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How to Compete With Amazon — if you really want to

Friday, June 6th, 2014 - by Sarah Hoyt and Charlie Martin
Whining is not fighting, and complaining is not competing.  You want to be a contender?  Put your gloves on and fight.

Whining is not fighting, and complaining is not competing. You want to be a contender? Put your gloves on and fight.

So, Amazon.  We’re now supposed to have a mini hate in or something, right.

What I – Sarah, by the way, nice to meet you – would like to know is why?  Why has hating Amazon become the cool or chic thing to do?  Why is Amazon the villain?

Oh, never mind me, I understand it from the other side – that is the side of the traditional publishers, the distributors, the people who were used to controlling who got to see what on the shelves, the people who before Amazon’s ascendance, could make or break a book, sight unseen, and make sure that either no one ever found it, or it was a mega success (at least on paper).

I understand why they’re upset at Amazon.  Why they’re screaming that everyone must now destroy the monster.  But why?

I am not implying Amazon is perfect.  As I cued my stuff for various promotions today I was reminded again of Amazon’s extremely stupid requirement that you give them exclusive rights in order to do a give away or sale.

Stupid, you say?  But it’s the stuff of evil geniuses!  They get exclusivity on the book!

Stupid I said, and stupid I meant.  See, yeah, they get exclusivity on the book – but none of the big names are availing themselves of this – so the exclusivity they get is at best with us, midlisters.  Look, guys, I have a head as big as the next writer, but I think the only people who REMEMBER my book for three months are people who sleep with me. And there’s only one of those.  I don’t mean I write unmemorable books, I mean that with the spoiling for choice we get, the only people who remember I had a book release, three months later, are people who really, really, really like me.

So, let’s see how Amazon’s exclusive-to-promote policy shoots itself in the foot.  Let’s say I’m a compulsive reader (I am) and download Pretty Darn Good Writer’s book when it’s free.  I download it, and get around to read it in a month or so, when it’s no longer free.  To my shock, it rocks my world.  So I go to my Reader Friend (I have a few!) and say “you must, must, must read this.”  Reader Friend says, “Oh, okay.  But I have a nook.”  She goes and searches it on B & N and the book isn’t there – of course, since it’s still in the three month exclusivity period.

By the time the book comes out of that and goes on B & N Reader friend has forgotten all about it.  Which means that Barnes and Noble lost a sale, you say, and no skin off Amazon’s nose?

This is as stupid a line of thought as the old traditional publishers’ idea that people choose books by publisher, instead of by author, plot or title.

See, Reader friend has twenty other friends to whom she would have recommended the book.  But she can’t do it because she never read it.  And I guarantee 18 of those friends would be on kindle.

So, in the long run the exclusivity policy – I don’t think even with my moderate name anyone is going to change reading platforms for me – hurts Amazon, as well as being an unholy annoyance.

The same with pricing.  I don’t actually object to having a $2.99 floor for novels.  All my indie friends whom I yelled at and said “you can sell it for $2 more and you’ll be fine, know I think the natural price is more like $4.99.  But to put that floor (via pricing incentives) under short stories is not the best thing in the world in the current economy.

And this is why Amazon needs competition, you say.

Yes, yes, they do.  And I have been working (in my copious spare time) on a four part series on how to compete with Amazon – at least on ebooks, which isn’t even the core of Amazon’s business.

You see, I work across five ebook platforms and what I’m here to tell you is that none of them are serious competition.  I only get about 10% of the income I get from Amazon from any of these places.  And that’s on a good month.

But the thing is I know why.  I also know why, with the best will in the world, I end up putting only 1/10th of my books in other platforms.  And it’s not Amazon’s fault.  It’s the other houses’.

A forceful breakup of Amazon will do nothing to help these houses, because they are too stupid to help themselves.  I will expand on this in the articles, I promise, and if I weren’t up to my neck in work (as are my friends – and my husband) who can program I’d give it a crack myself.  BUT for now, I’ll give some areas in which the other ebook sellers drive me nuts:

1-      Stop treating me like an amateur.  I have almost 20 years experience as a published author.  If you send me congratulations whenever I sell a copy of a book on your site and talk about the wonderful occasion and how it will change my life, I’ll get testy.  It’s not that we can’t be friends anymore, but I get a feeling you think I’m less than five.  Treat me like a professional, please.

2-      While you’re treating me like a professional, realize my time (particularly for us hybrid authors) is limited.  STOP telling me that I got error 342 and I should check your manual to see what I’m doing wrong.  Either have a clickable explanation or – here’s an idea – have your site so that when I upload an ebook format that works everywhere else, it doesn’t gag on imaginary code.  I really don’t have the whole day to spend uploading a short story into your site.  And uploading novels is a tortuous process that I gave up on after the first.

3-      Make sure your platform is intuitive and self explanatory.  This breaks my heart with the site that comes second to Amazon in making me money.  Their platform for uploading books is SO visually oriented, it takes me an hour and help from younger son to find out where to upload.  Make it obvious and easy to return to.

4-      One more thing – make sure your reports of sales and payment makes sense.  Do not change the report six months later, and pay me for some sale I didn’t know about.  I need to know things like how my promotions did.


So, that’s for attracting writers.  What about readers?

5-      Give up on exclusivity.  Yes, I know.  You want me to read from you only.  Tough.  I’m not giving up my kindle library.  Make it possible for me to beam a kindle-format book to my kindle, and you got me.

6-      If you want to have your proprietary reader, same thing applies.  Make sure I can read my Amazon books on your system.  I refuse to keep two separate libraries, and I’m not alone.

There is more, and a lot more detail.  As I said, I’m working on it in my copious spare time.  But this should be enough to get started.

Amazon is not evil.  (My friend Cedar Sanderson explains the thing with Hatchette here. And my friend Dave Freer explains it here.) BUT it needs competition.  The thing is to compete with Amazon the competitor must give up on being the “anti-amazon.”  That gets you anti-sales.  You should instead steal what works and improve on what doesn’t.  And then maybe you’ll have a fighting chance.

(Special Note: Sarah’s books, and Cedar’s book, this time are on special. Which is why it’s a special note. Isn’t that special?)


By Sarah A. Hoyt 

From Elizabethan England to the Far Future, discover who really was Shakespeare and why Marlowe was called The Muses Darling. Discover the horrifying secret that Leonardo DaVinci found beneath a cave in his home village. In the far future, find a new way to keep Traveling, Traveling. Use cold sleep to find your love again, and join the (high tech) Magical Legion.

Seventeen short stories from Prometheus Award Winning Author, Sarah A. Hoyt. This edition features an Introduction by Dave Freer and a Bonus Short Story “With Unconfined Wings.”


Heart’s Fire
By Sarah A. Hoyt 

When a priceless magical jewel is stolen, Ausenda, who has no magical power, has to track it down before the thief uses the jewel for some unspeakable crime.


The Eternity Symbiote
By Cedar Sanderson 

On Sale for the month of June!

Earth sits at the center of a galactic power struggle humanity knows nothing about. Then an alien delegation suffers a fatal accident and hidden plans unravel around the wreckage in the Alaskan wilderness. Infectious disease expert Gabrielle McGregor discovers the hidden machinations and what they’ll mean for her and her family.


Finishing Kick
By Paul Duffau 

A humorous peek inside one girl’s dream to guide her team to the winner’s podium, Finishing Kick takes an inspirational look into girls cross country. Callie finds herself holding the keys to the nuthouse when she agrees to be team captain of the cross country squad. She cares so much and tries so hard, you can’t help but cheer her on as Callie and her team challenges powerhouse Fairchild Academy.


Right to Know
By Edward Willett 

A fast-paced space opera about first contact – with a difference. When Art Stoddard, civilian information officer of the generation ship Mayflower II, is kidnapped by a secret military organization determined to overthrow the power of Captain and crew, he becomes embroiled in a conflict that tests everything he thought he knew. Now, he is forced to choose between preserving social order and restoring the people’s right to know. But what if knowledge is the most dangerous thing of all?


Fenrir Reborn
By Anita C. Young 

Sindri Modulf has been tested many times throughout his long life, but for every feat he has faced, he has artfully dodged countless more with easy humour and a deadly axe. Those well-honed abilities will prove useless when he is faced with one of the greatest challenges of his life; he must bring back a grief-stricken Seer from the edge of catatonia. Unwilling to let the mind of the most powerful woman in 1000 years be ravaged by Empaths and Telepaths, Sindri does something he hasn’t done for centuries: bare his soul.

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The 10 Lowest Points in Spider-Man’s Career

Thursday, June 5th, 2014 - by Pierre Comtois

Peter Parker’s life hasn’t been easy and as everyone knows, it wasn’t made any easier after he received the proportionate strength of a spider in Amazing Adult Fantasy #15 (reprised in Amazing Spider-Man #1). When we first meet him on the opening splash page of his origin, Peter is in the process of being mocked by his peers including long time scourge Flash Thompson. Walking away in tears, Peter’s shoulders are slumped in dejection as he makes his way to the science hall for an exhibition that’s destined to change his fortunes forever. But being granted super powers does Peter no good as he soon discovers. They only complicate his life as he’s forced to hide his identity beneath a full face mask and becomes the object of fear and suspicion by the general public.

Thus is launched an exciting secret life as a super-hero but one that further alienates the lonely teenager from the rest of society. Unable to share his secret with anyone and fearful that if his identity as Spider-Man were ever revealed, it would be too much for his Aunt May’s weak heart, Peter lives a life apart, his powers at once cutting him off from others while granting him a kind of personal freedom that only anonymity can provide.

