Man, I love the title on this one. The Dreaming Wounds. Get inside your Thrilling Wonder Astounding Weirdness place like you would for a late night D&D session and you could really go places with this!

No really, it evokes a crazy mashup of Lovecraft’s dreamlands and Moorcock’s Elric. See, there’s this ancient relic. Your character can stab himself with it to make this awful mouth on his body. (Permanent loss of hit points!) The mouth starts babbling hints about where the spirit world bumps up against the prime material plane. (Adventure! Death! Treasure!) If you listen closely, you can pick out bits and pieces of forgotten lore that can cut costs spell research and magic in half. This comes with a price: on a failed saving throw against petrification, the mage permanently loses a point of wisdom. You can imagine a high level mage opening up several wounds in his lust for power… and then binding them closed in order to shut them up. But then… he wakes up in the middle of the night sometimes and they’re all free, babbling their dream talk. He fails another saving throw and his descent into insanity quickens apace!

But since around 1980 or so, this is not what fantasy is. It’s not how it’s done. I know it because I had a hunger for the weird, the uncanny, the horrific and I just could not find it. But the old EC comics were long gone when I was a kid and the closest thing I could find was– I kid you not– Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Other Strangeness from Palladium games. That’s how bad it was. (Not that TMNTaOS was bad… it’s just no where near as weird as Weird Tales.)

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Image result for what madness is thisSo Daddy Warpig is busy attempting to shake the pillars of heaven. But come on, guys. Let’s be honest here. Lots of comments are coming through disagreeing, but Daddy Warpig is still talking to a mostly friendly audience. The Castalia Blog is the heart of the pulp revolution; even as many people object, more agree. This is because the environment is already receptive to those ideas.

This gets to the meat of the issue: what is and isn’t politically correct? If I say “Donald Trump has been doing great!” this is essentially a politically incorrect opinion in the public square; it is not a politically incorrect opinion on Vox Day’s blog. You’re preaching to the choir.

Similarly, if I say “The pulp works are superior to later works of science fiction and fantasy!” this is a politically incorrect opinion among a large mixed group of sci-fi fans; it is the prevailing wisdom of the Castalia blog at this point.

So I’m going to challenge you guys. I’m going to say something REALLY politically incorrect. Something that will cause an uproar – that will SHAKE THE PILLARS OF HEAVEN, perhaps!

Pulp fiction does not exist. Read More

I recently read an essay by Jeffro Johnson about the term “hard sf” and it prompted me to think through whether or not I agreed with the use of that term. I concluded I don’t.

So I propose that the “hardness/softness” axis be replaced with a pair of axes, “internal consistency” and “level of imagination.”

“Internal consistency” is the extent to which the story follows whatever its universe’s rules are with consistence. Stories with high internal consistency have a “canon” or “story bible” that they adhere to in consistently.

“Level of imagination” (or “Left to the Imagination”) measures how the story presents the rules of the universe. Low level of imagination means that the rules of the universe are spelled out to the reader in concrete detail. High level of imagination means the rules of the universe are left vague in the story (regardless of the extent to which the author has worked them out.)

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The book connoisseur podcasting scene has really blossomed this year. The best thing about it is that you can get the latest information that not even the blogs have managed to nail down yet!

These are great shows. If you have’t given them a shot already, now’s a great time!

The JimFear138 Podcast Ep.45 ft. Daddy Warpig — More on the internecine warfare between Pulp Revolution and Superversives, strategies for growing the scene, why authors need to stop worrying and get paid, why audiences are not “mops”, the mind blowing nature of genre-defying fiction, the nonexistence of Hard SF, the mind blowing nature of Jack Vance’s Planet of Adventure, the awesomeness of A. Merritt’s Creep Shadow, and more! This is everything you already read compulsively delivered by the eminently cogent Warpig and the smooth talking JimFear138. You can’t miss this sprawling two hour epic of a show!

The Catholic Geek: Dragon Award Winner Nick Cole 03/26 — Nick Cole on the cluelessness of Harper Collins, their contempt for Amazon, how his wife closed the deal for Soda Pop Soldier with an unstable editor, how they were “deeply offended”, the “change it or you’re finished” moment, how poorly they performed compared to being an how he could do on Amazon, his first encounter with File770, being blacklisted, how he got connected to Larry “The Devil Incarnate” Correia, his discovery of the angry science fiction crowd, his plans for a sprawling series, Gamma World, Thundarr the Barbarian, non-SJW Star Wars, how the great authors of the next forty years will be judged, following the big time editors on social media, Barnes & Noble selling beer, Amazon’s targeted ads, and more! Don’t miss it!

