Reviewer Praise for the Soul Cycle

The Soul Cycle has been racking up more 5 star reviews on Amazon. Here are a couple that stood out.

Brian Niemeier - Nethereal

Adam Smith writes of Nethereal:

Five stars. The most unique sci-fi story I have experienced in years
This book does a lot of things right. I enjoyed it and I've already bought the second book, and look forward to seeing where the story goes.
The author defies tropes and takes story set pieces well beyond where you think they're going to go. This is not a tired rehashing of rearranged tropes that most of sci-fi has become. The author brings fresh ideas to the table time and again. Many times I reached a new plot reveal only to gasp or exclaim, "Oh F@&$!" Brian Niemeier pulls no punches and does not look away when decency would otherwise demand it. This book will take you to uncomfortable places, but it does so tastefully and in an entertaining manner.
As to the content, the author is obviously well versed in both very old sci-fi (Nethereal hearkening back to the dawning of the genre and tasting strongly of Lovecraft) and also in theology, based on the intricacy of his world building. No tired borrowing from real-world religions here, instead we see the frenzied fever dreams of a madman standing as divine creation, and it matches the setting perfectly. That setting is vastly unique and incredibly deep, with a mountain of stories waiting to be told within it. I look forward to seeing what other stories this author pulls out of his world for us to experience.
There were some minor bits which left me with mixed feelings, as with any book. Particularly two things: a main character seems to act far outside of character during the second act in trusting someone very quickly, and a moment late in the second act ends with a strange reveal that seems to come from nowhere and has no explanation so it comes across as contrived. Given the depth of care taken in building the rest of the setting, I suspect that the author knows the answers to these two questions. Neither moment ruined my suspension of disbelief, but they did stick out to me as the two weak points of the narrative. As a reader, both could have easily been addressed in small scenes that just show me what the characters are feeling and thinking, and I would have felt satisfied. I also wish that the glossary had been included at the beginning, because there are some hefty metaphysical concepts that aren't explained as plainly as other books might do. That adds to the mystery and horror as the reader tries to infer the way things work, but it was a relief to finally get some solid answers at the end. Being that this is the author's first published novel (I do believe), I can forgive these minor points and focus on the rest of the story, which certainly has enough action and intensity to engage even the most picky of readers (myself).
The book deceives you a bit, masquerading as a story about a few characters on a horrifying adventure when really it's the culmination of a plan to hatch something new. This book is the story of a birth; that newly birthed thing, perhaps, is an entire series with this initial book as it's base. Go into this book expecting it to be the introduction to a world, rather than simply one contained story that opens and closes cleanly, with all answers wrapped up neatly inside.
I've got a high stack of books waiting to be read, but I bought the sequel to this book and put it on top of the stack. Is there a better review than that?
Not for my money. It's a joy to see readers venturing outside the New York science fiction ghetto and having fun for a change.

Brian Niemeier - Souldancer

Next up: Paul's review of the Dragon Award-winning sequel to NetherealSouldancer.

Five stars. A Successor To Herbert Who Learned From His Mistakes
Nethereal reminded me of Dune for a generation that had grown up on D&D and anime: same sense of being in the middle of a deep story with rich history, same almost maddening vagueness when it came to backstory, same epic this-is-where-the-crazy-all-started setup. And, like Dune, it worked wonderfully!
Souldancer is nothing like that.
Author's note: Agreed. SD is a totally different beast.
Oh sure, it's set 20 years after, has a few of the same characters and references to others, and is still maddeningly (delightfully) vague about the socio-religious layout, but it's a smaller, much more personal story. Nethereal had the same concept: a man seeking to avenge his father and his people set against an all controlling edifice, but that kind of story almost has to be epic if it's not to be a failure. Souldancer is quieter: a love story, almost unconventional except in the persons of the lovers and the currents set in motion in Nethereal that drag them along in their wake. It is a much more accessible story, I think, despite how much I enjoyed its predecessor.
Two things I want to specifically mention: visualizations and exposition. Mr. Niemeier's visualizations are wonderfully fleshed out and vivid. I compare this series to Dune because both Herbert and Niemeier described worlds of technology so advanced as to be indistinguishable from magic, but so seemingly ancient that it was not just commonplace, but accepted and even a little dated. Herbert introduced artillery as his great secret weapon, commonplace to us but almost wholly unknown to the Dune universe, while he describes force shields, space flight, and everything else as utterly commonplace. Niemeier has that same mystique, but he does not fall into the trap that ensnared Herbert: he doesn't feel the need to explain what is commonplace to the reader.
Which brings me to exposition. Dune created a rich, ancient world almost completely by implication. Herbert subsequently spoiled it (in my opinion), by trying to make too much explicit in the subsequent books, losing the sense of mystery he had so carefully cultivated. Brian Niemeier avoids this trap by letting the commonplace remain commonplace unless a character would realistically discuss such a thing. By introducing characters who are out of their element, he can exposit as the story requires, which is an old trick but one that is too often abused by authors who are desperate to show off how cool their created universe really is. Mr. Niemeier chose to be more subtle, for which I thank him.
You're welcome, Paul. It's nice to find someone who gets why I don't feel the need to hold my readers' hands. Impatient people might prefer to have everything spelled out. Patient people know better.

Few things exhaust my interest faster than a story that goes like: "Something strange is going on--and it's this!"
Finally, this book was awarded a Dragon for Horror. Full disclosure, I voted for it and think it deserved to win, but this is not the horror of Stephen King: there is no need to abuse, maim, and kill beloved characters just to jerk the reader's emotional chain. Which isn't to say that doesn't happen (and Brian, if you kill off Teg in Secret Kings, I will be VERY unhappy), but it always feels like it serves more of a purpose than mood-setting. No, the horror is like that of Iain Banks, without the late Mr. Banks need to be over the top.
So, if you are a fan of Herbert and Banks, I highly recommend this book. You don't have to start with Nethereal, but it certainly helps and I would recommend it regardless.
I may have answered the question posed in the previous review too hastily. Favorable comparisons to Frank Herbert are tough to beat.

Seriously, I appreciate all honest reviews. The fact that people I've never met are willing to read and review my books is still mind-blowing.

Besides buying our books, leaving Amazon reviews is the most effective way to help out indie authors. We don't have marketing departments, so we rely on you to get the word out. If you like what you've read, take a minute to jot down a few sentences about the book for other Amazon customers' benefit.

Don't have my books yet? You can fix that via the link below.

Brian Niemeier - The Soul Cycle



John Wick 2 Follow Up

If you enjoyed my review of John Wick Chapter 2, then the latest episode of Geek Gab will definitely be right up your alley. Because this time I get to discuss this exquisite action flick with two other raging geeks!

YouTube threw more technical difficulties in our way, but DW and Dorrinal surmounted them by making Dorrinal a manager and having him host the hangout. I'm glad we stuck with it, because by all accounts the show turned out great.

Bonus: a very special message from John C. Wright in the comments that should excite anyone who enjoyed our recent pulp extravaganza with him, Jeffro, and Razörfist.

Off-topic: work on my upcoming novel for Castalia House proceeds apace! This is my first time working with another publisher, and I'm excited to be hitting my stride on this book. It's a project I've been preparing for half of my life to realize, and I can't wait till we can announce it.

In the meantime, check out my highly praised, award-winning books.

Brian Niemeier - The Soul Cycle



How to Be Productive

productive writer

A reader and fellow author approached me with a question that I think is worth sharing.
Hey Brian, I had a question for you as an aspiring writer. What are some tricks that you do to keep on top of your production? Most days I can barely get 500 words on the page and often I'll not have breached my already low 2500 word goal for the week leaving me feeling demoralized for the next round.
Because being prolific is the key to success as a writer, knowing how to stay productive is essential. Here is my approach.

First, what I_don't_do is set word count goals. I think Scott Adams gets it right with his maxim "Goals are for losers. Systems are for winners." The reason is the demoralization you feel when you fall short of a goal. That creates disincentives that you must expend willpower to overcome. No one has unlimited willpower. Eventually, you will burn out.

