New Release: Corrosion Audio Book

The year’s most controversial science-fiction novel is now available in a format suitable for those times when your hands are too busy to hold a book.  The Corroding Empire, The Audio Book is perfect for keeping you company during long drives, yard work, and late night miniature wargame figure painting.  Voiced by none other than your humble host, it’s over seven hours of fun!

Galactic society is ruled by algorithms. From interstellar travel and planetary terraforming to artificial intelligence and agriculture, every human endeavor has become completely dependent upon the hypercomplex equations that optimize the activities making life possible across hundreds of inhabited worlds. Throughout the galaxy, Man has become dependent upon the reliable operation of ten million different automated systems.

And when things begin to go wrong and mysterious accidents begin to happen no one has any idea what is happening, except for a sentient medical drone and the First Technocrat of Continox. But their ability to even begin to try fixing the unthinkably complicated problem of galaxy-wide algorithmic decay is made considerably more difficult by the fact the former is an outlaw and the latter is facing a death sentence.

A First Rate Second Chance

“Thrust into the savage Martian past, Garvey Dire must solve the mystery of time in a world of alien monsters and brutal violence or see his own world destroyed by war.”

I’m currently reading Dire Planet, a novel by Joel Jenkins, one of those guys who (I think) hangs around with the New Pulp crew.  I’ll have a full review of the book over at the Castalia House Blog in a week or so, but wanted to take a few minutes to provide my early impressions and to provide some context.

My first encounter with Joel’s work came about as a result of a crossover that he did with Derrick Ferguson.  In Ferguson’s Four Bullets For Dillon, the eponymous Dillon meets up with Jenkins’ rock star mercenary, Sly Gantlet, in a high class nightclub where the two are attacked by a man with a vendetta against both of them.

I was not impressed.  The whole story came off a little too try-hard for my taste.  The tale spent too much time telling the reader how bad ass the heroes are and too little showing the reader how bad ass the heroes are.  As a result, I’ve shied away from Joel’s work for over a year now.

I’m want to say right here and now, that was a mistake.

I’ve bumped into Joel a few times on social media.  He comes across as a good guy, and I have to give both he and Derrick Ferguson credit for bailing on Big Publishing, and for helping to kickstart a renewed interest in pulp style fiction years before I realized such a thing was even possible.

In was in the mood for some planetary romance, and liked my encounters with the guy.  As one of the CH Bloggers tasked with plumbing the jungle of self-publishing for the lost shrines and hidden gems, it was high time to take another look at Joel’s work, and I’m glad I did.

Garvey Dire makes for a great hero – he is both heroic and flawed, and is motivated for all the right reasons.  The women of the Dire Planet are strong but retain their femininity – that’s a neat trick that few modern writers manage.  Jenkins’ version of Mars strikes a careful balance between “the same but different” when compared to the Burroughsian elephant in the Martian Room.  He adds and unexpected element of modern action that interweaves with the story of Garvey Dire in a way that shouldn’t work, but does.

At the halfway point, there’s a lot of time left for this book to fall flat on its face, but I don’t think that’s going to happen.  At this point, I’d recommend Dire Planet to anybody who wants to see how pulp style writing can be seamlessly wedded with modern action.  And I’d also recommend it to anyone who wants to join in the conversation when my full review goes up at the CH Blog. (Which will probably be next Wednesday).

For the Deus Vulters

Alternatively, “A Reminder: Catholic’s Who Support Socialism are Heretics”

If you’ve never heard of Taylor Marshall – founder of the New Saint Thomas Institute, Thomist, former Episcopalian Priest, and father of eight(!) – represents an antidote to the cancer of Father James Martin.  While far more moderate than we happy, internet Deus Vulters, his blog and podcasts are my go-to for Church scholarship bereft of the mealy-mouthed pandering to the Gospel of Niceness.  Lately, he has been a stalwart thorn in the side of the USCCB as they capitulate to the architects of the modern day tower of Babel, seemingly in pursuit of accolades from the Fake Media.

