Category Archives for Science Fiction

2016 Planetary Awards Nominations

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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:

  1. Shorter story (under 40,000 words/160 paperback pages)
  2. 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.

Shorter Story

Between the Wall and the Fire

Between the Wall and the Fire

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!

Longer Story

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!

Sad Puppies Meet Regina George

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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 don’t know how SP5 will be laid out” – surely a strong claim of ownership.
  • Not one but two direct links to the blog post detailing who is running SP5, where she lays out what’s going on for SP5. I mean, come on, that is some damning evidence.
  • Mr Finn now includes a giant disclaimer – IN ALL CAPS – at the top of the post that he is NOT in charge of SP5. In a fantastic feat of doublespeak, Ms. Hoyt & crew consider this denial as evidence that he’s trying to claim leadership. I am as baffled as you are.
  • Evidently he also said some things in private – super secret things that we little people are not meant to know. But they’re Horribly No Good Terrible Things. They promise.

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:

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.

[Emphasis is mine.]

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.

Rogue One – MOVIE REVIEW

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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.

The good

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.

The Bad

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.

Lyonesse Kickstarter FUNDED!

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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.

If you haven’t contributed yet, don’t fret! There’s still time! You can contribute now! Remember, a mere $7 gets you a full year subscription. That’s at least 52 stories! Get your subscription now and spread the word! Your friends will want in on this, too. We’d love to hit our stretch goal and pay our authors even more. Given the amazing stories in this collection, they certainly deserve it.

Authors – there’s still time to contribute! See our submission guidelines for more information!

The Secret Kings

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Dear readers, several of you have signed up to be alpha readers for my upcoming novel, Post Traumatic Stress. I am sorry to say that the second draft is not yet ready. I promise that I will put it into your hands as soon as possible. There are several reasons it isn’t ready yet. One is that my editor, the esteemed Mrs. L. Jagi Lamplighter Wright, has been busy finishing up a prior commitment. The good news is that she is now finished with that commitment. The better news is that as a result of that, today my friend Brian Niemeier has released the third book in his Campbell Award nominated and Dragon Award winning series, “The Soul Cycle.” Book three, The Secret Kings, is available today for Kindle.

Alas, I have not yet read this book and so cannot offer a full review of it yet. The reasons for that are the same as the other reasons that I have not yet finished the second draft of Post Traumatic Stress. Please do not think that it is Mrs. Wright’s fault nor Mr. Neimeier’s fault. Indeed, I have been tremendously busy for the last six weeks or so. On top of that, I’ve spent roughly two of those weeks out of town – first attending a memorial for my late grandmother and then later on a rare and much needed family vacation. On top of all that, I’ve also been quite sick, first with about three weeks of bronchitis and now with a rather rough cold.

Finally, I encouraged Mrs. Wright to finish Brian’s work first – both because adhering to prior commitments is the right thing to do and also because Brian marches to much tighter writing and publishing deadlines than I do.

For all that, I offer my deep apologies to Brian for not having a review ready. I plan to remedy that before the month is out. Furthermore, I now have a very rich collection of excellent notes from Mrs. Wright and from my own wife on Post Traumatic Stress. I’m rather happy with the first draft, but I can assure you that the second draft will be far better as a result of her input and will be worth the wait. In the meanwhile, I suggest that you pick up a copy of The Secret Kings. Or, if you’re unfamiliar with the series, start at the beginning with Nethereal and its Dragon Award winning sequel, Souldancer.

Lyonesse Update and Author Spotlight – Cheah Kai Wai

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logo-01Thank you to all who have contributed so far to the Lyonesse kickstarter project! As of this morning we’re more than two thirds of the way to our goal! If you haven’t already, stop by and contribute. A $7 contribution gets you an entire year’s subscription – including at least 52 stories (one per week, plus the occasional bonus story) from some of the most amazing up and coming science fiction and fantasy authors. We’ve got some great stuff on deck for our first quarter, and I can’t wait to start sharing these stories with readers. Speaking of our great up and coming authors, today I’d like to spotlight Cheah Kai Wai.

benjamincheahI first became aware of Cheah Kai Wai when I read his story Flashpoint: Titan in Dr. Jerry Pournelle’s There Will Be War: Volume X. The most excellent story intrigued me in its own right. I found it extra fascinating, however, for personal reasons. It featured a scenario quite similar to my own contribution to that anthology (The Fourth Fleet). Yet he took it in a completely different direction and made it a wholly different story. Many (myself included) would argue he actually made it a better story, as evidenced by the Hugo nomination it received.

Flashpoint: Titan was a great story. His contribution to Lyonesse, if I may say so, is leagues better. We Bury Our Own blew me away when I read it, and it will do the same to you. I won’t go into to much detail because you really don’t want to know too much going in. Let me just say, “science fiction battle angels.” It’s every bit as awesome as that makes it sound – but it’s also got a depth to it that might catch you well off guard.

I believe he also has a novel forthcoming from Castalia House, which I look forward to with great interest. Cheah Kai Wai is definitely a young author to watch.

Lyonesse – Making Short Fiction Great Again

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logo-01The Lyonesse Kickstarter is now live! Drop by and help us Make Short Fiction Great Again!

What is Lyonesse?