Created in 1962 for Marvel Comics by writer/editor Stan Lee and artist/co-plotter Steve Ditko, the Spider-Man character was imbued with fully human feelings and failings right from the start. Lee had begun the trend with the Fantastic Four the year before but really turned up the heat with Spider-Man as he and Ditko turned Peter Parker into a real hard luck charlie whose shoulders often seemed too narrow to bear up under the weight of the problems he was given.

But it was those problems that proved to be the key to the character’s popularity and one that has driven a string of recent films to huge monetary success. But those films have been a mixed blessing for fans of the comics. While managing to endear Spidey to general audiences, their jumbled continuity has only served to rob the original stories of the power of those special moments. So, as a special service to PJ Media visitors, here are the most significant, life altering events in Spider-Man/Peter Parker’s life, events that over the years have served to enrich the character while keeping his life from becoming too ordinary. Some have been featured in the movies while some still wait their chance at being adapted:

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Today’s One-Click Impulse Purchase

Wednesday, June 4th, 2014 - by Stephen Green


A graphic edition of the Amity Shlaes instant classic, The Forgotten Man, and it’s only 12 bucks? No brainer. I’ll have my boys reading it by age 10 or 12 — at the latest.

BONUS: Ed Driscoll interviewed Amity about the new edition. Lots of good stuff, so click on over.


Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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5 Literary Villains You Love to Hate

Wednesday, June 4th, 2014 - by Hannah Sternberg

It’s easy to write a passable hero. No, not an interesting hero or a complex one, but if all you need is someone to stand shining in the radiance of his righteousness with a sword in his hand, a journeyman writer can whip one of those out with her eyes closed. A great story doesn’t always need a great hero, or even an especially memorable one. It needs a fantastic villain.

A fantastic villain — a villain you love to hate, a villain that you almost, just a little bit, want to root for, a villain whose very name makes your skin crawl — is incredibly difficult to write, which is why fantastic villains are very rare. It’s often the villain who makes an adventure especially delicious and suspenseful; it’s the villain who elevates an interpersonal drama into an epic. A great villain makes a great story — and a great story makes great summer reading. Follow the villains to your summer reading list — and start with these if you want to know what a good villain looks like.

5) Hatsumomo, Memoirs of a Geisha

I’m only about halfway through this one, but already Hatsumomo has made the book for me. A vicious beauty, Hatsumomo is the working geisha at the okiya where Chiyo, the narrator, works as a maid and trains to become a geisha herself. From the instant Hatsumomo sets eyes on a nine-year-old Chiyo, she smells a potential rival and sets out to destroy Chiyo’s life. Hatsumomo’s main competitor, Mameha, takes Chiyo under her tutelage when she learns how much Hatsumomo hates her, and the young girl becomes a pawn in the established geishas’ social war.

There are no depths Hatsumomo won’t sink to to try to prevent Chiyo’s rise to prominence, or damage Mameha’s reputation. Planting stolen goods, spreading disgusting rumors, and driving up the debt Chiyo must repay before she can become a free and independent woman — Hatsumomo practically crackles with insane energy every time she enters a scene, and I find myself turning the pages not just to cheer Chiyo on, but in a sick fascination to find out what Hatsumomo will do to her next.

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Valor: A Cure for Bergdahl Walking Disease

Wednesday, June 4th, 2014 - by J. Christian Adams


If the stories of President Obama swapping five Taliban detainees for the possible deserter/traitor Bowe Bergdahl still have you nauseous, here is a book that tells the story of American servicemembers who didn’t leave their post. Valor: Unsung Heroes from Iraq, Afghanistan and the Home Front (Taylor, 2014) introduces America to the people who represent the best of the military.

From the jacket:

Criminal and ethics investigative attorney Greenblatt provides nine compelling tales of the bravery of U.S. military personnel facing extreme duress and mortal danger. The author uses insightful interviews with each subject to supply details of the background and motivation that enabled these marines, sailors, and soldiers to prevail in grave life-and-death situations. Voices range from a hard-hitting marine who volunteered to piggyback an injured ‘brother’ through an Iraqi insurgent shoot-out to an inexperienced army specialist in Afghanistan whose determination and quick thinking prevented an ambush on his base—even after he sustained a devastating injury. Many of these stories have received relatively little publicity. The author explains that it was his desire to demonstrate that the men and women of today’s armed forces possess courage and selfless character comparable to military heroes of the past.

Valor doesn’t contain any stories of servicemembers reaching out to the Taliban, walking off posts or playing badminton with the enemy. The Amazon link is here.

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Teen Girl Goes Old School (1951) to Get Popular

Monday, June 2nd, 2014 - by Scott Ott

Bought the book in the morning. Finished it in the afternoon. Literally could not put it down.

That may sound odd when you learn that I’m a 52-year-old father of four and I’m talking about a nonfiction book written by a geeky teenaged girl about her efforts to become popular. But it’s weirder than that: I actually had to reach for the Kleenex more than a time or two.

Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern GeekIn Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek, Maya Van Wagenen, 15, lives and writes an engaging adventure — a social experiment, in which she tries to apply the lessons of “Betty Cornell’s Teenage Popularity Guide,” which her Dad found in a thrift store. Maya manages to bring precocious insight into the human condition through a fun, often dramatic, personal story.

Did you ever wish you could go back to high school knowing what you do now about human nature? Maya actually does it, but as a middle-schooler willing to test out principles of grooming, attire and attitude tailored for 1951. And she doesn’t update them. She lives out the vintage popularity guide as written.

Maya: Before

Maya Van Wagenen before she wrote (and lived) “Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek.”

How could paleolithic advice about makeup, girdles and etiquette survive the onslaught of feminism and political correctness? Quite well actually — surprisingly well. But ultimately, what Maya learns has little to do with superficial attractiveness. It really gets at the core of why some people seem to naturally attract friends, and have more fun, while others live lives of quiet desperation.

It’s easy to understand why this book, out since April 15, has already been optioned for a movie. I hope that the studio realizes that this is much more than a story of teenage angst — that it has broad appeal, and deep meaning.

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Stay Agile with Indie!

Friday, May 30th, 2014 - by Sarah Hoyt and Charlie Martin
Economic seas this choppy aren't safe for anyone, but at least indie publishers are fast enough to be nimble!

Economic seas this choppy aren’t safe for anyone, but at least indie publishers are fast enough to be nimble!

This is Sarah and I’m not going to whine about my indie sales.  To be fair, Witchfinder has done better than I expected.  Not amazingly well.  It’s not sold a million dollars (I wish) or even a hundred thousand.  I didn’t expect it to.

Indie has a rhythm of sales that’s all its own and that is different from traditional publishing sales.  Traditional publishing uses the “fresh vegetable” model of books.  By which I mean, because bestseller lists and bookstore shelves are at a premium, and because books now stay on said shelves maybe two weeks before being sent back if they don’t sell, publishers are forced to put in a lot of push to get all their sales in the first two weeks.  So you’re going to get most of your sales right up front, and if your book doesn’t do well in those critical two weeks, the book/series/career might be dead.

It’s not at that that publishers put a lot of effort into promoting most books – certainly not midlisters or new authors – but what effort they put is targeted to that crucial time period.  And because Amazon allows them to put books on pre-order (this reminds me I’m tired of all the whining about Amazon.  I must write an article on how any serious competitor could take on Amazon on ebooks.  If that’s what they wanted to do.  No. four articles.  Anyway…) for sometimes up to a year, the minute that books pops up, you get a bazillion orders.

Well, indie publishers can’t do that (yet.  There really need to be articles.)  And Witchfinder, as a roll out was sort of botched, mostly because of me.  I’d been dragging it on for so long that I needed to finally send it to my subscribers.  Three editors later, still finding the occasional typo, I decided it wasn’t any more beleaguered than the average traditionally published book and pulled the trigger – without warning, and with about a week of telling people who might publicize it.

The results were better than I expected.  To date, I’ve sold a little more (if my calculations are right.  Amazon doesn’t make this easy and the other vendors are even messier) than 1000 copies.  This is minuscule compared to my laydown for traditional books, but consider most of these sales are ebooks, and it was all done with no warning.  The intake is about five thousand, or what I used to get as advances for my mysteries which were the lowest paying genre.

So I’m not disappointed, and I’m not whining.  From what I understand from my indie-publishing friends, who are the “professionals” in this part of the business, while I’m the raw business, in indie you don’t really get that much advantage from being “a name.” And the business is very much “what have you done for me lately” – by which I mean, I need to bring a sequel or at least a related book out in the next couple of months, and then the numbers will go up again.  Also, books that have more sequels out sell better.  It’s one of those things.  Yes, sequel is in the works and a friend pointed out it’s a YA steampunk, because it centers on Seraphim’s brother Michael who is all of 17 and an inventor.  Never mind.  I don’t need to worry about classifications.  It’s indie.  And it will be finished as soon as my overdue traditional novels are delivered. Anyway…

While I was riding the tale of the release and following up on the intake of my first straight-to-indie novel, I started hearing rumors from my indie publishing friends.  Let’s put it this way: it’s not the “summer of death” – that three months long drought last year, in which nothing sold at all – but it seems it’s not really far off.

For those who haven’t heard me on the subject, in the summer of death, my sales went from around $200 a month (already low from a peak of $400) to $12 a month.  No, I didn’t forget a zero.  And meanwhile, my friends weren’t selling at all.

For me the end of the drought came when I decided to ignore previously useful advice about the minimum price for short stories ($2.99) and went through my stock, willy-nilly pricing shorts at 1.99 or .99 depending on my perception of the “heft” of the story and the length.  Curiously, those stories (and only those stories) started selling.  I have never finished the great repricing, mostly because I’m also trying to do new covers for those stories, and meanwhile there’s two sets of novels (indie and traditional) clamoring for attention.  But that ended the drought.

Now my friends are complaining of a similar drought, which I think was masked for me by the release of Witchfinder.