Second, the way to achieve high productivity is to set up a system that minimizes effort. Really examine your writing process. You already know that you top out at 500 words most days. Guess what? That's about equal to my most recent daily word count on a paying project under a deadline. But I'm not worried because I wrote well over 2000 words the day before and likely will tomorrow, too. If you're like me, some days you'll barely muster 500 words, and other days, you'll break 5000. Take note of those peak productive days. Ask yourself why you were so prolific. What factors contributed to your high output? Chances are, there are certain conditions that you can replicate.

In summation, avoid holding yourself to artificial, arbitrary benchmarks. Learn as much as you can about your own writing process, paying special attention to which conditions facilitate your writing the most. If you're getting low word counts during the day, try writing at night. If you need to take the odd day off to recharge your creative batteries, go take a walk, read, play some video games, and get back to writing tomorrow. You may end up making more progress than you would have by forcing yourself to write on both days. Experiment. Once you find the right system for you, it'll hardly feel like work.

You know I'm not pulling your chain because I've already written three books, and I'm working on a fourth right now. If you found this information helpful, please consider showing your support by picking up one or more of my award-winning, fan-pleasing novels.



Learning to Be a Hero

The following words are those of reader Adam Smith.

I recently finished writing my first novel, and I’m hoping to publish it sometime this summer. This has been a long process for me. It’s stirred up a lot of thoughts about what made me even want to write a book in the first place, and I thought I’d write them down somewhere. Maybe folks will be interested in reading it, maybe they won’t.

“Reading,” my mother always said, “is so important.”

I knew she was serious, because the area around our local library was so dangerous. My mother taught us early to step over broken bottles or spatters of blood, to keep an eye out for used needles scattered around the sidewalks. She made sure we kept out of reach of the dozens of men sleeping on the stone benches. Once in a while, if you looked too close, you might see that one of the people sheltering against the wall of the library wasn’t breathing. Sometimes an ambulance would be parked on the grass, paramedics loading a person inside with no particular haste because there was nothing medicine could do for the person any longer.

Inside the library was paradise. The rows upon rows of free knowledge seemed holier to me than any church I’d ever attended. My family was so poor that we could not afford to buy books of our own and indeed I didn’t realize until much later that one could even own a book, but through the miracle of public funding for education I was able to partake of the written word just like the rich kids at my school. My mother was able to procure one canvas bag for us to share, bright purple, with a tear in one corner so that you had to balance all your books on one side to avoid them spilling out.

The library would let us check out three books on each card, and we maxed that out every time. We had to be careful to return them early because our family could not afford late fines. I got used to devouring every book as fast as I could, reading like I was starving for the words. I read books on every subject and in every genre, anything made of paper and ink that could teach me about a world beyond my neighborhood. In the afternoons in my bedroom I would get a flashlight and read under a thick blanket to block out the sirens, screeching tires, gunshots, and screaming from the convenience store a few hundred feet from our door. Through the words of Alan Dean Foster I learned that our world could be so much more than I had ever imagined. Through the words of Margaret Weis I learned that stories did not even need to be set in our world to teach us important lessons about love and courage.

The books at the library were well worn, without exception. I spent the first moments with any book smoothing out the folded or mangled pages. My parents couldn’t spare money for something as frivolous as a bookmark, so my mother taught me to fold down the edges of pages to mark my place. It seemed a sacrilege, and I hated doing it, so I made sure to read as many pages at once as I could to keep the folding to a minimum. Worse was when I would reach sections of the borrowed books where someone had torn out half a page or even several pages, and I had to guess what the author had said during the gap. Worst of all was when, at age 9, I came across a section of a book splattered with large amounts of what looked like dried blood. Of course I had seen blood before, the blood of strangers on sidewalks or, infrequently, smeared on walls in the city. Seeing it in one of my books was a shock. It was more blood than I’d ever seen before, blocking out whole paragraphs and drowning the words. I couldn’t keep reading it. I put the book back in our torn purple bag and washed my hands with soap and hot water for 15 minutes, trying to block out thoughts about just how much blood it had been. I lied to my mother and told her I’d finished it, that we needed to return it the next day. The librarians said that was the only copy available, so I was never able to finish the story.

One day, I made a startling discovery: the other kids at my school had clean books. I’d never noticed before, never imagining that anyone could have a book they didn’t get from the local library. The other kids used bookmarks, no dog-eared pages or creases or missing chunks. No blood. I had never been conscious of our poverty before that moment, but how it ached to realize that there was a wall between me and books of that quality. Clean books became my measure of wealth. I dreamed of a library of my own someday, agonizingly aware it could never happen but wishing all the same. My father worked like a dog for what little we had, sometimes six days a week, and then also every night on the weekends. We couldn’t afford cable channels, or to replace torn bags, or video games, or a computer. But all of that faded away when I went into my books, entering a world where poverty didn’t matter, only courage and love and fierce devotion to doing what was right. I may have been poor, I told myself, but I was learning to be a hero.

After my tenth birthday my mother went back to work, a small part time job she could do while we were at school. This extra money meant huge things for our family. Most important to me was when my mother told me I could buy my first book. The school had always circulated a small catalogue that the rich kids could order from, young adult books available at discount prices of $2.99. She knew how much I loved to look over the pages, imagining reading the books which were almost never available at our underfunded library. When she told me I could buy my first book, I could scarcely believe it. I hurriedly selected the first book of a series all the other kids had been talking about: The Animorphs. It took time to arrive, but when it did, I had my first book. The pages were clean, crisp, perfect. I treasured it like it was made of solid gold. Then my mother told me that we could probably afford one book every 3 months. I couldn’t believe it.

After one year I had four books, all from the same series, the Animorphs. My father spent some of his rare spare time (and, even more rare, spare money) to put up a bookshelf made of the cheapest wood we could find. The bookshelf was directly opposite my bedroom door so I could display my four books proudly to everyone who entered. My friends would come over and politely say nothing as I showed off what I believed was my own enormous wealth: four young adult novels on a cheap wooden shelf, bolted to laminate wall paneling, with gunshots and screaming outside in the streets. But the pages were clean, crisp, and unstained. I learned to cradle the books in my hand when I read them to prevent creasing of the spine.

As I grew up, my family gradually made more money. I got a job as early as I could and spend my first paychecks on armfuls of books. We were still poor but I discovered a used book store took good care of their novels, only writing a small price in pencil on the first page. I spent hours carefully erasing those pencil marks. I suppose that I imagined people would walk into my home someday and see a huge shelf full of these books and, pulling one down, check for a pencil mark. Seeing none, they would surely be astounded at my wealth, my success in life.

Public funding for those in poverty helped me go to community college, then a small university. I made more money with each job. And each time I spent more than was wise on new books. I eventually married my wife and she taught me to budget for books, being more selective in what deserved to go on our sagging shelves. She’s patient now after 9 years together, patient with the stacks of books everywhere on my side of the bed, divided into crooked, towering piles so that only I know the significance of their placement.

In the last month, I’ve finally succeeded in raising my family from poverty and into middle class, thanks to more than a decade of hard work to find my way into a profession. I pre-order books and they arrive clean and crisp and brand new, the newest books anyone could possibly own. I imagine my infant son will someday take clean, crisp pages for granted. He won’t know what it’s like to creep past the dead and dying to find the only copy of a worn book, only to have to stop reading halfway through because there’s just too much blood blotting out the words. That he can have clean books and can read them without having to block out screaming and gunshots outside his window, that is my measure of success.

Friends laugh when I wave my arms and rant against the evils of digital print, and they’re right to do so because that certainly creates new opportunities for authors and for readers. But clean books will always be my measure of wealth.

I’ve had some brief contact with other authors in the field. I get a thrill when authors like K.M. Weiland or Nick Cole or Brian Niemeier respond to my comments on their beautiful stories. It probably means nothing to them, but it means a great deal to me. Authors like these are towering figures who made the world come alive for a small boy who didn’t even realize what poverty meant, only that his books were never clean. And maybe, someday, when my book is finally published, I will be allowed to sit on the fringes of their great brotherhood, my own small contribution to the field filling a shelf in a dirty library somewhere just waiting for a small hand to pull it down and stuff it into a torn bag. I can’t imagine a greater honor than that.

