No Marigolds – In Which Scotty Replaces The Galactica’s Dilithium Crystals With Folger’s Kyber Crystals

surface of marsNo Marigolds in the Promised LandI made it to Episode 6 last week, then realized I ended short. Hey, it happens. I had intended each installment to be 2000-2500 words. But Farno said goodnight after finding a “pit stop,” a sealed cave along Barsoom’s sensor highway. And he decided to spend the night in it. So I went off to work on Tishla rewrites.

Then I reread 6 and thought, “Wait. Did I finish this?” I finished it. I just stopped at 1500 words. Oops. Well, you won’t see it for a couple of months.

I then started on Episode 7. And John’s getting a bit loopy. Because the world may have ended, and everyone you know and love is dead, but survival and grief still needs a day off. Hey, it’s a job. A demanding one. And just because thousands have died doesn’t mean you’re not entitled to relax once in awhile. Who’s gonna complain? You?

I’m also going to start jumping ahead a few days or even weeks, depending on what the story calls for. The almost hour-by-hour format of storytelling seldom lasts in this type of tale. Not just The Martian, but all the way back to Robinson Crusoe, to which every story of this type owes its existence. It also is a time where I need to write out an updated timeline of all the stories I’ve written so far, even “Headspace,” which doesn’t have a volume number. Barsoom’s destruction barely gets a mention in the other novellas and novels, but that doesn’t mean what’s happening here isn’t affecting events 40 light years away. Farno just doesn’t know it yet.

Plans. I Have Plans.

Hemingway typingOne thing I’ve learned over the years is that planning writing projects ahead of time is a fool’s errand at best. Tishla and Quantonesia are being or will be rewritten. I need to find two more novella ideas to bridge Amargosa: Second Wave and the third Amargosa novel.

But what goes beyond that?

When I originally envisioned the Compact Universe, I had actually planned a situation known as “The Embargo,” in which humanity isolates its cradle after an Earth First movement overtakes the Compact government. Leitman, aka Luxhomme, aka Marq, played a central role in it, but I had no other characters. I didn’t even know anything about Leitman, already established as being from at least two other planets. I began writing short stories, none of which were ever finished, to create Duffy, Davra, and, under a number of names, JT Austin.

The Amargosa Trilogy spun out of that, and it became obvious that, if I ever planned to write about the Embargo, still very much on the agenda, then a trilogy about a Gelt-Compact war is necessary. Besides, I have to explain what happens to Amargosa’s meddling kids after their ordeal.

But I seem to have an itch to flesh out the Compact itself. What are these other worlds like? We’ve seen The Caliphate. But what about the Romanesque Etrusca? Is there more to the industrial hellscape of Bromdar? What about this Mormon-dominated Deseret that had to fight the Polygamy Wars (How’s that for irony) by itself in the beginning? Why’s Metis so Irish sounding but so matriarchal? And why is Jefivah a dump, it’s biggest export a cult to Marilyn Monroe?

I may do some novellas using new and existing characters to explore these worlds. It might be a fun way to expand the series and flesh out the setting in which I’m working.

But I need to revise Amargosa: Second Wave. And I need to finish the Amargosa Trilogy.

Friday Flashback – Kingdom Of The Spiders

William Shatner battles vicious tarantulas.

The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi

The Collapsing EmpireTaking a break from his Old Man’s War universe, John Scalzi starts a new trilogy with The Collapsing Empire. In this universe, faster-than-light travel does not exist. So just how does a star-spanning empire exist? The Flow, an extradimensional region of space that allows travel to various worlds in days, weeks, or months. Only the Flow changes over time. In fact, Earth is a lost world because access to the Flow disappeared. But the result is The Interdependency.

But a scientist has discovered that the Flow is about to disappear completely, stranding humans on the various worlds of the Interdependency. Only one such world is an open planet with a breathable atmosphere. It’s called End, and it’s the farthest system from the Interdependency’s capital.