Recently, Taylor posted a reminder of Pope Leo the XIII’s, Rerum Novarum, which explicitly condemned socialism for its love of envy, and the way in which it seeks to absolve mankind of his responsibility to his fellow man by transferring the responsibility from the individual to the state.  His response to the usual bleating objections makes me laugh like JJ Jameson:

  • [F]olks came out of the word work saying things like “Aha! But the Church doesn’t condemn Christian Socialism, but only condemns Marxist or atheistic Socialism.”

This isn’t true. Simply read Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical Rerum Novarum and you’ll discover that he condemns Socialism as an economic error contrary to natural law and social justice. But if that does not convince you, here are some quotes from subsequent Popes further laying the smack down on Socialism and even on so-called “Christian Socialism”…

Read on for quotes from Popes Pius XI, John XXIII, Paul VI, and of course the rock star John Paul “The Deuce”, whose resistance to the Soviets played a pivotal role in lifting hundreds of millions out of the hellish nightmare scape of socialism writ large.

But Taylor isn’t just a level-headed guy when it comes to the intersection of religion and economics, he’s a sturdy defender of the faith in all its forms, and a solid speaker.  Unlike most religious scholars, who tend to strive of the NPR style of earnest softness in their delivery, he speaks with a strength and fortitude that is refreshing.  He also hosts the Maccabee Society a website geared toward religious men that celebrates masculinity in a way that modern society rejects – they present articles that embrace such things as a man’s role as provider and protector, while rejecting the hedonism, gluttony, sexualism, and narcissism that characterize so much of what the Madison Avenue types peddle to men.  Consider these recent articles:

Even if it doesn’t enter your daily reading list, if you’re a man looking for solid, dependable reading from a masculine Catholic perspective – a rarity in this day and age – you owe it to yourself to give them a shot.

 

Space Princess – Sneak Peek

My next novel, Space Princess, is less than two weeks away from the market.  Just to whet your appetite a bit, have a peek at a corner of the cover.  Space Princess represents a return to the fast and fun sci-fi space operas that once dominated the genre.  This novel has too much adventure, too much heroism, and too much unabashed masculine virtue to pass muster with the sacred guardians of the modern day publishing houses.  The Church does not serve as a straw filled punching bag for modern secularist gobbledygook arguments.  The villainous empire acts as villains should, is thoroughly vile, and their murderous leader threatens to place the chains of slavery upon the shoulders of good men across the galaxy.  The hero gets the girl – two girls, in fact!  (Though neither in the traditional manner.)

It’s everything you love about science-fiction and haven’t been able to find on the shelves of the box stores for far too long.  If you don’t believe the hype, maybe you’ll believe your own eyes.  Behold!  A brief preview of Space Princess: Continue reading

The Reviews Are In

Adventure Constant is pretty darn fun reading.

From Rawle Nyanzi:

As I read this, I realized something about the tale: it forced me to evaluate settings in a new way and break out of staid thought patterns.

Adventure Constant is a story that cares so much about building a fun world that it completely junks wonkish world-building logic in favor of what sounds cool. No explanation is given for why counterparts to familiar Earth nations sprang up, you do not question why the existence of Carthage, the continued rule of the Pharaohs, and the failed colonization of Africa gave rise to similar historical events, and you do not care to hear about economic minutiae or extensive national backstories. You’re given just enough information to orient you, and the characters get back to the plot. It is yet more proof of a key tenet about fantastical tales: Worldbuilding does not matter.

Those last four are strong words that I don’t entirely agree with.  World building does matter, but only in so far as it advances the plot.  The setting should serve to enhance the story, and care must be taken to maintain a certain level of verisimilitude lest the reader’s background processing trip a circuit breaker or two.  You need at least enough consistency within the setting to keep reader’s focused on the action, but otherwise Rawle is spot on.

