Energizing Inspiration

Say what you will about Sci-Fi’s favorite punching bag and his recent lament that the election of the God Emperor to the Cherry Blossom Throne has left him incapable of stringing enough words together in any given day to honor his contract, at least the man admits to his own failings.  And I know exactly how he feels – just on the other side of the equation.  Whatever (heh) his goal, I’m here to tell you it has been a source of inspiration for this deplorable writer.

The constant string of successful ventures and growing army of content producers on the side of truth, justice, and the American way provides real sustenance and inspiration to those of us who enjoy laboring in the trenches.  Watching guys like Jon del Arroz and Brian Niemeier and Nick Cole and so many others hit great selling home run after home run serves as a constant reminder that a vastly underserved market exists and that the self-proclaimed arbiters of quality and decency are paper tigers.

Far from being tired of all of the winning, I’m energized by it.  In the last week I’ve spun more than 15,000 words of dimension hopping fun.  I’m on pace to publish more than 250,000 words this years – far short of even Pulp Speed One, but for a family man regularly working 60+ hours a week at his day job, that’s an incredible pace.  My next book, a sequel to the highly praised Adventure Constant, presents a grim world where heroism and virtue punished by the very laws of the universe, and the natural result of that is a world where the antifa types have the run of the place.  The hero of the piece, Jack Dashing, might not be enough to save the world from the petty opportunists, but he finds a way to make the strange new world a better place.  He finds a way to push the prevailing culture a little more towards one of honor and dignity.

And in that, he serves as an inspiration to us all – if you can’t win the war, at least you can help win one of the battles.  If you haven’t yet, here are a few of the ongoing battles that could use your efforts:

  • Back the Alt*Hero comic book line by Castalia House.  Even a couple of bucks adds numbers to the “Backers” count and strengthens the argument that an audience for such works exists.
  • Subscribe to YouTube cultural critics such as Diversity and Comics, Capn Cummings, and Nerkish. You don’t have to watch every video.  Just lending your name helps demonstrate the something rotten in the Kingdom of Marvel.
  • Reject the big boys in the tabletop RPG industry and support independent designers like Autarch of Adventurer Conqueror King fame.  Impervious to rot that pervades the larger corporate designers, their works have all the quality of his larger competitors and twice the energy.
  • Back the small press short fiction market.  Cirsova, Storyhack, and Tales from the Magician’s Skull all offer the same excitement and adventure as the staid old relics of a by gone era, without the downside of sending your money to people who hate you.
  • Stop watching the NFL.  Scale back your movie-going.  Cancel Netflix*.  You don’t have to quit cold turkey.  You can’t kill that giant, but you can make it bleed.  Just think hard about every dollar you send to the people who supported Harvey Weinstein.  If everyone cut their spending on Hollywood by half, it would crash within six months.

And you don’t have to do it all right this instant.  I can’t cancel Netflix until after Stranger Things is binge-consumed by my family.  I fully admit that I would face a full scale revolt on the home front if the family misses out on that one.  I’m not backing the Magician’s Skull KickStarter because KickStarter hates my political allies, but I’ll be there when it is released.  Knowing how to pick battles you can win is a big part of the culture war, too!

Just shift your mindset.  Change your focus.  Support your friends and turn your back on your enemies.  Just as with adopting a more healthy lifestyle, small changes made over time can add up to a huge difference.

Sunday Mornings At the Secular Church

Every once in a while, just to keep my lie detector sharp, I like to tune into NPR for a little while.  It’s a great way to stay dialed in to the latest iteration of whether we are at war with Eurasia or Oceania.  Based on a few snippets of Fresh Air, for example, it looks like they are slowly coming around to admitting that the Soviets deliberately starved 30 million Ukrainians to death, but they can only talk about it now because the Soviets were really just a training run for the alt-right.  No it doesn’t make any sense, but these are the gutter channels along which the Narrative runs.

Nothing is more entertaining or enlightening than the dumpster fire of NPR’s Sunday morning line up.  It’s a consistent run of very breathy voiced women incredibly excited because they, in their waning years of childlessness, have found ways to nourish their starving souls – souls that have been starving ever since they turned away from the obvious soul food of Christianity.  Long ago they abandoned the weekly visit to the local church (or let us be honest here, more likely) the synagogue, and have suffered for it.  Their lives lack that hour or so a week of quiet contemplation and the long view of our eternal existence.  They rejected the peace and serenity that grows in the hearts of those who accept God’s word.  As a result, they spent decades pursuing short term pleasure and fighting for secular and selfish causes, and wound up with an empty and pointless old age.

