First Thoughts on FORBIDDEN THOUGHTS

Others will no doubt post about more coherent thoughts about Superversive Press’s new anthology, FORBIDDEN THOUGHTS, but…here are mine:

Wow…it is so exciting to see something go from a glimmer of an idea to reality! And then see it fly off the shelves (electronically). Here’s how it happened:

About two years ago, a friend of mine wanted to put together a charity anthology for the Charlie Hebdo artists. She said, “Send me the most controversial thing you’ve ever written!”

Well, I don’t normally do controversial per se. But I sat down and prayed a bit to see what would come to me. I had just read Face-to-Face with Jesus by Samaa Habib, one of the best books I’ve ever read, and my mind was full of thoughts about her experience. So, I sat down and wrote the. most. controversial. story I was capable of conceiving.

The story is called “The Test of the Prophet”.

At first, I thought I’d done quite well. My mom immediately worried that it would get my shot, and my atheist Liberal friend called it hateful. But, my Muslim friend loved it and took it home to Pakistan to show her parents. (Life can be strange sometimes!)

By this time, however, I realized that the first anthology wasn’t going to fly. But I REALLY wanted to do something with my story. It was the best thing I had ever written.

But what can you do with a super controversial story in this age of safe spaces and trigger warnings?

Then, in the midst of the Sad Puppy fervor, I caught a glimmer of an answer. Jason Rennie, editor of Sci Phi Journal and the brilliant mind behind SuperverisveSF, suggested in the midst of a flurry of Sad Puppy emails, that the authors involved get together and do an anthology of anti-PC stories, kind of a modern Dangerous Visions–putting into story form all those thoughts that the SJWs don’t want people to think. Basically, doing what SF is supposed to do, posing difficult questions.

Those of us on the email chain decided on the title: Forbidden Thoughts.

I LOVED this idea. Here was my answer to what to do with my controversial story.

So, I kept on Jason about this, and I kept on the other authors. When a few were too busy to be able to fit writing a new short story into their schedule, I convinced them to submit incendiary blog posts.

So we now had a volume with stories by, among others, John, Nick Cole, Brian Niemeier, Josh Young, Brad Torgersen, Sarah Hoyt, and, a particularly delightful surprise for me, our young Marine fan friend, Pierce Oka. Plus, non fiction by Tom Kratman and Larry Correia submitted some of his original Sad Puppy posts–the thing that started it all!

But we still needed a Foreword.

Last winter, during one of our SuperversiveSF chats, we had invited the one reporter who reported truthfully on Sad Puppies, an amusing and irreverent fellow named Milo Yiannopoulos. Just as the chat was scheduled to begin, Milo was informed that he had been deverified on Twitter. This made it so that he was never able to attend our chat. He made it clear that he regretted this and kind of owed us.

So, I asked Jason to see if Milo would let us cash in our favor in the form of him writing the Foreword.

He did!

Milo wrote an excellent Foreword. We put the stories in order and voila! A delightfully thought-provoking volume that reminds me of the daring stories one found the pages of Science Fiction volumes in my youth.

There is one other delightful story that goes with this volume. Last summer, as we often do, we spent a week in Chincoteague. Our teen writer fan (some of you may have seen the victory dance she did when John won Dragon Award), asked if she and her family could join us, so we and the Freeman family spent a wonderful week together.

As I arrived on Chincoteague, I got an email from Jason informing me that he had read a submission by April, and it was really chilling. He thought it would work for Forbidden Thoughts. So, when April walked into the house we were renting for the week, I got to inform her that her first published piece would be in an anthology with John and I!

She was so stunned that she had to call me the next morning and ask me to explain it all again. Lol It was a delightful moment.

Now Forbidden thoughts is live! There will be an official Launch party with a live chat on Inauguration Day.

So, Politically-Correct friends, you might want to avoid this, but the rest of you, come join in the fun!!!

You are not supposed to read this book.
You are not supposed to think about reading this book.
In fact, just plain thinking at all is unacceptable.
You have been warned….

On Amazon!

(Print version coming. Probably by next week.)

Comments

 

Nethereal BOOK BOMB!