At the center of the action is Cardenia, the illegitimate daughter of the Emperox. However, since her half brother died in an accident that only the rich and the noble seem to be able to die in, she is to become Emperox as her father expires. She takes the name, at the insistence of her late father, of Greyland II, after another female Emperox who reigned the last time a world was cut off by a change in the Flow. In the meantime, Marce Claremont, the son of a Count on end, struggles to get back to the capital to tell the Emperox the truth about what is to happen to the Flow. He and the Emperox are frustrated by a noble house with designs on the shifting Flow. His salvation comes in the form of the crude, slutty Lady Kiva Lagos, whose primary occupations are squeezing as much money out of a mark as possible and getting laid frequently. She gets very cranky when she’s denied money or sex, but excels at swearing. Lagos turns out to be a better woman than she thinks, though much of this comes through saving her own neck.

I listened to this on audio. Wil Wheaton narrated, and Wheaton is excellent at doing the voices, especially some of the more aristocratic ones. In some cases, he is unrecognizable when reading dialog. But he does a great job conveying Scalzi’s snarky tone.

Mystery Science Theater 3000 – The Return

New cast of Mystery Science Theater 3000It’s back! After 18 years, it’s back!

Throughout the 1990s, Mystery Science Theater 3000 was a major part of my life, although I never saw an episode with J. Elvis Weinstein as Dr. Earhardt/the voice of Tom Servo until 2016. Friday nights or Saturday mornings included time blocked out for Joel or Mike and the Bots. It began on The Comedy Channel, which became Comedy Central, and became the network’s flagship show. But then they created The Daily Show, and even before Jon Stewart turned the show into the most trusted news source in America (What’s that tell you when Fox News and CNN has to grovel to Trevor Noah?), it pushed MST3K out of the limelight. No problem. The ScFi Channel picked up the adventures of Mike and the Bots (after creator Joel Hodgson left), and ran for the remainder of the 1990s. And in 1999, after two hosts and six mads, the show came to an end. Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy, and Bill Corbett carried on with RiffTraxx, which provides in-home riffing over bigger budget movies while Joel resurrected the idea with Cinematic Titanic featuring other cast members. The success of both, including some joint events, showed that MST3K‘s return was inevitable.

And so in 2015, Hodgson started a Kickstarter campaign to bring the show back. One year, several stretch goals, and 14 episodes later, Netflix picked up the show with a new cast. Hampton Yount is Crow (nailing that voice originated by Trace “Clayton Forrester” Beaulieu and continued by Bill Corbett.) Baron Vaughan is the new Servo, and like the change between Weinstein and Kevin Murphy, he sounds different. Jonah Ray plays new host Jonah Heston, trapped in space by Clayton Forrester’s daughter Kinga (Felicia Day) and Max, aka TV’s Son of TV’s Frank (Patton Oswalt). The look has been updated, using both CGI and stop motion for certain parts of the show, but cheaply done to fit in with the sets’ homemade feel. Perhaps the biggest change is Gypsy, formerly voiced falsetto by producers Jim Mallon and Patrick Bransteg. She now comes out of the ceiling and is voiced by Rebecca Hanson. Hanson gives Gypsy a sexy, sarcastic voice and allows her to drop in and fire off a few riffs of her own.

Day is excellent as the latest lead Mad, following on a tradition begun by Beaulieu and carried on by Mary Jo Pehl as Pearl Forrester. Pehl also does cameos both as Pearl and as Pearl’s clone, who works at Moon 13, the new evil base. Oswalt’s Max is actually kind of annoying in the Mad segments, but provides commentary in bumpers designed in case the show landed on a commercial network or Hulu. He even refers to Moon 13 almost like a television station, giving the show a 70s/80s horror show feel. Ray as Jonah Heston is a worthy successor to Joel and Mike, whom Joel points out in a Kickstarter video have done a hundred episodes each. He’s no slouch delivering the riffs with partners Yount and Vaughan. Sometimes, the riffs come a bit too fast to follow, but I’ve seldom gone more than a minute before another belly laugh comes out of nowhere from something one of them said. They even include a few callbacks to the original show, pulling from all seasons. The debut is great for setting up the premise with help from cameos by Buck Rogers‘s Erin Gray and uber-nerd Wil Wheaton as Gizmonic Institute workers unaware that the Forrester Family has started up again on the dark side of the moon. (Surprisingly, only one Pink Floyd reference three episodes in, and not to that album.)

