Category Archives: Fantasy

OPEN SUBMISSIONS: Superversive SF/F Short Stories Themed on “Family Devotion”

Update 5/1/16: Submissions are now CLOSED. Thanks to everyone who submitted!

Logo-01

Silver Empire is now accepting submissions for our next superversive science fiction and fantasy anthology! Our last anthology, MAKE DEATH PROUD TO TAKE US, focused on “manly courage.” The theme this time around is “family devotion.” Submission guidelines follow below:

 

  • 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.
  • It does *NOT* need to be written brand new for this anthology. However, if it’s been previously published anywhere else then we do need to verify that you still retain the rights for us to republish it.
  • We’re targeting a May release date. Submissions should be in by the end of April.
  • The theme of this anthology is “Family Devotion.”
  • The anthology is deliberately superversive. Thus, we’re looking for serious submissions. Satire and Parody are ok *IF* they take the theme seriously.
  • 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).
  • At this time we’re ONLY looking for submissions for this particular anthology – but we will be opening up for more in the very near future.
  • Submissions can be e-mailed to submissions@silverempire.org.

 

A Green Knight Christmas

"Swan Knight's Son" by John C. Wright is now available!
“Swan Knight’s Son” by John C. Wright is now available!

I received a surprise Christmas gift this year, and it happened to be one of the best that I’ve ever been given. Mr. John C. Wright sent me the first twenty-two chapters of his current work in progress, “Green Knight’s Squire.” I forced myself to finish the book I was already reading first, knowing that I might not make it back to it if I allowed myself to be interrupted. And then, of course, Christmas itself hit with all of its obligatory time commitments. So it took a little bit before I was able to sit down and properly enjoy what I’d been sent.

I have now finished reading the story as it was sent to me. And I must share that even in its current incomplete form, Mr. Wright has accomplished something truly special here. Now, if you’ve read this blog for any time then you know that I’m a huge fan of Mr. Wright’s work. But what Mr. Wright sent me this Christmas is far more than just a wonderful story – although it is that. It’s far more than a mere few hours of solid entertainment – although it’s definitely that. It carries more than beautiful prose, interesting characters, and memorable lines – although it has all of that in spades.

The manuscript that Mr. Wright sent me this Christmas will be placed next to George Washington’s Rules on Civility, the Fear is the Mindkiller poem, and the “What every boy needs to know about being a man speech” as, well, the lessons I give my boys in what they need to know about manhood. More than that, this story made me face up to my own shortcomings as a man and double down on attempts to do better in the years to come.

I am very excited to see the final version of this tale, and to see the rest of the series as it unfolds. And I’m very grateful to have been given this early sneak peak at it.


Update (8/29/16): The final version, Swan Knight’s Son, is now available on Amazon!

Replicability

Science vs Magic - a discussion of replicability
Science vs Magic

Most of us in the science fiction and fantasy community are familiar with Arthur C. Clarke’s famous dictum that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. Here’s an interesting factoid: many languages – especially pre-modern languages – don’t really have words to differentiate between the twin concepts of magic and science. Many languages – especially eastern languages – have only recently added words for the concept of “science.”

And yet in the modern, western world we understand a very clear difference between these ideas. Even in our literature, even in our games, we distinctly separate out that magic is magic and science is science and they aren’t the same. In fact, we break them apart so well that we clearly notice it when some tale or game that we read constructs a magical system that smacks too heavily of actually being a “science.”

So what, exactly is the difference? Here’s the way that I break it apart, and I think that almost all of us will find that these definitions work very well to explain the way that magic and science are viewed by the vast majority of the populace.

Magic involves bending the universe to your will. Whatever system a story has in place explaining how their magic works, at the end of the day it either works or doesn’t work because the practitioner has sufficient will to make it work. The steps to cast a spell don’t work if you’re a muggle, or if you’re weak minded, or if your midichlorian count is too low. Or maybe you’re not focused enough. Or maybe the steps for magic to succeed are different for each practitioner, because the steps aren’t really what causes the effect – they just focus the practitioner’s will.

Science involves finding out the rules of the universe as they are and following a series of steps that gives a particular set of results because it follows those rules. The steps are mechanical, and the result follows from a chain of cause and effect. The chain may be long and complex, but it will work every time, no matter who does it, and now matter how strong your will is.

In a word, magic lacks replicability. Science has it in spades.

Or does it?

Let’s consider, for a moment, antibiotic resistant bacteria. We know that the bacteria in the world are becoming more and more resistant over time to our tools for killing them. The miracle of modern antibiotics is slowly failing. A student of history, I’m aware of many of the ancient remedies that are laughed at by the modern world. “They used to do that as a treatment? Hahahahaha!

Imagine a world a thousand years from now where the learned men of the day are laughing hysterically at our culture. “They used to eat pills made from ground up mold to treat their infections? Hahahahaha!

And yet clearly these treatments work exceptionally well today, on a wide variety of ailments. Penicillin has truly brought on an age of medical miracles. But to these learned men of the future, the treatments we use with such great success now won’t work.