I look forward to publishing my book. I hope to sell at least a few copies, but more than that, I hope that it can inspire other kids who grew up with an insatiable hunger for words to begin telling their own stories.

I’ll tag #amwriting and #amediting just in case anyone sees this and wants to share their similar story. I’m sure I’m not alone in this kind of experience.

Thanks for reading.

Follow Adam on Facebook.


Socialists Ruin Everything

Jasyn Jones regales us with a story from SFF history of an original paradise invaded by pinkos, pedos, and Men with Screwdrivers.
There was once an age, a Golden Age, an age of wonder and delight, of adventure and heroics, of creativity and imagination unbound… an age undreamt of by modern man, an age forgotten and buried, like hidden treasures beneath the sands of Ægypt.
And into this Golden Age came enemies, like ninjas in the night. (But not the awesome kind of ninjas, who totally kick ass, but the other kind. The bad kind. Ninjas who foreswear honor and kill for money. BOOO!) And these bad guy ninjas assassinated all the heroes and leaders of the Golden Age, and took their places, and had all their names and images erased. This they did, so that people would forget the awesomeosity of the Golden Age, would forget the great deeds done by the Golden Agers, and would be content with the sometimes-pretty-good-but-just-not-as-awesome deeds of the Silver Agers.
And we call these villains… THE FUTURIANS. And their reign was grim, indeed.
Now of the Futurians, there were three kinds: the sperglords, the scumbags, and the Socialists. (There were also some mostly-non-asshole Futurians, who don’t enter into this tale.) And each of these had reason to hate the awesomeness of the Pulps.
I admit it. That part made me laugh.
So the sperglords, scumbags, and Socialists (who were very often the exact same people, all in one) ganged up together to subvert and undermine the awesome genre of Fantasy & Science Fiction, and to overthrow the Reign of the Masters of Pulp, and to denigrate and disparage the stories of the Golden Age, and to hide them from view. They declared themselves to be the TRUE Golden Age, and for FOUR GENERATIONS continued the lies, until the glorious past of F&SF was forgotten.
Here’s where hope enters the tale, and it’s because the Futurians were wrong. It isn’t called Science Fiction. It’s called Science Fiction, and the storytelling is the most important part. And there remained a small remnant who knew that.
Read the rest here.

Jasyn's post has drawn criticism--not just from the usual suspects, but from respected quarters of the Superverse--as revisionist history. I leave it to you to read Appendix N and draw your own conclusions.

And if you're hungry for SFF free from the influence of sperglords, scumbags, and socialists, I humbly direct you to my heroics, adventure, and imagination-filled Soul Cycle.

Brian Niemeier - The Soul Cycle



MILO Witch Hunt Unmasks Legacy Publishers, Media


Media witch hunt
The recent witch hunt against Milo Yiannopoulos offered a valuable insight into how the legacy media, the political establishment, and New York publishers operate and what their real motives are.

The elites who run our government, press, and entertainment industries see themselves as better educated, better morally, and simply better than the people they seek to control.That's why they're unpersoning a gay Catholic of Jewish ancestry--because he poses a threat to their cultural dominance.

Look at the timing of their attacks. Three weeks ago, Leftist terrorists started riots over Milo's planned speech at UC Berkeley. As a result, his upcoming book Dangerous climbed to the top of Amazon (which I can personally attest to, since a book on which Milo and I are credited as co-authors received a similar bump). Last week, he appeared with Bill Maher on HBO. Then came his (now cancelled) CPAC keynote speech announcement.

As independent author and journalist Mike Cernovich notes, Milo's meteoric rise was on course to land him his own show on Fox News. The media and political elite that Milo has made a career of lambasting couldn't allow that. In their panic to keep Milo from going mainstream, they got desperate.

Concern trolls are playing into the enemy's hands.
Before we talk about what the media establishment's dog-piling on Milo means for free expression, particularly on the part of non-Leftists who want to remain employed and enfranchised, let's dispense with the blatantly ridiculous narrative that's been deployed against him.

Here's the video that was cherry-picked to falsely portray Milo as a pedophilia apologist. The conversation that the press mined for quotes occurs from 1:01:38 to 1:06:07 [Warning: NSFW language].

Law professor Glenn Reynolds examines a transcript of the video and delivers his informed opinion exonerating Milo (emphasis mine):
“It’s complicated” is usually the correct answer about questions concerning sex. But Milo’s actual position on pedophilia — he’s outed three pederasts in his reporting — doesn’t seem complicated at all.
Here is Milo's own statement on the matter. The definitive quote:
I do not advocate for illegal behavior. I explicitly say on the tapes, in a section that was cut from the footage you have seen, that I think the current age of consent is "about right." I do not believe any change in the the legal age of consent is justifiable or desirable.
Read the rest for some indispensable and devastating context. The short version: Milo himself was abused as a minor--in some instances by a priest. He continues to work through his childhood trauma using humor. His comments in the video weren't intended to advocate for pedophilia--which he specifically denounced--or to belittle other victims.

Milo reiterates and expands on these points in his press conference from earlier this afternoon.

By spinning a pedophilia advocacy narrative against a victim of child sex abuse, the media establishment showed just how frightened they are.

The footage they're using to crucify Milo has been publicly available for over a year. This isn't a case of skeletons hidden in someone's closet suddenly coming to light. It's a brazen, coordinated attempt to de-platform a rival who's proved spectacularly effective at competing for the public's attention--specifically the vital college-age demographic.

In their attempt to destroy Milo, the legacy media resorted to pure Alinsky tactics. They targeted Milo personally and tried to polarize the Right into pro and anti-Milo camps by playing Conservatives' own principles against them. Though support for Milo remains strong, more than a few people who are otherwise opposed to the social, political, and spiritual destruction wreaked by the mainstream media have been duped into helping them by letting themselves be led into the weeds of pointless semantic arguments and Pharisaism.

And if you think they won't do it to you, it just means you're not big enough yet.

The best argument for indie
Descending into the journalistic gutter to pull down Milo tipped the establishment's hand. When they claim to champion the rights of gays, minorities, and immigrants; yet converge to destroy a homosexual Jew visiting the US from Europe, its obvious that all they care about is power.

They're also projecting, as Milo's former publisher Simon & Schuster demonstrate by continuing to publish admitted incestuous pedophile Lena Dunham. Aware of the glaring double standard, Salon tried to scrub all of the pro-pedophilia articles from their site. Unfortunately for them, the internet is forever.

What does all of this mean for non-Left wing writers, journalists, and public figures?

  1. Most of the government, media, and entertainment industry is corrupt. The elites who run the bureaucracies in Washington, Hollywood, and New York care only about maintaining their monopolies on power.
  2. Since their primary concern is maintaining their narrative, and because that narrative contradicts reality, the mainstream press cannot be trusted.
  3. Given that the legacy media is wholly invested in keeping its monopoly and will shamelessly lie to protect said monopoly, they will not think twice about turning their heavy artillery against anyone who dissents. This means YOU.
  4. Before indulging the urge to join the latest MSM witch hunt under the aegis of "keeping your side honest", remember that the other side are proven liars who will distort or fabricate facts as convenient to push their narrative. Divide and conquer is their strategy. Don't be a useful idiot.
  5. Legacy publishers are no longer a viable option for authors who are anywhere to the right of Mao. That goes double for the Big Five New York publishers. This is a blessing in disguise, since indie is almost always a smarter alternative to trad book publishing, anyway. The only exceptions I know of are Castalia House--who will be publishing my next book--and Baen.
  6. It doesn't matter how lucrative or high-profile your brand is. The corrupt entertainment industry will gladly sacrifice anyone who deviates from the approved narrative. S&S forfeited at least $80 thousand of Milo's advance, many times that in pre-order refunds, guaranteed spots on every major bestseller list, and millions in future sales. They knew this and still cancelled his book deal because power is more important to them than money.
  7. We need to wake up and realize that the industries and institutions that used to serve us have become not merely self-serving, but actively hostile to most people. You can't depend on them. Stop helping them. Don't give them one red cent of your dwindling, hard-earned wages. If you're an author, use nontraditional publishing channels. If you have the means, build alternative platforms free of the thought police.
I don't expect people over a certain age to understand the gravity of the situation. But for anyone who's watched childhood promises of prosperity, an even playing field where success depends on merit, or even basic survival evaporate, trust your eyes. We are at war because war is being made on us. No one's shooting yet, but our liberties and livelihoods are under attack by history's most powerful cabal of lawless tyrants.

