Seka Strikes Back With New Moorcock Novel

Savage Swordsmen of The Lost Kingdon is now available on Amazon. Dirk who has been a space adventurer and a World War I flying ace, is now a barbarian out of the time of legends.

Once again with a beautiful and capable woman by his side, Dirk must save the world from an unspeakable evil while engaging in as much…uh…extracurricular activity as the plot will allow. He’s bold, he’s savage, he’s Dirk Cock of The Moors and he’s reasonably priced for your reading pleasure.

And remember, Seka Heartly is NOT Clayton J. Callahan. They are two different authors entirely–I swear.

By Clayton J. Callahan

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Okay, Sounds Weird But…I Recomend “Crimes Against Humanity”

Susan R. Matthews is one of the great science fiction writers of our time. Don’t believe me? That’s you’re choice, but if you don’t at least give her work a try that’s also your loss.

Since her first novel, An Exchange of Hostages,  came out in 1997 she’s been hitting science fiction in the face with her brutally hard dystopian galaxy “Under Jurisdiction”. It’s the story of one Andrei Koscuisko, medical doctor and torturer for the state. Ironically, these books became popular just as my country was deciding if the post 9/11 world required us to abandon our values and adopt torture as a weapon in the fight against terrorism. Matthews no-holds-bars approach to the subject is, I think, a cold slap in the face to anyone who considers torture a good idea.

In Crimes Against Humanity, her usual protagonist has walked away from the state and taken up his former role as doctor and healer. But times are still uncertain and moral lines remain unclear. When faced with an antagonist who really has it coming, will Koscisko revert to his old ways? I must say, this was one of the better books I’ve read this year, and I do recommend it…but it’s also not for the faint-hearted.

Clayton J. Callahan

Warnings To Writers

The publishing industry is fraught with desperation and peril for the new author. You have finished your first manuscript and you clutch it tightly in your mitts as you wander into the dark forest of agents, publishers, and scammers all alone.

To be honest, it sucks.

Having wandered in that forest for a while now, I’d like to share my experience with some of the pitfalls I’ve fallen into. The mistakes I’ve made are easy to avoid and a little knowledge can go a long way, so here it is; my insights for dealing with the publishing industry.

  1. Do not, for any reason, go to small press publishers.

Personally, I was excited when I got the e-mail informing me that a small publisher out of Canada wanted to acquire my book.  I took it as confirmation that I had finally arrived and was now a “real” author. The contract I signed even sounded reasonable. My publisher promised to edit my book, design a cover, and publish my book online in exchange for 70% of the sales revenue to be paid every six months. In return, I gave him the rights to my book for five years after the publishing date (and it took him a year to publish).

“This is great!” I thought. Now, I could get to work on my next novel and leave the messy bit of selling to my publisher. But hold the phone here, buddy. First off I have to say, the editing was pretty terrible. It seems the publisher was simply willing to contract with any schmuck on the internet who would provide editing services. Long story short, I spent a month frantically correcting all her mistakes before the publishing deadline…fun. Then came the little detail about selling the book.

The publisher, it seems, had no intention of spending any time or money on promoting any of his author’s works. And as the contract didn’t say he had to, there was no obligation. Naively, I assumed that he’d promote it as he was to receive 70%, but sadly no.

Folks, believe me when I say that promotion matters. There are hundreds of thousands of books on Amazon and no one besides your mother is going to buy yours unless it’s well promoted. Advertising costs money, blogging takes time, and conventions are expensive. The small press publisher counts on the author’s ego to promote his own book…while the publisher collects 70%!

It’s been four years since I published that first novel and every six months I do get a check from that publisher. And when it arrives, I take my wife out to dinner, and I say to her, “Honey, you can have anything on your hot dog that you want.”

2. Beware of scammers.

For all the pitfalls of my first experience with a small publisher, it pales in comparison to working with a scammer. How do you know that a supposed publisher is actually a scammer? Well, it can be tricky I’ll admit as they try their best to look legit. But in general, any publisher who asks for you to pay them money at any time for any reason is a scammer. Remember, your selling the product to them, not the other way around!

