Not sitting on its laurels, the recently-formed non-profit publisher Rogue Blades Foundation (RBF) last week announced the upcoming release of its second book, Scott Oden Presents The Lost Empire of Sol: An Anthology of Sword & Planet Tales.
Edited by Jason M Waltz and Fletcher Vredenburgh, this collection brings together ten stories of adventure and excitement from across a gloomy and ancient solar system far older than the one known to us. From the back cover of the book, “The legends speak of a united Empire that spanned the entire system.” Then, “All that is certain is that when the Daemons came, they brought a level of destruction not experienced in countless millennia.” And, “In the end, the Empire was fractured in the wake of the Daemons’ passing. Some worlds maintained tenuous contact; others were blasted into a state that left them bereft of their own history …”
It may seem a bit peculiar to write an article about the decline in reading for a site that has done so much to promote the works of writers past and present. Most assuredly, regular visitors to this site are readers. Unfortunately, they are the exception and not the rule in the present day.
During the pulp era, writers were sometimes referred to disparagingly as the Penny-a-Word Brigade. Flash forward to the end of the second decade of the 21st Century and you’ll find far too many pulp writers who would salivate at the thought of earning a penny a word for their efforts. Far too many receive no financial compensation at all, some do not even receive comp copies of their own titles.
The purpose of this article isn’t to disparage small presses that are labors of love for publishers who regularly soldier on year after year failing to turn a profit. When you are a small operation, economies of scale aren’t even a concern. You could publish two dozen titles a year and still lose money. Paying writers or artists is not always possible for those who are in it for something other than financial return.
My local produce seller, a farmer from one of the villages in the Rif
When the writing gets tough, the tough writers go to Tangier…
One of the advantages of living in Europe is that you have North Africa right at your doorstep. Sadly that region, with all its diverse cultures and beautiful landscape and ancient sites, has largely become a no-go area. Algeria and Libya are war zones and Tunisia and Egypt are highly unstable as well. That leaves Morocco, a safe and stable country that’s drawn me back several times to use as a writing retreat.
As I mentioned in a previous post about Living in a Moroccan Medina, I regularly go to the northern port of Tangier to get away from email and editors and take some time to do some serious writing. Not only does the city resonate with literary giants of the past like Paul Bowles, William S. Burroughs, and Mohamed Chukri, it also provides inspiration in the form of a large traditional medina, fine views over the Strait of Gibraltar, and a growing arts scene.
So what does a Canadian writer living in Madrid work on when he’s in Morocco? Read on. . .
The name John Dee conjures up images of a Tudor-era mage plumbing the mysteries of the occult and speaking with angels through his system of Enochian magic. This is how most people know Dr. Dee, and it is all I knew about him until I visited an excellent exhibition at the Royal College of Physicians in London.
Scholar, Courtier, Magician: The Lost Library of John Dee sets the record straight on a misunderstood and often maligned Renaissance man. Far more than a mere occultist, Dee was a geographer, mathematician, astronomer, world traveler, and cryptographer. He was influential in two royal courts and was an early advocate for the colonization of the Americas.
I was saddened to read in this month’s Ansible that longtime fan Ned Brooks had died from injuries sustained from a fall. He was 77.
Ned was one of the first to welcome me when I got into fandom way back in my fanzine days of the early 1990s. He and I shared an obsession with collecting books, with him beating me handily by several thousand volumes. I often joked with my wife that if she didn’t stop complaining about my ever-expanding library, she should visit Ned’s house and see what a real collection looks like.
I knew him primarily through his fanzine, It Goes on the Shelf, a review zine started in 1985 in which he wrote about all the strange books he picked out of used bookstores, estate sales, and thrift stores. He had an eye for the unusual, the quirky, the forgotten. More than once I’ve gone to my local university library clutching a copy of IGOTS in order to look up some intriguing title.
IGOTS came around Christmas time every year, and my wife I always looked forward to opening up that familiar manila envelope and reading through the colored pages of Ned’s witty reviews of all the books he’d gathered in the previous 12 months. While I fell out of the fanzine world several years ago, Ned’s zine was one of the only I still received. I wasn’t about to give that one up!