Worst of all, our forebears let the establishment have this unprecedented power over us. Our parents, professors, pastors, and politicians gave up the Western culture that was our inheritance without a fight. Mostly because they didn't want to look "hypocritical" or "intolerant".

Dislike Milo if you want. You're entitled to your opinion, and I'm not here to police anyone's thoughts.

But if you act on misinformed opinions by joining the establishment's witch hunt against Milo--or any other outspoken critic of the mainstream media's campaign to quash everyone's right to free thought--you make yourself a willing pawn of billion dollar corporations who want to see you enslaved or dead.

You say you're protecting our side from hypocrisy and moral turpitude? I say you're just virtue-signaling. It doesn't make sense to fret about the sniper who might be hiding in the hills when you're surrounded by conspirators who are currently stabbing you to death.

Let's get our priorities straight.



Monsters of Pulp: Reactions

For anyone who missed Saturday's epic meeting of the pulp SFF minds on Geek Gab, here's the replay:

And if you'd rather listen on the go, here is the audio-only version on SoundCloud.

On behalf of myself and my fellow Geek Gab hosts, I can honestly say that being present for this historical episode was an unparalleled privilege. Jeffro, John, and Razörfist brought more than witty repartee and a vast body of knowledge to the table. The interaction between such modern geek culture luminaries made for some truly great radio.

Lest there be any doubt, here is a representative selection of comments about the show.

Razorfist, John C. Wright AND Jeffro on a panel?
I could have watched another 5 hours of this without even noticing. You've got my sub.
-Vae Victus
Really good show.
What an incredible show! Both funny and thought-provoking. This is just another landmark to look back to when the PulpRev achieves victory.
Can we have a round two of this?
-Peter Wolfe 
that was a great listen. Looking forward to that Elric & Witcher comparison video, too!
-Sam Hart

Thanks to everyone for listening. As you might expect, this episode is on track to become our most-watched ever!

By way of thanks, I'll let you in on a little secret from our awesome guests' post-show chat: everyone had such a good time that we all want to do it again. Stay tuned.



Sensitivity Readers


Presenting reason number 1,864.979 to abandon the sinking tradpub ship and self-publish: "Sensitivity Readers" (h/t Rawle Nyanzi).
Book publishers fearing the backlash from social justice activists are hiring special readers to check the books and flag up racist, sexist and other so-called offensive content before they go to print.
“Sensitivity reader” is a person who, for a small fee, will provide feedback about the book based on self-ascribed areas of expertise like “dealing with terminal illness,” “racial dynamics in Muslim communities” or “transgender issues”, according to The Chicago Tribune.
You can read the whole pathetic story here.

My dear fellow authors: in case you still haven't decided to wash your hands of the decrepit, increasingly insane New York publishing cartel, their insistence on hiring sensitivity readers to make your manuscript a bland, unrelatable political tract is yet another call to board the lifeboats.

Even if you're aware that indie authors now out-earn tradpub authors, but you crave to be anointed a Real Author™ by a NY house, the high priests of publishing aren't long for this world. The Big Five are already hemorrhaging revenue. So are Barnes & Noble, and B&N's demise will be the silver bullet that puts the loping monstrosity down for good.

And if you think that sensitivity readers represent a good faith effort to make books better and not a cynical, coercive program of thought policing, think again.
Some sensitivity readers, however, believe they actually contribute to the problem. Dhonielle Clayton, who has partnered with the “Writing in the Margins” project aimed at providing a database of “sensitivity readers” for hire to authors, claims she’s frustrated with the idea of helping white authors write about black characters from which they profit and are praised.
“It feels like I’m supplying the seeds and the gems and the jewels from our culture, and it creates cultural thievery,” she said. “Why am I going to give you all of those little things that make my culture so interesting so you can go and use it and you don’t understand it?”
Reread that excerpt. Publishers are supposed to be in business to help authors sell books and make money. Before anybody comes to me whining about "vetting" or "cultural curation", no publisher can vet or curate literature if they're broke.

Note Miss Clayton's objection to authors earning profits and praise, said objection being based solely on the authors' race. It's as if tradpub suffers from severe cultic obsession with political correctness.

Speaking of profits, Clayton goes on to display an embarrassingly poor understanding of economics when she compares white authors who write about black characters to jewel thieves. This is an inversion of the old "I'll sell you this great story idea and we'll split the profits 50/50 after you write the book!" cliche. It betrays the amateur's misapprehension that coming up with ideas is harder than the actual work of writing.

If these are the "experts" that New York publishers hire to consult on their books, it's no wonder they're circling the drain.

Tip for the economically and aesthetically illiterate: jewels are a scarce commodity. Stealing your jewels diminishes your wealth in direct proportion to how much it enriches me. Ideas are unquantifiable and unlimited. If I write about an idea, that doesn't stop you from writing about it, too.

For example, Tor just released lengthy excerpts of Scalzi's latest novel. wherein he reuses ideas from both Asimov and Herbert! If ideas are the measure of a story, borrowing from two such successful authors should make The Collapsing Empire an instant classic, right?

Here's a dual mini-review contrasting Scalzi's latest book with my first, courtesy of @Mr_Boffin (adapted from the Twitterese):
I've actually subjected myself to the snippets put out by Tor of CE. Funny to see a bunch of bored gen-Xers talking about what is clearly 'not' the Landsraad and the Spacing Guild, with 'not' Princess Irulan (split b/w 2 characters, how clever) plus a scene of IKEA Erotica interrupted by other crewmen just walking in, and a prologue with the worst self defense gun ever.
NONE of the characters were even likable. The dialogue felt entirely out of place for the characters' station and jobs. He's supposed to be a master of dialogue, and one of the best writers period. If it had been a first novel I still  wouldn't have read any more with the book in front of me, and I actually do cut first novels a lot of slack.Your first  absolutely blows his latest away in terms of characterization and craft and its his, what? around his 20th? Buy Red SF.
Such lavish praise for my freshman effort leaves me deeply stirred! Many thanks to my satisfied readers. I live to entertain you.

On a related note, here's the first book that Mr. Boffin says blows Scalzi's 20th away:

Brian Niemeier - Nethereal



Monsters of Pulp Update!

In an earlier post I announced Geek Gab's upcoming star-studded episode featuring Razörfist and Jeffro Johnson.

It's my sincerest pleasure to bring you this update to our already star-studded guest roster.

Author John C. Wright

Do not adjust your screen. Your eyes do not deceive you. That is indeed the author photo of John C. Wright--Nebula finalist, record-setting Hugo nominee, and the reigning Dragon of Science Fiction, which I imagine thusly:

Sci-fi Dragon

Mr. Wright will be joining Razörfist, Jeffro, and your loyal hosts on the next explosive episode of Geek Gab this Saturday, February 18th at 3:00 PM Eastern.

For the few readers who are unaware of Mr. Wright's pulp bona fides, he commands an encyclopedic knowledge of SFF history that practically makes him a walking Appendix N--to which he wrote the introduction. He has also been a devoted fan of the Shadow since a mysterious cloaked stranger saved him from stepping off the precipice of a bridge one misty night in 1936.

We at Geek Gab are confident that Mr. Wright will fit right in. One reader described Razörfist as John's foul-mouthed son who shares the same tastes in comics and politics. Also, Mr. Wright has appeared with Jeffro on the Superversive SF round table.

NB: the show lineup now looks like this:

Such a gathering of geek gods may well destroy the universe. We're not sure what will happen, so make sure to watch live this Saturday at 3PM EST!



