Category Archives: Science Fiction

Babylon 5’s “Trinity”

babylon5Damn you, Declan Finn. Your incessant tweets and Facebook posts on your re-watch of Babylon 5 have left me with the urge to re-watch the show. It may, in fact, have to go in my queue as the next binge watch.

The problem is that this is a show I’ve already seen all the way through 2.8 times. Yes, 2.8 times. I watched the first four seasons live as they aired. Then they switched networks – from the doomed-from-the-start PTEN network (aired on Fox in my local viewing area) to TBS. As a poor college student who couldn’t afford cable, I spent years desperately longing to see how my favorite television show of all time (a title it still holds to this day) ended.

When I finally graduated, my aunt gave me the best gift ever: a giant box of VHS tapes, containing the complete run of the entire series. DVDs existed, of course, but television on DVD was not yet a thing. I had a job on offer, but it hadn’t started yet… and I didn’t actually have an official start date yet. I had moved back in with my parents for my last year of college. So what was I to do? I binge watched the entire series, of course.

[Aside: This is one more area where modern television lovers can thank Babylon 5. Its fans (“we”) petitioned Warner Brothers to release the entire series on DVD. We spent years pushing for it. Then, slowly, they trickled it out. One disc (2-4 episodes) at a time. Myself and many other fans painfully shelled out for each of those discs. Finally somebody hit on the plan of releasing the entire season in a set. It sold like wildfire, and eventually every other show followed suit.

B-5 may not have been the absolute first show to be released in season packs. Even so, I remain convinced that we never would have seen the phenomenon develop if the fans of B-5 hadn’t pushed – and paid – for it.]

A few years later I rewatched the series with my wife Morgon, who had not yet seen it. There’s your 2.8.

A week or so ago I watched as Declan let out tweet after tweet, quoting a line here, referencing a scene there. Every single time I knew exactly what scene he was referring to. I’d read the tweets and think, “Dang, that show was so awesome!” Then I’d see a few more tweets and think it again – shortly thereafter followed by, “And he’s only on season one!

However, this particular tweet came through my feed over the weekend and I had to take a slight issue with it.

One of the greatest things about the show is that its creator, J. Michael Straczynski (known to fans as JMS because his name has, in his own words, “ten thousand consonants and no vowels”) was one of the first show creators to heavily interact with the fans via this newfangled thing called “the internet.” There are huge archives out there of all of his postings on Usenet and other forums related to the show. Like many, I read them in real-time.

And if you read them in real time, one thing that’s painfully obvious (though he never quite said it), is that the concept of the one radically changed during the course of the show. Given everything else he said, it had to have.

In the original 5 year Babylon 5 arc, Sinclair was clearly planned as the commander for all five seasons. It shocked everyone when they replaced him in season two. Then the official explanation came down: the studio wanted someone with “more charisma” in the lead. We all bought it. It sure sounded like something the studio would do. Lord knows they’ve done it before. It wasn’t until many years later that we found out the real truth: Michal O’Hare had a horrible degenerative brain disease that would eventually kill him. He couldn’t continue with the show.

JMS talked all the time in the forums about his “escape hatches.” Episodic television is a massive logistics nightmare, you see. Actors may not return. People can die… or get horrible degenerative brain diseases. So he’d written in a “way out” for each character. If something happened to the actor, they could switch the plot into a different direction. One of the best known is the example of the telepaths. Lyta Alexander was replaced by the telepath Talia Winters because the actress became unavailable in the dead space between the pilot episode and the filming of season one. But the actress who played Talia, it turns out, couldn’t get along with anybody on set. She was eventually fired… and the actress who played Lyta was available again, and magically worked back into the story. Genius, right?

I’m willing to bet that he used a lot more of these than we, the audience, ever knew. Babylon 5 was a massive project, on a scale never undertaken by anyone else – before or since. But the concept, storyline, and execution of “The One” was, by far, the clunkiest use of these trap doors.

Read between the lines and it’s pretty clear what the original intention was. Sinclair would command the station all the way through all five seasons. Almost all of Sheridan’s arc (perhaps slightly tweaked in some cases) would have happened to him, instead. Then, at the end, he would have vanished into space – just as Sinclair did. But instead of merely being taken away, he would’ve been taken back in time to become Valen.

Oh, wait, you say. Isn’t that last bit what actually happened? Yup. But it happened nearly three years early due to O’Hare’s declining health. And they had to split the character – he could no longer be the same character who had fulfilled every aspect of the original intent. At the same time, Sinclair had to be the character who went back to become Valen. Sheridan’s temperament simply didn’t fit the role. But more importantly, Sinclair had already been the one shown in possession of a Minbari soul.

