I am overdue letting you all know about what I have in the works. This is partially because plans are still somewhat fluid, but also because I have been waiting until I knew more to share it. I think the time has come.
I have had several novels on the traditional submission pool for the past four years and while they get positive praise for their writing quality and page turning elements, publishers keep turning them down because they don’t know how to market them. Meanwhile, I continue to struggle financially and mentally with the frustration of seeing my career stalled.
Starting in October and November, I am going to begin self-publishing at least two, maybe three, novel series at a rate of one book every four months. These books will be available through a small imprint (still being determined if it is mine or an established small press) in both print and ebook and online via Amazon and other outlets.
So far, the blurbs and reviews are overwhelmingly positive for the first book: SIMON SAYS, which launches my John Simon procedural thrillers about a tough, Luddite Kansas City cop who’s forced to team with a humanoid android to solve his partners murder. Together they uncover a conspiracy that stretches across the ocean and deep within the KCPD itself. I describe it as Asimov’s City of Steel meets Connelly’s Bosch meets Lethal Weapon.
SIMON SAYS will be out October 15th from Boralis Books in hardcover, trade paperback, and ebook. A sequel, THE SIDEMAN, will follow next February.
Also releasing this month is my next entry in the INFINITE STARS: Definitive Space Opera And Military Science Fiction anthology series from Titan Books.
INFINITE STARS: DARK FRONTIERS contains a mix of new and reprint stories by George R.R. Martin, Becky Chambers (a new Wayfarers tale), Robert A. Heinlein, Arthur C. Clarke, Jack Campbell (a new Lost Fleet tale), Tanya Huff (a new Confederation tale), Seanan McGuire, Olson Scott Card (a new Ender tale), Neal Asher, David Weber, Sharon Lee & Steve Miller (a new Liaden tale), E.E. “Doc” Smith, Kevin J. Anderson (a new Seven Suns tale), Susan R. Matthews, Brenda Cooper, Curtis Chin (a new Kangaroo tale), Larry Niven & Steven Barnes (a new Dream Park tale), CJ Cherryh, David Farland, Weston Ochse (a new Grunt tale), Mike Shepherd (a new Kris Longknife tale), CL. Moore, Gardner Dozois, James Blish, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, and Alan Dean Foster. The new stories in existing popular series are noted.
INFINITE STARS: DARK FRONTIERS releases in hardcover and ebook on November 6, 2019 wherever books are sold.
That’s it for 2019, but as mentioned, more to come throughout 2020 starting in February. I hope you will put them on your shopping lists.
Some of you know that WordFire Press is rereleasing new revised and expanded editions of my Saga of Davi Rhii debut novels and finishing the trilogy next year with the brand new 3rd novel, never before released. Anyway, book 2 comes out right after World Con but as with The Worker Prince, I have the privilege of The Returning appearing in a bundle and BEFORE release. Yep, you can get it early on ebook along with 9 other terrific space opera reads.
Even in the most violent and darkest of timelines, space opera remains steadfast in its insistence that we as a species will eventually find our place among the stars. It’s the promise the subgenre makes to its fans, that we will one day leave this ball of dirt and water, and move on to more interesting things.
But more importantly, space opera is just plain fun as hell.
I’m curating a bundle this year that encapsulates the genre from one end of the spectrum to the other, from the gritty to the absurd, from the dark to the whimsical. The beauty of space opera is in its diversity, in its limitless imagination, and in its consistent vision of humanity living abroad in the cosmic sense of the word. Even at its darkest, space opera spins from a core of optimism.
Much like our charity, this bundle aims to inspire, excite, and educate. We’re offering novels and anthologies from world-famous Hugo and Nebula winners, updated collections of short fiction and essays, and novellas compiled specifically with this bundle in mind.
To start, legendary author, and several-times-over Hugo, Nebula, and Locus award-winner, David Brin offers up his timeless anthology OTHERNESS, with stories that begin on Earth and chronicle humanity’s ascension into space. This updated book also contains newer essays and thoughts from his perspective as futurist, scholar, writer, and scientist.
Hugo and Nebula nominee and winner, Mike Resnick, provided THE OUTPOST, a fantastically imaginative novel, filled with wildly epic characters, given names as big as their personalities. Marko Kloos is presenting his immensely popular TERMS OF ENLISTMENT, a crazy-good military scifi novel, that I fell in love with at the first chapter. Bryan Thomas Schmidt gives us a thrilling continuation of his debut novel with THE RETURNING. Hugo nominee and winner, Brad Torgersen’s book RACERS OF THE NIGHT runs the gamut from lunar NASCAR to interplanetary bricklayers.
This bundle also contains the first two of my novellas from my PATCHER universe, combined into one book, which I’ve compiled specifically for this bundle. Best-seller B.V. Larson submitted his novel STARFIRE, which centers around an alien artifact and a reignited Cold War to capture it. Moira Katsen’s CRUCIBLE is a fantastic beginning to her trilogy about alien genocide at the hands of humans. Edward W. Robertson’s OUTLAW follows a space janitor who becomes a reluctant pirate. And Erik Wecks offers up his space noir adventure AETNA ADRIFT.
As always, with StoryBundle, you pay what you want for the books and a portion goes to charity. For this bundle, our charity is the Challenger Space Center, a Smithsonian organization, which exists to help excite, educate, and inspire young people with an interest in science and space exploration. The center is a museum, simulator, and school, all rolled into one, offering space camps, hands-on learning experience, and science programs for economically challenged children, helping them dream a bigger future. We are thrilled to be able to help support them in their mission.
As with every bundle, you pay what you want. $5 or more gets you the basic bundle. All books are DRM-free, in multiple eBook formats. You can download them anywhere, anytime, worldwide, and they are yours to keep. Paying $15 (or more, if you are feeling generous) gets you the bonus books, written by award-winning masters of science fiction. You can also choose what percentage of your price goes directly to the charity.