John Wick 2

John Wick 2

Last night I saw John Wick Chapter 2, the sequel to the best action movie I've seen in over a decade. Chapter 1 was a stylish tour de force. How does Chapter 2 measure up?

Here's a hint: Keanu Reeves doing 3 gun training in preparation for JW2.

He uses all of that training, to spectacular effect, in the movie. Gun nuts and fans of dumb action flicks are now rightly sold on it. I'd be justified in ending the review right there.

But to the delight of gun nuts and lovers of well-told tales in general, there's a lot more going on under the surface of John Wick Chapter 2--and, I can now safely say, the series as a whole.

Hero with a thousand bullets
There are those who decry Hollywood and New York's over reliance on Joseph Campbell's model of the monomyth--the hero's journey made famous by Star Wars. Such criticism has merit. Campbell identified the monomyth as a descriptive tool that helps explain how a lot of great stories in the Western tradition tend to be organized. Too many authors and screenwriters lazily use the hero's journey as a ready-made blueprint to build all of their stories from.

That said, John Wick 2 definitely uses the monomyth structure. There are even on-screen visual nods to the great works of Greek literature that set the standard for the hero's journey. As a related aside, one of the best elements of both Wick movies is that the film makers clearly understand the visual language of film and use it to devastating effect.

John Wick 2 - mirrors
One dazzling action sequence takes place in a giant hall of mirrors that puts Enter the Dragon to shame. It would take an entire post to unpack everything that's going on in this single frame, and I guarantee you that I'd still miss most of it. 
John Wick 2 is a film that earns the right to use the monomyth as a template. For Wick, the hero's journey isn't merely a banal checklist or superfluous window dressing. The characters, themes, and visuals are all intimately tied into the classic narrative structure's steps. We have the refusal of the call--which, blessedly, isn't drawn out and fetishized like it is in too many current stories. There's the literal descent into the underworld, the encounter with the temptress, and a reconciliation with a father figure that will leave Matrix fans giddy.

A picture speaks a thousand words
Speaking of visuals, I can't get over how beautifully photographed this movie is. Even more than its gorgeous predecessor, JW2 has not one wasted shot; not one frame that fails to convey multilayered meaning without the need for words. The film makers may have slyly acknowledged that fact by making a prominent supporting character totally mute.

I strongly suspect that someone who's never seen John Wick 2 could watch it with the sound off and not only find the film perfectly intelligible, but wholly satisfying.

Let's not forget the action scenes. The makers of JW2 bucked another dumb Hollywood trend by unabashedly going for a hard R rating. That means we actually get to see people get hit, and we see the resulting injuries. For the first time since, well, John Wick Chapter 1, we have an American movie where the gun play and fisticuffs feel like they have consequences. That's a main ingredient of the movie's piano wire-taut dramatic tension.

Without getting into spoilers, the ending of John Wick Chapter 2 leads me to conclude that, not only does this installment follow the monomyth template; the whole series is aiming to do what no major franchise since Star Wars has attempted: to present a trilogy with an overarching hero's journey narrative, wherein each individual film is also a complete 3-act microcosm of the overall structure.

Ambitious? Yes. But based on the first two films abundantly exceeding expectations, I expect--and look forward to witnessing--their success in Chapter 3.

Go see John Wick Chapter 2. And if you like action, which I'm told I have a talent for writing, check out my swashbuckling Soul Cycle books.

Brian Niemeier - The Soul Cycle



Deciphering the Sci-fi Color Code

Red Pink Blue sci-fi

Jasyn Jones' latest Pulp Revolution essay has sparked a fascinating discussion over at the Castalia House blog. One mystery that the CH commenters have deciphered for uninitiated readers is the meaning of the color code that categorizes science fiction works into Red, Pink, or Blue SF.

Daddy Warpig kicks off the discussion in the body of the essay:
If Pink F&SF is pathetic, gitchy-goo modern (Clay Age) not-really-fantasy-or-science-fiction pap and Blue SF is Silver Age technology-and-science-uber-alles stories, the Pulps are RED.
Red for passion, Red for action and adventure and yes, Red for violence. Red for courage, Red for heroism, Red for heroics. Red for vividness and blood-stirring excitement. Red for outrageous creativity and inventiveness. Red for a vitality and drive that was, little by little, lost over the decades. Red for characters who fought and strove and lived, and writing that was about evoking emotions in the audience, not abstract intellectualisms or ideological lectures. Red for the blood of humanity.
In response to which, commenter PCBushi asks a just and timely question:
Pardon my ignorance, but what do the colors mean here – red, pink, blue, purple? I’ve seen some of this discussion on social media recently, but I think it refers to a greater conversation that I’ve missed.
DW's response:
This is the original post, though the meaning has drifted over time. It’s basically what I said above: Pink is the modern SocJus F&SF, Blue the “Men with Screwdrivers” SF.
Pulps are bigger than both, and better than both.
Whereupon Nathan of The Pulp Archivist provides a relevant excerpt from Vox Day's post:
“Pink SF primarily concerns a) choosing between two lovers, b) being true to yourself, or c) enacting ex post facto revenge upon the badthinkers and meanies who made the author feel bad about herself at school. Pink SF is about feelings rather than ideas or actions.”
“So what, in contrast, is Blue SF? Blue SF is a return to the manly adventure fiction of the past.”
However, Blue gets often conflated with Campbell’s Men with Screwdrivers.
DW clarifies.
In specific, because VD scorns the mixing of Fantasy with SF, his definition of Blue SF of necessity excludes the Pulps. This restricts it to Silver Age writers, and those from later Ages who hearken back to that sensibility.
And receives confirmation from the Supreme Dark Lord himself.
Jasyn is right. I conceived of Blue SF as Campellian science fiction, as distinct from both fantasy and the SJW amalgamation of SF, fantasy, and romance that is Pink SF, as well as the pulp that preceded it.
I will readily admit that I have tended to scorn the pulps in the past, although I have read all the John Carter books, and most of Howard’s work.
Pulp is still not much to my taste, but reading Appendix N has given me more respect for it.
DW expounds.
The problem with identifying Blue as “masculine” and Pink as “feminine” is that, while Blue is more masculine than Pink, it deliberately omits a great many manly virtues. It encompasses only a tiny subset of masculinity, that being engineering and science.
It’s the masculinity of intellectuals and geeks, not the masculinity of warriors and leaders.
On that level, Red fiction is far more masculine than Blue, because it includes the manly virtues of physical courage, heroism, and brawn.
Gaiseric objects.
Depends on the work, though. A lot of blue, Silver Age sci-fi is the Asimov stuff that’s getting beat up here in the comments, but not all of it is. Much of the Heinlein stuff is pretty masculine with regards to heroes and warriors. I recently read Jeff Sutton’s First On the Moon and it’s defnitely blue sci-fi men with screwdrivers, but it’s also got a truckload of warrior ethos and leadersship from the main character.
It’s not really fair to compare the best of the pulps to the worst of the post-pulps.
DW presents his closing argument:
Your mistake is assuming this is about mere comparison of published works. It isn’t.
The Silver Age was about the New York clique (Futurians & Cambellines) becoming gatekeepers in F&SF, then imposing their vision of what SF should be on the field. They purposely stopped publishing Pulp-style heroics and heroism, in preference to their own style of stories. More, they waged a DECADES long campaign of defamation against the Pulp authors, a successful campaign of defamation, to where even modern authors with a pronounced love of the pulps use “pulpish” as an insult.
(Again, not all of that was Campbell himself, but rather the Futurians and the like.)
And, while Heinlein was my first SF love, and still one of my favorite authors, even his most adventurous and heroic books simply cannot compare to the masculine virtues evident in Pulp characters, and that’s not counting what happened once he went full counterculture with “Stranger in a Strange Land”.
“Stranger in a Strange Land” was Heinlein’s take on Tarzan. Compare John Smith to Tarzan. Which is more manly, masculine, and heroic?
And Deuce gets the last word.
If the “Big Three” were defined as Heinlein, Anderson and Herbert I would have less problem with that era. However, van Vogt was read out and Clarke and Asimov were made plasticene gods. Thus, the whole course of SF was diverted.
To condense the whole discussion into simple definitions:
  • Red SF: Edgar Rice Burroughs, "Doc" Smith, A. Merritt
  • Blue SF: Heinlein, Asimov, Clarke
  • Pink SF: Leckie, Kowal, Scalzi
As for where my writing fits on the SFF spectrum, this quote from Alfred Genesson offers a big hint:
"Brian Niemeier has a great talent for heroic contrast. At times the tale is dizzying, leaving the reader as breathless as the characters in their desperate struggle."
Brian Niemeier - The Soul Cycle



2016 Planetary Awards Nomination

The nomination period for the 2016 Planetary Awards closes tomorrow. If you'd like to nominate a novel and/or a short story to help defend the planet from bad science fiction and fantasy, you can post a blog entry stating your choice in each category and link back to your post here.