3. A word on self-publishing.

It takes about twenty minutes to upload your e-book on Amazon and that includes brewing the cup of coffee you’ll be sipping as you do. Hire your own editor if you can, and then do a few favors for that artist friend of yours to get her to do your cover, and boom, just like that you’re published. Now all you have to do is promote your book yourself (which you’d have to do anyway with a small press publisher but this time you get 100%).

Since your reaping all the rewards from your efforts, it can be worth the expense to buy those ads and such. However, unless you know a lot about marketing, this can be a real pain in the butt. Pimping your book ain’t easy, and it will take a considerable amount of time and money to reach an audience.

4. Big-time publishers still exist.

Sure, you can pitch your book to an agent or go directly to one of the big New York publishing houses. These companies have been around for generations and have survived for a reason. They do not want to put out any sub-quality book as it may tarnish their reputation. Therefore, they use in-house editors, professional cover artists, and do all they reasonably can to promote their books. However, the downside is they are extremely risk-averse. If they take you on, they will have to spend a lot of money doing all the above things and they are barely hanging on in this digital age as it is. New authors with no audience are a great risk and your book is just one of thousands they get every day. Getting published with these guys is still possible, but it’s certainly not a sure thing.

Are you good and depressed now? I hope not. Every year new authors manage to somehow cut through this jungle and emerge with money in their pockets. Write the best material you can and know you have as much chance, and as much right, as anybody to make it as an author.

Good luck.

Clayton J. Callahan

George Takei Has Somthing To Say

If you know science fiction, you know George Takei–Sulu from Star Trek. Of course, no one is more than their job. The man has lived a fascinating life both on-screen and off, and I do consider him one of my personal heroes (fanboy much? Maybe).

Well, apparently, Mr. Takei also had an interesting and extremely difficult childhood. No, not like a lot of us who struggled with less than first-rate parents. In fact, Takei describes his parents as nothing if not loving and supportive. Sadly, it was his country that made little George’s childhood such a struggle. Born in the USA to US citizens, he was classified as an “enemy alien” just after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

At five years old, along with his entire family, George was sent to live in a concentration camp right here in America.

Now, let me be clear, American concentration camps were not death camps. It was never the intention of the US government to exterminate Japanese people at home. However, when the British Army set up the world’s first concentration camps during the Boer War of 1899 to 1902, it was not their intention to exterminate the Boers either. Nevertheless, to deprive a group of people of their freedom due strictly to their ethnicity is the central idea behind any concentration camp and that definition describes the Japanese American “Internment” to a T.

Now, Mr. Tekei has just released a graphic novel about his childhood/wartime experiences titled, They Called Us Enemy. It is a gripping story and one that must be listened to. The compulsions that drove Americans to allow our own government to lock up human beings out of fear of what they may do rather than for things they had done are not unique to that period in history. Sadly, we have acted this way before and if left uneducated can and are acting this way again!

This book was written as a graphic novel to make it as accessible as possible. And I applaud Mr. Takei for that decision.  I will also say that the book is well written and well illustrated. It makes for a compelling read and does not try to sensationalize the experience of internment. Little George had good days and bad behind the barbed wire and I’m glad he told the whole story. I highly recommend you add this book to your library as an important part of any book collection whether you’re a fan of science fiction or not.

By Clayton J. Callahan

Rest in Peace Mr. Hauer

Image result for rutger hauer

I often lament that it’s the good people who are always passing away, David Bowie, Carrie Fisher, and now Rutger Hauer, while Vladimir Putin and his ilk seem to live forever. Today, I learned that Rutger Hauer passed away at age 75.

Hauer was a staple of 1980s entertainment. Blade Runner, of course, was his break out film where he played Roy Batty, the fugitive replicant trying to evade Rick Deckard. Frankly, I always found Deckard to be a rather flat and unsympathetic character and felt that the story would have been a lot better if told from Batty’s point of view.

Actually, that was always the appeal of Hauer’s performances. He always played the tough guy, but a humble kind of tough that made you sympathetic for his character even when he played the villain.

Goodbye, Mr. Hauer. You will be missed.

By Clayton J. Callahan

Wanted:

I recently re-acquired this GameLords classic. I bought my original copy back in the 1980s (yes, I’m that old) and kept it for decades. Why? Because it’s one of the best damn game supplements ever written!

