Monthly Archives: May 2016

An Interview with Brian Niemeier – Part 1

Nethereal - Brian's first published novel.
Nethereal – Brian’s first published novel.

A few days ago I asked 2016 Campbell Award nominee Brian Niemeier if he’d be willing to submit to an e-mail interview for the readers of this blog. He’s graciously agreed, and he’s taken the time to answer a rather lengthy series of questions. To avoid the dreaded “TL;DR” kiss of death, I’ve divided the interview into three parts. This first part focuses on Mr. Niemeier’s most well known work, the Soul Cycle series. The second part focuses on writing and Mr. Niemeier’s experiences therein. The third and final part focuses on Brian himself. Without further ado, here’s the first part. Text in bold is mine. The rest is Mr. Niemeier’s, presented exactly as he gave it to me.


Congratulations on the Campbell Award nomination!

Thanks! I didn’t become an author for validation, but it’s encouraging to know that people are getting value out of my writing. The readers are my bosses, so a Campbell nomination is like the ultimate employee of the year award.


Where did the inspiration for The Soul Cycle come from?

My influences don’t overlap much with other authors in my genre. I drew inspiration from some classic SF books and films, but the rest is mostly 90s anime, JRPGs, and tabletop RPGs. I’d also be remiss not to credit my otaku and gamer friends for helping me refine my ideas and giving me several new ones (see my books’ acknowledgments).


Which works and authors would you say influenced the series?

In terms of classic SFF: Frank Herbert’s Dune and H.P. Lovecraft’s Dream Cycle. Also Le Guin’s “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas”.

A partial list of other influences includes: Star Wars, Neon Genesis Evangelion, Dante’s Divine Comedy, Ghost in the Shell, Akira, The Sandman by Neil Gaiman—especially Season of Mists. Folks have pointed out similarities between Nethereal and Outlaw Star, but I already had the story sketched out before I watched the series.


What was your favorite moment of the series to write?

My series highlight moment is a sequence one-third of the way into Souldancer. Unfortunately, it doesn’t lend itself to spoiler-free description. I’ll just say that it’s a confrontation between the dual protagonists, when both characters lay all their cards on the table.


What was the hardest part of the series for you to write?

The same scene mentioned above. I don’t know how many revisions it took, but finally getting that scene right (with Jagi’s help) is what convinced me that the book was finally ready for release.


The story seemed to me to have a heavy influence from Dante’s Divine Comedy. Is that real or am I imagining it?

Good eye! Nethereal’s hell is informed by the Inferno, but it’s not a 1:1 reproduction. Each of the Nine Circles is associated with a particular vice, but not the same as in Dante’s hell.


How many more books do you plan for the series?

Two more after Souldancer, which will make the Soul Cycle a quadrilogy.


Can you give us a hint of what we should expect in the next book(s)?

I’m writing the first draft of Book III right now. Since Nethereal and SD have set everything up, expect an even more fast-paced story that’s much heavier on action. The fantasy and horror elements will still be there, but it’s predominantly a space opera.

Book IV takes place a couple of centuries after Book III. My readers can rest assured that I know where the series is headed, and I think they’ll find the conclusion satisfying.


Do you have plans for any more novels outside of The Soul Cycle?

I have the first draft of a fantasy novella that I need to go back and revise in the near future. The plan is to flesh it out to novel length. I’ll keep you all posted.

Oh, and I’ve probably got enough background material for four Soul Cycle prequels.


For those of us anxious to read it, can you tell us when we should expect your next novel?

My new day job is slowing my writing down, but I’m well into the first draft. When that’s done, I’ll go back and revise it; then hand the second draft to my beta readers. I’ll revise again based on their reactions, send draft three to Jagi, and do the final draft based on her notes. When the art and formatting are done, it’s time to launch.

My goal is to release two novels per year. I’m confident I can meet that schedule in 2016.


Tune in tomorrow for Part 2, in which Brian gives the best answer I’ve ever heard for the question, “what made you get serious about writing?”


Silver Empire Open Submissions


Silver Empire is now accepting open submissions for an upcoming project that will revitalize the marketplace for short fiction.

We’re looking for another 20-30 fantasy and science fiction short stories. We’ll be taking submissions through the summer. Submissions should be:

  • Science fiction or fantasy short stories of roughly 3,000 to 20,000 words.
  • Previously unpublished works.
  • There is no theme – topics are wide open.
  • This project is not specifically superversive. However, superversive stories are preferred.
  • The payment model for this project is royalty based. However, the model is somewhat unique. Details will be provided upon acceptance of stories. We expect this project to be able to at least provide payment comparable to old school short-fiction magazines (ie, within the range of $0.03 to $0.05 per word). In fact, we think it will eventually do considerably better than that. However, this is an experimental project and this is not guaranteed.
  • Stories that are part of a larger world or series that you’re developing are perfectly fine – even if previous or later stories are not published through us.
  • Authors whose stories are accepted will also have opportunities to advertise previous, current, or up and coming works as part of this project.
  • Submissions should be in Word format (doc or docx is fine).
  • At this time we’re ONLY looking for submissions for this particular project – but we will be opening up for more in the very near future.
  • Submissions can be e-mailed to

The Archduke Ferdinand Moment Will Occur in Saudi Arabia

King Salman of Saudi Arabia
King Salman of Saudi Arabia

As I have been stating for some time now, World War IV is upon us (there’s no logical case for not calling the Cold War World War III; 100 years hence historians will name it such). Many refuse to accept it, in large part because the great powers have yet to fully engage. Many are also under the mistaken impression that the war will ultimately be between the US and Russia, as if the Cold War never happened. It won’t be. It will be – and currently is – between the western world – nay, Christendom – and the Islamic world. Indeed, this is what’s already happening as we speak.