Lyonesse is a short fiction subscription service. Here’s what Lyonesse offers for readers:

  • The best science fiction and fantasy short stories, one per week, delivered right to your inbox.
  • Bonus stories throughout the year, frequently but not always on or around holidays.
  • Established names in the genre and new up-and-coming authors.
  • A strong back catalog of previously published stories.
  • A low, low subscription fee – our introductory rate will be $6.99 for the entire year – back catalog included!

That’s right – at least 52 of the best science fiction and fantasy stories throughout the year for less than seven dollars! And not from slouches, either. Our lineup includes stories from Hugo Award nominee Cheah Kai Wai, Dragon Award nominee Declan Finn, and established genre authors such as L. Jagi Lamplighter – and that’s just what we have lined up for our first quarter!

Main Goal – $600

Our initial goal is to reach $600. This will allow us to pay each of the authors in our first quarter lineup at least $50 each for their stories. The first $600 will go entirely to the authors.

Stretch Goal – $1500

Our stretch goal is $1500. We’d like to reach this amount so that we can pay each of our initial authors at least $100 each for their stories. This will also leave us enough extra to fund server and software costs for the first 6 months.

What is Lyonesse?

Lyonesse is a short fiction subscription service. Here’s what Lyonesse offers for readers:

  • The best science fiction and fantasy short stories, one per week, delivered right to your inbox.
  • Bonus stories throughout the year, frequently but not always on or around holidays.
  • Established names in the genre and new up-and-coming authors.
  • A strong back catalog of previously published stories.
  • A low, low subscription fee – our introductory rate will be $6.99 for the entire year – back catalog included!

That’s right – at least 52 of the best science fiction and fantasy stories throughout the year for less than seven dollars! And not from slouches, either. Our lineup includes stories from Hugo Award nominee Cheah Kai Wai, Dragon Award nominee Declan Finn, and established genre authors such as L. Jagi Lamplighter – and that’s just what we have lined up for our first quarter!

Main Goal – $600

Our initial goal is to reach $600. This will allow us to pay each of the authors in our first quarter lineup at least $50 each for their stories. The first $600 will go entirely to the authors.

Stretch Goal – $1500

Our stretch goal is $1500. We’d like to reach this amount so that we can pay each of our initial authors at least $100 each for their stories. This will also leave us enough extra to fund server and software costs for the first 6 months.

Lyonesse Author Spotlight – Jonathan Ward

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It’s time to meet another of the authors whose stories you’ll be reading after you purchase your Lyonesse subscription. We’ve already met met Dean Abbott and Anya Ow. Today we meet Jonathan Ward. In the words of his Amazon.com bio:

jonathanwardJonathan is a science-fiction, horror and fantasy writer hailing from the sprawling urban metropolis of Bedford. He has wanted to be an author since the age of eight, though it’s questionable whether his writing talents have improved since then. When not writing he can be found reading a good book, out exploring new places, or in the pub being sarcastic to his closest friends.

outliersMr. Ward has a rather extensive back catalog of books. His latest novel, Outliers, is set in a world where a new drug is giving people extraordinary talents and abilities. Meanwhile, clandestine groups fight for power. It’s the first part of what promises to be a fascinating new series.

His Lyonesse submission, Number 43, tells the tale of a man augmented chemically and mechanically by a mad scientist. As he reaches the point of madness, he also fights for his freedom. It’s a dark and gritty tale that veers almost into the horror side of science fiction, and you’ll find it quite intriguing.

Lyonesse Author Spotlight – Dean Abbott

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Lyonesse contributor Dean Abbott

Lyonesse contributor Dean Abbott

With an imminent launch coming, it’s time to meet some of the authors whose stories you’ll be reading after you purchase your Lyonesse subscription.

Dean Abbott is the son of a long line of  Hoosier farmers.  Though he does not work in that field, he maintains an interest in all things rural and agricultural. He currently lives in Ohio with his wife, three daughters and their three-legged dog, Celia.

His blog, The Lower Lights, explores the possibilities of building modern lives around traditional values while examining the forces that make that difficult. Posts meander between the macro and the micro. Some posts may be about big picture trends while others focus on instituting traditional ways of thinking into everyday life.

His Lyonesse submission, The Artifact, tells a tale of a spacefaring humanity shaken to the core by a discovery made off world… or are they? When corrupt governments get involved, who can tell? Look for it in the first quarter of 2017 with your Lyonesse subscription.

What is Lyonesse – for Readers

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What is Lyonesse?

What is Lyonesse?

At long last, Lyonesse is coming. We’ll be putting out quite a bit more information about it over the next few weeks.

Great. But What is Lyonesse?

Lyonesse is a short fiction subscription service. Here’s what Lyonesse offers for readers:

  • The best science fiction and fantasy short stories, one per week, delivered right to your inbox.
  • Bonus stories throughout the year, frequently but not always on or around holidays.
  • Established names in the genre and new up-and-coming authors.
  • A strong back catalog of previously published stories.
  • Support your favorite authors, not a faceless corporation – 60% of all revenue goes straight to the authors in the form of royalties!
  • A low, low subscription fee – our introductory rate will be $6.99 for the entire year – back catalog included!

That’s right – at least 52 of the best science fiction and fantasy stories throughout the year for less than seven dollars! Our Kickstarter launches on December 1st, and we’ll have some great rewards. We’ve got a lot of news to share with you this month, so stay tuned to this space for more information or visit lyonesse.silverempire.org to sign up for our newsletter.