Fellow Texan A. K. Meek reviewed Alien Texas, my short story collection, over on his blog. Pop on over to see his verdict, and share it around if you enjoyed these strange tales.
I’ll be part of the Austin Out Loud author event at the Old Quarry Branch Austin Public Library on March 29. We’ve got four science-fiction authors reading from their works, so it’ll be good stuff. And free. See you there!
Remarkable what you can find at one of those large, sprawling, craft-filled market days for a buck. I certainly don’t need any more old paper clogging up the office, but when I recently stumbled across a vendor selling classic science-fiction magazines for cheap, my willpower vaporized like it had been raked over by a ray gun (note the period-correct terminology).
This example is the April, 1963, issue of Fantastic Stories of Imagination, with a cover by Frank Bruno. It caught my eye in particular because of the the Fritz Leiber story blurbed on the cover. Leiber’s Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser books were a major influence behind my teenage enthusiasm for sword-and-sorcery novels, but his stuff was never just pulp. Leiber went on to be named one of the earliest science-fiction Grandmasters by the SFWA.
But what really made me pull out my wallet was the early Roger Zelazny tale listed on the table of contents. Zelazny is one of my favorites SF writers of the generation that debuted in the 1960s, and Fantastic was one of the publications that nurtured his early career. His story, The Malatesta Collection, is not bad, but it’s evident that he hadn’t yet hit his stride. (This issue came out a full three years before his first novel was published.) It’s a somewhat overwrought tale about a future society uncovering a cache of books, and the contents aren’t quite what they expect. Still, when you really like an author, it’s a treat to find some forgotten story of his.
Fantastic was published as a digest-size magazine from 1952-1980. It was revived as a webzine by Wilder Publications a few years ago, but just ceased publication on January 18 of this year. Fantastic’s time may have passed, but finding any of these old issues for a dollar is money well spent.
What better than a warm e-reader loaded full of books on a nasty winter day? I’ve teamed up with a talented group of SF/Fantasy writers for an e-book mega-sale on January 7-8. We’ve got more than 150 titles on sale for only 99 cents each, available through all retailers. The first novel in my Connor Rix SF thriller series, Rules of Force, is part of the promo, so this is a great chance to start at the beginning. Follow the link and start shopping!
As the year winds down, my eyes are protesting. They have a point. My steely blue orbs have absorbed a lot of words these past twelve months. I made a point in 2016 of reading outside my usual comfort zones, as well as putting an emphasis on reading books from indie authors. Add in my own writing, plus editing jobs, plus trying to read menus in darkened restaurants, and I’m fortunate I can see at all.
But I can, so let’s recount the wonders of the written word! First, while I did cast the net wide for genre fiction and independently published works, I read my share of conventional literature as well. I finally got around to some Tolstoy, for example. And I read The Commodore in Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey-Maturin series, because I get the shakes if I go too long without reading one of those. I’m probably the last person to get on the Raymond Chandler bandwagon, but I’m making up for lost time. I read The Long Goodbye, and have another Phillip Marlowe mystery on deck. I finished William H. Patterson Jr.’s Robert Heinlein: The Man Who Learned Better, 1948-1988, an exhaustively researched biography. I even worked in a couple political polemics, because it was that kind of year.
But the indie works really stood out in 2016. Nick Cole hit two home runs with Ctrl Alt Revolt and Fight the Rooster. The former won a Dragon Award for its sci-fi melding of AI, video games and caustic social commentary, while the latter is a manic romp about a Hollywood director trying to break free from the chains of success.
Also standing out from the crowd was Liberty Boy by David Gaughran, a work of historical fiction set in Ireland that I enjoyed immensely. The Missionaries by Owen Stanley was a fun skewering of do-gooder UN types set on a Pacific isle.
I’m one of Michael Bunker’s Patreon subscribers, so I’ve enjoyed the delicious chapters of Hell and the Sea as they’ve been released each month. The novel is a fictionalized account of the early days of the indie publishing revolution, and it has a big future ahead of it when it’s released in its entirety.
Part of my “reading outside my usual comfort zones” vow includes paying more attention to the romance genre. There is some great work being done on that side of the fence, like Place Your Betts by Katie Graykowski. The term “laugh-out-loud-funny” get overused a lot, but not in this case. Katie’s work just crackles with wit.