My Planetary Award nominee for a novel released in 2016 is:

Murphy's Law of Vampires - Declan Finn

Murphy's Law of Vampires (Love at First Bite Book 2) by Declan Finn
fter saving Brooklyn from a nest of vampires, Amanda Colt and Marco Catalano are a little banged up. He's been given a job offer to deal with vampires in San Francisco, and it's a tempting offer – it would get him away from Amanda, his feelings for her, and get her away from the darkness inside him. When a death in the family compels Marco to move to the West Coast, they're both left to fend for themselves.
But when a creature known only as “Mister Day” leaves their world in tatters, they must once more join forces against the darkness. Only "Day" is no vampire, but a creature beyond their experience. It will take the combined might of Marco, Amanda, and all of their allies just to slow it down. They have no weapons that can kill him. They have no ways to imprison him. To even fight him is death.
But they have to try, or face the end of everything they love.
Nominated for edge-of-your-seat vampire action with just the right touch of romance.

Disclosure statement: Mr. Finn and I have appeared on each other's podcasts. Mr. Finn also accepted Souldancer's Dragon Award on my behalf last year. I haven't finished reading MLV yet, but since the deadline is tomorrow, I doubt I'll read another book published in 2016 before nominations close.

Here are three book reviews that I published on this blog in 2016:

Congratulations to all of the Planetary Awards nominees. May the best SFF win!

Although I didn't nominate any of my books, you should read the whole series, anyway. Folks driven from fandom by iron and clay age message fiction are rediscovering their love for SFF through the Soul Cycle.



Tradpub Fantasy's PC Fetish

Today's post finds Media Diversified lamenting that Western authors harm Eastern peoples by writing about Eastern settings.
In 2012 a roundtable at the World SF blog focusing on non-Western cultures in speculative fiction asked the following question: What are the problematics of some Western writers tackling non-Western settings for their novels, and do they result in exoticism?
Irony, definition: people claiming to tell authors how to write who use the BS word "problematics".
One of the panelists, SFF author Joyce Chng (Singapore), spoke on these issues of “othering” and the Western gaze:
Serious question: do these people have a form of Tourette syndrome that makes them confuse adjectives with nouns and verbs?

Answer: yes. And it's called Political Correctness.
“People in the West tend to have fixed ideas of how and what we should look like or behave. The East is exotic. The East is mysterious…. The East is scary, but exhilarating….. These “Western narratives” hurt us at the end and have damaged perspectives regarding non-Western narratives. The dominance of Western narratives has silenced non-Western voices, reducing us to nothing else but something out of a travel guide.”
The patient presents now only unintelligible verbal tics, but exhibits magical thinking. Unless she's just trolling, she truly seems to believe that James Clavell wields the power to "silence" non-Westerners.

You know what did empirically silence tens of millions of people in the East? Eastern governments of the kind the PC police feel wistful nostalgia toward.

They do graciously throw us culture-appropriating oppressors a bone by permitting Westerners to write about the mysterious Orient if we must, BUT ONLY IF WE DO IT EXACTLY AS WE'RE TOLD!
This is about the part where someone asks, “So are you saying that Westerners and whites can’t or shouldn’t write about non-Western/non-white cultures or people in fantasy?” And the answer is one big eye rolling, of course not. Don’t be dense.
If you're often accused of saying that Westerners/whites shouldn't write about non-Westerners/non-whites, the people asking you might not be dense. You might just be a pompous bigot. And also a pedophile.
Writers and creators should explore the full breadth of human diversity in fantasy, if simply to break the Eurocentric norm. Does this come with risks? Yes. You may go out and create more diversity in your fantasy with the best of intentions, and find yourself being criticized for such things as “othering.” Yeah. Thems the breaks.
Why stop at the East/West binary? How about pointing that wagging finger of yours at Chinese authors who write Indian characters or Japanese authors who write Chinese characters?

Oh, right. Because this is about systems of oppression according to Critical Theory. The Critical Theory that sprang from the same ideology whose adherents murdered 45 million Chinese.
About to throw up your hands and declare, “Damned if you do, damned if you don’t?” Don’t give up so easy. If Frodo could get that ring all the way through Mordor, you can survive this.
I take exception to the OP writer's brazen cultural appropriation of Tolkien.
I do not subscribe to the school of thought that it is solely up to PoC to write diverse stories.
How magnanimous.
That argument in my opinion is a cop-out that conveniently leaves PoC holding the responsibility bag. It lets white-dominated speculative fiction in the mainstream continue on doing what they do–while PoC are relegated to smaller enclaves that get little to no popular visibility. We’re all responsible for creating not only more diverse world, but also ones that challenge our past (and modern) stereotypical tropes.
Swing and a miss.

This guy clearly missed the memo that the tradpub gatekeepers' power to hand out success and popularity is gone. Broken. Dead as Castro. No more Manhattan sugar daddy to bestow the gift of mass appeal. You want popular visibility? Go write good stories (never mentioned in the original post), build a platform, and earn it.

Them's the breaks, snowflake.
For what it’s worth, some pointers:
I'm sure they'll be good for a laugh.
(1) Read the greats like Tolkien, Miller, GRRM and other traditional Eurocentric writers. Watch Game of Thrones. Count the stereotypes, “othering” and moments of wince-worthy racialization. Catalog and study them. When you see your writing drifting in that direction, change course.
I'll leave it to my Pulp Revolution friends to point out the glaring omissions in the OP's index of problematic books. For now, what's truly wince-worthy, besides the mangling of the English language (cultural appropriation: second offense!), is the thought of anyone taking these pointers seriously.
(2) Read the guys who seem to get it right. Read fantasy works by PoC and non-Westerners, set in non-Western cultures. Notice the distinction between depicting varied cultures and people as different versus exotic. It’s tricky, takes some serious research, but eventually you begin to see it.
I urge all aspiring SJW authors to take this sterling advice. While you're running in mental circles in a vain effort to conform to ever-changing PC dogma, I'll be honing my ability to write stories that entertain people.
(3) Can you stand by your creation? No one here is about censorship. If you feel you really need to make one of your characters in the mold of the noble savage, go right ahead. But ask yourself if your reasons are really valid for your storyline, or if you’re just falling back on an easy stereotype. And when the criticism comes down, don’t act all brand new. You knew what you were doing. Own up to it and deal. If you can handle that without filling up my white tears mug, go ahead. If you can’t though, then do better.
The OP wants you to know that he's not about censorship--but if a hate mob lands on your head, it's your fault for ignoring his arbitrary diktats.

