, and I end up spoiling The Last Jedi for you, at least I'll have saved you ten bucks and three hours of your life.
Start with Supreme Leader Snoke, the mysterious computer-generated leader of the First Order played by Andy Serkis. Introduced in The Force Awakens as a giant hologram, he returns to this film as a sort of amalgam of the Emperor and Darth Vader — except he’s ultimately a zero. To the extent that The Last Jedi has a villain, and to the extent that Snoke is that villain, it’s a close call whether The Last Jedi or Justice League has the year’s dullest, least consequential villain.
Then there’s the question of Rey’s origins, her extraordinary raw capacity for the Force, and her apparent connection to Luke, whose lightsaber called to her from Maz Kanata’s cellar and showed her troubling visions of Luke and Kylo Ren.
“I’ve seen this raw strength only once before,” Luke tells Rey in this film, referring to Ren. “It didn’t scare me enough then. It does now.” Indeed, Rey’s power may be greater than Ren’s; she’s a match for him, despite her lack of training and his training by Snoke.
Ren, aka Ben Solo, is the grandson of Anakin Skywalker himself, the chosen one apparently conceived by the Force. Force sensitivity runs in families, which is why Vader’s offspring Luke and Leia have it and why Ren has it. What, then, of Rey’s missing family, for whom she waited so tenaciously on Jakku in The Force Awakens? What is her connection to Luke? Suffice to say, The Last Jedi dispatches these questions in something like the least satisfying way possible.
Analysis: Disney has turned the Star Wars franchise over to cargo cultists who haven't the faintest clue how storytelling works. They're dimly aware that A New Hope is the franchise's most iconic movie and that it presents a series of compelling mysteries. They know that The Empire Strikes Back is the best film in the series and that it has a notorious plot twist.

That's as deep as their understanding goes. Empire manged to consummate the first film's mysteries in spectacular and eminently satisfying style because Leigh Brackett and Irvin Kershner were geniuses who understood the fundamentals of Western storytelling and the visual language of film.

By contrast, Abrams and his ilk lack even basic competence in either field. Their approach to the current trilogy amounted to: "Let's throw a bunch of incoherent shit onto the screen and dangle the promise of nonexistent answers in front of the audience's face." Anybody who's suffered through  Lost should've seen this coming.

One of my main beefs with The Force Awakens was that I knew none of those tantalizing mysteries could have internally consistent resolutions. The underlying story structure they'd set up just didn't hang together. Hand-waving was their only way out. Now here we are.
While playing like a rousing continuation and extension of the Star Wars saga, The Last Jedi is also a deconstruction and even a critique. When Luke bitterly remarks that the legacy of the Jedi is failure, hypocrisy and hubris, it’s hard to argue the point.
Rather than maturing into Kenobi-like venerable authority, Luke has all too plausibly aged from a sometimes petulant young novice into a morose, disillusioned failed teacher. Like Obi-Wan before him, he trained a promising student — in this case Ben Solo — who went to the Dark Side, destroying the next generation of Jedi.
Hey, remember when Mark Hamill said he disagreed with every choice Rian Johnson made for his character in The Last Jedi script?
The Last Jedi could even be called a critique of heroism itself, at least in the swashbuckling mode of past movies.
The dramatic action in Star Wars has generally been structured around various heroic challenges calling for bold action and derring-do: rescuing the princess, confronting the villain and blowing up or shutting down the bad guys’ stuff (Death Stars, tractor beams, shield generators, droid control ships, etc.).
Hence the Wars part, which can be boiled down to "killing the enemy and breaking his stuff".
The Last Jedi subverts this by repeatedly making such heroic gambits the wrong move — especially when male characters are in favor of bold action and female characters aren’t.
Poe Dameron’s heroics in any other Star Wars film would win accolades and promotion, but here he’s demoted for disobeying Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo’s orders. Poe is always looking for chinks in the enemy’s armor; Amilyn’s priority is strategic retreat. She considers Poe a reckless risk-taker; he considers her timid and passive. It’s a provocative complication that Poe is in the wrong.
"Provocative complication" might be the most overwrought synonym I've ever seen for "bullshit".
It’s not just defying Amilyn’s rank that makes Poe wrong. At one point Finn sets himself a desperate task, but is thwarted by a female character who is not his superior.
“I saved your life,” she tells him. Yet we’ve already seen just this kind of self-sacrificial gambit successfully realized — by a woman. Why is Finn’s effort unworthy? I’m glad not to see him die, but it’s a problem that Johnson can’t find anything else significant for Finn to do either. Of all the major characters, he’s the most useless here.
Greydanus is playing coy, but he clearly discerns the total feminization of Star Wars begun in The Force Awakens that The Last Jedi  makes explicit. If you don't see a problem there, ask yourself : a) What is Star Wars' core demographic? and b) Which is more fun--seeing daredevil fighting men take big risks and succeeding; sometimes against orders (there was a whole genre of cop movies based on that premise alone), or seeing the nail that stands up get hammered down so everyone meekly goes along with the planned strategic retreat?
Finally comes an apparent exception: a showdown perhaps more dramatic than anything since Luke first crossed lightsabers with Darth Vader in The Empire Strikes Back. This is by far the most effective and consequential sequence of any of the Disney Star Wars films. Yet there’s a twist that is both brilliant and at the same time undercuts the apparent celebration of derring-do.
Doubtless the Resistance will not always be retreating, and traditional swashbuckling will probably return to the Star Wars universe. There’s certainly a case for one movie in which bold gambits to blow up the bad guys’ stuff aren’t the way to go. In the long run I’m less concerned about Poe’s heroic cred than I am the still-underdeveloped characters of Rey and especially poor Finn.
This review reads disturbingly like a letter from a POW that's been edited by enemy censors. The body of the message is all about how nice conditions in the camp are. They even have volleyball!