Never fear, though, like all good cults, the secular religion has an answer.  You can do all of the things that Christians do, without all of the baggage of Christianity.  You can meditate on nothing, you can serve nothing, you can be mindful of yourself, and you can listen to a bevy of secular gurus for advice on how to accept yourself.  New age crystals, thoughtful stretching, travel packages, volunteering at the Organization for the Advancement of the Current Year Cause Celebre and other such pursuits* are proposed to replace the tried and tested 2,000 year old practices of Christianity.  This empty spirituality, they assure the listener, will lead them to the sort of peaceful acceptance of the slings and arrows of life that come naturally to those who practice their religious beliefs – and without having to follow all those nasty rules that arise out of the Ten Commandments.

Left unsaid is the need to adhere to the millions of every-evolving rules of the cultural left.  Perhaps they do not notice all of those rules any more than fish notice the water in the sea.  The left swims in the countless cultural rules about what words are verboten this week, which protected groups rest where on the totem pole of victimhood, and which sacred prophets are on the ins and which on the outs.

Unlike the usual NPR show which leaves the honest and perceptive listener with a itchy feeling of aggravation at the lies and stupidity on display, Sunday morning NPR only leaves the listener with a sad feeling of pity.  It’s like watching a man in a desert chase after a mirage.  Or like natives in the jungle building bamboo runways and control towers in the vain hopes that mimicking the surficial actions of those they disdain will somehow earn them the same eternal rewards.  It would be downright depressing if those peddling and buying the hollow lies of “spirituality not religiosity” weren’t so deserving of the self-inflicted pain of their lives.

*Mindfulness seems to be the latest trend – still waiting for the Johnny-Come-Latelies to invite Cernovich on one of these shows to discuss his nearly year old book, Gorilla Mindset.  Not holding my breath, though…

 

The Problem With Diversity and Comics

He’s too big, and he gives a voice to too many truly marginalized comics fans.

The SJW entryists who manage and create comics live in a fantasy land where they’ve redefined “comic book fan” to exclude those who have read comics for thirty years and have money to burn on a dozen titles a month in favor of cosplayers who buy one issue a month for reference material.  The market responded accordingly, and the sales figures took a nose-dive.  Fortunately, their fellow SJW travelers in the mainstream media  were there (as always) to provide covering fire for them.  They pumped out the expected fake news that hand waved away the stark drop in sales as an artifact of…technological changes?  I guess?

Never mind that technology has been changing for the entire 75 year run of comic books.  Comics simply can no longer compete with the 60 year old television and 20 year old internet in 2017 not because of quality issues, but purely because of the rapid changes in technology, the click-bait crowd explained.  People were naturally drifting away from comic books and there’s nothing Marvel or DC or the smaller outfits could have done to staunch that bleeding.

And then came D&C.

A soft-spoken man with a nearly encyclopedic knowledge, not just of comic book lore but of the inside workings of the leading publishers as well.  He brought to his reviews a steady wit and incisive commentary that walked a steady line of political moderation.  As a result, he gathered a huge following of viewers, fellow comic book fans, who finally found a way to communicate their frustration with the market.

There was room in comics for a SJWs and for few guys with blogs or a few YouTube accounts with a couple thousand subscribers.  They could be easily and safely ignored.  Painted as radicals and zealots and old curmudgeons who don’t speak for Real Fans like the converged clickbait farms at Bleeding Cool.

There is no room in comics for SJWs and for a blogger larger enough to pierce their bubbles.  There is no room in comics for SJWs and those who force them to confront the affects of placing the SJW narrative ahead of stories, drama, action, and characterization.  There is no room in comics for SJWs and for normal people who favor heroism and nuance in their comic books.  He exposes them for the frauds they are.

And for that, he must be destroyed.

Space Princess

Space Princess: Available for pre-order now!

Those Sunday night projects always take longer than you think.  A simple clogged drain turns into the adventure of a lifetime when a regular dad from the suburbs stumbles across three cold and hungry homeless children late one Sunday night.  The youngest, a baby they nickname Angel, turns out to be the last surviving heir to the throne that stands between galactic Christendom and the genocidal inter-stellar cult known as the Slaves of the Mad God.