Of course, my heart has always been in the science-fiction and fantasy fields, and I found some gems here in 2016. Vaughn Heppner is one of those indies who sells so many books it makes my head spin, so I downloaded Alien Honor, and admired how he set the table for an entertaining space opera series. I kept noticing The Long Way Down by Craig Schaefer in the also-bought feed for my Connor Rix series so I gave that a read. I snatched up a copy of Hugh Howey’s Beacon 23 when it went on sale earlier this year. It didn’t do much for me, but YMMV. Son of the Black Sword by Larry Correia isn’t indie published, but it hit a populist nerve and won a Dragon award. It’s the beginning volume in a great epic fantasy, and entertaining as hell.
I read The Night Land by William Hope Hodgson, first published in 1912, one of the strangest science-fantasy books I’ve ever read, and I mean that in a good way. It’s set in a future so distant that the sun has burned out and all of humanity lives in one vast redoubt. Speaking of distant futures, I finally (finally!) found a battered paperback copy of Jack Vance’s The Dying Earth at Half-Price Books, devoured it, and then raced through Dan Simmons’ homage to Vance, The Guiding Nose of Ulfant Banderoz.
This was also a year for short stories. I started the year picking my way through Neil Gaiman’s Trigger Warning. I snacked on the wyrd western Ledge Town by Jason Anspach, and enjoyed Jessup’s Door, a time travel story by Michael Bunker. I’ve also been working my way through the variety of indie voices in The Expanding Universe.
In my role as editor, I get the first look at a lot of fun and compelling fiction. I’ve enjoyed working with Kate Baray on her Spirelli Paranormal Investigations series, Cate Lawley on her Vegan Vamp series, Anthony Whitt’s Hard Land to Rule western, and Lori Ryan’s Sutton Capital series of romantic suspense novels.
Of course, I contributed to the indie market my own self, with the release of the dark fantasy Fight for the Night, and the fourth book in my Connor Rix series, Chase the Tiger. If you’d like to make an author happy in 2017, sign up for my newsletter over in the sidebar, and give one of them a look.
The 4th novel in the Connor Rix series is now on pre-order! Chase the Tiger is officially available on Thursday, October 20, but you can reserve your copy now on Amazon at a special introductory price and have it automatically delivered to your e-reader on launch day.
As with all the other Rix books, it’s a fast-paced science-fiction thriller set in a near-future independent Texas Republic. Have a problem with a violent superhuman outlaw? Rix is the guy you call to set things right.
CHASE THE TIGER
The day of the bio-engineered superhuman is here, and the only limit is human imagination.
When two Animal Kids—young women modified to resemble their favorite jungle cats—hire Connor Rix to recover stolen black-market biotech, it looks like a straightforward case. No problem for a guy like Rix, with his unbreakable bones, advanced optical implant, and rewired nervous system.
But the mystery runs a lot deeper than Rix could have guessed. Untangling it will require getting past lethal enforcers with bizarre modifications, and facing down the larger forces operating in the background.
Imagine a superhuman private investigator in a near-future independent Texas, and you’ve got Chase the Tiger, the fourth novel in the Connor Rix series of SF thrillers.
Being a writer, I have a library, and it’s a pretty good one. Despite the fact that my bookshelves groan and creak from the amount of paper I cram into them, I’m always on the lookout for more.
So you can bet that when I found myself at a sprawling small-town market days event this summer and found a vendor selling vintage Louis L’Amour paperbacks for 25 cents each, I had my wallet out faster than you can say “Hondo.”
Louis L’Amour was one of the greatest genre writers of all time. He died in 1988 but his books are still in print, and his sales count is somewhere north of 320 million copies and climbing. Besides being great reads, the four paperbacks I scooped up for a buck are a great window into a particular period of mass market publishing.
These books were first published in the 1950s and early 1960s, but the Bantam and Fawcett paperback editions I found are from the late 1960s. All are priced at 60 cents, and all of them run from 115-125 pages—about 40,000 words.
That was a pretty standard genre novel back then. An inexpensive 120-page paperback is a format that has all but disappeared from bookstore shelves, although the short novel has found new life in the ebook era. My own Connor Rix SF thrillers (look over in the sidebar) run in the 50,000-word range, and I’ve found that to be a comfortable length for telling a complete story without saddling the reader with a long slog.
The cover art on these titles also captures a particular flavor of 1960s illustration. Sadly, none of the cover artists are credited in these books. The Radigan cover has a signature, but I can’t read it. The style is reminiscent of Fred Pfeiffer’s, but I’m pretty sure he didn’t do these. Sharp-eyed followers of Western art will no doubt recognize these brushstrokes; if so, drop a line in the comments.