I’m proud to announce that today I’m joining forces with best selling author Larry Correia to BOOK BOMB! my breakout SF-fantasy novel Nethereal.

What is a BOOK BOMB? I’ll let Larry explain:

For those of you unfamiliar with Book Bombs, what we do is pick a good book and a deserving author that could use a publicity boost, and then all purchase their novel on the same day on Amazon. Since Amazon updates its sales rankings with this rolling average algorithm, the more books bought on the same day, the higher it gets in the rankings. The higher it gets, the more new eyes see it, and the more new readers the author is exposed to. Success breeds success, and most importantly the author GETS PAID.

In this case, the lucky author is me 🙂

I’ll actually be posting the Book Bomb post the night of the 17th, because it appears that Amazon now has about a ten hour delay before the sales register. Gone are the wild west days where a book would begin climbing an hour after the Book Bomb started, and it isn’t nearly as awesome to hit the peak at 2 AM when most people are asleep and won’t see it.

You might be wondering how Larry selects books to bomb. Here are his stated criteria:

Why did I pick Brian for this month’s Book Bomb? First, I really liked the book. Second, he’s just starting out, and he’s a super nice guy.

Thank you, Larry! I’m honored to be lavished with such high praise from an author as accomplished as yourself. Your manatee will be released on schedule at the agreed-upon site–which is a relief, because he’s halfway through my last drum of Cheetos.
Anyway, welcome, members of the Monster Hunter Nation and all readers who’ve taken an interest in the BOOK BOMB! Here’s a foretaste of what Nethereal has in store.
About Nethereal
A woman like no other who longs for acceptance.
A precision killer inspired by the dream of his captain.
The last member of a murdered race, fighting to avenge his people against the might of the Guild…and the dark powers behind it.
The Sublime Brotherhood of Steersmen holds the Middle Stratum in its iron grip. Jaren Peregrine, last of the Gen, raids across fringe space with Nakvin—her captain’s best pilot and only friend, apprentice steersman Deim, and mercenary Teg Cross.
Hunted by the ruthless Master Malachi, Jaren and his crew join a conspiracy to break the Guild’s monopoly with an experimental ship. But when its maiden voyage goes awry, the Exodus flies farther off course than its crew could have imagined.
OK. You know about the book. Larry has recommended it. Get over to Amazon and buy it! Nethereal (Soul Cycle Book 1)
And for those who already own Nethereal, the even better sequel Souldancer is on sale now for $2.99.
Thanks again to Larry and everyone who’s helped to make this BOOK BOMB! a success.

Review: Hard Magic by Larry Correia

Hard Magic

A friend was recently asked which novel is the best introduction to Larry Correia‘s work. She recommended Hard Magic: Grimnoir Chronicles Book I, and I was reminded that, although I’ve read and enjoy the book, I haven’t reviewed it yet. This post is meant to correct that oversight.

NB: I’ll do my best to keep this review as spoiler-free as possible, but those who haven’t read Hard Magic and want to approach the novel totally fresh should proceed with caution.

It’s 1932, albeit a very different time from the one our grandparents knew. Certainly there are similarities. The ashes of the Great War aren’t yet cold, and the unquenched embers threaten to spark an even more terrible conflict.

On the other hand, the war ended with pyrokinetics and demon summoners driving the Kaiser’s undead army behind the walls of Berlin. Imperial Japan prepares for global conquest, its dictator’s ruthlessness more than making up for broken Germany’s absence.

Magic–or a force practically indistinguishable from it–appeared in 1849. That power has wrought monumental changes through the one tenth of one percent of the world’s population strong enough to wield it,

Two such gifted individuals are Jake Sullivan: war hero, federal prisoner, and gravity-altering Active with far more ingenuity than the typical Heavy; and Faye Vierra: ADD-afflicted Dust Bowl refugee and teleportation prodigy. They find themselves drawn together even as they’re drawn deeper into an occult war with hundreds of millions of lives at stake.

My Perspective

The Grimnoir
Hard Magic was the first Larry Correia book I read. At the time I’d heard of the author and was aware that he was vilified in certain quarters of the SF establishment as a hack writer of gun porn. I was forced to conclude that Larry’s accusers couldn’t have read his work–or couldn’t be speaking honestly if they had.