And today’s economic numbers “unexpectedly” give a huge clue as to why there is a drought in sales.  In the end, we must remember, we’re competing with people’s beer money or, for a novel, about a chicken.  If you manage to make people give up on their chicken dinner to buy your book, you’ve done well.

The thing is, you must make sure the story is worth a chicken.  If they finish too early for their money, then it wasn’t.

The big advantage we have over traditional publishing, in these days when chicken-and-book money is running low is that we’re flexible.

I remember reading in school about how the little English ships defeated the great Spanish Armada, because they were small, could move fast, and could be where the enemy least expected them.

Traditional publishing isn’t the enemy.  (At least I like my publisher, and I’m sure some other writers do also) but the analogy holds other than that.  In the turmoil of market, indie authors like the British ships are small and nimble and able to change price, time releases, write whatever you think will be good escapist fiction for tough times.

Traditional publishers have a three year from acceptance to publication schedule.  A fast publishing rush is a year.  They have offices and receptionists, and secretaries and publicists, all drawing a salary.  They can’t just in the middle of a day say “Let me reduce the price of half my inventory and see how that helps.”

Indie authors can.  And my indie half can too.  One of the things I’m working on, very back-burnered, is a series of novellas that assemble into a novel, set in the world of Darkship. Once they’re done, I’ll be publishing them once a week and then, a month or so later selling them as a novel.  It’s an experiment, and I have no idea how it will play.  Which is scary, but also exciting.

In the terrifying economic turmoil and technological change, indie can be agile and change, and keep on top of things, which increases the chances indie will survive.

Let’s help some indie authors survive, by giving their books a shot.

Remember, tell all your writer friends to send the AUTHOR, TITLE, a SHORT BLURB, and an AMAZON LINK AMAZON LINK AMAZON LINK to to be plugged here on PJ Media.

It really helps if you don’t bother with HTML magic at all, because we just have to parse it apart to put it into the template. The ideal submission is like


My Book


My name as it's on the book cover.



no more than about 100 words.


By E.C. Blake 

In Aygrima, magic is a tangible resource manipulated by a select few. The despotic Autarch maintains strict control over his people with the enforced use of enchanted masks that can reveal traitorous thoughts. When 15-year-old Mara, magically gifted daughter of the Master Maskmaker, goes for her own Masking, the ceremony fails and she is immediately sentenced to the fate of all unMasked: life in a brutal labor camp. In transit, she’s rescued by the rebellious unMasked Army and dropped into intrigue and danger. As she struggles to survive, she discovers the true strength of her magic-manipulating Gift.


The Right Place
By A.C. Extarian 

The year is Ct2293 and humanity’s advancement has started to expand to the stars. Earth’s last military has made a discovery that is deemed impossible – rocking everything humanity has known. United Fleet Ensign Sharyn Cameron is on the case when she meets Judas Extarian, a guard working in a nearby Ci-Tek building. Extarian’s boredom comes to an end when Ensign Cameron comes to him for help with a problem – and both of them end up with more questions that neither of them can answer. Clues point to the building that Extarian guards. New Adelaide isn’t boring after all!


Elizabeth of Donatello Bend
By Alma T.C. Boykin 

Now in possession of a traitor’s lands, Elisabeth must regain the people’s trust and return the estate to prosperity. At the same time, her vows as a Postulant of Godown conflict with the needs of international diplomacy, putting her in a bind. Meanwhile, she must learn to lead an army while fending off the increasingly interesting attentions of the Emperor’s youngest brother. All she needs is time, but the Empire’s enemies have their own plans.

Even Snowy the Killer Mule may not be able to get Elizabeth out of this battle.


After the Scythe (Scythefall)
By James Young 

For the people of Newton’s Village, the end of the world was just the beginning. The town’s denizens thought they’d witnessed the worst in humanity when all hell broke loose on the night the president announced the imminent arrival of the asteroid Scythe. Four weeks later, after Scythefall killed almost a third of the nation, they are about to find out just how wrong they were. After the Scythe is the story of every day people’s sacrifice and resolve in a struggle against desperation, violence and lawlessness.


By Pam Uphoff 

A year ago, Rael Withione was one of the elite. A Presidential Guard. Now she’s a handicapped hero, going home to finish her recuperation, and hoping to achieve average. She wasn’t planning on dealing with a new illegal drug nor a murder that is much too close to home.

(The thirteenth book in the Wine of the Gods universe.)


The Seals of Abgal
By Woelf Dietrich 

Bookstore owner and novice antiquarian, Sebastian Kaine is proud of his new profession and even prouder still of the collection of antique books on the occult that he keeps locked away in the basement of his bookstore. But his little utopia is shattered one night when he wakes up in that same basement, bound and bloodied, and his prized collection all but destroyed.

Making matters worse are the two strange men responsible for the carnage. They want The Seals of Abgal and insist Sebastian is in possession of it. Though he denies having any knowledge of the book, Sebastian soon finds himself at the receiving end of a brutal interrogation–one, he fears, he may not survive.

As he tries to stay alive, Sebastian discovers The Seals of Abgal is far more than just an ordinary grimoire for it holds powerful secrets. Secrets that are older than time itself, and these men searching for it are no ordinary thugs.

But then, Sebastian is no ordinary bookseller.

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Tumbleweed Philosophy: The Desert Thoreau

Thursday, May 29th, 2014 - by Hannah Sternberg


I just finished Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey, which oddly enough I found much more comforting breakup reading than all the books out there about breakups. Abbey mines wisdom — and churns up insanity — from the contemplation of nature. Reading his book I felt I’d found a new friend, someone who wouldn’t ask me how it’s interesting or comfortable to sit and stare at the trees and sky for hours on end (a question I get from those who haven’t really tried it). He’d understand the need to bask in nature, the healing and invigorating qualities of letting your mind roam free; and as a complement, the meditative aspect of scrambling over rocks, up mountains, through bushes and streams — few things sharpen the mind to the beautiful, intricate, rich present moment.

If you were to read just one chapter from Desert Solitaire, pick “Down the River,” the story of Abbey’s rafting trip down the Colorado, a poignant journey taken just before the construction of the Boulder Dam. It can never be replicated; the canyons and grottos he describes are now all flooded under Lake Mead.

The crystal water flows toward me in shimmering S-curves, looping quietly over shining pebbles, buff-colored stone and the long sleek bars and reefs of rich red sand, in which glitter grains of mica and pyrite — fool’s gold. The canyon twists and turns, serpentine as its stream, and with each turn comes a dramatic and novel view of tapestried walls five hundred — a thousand? — feet high, of silvery driftwood wedged between boulders, of mysterious and inviting subcanyons to the side, within which I can see living strands of grass, cane, salt cedar, and sometimes the delicious magical green of a young cottonwood with its ten thousand exquisite leaves vibrating like spangles in the vivid air. The only sound is the whisper of the running water, the touch of my bare feet on the sand, and once or twice, out of the stillness, the clear song of a canyon wren.

Is this at last the locus Dei? There are enough cathedrals and temples and altars here for a Hindu pantheon of divinities. Each time I look up one of the secretive little side canyons I half expect to see not only the cottonwood tree rising over its tiny spring — the leafy god, the desert’s liquid eye — but also a rainbow-colored corona of blazing light, pure spirit, pure being, pure disembodied intelligence, about to speak my name.

If a man’s imagination were not so weak, so easily tired, if his capacity for wonder not so limited, he would abandon forever such fantasies of the supernal. He would learn to perceive in water, leaves and silence more than sufficient of the absolute and marvelous, more than enough to console him for the loss of the ancient dreams.

Take Desert Solitaire with you on your next camping trip. Or better yet, read it before your next camping trip and them spend the trip bending your mind and soul to nature.

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What Are the 10 Most Disastrous Comic Book Adaptations?

Wednesday, May 28th, 2014 - by PJ Lifestyle Pop Culture Debates!

In partnership with the new fiction publishing platform Liberty Island, PJ Lifestyle is going to begin promoting and co-hosting a series of debates and discussions about popular culture. The goal is to figure out what works and what doesn’t so that in the future we can promote and create better fiction and culture of our own. These are public brainstorming sessions for writers and culture advocates interested in developing a more vibrant popular culture. You’re invited to submit your answers to any of these questions — or a related one of your own! — that interests you:

A) in the comments

B) Via email to PJ Lifestyle editor Dave Swindle.

C) at your blog, then let us know in the comments or via email. 

The most interesting answers may be linked, cross-posted, or published at PJ Lifestyle. 

Also check out Monday’s question: “Which Science Fiction Novels Should Be Made into Films and TV Miniseries?,” Tuesday’s question:Lord of the Rings Vs. Harry Potter: Which Film Series Better Captured their Books’ Spirit? the previous weeks’ writing prompts and email in your thoughts on any questions that strike your fancy: 5 Questions So We Can Figure Out the Cream of the Crop In Popular Music Genres5 Geek Questions To Provoke Debates About the Future of Sci-Fi and Fantasy5 Controversial Questions To Inspire Spirited Debates About Music.

This week we’ll begin a discussion about the best — and worst — ways to adapt stories from one medium to another. Your ideas and suggestions are always appreciated.




This week we’ll  begin a discussion about the best — and worst — ways to adapt stories from one medium to another. Your ideas and suggestions are always appreciated.

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Mary Blair: Unsung Disney Artist

Tuesday, May 27th, 2014 - by Chris Queen


She developed the unique color palette for many of the iconic Disney films of the 1950s. She produced some of the most evocative artwork from the Disney Studio’s 1941 South America trip. She created the characters for a beloved classic Disney Parks attraction. She outshone the men she worked with – including her own husband. Yet for some reason, Mary Blair doesn’t have the household name she deserves except among Disney aficionados.