It’s our pleasure, offering this bundle to help the Challenger Space Center. Optimism for the future is rare in these pessimistic and cynical times, and these books, no matter how dark or gritty, all share a common vision: Humanity’s true destiny is yet to come. We hope that you too will find this bundle to be a hopeful promise of our place in the cosmos. – Martin Kee
The initial titles in The Starward Bound Bundle (minimum $5 to purchase) are:
Starfire by B. V. Larson
Outlaw by Edward W. Robertson
Aetna Adrift by Erik Wecks
Patcher: Books 1 & 2 by Martin Kee
The Novum Trilogy Book 1: Crucible by Moira Katson
If you pay more than the bonus price of just $15, you get all five of the regular titles, plus five more:
Otherness by David Brin
Terms of Enlistment by Marko Kloos
The Outpost by Mike Resnick
Racers of the Night by Brad R. Torgersen
The Returning by Bryan Thomas Schmidt
The bundle is available only for a limited time via http://www.storybundle.com. It allows easy reading on computers, smartphones, and tablets as well as Kindle and other ereaders via file transfer, email, and other methods. You get multiple DRM-free formats (.epub and .mobi) for all books!
It’s also super easy to give the gift of reading with StoryBundle, thanks to our gift cards – which allow you to send someone a code that they can redeem for any future StoryBundle bundle – and timed delivery, which allows you to control exactly when your recipient will get the gift of StoryBundle.
Why StoryBundle? Here are just a few benefits StoryBundle provides.
Get quality reads: We’ve chosen works from excellent authors to bundle together in one convenient package.
Pay what you want (minimum $5): You decide how much these fantastic books are worth to you. If you can only spare a little, that’s fine! You’ll still get access to a batch of exceptional titles.
Support authors who support DRM-free books: StoryBundle is a platform for authors to get exposure for their works, both for the titles featured in the bundle and for the rest of their catalog. Supporting authors who let you read their books on any device you want—restriction free—will show everyone there’s nothing wrong with ditching DRM.
Give to worthy causes: Bundle buyers have a chance to donate a portion of their proceeds to the Challenger Space Center
Receive extra books: If you beat the bonus price, you’ll get the bonus books!
StoryBundle was created to give a platform for independent authors to showcase their work, and a source of quality titles for thirsty readers. StoryBundle works with authors to create bundles of ebooks that can be purchased by readers at their desired price. Before starting StoryBundle, Founder Jason Chen covered technology and software as an editor for Gizmodo.com and Lifehacker.com.
For more information, visit our website at storybundle.com, tweet us at @storybundle and like us on Facebook.
My friend Lawrence Schoen’s latest novel and big publisher debut, Barsk: The Elephants’ Graveyard, from TOR Books had sold out its first printing before it even released. It is about sentient animals who have survived the self-destruction of human beings and now rule the galaxy. I asked him to talk on the blog about how to write animals as main characters of a novel.
How do you approach writing animals as characters? Do you anthropomorphize or avoid it?
I treat animal characters much like I treat alien characters, which is to say, I write them as characters first, and then add in the other bits (animal, alien, or both).
I start by asking myself a few basic questions like, “Who is this character? How does he see the world? How does he see himself? What does he want?” and then as these basics start to sketch out, I drop the character into the setting that further shapes those answers.
With the anthropomorphic animal (or as I like to call them, “raised mammals”) characters in Barsk, there were additional factors. The easiest of these was to build on the physiological differences from the source animals, and play with how that then affects the more basic characteristics and questions. This is particularly important for the reader, because she’s looking for something familiar to glom onto, something that can be assessed at a glance, be it an elephant’s trunk or the graceful gait of a cheetah or the relative lethargy of a sloth. These are signals to a reader that say, “oh, okay, it’s like a human being, only not, because it’s also like X.”
After the broad strokes of an animal character is done, the real fun begins. The bits that act as Easter eggs for more savvy readers. Little pieces from research into what ethologists and other scientists have learned about these species which when dropped into sapient characters inform their culture and worldview. As one example, we know that among elephants, after a certain age, the males all go off on their own solitary way and only return to mate, leaving the females behind to form groups of adults and children of both sexes. Take this one datum and apply it a planet of uplifted elephants and you get a society where you have households of adult females — mothers and sisters aunts and cousins, like something out of H.M.S. Pinafore — taking responsibility for all child rearing, and males who spend their adult lives as peripatetic bachelors — never settling down for long, always moving on. And from there you get to ask how this all manifests in routine things that you probably won’t actually look at in the book, but which has to exist in the back of your mind because it all influences the way the characters walk through their own world. Questions like, “What does this do to the housing market? What’s the impact on job security? What happens to individuals who don’t fit smoothly into the society’s normative roles?”
The characters in an anthropomorphic novel need to have the same quality of breadth and depth and variety that ordinary human characters enjoy and/or endure; it’s all just filtered through the specialized animal traits that is their due as well. Because at the end of the day, you’re using them to tell human stories, and while they may be furry or horned or bat-winged or something else, they must also project a basic humanity, one to which the reader can relate. In the end, the thing we always remember about the best alien or anthropomorphic characters isn’t how much they differ from us, but how human they were.
Lawrence M. Schoen holds a Ph.D. in cognitive psychology and psycholinguistics. He’s also one of the world’s foremost authorities on the Klingon language, and the publisher of a speculative fiction small press, Paper Golem. He’s been a finalist for the John W. Campbell Award, the Hugo Award, and the Nebula Award. Lawrence lives near Philadelphia. You can find him online at LawrenceMSchoen.com and @KlingonGuy.