SHAKE THE PILLARS OF HEAVEN!

It is a great day, a glorious day, a day for Daddy Warpig to once again SHAKE THE PILLARS OF HEAVEN!

Everything you know about “Genre” is wrong.

Okay, maybe not you. You’re an unusually intelligent and attractive individual, who has risen above the petty restrictions which bedevil lesser minds. But those other guys—PHEW!—do they need to be set straight:

“Genre” does not exist.

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Scientology (First Things) Science Friction — “Although some science-fiction writers, such as Isaac Asimov and Jack Williamson, considered it a scam and criticized it as unscientific, others—including John W. Campbell, the editor of Astounding, the most influential science-fiction magazine of its day—seemed convinced of its importance and validity.”

Appendix N (Jon Del Arroz) Retro Review: Tarzan Of The Apes — “Then there’s the introduction in here, by a woman who is a sociology professor or something of the sort. The whole intro is devoted to slandering and talking down regarding Edgar Rice Burroughs — she even does the ridiculous internet argument tactic of tying him to Nazis. Ironic, as he spent most of the war as a correspondent writing about American patriotism, after he survived the Pearl Harbor bombing. It also talks down about pulp fiction and how it ‘differs from’ literary fiction, of which she gives a long list of negatives that are anything but. The introduction is a disaster and a disgrace. Between that and the emotionless cover, it screams to readers ‘DON’T READ THIS BOOK WE ONLY PUBLISHED IT CUZ HISTORY!'”

Furry Watch (Cirsova) Aldair, Across the Misty Sea — “Aldair is a pulp-style post-apocalyptic furry sword & seafarer science fiction. It could be that I jumped in on what turned out to be the third volume of a four volume series, but what left me gobsmacked was the appearance that it was written from a ‘place of furness’.”

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Cover from a dragon themed anthology containing Mansouri’s Tied to the Whim.

An outstanding  conversation with Shawn Mansouri continues the Cirsova author series.  Shawn’s stories appear in Cirsovas #2 (The Water Walks Tonight), #4 (The Phantom Sands of Calavass) and his latest is now out in #5 (Beyond the Great Divide). 

I’d categorize Shawn as a versatile writer who easily moves between horror, fantasy and SciFi. When I asked him about differences in his writing technique when tackling different genres he gave one of the most insightful answers yet.

Shawn has made it easy with this list of his published stories, containing an eclectic mix of genres, including some that can be read for free.

As always, we range far and wide in the topics covered. We discuss horror, the reasons behind its popularity, Stephen King, biology as a career option and more than you want to know about bed bugs. Usually, I ask more questions about a writer’s technique instead I’ve linked to an interview below which contains excellent questions and answers along those lines.

 

 

Scott Cole:  I have just finished Vein Raiders. Safe bet you received inspiration from your job as a biologist but do you mind explaining how you came up with this story?

 

Shawn Mansouri: I did get some inspiration from the lab, The Lawnmower Man (film) and maybe that old 80’s flick Inner Space. I did a lot of work in the field of Immunology during college and always looked at new discoveries with a bit of the dark assassin mindset. I thought ‘what if all these particles were patented and used by large corporations to change the field of medicine? What would an OR look like if surgery was no longer necessary, if the new big guns in medicine were pilots instead of physicians?’ Or course, there’s always the flip side of new discoveries. I’d always been concerned not with the ‘how’ of science, but with the ‘why.’ Should we even be doing this? You see the side effects of new ‘medicines’ in small script, or given to you by some silky smooth narrator in commercial form, and some of them can be downright laughable. I think technology is moving at an exponential growth rate and we haven’t caught up to the question of whether or not it has the potential to be used against us. If nanotechnology can be used to heal, it can also be used to assassinate the president, as we see in Vein Raiders. There’s also an audio version read by the folks at 600 second saga.

It was my first flash piece and the first piece where I veered into the science fiction realm. Of all genres, I’ve read and written science fiction the least. It’s hard to shake the tropes and put something really original out there.

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He spent weeks in the shadows, running from the enemies who had finally caught up with him. He begged his confederates for help, only to be turned away. At last, the pursuers cornered him in the basement of an abandoned building. There was a muzzle flash and a deafening report.

Some time later, he awakes. He is in the same moldering basement. It’s pitch black. He can’t see anything. He stumbles around in the dark, tripping over broken pipes and chunks of concrete.

