I need to begin this review by offering my friend Brian Niemeier a sincere apology. I promised him this review a long time ago. [Full disclosure: I received a review copy free of charge.] In my defense: The Secret Kings is the first non-Silver Empire fiction book that I’ve read in 2017. Yes – that’s for the last five months. Thankfully, I’ve had some time to catch up a bit. I’m I lucky, I might clear my backlog before Monster Hunter Siege comes out.
I should have made The Secret Kings a bigger priority, and not just because I promised Brian. This is a heck of a read. The story is crazy – and I mean that in the best possible way. Old friends return – beaten, battered, and bruised, and then thrown into the fire one more time. This tale will take you from one end of the galaxy to another – and it revisits the premise that started the series. Once more, the space pirates return to hell. Only this time everything is different, and the stakes are even higher.
This stunning space opera carries you all over the known universe – and outside of it. The intriguing characters will stick in your thoughts long after you’ve finished the book, leaving you thirsty for more. Furthermore, this book ties together books one and two a bit more clearly, pulling the whole thing into a cohesive whole.
Lyonesse is now LIVE! Kickstarter backers should have already received their login information via e-mail. If you haven’t gotten yours, check your spam folder.
We have 23 stories live in our back catalog at the moment, all available in EPUB, MOBI, and PDF format – or readable for subscribers straight from the web site itself. Our first new story, The Dreaming Wounds by Anya Ow, will go out later this afternoon.
Base subscriptions start at only $6.99 per year, so don’t wait – get yours today!
Lyonesse is very nearly ready. We’re formatting the launch content and uploading it into the system now. Next, we’ll be entering all of our Kickstarter backers into the database and enabling their subscriptions. And that’s it. At this point, the process is going very smoothly. The official Lyonesse launch date will be Tuesday, March 21, 2017. We’ll be going live somewhere around 8:00 AM Central Time. I’ll have to punch the button manually, so that’s about as precise as I can time it.
For those of you who ordered t-shirts, they will be coming soon. Stay tuned!
Silver Empire is accepting submissions for a Science Fiction novel. Submissions will remain open through August 1, 2017. We’re looking for one novel from a new-to-Silver-Empire author to publish, hopefully by the end of this year. We’ll be announcing the chosen novel by September.
Submission guidelines are as follows:
Silver Empire is still accepting submissions for our upcoming Superversive Superheroes anthology! We’re still a few submissions short of where we want to be for this project, although the stories we have so far are quite exciting.
Submission guidelines are as follows:
Contrary to popular conception, fantasy stories didn’t begin with J.R.R. Tolkien. The fact that much of modern fantasy imitates the master obscures decades of great work that came before him. In perfect honesty, I was somewhat ignorant of this fact myself. Until, that is, I began reading Jeffro Johnson‘s magnificent blog posts on Appendix N.
The somewhat bland title hides a treasure trove of fantastical stories. But to be fair, the title fits perfectly with the subject – and its source. It references the original Appendix N – as written by Gary Gygax in the original Dungeons and Dragons game.
Once more, popular conception assumes that the game is a Tolkien knockoff. Later editions of the game certainly seem to be. Yet Gygax built the original version around far more than just the works of one British linguistics professor. Appendix N of Dungeons and Dragons lists every single work that Gygax considered an influence in the game.
Jeffro’s masterpiece of the same name includes critical reviews of each and every single work in the original Appendix N. Much of his work – some of which I read in the original blog posts – also details how these stories relate to the final product that D&D became. It’s a somewhat nerdy tome, to be sure.
But for the fantasy connoisseur of a younger generation, it’s invaluable. Even in its early stages it pointed me toward a number of authors I had never even known existed. I have not yet delved into this final version, although Jeffro was kind enough to deliver me a free ebook edition of it via e-mail yesterday. But the works in progress were strong enough to earn him a well deserved Hugo Award nomination for “Best Related Work.” I look forward to the final product with great anticipation.
Get your ebook copy at Amazon today. If you prefer killing trees, a print version should be available within a month or so. Either way, I highly recommend it.
Planetary Defense Command has opened nominations for the 2016 Planetary Awards for the best science fiction and fantasy writing of 2016.
We’re doing only two categories this year:
- Shorter story (under 40,000 words/160 paperback pages)
- Longer story (novels)
Injustice Gamer stunned me this evening by nominating one of my stories, Edge, for the Shorter Story category. The story is available as part of the anthology Between the Wall and the Fire. My story travels in good company. His nomination for Longer Story is a very worth entry indeed – Brian Niemeier’s The Secret Kings. Brian – I promise my review is coming soon!
