Category Archives: Fantasy

OPEN SUBMISSIONS – Superversive Superheroes

superheroYesterday I discussed what superversive fiction is and briefly talked about the two anthologies of superversive science fiction and fantasy that I’ve published in the last two years. Today I’m pleased to announce that Silver Empire is now accepting submissions for our next superversive anthology.

Our first superversive anthology focused on “manly courage.” Our second focused on “devotion to family.” This time the theme will be “superheroes.”

  • It should be a short story of roughly 3,000 to 15,000 words. These are loose guidelines. If the story is strong, we’ll accept stuff outside of it. And I’m not going to quibble over a few words if it’s 2,998 or 15,011 words or something like that. But that’s about the size we’re shooting for.
  • It should be a science fiction or fantasy story.
  • We are looking for exclusive publication rights, and also the rights to republish the story in our upcoming Lyonesse project (republication will only make you more money, so don’t fear!)
  • Submissions are due by April 30th, 2017.
  • The theme of this anthology is “superheroes.”
  • The anthology is deliberately superversive. Thus, we’re looking for serious submissions. Satire and Parody are ok *IF* they take the theme seriously.
  • The superheroes should be heroic – or if they aren’t, the story should showcase this as a failing. No “Captain America was actually Hydra all along” stories will be accepted.
  • You must have the rights to the characters you use and be able to legally transfer them to us for the purposes of this anthology. Unless by some miracle you actually are DC or Marvel and want to let us use your characters, we can’t use them. Trust me – we want to use them as badly as you do. This is just how the world works.
  • Payment will be in royalties – no advances. The royalty rates will be relatively high, but our sales volumes will likely be relatively low. Exact rates will depend on how many stories end up in the anthology but will follow a simple formula based on word count (50% of sales sent to authors, prorated to each author based on the word count of the story compared to the word count of the anthology as a whole).
  • 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.
  • Submissions should be in Word format (doc or docx is fine).
  • Submissions can be e-mailed to submissions@silverempire.org.

What Is Superversive Fiction?

Some of my works have been labeled with the term “superversive.” But it’s not a common term, and people often ask me what it means.

Urban Dictionary says the following:

Nurturing; supportive, building up — opposite of subversive
The superversives decorated the object with daisy chains, linked their arms around it and sang “Jerusalem.”
The definition is quite good for a short definition, but it only takes us so far – and their example usage is truly bizarre. So let’s take another stab at it. Here’s a definition given by Mr. John C. Wright, as relayed by his wife, L. Jagi Lamplighter, on Sarah Hoyt’s blog.
“You know how subversive means to change something by undermining from below? Superversive is change by inspiration from above.”

This definition is slightly less concise but far more informative. The last half century or so has seen quite a bit of subversive literature – literature designed not for building up civilization but for tearing it down. It has many features to it: heroes who aren’t heroic, the world is portrayed as a terrible, evil place, beauty is nowhere to be found, good always loses in the end, etc. Some of this started out as a fair and necessary reaction to literature that had become too whitewashed. The world has warts in it, and portraying a world without them lacked character and truth. But the pendulum has swung too far. Too much art today shows only the warts and neglects to show the beauty of the world.

OK, that gives us a good idea of what superversive isn’t. But superversive is more than just “not subversive.” We could take the next step by looking at the Superversive Manifesto, proposed by M.C. Tuggle. But although there’s plenty there to like, I think it misses some the mark.

If subversive is about tearing down the structures of society, superversive must be about building them back up. Specifically, I believe superversive fiction absolutely must contain some of the following elements:

  • Heroes who are actually heroic. They don’t have to be heroic all of the time, or even most of the time. But when the time comes, they must actually be heroic.
  • People are basically good. Not all the time, not in every case – and certainly not every person. But basically.
  • Good Wins. Not every time – a good story always has setbacks in it. But evil winning is most definitely not superversive.
  • True love is real. Again, maybe not for everybody. But it’s real.
  • Beauty is real. It’s ok to show the warts. But show the beauty, too.
  • The transcendent is awesome. There’s no obligation to show any particular religion, or even really religion at all. But superversive literature should show the glory and splendor of the wider universe around us, and it should leave us in awe of it.
  • Family is good and important. Not every family, sure. But those are the exceptions, not the rule.
  • Civilization is better than barbarism. This doesn’t mean barbarians are evil, or that they aren’t fun. But in the end, they’re… well, barbaric.
  • Strength, courage, honor, beauty, truth, sacrifice, spirituality, and humility are virtues. This can be demonstrated by showing people breaking the virtues. But they must be recognized as virtues.
  • There is hope. Superversive stories should never leave the reader feeling despair.