Authors should focus on the reader, not the setting.  Anything that builds up the setting at the expense of the tale needs to be mercilessly jettisoned.  At least for those of us who write adventure stories instead of travelogues.

Oh hey, but what did he think about the book?

I happily recommend Adventure Constant to anyone who likes an adventurous tale, well told.

Trust the Nyanzi, for he is wise in the ways of fiction.

If you want to see for yourself, take a gander at this free preview:

 

And if you have been keeping up with the Mollison Library, you’ll want to read it soon.  My next novel will be released the first week of October.

Short Post on Short Fiction

Reading more short fiction allows the easily digestible chunks of fiction to fit neatly into my modern, family-oriented lifestyle.  At the end of a day of back-breaking labor spent repairing a crumbling stone wall (and the multiple runs to the hardware store because you always need just two more bags of cement) followed by an evening of dinner prep and board games it’s nice to grab a 20 page story, finish it off, and close your eyes to recharge for another day of the same.  It also lets you skip around and read a lot of different authors on consecutive nights.

The downside from a blogging perspective is that you don’t have a whole lot to talk about because you’re only halfway through a number of different books.

For those of you who share the misery of a long commute, here’s a little something to ease the pain.  Robert E. Howard, even when he isn’t writing about Conan or Solomon Kane, is one of the best of the best.  I’ve been poking around CensorTube for some of his short fiction in audio format, and found this reading of The Fire of Asshurbanipal to be imminently listenable.  The fact that this contemporary 1920s/30s tale fits so neatly into the Lovecraft universe makes a strong case for playing Call of Cthulhu in the pulp era.  Also listen for the strongly sympathetic characterization of the Afghan tribesman – it’s the sort of writing we are constantly told was invented in 2012 by the SFWA “in-crowd” by that very crowd and their media sycophants.

Here’s another great one by the old master. Two men enter a room with a corpse, and four men leave. Sort of. Things get confusing toward the end of this suspense tale, but in a way that heightens the sense of unreality and doom. This story is another masterclass in horror fiction that doesn’t get enough attention.

Modern Sci-Fi, A House Build on Sand

By way of a comment at the Castalia House Blog, an interesting analysis of the shifting sands of The  Politics of Star Trek by Tim Sandefeur.  Worth noting is how the modern refusal to ground Star Trek in the fertile soil of actual, no-fooling morality characterized by stark contrasts between good and evil has drained the weight and import from the genre.  If you refuse to accept the existence of objective good and evil, if the only thing that ever motivates your villains are ‘daddy issues’, if you bridle at the thought of judging people for their vices, then you cannot create compelling storylines that draw people in and inspire them to read more and be better people:

Over nearly 50 years, Star Trek tracked the devolution of liberalism from the philosophy of the New Frontier into a preference for non-judgmental diversity and reactionary hostility to innovation, and finally into an almost nihilistic collection of divergent urges. At its best, Star Trek talked about big ideas, in a big way. Its decline reflects a culture-wide change in how Americans have thought about the biggest idea of all: mankind’s place in the universe.

Once you notice this rootlessness, you start to see it everywhere.  Marvel comic books have no idea what makes anyone a villain other than ‘LOL so random’ and ‘white guys because…that’s just how white guys are’.  Star Wars with its vague Empire-Lite who wipes out five planets because five is more than one.  Game of Thrones where every villain gets their moment of zen likability.  Even an otherwise great movie like Doctor Strange with its open admission that the villain delved too deep into the dark arts shies away from considering the full ramifications of the existence of dark arts.

Even the little movie that could, Dredd, for all that it does right, can’t help but bow before the modern throne of ‘it’s somebody else’s fault’ by showing Ma-Ma – a bloodthirsty savage of a woman – as a victim of circumstance.  It’s like, all relative, man.  Dredd’s just some guy with a badge.  But for the chance roll of the dice, he could have been Ma-Ma.  It’s all nonsense and it undercuts the meat of the film.  It doesn’t present Ma-Ma as an unmitigated evil we are glad to see die.  It doesn’t justify the long, lingering, and graphic scene of vengeance Dredd visits upon her.  It doesn’t add nuance and color and gravity to the film, it just undercuts Dredd’s virtue and heroism by forgoing the opportunity to show him as the direct opposite of what he fights.