Yes, Hard Magic (and its predecessor Monster Hunter International, which in all candor I did find to be a little rough–but hey, it’s a first novel) features lovingly detailed descriptions of firearms. And yes, its main speculative premise is best described as “diesel punk X-Men”.

If you thought there was a “but” coming, what the hell is wrong with you? Gun trivia is awesome–especially when it’s delivered with Larry’s expert touch. Diesel punk X-Men is such an awesome idea that Marvel’s failure to do it first is a sure omen of their decline.

Larry Correia tells imaginative action tales that put fun first–right where it belongs. He is helping to save SFF from the preachy nihilists and socially conscious schoolmarms who’ve spent the last two decades running genre fiction into the ground.

Reading Hard Magic made me appreciate how thoroughly Larry’s detractors underestimate him. Unlike most of the grievance studies set, he grew up on a dairy farm where predawn mornings found him elbow-deep in cow–not indicative of someone who abides laziness. He earned an accounting degree and worked for a Fortune 500 company and a defense contractor–not indicative of an intellectual lightweight.

Most importantly for our purposes, Larry contracted a library-devouring case of the reading bug at a young age–highly indicative of a Real Writer.

Hard Magic isn’t just a workmanlike pulp yarn (though it is, that; thank God). From the painstaking historical research (Quick aside: I have a history degree, and I focused on Japanese history. Trust me when I say that Larry got it right.), to a magic system of Sandersonian depth and scale, the book is replete with marks of real craft.

The crowning glory of Hard Magic, though, is its characters. Instances of navel contemplation and lengthy monologues are blessedly lacking. These characters show us who they are by what they do. Usually what they do is kick all kinds of ass, yet the violence always has meaning and is always justified by the stakes.

A recurring character element that jumped out at me while reading is the tension between the families we’re born into and the families we choose for ourselves. Loyalty to, and sacrifice for, family struck me as a major theme of Hard Magic (even if the author himself didn’t notice).

Conclusion

Hard Magic by Larry Correia delivers rollicking pulp action elevated by trenchant characterization. The author’s trademark attention to detail and commitment to fun make this book the perfect jumping-on point for new fans.

Happy Birthday H.P. Lovecraft and Larry Correia

Lovecraft and Larry Correia

Today should be a global holiday for horror geeks. For on this day, the stars aligned not once, but twice, to gift the world with authors of singular vision whose work defined and popularized their genres.

I speak, of H.P. Lovecraft, Prince of Weird Horror, and Larry Correia, International Lord of Hate and Urban Fantasy author par excellence–both born this day almost a century apart.

Long may their works fuel our nightmares of tentacled horrors in forgotten attic rooms, and our fantasies of defenestrating evil lycanthrope accounting department managers!

 

First They Came For The Oscars: My Take On The Hugos.

Hugo

With the Hugo Nominations being announced tomorrow, the topic of what is right or wrong with the award is quite popular right now.

I am going to take a step away from most of the discussion on this topic and say that I do not believe the issue is political.

Sure, at the moment, one group is on one side of the political spectrum and the other is on the other, but that is not the issue that is actually before us.

The issue is: Insular vs. Populous

Let me tell you a little about my background and why I believe this.

When I was young, I worked for my father. My father distributed movies to television. He would find public domain movies with expired copyrights (or no copyright, the laws were different then), find rental companies (reel–this was before tape) that had copies, and make these copies available to television stations to use for mid-afternoon and late night filler.

Doesn’t sound like much, but he put two kids through expensive colleges on that work.

My job, among other things, was to write catalogues. We did our catalogues along different themes: women’s movies, cowboy movies, scary movies, and—most importantly—Academy Award Winners.

Have you ever read the list of Oscar nominees for 1939? This was before they limited the number of nominations to five (which they seem to have moved away from again). It read:

o          Gone With the Wind

o          Dark Victory

o            Goodbye, Mr. Chips

o          Love Affair

o          Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

o            Ninotchka

o          Of Mice and Men

o            Stagecoach

o          The Wizard of Oz

o            Wuthering Heights

Can you imagine even half of those movies getting a nomination today? Do you think Gone With the Wind would still win? Would Mr. Smith Goes to Washington or even The Wizard of Oz still be listed?