Actually, it'll be your fault for taking advice on race relations from a guy with a white tears mug.
(4) Spend a brief bit of time brushing up on some postcolonial theory, or at least a bit of critical race theory. Sometimes simply “not knowing” is a big reason for some well-meaning blunders. But in this information age, ignorance makes for a poor excuse. SFF author and scholar Jaymee Goh’s Rules Before Engaging is a great start.
Again, critical theory = Communism = murdered millions of Asians = the OP has zero moral authority.
(5) Being a PoC doesn’t grant an automatic pass. Because this isn’t about “good or bad people,” it’s about a structural system that affects all of us. Many of these “othering” notions are transnational and no respecters of borders or backgrounds. I’ve read fantasy by PoC that skirts the line, or goes trudging headlong into exoticism, “othering” and other disturbing tropes—because it’s what was learned. Be self-aware.
Wrong. It's about good or bad writing. (Hint: buying into this PC bullshit will make your writing bad.)
(6) Beyond issues of race and ethnicity, there are ways of mishandling or stereotyping numerous types of differences, not limited to gender, sexuality, religion, disabilities, etc. It wouldn’t hurt to examine when and where you’re going down the stereotype hole in addressing any of these. A great primer is Nisi Shawl’s and Cynthia Ward’s, Writing the Other: A Practical Approach.
Translation: "Character, conflict, and pacing are of distant secondary importance compared to this ever-growing list of boxes that your work must check, or else the PC literati will line you up against the wall."

They wonder why traditionally published SFF is dying?
(7) Even if you try your best, you might still “Do It Wrong.” Sorry. Life ain’t fair.
You're about to learn just how unfair life is. Just wait till B&N goes bust.
You can minimize your risk of doing it wrong by thinking about what you’re doing–or as a friend of mine likes to say, just deciding to give a f–. This might mean you look for friends, beta readers and writer’s groups with some diversity. Others might pick up on troubling things you may have missed.
 As it happens, I give zero fucks. Thank you very much.
But criticism may still fly your way, warranted or not. Don’t get defensive. Remember, people are placing whatever you wrote into a much larger historical context. It’s bigger than you. See it as a teaching moment, and next time just strive to do better. The decent act of actually “giving a f– ” will inevitably earn you some praise.
Here, at last, we reach the heart of the matter.

SJWs write to earn praise from the PC cult.

Real authors write to please readers and GET PAID!

The dear little lambs truly have no idea what's coming. The whole system that rewarded them for having the currently fashionable skin color, sexuality, and sociology degrees is crashing down around their ears.

Sometimes I almost pity them. Then I read authoritarian, smug schoolmarmish dreck like this.

The PC cult don't fail because they're systemically oppressed. They fail because, as their own words show, they hold their readers--and themselves--in contempt.

I, on the other hand, love the readers who are my patrons and lords. My work reflects that love.

Brian Niemeier - The Soul Cycle



A Tale of Two Sci-fis

If the dirty little secret that trad publishing plays gatekeeper to make or break authors' careers based on politics, a recent spree of blackballings blew the doors off of that skeleton-filled closet. Consider if you will, the story of one Jon Del Arroz:
I had grown up in this community as an avid reader and convention attendee. I used to be what you would call one of those “nice guy conservatives.” I would keep silent about my politics to the best of my ability, while smiling and allowing others to rant and rave to their hearts’ content. My first foray into irritation over this occurred when Baycon, a local convention in the San Francisco Bay Area, ran a talk on how to convince friends out of believing in Creationism. I wrote to the programming director of the convention, citing my concern over how anti-Christian that sounded, and how this didn’t seem relevant to Science Fiction at all. They dismissed my concerns and told me to attend anyway.
Fast forward several years later, after I’d invested time and effort speaking on panels, entertaining convention attendees and being a good friend to everyone. Whispers about the evil Sad Puppies stealing Hugo awards circled the halls. Although I’d voted with the Sad Puppies, I stayed quiet. I’d spoken personally to several prominent members of the Sad and Rabid Puppies movements by this point and learned they were nice, professional people and not the monsters they had been made out to be by the SJWs.
Trump won. I made a few posts as to how I was happy with the outcome of the election, complete with donning my red hat. What happened next? I received a nasty letter from my editor’s assistant about how intolerant and inflexible I was, telling me that I was not likely to be invited to be published again. SJWs weren’t just attacking someone I knew on the periphery. They’d come for me. I decided the best course of action would be to take a stand and be positive, say how proud I was of our country, of Trump and his team. My friends from the SF/F world quickly evaporated. I’d been blocked on social media, ignored by people with whom I thought I’d developed deep relationships. I’d spent hours critiquing other writers’ novels and improving their craft, yet they would not even share a link to my work, let alone make a purchase, to support me. SJWs had, and have, no loyalty.
I still couldn't bring myself to fully speak out in these situations, fearing the loss of more long time friends. Vox emailed me with: “Learn to go public. One reason they get away with it is because everyone they do it to tries to keep it quiet. You shouldn't.” These words haunted me, but I still clung to the past, hoping desperately that I could retain at least some of the relationships I had from my years of hard work and supporting other writers.
Inauguration time. The angry posts calling me and mine Nazis had not died down. The angry responses continued as well. My own cousin, with whom I grew up and played Risk ‘til the wee hours of the morning, disowned me over my Trump support. He told me he was ashamed to call me family, and that I was never his friend. Matters became worse in the Science Fiction world. Prominent authors stepped up their game of name-calling. I wear their condemnations as badges of honor and will use them as blurbs on future books. I’d finally had enough when I found that my home convention, where I’d been a guest for years had blackballed me from speaking.
Sincere condolences, Jon. I know what a devastating shock it is when people who claimed to be looking out for your career; authorities thought to be just and impartial, stab you in the back.

Happily, Jon's story doesn't end there. [Excerpted from earlier]:
This began my transition from “nice guy conservative” to “I am proud to be who I am.” I corresponded with prominent authors privately about what had transpired. Many of the Sad and Rabid Puppies told me I was not alone. They hardly knew me, yet helped me promote my book. I learned a valuable lesson on the meaning of true friendship and loyalty. If someone doesn’t share any core values with you, they will leave you in the dust. It’s only a matter of time.
I’m done. It’s too much. There’s no logic. There’s no rationality. There’s no love. There’s no friendship. SJWs want to shut me down and destroy my career, and they want to find you and do the same to you, if they haven’t already. I’ve taken the leap of going public. I’m not scared to say who I am, who I like, who I voted for. They’re not going to shut me up because I have the platform of the internet. Vox was right. Every single time they shut you down, go public with it as I just did.
I’ve gotten a few hateful comments, but nothing worse than they’ve already called me. The people who were on the fringes of hating me, but warned me that I needed to play ball, were going to hate me anyway. I’m not losing anything. These people were not going to buy my products. They’re not going to support you either. But it’s not that bad. There is tremendous upside to going public, however.
I’ve had congratulations from friends. My blog has been reposted by dozens of prominent authors from Castalia House and others. Dragon Award Winner Nick Cole shared my story, and that by itself sold me more books in an hour than attending conventions for years ever did for me. There’s a lot of us. We’re not alone and we’re no longer afraid.
My Comment: the SJWs in trad publishing don't want to publish fun, exciting stories. They don't even want to make a fast buck. They want to push an ideology on the whole culture by dictating what you and I can and can't read.

For decades, the legacy publishing cabal's paper distribution monopoly gave the New York gatekeepers total authority over who got into the industry and who got left out in the cold. Blessedly, Amazon came along with a wrecking ball named Kindle Direct Publishing and tore down the tradpub wall.

Jon and countless other authors are now discovering that the SF SJWs can't suppress their work anymore. Thanks to the KDP-assisted rise of indie and nontraditional publishers like Castalia House, the only one who decides whether your work gets published is YOU.

In fact, I'll go ahead and predict that cutting ties with the ossified industry that hates him will garner Jon net gains in sales and popularity. That's because the Big Five publishers actually hate sci-fi and have been slowly killing the genre for years.

Author Earnings 2016 sales by genre and publisher type
Sci-fi used to be the biggest genre in the world. Behold the damage wreaked by the Big Five!
The Big Five are purple. Indie is blue. Note that science fiction is the Big Five's worst-selling genre, but SF remains competitive in the self-publishing scene. Based on my own recent experience and that of several nontrad authors I've spoken to, indie and small press sci-fi is GROWING.

As is indie overall, as the Big Five's share of the market shrinks.

No more gatekeepers
Amazon killed the gatekeepers. Forever.

There have been worries voiced in some quarters that the Sad/Rabid Puppies, Pulp Revolution, and Superversive movements might go tyrannical. They'll become, it's argued, the gatekeepers they despise--unless we police authors and critics to keep their motives pure.