“RAYGUN CHRONICLES breathes supercharged life into the space opera genre with exciting and inventive new tales by a superb line-up of writers. This is why science fiction will live forever!”—Jonathan Maberry, New York Times bestselling author of PATIENT ZERO.
“RAYGUN CHRONICLES is an impressive anthology with an impressive list of contributors, a real showcase of the color and scope of what science fiction can be.”—Kevin J. Anderson, New York Times bestselling author of the Saga of Seven Suns
“Wonder, adventure, romance, humor–space opera delivers all of these, and this anthology brings together some of the finest talent in the business. Strange new worlds await. So lower your shields, engage your thrusters, and prepare to jump to warp speed!” — Dave Wolverton, New York Times Bestselling author of Star Wars: The Courtship of Prince Leia
“These stories bring the reader back to the days when we dreamt of blasters and flying cars. Golden age space opera fun with a strong Western feel.” — Alex Shvartsman, Editor Unidentified Funny Objects and Official Ken Liu Hugo bearer
Now I just have been mailing out review copies for Raygun Chronicles. It takes a while, but those efforts for Beyond The Sunhave landed us two major reviews and a major podcast appearance this month. The two major reviews are out this week in LOCUS’ October 2013 issue which is THE industry zine and thus a huge boost for us. These are also my first Locus reviews EVER. The first comes from Gardner Dozois, year’s best editor, award winning anthologist and writer:
There’s nothing really exceptional in Beyond the Sun, a mixed original/reprint anthology edited by Bryan Thomas Schmidt, but it is a fun read, with some solid core SF work, although a similar concept was explored better last year by Jonathan Strahan’s Edge of Infinity. The theme appeals to me, as stories of exploration and adventure in space beyond the bounds of Earth remain one of the foundation stones of SF, but don’t expect to find hard science and rigorously worked-out physics here, as this isn’t that kind of book. Instead, it belongs to the old Pulp Adventure school, where spaceships flit between planets in days and sometimes even hours, and there are lots of exotic alien races to interact with and/or battle with. The best of the original stories here is probably Nancy Kress’s ‘‘Migration’’, a compelling look at the power instinct can hold over even the most rational minds, but also good are Brad R. Torgersen’s ‘‘The Bricks of Eta Cassiopeiae’’, Jaleta Clegg’s ‘‘One-Way Ticket to Paradise’’, and Nancy Fulda’s ‘‘A Soaring Pillar Of Brightness’’. There is also solid work by Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Cat Rambo, Mike Resnick, and others, as well as good reprint stories by Robert Silverberg and Jason Sanford.
Also from October Locus, Karen Burnham reviews BEYOND THE SUN for Diverse Hands:
KAREN BURNHAM Beyond the Sun, Bryan Thomas Schmidt, ed. (Fairwood Press 978-1-933846-38-5, $17.99, 296pp, tp), August 2013. Cover by Mitchell Davidson Bentley. [Order from Fairwood Press, <www.fairwoodpress.com>.]
There are many reasons people may want to settle out beyond our solar system: religious freedom, economic opportunity, exploration, contacting other life, or simply the desire to be left alone. A little bit of all of these can be found in Bryan Thomas Schmidt’s broadly themed anthology Beyond The Sun. There are aliens, religious fanatics, soldiers, and plenty of people just trying to get by in this diverse volume.
One story about going to the stars in search of a simpler life is ‘‘Respite’’ by Autumn Rachel Dryden. In it a more-or-less Puritan couple are trying to reach the main settlement by wagon while the wife is in labor and the local fauna is about to launch into a feeding frenzy. Ann’s internal perspectives on events gives us a wonderfully dry take on a very tense story, and the troubles between her and her husband are deftly sketched. What I found particularly interesting is that the story ends up admiring a particular view of father- hood that is directly critiqued in the anthology’s strong opening story, ‘‘Flipping the Switch’’ by Jamie Todd Rubin. Rubin uses a trope similar to Joe Haldeman’s classic The Forever War to describe a father who is providing for his family but is fundamentally detached from them. The story effectively portrays the increasing tension the man feels as he drifts farther and farther away from his loved ones.
Returning to religious themes, Jean Johnson’s ‘‘Parker’s Paradise’’ depicts a colony that’s been vastly oversold by its religious leader; the acerbic perspective of a soldier tasked to protect the first contact group makes me want to go read some of her military SF, because this was hilarious. Jason Sanford’s ‘‘Rumspringa’’ gives us the space Amish, with a team of post-humans looking to manipulate an Amish colony through one of their own that went out into the world and came back. ‘‘The Far Side of the Wilderness’’ by Alex Shvartsman depicts a man driven by religious faith to hijack a ship and try to find Earth; his single-minded pursuit leaves him dissatisfied with a most amazing journey. Maurice Broaddus’s ‘‘Voice of the Martyrs’’ gives us an interesting blend of military, religion, and colonization – no easy answers in this one.
There’s one final story that features a religious colony: ‘‘The Dybbyk of Mazel Tov IV’’ by Robert Silverberg. Unlike most of the stories, which are original to the anthology (there are two other reprints, both from the 2000’s), this is a reprint from 1973. This is the second anthology I’ve read this year that has done this: taking a solid selection of contemporary stories and adding in a cherry-picked story from many decades past. Inevitably, the reprint by an old master (it was a Le Guin story the last time, I recall) blows the others away. Robert Silverberg’s story seems fresher, livelier, and more three dimensional than so many of the stories here – not that any of them are bad, but simply that they don’t get over a bar set that high. Some of them do; I would put Rubin’s story in that category along with Cat Rambo’s ‘‘Elsewhere, Within, Elsewhen’’ (a lovely tale of alien contact that literalizes the metaphor of being trapped in a shell of bitterness and resentment). But it really seems unfair to most of the authors involved. I understand the incredible temptation when you’re offered a Silverberg or Le Guin reprint that perfectly suits your theme, but in a mostly-original anthology I wish the editors would stop and reconsider.