I’ve read quite a bit of amazing fiction this year, and finding only two works to nominate is a daunting task. But at the end of the day, I think it must come down to the following.
Here I have to go with Negev, by Joshua M. Young. The story is also available in Between the Wall and the Fire. This tale of a Jewish family struggling with superintelligences is one of the absolute best works I’ve ever published at Silver Empire. I enjoyed writing Edge, but I must humbly disagree with Injustice Gamer and declare Negev to be the better overall work. But watch out, Josh – Cheah Kai Wai will give you a run for your money when we publish We Bury Our Own this spring in Lyonesse!
Here I have to go with Mr. John C. Wright’s Iron Chamber of Memory. This was also a tough call. Brian’s work was, indeed, fantastic. But Mr. Wright is a true grandmaster, and this is one of his absolute best works. My own review is available here. Brian, there is no shame at all in coming in slightly behind this book in my estimation, and I hope no offense is given to my friend.
These are two truly wonderful works. Whether they win or lose the 2016 Planetary Awards, I heartily recommend them and hope that you’ll enjoy them as much as I did. But don’t stop here. 2016 was an amazing year for science fiction and fantasy writing. There’s plenty to read, and I hope that you explore them all!
Sarah Hoyt and Amanda Green over at the Mad Genius Club have declared to one and all that Silver Empire author Declan Finn is not one of the “cool kids.” Evidently he’s so uncool that they can’t even name him over at their blog, making it difficult for him to even defend himself. Yet nobody seems to have any doubt who they’re talking about.
On the surface, Mr. Finn stands accused of trying to assume the mantle of “leader of Sad Puppies 5.” The evidence? He wrote a blog post entitled, “Sad Puppies 5 Suggestions.” The post includes such damning gems as:
I find the case unconvincing.
Sad Puppies 4, in theory, opened the puppies up to everyone. Indeed, they specifically called for others to solicit recommendations:
[Emphasis is mine.]
So, SP4 is all about MOAR! More voters. More votes. More people. We want to make the Hugos bigger and more representative of fandom as a whole, to bring people in rather than give them an asterisk that looks kind of wrong (especially beside the rocket) to try to drive the “interlopers” out. SF is a big tent: we don’t want to kick out anyone, even writers of bad message fiction that makes puppies sad.
To that end, this thread will be the first of several to collect recommendations. There will also be multiple permanent threads (one per category) on the SP4 website where people can make comments. The tireless, wonderful volunteer Puppy Pack will be collating recommendations.
This is exactly what Mr. Finn did in his post. Only they now inform us that he’s violating some sort of unwritten code in doing so. May anyone join in? Or may only those approved by the club gather suggestions now? Evidently some animals are more equal than others. I love the way they keep the spirit of Sad Puppies alive here.
The actual charge, reading between the lines, is of Supporting Sad Puppies Over-Enthusiastically While Being Uncool. Let’s examine the evidence here.
Mr. Finn has indeed enthusiastically supported Sad Puppies for quite some time. His novel Honor at Stake made the SP4 Best Novel list. He’s written more blog posts on the subject than I can count. He even published a satirical take on the whole affair, Sad Puppies Bite Back – first as a series of blog posts and then later in novel form.
I rather like Mr. Finn, and I even signed him to a five book publishing deal. Even so… I must confess that he is, in fact, a bit socially awkward. But then, he’s a science fiction and fantasy author. It kind of comes with the territory.
On this more honest charge, then, I must reluctantly find the defendant guilty.
On the other hand, any reasonable person would settle for a far lesser sentence – even were he actually guilty of the charges as stated. The appropriate response here is to issue a post noting that he is not in fact part of the SP5 leadership. Then, perhaps, drop him a note quietly behind the scenes and ask him if he can be a bit more clear in the future.
Instead, they chose to write no less than 3400 words between them (I counted [OK, I had Word count for me]) insulting Mr. Finn. They felt it necessary to inform the entire world – at length – of exactly how uncool he is. They chose to behave very unprofessionally, punching down to an author quite a bit further down the list than themselves. In a word, they chose to be cruel.
Their behavior is uncalled for. In fact, it’s ridiculously overdramatic. Mr. Finn deserves an apology.
I couldn’t muster much excitement for Rogue One. I tried – I really wanted to. In my younger years, I was a massive Star Wars fan. I was known for it. I camped out overnight at the theater for The Phantom Menace. Heck, I was the fourth person in line at our local theater. I camped out again for both Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith – mainly because despite the disappointing films, the experience itself was an absolute blast.