The first episode was a little rough in spots, but most of this is the new cast and crew finding a groove after 18 years off the air and only a handful of original writers and producers on board. It would be great to see Bealieu, Weinstein, Frank Coniff (TV’s Frank), or Mike Nelson put in an appearance. Joel did as another character and several RiffTrax guests are slated to appear.

The movies, at least three episodes in, are as cringe-worthy as ever, with the second one, Cry Wilderness, probably the most pointless movie ever shot. It literally makes zero sense, and the acting makes the average Ed Wood movie look like an Oscar winner for Best Picture.

It’s good to have MST3K back and in a binge-friendly format. On the downside, binging means I’ll have watch the entire season in about a week or two and have to wait for Season 12.

No Marigolds Update – In Which The Doctor Regenerates Into Seth Rogen

surface of mars

No Marigolds in the Promised LandYeah, I know. I posted Episode I here yesterday. There’s your progress report.

Actually, I’m up to Episode 6. John Farno has now confessed his days alternate between long, boring days in the desert and investigating “glass pancakes.” So I’ve changed it up a little. As we go along, count the fusion blasts vs. other types of catastrophic explosions. Then add that to the number in The Magic Root and The Children of Amargosa. Then go reread the Marilynists. Ah, ha! A piece of the overall story arc! Da da dah!

But I’m starting to skip ahead a few days so I’m now focusing on things changing for the intrepid Mr. Farno. After all, endless roaming a frozen desert and finding ruins is pretty boring. It also will be more interesting to see him figure out a way to live outside the rover, communicate with humanity, maybe even get off the planet.

And in revising Tishla, I’ve had the title character confront one of the Laral family about Barsoom, which originally was the great forgotten incident in this series. And now we learn it’s a rip-off of The Martian! There’s nothing Andy Weir can do about it! Mwahahahaha! Wait. What’s this?

Hmm…

It’s a cease-and-desist order from Andy Weir and Ridley Scott. Yeah, we need to move on to the more post-apocalyptic stuff. Sorry, Andy. I’ll get on with it. As for Ridley, screw you. I’m still bitter about Prometheus.

No Marigolds in the Promised Land – Episode I

Here now is Episode I of No Marigolds in the Promised Land, Compact Universe #0. Each new episode will appear and on the No Marigolds page. Want the full story with all previous episodes? You’ll have to subscribe to the newsletter.

NO MARIGOLDS IN THE PROMISED LAND

A Compact Universe Novella

By TS Hottle

©2017 TS Hottle. All rights reserved.

For Dave Harr and in memory of Andre Polk

No Marigolds in the Promised Land

DAY 1 – THE INCIDENT

Ragnarok Planitia

Mars Protectorate of Barsoom

Date: 14-Sagan, 429, Compact Standard Reckoning
Time: 0036:26 Local Time, 1836:26 Compact Standard Time

WARNING: THREE RADIATION BURST EVENTS WITHIN 1000 KM OF CURRENT POSITION. DO NOT EXIT ROVER UNTIL RADIATION LEVELS DROP TO SAFE LEVELS. CONTACTING KREMLIN AND MUSK DOME COMPLEXES.

Time: 0038:19 Local Time

WARNING: COMMUNICATIONS SYSTEMS WITH ALL DOME COMPLEXES OFFLINE. SATELLITE COMMUNICATIONS OFFLINE. LUNAR 1 COMPLEX OFFLINE. LUNAR 2 COMPLEX IN STANDBY MODE. UNABLE TO REBOOT. DO NOT MOVE ROVER UNTIL CONTACT WITH ANY DOME COMPLEX REESTABLISHED.
Time: 0042:06 Local Time

WARNING: HEAVY SEISMIC ACTIVITY DETECTED. SEISMIC WAVES FROM FORTY-TWO DEGREES E-NE APPROACHING. MAGNITUDE 5.7. SEISMIC WAVES FROM DUE WEST APPROACHING. MAGNITUDE 6.1. SEISMIC WAVES FROM ELEVEN DEGREES N-NW APPROACHING. MAGNITUDE 4.3 AND FALLING. TAKE APPROPRIATE COVER.
Time: 0043:38 Local Time