With his new book The Art And Flair Of Mary Blair: An Appreciation, animator and historian John Canemaker hopes to change that perception. (I’ve waited nearly two years for this book’s release, and it was worth the wait.) Canemaker explores a woman with priceless talent who led a difficult, sometimes tragic life – an artist who has gone woefully underappreciated. As Canemaker writes on one of the book’s final pages:

The general public’s knowledge of Mary Blair’s name and her art is limited. Only one of her children’s books is still in print, and the hundreds of conceptual paintings she made for animated films are stored at the Disney studio or are in private collections.

Mary Richardson was born in Oklahoma in 1911, but her family moved to Texas when she was a young girl. The daughter of an alcoholic, she asked for money from the family budget to purchase art supplies because she knew that her father couldn’t then spend it on drinking.

Her talent earned her a scholarship to the famed Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles, and there she met Lee Blair, whom she later married. The Blairs harbored dreams of becoming fine artists, but the obvious need for money led them first to Ub Iwerks’ studio, then to Harman-Ising/MGM.

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Future Shock

Friday, May 23rd, 2014 - by Sarah Hoyt and Charlie Martin
We're citizens of a future that the dinosaurs clinging to the past fear. Their gospel of envy has no hold over us.

We’re citizens of a future that the dinosaurs clinging to the past fear. Their gospel of envy and division has no hold over us. We invent the future, and it’s going to be great!

Hi.  This is Sarah.  When Charlie asked me to write the intro tonight I told him I couldn’t, because I was too angry at a series of events unfolding in the science fiction “community,” a word that never made much sense, and which now is even more over-strained, but which is the only way to describe both fans and professionals.  Both sets of science fiction “people” are involved in what made the week disturbing for me, at any rate.  And I really am angry.

Charlie said “then write about that.” And then I thought perhaps I should.

Look, the science fiction “community”, from SFWA to the loose associations of fans who sacrifice years of their lives and points off their sanity to put on conventions that get together people interested in the field, was in large part what set science fiction and fantasy apart from other genres.  It was a “we’re all weird together” sort of support, and it helped both writers and readers make contact and improve the genre.  Little by little this community was copied by other genres, from mystery to romance.

I don’t know how the other fields are doing, but the science fiction community is sick onto death, and the infection it suffers from is an odd one.

One of the seminal books of my intellectual formation was Alvin Toffler’s Future Shock, which I read in my early teens. I know there are some errors in the methodology and the set up, but his prediction that technology development would accelerate and in turn accelerate changes in how we live till people had trouble coping with it and developed “future shock” seems to have held on target, from everything I’ve seen.

And it explains to an extent everything I’m seeing in the “science fiction community.”  At the same time that new technologies (no one saw the computer coming, for crying in bed!) are making the world completely different, science fiction authors decided they wanted to be the approved sort of intellectual and went careening into bankrupt past ideologies, monstrous children of the Marxist Leninism that has left more than 100 million dead around the world.  They also decided that there was nothing exciting about technology anymore.  Everything that was human or made by human hands was evil, poisonous, scary.

Abetted by a publishing establishment staffed entirely by those with “excellent” liberal arts educations of the sort one can get at eastern colleges infected with victimhood and hatred of the West, these writers have abjured all hope for the future, all joy in humanity, even all understanding that there is a common humanity beneath our forms, colors and cultures.  They also abjured all understanding that not all cultures are alike and some are not conducive to free life.  They have chosen to embrace cultures and religions in which women and gays are enslaved and killed, and the only culture they denounce is their own, of which they know nothing but the lies taught to them by their “Studies” programs, which study only little particles of society, groups divided by the poison of Marxist thought.  (Why this long dead white male is the only one worthy of their respect, I don’t know, except perhaps it feeds their stunted egos and makes a virtue of envy, their predominant characteristic.)

This is how, this week, we were treated to the shabby and creepy spectacle of a bunch of grown women, a bunch of women supposed to be intellectual workers, for crying out loud, celebrating that all the Nebula awards were given to women.  Note that nothing was said about how great the stories were or how important – the important thing was what was between the writers’ legs and their defeat of an imaginary “patriarchy.” (Imaginary patriarchies are very safe to defeat.  REAL ones, the ones that stone you for going about with your face uncovered, those they approve of, because see, they aren’t western, and therefore they’re holy.)

Mind you, this is an award voted on by the same members of SFWA who recently went on a jihad against two men for using the word “ladies” to refer to women – so I was upset, but more on the visceral disgust level.

And then Archon, a science fiction convention which had invited Tim Bolgeo (known as Uncle Timmy to Southern fandom) as Fan Guest of Honor, got a complaint from an anonymous source about a fanzine Uncle Timmy publishes.

This fanzine is sort of a newsletter for everyone who attends the con Uncle Timmy founded – Liberty con – and it contains interesting articles (usually science, since Uncle Timmy was a nuclear scientist before retiring,) news about attendees and – always – jokes sent in by the readers.  These jokes are labeled as being from the left and from the right, since Liberty con is politically diverse.

Are they always funny?  No.  Are they always tasteful? Hell no.  Tasteful humor is sort of like low-fat cream and about as satisfying. Usually he puts a warning before the worse ones, and he nixes the worst ones, which never make it to the Revenge of the Hump Day.

Well, someone went through these fanzines and took out of context stories and fragments of jokes and went running to Archon concom complaining that Uncle Timmy was a racist.  The concom took panic and uninvited him – within twenty four hours of an anonymous accusation —  after months of advertising and preparation.  By doing this, they lent credence to the accusations.

If the spectacle of the Nebulas had made me queasy, this made me angry.

I met Uncle Timmy I guess ten years ago, when I first started writing for Baen. From the first, he treated me with kindness and consideration.  When I was completely unknown, he treated me as though I were a star at the convention.  At a particularly low point in my life and career, he supported my self-esteem and my morale so I could write again.

He hasn’t told me anything about other authors he’s helped that way, but I know a lot of them.  I’ve seen him select for special attention someone who is going through a rough patch.  I’ve heard from other people about how he supported older writers, sometimes financially.

Liberty con is probably one of the most diverse cons in the field in any way you want to slice it, race, gender, politics. Uncle Timmy is a great part of the reason all of us feel welcome there.

To watch his reputation being shredded and Archon choosing to commit an injustice rather than risk the mao-maoing by the politically correct brigade made me angry. Very angry.

I am still angry.  And I will fight them in any way I can.  I will fight them because it must stop here.  If they can go after Uncle Timmy – presumably for the crime of being male, Southern and white – they can go after everyone and anyone.  No one is safe from their rages and tantrums

Everything you say can be twisted to show that you’re not loyal enough to their ever-changing party line.  In a world in which “lady” is an insult, ask yourself who is safe.

It is a form of future shock, of course. At the very same time that technology allows writers to escape the stifling restraints of editorial gatekeeping that enforced political correctness, these people are trying to bring back the past.

Unfortunately the past they want to bring back is stained with blood and reeks of opened mass graves. It is not so much the past as the future of the past. This is the future that thank heavens  never was, the future with which they’d feel comfortable, the future in which a boot stomps on a human face forever, the future in which there is only one party and it determines everything you think.  And in which they’re in charge.

They are the people George Orwell was talking about in, 1984:

Now I will tell you the answer to my question. It is this. The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power, pure power. What pure power means you will understand presently. We are different from the oligarchies of the past in that we know what we are doing. All the others, even those who resembled ourselves, were cowards and hypocrites. The German Nazis and the Russian Communists came very close to us in their methods, but they never had the courage to recognize their own motives. They pretended, perhaps they even believed, that they had seized power unwillingly and for a limited time, and that just around the corner there lay a paradise where human beings would be free and equal. We are not like that. We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means; it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. Now you begin to understand me.

Unfortunately for them, I do understand them very well.  And I’ve had just about enough.  And I don’t think I’m alone.

Let them huddle in the darkness of their blood-stained divisions and hatreds, their failed promise of Marxism.  There is a real future out there.  Perhaps they can’t perceive it.  Perhaps they’re too besmirched by the evil ideology of the past to enter the promised land.

Wave to them as we walk by and ignore their tantrums, their insults and the mud they fling.  They’re people of the past.  We?  We come from the hopeful future.  We invent it and we live in it.  And that’s where we’re headed.

Remember, tell all your writer friends to send the AUTHOR, TITLE, a SHORT BLURB, and an AMAZON LINK AMAZON LINK AMAZON LINK to to be plugged here on PJ Media.

It really helps if you don’t bother with HTML magic at all, because we just have to parse it apart to put it into the template. The ideal submission is like


My Book


My name as it's on the book cover.



no more than about 100 words.


No Will But His
By Sarah A. Hoyt

Kathryn Howard belongs to a wealthy and powerful family, the same family that Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII’s great love originated from. From a young age, her ambitious relatives maneuver to make her queen. Brought up in a careless manner, ignorant of the ways of the court, Kathryn falls victim to her kind heart, all the while wishing she could be the wife of Thomas Culpepper.


Death of a Musketeer (Musketeers Mysteries)
By Sarah A. Hoyt

April in Paris 1625. D’Artagnan, a young Gascon – and his new friends who hide their true identities under the assumed names of Athos, Porthos and Aramis – discover the corpse of a beautiful woman who looks like the Queen of France. Suspecting an intrigue of Cardinal Richelieu’s and fearing the murder will go unpunished they start investigating. But the enterprise will be fraught with danger, traps from the Cardinal, duels with guards and plotting from the king himself.


Dream Home
By J.J. DiBenedetto

“Oh, my God, I’m not even starting the job for four months! How can I have an enemy already?”

Sara thought she had found the perfect job, the perfect new house and the perfect place to build a bright future for herself and her family.

But her new life is not quite perfect. Her husband and her children are fitting right in, but before Sara even shows up for her first day of work, her coworkers are dreaming about getting rid of her.

