Category: signal boost

Why PulpRev?

Late in the most recent episode of Geek Gab, the inestimable host asks (relative) newcomer to the PulpRev a very interesting question: Why Pulp Revolution?  Her answer  (at 35:00) is very telling:

“The enthusiasm.”

It was great to hear that question asked of Dominika.  Her first novella, I, The One, is an outstanding work of creativity and literary craft.  It reminded me of a number of the Hugo nominated works, but done right.  (By which I mean without all the navel gazing and axe grinding.)  Ever since reading her novella, I have wondered why Dominika – or anyone for that matter – would choose to associate with the misfit and unabashed gutter style prosesmiths of the PulpRev.

Just a few short minutes later, while wallowing in the mire of Twitter, a post crossed my feed in which a writer dropped a jokey little bon motte about why she had an hour to write and chose not to.  Those jokes are like weeds among most writer’s groups, and they are a big reason that I could never stomach the few writer forums that I visited in my ‘pre-writer’ years.  For some bizarre reason, most writers think making excuses is cute and clever rather than self-defeating and off-putting.

The guys that you follow in the PulpRev don’t do it.  I can’t think of a single example of a PulpRev writer treating not-writing lightly.  In those rare instances where they discuss a reduced out-put they treat the situation very matter-of-factly.  They admit to an issue that keeps them away from the keyboard, but focus on how to overcome that issue, or they focus on how long before they can put it behind them and get back to cranking out words.

You can call it enthusiasm.  I call it mindset.  The PulpRev crowd has a very output focused mindset.

They don’t dwell on process – except as it relates to output.  They don’t dwell on problems – except as it relates to finding solutions.  They don’t dwell on being unmotivated – except as  means to find motivation and get back to grinding out those words.

It’s different.  It’s refreshing.  It’s inspirational.

And it’s why I’m part of the PulpRev.

The Tide Rises

Good news for all of those prognosticators who predicted a resurgence in short fiction.  It’s not just you and your closest internet neighbors who believe it.  Check out this message from the world of tabletop RPGs.  Goodman Games, the cats behind the long running Dungeon Crawl Classics line of adventures and near-D&D titles, is throwing their own hat into the ring with Tales From the Magician’s Skull:

Hear this, mortal dogs. You hold in your hands a magazine the likes of which has not been seen for many suns. Once there were magicians whose weird tales could change the wormy earth. They infiltrated your waking world, bringing wonder and glory and imagination. Fantastic visions you dogs could barely grasp. But mortals they were, all of them. They’re dust now. With their passing a Thing was gone, a Secret passed. Well, no more. Magicians of the word, the weird tale-tellers: they may be gone, but their vision lives on. I am the skull and soul of one such word-wizard, and I’ll bring you Secrets that haven’t walked the earth in this century. Stories they’ll be, stories that make you bolt up and hunger for adventure. You’ll remember what glory could be, you’ll realize how you worms have lost sight of the sun. I am the Magician’s Skull. Which magician? Perhaps Howard or Lovecraft, Burroughs or Derleth, Dunsany or Leiber. Maybe Merritt or St. Clair or Vance or Brackett or Wellman or Weinbaum, or Clark Ashton Smith or even grand Gygax himself. All the word-wizards wove wonder, and it matters not whose bones I rot with today. All you need to know is: I bring tales of great fantasy and wondrous adventure. Get ready, mortal dogs. Enjoy this first issue. Enjoy the adventure!

There’s more than one way to skin an Appendix N rabbit, and I’m looking forward to seeing how the Goodman Games guys go about recapturing the fun and excitement of those old pulps.



Adventure Constant: Exuberant Adventure

Somebody gets it:

The explanation of the title of this exuberant adventure comes about three-fourths of the way into the book, and is so original and droll—well, and so outlandish—that when I came to it I laughed out loud. By that point, our hero, Jack Dashing, has been in, oh, a half-dozen fights, several chases, a couple rescues, and put a roomful of pompous asses in their place…always acquitting himself honorably and well.

Thus begins Justin Tarquin’s review of my latest novel, Adventure Constant.  It’s no surprise Justin enjoyed this book – he’s one of the people for whom I wrote it.  Perhaps not specifically by name, but definitely by association.  Justin has been an active part of the #PulpRev bad kids table for a long time and clearly knows his pulp style fun.  As one of the dozens of likeminded readers and writers, his insights into fiction have played a role in my approach to the same.  His approval carries a lot of weight in my book.  It means that my work succeeded in all the right ways.