That said, there are plenty of solid and enjoyable stories here. Various forms of libertarianism feature in Nancy Kress’ ‘‘Migration’’ and Brad Torgersen’s ‘‘The Bricks of Eta Cassiopeiae’’. Massive miscommunications with and about aliens feature in Simon C. Larter’s ‘‘Inner Sphere Blues’’ and Jennifer Brozek’s ‘‘Dust Angels’’. Jumping to conclusions is ill-advised in Nancy Fulda’s ‘‘A Soaring Pillar of Brightness’’. Luckily, aliens can be just as quick to misjudge a situation when Mike Resnick depicts them examining our television broadcasts in the concluding story ‘‘Observation Post’’.
Overall, this is a collection of solid stories in the somewhat neglected outer space exploration genre of science fiction. Post-humans are rare and garden variety humans occupy center stage, which feels a bit unusual these days. I worry that it seems that aliens in this volume are so difficult to communicate with: it often takes personal sacrifice to do so, or something improbably hand-waving to do with biology and telepathy. Compared to Silverberg’s 1973 story, in which communication with aliens is not terribly more fraught than communication with a rival human religious sect, this anthology seems a little discouraging about the real potential for relating to and communicating meaningfully with the Other.
Nonetheless, these are enjoyable tales with serious themes, worth the time spent reading them.
We wound up with typical attrition of 20-40% of writers not coming through with stories. Luckily I had some name writers who asked to contribute but weren’t on my original list so we wound up with a stellar TOC.
You can click the link to see the full thing but in addition to our headliners: Silverberg, Kress, Resnick and Rusch, we also had names like Sanford, Fulda, Broaddus, Rambo, Torgersen, Brozek, Rubin and Johnson. Very exciting!
It’s a big week for me. Amidst making final choices of stories for my first Kickstarter Anthology: Beyond The Sun, and awaiting my first book contract from a major, I am launching, with Every Day Publishing, a Kickstarter for Raygun Chronicles: Space Opera For a New Age. This anthology, headlined by Mike Resnick, A.C. Crispin, Dean Wesley Smith, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Seanan McGuire, Allen Steele, Robin Wayne Bailey, Sarah A. Hoyt and Brenda Cooper, features contemporary space opera with a classic feel. 13 reprints, 10 new stories, great artwork from Paul Pedersen, an Artists Of The Future Winner, this will also be my first hardback release when it’s published in November–launched at OryCon–provided we fund.
As you can see from the artwork, and the very cool video, this story is about the dreams we all have of rayguns, heroes and heroines, space ships and more. And these stories will take you into that warm, fuzzy dreamscape again and again. All of the stories are fun and provide a nice variety. And I haven’t even seen what our awesome headliners have come up with yet. But with three Star Trek writers, a Star Wars writer, award winners, and fans of space opera, I sure can’t wait to read it. You can sponsor us and preorder everything from signed copies, ebooks, hardbacks, and tradepaperbacks, to t-shirts and a trip to OryCon for the launch. So be sure and check out the Kickstarter! Thanks for helping make dreams possible. All writers will be paid pro-rates. And I receive pro compensation as editor of my third anthology project, one of three for 2013.
Meanwhile check out the Kickstarter and the awesome video here, and thanks for your support!
Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the editor of Blue Shift Magazine and an author and editor of adult and children’s speculative fiction. His debut novel, The Worker Prince (2011) received Honorable Mention on Barnes & Noble Book Club’s Year’s Best Science Fiction Releases for 2011. A sequel The Returning followed in 2012 and The Exoduswill appear in 2013, completing the space opera Saga Of Davi Rhii. His first children’s books, 102 More Hilarious Dinosaur Jokes For Kids (ebook only) and Abraham Lincoln: Dinosaur Hunter- Land Of Legends from Delabarre Publishing. His short stories have appeared in magazines, anthologies and online. He edited the anthology Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6 (2012) and is working on Beyond The Sun for Fairwood Press (July 2013), headlined by Robert Silverberg, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Mike Resnick and Nancy Kress, and Raygun Chronicles: Space Opera For a New Age for Every Day Publishing (November 2013). He hosts #sffwrtcht (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writer’s Chat) Wednesdays at 9 pm ET on Twitter and is an affiliate member of the SFWA.
BTS: Jon, this has been a fun discussion. It’s reminded me of so many reasons why I like Star Wars, and has me mire excited than ever at the prospect of more. When Disney made their announcement a few weeks back, I was surprised and reticent, but done well, this could be an amazing opportunity for fans. What are some things you’d like to see in future films?
JS: I want any new films to both honor the older films (esp. the original trilogy) — WITHOUT copying them (i.e., stop reusing the same exact dialogue quips) — and reach for something new. One good thing that the prequel movies did was they introduced new depth to the Jedi-Sith conflict. I’d like to see Jedi (and Sith) presented in some new, interesting ways. I want the new directors/writers to reach for new types of characters. Stop using the “scoundrel, bounty hunter, princess, droid sidekick” archtypes. Those only worked in the originals because they were fresh takes on old standbys. Develop new characters and character types. I’d really love a series of films based on Tim Zahn’s Thrawn trilogy, but I don’t think we will.
BTS: It’s interesting to hear you mention good things the prequels did. It seems people are split on them. Old school trilogy fans tend to hate them for lacking the true spirit. Fans who had their first experience with them often call them superior for their special effects, etc. I thought the acting and character development and over reliance on CGI were their prime weaknesses. I liked the action and some of the new characters. I enjoyed the new settings and ships a lot as well. Were there other things you thought they did well? (We’ll get to the bad more after).