If that wasn’t bad enough, the one friend she’s made is dreaming nightly about a disaster that could wipe out the entire town…and Sara is beginning to think he might be right…

Dream Home is the exciting seventh book in the Dream Series.


By T.L. Knighton

Born and raised in a space station, Alan had never set foot on Earth. It made him unique. Unfortunately, uniqueness goes out the airlock when a meteorite damages the space station he’s stuck on all by himself.

Now, Alan is forced to try a desperate plan in a last ditch plan that will either help him survive or turn him into space debris.


Empower: Fight Like A Girl
(Multiple Authors, a benefit anthology)

Lupus is called the “cruel mystery” because the chronic autoimmune disease can damage any part of the body, including the brain, heart, kidneys, liver, lungs, skin, and joints. “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. ” Executive Producer Maurissa Tachcharoen Whedon’s experiences with lupus inspired fellow TV scribes Jennifer Quintenz and Pang-Ni Landrum to launch the charitable fundraising project. They chose the book’s title and theme because 90 percent of individuals diagnosed with lupus are women.

“Empower: Fight Like A Girl” authors include writers from TV shows including “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,” “Family Guy,” “Person of Interest,” “Grimm,” “Battlestar Galactica,” “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Law & Order: SVU,” “Star Trek: Voyager,” “Eureka,” “Twisted,” “The 100,” “Malcolm in the Middle,” “Millennium,” “Being Human,” “The Shield,” “Castle,” “Chuck,” “Gilmore Girls,” and “Game of Thrones.”

The anthology features supernatural thrillers, crime mysteries, horror, and comedies.


The Little Book of Big Enlightenment
By JP Mac

Suppose the New Age blockbuster The Power of Now had been written by a Viagra salesman: Master Lompoc Tollhaus knows the feeling. After pioneering a method of achieving rapid spiritual enlightenment, Tollhaus suffered a chakra mishap and was forced to co-author his “Little Book” with a marketing hack. The mismatched pair snipe away as they discuss the Big Spirit cartel running the New Age industry—and warn against “hyper-enlightenment”: a pathology arising from spiritual cheating. But then the unexpected happens, and Lompoc Tollhaus must question his beliefs in the face of something remarkable . . . and, possibly, gluten free.


The Law & the Heart
By Kenneth Schneyer

Exploring the seams where humanity and technology, society and individuality intersect, Nebula- and Sturgeon-nominated author Kenneth Schneyer presents thirteen mind-bending, thought-provoking tales of near and far futures that will amuse, amaze, and unsettle. The law will change, and the heart will change, and the heart will change the law. These stories confront the question of just what makes and keeps us human.


Bad Boyfriends: Using Attachment Theory to Avoid Mr. (or Ms.) Wrong and Make You a Better Partner
By Jeb Kinnison

BAD BOYFRIENDS offers some sensible and intelligent advice for those looking for a romantic relationship, or wondering why all their relationships seem to go sour.

Kinnison … encourages readers to seek a deeper, more intelligent connection between lovers and/or spouses. He shows, with empathy and perceptiveness, how different personality types are likely to interact, and what can be done in some cases to mitigate the negative effects of different insecurities and problems. His discussion of how to recognize and avoid an abusive mate is clear, precise, and firm. — Indie Reader


By Ken Lizzi

Ken is a spinner of tales, a writer of stories weird, savage, dark, humorous, or all of the above.


Song of the Sword
By Edward Willett

Ariana’s life is already difficult. Her mother suddenly disappeared, she’s trying to get used to living with her aunt after a series of foster homes, and she’s taking a lot of grief from the “in” girls at school. But now she’s also having strange dreams about swords and battles, things get weird whenever she touches water—and someone, somewhere is singing to her. Soon, she’s met the famed Lady of the Lake—who turns out to be an ancestor—UNDER the lake, has acquired a nerdy sidekick, and is sent on a dangerous mission pitting her against otherworldly forces. Can she figure out what it all means…or even survive?

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The #1 Reason We Watch Call the Midwife

Thursday, May 22nd, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

This past Sunday, American audiences finally had their chance to wave goodbye to Nurse Jenny Lee, the lead character in the famed Masterpiece series Call the Midwife. However sad it may be, the departure of the show’s Hollywood-bound lead actress Jessica Raine was, ironically, in no way a traumatic one.

Most American shows die when their lead actor disappears. Dan Stevens’ untimely departure from Downton Abbey still enrages fans over a year later. Yet, while Nurse Jenny Lee will be a much missed character, fans are far from outraged at her departure. Perhaps this is because Call the Midwife was never just about Jennifer (Lee) Worth, but about the many lives she encountered and a profession that is finally being given the credit it so sorely deserves. But there is more to the massive success of what began as a 6-episode BBC show about nursing in mid-century London’s bombed-out East End than giving credit where credit is due.

In an era of roughshod marketing tactics and semiotic overload, Call the Midwife, with its pure, heartfelt approach to the vicissitudes of life, is therapeutic television. We are a desensitized audience: No one cries when a pregnant mother is stabbed to death on Game of Thrones. Yet, everyone, including the burly guys on set, shed a tear at every birth on Call the Midwife. We are treated to an East End rife with chamber pots, not sexy chamber maids, and yet audiences are drawn to the show in droves. We love the midwives, even when they are dressed in habits and wimples; they are the ideal face of medicine, mother, and God in an era when we’ve been taught to doubt all three. Like a nurse checking our pulse, Call the Midwife reminds us that we are human after all, and perhaps not as sick as we’ve been led to believe.

And yet, while TV execs struggle with sex and violence in the name of Tweet power, they remain blind to Call the Midwife’s axiom for success: There is powerful endurance in simple truth. Call the Midwife will survive without the character of Jenny Lee because the show has embraced Jennifer Worth’s own mystical sense of timelessness. It is the stuff that fueled her memoirs of both London’s East End and her time as a nurse caring for the dying. Brilliantly captured in the season finale, this sense of the eternal in both life and death is what makes Call the Midwife a healing balm of a show and transcendental television in its finest form. Forget bloody battles and wild, nameless sex. Call the Midwife empowers its audience with the strength to face, not escape, life’s pressures, and the faith to believe that while “weeping may happen for a night, joy breaks forth in the morning.”

Now and then in life, love catches you unawares, illuminating the dark corners of your mind, and filling them with radiance. Once in a while you are faced with a beauty and a joy that takes your soul, all unprepared, by assault.

Jennifer Worth

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How Can Writers Team Up to Create Innovative Fiction?

Monday, May 19th, 2014 - by Andrew Klavan

Okay, here’s something off-beat — but then the weekend’s coming and so’s summer, so why not? Now and then, I sample some of the stuff that’s being e-published directly. For the most part, I’m not liking it. I’m especially put off by the genuinely crummy grammar and spelling in a lot of this self-published stuff. I’d expect as much if I were sampling randomly, but I usually get books that have been recommended and I’m really dismayed by how poorly some of them are written.

There’s some of that — poor grammar and the like — in Anecdotes in Ashes, but if you’re a horror fan, it’s still a pretty interesting read. It’s micro-fiction: one- and two-paragraph long stories, written by a loose band of online writers who call themselves The Assembly. The whole anthology is only about sixty pages long, but then I picked it up for a buck so that’s about right. It’s also available in paperback for more.

Most of the stories: they’re okay. A shock here and there but nothing memorable. But some of the stories in the first section of the book, “Encounters in The Dark,” actually deliver a nice, creepy little thrill. I particularly liked one called “Hanging,” by someone who goes by the handle Mucalling. It’s three paragraphs long and tells of a website that shows live video of “a dark room, being filmed in black and white, and five people suspended hanging upside down from the ceiling.”

There are other true creepers as well, enough to make this worth the price. It’s an interesting experiment, and if you like scary stuff, I’d take a look.


Cross-posted from Klavan on the Culture

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10 Quotes on Faith and Freedom from Eric Metaxas’ Hillsdale Commencement Address

Sunday, May 18th, 2014 - by Paula Bolyard


We had the honor of attending our son’s graduation from Hillsdale College last week on a picture-perfect May day with chairs lined up in tight rows on the east lawn of the beautiful campus. In addition to the joy of watching our eldest son walk across the stage to receive his diploma, we were blessed to hear the insightful commencement address from author Eric Metaxas. In addition to sharing stories from his youth and his faith journey, Metaxas, author of Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spydiscussed at length the connection between faith, virtue, and freedom. You’ll find the video of the speech at the end of this post.

Here are ten incisive quotes from Metaxas’ address, “The Role of Faith in the Story of Liberty”:

1. Real faith is never something that can be forced by the state.

Real faith is never something that can be forced by the state. It’s something that either be encouraged and smiled upon or discouraged and frowned-upon. Or, simply crushed, as it has been in every Communist country…Religious freedom, which was at the very heart of the Founders’ vision for America, cannot be compromised without all our liberties being compromised and America as we know her being redefined into non-existence.

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Abandon All Hope, Ye Who Enter the Hugos

Friday, May 16th, 2014 - by Sarah Hoyt and Charlie Martin
If you're writing stories and selling them, give yourself a star.  Buying your work is the sincerest form of flattery.

If you’re writing stories and selling them, give yourself a star. Buying your work is the sincerest form of flattery.

There was a time – I (Sarah) am told – lost in times of legend and glory, when awards were mystical things designed to help deserving writers who might otherwise not have come to the attention of the buying public.

If your book came out say a month after a national disaster, or you had an absolutely horrible cover, or the entire print run your publisher sent out got damaged in the warehouse by a hurricane, or whatever, there was another way for your book to achieve success.  Either a few devoted fans who had discovered it, or even your colleagues would push your book for an award, and suddenly other people would go, “Oh, I never heard of that book, but it won a Hugo/Nebula/RITA/Golden Heart/Pushcart/Golden Duckie/Edgar.”