WARNING: HIGH WIND WITH SUDDEN INCREASE IN TEMPERATURE. PLEASE TAKE COVER.
LOG ENTRY: 0059 14-Sagan, 429

Well, shit. Whatever just happened flipped my rover three or four times and slammed it up against a rock wall. And just as I’d fallen asleep for the night. The heaters and oxygenator are on low-power mode. That means I’m being kept alive by the tender mercies of the reactor’s ambient heat and a chemical reaction that basically scrubs Barsoom’s frigid air as it passes it over said reactor and lets me breath. That, or I’m on tanks. And if I’m on tanks, I am massively screwed. Well, the rover’s upright, and I’m less than a day away from Musk.  Just radio in. If I can’t get the rover moving again, well, help is only four hundred and fifty kilometers away. Either way, I’ll be back in Musk in time for dinner. A real dinner, not this freeze-dried crap I have to eat every time I take a road trip.

RADIO TRANSMISSION: 0101 14-Sagan, 429

Musk Central, this is Rover 19. I am about 448 kilometers west of you on the Kremlin Dome Sensor Road. A windstorm blew over 19, and my primary electronics are locked. Do you copy? Over.

RADIO TRANSMISSION: 0102 14-Sagan, 429

Musk, 19. Hey, I know it’s the middle of the night, but someone’s supposed to be manning traffic control. What if Mars remembers it has a terraforming project out here in the boonies? Do you copy? Over.

RADIO TRANSMISSION: 0104 14-Sagan, 429

Um… Guys, I’m starting to think you’re not hearing me back there. So to the morning shift guy who gets this, please send me a fucking rescue rover? If 19’s brains were fried by a solar flare, I don’t want to be stuck in the middle of nowhere eating freeze-dried spinach and drinking my own piss for the next week while I wait for a freight transport to roll by. Do you copy? Over.

LOG ENTRY: 0115 14-Sagan, 429

I just looked at the diags on the non-hardened systems on this rover. Holy God, I am screwed. The radios work. The primitive backups are all functional. But I just read core computer’s warnings. Radiation bursts, seismic activity. Hot winds. I get tumbled out of my nice, comfy bunk at one in the morning. Something blew up. Several somethings blew up. Oh, God, if Musk is gone, and Kremlin is gone, and New Ares is gone, I am majorly screwed!

LOG ENTRY: 0121 14-Sagan, 429

Okay, okay, mandatory panic complete. I’m alone, isolated, and have no clue what’s going on. Radiation spikes, seismic activity far from any tectonic borders, and a sudden windstorm with a wave of heat. Nothing to lose one’s cookies over. Just the symptoms of a distant fusion explosion. Three of them. Yeah. If it was the domes, then I should be able to recover from an EMP. I can freak out about my sudden solitary existence in the morning. I’m going to swallow a sleeping pill and deal with this in the cold light of day. And believe me, ladies and gents, the light of day don’t get much colder than here on Barsoom.

LOG ENTRY: 0805 14-Sagan, 429

Good morning. I’m pretty much fucked. I awoke about an hour ago to do an EVA and inspect damage to the rover. Pretty sure the motor pool would hate my guts if there still was a motor pool. The rover flipped and battered its own exterior pretty good, but it’s intact. Once I go through EMP recovery, I should be able to move. I’ll see if I can use solar cell patch to make up for the power loss. What amazes me is that I don’t have a concussion. I know I bounced from floor to ceiling and off the bunks a couple of times. No lumps on my head.

Or my concussion has me in extreme denial. I’m really in a hospital in the Musk Dome, and there’s a hot nurse asking her coworkers who I’m talking to. I really hope that’s true, because right now, my visions of that hot nurse are…

Ahem! I digress.