Let me put this very clearly: Had this been 1939, everyone’s favorite movie of 2014 would have at least received a nomination, if not actually won—instead of receiving nominations for things like Make-Up and Visual Effects and losing to a move called Birdman (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)—which I had never heard of until I looked it up. (This does not mean it is not a good movie…but it sure as Sundays means it’s not a popular movie.)

I am speaking, of course, of Guardians of the Galaxy.

(Okay, disclaimer Guardians of the Galaxy, much as I absolutely loved it, was not my favorite movie of 2015. That distinction falls to my new top favorite movie, Winter’s Tale, which really did deserve an award, but instead was watched by six guys, one whom wandered into the theatre by mistake, a tree, and me. But I digress.)

Oh, come on! You are thinking, a movie like Guardians of the Galaxy would never win best picture!

To which I say: Exactly!

What is the point of a Best Picture award that has nothing to do with the best picture of the year?

Really, the Oscar award should be called Top Artsy Film.

What happened to the award that used to go to movies like It Happened One Night and Gigi? My Fair Lady and The Sound of Music?

Can you imagine those movies winning today?

When did it become “Award for the snobbiest movie of the year?”

Okay, that’s not entirely fair, good movies do occasionally win, but, imho, the best movies of the year haven’t won in years. And it seems to have gotten worse in the last decade.

Why is this?

Is it a secret conspiracy? An evil plot? Demons?

Possibly demons, but I don’t think so.

I think it is a natural process that I will call saturation.

The Academy Awards are voted on by…the Academy For Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. These are serious professionals who care about the business. This means they watch LOTS of movies.

Lots. Scads, even.

And, like reviewers, who often pan movies audiences love, they begin to put a higher and higher value on originality.

Because they’ve seen it before. They want something new.

Also, they like things that are creative because they build on other things, things only they have seen. This movie harkens back in a clever way to one from fifty years ago. That impresses someone who has seen both movies.

It doesn’t do jack for the public.

So, the insular quality of the voting audience has, over the years, made the Oscars go from topical to trivial.

And good movies go by unnoticed and unremarked upon…except in the box office.

(Unless they are the best movie of the year, which only got viewed by six folks, a tree, and me. But I digress.)

So…what about the Hugos?

Same thing happened.

Hugos used to go to the big, commercially successful books everyone loved. (Like The Martian. I think we all agree…on both sides of the great Hugo divide…that The Martian would have deserved the Best Novel award this year, had it been eligible.)

And they voted for books on both sides of the political spetrum, as evidenced as the winners for 1960 ad 1962:

1960  Starship Stormtroopers by Robert Heinlein

1962 Stranger In A Strange Bed by Robert Heinlein

See? Both sides represented. ;-P

There were winners people still love today, such as Dune and Lord of Light. And winners that, nowadays, I alone still remember and like, such as And Call Me Conrad (This Immortal).

But back then, there was a regular corollary between the books that won and the books that were selling to general fandom.

Nowadays, the Hugos seem to have gone the way of the Academy Awards—being awarded by a relatively small group of fans who have read it all. So they look for very different things in a book than the general reading public.

There is nothing wrong with this.

(Brief side note: people I have spoken to disagree on the merits of last year’s winner. I have not read it. It could be terrific. But I note that while a few people say they actually liked the book, most seem to like it because it got rid of he and she. In particular, because they thought this was some step kind of forward in women’s rights.

Folks, the Chinese language does not have he and she…and it hasn’t exactly opened their eyes on the matter of equal rights for the sexes. Okay, back to our main programming.)

But a vote from a small crowd of fans is not the same as a vote from a large one.

So lets look at two things in particular: Larry Correia and Redshirts.

Larry Correia.

Never mind what you think of his politics, Larry Correia SELLS!  (He puts more aside in one quarter of the year for estimated taxes than quite a few authors I know have made in their entire writing career. )

What’s more, people LOVE his stuff.

Teenage girls, school teachers, librarians, technical writers, erudite psychiatrists. What do they all have in common? They are all reading Hard Magic or the Monster Hunter books.