The “What every boy needs to know about being a man” speech from Secondhand Lions sums it up very well.

BetweenTheWallAndTheFireI apply the term superversive pretty strictly. I’ve put out two anthologies of science fiction and fantasy short stories that were deliberately themed with superversive intent. The first, Make Death Proud to Take Us, carried a theme of manly courage. Every story is specifically written to showcase men being courageous – something that is lost in a great deal of modern fiction, where too many men are slimy, sleazy, weaselly, and fearful. The second, Between the Wall and the Fire, tells stories about devotion to family. We live in a world that is constantly trying to break down families in every way. We opted to instead showcase families: why they are important, what they bring to the world.

Some of the contributors didn’t even know they were participating in superversive projects. In fact, I’ve had to explain the term – after the fact – to more than one of them. And yet in the case of one of my authors, I can specifically say that throwing out a superversive topic – with no explanation of why I’d chosen that topic – resulted in the best story she’d yet submitted to me, hands down. The fact of the matter is that even if you don’t agree with the superversive movement, these are the kind of stories that resonate with people.

At Silver Empire, we continue to make the effort to publish superversive fiction. Not everything we publish is explicitly superversive. Indeed, I’m pretty strict about using the label. But I’m also not particularly interested in publishing subversive fiction. There are plenty of other outlets who will do that. Enough other people are tearing the world down without my help. I’m ready to build.

Catfish Literary Festival – After Action Report

Silver Empire authors S.D. McPhail (left) and Russell Newquist (right) at the second annual Catfish Literary Fiestival.
Silver Empire authors S.D. McPhail (left) and Russell Newquist (right) at the second annual Catfish Literary Fiestival.

Yesterday my friend S.D. McPhail and I set up shop at the second annual Catfish Literary Festival at the Athens-Limestone Public Library. We got lucky – they gave us the table right by the door! We had a good number of people come by. We sold a few autographed books and gave away a few, including five pre-release advance review copies of Susan’s upcoming novel, Treasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin Key with a special collectible cover.

Susan and I also had a chance to sit on a science fiction and fantasy panel. We got to discuss some of our writing processes, influences, and thoughts on the genre. We also got put on the spot trying to convince one audience member who had never read any science fiction. I thought my case was strong, but I have to confess that Susan got in the better answer!

I also managed to entrench my foot firmly in my mouth with the leadership at my church not once but twice yesterday. First, I completely failed to recognize Deacon Dan’s wife, even after she recognized me! I’m quite sure it’ll take me a decade or more to live that one down. Second, when Deacon Dan opened up a copy of Between the Wall and the Fire, literally the first page he turned to happened to be at the beginning of my story “Knight of the Changeling.” That would have been fine, except that I had chosen to name the deacon character after one of the deacons at our church. One that wasn’t named “Dan.”

I have now promised Deacon Dan that he will be written into a future story, so keep an eye out for him in future installments of The Tales of Peter Bishop!

I also got a chance to catch up with a few other authors that I met last year at the Rocket City Lit Fest, including Ashley Chappell and C.L. Bevill. It was great to see them again.

Finally, I had a great time chatting with everyone who came by our booth. We look forward to seeing all of you again next year!

IRON CHAMBER OF MEMORY – Book Review

Iron Chamber of Memory
Iron Chamber of Memory

With Between the Wall and the Fire wrapped up (or mostly so), a major software release just out the door at my day job, and the Memorial Day holiday giving me a long weekend, I finally had a chance to relax for a bit. In addition to catching up on the season finales of my favorite shows, I also had time this weekend to read Mr. John C. Wright‘s newest masterpiece, Iron Chamber of Memory.

And yes, I do mean masterpiece. This isn’t just one of Mr. Wright’s finest works, although it is definitely that. It also now occupies a spot as one of my favorite fantasy works of all time. Yes, this work is really that good. Unfortunately, to say too much about it is to spoil it. So I will dance around the problem as best I may.

First of all, this is one of Mr. Wright’s most readable works. I must beg his forgiveness for that phrasing, and explain carefully what I mean. Although I greatly love the vast bulk of Mr. Wright’s art, some of it is downright work to read. But the work is well rewarded, and well worth the effort. For what it’s worth, I tend to feel the same way about my favorite band, Dream Theater. Iron Chamber of Memory, however, absolutely does not suffer from this issue at all. From the very beginning it’s engrossing, and the reading simply feels effortless – as, indeed, Mr. Wright describes the actual writing of it:

This book has a special and mysterious place in the author’s heart, because the whole thing from start to finish, all the scenes and much of the dialog, came to me in a dream not long after my conversion, and I spent the whole of the next day writing down before it escaped me. Those notes rested on my desk for  decade. Only now did I have the time to compose them into a novel.