That opening line in particular warms the cockles of my Conan-loving heart and reminds me of the hardest part about being a writer – the suspense.  Adventure Constant is jam packed with all sorts of hidden treasures and surprises for those paying attention, and every time one came to me I wanted to jump on social media and tell everyone about it.  As with the central conceit of the book, that would ruin part of the fun for paying customers, so I’ve stayed mum about them.   But since Justin mentions it first, here’s another of my favorite parts of this particular book:

But this book is more about action and adventure and the panoramic setting of Mollison’s parallel Earth: a globe divided into the Red Collective, the Shogunate of the Red Dawn, the Machine Empire of Europe, the Allied States, the Hashishim Moonies, and undoubtedly more not yet mentioned (hopefully there will be sequels). The world’s history resembles our own just enough to be vaguely familiar, but as if it had been conceived by a Martian counterpart of Edgar Rice Burroughs creating a setting for tales of exotic derring-do on the Blue Planet.

That’s a great way to put it – and not just because he compares me to a Martian counterpart to the greatest science-fiction author in history.  The reason the world of Jack Dashing works the way it does is tied directly to the first quoted paragraph, and it will make you laugh out loud, too.

But you’ll have to read the book to find out why.  For those who already know, rest assured that Jack Dashing’s adventures have only just begun…

Dragon Awards – The Allied Vote

It’s award time for fans of fantasy and science fiction, and that can mean only one thing – DragonCon ballots are up and ready for completion.  The red fiery trophy is the new hotness that all the cool kids want to win, and my on-line social circle has a heavy presence on the ballot.  Fortunately, Kai Wai Cheah already put together a handy primer and list of this year’s best of the best, so I don’t have to. Go read his blog post for a complete breakdown.

Best Science Fiction Novel: The Secret Kings by Brian Niemeier
Best Fantasy Novel (Including Paranormal): A Sea of Skulls by Vox Day
Best Young Adult / Middle Grade Novel: Swan Knight’s Son by John C Wright
Best Military Science Fiction or Fantasy Novel: Rescue Run by Jon Del Arroz
Best Alternate History Novel: No Gods, Only Daimons by Kai Wai Cheah
Best Apocalyptic Novel: Codename: Unsub by Declan Finn and Allan Yoskowitz
Best Horror Novel: Live and Let Bite by Declan Finn

Dangerous Gamers – The Book

From day one The Frisky Pagan has been a reliable source of passionate, well considered, and funny commentary over at the Puppy of the Month Book Club.  Lately, his production has fallen off a bit (he’s not alone in that), and now we finally get a chance to see why: Dangerous Gamers

You already know who these commentators are, and you have seen their works everywhere. They thrive in the worlds of on-line journalism, blogging, news aggregators, click-bait journalism, and social media. Their ranks have swollen, and they have problematized everything under the sun. And without more worlds to conquer, they have set their eyes on entertainment and video games.

If you are a regular at The Puppy of the Month, you know that Frisky has the writing chops to do a topic like this justice.  In its first day of publication it hit #16 in “Media Studies” and #27 in “Video Games”, beating out some pretty impressive titles.  Be a sport and help him crack the top ten in both categories, would ya?

Comics Exposure

Comic book fandom is one of those things that I’ve accreted through sheer osmosis.  Love the concept, love the culture, but never had the time, never had the money, but always had friends with both.  Whether it was reading an issue or two left on a couch or thrust into my hands at a friend’s house, or catching up on trade paperbacks at the library (read: five years late), or just sitting back and listening to fans talk about the things, I’ve managed to keep up with all of the most important story lines.  Dark Phoenix Saga, Secret Wars, Supes punching reality in the face and rebooting the DC line, you’re talking to a guy who can at least ask intelligent questions about what’s up with the four color tales.

Now it’s the internet’s favorite complaints box, Twitter, that keeps me up on the latest dirt.  Or so I thought, until somebody passed me a link to “Diversity and Comics”.  It’s not what you think.  It’s actually a series of thoughtful and intelligent reviews of comics by a guy interesting and funny enough to be sitting next to you at the gaming table.  Just check out the title on this bad boy:

Not only is the narrator an experienced and thoughtful reviewer of comic books as a specific medium, he has phenomenal insight into storytelling, heroism, action, and the all the rest of the #PulpRevolution’s greatest hits.