JS: I thought the fight scenes, especially the duel between Darth Maul and Obi-Wan/Qui-Gon, and then Yoda versus Palpatine and Obi-Wan versus Anakin in the third movie. Most of the space battles were also good. Ian McDiarmid’s performance as Palpatine was excellent, and I also enjoyed Liam Nielson and Ewan McGregor. Some of the CGI was beautiful. Other than those things, I wasn’t much of a fan.
BTS: McDiarmid, Neeson, McGregor, Portman and Jackson all didn’t need the hand holding that other actors did and did their best to rise above the weaknesses and, thus, stood out. I enjoyed the underwater sequence and the water planet concept. I really like the Council scenes on Coruscant and having the chance to see so many diverse creatures. The Jedi HQ and clone stuff interested me as well. Jake Lloyd and Hayden Christiansen were two big weaknesses. Sadly, I’ve seen Christiansen give decent performances elsewhere with director’s guidance. The films would have been much better with a director who guided the actors more. AND then there’s Jar Jar…
JS: I didn’t particularly like either incarnation of Anakin. Young Ani (ugh, that nickname… “Ani! Ani!”) was nice enough, but Lucas wasted the entire first movie by portraying Anakin as a young kid. I didn’t care one bit about his miraculous conception, his slave status, his pod race, or his crush on Amidala (and her eventual attraction to him is a little weird). And don’t get me started on his piloting of a starfighter at the climax–that was the height of absurdity. Then in the second movie we get Petulant Teenage Anikan. That was slightly better because at least his theatrics tied in somewhat with the plot, but it was still annoying as hell. I refuse to believe that Darth Vader came out of a whiny kid with a ponytail. Now, a brooding, quiet, loner kid? Yeah, that would make some sense. It kills me to say this, but the Harry Potter movies did it better, portraying young Voldemort as a dark, scary kid. That’s what the movies needed. Alas, Lucas has become addicted to candyland storytelling. I could almost stand Anakin in the third movie. The hair was a little 80s’ glam for me, but he finally came to posses a little of the Vader swagger, and his relationship with Obi-Wan started to take on a more realistic quality. As for Jar-Jar, I feel bad for the actor who played him, but it was one of the worst character choices in film history. At least Lucas started to realize his mistake and cut back on Jar-Jar’s screen time. What really makes me ill is that the prequel movies could have been good. The basic premise–the evolution of Vader–was powerful. Lucas just failed in the execution of major parts of those movies.
BTS: Agreed. They could have and should have been better. And I think we see him start to crack a bit with Return Of The Jedi, with Ewoks and other things that seem to have been part of the failure of those latter films. Empire, being directed by someone else, was still quite strong. And the first film, he’d done so many drafts and had so much input from studio, his now ex-wife, etc., that it was strong. It’s when we see those influences fade, when Lucas is so big he can do what he wants unchecked that his failures overcome his gifts sadly. I also afree that the Thrawn series would be amazing movies but given the role the original trilogy cast plays in those, and the age of those actors, I don’t see how it would be feasible without major changes. On top of that, they’d have to completely change the Star Wars timeline, unless they want to do the Tron3D aging trick they pulled with Jeff Bridges, and, even then, Hamill and Fisher would have to lose some serious weight to pass. But there are tons of storylines they can do, including something with their kids and other characters introduced later in the Expanded Universe, and I think they’d be wise to consider it. There’s a lot of mythology to build on that’s well established and well thought out and already existing and liked by fans. Why not use that stuff? I just hope they don’t pull a JJ Abrams-Star Trek scenario.
JS: Wow, you are reading my mind. I agree SOOOOOOOOOOOOO much with what you just said. Part of me wants the future movies to break away from the Skywalker and Solo families, but I understand that they could be a useful tether to the past films if handled properly. For instance, if Han and Leia’s kids kept muttering Han’s dialogue lines from the original movies (“I can arrange that! He could use a good kiss!”), I will leave the theater. Generational films/series require a deft touch that, frankly, Lucas did not possess. The new films need to be more than just enhanced-CGI versions of the previous movies. Entirely new themes and story arcs. New approaches to the Force–no midichlorians, ffs.
BTS: GEORGE, “some people are stronger in the Force” was an acceptable explanation for decades. We didn’t need you to dig deeper. *shakes head* Mid-chlorioans, my ass…. Sorry, I digress. But hey, the actors are older. I have no desire to see Leia in a bikini at middle age, and watching Han and Luke cough and grab their jiggling bellies mid-fight as two middle aged men running around would do, also has little appeal. On the other hand, give me Luke as Master of a Jedi Academy, and I’d be all over that. Han as negotiator and Leia and stateswoman also are perfect. They can still play key leadership roles without having to be the center of the action now. There’s an opportunity to recapture their personalities and the fun of their characters and use that bolster the introduction of new characters. If Star Wars as a franchise is going to have a future, they have to do that well, I think.JS: I think (hope) that’s what Disney has in mind, to allow those actors to come back in cameo roles, although they could definitely be more substantial roles if couched properly, as you said. They could also make movies about other events. The galaxy is a huge place with millions (if not billions) of inhabited worlds. What was everyone else doing while Luke and his friends battled the second Death Star? A series of films could carve out another sector of space where the war was being fought by different people, and how they react when the emperor is defeated. A galaxy of warlords–some imperial, others Alliance, and a bunch out for themselves–battling for control of the old empire is rich with possibilities.
BTS: Absolutely. I’d love to see other planets and races. This is a chance, for example, to make Lando no longer the only non-white in that era. Obviously, they had one in Amadala’s service as well as Mace in the prequels, but surely there are whole planets of humans with varied racial profiles, not to mention aliens, etc. And they could also explore some of the aliens we’ve already met more in depth such as Chewbacca, etc. I can imagine humorous scenarios with Han training pilots and getting annoyed with a cocky student and a little competition developing, etc. I also think they need to come up with a solid villain again. Vader is gone. And so is Palpatine. Maybe competing factions, maybe they can find new stories involving Thrawn somehow.