On the flip side… what if the treatments of our ancestors, the remedies that we laugh at today, used to work? What if they used to be highly effective, but the world changed in some way that we’re not aware of? Clearly they don’t work now. The “science” is no longer replicable.

OK, that’s a hypothetical (if an interesting one). And it’s easy to at least make the claim that these ancient remedies were never really science and are much better categorized as magic – and ineffective, at that. Maybe they never really did work at all.

So let’s take a more concrete example. In the last few years there have been some shocking papers coming out of the scientific community showing that many landmark studies can’t be replicated. I’ve linked to a sample of these reports. There have been more.

The common interpretation is that they never were replicable. Somebody found an outlier result, published it, and now we’re just discovering that these results were the outliers. The other common interpretation is that the researchers were corrupt or blinded by bias, and they found the results they wanted to find. To be perfectly fair, these interpretations are far and away the most likely.

But what if these interpretations are both wrong? What if something is changing in the world, and our science lacks the replicability that we’ve always believed underpinned it?

At certain extrema, we already know this to be true. The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle tells us that we can’t measure sufficiently small subatomic particles without fundamentally changing them. And Einstein’s theory of General Relativity tells us that certain measurements change depending upon our frame of reference, especially at very high speeds. However, the conventional understanding holds that the Uncertainty Principle doesn’t apply at macroscopic levels and that Relativity’s effect is trivial at low percentages of the speed of light.

But what if something else is going on, something that’s fundamentally changing the world around us and mucking with our concepts of replicability?

30,000 words

Going to go narcissistic for a moment. I’ve hit 30,000 words on my first novel (working title Post Traumatic Stress). Still a long way to go, but that’s a big milestone – and by far the longest thing I’ve ever written.

Spurred on by a comment from Brian Niemeier on John C Wright’s blog, here’s the current version of the book’s elevator pitch:

A young man comes back from Afghanistan on a medical discharge after a helicopter crash only to find that his literal war demons have followed him home to terrorize his friends. He has to deal with them with the help of his not-quite-father-in-law, a young friend, a hapless and overly bureaucratic secret military group that gets in the way more than it helps, and an ancient order of knights chartered by the Vatican.

The work is not strictly part of the Tales of Peter Bishop series, but it does tie in heavily to the series (the “young friend” mentioned in the blurb is, in fact, Peter Bishop). You might even say that this kicks off the series.

Make Death Proud to Take Us has been Finalized!

"Make Death Proud to Take Us"
“Make Death Proud to Take Us”

I just finished uploading the final files for Make Death Proud to Take Us. It will be available to readers on Sunday, June 21 (Father’s Day). And I have to say, I think this is the best product that Silver Empire has put out to date.

There are some really enjoyable stories in this one from myself, my wife Morgon, and my friends K Bethany Sawyer and Jennifer L Weir. Jennifer’s contribution, “Major Hunter” (from her Wayfarer Chronicles series) is her first publication with us. In my own personal opinion, I think each of the other authors has contributed stories that are their personal best so far. I won’t pretend to be unbiased, but that’s also my honest opinion.

My personal favorite of the series is the novella at the end, “Down the Dragon Hole,” by my wife Morgon. It’s got a fun, Pratchett-esque feel to it (although not as silly). But again, I feel that it’s the strongest of a strong collection.

You can preorder your copy from Amazon.com today. If you’re a science fiction or fantasy fan, I highly recommend it. I hope you enjoy it as much as we enjoyed putting it together.

George and the Dragon [Book Review]

"George and the Dragon" by Philip Tolhurst
“George and the Dragon” by Philip Tolhurst

Last night I finished George and the Dragon by Philip Tolhurst, a book that asks an incredibly important question: what would happen if the Luftwaffe started using dragons in the midst of World War II?

Now, this is the kind of thing I would have loved anyway. But I’d recently done a blog post on how a fight between an Apache helicopter and a dragon would turn out in the real world. Naturally, the idea of dragons vs WWII era aircraft caught my interest as well. I’ve already added my own take on the subject. But, of course, half the fun is reading somebody else’s take on it so that you can have stupidly heated discussions afterward!

Alas, on that front Mr. Tolhurst and I are generally on the same page. Although we might quibble some over the details, we’re in the same general ballpark on our analysis of the capabilities of Spitfires vs dragons. So with that out of the way… on to the book itself!

First of all, I did not realize up front that this is a children’s book. That’s not a negative quality of the book, mind you. However, it’s written like a children’s book. If you’re expecting something different going in to the story that very well might effect your enjoyment of it. At some point about a third of the way through I remember thinking, “Man, he really needs to market this as a kid’s book.” And then I went and looked online and found out that he was marketing it as a kid’s book. I was just the idiot who hadn’t gotten the message.