The world needs heroes, but a Hollywood divorced from heroisms literary, religious, and intellectual foundation cannot conceive of such a man, and so cannot create media in which such a man is shown.

Thank God for legacy and independent publishing, or we’d be starved to soul-death for such things.

Proofreading For People Who Hate Proofreading

No joke, I didn’t see the misspelling until I rotated this image.

A literary pal asked for a proofreader for one of his projects, and as a fan of the guy I leapt at the chance.  Editing, I have no experience with, but I can find a mis-spelled homophone like a boss.  (At least when it isn’t my own work I’m proofreading.  *tugs collar*)  Besides, I’ve had considerable help from my own readers, so it’s high time I paid that forward.  And here’s how you can help an author-brother out when you decide to pay it forward.

Read it backwards.  Read the last paragraph first.  This allows you to focus on the words and sentences without becoming distracted by the narrative itself.  You can focus a lot more on the task at hand – rooting out odd punctuation and mis-spelled words and pure grammatical errors – when you read a story this way.  Starting at the end and looking at a story one paragraph at a time triggers different parts of your brain.  You can’t fall into the fugue state in which the story appears in your head as a movie, and so you can’t just skim past words that you’re supposed to be studying.

Believe me, the stories that I proofread were great.  Had I tried to read them from front to back, I’d have gotten three paragraphs in and been so distracted by the fun of the action that I’d have missed the point of the exercise!

Needs More Bender

“None of this makes any sense,” says the latest bargain bin Ripley in this year’s Alien: Covenant. Truer words were never spoken.

What is it about the Alien franchise that makes it so susceptible to climbing up its own butt? The last several movies have tried to be both exciting, suspenseful thrillers and deep, thoughtful commentaries on mankind’s place in the universe. In each case the film-makers wind up with a movie that is neither fish nor fowl and suffers greatly for the lack of clear vision.

To save time, let’s just run down the usual obvious blunders:

  • No clear rules for the aliens. Sometimes they are bulletproof, and sometimes not.
  • No clear rules for the aliens. Groups can be chased away with a little light flare, but a single one is willing to attack a ship alone in broad daylight.
  • No clear rules for the aliens. They can reproduce in new, magical ways that defy sense.  In the space of 20 minutes, alien spores consume and transform 30% of a grown man’s mass.
  • Yes, I said that one three times.  You can’t have suspense if the rules of the game are not clear.  Telling the audience that the aliens change in unpredictable ways tells the audience not to anticipate what comes next.  Anticipation is the whole point of suspense.
  • The people tasked with protecting 2000 colonists and 1400 test tube babies are clearly not the best and brightest. They make the usual stupid mistakes, running headlong into danger for no clear purpose.
  • The cast is shown to be stupid and incompetent and unlikable. From the very beginning. The audience is expected to like them because…well, here they are, what else are you going to do?
  • The second in command, forced into the captain’s chair early in the film, doesn’t have the leadership fit to lead the local McDonald’s franchise, let alone a ship carrying 3400 colonists halfway across creation.
  • The film lacks all romance, despite the frequent first act references to, “muh wife,” and “muh husband”. The closest thing shown is a sudden late-game shower sex scene between two characters who we’ve been given no reason to expect are an item. This literally feels like a case of, “Well, we need a sex scene, and you two are the only ones left alive to serve as monster chow. Get naked and vulnerable, the plot needs you!”
  • Hiding the ‘sudden reveal’ of which robo-twin survived the fight with all the subtlety of a knife to the eye.

These glaring missteps are first order mistakes. Digging deeper, one finds a more structural flaw. Even if one fixed the above items – made the aliens more consistent and the cast more likeable and smarter – the huge disconnect between the film’s desire for cheap thrills delivered in the middle of a cerebral commentary on what it means to be human cannot be resolved.