I remember in the seventies religiously buying any author whose cover said “Hugo Award Winner.”  I figured if they were recognized by the fans, then these people were important and I should read them.

Then… Then fandom became smaller and more… selective.  Mostly, fandom aged and grayed and became more set in its political ways.  Suddenly awards weren’t being given to “I really enjoyed this crazy ride of a book” but to “it has an important message.”

Suddenly award-winning became not a way to bring commercial success but a way to set yourself apart from commercial success.  “I’m not a bestseller, I win awards.  I didn’t sell out, man, I’m an artiste.”

And suddenly that little seal on the cover of a book started meaning absolutely nothing for sales.

Which is why Orbit, one of the publishers with works nominated for the Hugo this year, has chosen to say it will not make a full version of its nominated stories available to the voters.  There are only two reasons to do that – if you know the voting has nothing to do with the work itself, and people are voting for an author’s name, a reputation (or a feeling he’s one of the cool kids) OR because winning the award would make no difference at all to the authors’ – and publisher’s – bottom line.  And in this case, I suspect it actually means all of the above.

Some awards still bring money to the writer who wins it. My novel Darkship Thieves winning the Prometheus award got it untold amounts of attention and magnified my sales, and having Darkship Renegades and (currently) A Few Good Men as finalists has not exactly hurt, either.

I understand the Mythopoeic award is also a sales driver.  But the other awards in Science fiction and fantasy at least seem to do nothing for your pocketbook.  (I don’t know about the ones for Romance or Mystery.)  So, if you’re an indie author, you’ll have to console yourself with winning the Dead Presidents Award in the form of crisp folding money. (Or worn folding money.  I don’t discriminate.)

Oh, and if you hanker after an award, you might want to enter the Baen Fantasy Award, judged by the always awesome Larry Correia.

Remember, tell all your writer friends to send the AUTHOR, TITLE, a SHORT BLURB, and an AMAZON LINK AMAZON LINK AMAZON LINK to to be plugged here on PJ Media.

Deadlines are flexible, but in general the deadline for Friday is Tuesday the preceding week.

By the way, recently we’ve been getting lots of submissions with click-tracking shortened links. Don’t. It just means I have to open the page and get the real Amazon URL, because we don’t get paid if we don’t link to Amazon directly. So don’t bother.


And don’t bother with doing zippy formatting with the HTML either. I just have to field-strip it to put it into the template. You don’t need to send a cover image; same reasons. The ideal submission looks like:


My Book


My name as it's on the book cover.



no more than about 100 words.


A Box of Dreams (the collected Dream Series, books 1-5)
By J.J. DiBenedetto 

What if you could see everyone else’s dreams?

Sara Barnes has just discovered that she can. And this gift – or curse – will lead her on an extraordinary journey.

Follow Sara as her newfound ability leads her into adventures she never imagined. She will hunt down a serial killer, investigate a plot to murder one of her teachers, unravel a conspiracy between a mobster and a corrupt politician and face off against her nemesis: a woman who shares her talent, but uses it to destroy lives rather than save them. And Sara will have to manage all that while finishing college, becoming a doctor and falling in love, too.

Here are the first five books of the Dream Series, along with bonus material created especially for this collection. Included in this set are DREAM STUDENT, DREAM DOCTOR, DREAM CHILD, DREAM FAMILY and WAKING DREAM. In addition, you’ll find the short story BETTY & HOWARD’S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE starring Sara’s parents. But most of all, when you open this box of dreams, you’ll find romance, suspense, humor and plenty of heart…


Manx Prize
By Laura Montgomery 

In the second half of the twenty-first century, when Charlotte Fisher was just thirteen, orbital debris took its first large-scale human casualties from an orbiting tourist habitat. Haunted by visions of destruction and her father’s anguish, as a young engineer Charlotte follows in his footsteps and determines to win a prize offered by a consortium of satellite and orbitat operators for the first successful de-orbiting of space junk. Her employer backs these efforts until the reentry of a piece of debris kills two people, and she and her team are spun off to shield the parent company from liability. With limited resources, a finite budget and the unwanted gift of a lawyer who, regardless of his appeal, she doesn’t need, she must face a competitor who cheats, a collusive regulator, and the temptations dangled by the strange and alluring friends of a powerful seastead.


Kali’s Children
By Craig Allen 

Crash landing on an uncharted world is bad, but that’s just the beginning. Ragged and terrified, the last few survivors search for rescue. But as they encounter the denizens of this world, they learn something remarkable. From the red reeds that cover the land to the ferocious predators that fear nothing, every living thing is highly intelligent… and utterly hostile. Escape is not enough, for the planet’s natives have learned that the technology exists to allow them to leave their world, and out there among the stars is the most prolific source of food they have ever known: humans.

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How 10 Esoteric Secrets Hidden in Joss Whedon’s Best Movie Can Change Your Life

Wednesday, May 14th, 2014 - by Dave Swindle

This week Walter Hudson joined the pop culture debate and expressed his concerns about DC’s attempt to catch up with Marvel on the movie front, concluding in “DC Vs. Marvel: Why This DC Fanboy Believes Marvel Already Won“:

After Man of Steel’s 143 minute run time, I’m left with little idea of who any of these people are or why I should care. The project rarely stops for breath, has scant humor, and takes itself far too seriously. The Nolan narrative style, skipping back and forth through time, works better when utilized by Nolan himself than by the frantic and unfocused Zack Snyder.

If that’s how we’re going to get introduced to all these characters, to Batman and Wonder Woman and Cyborg, than I fear a Justice League adventure will never be as fun as The Avengers. And that’s sad. Because it easily could be. DC has a rich history to draw from with decades of stories to mine and refresh. These characters deserve the same focused, nuanced, yet lighthearted treatment that Marvel Studios has given its mightiest heroes.

Hannah Sternberg also joined the discussion, declaring her allegiances in the pop culture debate to Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly as superior franchises to Star Trek and Star Wars in her post “The Bible of Buffy“:

I’m going to bounce this one back to the committee. Dave, Walter, other PJ Lifestyle and Liberty Island writers, — did Joss Whedon change your life, or simply stunt it?

Perhaps this wasn’t the answer that Hannah was anticipating but Whedon’s impact on my life is very different from hers. I never “got into” Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly, or Serenity. While recognizing their significance to geek culture and respecting the fact that Whedon operates at a level of sophistication well above most creators in the sci-fi/fantasy world, it was another of the writer-director’s works that resonated with me.

Back in  January of 2013 I published “10 Secret Reasons Why The Avengers Is the Best Superhero Film.” In the piece — which I’ve decided to republish today — I argued that the movie’s success came from its ability to reinvent classic mythological themes and archetypes.

What do you think?  Is The Avengers as good as I claim it is? Should it stand as a model for those aspiring to make big, bold, profitable, mainstream popular culture infused with good values? Would DC striving for a Justice League film end up just a pale imitation of what Whedon already mastered?

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DC Vs. Marvel: Why This DC Fanboy Believes Marvel Already Won

Monday, May 12th, 2014 - by Walter Hudson

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Will the Justice League film be able to compete with The Avengers? That was the tagline for this post, inviting readers and contributors to debate whether DC or Marvel has created the more compelling fictional universe. The formally proposed question was:

Who will ultimately triumph in the superhero battles to define the genre? Does Marvel with Spider-Man, the Avengers, and the X-Men set the standard? Or does DC with Batman and Superman provide a better model for aspiring comic and superhero creators?

As a lifelong rabid fan of both Superman and Batman, I want those properties to succeed. However, if I am going to be objective about it, I have to concede that Marvel not only will win the battle to define the comic book film genre – they already have.

Some say imitation is the highest form of flattery. If we make our assessment based upon who imitates who, then Marvel leads the day. DC seeks desperately to clone the achievements of Disney’s Marvel Cinematic Universe. It can be seen in the rush to cram as many characters as possible into the forthcoming Batman vs. Superman, ramping up quickly toward the debut of the Justice League. Would DC be so eager were it not for the massive success of The Avengers? In a business where there’s one Deep Impact for every Armageddon, probably not.

This modern relationship is ironic considering that DC predates Marvel and retains the oldest characters with some of the most tried and true narrative conventions. Spider-Man creator Stan Lee has confessed that he was inspired by Superman. But today, the Man of Steel seems to follow where Lee’s creations lead.

A decent popcorn flick, Man of Steel was certainly the most entertaining Superman film in decades. But that’s not saying much. Once the comic book king of the silver screen, Superman graces scant few films on any “best of” list. Batman has fared much better, but has remained largely sequestered from other heroes. Particularly in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, Batman works because he could be anybody.

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The Bible of Buffy

Monday, May 12th, 2014 - by Hannah Sternberg


Dave challenged us to debate which fandoms contribute the most, and least, to our spiritual well-being, as individuals and as a culture. His two examples were Star Wars and Star Trek, but I have to admit, despite being raised by a Trekkie, neither of those fandoms resonated with me the way the shows of Joss Whedon did, growing up. But did Whedon’s shows nurture my spiritual and intellectual growth? Or were they my form of “pop culture polytheism,” as Dave calls it, a form of escapism and adoration bordering on idolatry?

My adoration of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly definitely gets intense. But I’d argue, Dave, that there are two ways to participate in the fandom of franchises like Star Wars and Firefly – the idolatrous, and the perceptive. A lot of fandom definitely turns into a form of worship; but alongside that tendency is another way to fangirl shows and movies, which combines admiration and enthusiasm with a dose of skepticism and spiritual seeking.