But delivering the princess to safety proves to be only half of the project.  The star systems protected for centuries by Angel’s fallen father have grown complacent and no longer fear the Slaves of the Mad God.  So it’s up to a regular Joe from Holy Terra to find a way to unite the fractious systems of Christendom in time to resist the genocidal cult’s impending attack.  And he has to do it all while keeping his family, and the space princess herself, safe from the agents and assassins of the Slaves of the Mad God!

This space opera tale features fast action, a dry wit, and the virtuous heroism you’ve come to expect from my writing.  The book  drops on October 8, so order today and get your copy just in time for a light Sunday read!

Interview This Friday

Tomorrow yours truly will appear on the Speculative Fiction Cantina.  As they explain on their website, they celebrate, “creative expression and caters to a diverse range of tastes. Whatever your interests, you’ll find them showcased here along with a line-up of engaging hosts and renowned experts in various fields.”

Electing to interview one of the loose cannons from the Pulp Revolution is a bold choice for this outfit.  No doubt they have experienced love of fiction written before the dawn of the SJWs, but have they ever talked to a fan who loved the pulps with no trace of irony?  Have they interviewed one who feels no need to write pulps, “but with a modern take”?

Find out tomorrow when they take the Pulp Speedster* for a test drive!

*That’s me – according to somebody on a blog post somewhere, I’m the PulpRev’s resident speed writer.  I guess writing six books and a half dozen short stories in a year will earn a guy that reputation.

The Dignity of Old School RPGs

Reading about an RPG session from the point of view of the guy running the thing is a new experience for me. Jeffro does a stellar job over at the Castalia House blog with his after-action report of a recent game of Gamma World (First Edition). Usually, yours truly is the guy writing up the gaming reports. Learning that the whole sessions was essentially generated on-the-fly was a surprise. One fight against a wandering monster felt random, but the rest of the session could have been ripped straight from the pages of an over-written TSR module.

Speaking as a DM, I know how hard it is hard to track the passage of time during a game session. No doubt Jeffro felt like he was juggling kittens trying to keep things moving, but as a guy on the other side of the screen, nothing felt rushed to me. Part of that may have been the online nature of the process, but the real issue likely has more to do with the old school feel. The more I engage in OSR play, the more sedate they feel. Modern games feel like action movies – they have a constant hustle and bustle to them. The older games I’ve had the fortune to sit in feel far more like a smoking club – a group of guys sitting around a table discussing the events of the day. The question at hand during this sessions was always one of discussing what certain events mean, and how we as a group formulate a response. Which is a welcome change to the constantly shifting spotlight of more modern games.

The more modern games that I’ve played in over the last nearly two decades have all been predicated on a “what about me” paradigm. The sessions are carved up into rapidly shifting spotlights where I go, then you go, then he goes, and everyone either frowned on the sort of tabletalk that dominated our Gamma World session or everything ground to a halt as we found ourselves in increasingly untenable combat situations that required input from everyone before any figure moved even five feet.

For most players – and myself as well – there is something visceral about the tactile nature of the game. The dice and papers and reference books and other accoutrements are as much a part of modern gaming as the imagined actions. Removing all of that to cut to the heart of the game worked great in an online Google hangout. I’m not sure the “DM rolls all dice” would work in a table setting, but I loved it here. It opened things up in a way that just plain worked. As a result, what I thought would be a one time lark, quickly forgotten, keeps drifting through my thoughts at odd hours.

It’s easy to see why the OSR took off. It’s a very cerebral way to play a game that was already more cerebral than most.

The Good Kind of Conan Pastiche

Last November, on a whim, I picked up what I thought would be a fun walk down Conan Memory Lane, but that turned out to be a disappointing stroll down I Must Have Missed Something Boulevard.  After a few months and a few memory nudges courtesy of a lot of people on the internet, I realized my error.  My nostalgia was the result of some crossed wires.  I bought issues of Marvel’s subpar King Conan from 1983s instead of the superior Savage Sword of Conan from 1975.  (There’s that 1980 dividing line again.)

October 1975, pulled from the internet because my copy lacked a cover

The local comic shop has a box of old issues going for anywhere from one to five bucks, and I picked a coverless dollar issue.  I didn’t want to get burned again.  I didn’t get burned, I got a warm glow thumbing through this black and white comic that is almost as old as me.  It even smells like my childhood.