And yet dialogue already recorded and aired – in one of Babylon 5’s best known episodes, no less – had well defined that there was a character of, “The One.” What to do?

JMS turned to religion, in a quite clever move, and created the “Trinity” of Sinclair/Delenn/Sheridan. It works. But honestly, it only ever barely worked. It sounded cheesy and clunky the moment it aired, and it still sounds cheesy and clunky twenty years later. I give him mad props for making this work. It had to have kept him up at night until he worked out the solution. If you want to talk about JMS and religion, stick to episodes like “Passing Through Gethsemane,” which is so deep and profound that it actually played a role in my conversion to Catholocism. For an atheist, he certainly gets and understands the best that religion has to offer.

But let’s not give him props here for more than he actually deserves. Babylon 5‘s “trinity” was a cheesy hack. A really good cheesy hack, but still a cheesy hack.

First Annual Dragon Award Nominees Announced!

DragonConLogoThe nominees have been announced for the first annual Dragon Awards! You can hop over to the page and see the full list for yourself, but I’d like to call out my friends John C. Wright, Declan Finn, and Brian Niemeier on their nominations!

However, this does lead me to a serious conundrum. My friends Declan and Brian received nominations in the same category! Whom to vote for?

There is only one solution – an author gladiator contest!

Here’s how it works:

Each author picks a character of his choice from his nominated work. That character enters the arena, prepared to do battle with whatever creature I (as the GM) throw at them. Each character will face the same creatures. The author must write out his character’s response in 1000 words or less. The submission must show the final exchange of blows – but it must also leave off the results of that exchange. That is for the GM to decide. There is no time limit, except that if the authors wish to encourage fans to vote for them for the Dragon Awards… well, they only have until voting closes for that.

I will announce the creature here for each round. Each author will then e-mail me their submission (at their own pace), and it will face the judgment of the GM. I will judge entries based on creativity, over-the-topness (a plus, not a negative!), plausibility (only a minor part of the total score), and sheer awesomeness. We shall go best two out of three – so if there is a clear winner after round two, we won’t have a third. But I, for one, will be awfully disappointed if we have a clear winner after two rounds.

The authors shall own all rights to the submitted works except for granting me the right to post them here on this blog.

Let the games begin!

Preorder TREASURES OF DODRAZEB: THE ORIGIN KEY On Amazon

Treasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin Key
Treasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin Key

I’m excited to announce today that Silver Empire’s first novel, Treasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin Key by my friend S.D. McPhail is now available for pre-order on Amazon. This is hands down the best third century Persian historical sci-fi sword-and-science book that I’ve ever read. But don’t take my word for it.

  • “A Smart, thrilling mix of history and fantasy. S.D. McPhail is definitely an author to watch.”

    Brian Niemeier, Campbell Award-nominated author of Souldancer.

  • “The Treasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin Key is a stunning debut novel from an author to watch. McPhail’s creation is packed with tension and excitement, from the political machinations of the empire to the almost Atlantean history of Dodrazeb and mythical Anutupi. The imagery is enchanting, but the adventure is mesmerizing.”

    Ashley Chappell, author of the Dreams of Chaos series.

In the third century, the Persian Empire was a world power whose influence stretched from China to Europe. The king and his sons maintained peace with a powerful army—until the day a horde of screaming vandals attacked the king.

Pursuing a criminal known as the Viper, Prince Rasteem becomes suspicious when the Persian army easily conquers Dodrazeb. Princess Laneffri is desperate to expel the Persian invaders from her kingdom and she will stop at nothing to protect its secrets—especially the Origin Key. Is Dodrazeb hiding the Viper or something even more dangerous? When Rasteem learns what the Origin Key can do, he must find a way to make the princess an ally to save both their kingdoms from annihilation.

Don’t wait – pre-order your copy today and get the special early price of only $2.99!

Live Tweeting POST TRAUMATIC STRESS

Morgon and the kids are heading out of town this weekend o visit family. For the first time in a very long while, I’m going to have a good chunk of time at home on my own. I intend to spend it writing. I’m currently about 62,000 words into my first novel, Post Traumatic Stress. I’m targeting 110k for the first draft, with the intention of trimming it down to about 80-90,000 words for the final draft. The draft as written is currently on track for that.