Forget Game of Thrones, I’ll be binge watching this for the next few days.

Watch Out!

I’ve made no secret about my hopes to read more works by the Old Reliables out there in the #PulpRevolution blog-o-sphere.  Well, Jesse Abraham Lucas isn’t content to sit around waiting.  Jesse is putting together an anthology:

Back in the day a group of SF greats, Poul Anderson, Frank Herbert, Gordon Dickson, Harlan Ellison and Keith Laumer, each wrote a short story based on the same prologue. Apparently (I haven’t read them, I’m going off the cover above just like you are) NO TWO ARE EVEN REMOTELY ALIKE. These authors had radically different styles, beliefs, and backgrounds, making it in theory an excellent idea, and the first thing I thought when I found out about it a day or two ago was, “I want to do that.” So I did.

I’m not calling for submissions, I’m hand-picking our contributors, so if your name is on the list I’ll publish your story, but I’ll touch base with you on structure and clean up grammar and all that (of course I’m going to edit and contribute, I can’t let this valuable exposure go by).

I’m so interested in seeing what comes out of this that I volunteered to beta-read whatever shakes out of his call.  It may be a few months before this title hits the market, but this also isn’t the only example of this sort of organic content farming in the works.  You’re going to see a lot of newcomers showing up in the market, and while their first forays might be a little rough around the edges, they’ll get better.  Better yet, every one of these represents a literary cultural shift in the right direction, so I’m full-square behind them.

The Brighter Side of Indy Sci-Fi

Now is the best time to get into independently published science fiction.  Ignore what the marketing people have to say about it.  They deal only in raw, current numbers.  They look for today’s hotness and promise immediate returns, but you’re not interested in tomorrow, you’re looking at the long haul.  It’s easy to say that about you, even not knowing your name, because you’re into science-fiction, which by its nature is a long-view genre.

So let’s get our heads on straight here and think about the long view.  For starters, let’s get the starting point right.  It’s not here:

Segregating fantasy and sci-fi is loser thinking.

It’s here:

Winners ignore the distinction.

It’s the second most popular genre out there after romance. 

Looking into our psychohistory equations or our crystal-ball (they’re the same thing, really), the near future might look bleak.  Nathan “Chicken Little” Housley has a full post where he does his Hari Seldon thing:

A survey of modern science fiction shows a repeated pattern of extinction events. In the 1950s, the pulps died. At the end of the Crazy Years of the 1970s, magazines died as the primary medium of science fiction and backlists died. The 1990s and early 2000s killed off the midlist writer. And, as the same old song plays of magazine sales drying up, rumors of publisher woes, and publisher wisdom telling authors that science fiction cannot sell, we stand on the verge of the next great crash for the genre. That this crash is happening in the 2020s and not in the 2010s is due to the 1990s’ publish woes lasting into the 2000s, pushing back the date of the upcoming crash.

But he misses one critical factor in his analysis.  These extinction level events kill off the old dinosaurs, but open the way for new critters to rise up.  The big publishers, hide-bound, slow, and perfectly adapted to 20th century tech are going to suffer, but the mammalian independents, quick, nimble, and adapted to 21st century tech are going to thrive.  That’s why you should get in now, while the getting is good.  Every year you wait to start, you’re ceding readers to the competition.  You’re letting other mammals fill in those ecological niches.

And one of the best niches in the future will be science-fiction.  The marketers tell you to play the numbers.  Romance, mystery, thriller – that’s where the big numbers are.   That’s true, but that’s also where the swarms of writers are.  You’ve got to fight your way through a bigger crowd to get traction.

More to the point, fighting for what’s big now, is thinking like a dinosaur.  Look at the trends.  Readers of mystery and thrillers are still well served by Bigfiveasaurus, and so aren’t leaving the big five in droves the way they are sci-fi.  Look again at those bar graphs – the sci-fi field, though smaller than mystery and thrillers, has a bigger independent section.  That tells us Bigfiveasaurus isn’t meeting the needs of the reader, and so they are going elsewhere.  For years, many of them went nowhere.  They just left.