In addition to three Conan stories, we get two ‘historical’ treatises.  These are sort of non-fiction works about Hyboria, one dealing with the gods and one dealing with the rise of Hyboria itself.  These are nice little background documents that help bring the setting to life.  There’s also one non-Conan sword and sorcery tale about a barbarian less clever than Conan being led into the mouth of danger by a bewitching young thing who has a devil of time keeping her clothes on.  It’s told with a slight tongue in cheek attitude and features the safe sort of titillation that pushes the boundaries while maintaining a solid PG feel that Marvel used to excel at, long long ago.

The splash pages make a big splash, even when they feature nothing more than a static building and a passing Stygian ship.  Tell me that illustration isn’t begging to be dropped into your next D&D campaign.  I know the Appendix N books get all the love, but exposure to this sort of multi-media illustration of the world of Hyboria reaps exponential rewards for creative types to steal from for their own purposes.

Temple of Set in Khemi, from a retelling of Conan the Conquerer Art by Gil Kane and Yong Montano, Script by Roy Young

Jess Jodloman provides amazing series of full page illustrations in this illustrated version of The Death Song of Conan the Cimmerian, which was written by none other than Lin Carter.  His narratives always felt like pale imitations of the real Howardian deal to me, but this poem combined with Jodloman’s illustrations brings the heat.

Yeah, these are pastiches, but they hew closer to the Howardian ideal than most of Howard’s torchbearers, including the modern comic iterations.  And the art is fantastic!  Look at this epic scene of Conan leading steppe warriors into battle:

So the death of Conan is left as an allegory, but look at the barbarian raging against death, fighting even unto the last.  That’s good stuff.

I gotta get back to that store and pick up a few more of these.

Torchship: Pilot

Karl Gallagher’s Torchship was a fine novel, but it took some getting used to.  Gallagher used the slow immersion technique to explain how his intricate universe works, only gradually revealing all of the factions at play and how they interact.  Add to that the hard-as-nails setting for the tech, and a lot of what happens in the first half of the book only made sense to me retroactively.  Things happen, and in many cases, the explanation comes later.

Which isn’t a complaint in my book.  It’s a writing choice that requires a lot of faith in the author – and thanks to a solid recommendation by Jeffro, I had faith in Gallagher, and it paid off in the end.  I enjoyed the first one enough that I gave Gallagher an ad for the sequel in one of my own books.  (A favor he was kind enough to repay with an ad for my own Five Dragons in the back of Torchship: Pilot.)

With a full novel under the reader’s belt, the sequel makes for a much more straightforward novel.  The three-way conflict between the rogue AIs who genocided human life on Earth, the more anarchist-leaning analog tech Disconnected Worlds (the Diskers), and the totalitarian computer worlds of the Fusion puts the titular character, one Michigan “Mitchie” Long, bouncing back and forth among them.  A native Disker, Mitchie burns for vengeance against the Fusion, and isn’t above using the AI’s against them, but even she recognizes that humanity’s only chance of survival lies in uniting to combat the AI threat.

Where the first novel followed the journey of the freighter ship Fives Full through a series of adventures that all led up to a big confrontation first with the AI, then with the Fusion, this novel feels more like one giant arc.  With the secret of Mitchie’s real job revealed, the action can focus on how she serves the Diskers as the pilot of a tramp freighter whose most valuable cargo is the secrets Mitchie carries around the galaxy.  She is, as one character puts it, “nasty, brutish, and short”, an agent for the Diskers who always seems to survive as she continues to push her luck, but rarely comes out unscathed.

Although she may suffer from a bad case of Plot Immunity, Mitchie makes for a great central character.  She is slight of stature and frame, and so rarely ever wins direct physical confrontations.  Instead, she relies on a quick wit and a savage ferocity and a few key allies to see her through physical danger.  Although her ruthlessness at times crosses over the line and makes her an offputting character, this is mitigated by the high stakes involved and Mitchie usually redeems herself with rare moments of regret and guilt.

It’s also safe to say that Torchship: Pilot doesn’t suffer from the Second Act Doldrums.  In many trilogies, the second book feels like an exercise in setting up pieces and jockeying for position and just marking time until the real action can start back up again in the third act.  That does not happen here.  The action ramps up, every faction makes considerable progress toward their goals, and the ending of the book – although a bit abrupt – would make for a suitable place to stop reading…if you can resist finding out what really happened on Earth the day the AI’s betrayed humanity.

 

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).