The excitement about Correia among fans reminds me of George. R. R. Martin about ten or fifteen years ago, when his third book had come out and not all that many people had heard of him, but if you had, oh my, did you go crazy with book love when you discovered that your neighbor who you ran into at the school bus stop was also a fan of Game of Thrones. Or Butcher. Even today, diverse fans across the spectrum light up at the mention of Harry Dresden.

That’s the kind of excitement Correia’s books are garnering.

Are his books the best written this year?

Maybe, maybe not. But I enjoyed Hard Magic tremendously, and if a book like that won an award, I would not thing the award ill served.

Even if there are better books out there, a pertinent, up-to-date award would at least give Correia and Butcher a nod…because the same fans who lay down their dollars so enthusiastically for these gentlemen’s books would tend to suggest them.

But before the last two years, these authors were not even getting suggested—because fans in general were no longer voting for the award.

Many fans I know don’t even know the Hugos exist. Which is a crime. If not for the present and the future, the dignity and name of the Hugos should be more widely known so as to encourage new fans to seek out the excellent winners of yester year.

Second case: Redshirts.

I have not read Redshirts, but I have heard a lot of flack about it getting an award. But I am not entirely sure the flack is merited. Here’s why:

I recently had lunch with a writer friend. While chatting over lunch, she mentioned that when she wants to share SF with someone who has never read it, she always recommends Scalzi, Old Man’s War, in particular. It was a great book, she explained, for introducing those dignified fellows at work to the world of science fiction.

And I realized that she was right. The very complaints I had heard about Old Man’s War, that it was derivative of earlier science fiction works, becomes a virtue if you want to introduce someone to the very ideas that those older books represented without overwhelming the person.

I am reminded of Eragon. A friend said he never read it because he was told, “Don’t bother. You’ve already read all those books” ( i.e. the books it was derived from. )

But my eldest son LOVED it. He’d never read the many things it borrowed from.

The story was new to him.

So, did Redshirts win its Hugo on its merits?

Probably not. Throughout time immemorial, works often win based on how much readers liked the author’s previous works. So, it was partially due to reader’s admiration for Old Man’s War that Redshirts got its nomination…a book, as we have just learned, that is useful for lowering the heavy investment cost sometimes involved with entering our beloved field.

Any writer who helps draw in new fans deserves a Hugo nod.

But Redshirts had something else going for it as well. Nostalgia. So many of us came into fandom through Star Trek. A book nod to the power of Star Trek delights us even as Galaxy Quest delighted us. (Hey, it really wasn’t a great movie…but who can resist being amused by it.)

Now, you can argue that Redshirts getting an award for nostalgic reasons is a blow against the Hugos because it is like the Academy voting for movies that have in-references to other movies.

Or you can argue that it is a win for the Hugos, because the book really did have a broad fan appeal—to the many, many fans who so love Star Trek.

I’m not going to take sides on that. For the point of this article, it doesn’t matter.

But if Redshirts had won with 30,000 fans voting or 100,000 fans voting, the answer would be much more clear than the current situation, where the Hugo was awarded by the 6,060 people voting at World Con 2013. (No slight against these good folks, mind you! They went and voted! It’s our own fault, if the rest of us don’t up and participate!)

There was a recent much copied quote about the Hugos belonging to a small group of people.

This should not be.

Science fiction already has an Academy-like award presented by field professionals. It’s called the Nebulas. The Hugos were supposed to be the popular vote.

The question is: How can it become popular again?

 

Larry Correia, The Guardian and Cthulhu

Larry Correia is taking the Pink shirts at the guardian to task over their attempts to inject yet more identity politics into fiction and indulge their unhinged obsession with race and victimhood, this time they want to try to dethrone H.P. Lovecraft from his position as important horror pioneer. I don’t really understand why they carry on like this but it seems to give them a purpose. If only they would get jobs and do something productive instead of crapping all over everybody else’s enjoyment. Have a read of what Larry has to say