With that out of the way, I settled in to enjoy the story for what it was and not what my expectations of it were. And in that mindset, it’s a quite enjoyable story. When he’s just a little bit older and able to read a book at this level, my oldest son will go bananas for this (and that word was chosen on purpose, because he’d eat bananas until he explodes if I let him).

However, the book does have some flaws. The plot is a bit generic. On the other hand, it is a kids book. So that’s not really a flaw in the book so much as its reader. More frustrating is that the book really needs a pass from a good editor. Bits of the story read as if it suddenly occurred to the author that he’d left out some important information and he really needed to put it in right now. Another draft to clean some of that up would have really helped. On the other hand, most kids won’t be bothered by that.

But the biggest problem for me was grammatical. Now, I try really hard not to be a grammar Nazi. I like to think of myself more as a “grammar libertarian.” But that’s only good up to a point. The author continually exhibits one problem in particular: he has a tendency to jam two to three sentences together with no punctuation, capitalization, or phrase marking to separate them.

This is an irritation, though, and it doesn’t serve to make the story difficult to read. In fact, with proper punctuation and capitalization there wouldn’t even be a problem – each thought is, in fact, a completely separate sentence and grammatically correct. They’re just not separate correctly. The good news is, most children will have no trouble reading that. In fact, it might even fit well with how most children think. For me, however, it was a serious detraction from the story.

As this book appears to be self published, my advice to Mr. Tolhurst for the sequel would be to find an editor and pay out of pocket for the service. A good editor could have taken this book from a B- to at least a solid B+, and maybe an A. The core is there, and Mr. Tolhurst is to be commended for it.

Although the flaws are minor, I do have to drop it just a bit to four out of five stars. Strongly recommended for children who love dragons or airplanes. Good for a fun, relaxing read for adults who love the same.

Dragon vs Spitfires

A while back, I responded to the fantasy hypothetical: who would win if a dragon fought an Apache Attack Helicopter? Anybody familiar with modern armament should know how that paring turned out.

This morning, I received the following message over Twitter:

Hiya 🙂 Tell me; if a dragon fighting for the Nazis fought against four pilots flying Spitfires during the Battle of Britain who would win?

Philip Tolhurst

"George and the Dragon" by Philip Tolhurst
“George and the Dragon” by Philip Tolhurst

It turns out that Philip has already taken his own stab at the question in his book George and the Dragon. A book which has just catapulted pretty high up my “to-read” list, because it sounds awesome. Until I get a chance to read it, though, let’s take a look at the question:

Dragon vs Spitfires: Who would win?

This fight is going to be far more interesting than the Apache fight.

The Supermarine Spitfire was an interesting plane, and pretty advanced for its day. The aircraft had several armament variations, which would obvious affect the outcome of the battle. Early versions carried four .303 Browning machine guns. Later versions carried eight of these guns. These guns had a tendency to freeze at high altitude that wasn’t corrected until 1938 – that would definitely put a kink in things.

Unlike the modern Apache, the .303 ammunition would not have been depleted uranium, since the material wasn’t really available until the 1970s. However, they could have had access to steel core ammunition rather than lead, and probably would have used it if needed.

The Spitfire also set speed and altitude records for its day: 606mph and 50,000 feet. Neither of those is shabby. That’s just shy of the speed of sound and nearly ten miles up. The aircraft was known to be more maneuverable than other airframes of the day, which is a definite plus.

However, the Spitfire also needed an average of 4500 rounds to shoot down an enemy aircraft. That’s a lot of rounds, and a typical enemy aircraft wouldn’t be anywhere near as well armored as a dragon. On the other hand, the scenario posits four Spitfires. Four to one seems to improve the odds somewhat.

Whereas an Apache would out and out destroy the dragon, this is a far more interesting match. And at the end of the day, the outcome is going to come down to these factors:

  • How powerful is the dragon in question?
  • How smart is the dragon in question?
  • How good are the tactics of the Spitfire squadron?

Without an element of surprise, my money is on the Spitfires – but I doubt they’d win every time. But more often than not. Probably three out of four encounters, maybe as many as seven out of eight.

This is where an author could have a lot of fun, and create some pretty good drama. Because this is a fight that’s close enough to even that any particular instance of the fight could legitimately go either way. And that’s a great source of drama, which is why I’m definitely interested in George and the Dragon. Also, I love the title and its play on the famous English legend.

My take: if the dragons catch the English by surprise, it goes badly at first. Then they adjust their tactics, maybe tweak some weaponry, and end up winning in glory at the end of the tale. Which is probably exactly what happens in the book. But that’s a great layout for a story that has an awesome setup and promises to be a lot of fun.

I will let you all know after I’ve had time to read it!

FREE E-Books!

We’re giving away some great prizes from Silver Empire!

  • Grand Prize: A lifetime subscription to all current and future Silver Empire e-books!
  • First Prize: A complete collection of all Silver Empire e-books published on or before June 30th, 2015!
  • Second Prize: An advance e-book copy of Make Death Proud to Take Us!

See the giveaway information below to enter:

a Rafflecopter giveaway