With that in mind, the following question arose on Twitter last night:

To which I immediately replied: Saudi Arabia.

A year ago I wrote about the uneasy situation in Saudi Arabia. Since then, the situation has not improved.

I’ve also already noted that oil has historically been overpriced. Middle eastern dictatorships have long relied on this for stability – Saudi Arabia most especially. Their entire nation essentially runs on a patronage system that begins at the top with the Saudi King. He buys loyalty from those directly beneath him – literally buys it – with oil money. And they buy loyalty from those beneath them with that same oil money. And so on. The entire system depends on the flow of oil money.

The recent plunges in oil prices have put this system in mortal peril. The money flow has slowed tremendously. In the past, Saudi Kings would have lowered output in order to push the price back up. But right now they can’t. The obvious reason that everyone is talking about these days is all the new oil sources coming into the market, specifically from fracking in the US, but also from other sources. On top of that, OPEC has lacked the discipline it’s had in the past. If they agreed to cut output, nobody would actually stick to the agreement.

But the other reason is the Saudis themselves. King Salman is caught in a huge catch-22 right now. On the one hand, if he doesn’t cut production and force prices back up it will bankrupt his country. On the other hand, if he cuts production he’ll run out of money to pay his cronies with in the short term. As I’ve noted previously, unlike his older brother King Abdullah, he has not yet had time to truly consolidate his power. He’s also eighty years old, and by all reports not in the best of mental health. And, as I noted in the piece last year, the succession path in the kingdom is currently shaky. It’s uncertain that his recently appointed heir would actually become the next king.

Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria
Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria

The Archduke Ferdinand moment in World War IV will come when King Salman dies. Worse, it will likely happen whether he is assassinated or simply dies peacefully in his sleep. Saudi Arabia itself is very likely to face internal civil war. At best it will have a period of serious instability. Its adversaries in the region will not hesitate to take advantage of it. And when that happens, all pretense of stability in the region will collapse.

Why do you think the US government is so desperate to keep those 28 pages of the September 11 report classified? There are plenty of career folks in the State Department who are well aware of how tenuous the situation in Saudi is right now. But they’re fighting a losing battle. No matter what they do, this powder keg is going off.

The avalanche has already started. It’s too late for the pebbles to vote.

Let There Be LED Light

A year ago I railed against the terrible evil of compact fluorescent light bulbs. Compact fluorescent bulbs suck, and I went on about it at some length:

I have tried nearly every kind of light bulb out there. I was a very early adopter of compact fluorescent bulbs. Pay a bit more now for a bulb that lasts longer and uses less energy, thus saving a lot of money in the long run? What’s not to like?

Nearly everything, as it turns out. First, the bulbs were a lot more expensive than the plain old incandescent light bulbs. I spent a pretty decent amount of money to change everything out in my house. Second, after literally changing every single bulb in my house… the energy savings was far too small for me to pick it out of the noise in my month-to-month energy bills. I probably really was saving energy, but it was such a small amount that I couldn’t even prove it to myself. Hardly worth the time and effort. Third, there’s a bit of an annoyance factor with them because they take a bit to “warm up” and really come up to full light. Fourth, there’s a new environmental factor: disposing of them without leaving mercury traces everywhere.

But worst of all – by far – is that the light quality absolutely sucks. Now, most people don’t notice this – but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t bothered by it. Light quality has a huge subconscious effect on us. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a real phenomenon, and the primary driver of it is light. A decent portion of that is physical – a lack of true sunlight causes vitamin D deficiencies. But some of it is purely mental. The visual quality of the light has a direct effect on our subconscious minds. This effect is also present in other forms of depression, not just SAD.

led-light-bulb-1The one kind of bulb that I hadn’t tried much at that point? LED bulbs. And really, it’s only recently gotten to the point where they make sense as replacements for general purpose light bulbs.

One year after writing that post, two things have changed. First, I’m in a new house – and it no longer chews through light bulbs. The light bulbs here lass more or less the time they’re supposed to. That made it worth experimenting with long lasting bulbs again – so the first time we did have a bulb go out here, I tried out some LED bulbs.

Six months later, about 70% of the bulbs in our house have been changed over – and I’m loving it. LED bulbs are better than compact fluorescents in every way except one.

  • The light doesn’t have spectral gaps like fluorescents do
  • They are available in “daylight” color (5000k)
  • They are more energy efficient
  • They last even longer – in theory, up to 20 years (I’ll get back to you in a few years on whether this holds up or not)
  • They are dimmable
  • They don’t have mercury in them
  • They come on instantly – no warming up

The only downside? They’re a bit more expensive than compact fluorscents. But for full spectrum daylight colored bulbs? I’ll pay it.

They are also super bright. I’m fairly certain that these things are putting out significantly more lumens than the bulbs they are intended to replace. That 60 watt replacement bulb? It’s a lot brighter than a 60 watt incandescent.

I can’t give a real world number on before and after electrical usage because I don’t have enough utility bill history in this house. But in every other way, I can seriously recommend these bulbs.