The novel comes in bursts. I’ve gone long periods without much time to write. On the other hand, I’ve had some very good days. I’ve seen friends online talk about 2,000 words being a good day. That’s not me. When I get in the zone, I get in the zone. My best day so far has been over 4,000 words – and that was a day where I’d already been at work all day. When I get in the zone I can pretty easily turn out 500 to 1,000 words in an hour.

This weekend I’ll have little in the way of distractions. I’ll also, for once, have rather a lot of time. I plan to get myself in the zone and move, and I’m targeting 20,000 words as my goal from Friday morning through Monday evening. I think I can make that happen.

More fun, I plan to “live tweet” as I write. Don’t expect something every five minutes, but expect regular progress updates and maybe the occasional hint of something that’s just made it into the book. You can follow the fun on my Twitter feed. Writing will begin in earnest after I get home from work on Friday evening. This will either go very well or very poorly, but either way it ought to be entertaining.

Post Traumatic Stress

Everybody faces demons in war. After surviving a helicopter crash in Afghanistan, Sergeant Michael Alexander came face to face with actual demons. When the Army sent him home on a medical discharge, the demons followed. Now they’re going after his friends and terrorizing his home town. Now Michael must face up to the past, 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.

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!

Announcing TREASURES OF DODRAZEB: THE ORIGIN KEY

Treasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin Key
Treasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin Key

Back in October, I was sitting on a panel at the Rocket City Lit Fest discussing traditional publishing vs self publishing. It was a fun panel, and I enjoyed the discussions with the other authors at the table. The audience also asked a lot of great questions. But it was what happened afterward that really stood out.

I was approached by a stranger named Susan who asked if we (Silver Empire) were taking submissions. At the time, the answer was pretty much “no.” I wasn’t ready to deal with them yet. I had enough on my plate, and I just wasn’t ready to deal with it yet. Then she described her book to me. She said she had a “third century Persian historical science fiction novel.” I’d never heard of such a beast – but I was intrigued. I asked her to send it over, and told her plainly that I definitely wanted to read that.

Now, maybe you get it and maybe you don’t. If you don’t, my explanation probably won’t help – yet here it is anyway. I love scifi. I love history. I’ve read some great historical fantasy (the Tales of Alvin Maker and The Once and Future King come to mind), but I’ve never read much historical science fiction. And third century Persia? That’s definitely not a place that westerners write about very much. But I wanted to read it, so I asked her to send it over.

I was nervous, of course. It was my first unsolicited submission. And even though I hadn’t had others yet, I very much knew what would later be proven to be true: an awful lot of submissions suck. They’re just plain unreadable. On top of that, Susan had informed me that her family thought it was a romance – despite her insistence that it wasn’t. Now, nothing against romance, but it’s definitely not my genre (I wish it were – romance novels sell). So despite my interest, I didn’t have particularly high expectations – but I had hope!

As it turns out, the book was fantastic. Susan told me she’d spent a lot of time shopping it to publishers, with a lot of rejection. I told her that even though it was fantastic, I could see why. Traditional publishers, I said, would have no idea how to market this book. I also had to tell her that I had no idea how to market it, either! But unlike the traditional publishers, I was willing to try!

We made a few more edits to the book and made it even better. And today, I’m pleased to officially announce Treasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin Key by S.D. McPhail. I can honestly tell you that it’s the best third century Persian historical science fiction sword-and-science novel I’ve ever read. But don’t take my word for it. Here’s what other readers have said:

“The Treasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin Key is a stunning debut novel from an author to watch. McPhail’s creation is packed with tension and excitement, from the political machinations of the empire to the almost Atlantean history of Dodrazeb and mythical Anutupi. The imagery is enchanting, but the adventure is mesmerizing.”

Ashley Chappell, author of the Dreams of Chaos series.

WOW! Add Susan McPhail to your must-watch writer list! Her debut novel, THE TEASURES OF DODRAZEB: THE ORIGIN KEY delivers! Suspenseful and intriguing, McPhail manufactures an elusive world amid ancient Persian historical truths. Rasteem, the protagonist, is a warrior prince, hell bent on revenge. Plot twists and turns make this imaginative story come to life. Truly a force majeure, this story alone will parent a new genre!

– Dana S.

The Treasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin Key is the unlikely combination of fantasy adventure with some science fiction thrown in. The elements of mystery, romance, politics, and magic all swirled together make this a rich and exciting experience from beginning to end.

– Lucy C.

Treasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin Key will be available on July 30th in eBook and paperback formats. It is now available for pre-order directly from Silver Empire, and will be available for pre-order soon from other booksellers.

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!