I took a stroll up a nearby hill to get the lay of the land. The sensor road is still online, but when I looked off in the direction of Musk, all I saw was a black cloud rising up in an anvil. Barsoom is a near twin to Mars – cold, thin atmosphere, habitable with domes and some clever recycling. Only Barsoom has something Our Glorious Motherworld ™ doesn’t have: a molten core. Barsoom has volcanoes and the odd earthquake. And science be praised, it has a magnetic field. Only the star 2 Mainzer has an annoying tendency to throw out massive solar flares. The Citizens Republic of Mars believes heating up Barsoom’s atmosphere will make it a viable Earth-class world. And if it can pull that off, it can sell its mad terraforming skills to other Compact core worlds, most of which have warm breathable atmospheres, to open up a whole new set of planets to colonize. Never mind that Mars itself has been terraforming for about three hundred years. But what do I know? I’m from Bonaparte. We still have a king.

And a warm, breathable atmosphere.

Anyway, recall I said “if there still was a motor pool” followed by mention of a black cloud rising into the atmosphere. A black cloud is usually the aftermath of a recent large explosion, like a fusion blast. Fusion blasts, if you’ll recall your freshman physics, send out a big wave of electromagnetic chaos called an EMP. This usually knocks modern electronics offline until you run protocols to reset all the quantum gateways in a processing core and storage. Any modern device you can think of is hardened against such things because humans have a silly habit of colonizing places like Barsoom.

Enough yacking. I’m signing off to have a truly delicious breakfast of nutribar and micro-constituted coffee. Oh, look. Peanut butter and gelava fruit. Yum.

LOG ENTRY: 0813 14-Sagan, 429

I would like to enter into the record that I really hate gelava fruit. I further state for the record that anyone from Bonaparte should not be allowed to stock the rovers’ rations. And in case I wasn’t clear earlier, I really hate gelava fruit. There’s a reason I left Bonaparte. Well, that and I’m somewhat difficult to employ.

LOG ENTRY: 0928 14-Sagan, 429

I’ve got the rover going again and have found the sensor road. Whatever happened to the domes did not happen to the sensor road. The beacons laid out on either side of this marvelous, mythical path that only exists physically on a map have to be hardened against 2 Mainzer’s constant tantrums. In theory, Barsoom is supposed to have an ozone layer in about ten years to cut back on all that. What’s that, you say? Mars has an artificial ozone layer and still gets smacked in the face by Sol? Well, Barsoom has something Mars will never have unless there’s a handwavium deposit nearby they haven’t found. Barsoom has a magnetic field. It just needs ozone for that extra boost. Plus, I kinda want to settle here once we get the temperature up above freezing. That’d be easier if I could walk outside without needing lead sunblock and a winter jacket on a summer’s day. And an oxygen scrubber.

The rover’s EMP protocols worked. I was able to get the motors back online, followed by the full comm system (the radio is hardened and pretty much a primary school science project), and the main heater and oxygenator. Just in time, too. The backup tanks used up half their oxygen overnight. Apparently, snoring uses up a lot of oxygen. Who knew?

The rover’s drive platform and AI came next. The drive platform doesn’t require much. I could have run it off the hardened core. The AI is what concerned me. I don’t know why we call the rover’s “soft brain” an AI. Technically, we humans don’t use artificial intelligence. Not since one tried to punish us for World War III. The United Nations Artificial Intelligence Decree of 2165 declared that all AIs henceforth would be “nice and stupid.” So what I’m riding shotgun with is about as smart as a cockroach. Assuming the cockroach ate a lot of lead paint.

Is lead paint still a thing?

I digress. Getting the soft brain back online lets the rover drive itself. And let’s be honest. On the off-chance that I’m the last man on Barsoom, letting me drive the rover is still a threat to humanity. The self-driving car is a four-hundred-year-old technology, a worthy successor to the horse-and-buggy, where one told the horse what to do so that stupid human in the back couldn’t wreck it. Besides, as soon as we let ourselves drive our own vehicles, we had World Wars. That’s right, unlucky person who gets to listen to this log. Henry Ford damn near destroyed the cradle of humanity by pricing the Model T reasonably. The filthy bastard.

Okay, so I’m probably exaggerating that driving the rover myself would start World War IV. For starters, wrong planet.

The soft brain complained it could not reach Musk Traffic Control. It did not comprehend the phrase “No shit, Sherlock” and proceeded to load and read A Study in Scarlet to me in the original English. Artificial stupidity, ladies and gentlemen. It got us to the stars.