JS: I love those suggestions. I hope that someone at Disney is thinking the same way. This franchise has limitless potential. And the choice of villain, as in most action-adventure films, is key. They need a solid idea, and talented actors to pull it off. We could use a Heath Ledger’s Joker to up the ante.
BTS: A high caliber performance, yes. The darkness of the Batman films would spoil Star Wars, in my opinion. They have always had a hopeful lightness even at their darkness moments, unlike the Nolan films, and I think that’s part of the charm and should be preserved. I also think there’s an opportunity to introduce conflicting elements. With the Emperor and his lead henchman dead, why wouldn’t competing forces arise to threaten the Empire’s power? The Hutts, perhaps, or the Corporate Sector Authority as set forward in the Daley Han books. Surely there are plenty of options which could be explored to keep it more interesting. I’d also like to see them use the same level of humor. They can exploit the aging heroes and how age affects their ability to join the action as Lethal Weapon did so well, but they can also exploit the generational differences with new characters and even the cross cultural clashes inevitable with aliens.
JS: Yes, keep the charm of the franchise (lightsaber duels, starship battles, seat-of-the-pants heroics, etc…) and also strive to tell new stories. I think that’s the recipe for success. They could even do multiple film series at the same time, like the EU book series. I’m fine with a series of films that is tilted more Young Adult as long as there is also one or more series aimed at me, the aging SW nut who fell in love with the franchise back in ’77, too.
BTS: One of my writing goals, silly as it may sound, is to write a Star Wars tie-in. Just once, I want to play in that sandbox. I have several ideas but I know they’re assigned. My dream would be to do something with Han Solo in his later years, post-Chewie’s death (a storyline I don’t like but which has been done and offers great dramatic possibilities for the character nonetheless) where he takes in a young kid as apprentice. Have you ever thought of writing a tie-in novel?
JS: There aren’t many franchises for which I’d be willing to write a tie-in, but Star Wars is one of them. I don’t have any specific stories in mind, but I’m sure I could come up with a few ideas if given the chance. But my dream job (in addition to my writing) would be quality control for all future Star Wars movies. Just let me sit in during the storyboarding, the casting, the filming, and the editing and I could prevent so many problems from getting made in the first place. If we’re talking dreams-that-will-never-come-true, I’d love to tear apart the prequel movies and remake them from scratch.
BTS: I’d like to erase memory of them from my head for good and wait for your versions, sir. Heh, I’d give anything to script one of them but since my film school and screenwriting days are behind me, I consider that a “never going to happen” thing. But yeah, consulting would be a blast. We’d have a long line to wait in, though, I’d guess. I’m glad we took time to revisit this though, Jon. And I think it’s a good reminder why we love them so much and how much they’ve affected us and inspired our work and our storytelling. Any fina thoughts as we close this out?
JS: I hope the Star Wars franchise enjoys a long life of more films, books, comics, and memorabilia. It’s a part of our national identity and it has served as a major influence in my life.
BTS: Well, I don’t know how I could say it any better than that, so, thanks for sharing this journey with us and Happy Holidays. We wish you a wonderful 2013 to come!
Jon Sprunk grew up in central Pennsylvania, the eldest of four and attended Lock Haven University. He graduated with a B.A. in English in 1992. After his disastrous first novel failed to find a publisher, he sought gainful employment. Finally, after many more rejections and twists and turns of life, he joined Pennwriters and attended their annual conference in 2004. His short fiction has appeared in Cloaked in Shadow: Dark Tales of Elves, Dreams & Visions #34 andCemetery Moon #4. In June 2009, he signed a multi-book contract with Pyr Books by whom his Shadow Trilogy dark fantasy series have been published. He can be found on twitter as @jsprunk70, on Facebook and via his website athttp://jonsprunk.com/.
Bryan Thomas Schmidt is an author and editor of adult and children’s speculative fiction. His debut novel, The Worker Prince(2011) received Honorable Mention on Barnes & Noble Book Club’s Year’s Best Science Fiction Releases for 2011. A sequel The Returning followed in 2012 and The Exodus will appear in 2013, completing the space opera Saga Of Davi Rhii. His first children’s books, 102 More Hilarious Dinosaur Jokes For Kids (ebook only) and Abraham Lincoln: Dinosaur Hunter- Land Of Legends (forthcoming) appeared from Delabarre Publishing in 2012. His short stories have appeared in magazines, anthologies and online. He edited the anthology Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6 (2012) and is working on Beyond The Sun for Fairwood Press, headlined by Robert Silverberg, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Mike Resnick and Nancy Kress, a Ray Gun Revival Best Of Collection for Every Day Publishing and World Encounters and Space & Shadows: SpecNoir with coeditor John Helfers, all forthcoming. He hosts #sffwrtcht (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writer’s Chat) Wednesdays at 9 pm ET on Twitter and is an affiliate member of the SFWA.
Recently, I had a first, when my humorous Science Fiction story, Duncan Derring & The Call Of The Lady Luck, was picked up by Triumph Over Tragedy, R.T. Kaelin’s brilliant project to raise funds for the Red Cross’ Hurricane Sandy. Featuring stories from the likes of Robert Silverberg, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Michael Stackpole, Timothy Zahn, Elizabeth Bear and many more, it’s an honor to have my name included. The e-anthology will release near the end of 2012 and be available for a limited time. All stories are donated and so is editing time by Kaelin, Sarah Chorn, Rob Bedford and myself. The goal is to raise $10,000 for the Red Cross. You can participate and get a copy of this fine anthology for just $7 here. For a full list of contributors, see the Goodreads listing here. While some writers offered reprints, many of the stories are brand new. I highly recommend getting a copy. You can learn more on Science Fiction & Fantasy Writer’s Chat Wednesday, December 27th at 9 p.m. ET, when Kaelin, Chorn and others come on to talk about the project.