With the advent of self-publishing, they are coming back into the fold.  They are finding the sorts of stories they want to read.  They are finding that self-publishers are doing the jobs the Big Five won’t.  Again, we look to Nate for the future of the market:

Embrace the fantastic and the exotic. Embrace adventure. These are the key to sales in science fiction, and the shelter from the upcoming storm, just as they brought science fiction out of its previous crashes. Don’t make the same mistake that drove hundreds of writers out of the field. Avoid realism.

So don’t be afraid to ignore the experts.  You’re not interested in today, you’re interested in tomorrow and a thousand more after that.  Embrace your sci-fi mindset and look to the future.

You won’t regret it.

You also won’t regret reading Sudden Rescue.  It’s what the future of science fiction is going to look like.

We Are All Gatekeepers Now

We’re still beating up on Laurie Gough and her contention that bypassing the gatekeepers who live east of the Hudson River hurts written words.

No caption necessary.

When I pointed out that we’re all gatekeepers now, Jeff Duntemann (author of the excellent Ten Gentle Opportunities) responded by pointing out:

@NotJonMollison As readers, we’ve always been. The difference is that we now have to be systematic (and unrelenting) about it.

— Jeff Duntemann(@JeffDuntemann) January 1, 2017

He’s absolutely right.  Word of mouth has always been a cherished aspect of marketing, and bad word of mouth can easily overcome even the most sophisticated advertising campaign.  Look no further than the recent Ghostbusters debacle which resulted in a very different kind of hysterical response than the original.

For the record, my gatekeepers are legion, and I’m always on the lookout for more of them.  If you love a particular style of work, and if you want to see more of it produced, then you should become a gatekeeper, too.  You’re a fan, after all, and one of the things that fans do is talk about the things they love.  The more you talk about the things you enjoy, the more people will find those things, and the more incentive people will have to make more of it.

The dirty little secret about increasing your influence as a gatekeeper is that it’s really easy to do.  it just takes a little time and dedication.  All you have to do is start showing up in a few blog comments, find the blogger’s Twitter feed, and join in the discussions.  You don’t need to build a full blown blog or start up your own literary criticism magazine.  Just join in the discussion, and you to can help keep the gates open for the style of works you love.

Here’s a quick list of the guys who make for a good starting point (in no particular order):

It’s a rolling conversation that spans dozens of links, threads, and blogs, and it’s a blast.  If you join in, you’ll start seeing familiar faces and before you know it, you’ll find your very own team of gatekeepers blowing open doors to works that you probably would have missed out on if you relied on the recommendations of snooty New York literati types.

Even better, they’ll all have you to act as a gatekeeper to help them find the same.

Find Your Own Gatekeeper

Look at this thing from HuffPo:

It would be easy to go after the low-hanging fruit here.  This woman you’ve never heard of has written three memoirs.  Three.  Because her life is just that interesting.  She is a “journalist”. Because writing a blog on HuffPo counts.  The obvious self-contradiction of a blogger sneering at self-publishing.
Instead of dwelling on these things, let’s look at a far more mature and thorough takedown by Richard Alan Chandler.  He doesn’t go for the easy insults to an obviously flawed piece, he cuts to the heart of the matter by focusing on how her wrong-headedness about gatekeepers amounts to her lament that things are better for readers today:

No, my point is that she is wrong about the lack of gatekeepers. There are actually more gatekeepers now than there are editors and publishers and agents in the entire publishing industry.

I’m talking about you, the reader – both individually and collectively. Individually, because you now have a vastly broader range of works to choose from. And collectively, through your actions on a site like Amazon. When you and all the other readers go to Amazon, you are informing each other about what is good or bad by what you buy, or not, as reflected by the Amazon ranking (conveniently divided by subgenre), and what else is good through the “Also Bought” mechanism. And individually, again, through your star ratings and reviews. Your actions are both informed by those who have gone before you, and they guide those who come after you.

To which I would add that the changing nature of gatekeepers puts the burden on the reader of choosing his own gatekeepers.  And that the process of finding, following, and supporting your chosen gatekeeper crew need not be an onerous one.  You already enjoy reading, and most of the gatekeepers out there are communication via the written word.  So if you dedicate just a few moments of your day’s reading to the social media output of even just a handful of trusted individuals, you’ll be able to find works that target your interests like a laser beam.