Anyway, I need to get to Musk. Otherwise, I’m going to be out here in the scenic wilderness that is Ragnarok Planitia with nary a squirrel or hot nurse to soothe my otherwise short attention span.

LOG ENTRY: 1007 14-Sagan, 429

It occurs to me that I should have smuggled some homemade beer out of Kremlin before I left. Hey, what are they going to do to me? Kick me off Barsoom? Well, damn. I’d have to breathe free air and deal with heat that comes directly from one or more suns.

LOG ENTRY: 1028 14-Sagan, 429

Hallelujah, brethren and sistren. I got the soft brain to at least read A Study in Scarlet to me in modern Humanic. That Watson. What a card.

LOG ENTRY: 1107 14-Sagan, 429

I just crested Mt. Palaya, which gives you a stunning view of Utopia Paradisia and the dome of Musk.

Except there is no dome now.

Just a sheet of blackened glass.

I am fucked.

LOG ENTRY: 1115 14-Sagan, 429

OK, let’s not panic here. I knew something happened to both Musk and Kremlin, and I’m betting that it happened to New Ares as well. In fact, with no satellite and not even the faintest radio signals coming from anything but the dawn of the universe, I’m pretty sure all the domes are gone. Which means…

Yeah. It means everyone I know is dead. Tenbeck at Kremlin, my girlfriend Gina, the motorpool crew who keep me shuttling between Musk and the other domes.

I’m still a hundred kilometers away from Musk and all I see is a flattened sheet of smoking glass.

So… Yeah. I’m screwed. Musk is the promised land, my home. Flowers grow there. Marigolds, in fact. Now there’s a hole in the ground. Yeah.

I gotta think. Maybe there’s a package of opiates here I can swallow. Beats freezing to death in the rover.

Friday Flashback: The Island of D

Burt Lancaster tries to turn animals into people and vice versa.

A Legacy of Ashes by Tim Weiner

A Legacy of AshesThe CIA is many things in fiction: America’s equivalent to MI6 with James Bond-like agents cavorting around the world, an organization so in love with secrecy that they do all sorts of evil deeds in the name of national security, the Keystone Kops. According to a recently declassified history of the CIA, it actually has been the biggest waste of money since World War II. That’s the conclusion Tim Weiner draws in A Legacy of Ashes, a history of the CIA from its inception to 2007, when it this book was written.

Weiner looks at the organization’s beginnings in the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) during World War II. There were many in those early days who saw the need for a service equivalent to the Soviet Union’s KGB or Britain’s MI6. In fact, the service was modeled on MI6. From the start, it had two problems. First, it’s field operations would inevitably become compromised. Second, the Clandestine Service grew in power and scope of mandate to the point where continuing the Clandestine Service was more important than giving the President up-to-date information about America’s adversaries. The Clandestine Service, Weiner submits, loved dirty work too much: Assassinations, coups, air-dropping insurgents into hostile countries (almost always to their deaths), and cozying up to too many dictators on the premise that “they weren’t communist.” The result was the Bay of Pigs, Vietnam, the Iran Hostage Crisis, the surprise collapse of the Soviet Bloc (An intelligence report stated the Berlin Wall would not fall anytime soon. It fell the next day.), and both World Trade Center bombings.

There were a few successes. Some, like the overthrow of the Guatemalan government in the 1960s, were comically accidental. A few – the extraction of six embassy workers from Iran under a ruse of a movie studio and Charlie Wilson’s campaign to overthrow the Soviets in Afghanistan – were deliberately designed and executed. But the book Charlie Wilson’s War bears out Weiner’s premise. During the Afghan operation, Wilson and those in the agency he worked with found their operations snarled with an illegal operation in Nicaragua, the so-called Iran-Contra Affair.

Reading (actually listening, as I had this book on audio) this book brings one to the conclusion that the CIA’s problems and failures were institutional in cause. Early on, Dwight Eisenhower tried to bring the CIA to heel and, on the eve of Kennedy’s inauguration, complained bitterly to the Agency’s senior management that they had handed him “an eight-year defeat,” one that culminated in the Bay of Pigs Invasion.