Reread Jon's story. Who tried to keep him from talking out of school? Who stepped up to support him when he got blacklisted?

SP/RP, the PulpRev, and SSF were started by folks dedicated to pushing back against SJW's stranglehold on science fiction. Conversely, SJWs infiltrated the genre for the express purpose of putting a stranglehold on science fiction.

My people want authors to write the kinds of stories they want to write and for readers to read the kinds of stories they want to read. You don't get from there to gatekeeping without a total inversion of motives. And even that's purely academic, because we couldn't stop anyone from getting published, even if we wanted to.

Why not? Because the old publishing industry only ever had the power to make or break careers because they controlled paper distribution channels. If you wanted your story printed on dead trees and stocked on bookstore shelves, New York was the only way to go. The Big Five's paper distribution monopoly was the gate.

Ebooks--especially on Kindle--drove a digital stake through that monopolistic vampire's heart. From here onward, no one can keep an author from getting his work out there and reaching an audience.

"But some members of SP/RP, PulpRev, SSF, etc. have big platforms!" I hear you object. "What if they turn those big guns on some poor author's work?"

Good question. Here's the two-part answer:

1) Learn how marketing works. If you cultivate antifragility like Jon advises, getting shade from a movement bigwig will boost your profile and sales. If Larry, Vox, or Jeffro came out and called one of my books crap, I guarantee you that I'd get a sales bump.

2) Nobody can stop you from publishing. That includes blogs. Build your own platform and shoot back.

P.S. If you've got time to police critics and authors on the internet, you've got time to write your own book. We want more authors; not less. Get to it!

And while you're at it, get Jon's book:

Star Realms - Jon Del Arroz

I'm also doing my part to recover sci-fi's former glory. You can help at the link below.

Brian Niemeier - The Soul Cycle



Monsters of Pulp: Jeffro and Razörfist Talk Appendix N

By popular demand, your humble servants at Geek Gab are thrilled to bring you the ultimate meeting of the mega-geek minds!

Razörfist - The Rageaholic Jeffro Johnson

That's right, ladies and gentlemen. Daddy Warpig, Dorrinal, and I proudly announce that Razörfist the Rageaholic and Jeffro Johnson of the Castalia House blog will be appearing together for the first time!

The topic of conversation will be Jeffro's revolutionary Appendix N, the pulps in general, and whatever else our esteemed guests feel like gabbing about.

This historic dialogue will take place on Saturday, February 18th, only on Geek Gab!

Geek Gab

Of course, organizing such an epic production takes time. We're working hard to finalize plans, and you will be notified of the official showtime here and on your hosts' various social media accounts.

Meanwhile, I am readying myself for a whole lot of shutting up and listening in awed fascination!

Join us, won't you?



The Great Harry Potter Tweetstorm

Harry Potter vs. LotR

And now, we turn the proceedings over to @ClarkHat, who has produced another consciousness-expanding tweetstorm for our delight.

Preamble: Clark's tweets were precipitated by:
  1. The epidemic of unimaginative Leftists latching on to Harry Potter memes to soothe their cognitive dissonance
  2. This article explaining the sociological implications of Rowlings books
  3. A follow up essay that George Orwell wrote as if he foresaw that he'd need to righteously own Rowling 60 years later.
Clark gives us the TL;DR version with the added bonus of a descriptive model that endeavors to show how fantasy series preference reveals political affiliation:
2/ One very interesting bit of the Orwell essay that I RT-ed as a followup to the "about Harry Potter" essay:
3/ consumption of this envious / wish fulfillment fiction is maximized neither in elites or in proles, but those who JUST missed the cutoff
4/ You don't see HS drop outs, or Harvard Law grads citing Harry Potter. You see Rutgers and Tufts English majors doing it.
5/ These people did decently on the SATs - but not great. They went to decent- but not great - schools. They got decent- but not great- jobs
6/ They feel, acutely, that they JUST BARELY missed the brass ring
Thus their anger. Unfocused anger looking for someone - anyone- to blame
I think Clark's on to something, here. After all, status and influence are handy idols to fill the void left by any sense of transcendent purpose.
9/ All of these ruthlessly meritocratic institutions reject our SJW-affiliated 2nd tier kids for not being good enough.
10/ What our SJW-affiliated 2nd tier kids crave is d̶a̶d̶'̶s̶ ̶l̶o̶v̶e̶ a powerful institution that promised to protect them and DOES SO.
The specter of absent/weak fathers strikes again!
16/ And thus they build a fantasy world that's like reality, only better.
Dad loved them.
Yale, not Rutgers, admitted them.
Magic is real.
i.e. Harry Potter
Harry Potter didn't create the largest crop of sociopaths known to man, but it perfectly expresses their deepest longings.
Lord of Rings is about people of low social class working super-hard to do what needs to be done, even without social support systems.
Harry Potter is about a very powerful & respected social support system finding and recognizing talent and then telling it what to do.
if you trust yourself and can work hard, LOTR is for you
if you feel like royalty & want the world to acknowledge it: HP is for you
A reader then asks Clark how to apply this model to contemporary science fiction.
great question!
"red" fiction is Heinlein and descendants
"blue" fiction is SJW nonsense of last 15 years
See ESR rants for more on this.
My comment: Clark's identification of this particular dichotomy within current sci-fi isn't wrong. However, there's a bigger picture beyond the rim of his magnifying glass.

The categories that Clark chooses as sci-fi analogs for Tolkien and Rowling hail from the Campbellian and post-New Wave movements, respectively. While that analogy works on the micro scale, it misses the macro scale decline in both art and politics that underlie all of these developments.

Identifying Heinlein books with "red" and, say, The Fifth Season with "blue" is less apt in the long view than calling Heinlein "pink" and Jemisin "red", in the classic scale where "red" = Commie.

See this masterful essay by Jasyn Jones for the Castalia House blog. The short version: anybody who thinks that Campbell's reign was the "Golden Age" of science fiction has been sold a bill of goods.
The coming of Campbell and co. did not save or elevate the Fantasy and Science Fiction genre. Before them, it was already popular and widely read. In addition to the Pulps, there were novels, radio serials, and (eventually) cinema serials.
It took the twin assaults of Campbell and the Socialist-Libertine wing of the Futurians to turn the mainstream off of SF. And, despite periodic attempts to revive SF, it remains a ghetto today.
The Pulps were the Golden Age of F&SF. Not just because they were popular, but because Pulp writers were free from the arbitrary constraints of genre and tropes that hobbled later writers. Hence their stories were more imaginative, more varied, and more inspiring. Moreover, Pulp stories were more adventurous, more heroic, and more thrilling.
With this as the starting point, we can more clearly understand the devolution of the genre: The Pulps were the Golden Age of F&SF, Campbell was the Silver Age, New Wave the Bronze Age, and the 80’s and 90’s the Iron Age. Since 2000, we’ve entered the Clay Age, the point of maximum debasement of the genre. (Maximum debasement so far.)
Amendment to what I said above: the degradation of sci-fi hasn't been a continuum from blue to red. It's been a devolution from gold to shit.

Since politics is downstream from culture, it's a given that a coincident slide has taken place down the political slope. Here, we really are left with the "blue" to "red" spectrum, though. Because SFF came about during the age of Modernism and its political arm, Liberalism. Heinlein and the SJWs are both Liberals. The latter are just the terminal stage of the disease.

To my admittedly limited knowledge, it's hard to think of a science fiction author--even going back to the venerable pulps--who wasn't some shade of Modernist/Liberal. But when you have stories with space explorers for whom a major concern is introducing extraterrestrials to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, it's not hard to see that pulp authors were less affected by the rot.

In the final analysis, I'd expand Clark's already serviceable model as follows:
  • Fantasy political litmus test: Tolkien vs. Rowling
  • Science fiction political litmus test: Tolkien vs. Heinlein

Besides pontificating about SFF books, I also write them. And I don't let nobody put me in a genre box.

Brian Niemeier - The Soul Cycle