But by the time The Force Awakens came out last year, I’d already lost much of my excitement. Everyone knows the prequels were disappointing films – I don’t need to go into detail on that here. And the initial trailers for TFA just didn’t do it for me. In fact, I maintain that the first TFA teaser wouldn’t have excited anybody if it hadn’t had Star Wars theme music to go with it. It was a bad trailer, period. The film itself left a decidedly mixed taste in my mouth.
On the other hand, I’d read a lot of opinions on Rogue One before I saw it – and even the doubters conceded that it was generally a decent film. So I went in with rather moderate expectations. With that context, the film managed to exceed those expectations. The other reviewers have it basically right – it’s a moderately good film, but far from perfect.
Unlike The Force Awakens, this film has its own plot. In fact, this is probably the most unique plot in a Star Wars film since Empire. That gives the franchise a bit of much needed fresh air.
The characters are much better this time around. Jyn Erso is not the Mary Sue that Rey was, and that helps. The secondary characters are far better than they were in TFA. The reprogrammed military droid steals the show. He’s definitely the best character, but Donnie Yen’s Force monk pulled a close second. The rest of the misfit crew of rebels fleshes out the film nicely, however, and each character has a good moment to shine in the story.
The film absolutely nails the look and feel of A New Hope, and it’s really fun to return to that universe. That’s the one thing that both the prequels and TFA completely failed to deliver. Rogue One brings it.
But the film also borrows heavily (without directly using any characters) from the Extended Universe – especially the games. Cirsova has already gone into great depth about how much is borrowed from the Star Wars tabletop game:
In fact, it dawned on me when the blind Force Monk showed up: Rogue One is “Some Guy’s Star Wars d6 RPG Campaign: The Movie”, and I mean that in the best way possible.
He’s very correct. The film also heavily borrows from the Knights of the Old Republic video games (which themselves are based on the D6 tabletop game). This clearly intentional choice pays off, and the film benefits.
This felt more like a Star Wars film than TFA did, and that really helps.
Darth Vader is awesome. ‘Nuff said there.
Jyn Erso is not a Mary Sue… but she’s one of the weaker parts of the film. Her character arc from hating the rebellion for bringing her nothing but pain to suddenly giving the inspiring speeches and being the only one who holds true… they didn’t sell it to me. Her motivation doesn’t feel quite strong enough. I went with it because the rest of the film was good, but it detracted from the film.
Still, Cassian the pilot saves her from a harsh fate as the weak link of the film. I liked his character. Still, he felt strongly underdeveloped – especially given how much screen time he has.
The biggest issue, however, is a core story issue. If this film existed in its own universe without the strong attachment to previously existing films, it wouldn’t satisfy me. It works – but it only works because of the context that A New Hope gives it. Don’t get me wrong – the plot would hold up fine. It just wouldn’t hold much interest or pack much punch. It relies heavily on prior work.
Now, in and of itself that doesn’t hurt the film – not for me, anyway. Empire wouldn’t work as a stand alone film, either. Worse, Empire kind of requires both A New Hope and Return of the Jedi for its satisfactory payoff. Rogue One only requires the former film.
However, the filmmakers compounded this issue with two wrong choices. I say “wrong” and not “bad” on purpose. I totally understand why they made the choice they did, and I understand their thinking. But at the end of the day, it turns out that they chose incorrectly.
First, the film barely uses any pre-existing Star Wars themes in the score. The composer sprinkled small touches throughout the film, but no more. The score we get doesn’t suck. And given how much of the Star Wars scores are character themes, the original scores shouldn’t have been over used. But they went too far. Especially the opening and closing music should have kept to the series theme.
Second, they’ve eliminated the opening crawl. The film simply jumps right into the story.
The filmmakers made these choices consciously, in an attempt to separate these “anthology” films from the “main” films of the series. I get that. In another context it might have been the right choice. But given how much this film relies on those “main” films, this turns out to have been the wrong choice. Rather, they should have gone the opposite direction and tied it into those films as concretely as they possibly could.
None of these issues brings the film down, however, and its still quite enjoyable. It’s easily the strongest film overall since the original trilogy. I give it four strong stars out of five.
Thank you to all of our backers for helping us to get our subscription SciFi & Fantasy short story service, Lyonesse, fully funded! Thanks to your help, we can ensure a minimum payment to each of our launch authors. As a bonus reward this morning, we’re offering up this piece of art done by my sister-in-law for the Kickstarter campaign.
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