Worshipful fandom is the sort we’re used to talking about. But perceptive fandom is a good description of the behavior of fans who may (or may not!) participate in the worshipful aspects of fandom, but who also see their favorite TV shows and movies as texts that can be studied like literature. That includes a healthy dose of skepticism toward the creators of those texts, too. Some fandoms are better set up for perceptive fandom than others. Star Wars practically exists to be worshipped — its larger than life figures and the hyperbolic distinctions between the bad guys and the good guys sets us up easily to adore one, and revile the other, almost unquestioningly. Buffy the Vampire Slayer and other Whedon creations are different because their good guys, and bad guys, are flawed and relatable without sliding the shows into moral relativism.

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You Have a Right to Speak with an Attorney

Friday, May 9th, 2014 - by Sarah Hoyt and Charlie Martin


If you’re going to embark on the indie publishing path, you should know there are some pitfalls ahead.  Oh, yes, you’re going to need to learn how to do covers, and how to format so normal human beings can read your stuff, and even, maybe, how to write a decent blurb.  Fortunately WMG publishing has workshops for all that.  Unfortunately, they cost money, but sometimes – trust me – it’s worth spending the money to learn how to do things properly.  I (Sarah) am in hiatus in workshops right now, due to various strains on our budget (called kids in college, and a move in the offing) but I intend to go back as soon as cash permits.

Another place where it might be worth to spend some money is legal advice.

I know, I know.  You’ve led a blameless life and stayed away from lawyers for all of it, and now I, whom you trust, am telling you that you must consort with the terrible creatures.

Look, lawyers can be on your side.  If I’d known what was good for me – I didn’t – five years ago, I’d have got an IP lawyer to look over contracts my agent told me were just fine.  (They weren’t. Which is why at least one of my properties is still tied up.)

In fact, given how ridiculous and vicious traditional publishing contracts have gotten, and how “industry practice” has become a pit of snakes, I would not advise that any of you sign a traditional contract without having it looked over by an IP lawyer.

But even if you’re indie there are things you should know (and do) about copyright and law.  For instance, be aware that everything from fonts to that neat picture you found on the web is copyrighted, and unless it’s under a creative commons license, you can get in trouble for using it.  Heck, you can get in trouble for using creative commons license material, if they are not released for commercial use.  (And a lot of them aren’t.)

And should you decide to become a small publisher, particularly on the right (because we need to hold ourselves to a tighter standard, or we’ll be pilloried by the official organs of opinion) DO get an author/indie friendly IP lawyer to look over your contract.  What you think is necessary to protect you likely isn’t, and you might end up looking like a shark when you aren’t.

My IP lawyer – who helped me get back my copyrights after years of trying and not even getting an answer – is Robin Roberts of Roberts and Roberts, who has some articles on copyright on his website.

There are other resources on line.  Most notable among them is The Passive Voice, whose blog often analyzes predatory contracts and supports indie writers in general.

Remember, tell all your writer friends to send the AUTHOR, TITLE, a SHORT BLURB, and an AMAZON LINK AMAZON LINK AMAZON LINK to to be plugged here on PJ Media.


My Book


My name as it’s on the book cover.



no more than about 100 words.


By Sarah A. Hoyt

In Avalon, where the world runs on magic, the king of Britannia appoints a witchfinder to rescue unfortunates with magical power from lands where magic is a capital crime. Or he did. But after the royal princess was kidnapped from her cradle twenty years ago, all travel to other universes has been forbidden, and the position of witchfinder abolished. Seraphim Ainsling, Duke of Darkwater, son of the last witchfinder, breaks the edict. He can’t simply let people die for lack of rescue. His stubborn compassion will bring him trouble and disgrace, turmoil and danger — and maybe, just maybe, the greatest reward of all.


Vengeance from Ashes
By Sam Schall

First, they took away her command. Then they took away her freedom. But they couldn’t take away her duty and honor. Now they want her back.

Captain Ashlyn Shaw has survived two years in a brutal military prison. Now those who betrayed her are offering the chance for freedom. All she has to do is trust them not to betray her and her people again. If she can do that, and if she can survive the war that looms on the horizon, she can reclaim her life and get the vengeance she’s dreamed of for so long.

But only if she can forget the betrayal and do her duty.


Memories of the Abyss
By Cedar Sanderson

Violet is trapped in the prison of her own mind. Her body is dwelling in the insane asylum, but when her friend Walter is killed, she must make a decision to avenge his death, or stay safely locked in her own broken soul. He’d drawn her out of her shell, and she finds she still has honor left… But will anyone believe the crazy woman?

(Note: This will be free from May 12 through May 17.)


Chasing the Last Whale
By Thomas Wictor

From music journalist Thomas Wictor comes a novel about dysfunction and redemption, packed with pathos and despair. The meat of the novel addresses questions of mortality, bullying, broken trusts, and war…an engaging story.”

—Clarion Book Reviews


Hallucinabulia: the Dream Diary of an Unintended Solitarian
By Thomas Wictor

“Literary self-mutilation has never been so rewarding.”

—Stephen Jay, “Weird Al” Yankovic Band


Baptism by Fire
By David E. Pascoe

When a rune-carved madman and a giant flaming thing attack James Lawrie’s Marine outpost, the medic and an explosively talented sergeant aren’t supposed to save the day. Life becomes no simpler when Petty Officer Lawrie returns home on leave to find federal agents investigating the disappearance of a young woman from his past. A young woman whose body turns up marked with eerily familiar symbols.


An Unproven Concept (Kraken Edition) (The Vergassy Chronicles)
By James Young

“If you like Star Trek or hard science fiction that focuses on elements that make the experience realistic, you’d probably be fascinated with Young’s Unproven Concept.” Jake Vyper,

The Confederation of Man has overseen the prosperous expansion of humanity for almost eight centuries, with the Confederation Fleet its shield against all enemies both internal and external. Despite its numerous successes, the Fleet is a shield that is becoming warped by the schism between its Carrier and Line factions. In the year 3050, Fleet Admiral Malinverni has overseen the design and commissioning of a vessel intended to merge the best of both factions: the battlecruiser Constitution. Intended as a harbinger of a better future, the Constitution is considered a flawed concept by all except her crew.

The starliner Titanic is considered to be the epitome of her type. With a handpicked crew, the Titanic is expected to see to passengers’ every need and whim, be it a rare artifact of opulence to stringent, discreet security. Unfortunately Captain Abraham Herrod, her master, is confronted with the growing likelihood that his vessel may soon be rendered obsolete by the ever pressing march of technology.

At the convergence of these two ships lies aliens, mecha, railguns, and carnage. An Unproven Concept (Kraken Edition) contains all the unremitting action of the original, as well as the short story “Ride of the Late Rain.”

“Overall, if you like hardcore space battles with high body counts, definitely give this novel a shot!”–Right Fans: Sci-Fi from the other Side Website


Kaiju Apocalypse (novella)
By Eric S. Brown & Jason Cordova

The oceans rose and from their depths the Kaiju came. Mankind survives in fortified, domed cities, fighting what seems an eternal war with the giant monsters and the smaller creatures they use as foot-soldiers. Now that war is coming to an end as one by one the city states of humanity fall to the Kaiju. Kaiju Apocalypse is the tale of the human race’s desperate, final stand.


A Difficult Damsel to Rescue
By T.K. Naliaka

High-speed young police officer Enrique Vargas fell for Chlotilde Decatur at first sight, but courting one of the out-of-Africa Decaturs is like grabbing a lion by the mane. Saving her brother’s life got his foot in the door, but Enrique has no inkling just where and how far this unexpectedly perilous romance is going to take him and Chloe as long-lurking dangers stalk both their families. Vargas is going to need all his SWAT skills and new alliances sealed in blood to keep the woman of his dreams from disappearing forever.

The sequel to In Time of Peril in The Decaturs adventure series, inspired by the noblest sort of men and families like Louis L’Amour’s Sacketts.

Watch this weekend for free downloads.

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11 Satires Exposing the Silliness of the Broccoli Police

Friday, May 9th, 2014 - by Liberty Island


Recently it came to our attention that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has been dabbling in literature. In a clear sign that its 100,000 employees have far too little to do, the sprawling federal agency has issued a nauseating children’s book called “The Two Bite Club,” in which a mother cat and her adorable kittens Will and Anna learn to make federally-approved healthy food choices. According to the USDA website: “Parents or caregivers read the book to children and encourage them to try foods from each food group by eating just two bites, just like the characters in the story.”

The PDF is available here: try not to gag on your broccoli.

Naturally we viewed this as a sinister intrusion of federal power into the sphere of family life and a gross infringement on our freedom to eat Pop Tarts for breakfast and snack on salt and vinegar-flavored potato chips while catching up on Game of Thrones. American patriots bled and died to ensure these sacred freedoms. So we resisted in the only way available to us: we asked our community of writers to sharpen their pens and write their own brief satirical stories. Take that, USDA!

1. The Helpful iPlate of Doom by Marina Fontaine

“Hello. I’m an iPlate, here to help you make healthy food choices. Please deposit acceptable food and wait for green light to start eating.”

2. The Bachelor Bears by Dennis Maley

Three bachelor bears lived communally in a cabin deep in a national park. One bear was undersized, another was a middle-sized bear, and the last had been overserved. The large bear was almost too big for the front door of the cabin.

3. Goldilocks and the Three Bears Coffee Co. by Jack Morgan

Once upon a time, in the Kingdom of Progressistan, there lived a girl named Goldilocks, who was considered beautiful by the outdated standards of the white-supremacist, heteronormative patriarchy. Goldilocks lived in government subsidized housing on the edge of an enchanted forest and she would venture out into it to commune with the Earth Goddess daily.