The book is a deeply romantic (something that is lost in modern society), and contains a wonderful mystery that will keep you reading. And although I guessed one of the major twists quite early on, I truly didn’t quite see where the story was heading. It’s also a deeply spiritual story, and it reminded me quite a bit of one or two of the stories in The Book of Feasts and Seasons. Most surprising from Mr. Wright, however, is how deeply sensual the story is.

This is truly a fantastic tale, and I can’t recommend it enough. I give this one five stars out of five… and frankly, I find myself wishing for a sixth to give it.

Update: Thank you to Mr. Wright for having the kindness to link back to this review!

Mysterious Stairs in the Woods – Call for Submissions

stairs_in_the_woodsWe’re putting together an anthology about mysterious stairs in the woods. The submission requirements are as follows:

  • There are stairs in the woods – as if you cut and pasted stairs from a house.
  • The stairs are usually in good shape – strong and sturdy and not rotted. Sometimes they are in immaculate condition, as if somebody is maintaining them.
  • They’re locations don’t follow any understood pattern.
  • You might or might not be able to find the same stairs twice (up to the individual author).
  • Approaching and/or climbing the stairs gives a sense of foreboding and weirdness.
  • Sometimes really bad things happen if you approach or climb the stairs.
  • The authorities (notably the park service) is keeping quiet about the stairs. Officially, they don’t exist. The authorities do not talk about them – even among themselves.
  • You can explain the stairs or leave them unexplained – up to you.
  • Science fiction, fantasy, and horror are most likely – but your story can be in any genre. One author I contacted told me I wasn’t likely to get many Romantic Comedies – but if you’ve got a good one, submit it!
  • You can submit as many stories as you like, but we’ll only publish one story per author in this anthology.
  • Submissions should be in the 3000-20,000 word range.
  • Submissions should be never before published. We’re asking for exclusive rights on this one.
  • Submissions should be in Microsoft Word format (doc or docx) and should be readable. Otherwise, I’m not your high school English teacher and I don’t care about margins, spacing, font, etc.
  • EMail Submissions to submissions@silverempire.org and must include contact information (name, e-mail, etc).
  • Submissions are due by August 31, 2017.
  • Payment will be the Silver Empire anthology standard: 50% of royalties go to the story contributors, prorated to each author by word count.

One author has already sent me half of a rough draft, while several others have made verbal commitments. Let your imagination go crazy – the more wildly different the stories are, the better!

Short Fiction is Dead – Long Live Short Fiction

short-storyBack in the day (say, pre-1965), anybody who wanted to become a writer had a fairly clear place to start. Write short fiction and submit it to the magazines. If it didn’t get accepted, write some more. You’d hone your skill, get practice, maybe entertain your friends, and have a nice collection of stuff that could eventually get published once someone finally recognized your talents. Short fiction is a lot easier to write than novels, and a lot faster. So if something didn’t get published, hey, no worries. At least you hadn’t wasted a lot of time with it. Even better, in those days you could actually make a living by writing short fiction. Maybe not the greatest living ever, but you could do it.

In 2016, the market for short fiction is dead.

OK, maybe it’s only mostly dead. You can still go through its pockets looking for loose change and sell the occasional short story on Amazon for $0.99. But for the most part, they don’t sell very well – and Amazon royalties on $0.99 e-books are crap, too. There are a handful of folks who have made series of short stories work. John Hartness seems to have done well with the Bubba the Monster Hunter series (which are excellent, by the way). And you can do OK with anthologies, as we’ve done at Silver Empire.

But the old school path that really made money – the magazines – has been dead for some time. They pay has sucked for decades. Until a few years ago, if you could manage get published in one of the magazines, the pay scale (three to five cents per word) hadn’t changed since the 1960s. There’s been an awful lot of inflation since then. If you could get published. That was getting dramatically harder, too. For one thing, more people were trying – the competition got steeper. But the bigger problem is that the magazines were all going out of business. Today they’re pretty much all gone. Locus still hangs around, and one or two others. But all of them are struggling.

Magazines are dead, and they’re not coming back.

This isn’t a problem unique to the short fiction market. Magazines in general are dying, of every kind. When I was a teenager, Time and Newsweek pretty much ruled the news magazine market. Time only survives today because of the massive corporation that owns it, and Newsweek has been barely kept alive by mega-rich owners who want it as a vanity project. The readership that used to support their advertising model is gone. They’ve all moved online.

Online magazines aren’t doing much better – and they’ll probably die off soon, too.