Meanwhile, I thought I’d give you a preview of my story. This tale also appeared in print in Wandering Weeds: Tales Of Rabid Vegetation edited by Frances Pauli & Jaleta Clegg. You can read about that on Goodreads here. Besides it being the first time I’ve shared a Table Of Contents with my favorite writer of all time, Silverberg, and had a story in a charity anthology, it’s also the first time one of my stories has been published twice, and I’m glad Duncan gets a chance to reach a wider audience, as I’m hoping this is the first in a series of adventures for him.
I hope you enjoy this snippet of Duncan’s first adventure. Inspired by love of pulp characters and Mike Resnick’s Catostrophe Baker and Lucifer Jones tales. And please support Triumph Over Tragedy.
DUNCAN DERRING AND THE CALL OF THE LADY LUCK by
Bryan Thomas Schmidt
he mission sounded simple: head out to the edge of the solar system and save the Princess Line’s Lady Luck from the Andromedan tumbleweeds. It was the sort of mission I was made for, and I fully expected to wrap her up in less than a day and be on my way. For once, my expectations were wildly out of synch with reality. Happens to everyone sometime, I suppose.
Duncan Derring, weapons and demolitions expert—what do you mean you never heard of me? Where have you been? It wasn’t exactly the kind of profession you’d expect tourism ventures to call upon, I know, but the galaxy held all kinds of odd dangers for these passenger ships. They weren’t outfitted with any weapons and only the barest sorts of shields. In fact, if I’d been the one hired to approve the design, they never would have made it out of concept. But no one asked me.
The Lady Luck was one of the newer liners, “a five star resort amongst the stars,” the brochures said, and they weren’t talking about the kind of stars you see in movies. She could carry a load of up to five thousand passengers, not counting certain odd-sized alien species, and provided all the dining and entertainment options anyone could imagine. She contained twenty-seven restaurants, eighteen bars, ten nightclubs, eight ballrooms, thirty-five shops, fifteen cinemas, and any number of other recreational and entertainment facilities. If I hadn’t been aboard a liner once myself, I’d have thought it absurd, but Princess Ltd. specialized in making absurdities reality.
I’d never seen the Andromedan Tumbleweeds, although I’d heard a lot about them, of course. Kinda goes without saying that, in my profession, you stay abreast of the latest developments. Floating in deep space between Neptune and Uranus, the tumbleweeds were freshly arrived from Andromeda, where the locals tired of the toll they took on ships and planets and used a fleet’s worth of force fields to drag them to the edge of their solar system and push them off on us. How nice of them, you might think, and you’d be right, but then you don’t know the Andromedans. No one ever called the Andromedans nice.
It took about two days at full on ultra-light engines to make the journey from my previous assignment, Ganymede Colony just off Jupiter. Why anyone had wanted to build resort towns in the Galileans was beyond me, but some people like looking at cool, gaseous masses, I guess. I certainly prefer them to some warm gaseous masses I’ve known. I was able to set the nav computer to auto for much of the route and catch some much-needed sleep. Despite my distaste for the location, the Ganymede Colony was a busy place and sleep had been more of a rarity than I’m used to. The custom-made feather mattress I’d installed in my quarters molded itself to the contours of my body as I slept. It took three tries and its sexiest feminine voice for the nav computer to awaken me. I warmed quickly as the heaters in my sleep pod brought my body temperature to normal and the blood raced through my veins again.
Yawning, I sat up, rubbing at the aches in my neck as I put my feet on the cold deck. The sensation got me moving faster as I slid out of my sleep jumpsuit and began strapping on my demolitions gear. At least as much of it as I could and still move around with speed and conduct ship’s business. You have to be ready to jump at a moment’s notice in this business, for both economic and literal survival, and the better prepared you were, the more successful you’d be.
As the Trini, short for Trinitrotoluene—aka TNT—slipped out of hyperspace, I found myself immediately at the heart of the problem. Until I’d encountered her, I would have never thought a nav computer could be programmed with a sense of humor. I figured a jealous woman of some sort must be behind her, because she was always pulling this sort of thing on me, and for once, I wasn’t in the mood. As accustomed as I am to dangerous situations, the sight of three tumbleweeds rotating seeming inches from my cockpit view screen stopped my heart.
I requested a location on the Lady Luck herself and found her frozen in space just inside the edge of the field. The report said she’d come upon the tumbleweeds unexpectedly and figured staying put and keeping pace was her only chance. Given the tumbleweeds’ propensity for random changes in direction with the slightest shift in gravitation, I’d say the Lady Luck lived up to her name. The readings my computer took upon arrival showed little influence from planetary gravitation at that particular moment. It was enough to make me relax again, which would turn out to be a regrettable mistake.
As I rotated the Trini and took in the view, I noted damages on the Lady Luck’s hull from unlucky encounters with a few of the surrounding tumbleweeds. The fact the liner was still functional and in one piece indicated the impacts had deflected the offending tumbleweeds away without disturbing any others. Such a disturbance would probably have caused a sizable enough chain reaction that my mission would have been pointless.
The Lady Luck hailed me as soon as I arrived. “Lady Luck Liner calling craft Trini,” the comm officer said in that annoying formal style they have.
“Yeah, I’m here,” I responded. “Just checking out the damages.”
“None necessitating more than a change of five thousand shorts so far,” she said. The Lady Luck had full on laundry facilities, too, so I figured that didn’t pose them much of a problem.
“How is it you came to be inside the field?” I asked, thinking only an idiot could have made such a colossal blunder.