4. Hillary Steinem: Kid Community Organizer and Detective by Dean Anderson

Knock, knock! There was a knock on the club house door. Hillary and Makayla were studying in the clubhouse Hillary’s Grandma Betty had built for her. (When Grandma Betty built the clubhouse, she made sure to follow all of the appropriate city codes and filed for all of the appropriate permits.) Hillary opened the door to see it was Billy! Billy was taking a big bite out of a very large cookie.

5. The Obedient Courage and Open-Mindedness of Healthy Herbie by Erich Forschler

Healthy Herbie and his neighbor, Selfish Face, played together in the backyard sandbox at Selfish Face’s house. “I’m gonna make a castle and then the knights are gonna have a war!” Selfish Face exclaimed. His eyes shimmered with racist hatred as he filled a small plastic bucket with sand.

6. John Henry Goes to Washington DC by Nick D’Orazio

GRANDDAUGHTER: Did Big John fight the steam drill?

GRANDFATHER: No he didn’t. He marched right up to the government and asked for unemployment. And you know what? He got it too! Because big John Henry was the best there ever was at getting things.

7. Welcome to the Club by Colin Blake

Anna and Will ran inside holding a doll and a ball respectively, not realizing what a fury that was going to cause among the literati.

8. The Emperor’s New Accomplishments by Frank J. Fleming

Long ago in a faraway land lived an emperor named Obama. He was the greatest emperor the people had ever known; everyone knew he was the smartest and the most capable emperor that had ever existed. The only problem was that he had no accomplishments to show for his greatness.

9. Johnny and Margie Meet Auntie Sam by John L. Scot

“I don’t like Aunt Samantha,” said Margie. “She’s too bossy. Why do we have to pay her tribute?”

“Because Auntie Sam gives us everything,” Vanna replied. “She pays for your education, for our medical care, for retirement, she keeps us safe, and she even tells what to eat so we can stay healthy.”

10. The Good Hood Fairy by Jack July

Once upon a time there was a girl named LaQuisha who lived in the ghetto outside of Philadelphia. She was watching TV and smiling while imagining her life as a character in an episode of the Cosby show. Her little brother was in bed and her Momma wouldn’t be home from the factory till morning. As she reached for her glass of green Kool-Aid, shots rang out from somewhere outside. She dove to the floor like her Momma taught her spilling her Kool-Aid.

11. Abuela’s Healthy Porridge by George Tobin

Ernesto and Herve laughed and held hands on the way to the house ofthe kind old woman they called “Abuela” or “Granny.” Today the growing darkness from the North seemed far away. Today was made for celebrating with whole grains and organic fruits. Today they had no concerns but to enjoy being young, Sandinista and gay.


image illustration via shutterstock / ORLIO    

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Falling In Love With a Nerdy, 13-Year-Old Jewish Girl Who Walks Through Walls…

Thursday, May 8th, 2014 - by David S. Bernstein


In a discussion over at PJ Media Lifestyle people (“Nerds”) are debating the oldest question in comics: Marvel or DC?

Like most children of the ’70s, I preferred the irreverent, super-cool Marvel heroes over their overly-earnest, one dimensional DC counterparts. Spiderman over Batman… Thor over Superman… Iron Man over Wonder Woman…

But by the time I was into my pre-teens, comics had become an afterthought; I filled my leisure time with more mature pursuits like sports, D&D, music, and Mattel Electronic Football. Until one day a friend introduced this nerdy, 13 year-old Jewish boy to a nerdy, 13 year-old Jewish girl named Kitty Pryde. Like countless other teens I fell in love, and the X-Men forever cemented Gen-X’s loyalty to Marvel through the greatest literary device of the late 20th century — the Hot Nerdy Chick.

Still in wide use today, I might add.


cross-posted from Liberty Island

image via/ Marvel Wikia


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What Are The Best Time Travel Stories?

Thursday, May 8th, 2014 - by PJ Lifestyle Pop Culture Debates!

In partnership with the new fiction publishing platform Liberty Island, PJ Lifestyle is going to begin promoting and co-hosting a series of debates and discussions about popular culture. The goal is to figure out what works and what doesn’t so that in the future we can promote and create better fiction and culture of our own. These are public brainstorming sessions for writers and culture advocates interested in developing a more vibrant popular culture. You’re invited to submit your answers to any of these questions — or a related one of your own! — that interests you:

A) in the comments

B) Via email to PJ Lifestyle editor Dave Swindle.

C) at your blog, then let us know in the comments or via email. 

The most interesting answers may be linked, crossposted, or published at PJ Lifestyle. 

John Boot: Time-Travel Thriller Looper Should Make Its Director a Hollywood Player

Hannah Sternberg: 5 Reasons I Don’t Want to Travel Back in Time

What pop culture questions do you want to debate and discuss? Please leave your suggestions for upcoming Pop Culture debates also in the comments or submit via email.

Updated May 9, 2014: A very helpful, thorough primer from a reader:

Hi Dave!

If you want to start with the written Time Travel Stories:

We must start with Robert Heinlein.

“By His Bootstraps” was his first attempt at a Time Travel Story.

“All You Zombies” — Classic story in only six pages. Brilliant!

His novel “The Door into Summer” —  it’s both a time travel novel AND a robot novel. (Even though “IRobot” is named after Asimov’s short story, the robots work like Heinlein’s.) Heinlein was an engineer, so his robots make more sense.

All books from “Time Enough for Love” on…(Which is really the ULTIMATE Time Travel/Parallel Timeline/Parallel Universe series.) “The Number of the Beast” anyone? ;-)

Asimov’s “The End of Eternity” is actually an alternate Timeline novel with Time Travel elements. Alternate from the Empire and Foundation timeline before he merged his robot novels into it.

H. Beam Piper – “Paratime”.  The “Federation Books” are really alternate Timeline books from “Paratime”. (Including the “Little Fuzzy” series.) (Yes, I realize that Paratime is just passing into parallel universes, but…)

“Star Trek” – numerous episodes and Movies, and when you consider that the new movies are actually in an alternate timeline. Not a “reboot”. They won me over when they mentioned “Admiral Archer”. (He’s from before the split.)

“Back to the Future” – When you think about this series, it’s really both Time Travel and Alternate Timelines.

“Doctor Who” -  I just started getting into him.

So this idea is not just Time Travel, but Alternate Timelines.

These are just the big ones.

There was the “Time Wars” novels in the 80s and 90s. I remember the author talking about that third season “Star Trek:TOS” episode with the Wyatt Earp saying that that episode was the closest anyone ever came in Hollywood to making the look of the Earp’s and Doc Holliday “Look right”.

Hope this helps.


PS The ultimate conservative science fiction books – “Starship Troopers” and H. Beam Pipers “A Planet for Texans”, also known as “Lone Star Planet”. Look it up, the paper back is only 87 pages long. A quick read. I’d like to see Glenn Beck make this one into a movie with his studio. (Piper has the BEST court room stories.)

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DC Vs. Marvel: Which Company Created a More Compelling Fictional Universe?

Wednesday, May 7th, 2014 - by PJ Lifestyle Pop Culture Debates!

In partnership with the new fiction publishing platform Liberty Island, PJ Lifestyle is going to begin promoting and co-hosting a series of debates and discussions about popular culture. The goal is to figure out what works and what doesn’t so that in the future we can promote and create better fiction and culture of our own. These are public brainstorming sessions for writers and culture advocates interested in developing a more vibrant popular culture. You’re invited to submit your answers to any of these questions — or a related one of your own! — that interests you:

A) in the comments

B) Via email to PJ Lifestyle editor Dave Swindle.

C) at your blog, then let us know in the comments or via email. 

The most interesting answers may be linked, crossposted, or published at PJ Lifestyle. 

Who will ultimately triumph in the superhero battles to define the genre? Does Marvel with Spider-Man, the Avengers, and the X-Men set the standard? Or does DC with Batman and Superman provide a better model for aspiring comic and superhero creators?

John Boot: 5 Reasons Why Thor Is a Second-Rate Superhero Franchise

Whose heroes are more exciting? Whose villains are more frightening? Who has the greater history of storytelling success?

John Boot: The 4 Big Lies That Ruined The X-Men Movie Franchise

What pop culture questions do you want to debate and discuss? Please leave your suggestions for upcoming Pop Culture debates also in the comments or submit via email.

John Boot: 5 Lame Superhero Sequels That Should Never Have Been Made

Dave Swindle: 10 Secret Reasons Why The Avengers Is the Best Superhero Film


Updated May 8, 2014: See Liberty Island COO David S. Bernstein’s great response here: “Marvel for the Win, Obviously.

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How Interesting Is Kid Batman and His Kid Rogue’s Gallery? We’ll Find Out on Fox This Fall

Wednesday, May 7th, 2014 - by Walter Hudson

What is Gotham anyway? That’s been the question surrounding the upcoming FOX series set in Batman’s hometown.

Early reports indicated the show might be a police procedural centered on the exploits of police detective and future commissioner Jim Gordon. Then came news that producers had secured the rights to the entire rogues gallery of Batman villains, everyone from Catwoman to the Penguin. Those latter reports fueled concern that Gotham may be going for a Smallville vibe where all these characters somehow know each other as kids and attend the same high school.

Now we get an “extended” trailer for the show, our first look at what we will actually get come this fall. At first glance, the producers seem to be threading the needle between a hard-nosed cop drama and comic-flavored tween soap opera. Indeed, there will be an adolescent Bruce Wayne, a teenage Catwoman, and a young adult Penguin. The future Riddler and Poison Ivy also appear in a roll call. But the focus seems to remain on Jim Gordon and his introduction to the festering corruption of Gotham City.

One thing the trailer doesn’t make clear is whether or not all these characters will necessarily interact. It may prove better if most of them do not, and we get parallel narratives showing diverse experiences of the city. Given the age range of the rogues gallery, that at least seems plausible.

What say you? Will you give Gotham a chance? How will this series fit with the new DC cinematic universe?

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