But you look under the stamp, and there's a crudely scrawled message that says THEY CUT OFF MY THUMBS
Oh, and what about the “first Jedi temple” we heard about? We see it, and the original Jedi texts. The movie puts even less stock in them than in Snoke. A voice wiser than Luke’s declares that the Jedi texts contain nothing that Rey doesn’t already have. Really? Then the Jedi religion is a con.
Who needs the accumulated wisdom of a thousand generations-long tradition when you've got ovaries and an epic case of fish lip?

In case cognitive dissonance still blinds you to the blatant feminist agitprop that infests The Last Jedi, we have it from Luke Skywalker himself that Rey and Ben have equal raw potential. Yet despite being trained by a Jedi Master and a Sith Lord, Ben loses to a total neophyte with zero training for the suspension of disbelief-shattering reason that she's a girl and the writers want her to win.

Greydanus is wrong. The Jedi religion isn't a con. The Last Jedi is.

If you're interested in getting a solid fix of mil-SF/space opera action while retaining a shred of dignity, check out Galaxy's Edge by best selling authors Nick Cole and Jason Anspach.

Because the galaxy is a dumpster fire, and sometimes the best way to put out a fire is with gasoline.

Galaxy's Edge Legionnaire - Anspach & Cole

UPDATE: Disney has deployed its review shills, but normal people aren't fooled.

The Last Jedi 57%


Galaxy Rangers

Shane Gooseman

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

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

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

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

Galaxy Rangers - Soul Gem

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

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

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

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

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

Nethereal - Brian Niemeier


Amazon Ghettos

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Sanderson's Law

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

Sanderson's Law 1

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

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

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

Sanderson's Law 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sanderson's Law 4

Sanderson's Law 5

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

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

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


The Perfect Publisher

The future of publishing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Never Go Full SJW

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

Tor.com newsletter1

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

Tor.com newsletter2

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

Tor.com Newsletter3

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

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

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

What's this? We have a new contender!

Tor.com Newsletter4

Self-parody achieved. Goodnight, everybody.


Comics Need Professionalism


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

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

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

If the answer is any of the following:

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

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

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

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

this epic makes scifi fun again.
Nethereal - Brian Niemeier


Customers Matter

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

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

Customers Matter

And now, a Marvel sales graph.

Marvel Comics sales February 2017

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

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

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

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


Ophian Rising eARCs

The Ophian Rising - Astlin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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