“We were at full stop, under night crew. The weeds came upon us faster than we could bring her up to full and take evasives,” the Captain answered. “Our nav computer malfunctioned and the scanners read them as small debris.”
Given my own experience with nav computers, I didn’t bother to delve any further. When they weren’t in motion, the tumbleweeds always appeared smaller than their actual size to scanners. Pilots relied on nav charts and computers to pinpoint their location when they travelled this part of the system. But they always verified their presence with human eyes.
“Can you back her out the way you came in?”
“It’s not so easy to move a one hundred thousand ton liner,” the Captain said. “It’s a bit like backing Saturn through one of her rings. We don’t have the maneuverability. Backing up’s rarely called for.”
I checked my computer’s readings again. “For the moment, it appears you got lucky, but when the field reaches the influence of Neptune’s gravity, it could change in a hurry.”
“Can you try and have us out before then?” the Captain replied, as if I needed some amateur questioning my competence for the mission. But the thought of four thousand five hundred passengers suffering for the ignorance of their crew wasn’t something I could live with, so I set about my calculations for clearing them a path.
As I flew along the field’s edge, it became obvious I’d have to go in manually and set the explosives. My jetpack was quicker and I a far smaller target than my ship. The odds I would avoid entanglements with any of the weeds would greatly increase if I went alone. The catch was that I hadn’t used my pack in over a year and never in a situation rife with the risks I’d face here. All it would take is one wrong move, one wrong placement of an explosive, or one disturbance of the field to send the weeds into chaos, haphazardly spinning like their Earthen namesakes across space, colliding with each other or anything else in their way.
To complicate things further, Neptune’s gravitation was coming into range. Planetary gravity started influencing objects millions of kilometers out. On paper, the figures looked ridiculous but this wasn’t on paper. Even a slight gravitational pull could send the tumbleweeds into chaotic motion, which would be the end of the Lady Luck, the Trini, and me.
Finishing my calculations with due speed but proper care, I slipped into my suit and jetted out the Trini’s passenger airlock, making my way into the field. The tumbleweeds were even more intimidating up close than they had been through the Trini’s ports. The temperature inside my suit rose as adrenaline coursed through my veins. Spying my first target, I used the suit’s jets to swing left and approach, taking care not to lose control or come in too fast.
I reversed my jets’ thrust, slowing my momentum as I reached each tumbleweed’s surface. Then I could set each charge and use my boots to push free before jetting off to the next target. Firing the jets too close might start the weeds spinning. The Trini’s calculations determined it would take twenty-two charges to both clear a path for the liner and deflect nearby tumbleweeds away from the Lady Luck. My plan included setting five more just in case something went wrong.
Thanks to my experience and skill, the execution came off without a hitch. As I released the last charge and clicked the activation button, ready to push off and head back to my ship, a motion over my right shoulder drew my attention. A door was opening on the Lady Luck. It appeared to be a garbage chute.
I punched the button on my radio. “Captain, don’t jettison anything, until you’ve cleared the field!”
Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the editor of Blue Shift Magazine and an author and editor of adult and children’s speculative fiction. His debut novel, The Worker Prince (2011) received Honorable Mention on Barnes & Noble Book Club’s Year’s Best Science Fiction Releases for 2011. A sequel The Returning followed in 2012 and The Exoduswill appear in 2013, completing the space opera Saga Of Davi Rhii. His first children’s books, 102 More Hilarious Dinosaur Jokes For Kids (ebook only) and Abraham Lincoln: Dinosaur Hunter- Land Of Legends(forthcoming) appeared from Delabarre Publishing in 2012. His short stories have appeared in magazines, anthologies and online. He edited the anthology Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6 (2012) and is working on Beyond The Sun for Fairwood Press (July 2013), headlined by Robert Silverberg, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Mike Resnick and Nancy Kress, and Raygun Chronicles: Space Opera For a New Age for Every Day Publishing (November 2013). He hosts #sffwrtcht (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writer’s Chat) Wednesdays at 9 pm ET on Twitter and is an affiliate member of the SFWA.
Space Battles is a collection of 17 different short stories centered on, you guessed it, space battles. They each have their own unique way of displaying a battle and include anything from one-on-one gun fights, to dogfights between single ships, to even full scale assaults on battle cruisers. Space Battles has a good mix of female and male characters, and generally speaking the women kick even more tail than their male counterparts, a refreshing thing to see especially in this genre. In Space Battles you will find mixtures of humor, a wide variety of sub-genres such as Space Opera and Military Science Fiction, as well as all the action you can handle and more. You will find sentient spacecrafts and Amish space truckers, that’s right I said Amish which are shown in a way you could never imagine! There is a little something in Space Battles for everyone.The character depth is excellent despite the fact that the average length of the stories is about 15 pages or so, quite an achievement when you consider that they have to pack these short stories with as much action as you can handle as well. You have some stories that will make you laugh such as The Thirteens by Gene Mederos where a particular incident involving slippers had me in a fit of giggles. Others will make you appreciate those in the military as admirals valiantly fight to save their ship, and their way of life such as in Like So Much Refuse by Simon C. Larter. Some examine the will to live and the will to die such as in Never Look Back by Grace Bridges. I was hardly able to set the book down as each new story sent adrenaline into my system.
If you enjoy anything in the realm of science fiction this is a book I highly recommend you go out and get. The writing is excellent and if battles themselves are your thing, regardless of genre, than this book will suit your fancy just fine as well. Honestly if you just want some quick reads that are done very well Space Battles is a good choice. The characters do not suffer for the short length of the stories, even in Bait and Switch by Jaleta Clegg which is a mere eight pages! Obviously if you have read this far you can tell I thoroughly enjoyed Space Battles. I really don’t have any complaints.