There are a lot of how-to manuals for writers out there–books about world building, books about grammar, books about finding markets, books about almost every aspect of the writing life. Sadly, there’s no book telling writers how to defend themselves if an axe murderer invades their home office.
A Guide to Improvised Weaponry is the perfect self-defense manual for any writer. It tells you just how to defend yourself when ISIS terrorists decided your work in progress makes you a candidate for their next YouTube video. It’s written by Terry Schappert, a Green Beret and Master sergeant in the U.S. Army Special Forces. This guy knows how to kill you with a pencil. It’s co-written by Adam Slutsky, a professional writer who probably had to explain to Terry that a disappointing advance, low royalties, and non-compete clauses are not valid reasons for killing an acquisitions editor with a pencil.
Each chapter focuses on a common object that you probably have in your home. I was especially interested in objects that are in my home office, ready to be picked up the moment one of my many anonymous online haters kicks in my door.
First, my coffee cup, strategically located to the left of my computer, ready to protect me and mine. Schappert makes the obvious suggestions, like flinging my hot Ethiopian brew into my attacker’s face or using it as a knuckle duster, with the caveat that there’s a good chance of hurting your hand with that second method. He also explains how you can use it to catch the tip of your attacker’s knife and deflect the blow.
The Silence of Six
E. C. Myers
Adaptive Books (368 pages, November 5, 2014, $17.99 in hardcover)
When we meet Max Stein, he and his friends are attending a presidential debate hosted at their high school. This isn’t just any debate — the candidates are there to discuss education and internet regulations, both of which are topics of great concern to the youth of America. To highlight this, the moderator fields questions posted through Panjea, a popular social network. As the debate is about to begin, Max gets a text from an anonymous number: a passcode several digits long from a person who identifies himself as STOP.
Max instantly knows STOP’s identity: Evan Baxter, his best friend and fellow hacker. Moments later, Evan — wearing a hood and masking his voice — hacks into the debate’s live feed and posts a live video question: “What is the silence of six, and what are you going to do about it?” Then, horribly, Evan kills himself with a gun on camera.
Max is devastated. While he and Evan had grown apart over the past several months — Max had left the hacking world behind to pursue soccer and girls and popularity — he still considers Evan his best friend. He knows Evan wouldn’t have committed such a heinous, irreversible act without a good reason; he also knows the passcode that Evan gave him is the key that will unlock everything.
With no one to trust and the Feds on his tail, Max goes on the run in search of what Evan knew. His discovery will change how the world views social media forever. That is, if he can make it public before he becomes the seventh person silenced…
Chapter 25 of Lawrence Block’s Telling Lies for Fun and Profit (which should be on EVERY writer’s bookshelf) is titled, ‘First Things Second.’ As he succinctly summarizes (nice but unneeded alliteration there), “Don’t begin at the beginning.”
It’s a popular screenwriting maxim to enter the scene as late as you can. In other words, don’t begin at the beginning. I seem to recall William Goldman espousing this.
Block tells of being advised to switch the first two chapters of a detective novel he had written. Basically, this put the reader in the thick of the action from the outset, with some explanation following. Tension can be created at the outset and carried forward by not beginning at the beginning.
Sitting here at the keyboard, I can’t think offhand of a Sherlock Holmes or Solar Pons story that uses this technique. There’s a reason we’ve all got the image of Holmes and Watson sitting in their rooms at 221B Baker Street when a client or Inspector Lestrade comes to visit and we’re off on a case.
As I read this chapter, I thought of Will Thomas’s Barker and Llewlyn books (love them, but what’s with the two “L”s at the beginning of that name?). Barker has more than a passing resemblance to Sherlock Holmes (I suspect that Robert Downey Jr’s portrayal owes a debt to these books) and Llewellyn is his Watson (or Boswell). Mind you, they are excellent books and not simply Holmes copies.