A few things for those not in the loop. HP Lovecraft is one of the most famous authors in history, who basically created a whole genre. Authors commonly use the word Lovecraftian today to describe themes and elements that he popularized. Among the creators who list Lovecraft as a major influence are Stephen King, Ramsey Campbell, Joe Lansdale, Alan Moore, F. Paul Wilson, Brian Lumley, Clive Barker, Guillermo Del Toro, H.R. Geiger, John Carpenter, Mike Mignola, and Neil Gaiman. Plus thousands of other authors, artists, and film makers.
Have you heard of Cthulhu? Yeah. That guy.
Lovecraft has influenced video games, movies, comics, and more heavy metal bands than you can count. Almost eight decades after his death every nerd in the world knows who HP Lovecraft is. There have been thousands (not an exaggeration) of stories set in Lovecraftian worlds.
And hell, Lovecraftian is actually a word!
Octavia Butler was also an author. She passed away in 2006. I think I read a couple of her books as a kid but don’t remember anything about them. I’m certain she’s had some influence, but Lovecraft influenced orders of magnitude more.
Butlerian isn’t a word.
EDIT: It turns out Butlerian is a word, just not on Earth. And I’ve not read a Dune novel in a decade.
Lovecraft was an uneven craftsman at best – his stories clunk along, overburdened with adjectives and stale characters.
Wow, bold words there dude who has written a couple of books.
It’s his world-building and imagination that helped solidify his legacy, but even that is tainted by a failure of craft and humanity.
Yet, the atmosphere he set scared the shit out of millions of us, to the point that when we grew up and tried to write something scary, we used him as a template. Nothing is more human than fear. Pulling that off takes craft.
Really, most Lovecraft tales only consist of well-spoken New Englanders telling each other scary stories in the dark, but the man practically invented creeping dread in literature. But to be fair, Lovecraft said his influence was Poe, so we all learn from somebody.
He detailed his rabid, paranoid racism in many letters, and it permeates his mythos. Lovecraft peopled his fiction with hordes of swarthy, child-killing and abjectly stupid black and brown people, while women are almost non-existent.
Lovecraft was a product of his time.
I’ve written three books of alternative history set in the 1930s. I’m fascinated by this time period. I’ve done tons of research into those years. Racism was common, ugly, and rampant. And I’m not talking invisible micro-aggressions or college students lecturing people about privilege, I’m talking systematic, legal, subjugation of groups of people based upon their ancestors.
Yes, Lovecraft was a racist. He was a 1930s Democrat. It is actually kind of hard to find 1930s democrats who weren’t racists. Eugenics then was the “scientific” equivalent to Global Warming today. The “science was settled”. Proper good thinking folks didn’t question it and the world’s governments used Eugenics as an excuse for all sorts of programs that seem insane to us today.
In actuality Lovecraft’s racism veered a bit from the typical democrat’s “scientific” racism, and he was more into looking down on other cultures. Keep in mind that he was a snooty New Englander. If I recall correctly he believed that anybody could move up in the world, provided they learned to act like a proper snooty New Englander. He didn’t have nice things to say about southerners either, and as far as Europeans went, the only culture he liked was the Anglo Saxon one that spawned New England. He married a Jewish woman because she’d become “cultured”.
How Anglo was Lovecraft? He thought the American Revolution was uppity.
Yet despite being someone descended from those swarthy hordes on one side and degenerate backwoods hill folk on the other, I’m not personally offended. Dude could still atmosphere the shit out of a scary story.
As for black and brown people being dumb savages… It was the 1930s. Now I know this is really hard for somebody in 2014 to wrap their brain around, but to the average American most of the world was a mysterious, scary, alien place. Africa was a distant land of adventure. People were still expecting to find Shangri La. Hell, Lovecraft was a New Englander, by his standards Florida was a distant, scary, mysterious, alien land.
Read any periodical from this time, listen to the radio programs, you’ll find that this attitude of foreign lands being cloaked in forbidden mystery wasn’t just common, it was the absolute norm. You can pull up old news reels on Youtube and watch them to see what I mean. I watched a ton before writing Grimnoir. “Here is beautiful Japan! Mysterious! Look at the crazy shoes! They eat with sticks! How do these crazy yellow people do it? Scientists say the Asian can’t see well through their squinty eyes.” You think I’m exaggerating. I’m not.
As for women being non-existent, first off, not true. Second, don’t matter, because they’d just die a horrible death or be driven insane anyway.

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