When I first started gaming, I’d buy a rule set, roll up a great looking character and then twiddle my thumbs while waiting for someone to run a game. Call it dungeon mastering, referring, or storytelling, the person who runs the game is the one guy who you can’t do without. And when nobody else stepped up, I was often that guy.

But you know what? It can be a real pain in the butt to come up with new material week after week. Oftentimes, I struggled to keep the game exciting for myself and my players. I mostly ran Traveller games back then using GDWs original system and thus, would often peruse the science fiction shelves at The Black Forest Hobby Shop–my teenage home away from home. And that’s where I discovered Wanted: Adventurers by John Marshal.

Basically, the book starts with a page torn from the want ads of a starport newspaper (yes, a newspaper–it was the 80s remember?). Players can read the ads and then discuss which job they want to apply for. Opportunities range from mercenary contracts, to search and rescue work. Once the players decide what kind of adventure they want to have, the game runner simply turns to a two or three page summary of the scenario and runs the game from there. Simple right?

I can’t tell you how many science fiction conventions I’ve attended where I just plopped this little gem in the middle of the table and told the assembled players to “go for it,” in true 1980s fashion. If you run any kind of SF-RPG and are looking for ideas, I highly recommend you acquire yourself a copy at:

https://www.diffworlds.com/gamelords_traveller.htm

Or, for more ideas, simply read some adventure-oriented science fiction short stories, right?

By Clayton J. Callahan

 

 

What is Science Fiction Pulp Anyway?

Pulp originally referred to the cheap paper once used for disposable magazines that were often sold at subway stations or bus stops and only intended to last one or two reads before being tossed. And magazines such as Wierd Tales, Astounding Science Fiction, Super Science, and If Magazine were a good way for a new writer to cut his or her teeth in the trade. Many, like Hineline and Asimov, later climbed up the literary ladder to publish novels based on the short stories that they originally sold to the magazine trade.

But pulp has become much more than the quality of the paper it’s printed on. It’s a style of writing that many people still find appealing. Imagine yourself a writer who needs to make a buck; your reader is a passenger on a train car and they want to read something exciting and fun on the way home, and your publisher pays by the word. Suddenly everything becomes amazing, thrilling and astounding! Your heroes ripple with well-sculpted muscles as they battle sinister, fearsome, and devious foes. Everything is cranked up to eleven as your story thunders across the page to its thrilling climax. The reader is enthralled as they turn page after page to see what happens next, and the editor writes you a check for every adjective you used. That is the essence of pulp.

It is also, to be fair, the essence of cheese. Characters in pulp can be so overblown as to be corny, and the plots are often extremely basic. For this reason, pulp is usually excluded from the term “literature.” In fact, the anti-pulp stigma is so bad that authors usually write under assumed names so as not to ruin their chances in the “real” fiction market. For example, I once met the author of the book you see me holding in the picture above (Spaceways: of Alien Bondage). His name wasn’t John Cleve but Andrew J. Offutt and he was one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met.

Still, as much as the “literary” crowd hates to admit it, pulp has been a huge influence on our culture; Conan the Barbarian–pulp, Buck Rodgers–pulp, The Cathulu mythos–pulp, and on and on. Pulp has also inspired many “serious” writers with its pow! zap! style. Stephen King is a great example, and he bravely admits that his style of writing is often influenced by the pulp he read as a kid.

Now, I freely admit that a lot of the pulp written in the long ago past has sexist and racist overtones. Shamefully, that was so commonly accepted at the time that many people were unconscious of it (which does not excuse it). However, I must note that a lot of non-pulp of that same era had sexist and racist overtones so I don’t blame pulp as a genre for the sins of the era that birthed it. And I’m happy to say that modern pulp seldom if ever contains those sorry elements.

That’s right, there is modern pulp. Authors are still churning out that fast paced, action packed, double hyperbole styled fiction. Face it, some times we just aren’t in the mood for philosophical tales and simply want a straight forward story with ray guns that go zap! and spaceships that go woosh! If you’ve never read pulp science fiction, I recommend you give it a try. You may thrill to the adventure, or you may laugh at the cheese (or both), but either way, you’re sure to have fun.

Clayton J. Callahan