He finds the stairwell and ascends to the ground floor. But something is wrong. It’s another basement, windowless and lightless. Instead of an empty room, it’s a labyrinth of stone walls.

He hears the sound of breathing. Then the sound of footsteps. Then a voice. “You didn’t think you’d run into me again, did you?” Read More

The feels? They’re hurt! The natives? They’re restless! The shark? It’s totally jumped. And through it all there is this insistent pulse: the call for a leader. The desire for a consensus. The wish for things to be simpler than they really are. The demand that we carve out a side, don a jersey, put on face paints and then just scream scream scream.

It isn’t happening. Oh, there’s screaming alright. But things will not settle down. The genie will not go back into the bottle. A feedback loop between criticism and creation has been established and no one knows what will come out of it. It resists codification. And that suits me just fine.

Some people don’t want to believe it right now. But there actually is a real exchange of ideas going on. Muses are being emboldened. People are trying new things. If you don’t read the works under discussion you’re going to miss that. But it’s happening.

Just as one example check out Rawle Nyani’s take on Jon del Arroz’s novel:

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Kairos: “Tor Books knows that The Corroding Empire isn’t a counterfeit meant to ride on the coattails of their success. It’s a parody in the venerable literary tradition of calling out emperors with no clothes. It also stands as a solid sci-fi novel in its own right, and even surpasses the subject of its lampooning, as these excerpts show. The fact is that The Corroding Empire has been outselling Tor’s offering since the former became available for preorder. Since they can’t compete in the open market, Tor Books has appealed to Amazon to hobble the competition.”

SuperversiveSF: “The new name is almost funnier than the first, referencing the Asimov character, Hari Seldon from Asimov’s Foundation series. Not to mention this is an absolutely gorgeous new cover. Well played, Castalia House. It goes to show that a modern press run by competent people can be much more nimble and adaptive than the giants of the past. The establishment won’t be able to keep up with this sort of thing, and that means in the short term that you can expect lashing out both more often, and more severely. In the long term, they won’t be around.”

Kairos again: “The publisher insists that the issue is with rogue elements within KDP quality control and not with Amazon itself. If so, we could be witnessing a civil war within the world’s largest book distributor. However the situation gets sorted out, the resolution should be informative for publishers, authors, and readers alike.”

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For the past few weeks, I have highlighted opinions masquerading as criticism that are at best highly suspect from the view of 2017.

One history of science fiction and fantastic fiction in general that is a joy to read is Lester del Rey’s The World of Science Fiction (Del Rey, 1979).

Lester del Rey (born Leonard Knapp, 1915-1993) was part of the Campbellian stable of writers from 1938 to about 1950. Del Rey is different from what you think of Campbellian fiction. The science was not exactly hard. The stories often had an emotional aspect missing from science fiction of this period.

I had read one of del Rey’s juvenile’s, Tunnel Through Time, a Scholastic Book Service book back in fourth or fifth grade. In the summer of 1983, I was reading just about anything I could get my hands on from our small (but rather good) library in North East, PA. I was branching out from Lovecraft and Howard and venturing into classic science fiction. The library had The Best of Fritz Leiber, The Best of Henry Kuttner, and The Early del Rey.

There were stories that I liked: “The Faithful,” “Shadows of Empire,” “Dark Mission,” “The Years Draw Nigh.” I did not like everything by Lester del Rey but there were stories that I liked enough to remember to this day. Read More

Author Earnings recently released their statistics for 2016 book sales. As industry hands and book reading fans poured over the results, one of the more interesting facts is that science fiction sold the least of all the major categories. This is not a surprise to those who have been following the shrinking sales of the Big Five in this category, although it is still unwelcome. Unfortunately, the worst is yet to come.

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 withered away. 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’ publishing woes lasting into the 2000s, pushing back the date of the upcoming crash.

Each crash came about at the intersection of a change in the publishing industry and soft sales. The pulps failed as digest and women’s magazines grew profitable. The novel grew ascendant in the 1970s, and changes in tax laws made backlists a tax burden. Reliance on Bookscan and other sales tools sent publishers looking for blockbuster bestsellers instead of growing their midlist writers. And, in the current day, ebooks are proving just as disruptive, with more than 80% of all 2016 science fiction sales coming from ebooks according to Author Earnings. But while writers cannot control the changes in the industry, they can at least avoid the mistake that repeatedly led to soft sales:

Realism. Read More