Simply moving the business model of magazines into an online space hasn’t worked – and it never will. There’s too much competition out there, and too much of it is simply free. There are a handful of “online magazines” of various kinds that are working – but all of them are struggling, too. Politico just killed its last paywalled section. Expect to see more trouble from them soon. The New York Times has struggled since it went with a paywall model. Only magazines such as the Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg which offer specific information that helps their readers actually make money have really thrived.

In the fiction world, things haven’t been much better. I couldn’t name a single online science fiction or fantasy “magazine” that has any kind of clout or significant readership. There are some respectable ones out there, such as Sci-Phi Journal, but they continue to struggle just to exist.

And today this rolled across my feed. I stumbled across the link from Twitter:

Well, this is getting absurd. First Cirsova magazine closed for submissions till 2017, now Pulp Literature just closed for submissions. Obviously, there is a serious dearth of high quality adventure fantasy publications for fantasy short stories. One can probably count those now accepting stories on one hand, and maybe have fingers left over: Hfq Ezine, BCS (which wants a very specific style), Grimdark (which wants a very specific vibe)…?

It’s a real problem, and not just for aspiring authors. There’s nowhere solid left for up and coming authors to really practice their craft – and the readers lose out just as badly. How much more wonderful sff stories would we have if that one author you’ve never heard of had been able to publish that one story and just hadn’t given up? But there’s nowhere left for him to start. So maybe he’s doing something else.

But Mr. Szeles’s solution is no solution at all:

Could I get the support needed now (professional and financial through Kickstarter) to edit and publish such an anthology, pay pro rates, put in the time, work, and love needed to create something magnificent?

The answer? He could probably raise enough through Kickstarter to get the project off the ground. And in a year or three it would probably die a slow lingering death, just like every other online magazine. The problem isn’t the magazines themselves. The problem is that the business model is outdated – and it’s never coming back.

But all is not doom and gloom. At Silver Empire, we believe we’ve found a solution. We’ve come up with an innovative new business model that we think is more in tune with the times. Or, more accurately, we’ve borrowed a business model that’s already working in other fields and we’re going to apply it to the short fiction market. And that’s why we’re creating Lyonesse – we want to Make Short Fiction Great Again.

Will it work? I can’t promise it – all business contains risk. But I believe strongly that it will work, and that it will work well in the modern age. I believe that we’ll be able to pay authors rates that are at least comparable to the rates the magazines were paying before they died – and I think that we might actually be able to pay far better than that.

To that end, we’re looking for lots of science fiction and fantasy short stories – and I really mean LOTS. We’ve already gotten a fair number of submissions. I haven’t been able to comb through all of them yet, but some of them are pretty darn good. But we’re still looking for more. My answer to Mr. Szeles is, send them over. We are accepting submissions. Details on submission requirements are available here. And if you’ve already submitted and haven’t heard back from me yet, don’t fret – I’ve got a bit of a backlog right now because we just finished up Between the Wall and the Fire (speaking of short fiction, check that one out – some of the stories in it are damn good).

We’re not ready to share the details yet, but we’re hoping to have the whole thing up and running by late fall. So stay tuned. It’s going to be quite a ride!

Arthurian Anthology Submissions

Anthony M over at SuperversiveSF.com has opened submissions for an Arthurian themed anthology of short stories. I’d like to submit one myself but I’m not sure I’ll have time to get one done. So you should submit one! Details are available at the link.

This is not a Silver Empire project, and I have no relation to it other than the fact that I love Arthurian legends and I love superversive fiction. However, we are still accepting submissions of science fiction and fantasy short stories (Arthurian and otherwise) for an upcoming project.

Announcing BETWEEN THE WALL AND THE FIRE

Between the Wall and the Fire
Between the Wall and the Fire

I am pleased to announce that our next anthology of superversive science fiction and fantasy stories will be released on June 4. Between the Wall and the Fire features stories from myself, Ray Blank, Verne Luvall, S.D. McPhail, Morgon NewquistK Bethany Sawyer, and Joshua M. Young.

I can also say that I was very pleased with the new authors we’ve added for this anthology. Ms. McPhail’s upcoming novel, “Treasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin Key” is the best third century Persian historical science fiction sword and science novel of the year. The stories in this anthology, set in the same world, are just as intriguing. And I can honestly say that Mr. Young’s piece for this anthology, “Negev,” is the best piece of short fiction that I’ve yet had the privilege to publish.

The returning authors don’t disappoint, either. Ms Sawyer’s piece is the best of her works that I’ve yet read. My wife Morgon’s School of Spells & War series continues to be a joyous sword and sorcery romp. As for my own stories, I leave that up to the readers to decide.

Pre-orders are available direct from Silver Empire for a special early price of $2.99. It will be available soon from other retailers.

Silver Empire Open Submissions

Logo-01

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 submissions@silverempire.org.