Ironically, the Agency’s two best era’s came during George H.W. Bush’s tenure as Director of Central Intelligence and as President. Bush found he loved the agency and its work. Morale soared under his leadership, and the CIA had more successes on his watch than failures. As President, he already had a feel for what the Agency could and could not do, and told them it did not matter if Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega had been a CIA operative. He was a threat to national security, and so he had to go down no matter what those in the Clandestine Service thought.

Bush’s son, however, soured on the CIA for obvious reasons. Over the years, they had not developed any meaningful way to sift through intelligence that might have stopped 9/11, a conclusion backed by the 9/11 Commission. They also were responsible for Colin Powell’s disastrous speech to the UN, which included the infamous “yellow cake” incident. One of Powell’s books and the movie W. (which George W. Bush has said actually pulled a few punches it should have thrown) bear this out, though some of the blame goes to White House staffers dropping the ball as well.

The best way to describe this book comes from an Amazon reviewer, who went in expecting the British Secret Service and found “The Office instead.”

The Pros And Cons Of Writing Advice

edited manuscriptOnce upona, I would listen to a lot of podcasts about writing and self-publishing. I’d download or order books on the subject. And then I began to notice something. A lot of people were doling out writing advice but didn’t seem to have the book sales to back it up. Or if they did, they got the sales more through gimmickry than their writing.

This kind of disturbed me. I would love to write a book expounding on my ideas about writing. The trouble is I don’t have the sales to back it up. Now I’m pretty sure if I wrote that, I’d sell more copies than I would of my science fiction. To me, that’s cheating. I didn’t earn the privilege to educate since I haven’t garnered the social proof. So I unsubbed from all my podcasts and quit buying the self-help books.

That’s not to say there was nothing useful out there. I really liked listening to Joanna Penn of The Creative Penn. And The Self-Publishing Podcast turned me onto a lot of aspects of modern publishing I was unaware of. But Johnny, Sean, and Dave are freaks of nature. There’s no way I can do what they did because, frankly, I don’t have the time. I think the guys at Sterling & Stone are three of the few writers who can legitimately call themselves “authorpreneurs.” Hell, Joanna sometimes made my head spin, and she built her business slowly over time. (An example we all should follow.)

Authorpreneur, though, is a word that gets overused these days. I say the guys on SPP earned it because they have. They are fiction writing machines, and any nonfiction they sell (often as a result of their podcast) is spun from their experience. Too many out there are using the term “authorpreneur” and not really earning the the title. Those who jump on the dictation bandwagon or have some secret to building your mailing list are selling writing books without actually selling a lot of, yanno, fiction. They inevitably lack the details that SPP and Joanna Penn take pains to highlight.

But I hate to tar every podcast and every writing book with the same brush. We see management books and self-help books and diet books that do this. One or two people or groups will happen on something that works and give you all the nuance of their experience, and others will jump on the bandwagon. You could make a nice living trying to be Tony Robbins, but I seriously doubt you could do it as well as he does. That is unless you know something he doesn’t. In which case, why aren’t you out there? And I certainly don’t want to denigrate the work Sterling & Stone and Joanna Penn do. They’re doing a service. I kind of miss them though I don’t have the time to listen anymore.

Fortunately, I have found a new place to park my earphones while at work. I was turned onto Keystroke Medium, a science fiction-oriented writing podcast led by Josh Hayes. It did help that I had a passing online acquaintance with Josh, but mainly he and his cohosts simply ask questions and let the authors do all the talking. And I looked these guys up. Their guests are selling books. Interesting books, at least to the discerning SF fan. It’s not as regular as I’d like, but it’s good to listen to someone who made good on what, for me, was an excuse to write off my Adobe subscription last year. (There was more to it than that.)

As for writing books, call me an old codger, but I’ve found myself going back to my roots. I read Stephen King’s On Writing periodically and have Lawrence Block’s books prominently shelved. I could probably stand to find newer ones, but Neal Asher and James SA Corey seem to be more interested in writing new stories than writing about writing.

Maybe that’s the best teacher.

On the other hand, take this with the appropriate grain of salt. I’m actually contemplating a podcast.