It can be done. Nolan has some success splitting that baby. The Joker uses the Prisoner’s Dilemma to deliver heart wrenching suspense. Interstellar plays with the effects of time-dilation on relationships while bringing some gut wrenching actions. Heck, the original Total Recall gives viewers a stupid action film set on a Mars where people aren’t smart enough to plant a few trees in their habs while simultaneously asking profound questions about how large a role our memories play in making us who we are.

Alien: Covenant wants to ask those high-minded questions. It sets them up in the initial scene between a deranged genius billionaire and his genocidal Pinocchio creation. The Fassbender twins have repeated conversations about creativity versus duty, (nevermind that those two things are hardly mutually exclusive,) that go nowhere and serve no purpose. Then the movie throws its hands up and gives us a couple of fun action sequences, the latter of which is completely negated by the underlying questions about why the clearly evil robot is helping the last two survivors kill the xenomorph – questions that the film never answers.

The biggest disappointment of all though? If you’re going to have a robot that wants to kill all humans, you should really just cast Bender and have done with it. David lacks Bender’s charm, charisma, and shiny metal ass, three things that all would vastly improved this terrible film.

Extant!

EXTANT! publishing announced its intentions back in June:

More than ever, there’s space in the market for new ideas and new voices – and that means there need to be plenty of dynamic new venues where the emerging writers can experiment and polish their craft. Where better than in the modern, digital equivalent of the pulps.

That’s what I want to do with EXTANT! Here I plan to publish the most amazing fiction I can, both old and new. I’ll be going back to basics, looking for exciting, energy rich stories to put in front of readers. And there are so many new authors popping up today that I’m sure the hardest part of my side of the job will be choosing them.

Springtime for fantasy and sci-fi readers continues to bloom, and one more flower is ready to open it’s petals and reveal…thrilling twenty-first century tales.  The author list includes writers whose work has already made me a fan such as Alexandru Konstantin, Misha Burnett, Schuyler Hernstrom, and Rawle Nyanzi , and a list of familiar names that I’m excited to see what they can do – like Nathan Dabney, Tomas Diaz, and Dan Wolfgang.  But this collection is just the start.

Last week, EXTANT! officially announced it’s first project, “a collection of stories that aim for the passion and drive of Radium Age action and adventure, but drag that energy into the modern age.” I’m happy to say that one of my own stories will feature in this collection, but I’m even happier to say that EXTANT! has plans for even more collections. Check out this line-up:

•Weird New World: Secret histories of the Americas (in planning)
•Karakuri: Action and adventure…with robots! (in planning)
•In Nomine: Dark forces – and the faithful who face them (in planning)
•After Us: Tales of adventure from a world after human civilization (in planning)
•Fair is Foul, Foul is Fair: The parallel world of the fae (in planning)

If that series of collections doesn’t get your heart pumping for a nice long reading sessions, you’re reading the wrong blog, buster.

The man behind EXTANT!, Kevyn Winkless, knows his stuff. When it comes to walking encyclopedias of knowledge about the original pulps, he ranks as one of my personal Big Three. (For the record, Cirsova and The Pulp Archivist are the other two members of the triumvirate. If none of those three have the answer to your burning pulp question, then it probably wasn’t a question worth asking.) Not only that, but his steady demeanor and solid analysis have talked me down from more than one clock tower of literary ranting.

Kevyn and I might never see eye to eye on Donald Wollheim*. But who cares? Kevyn has a keen eye for the written word and a excellent taste in fiction, and I trust Kevyn to serve as a phenomenal steward for this latest branch of the resurgent tree of pulp.  It’s an exciting time to be a reader, thanks to men like Kevyn.

* Don's later career notwithstanding, I find it hard to have much faith in a man who so fully embraced the Communist plots of the 1940s and 50s. Particularly given the predilection of those types for infiltrating society like termites to subtly undermine its foundations.