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Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Today's Big Surprise

 

It seems that once you put a print book on Amazon, the listing exists forever. Because of a little surprise in this morning’s sales report I went back to see if the listing for this book still existed, and to my surprise it not only does, there are some optimistic souls out there who are asking hundreds of dollars for it.

Er, actually, we still have a few dozen perfectly good new copies sitting in the warehouse, in the box in which the printer delivered them to us lo these many years ago. If you’d like to get a copy of the original trade paperback incarnation of Stupefying Stories, buy it only from K&B Booksellers, and what the heck, I’ll ever sign it for you. 

Sheesh. More than $900 for a new copy? I’ll have to talk to “K” and see if we can’t raise the price. 


Book Release: THE WATCHERS OF MONIAH

 

No, this book isn’t one of ours. But Barbara V. Evers goes back a long way with us: her first appearance in our pages was “Lifesource” in Stupefying Stories #6, and she did a stint with us as a slush pile first reader, somehow surviving with her sanity intact. She did in fact offer THE WATCHERS OF MONIAH to us first, but we didn’t have the time and budget to do the book justice. 

So here you go: THE WATCHERS OF MONIAH. We didn’t publish it, but we wish we could have. Check it out!

Monday, December 14, 2020

Day One

Today, after 40 years in the computer industry and 20 years in supercomputer software R&D, I’ve begun my new life. I will confess it’s really strange to wake up on a Monday morning to the alarm not going off and to my not having an urgent need to log in and see what crisis new erupted over the weekend and what someone needs me to do about it.

This is going to take some adjustment.

While I’m making these adjustments, I’d like to direct your attention to a comment made by Ray Daley a few days ago on another post, that is much too good to leave moldering and forgotten in the comments section on a low-traffic blog. Along with this, I’d like to invite you to share your thoughts with me. How do you answer the question, “Why do you write science fiction?” (Or as a less-than-tactful co-worker once put it to me, “Why do you write this sci-fi crap when you could be writing real literature?”)

If you’d like to share your thoughts on the subject, ping me in the comments section or drop me an email.

And now, over to Ray:

Those writers we enjoy, who are our route to the world of what I lovingly call "made-up crap", those are the giants whose shoulders we stand on. They raise us to the heights our dreams drive us to aim at.

I blame Douglas Adams. I was 9, I bought Hitch Hikers, the 1st book I ever got with my own money. My life was Doctor Who (Jon Pertwee to Tom Baker), Space:1999, Star Trek, Blake's 7.

With the 1st Space Shuttle launches, the future was now.

As a young boy, I was given all the room I wanted by a teacher to write whatever the hell I wanted to. Sure, it might have been a weak rip-off of the last Doctor Who episode I'd seen, but it was me throwing every ounce of my imagination into it.

Douglas Adams was one of many who piggybacked me towards my dreams. And every time I write a new story, I honour his memory.

—Ray Daley

Friday, December 11, 2020

LAST CHANCE • Free ebook giveaway!

 

STUPEFYING STORIES #18 has reached the end of contract life and is going out of print on Tuesday, 15 December. Ergo, for the next four-point-something days we’re giving the Kindle edition away absolutely free, for the cost of a click. 

Check it out! Tell your friends! Download it today, because at midnight on Tuesday, 15 December 2020, it goes out of print forever!

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B078G83JHV

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Why write science fiction?


In case you haven’t heard, Chuck Yeager checked out for the last time yesterday. This morning I intended to re-run an article I wrote about 15 years ago on the subject of his remarkable life and career, but can’t find it now. 

That’s the problem with having had a 40-year writing career. You collect an enormous pile of crap, all of it in a terrible state of disorganization, because you’re always too busy working on your next project to have the time to go back and clean up the mess left behind by your last project. So while I know I wrote that article on the late General Yeager and his career, and I know it was published somewhere, this morning it remains lost. 

In the meantime, though, my search for it turned up this piece from 15 years ago, which seems worth resurfacing and is perhaps even more relevant today.


 

This must be one of those Interviewing 101 questions, because, like poorly refrigerated leftover chicken, it keeps coming back up.

   “When did you first discover that you liked science fiction?”

I’m never quite sure how to answer this one. Do I dare give the honest answer and say that it was when I was 4 years old and Ruff and Reddy got abducted by the Munimula Men? Or maybe it was when I was 6 or 7, and got hooked on Supercar and the vastly superior Fireball XL-5? Or perhaps these two just explain why I find Team America so gosh-darn ROTFLMAO funny.

Was it when I was 8 or 9, and discovered those dusty old hardcovers of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea and The Swiss Family Robinson up in the attic? Or maybe it was when I was 10 and finally got my own library card, and discovered that Llewellyn Library had two whole bookcases full of Jules Verne, Andre Norton, Madeline L’Engle, and Heinlein, Clarke, and Asimov juveniles—including the full-length versions of those Heinlein serials that Boy’s Life was rerunning!

Perhaps it was when I was 11, and read War of the Worlds and The Time Machine for the first time. Or maybe it was when I was 12 or 13, and discovered Ray Bradbury. (I wrote a lot of Bad Imitation Bradbury when I was in junior high.) Maybe it was when I was 14 and first read The Lord of the Rings, or then again maybe it was when I was 15 or 16, and discovered Theodore Sturgeon, Harlan Ellison, and Kurt Vonnegut.

One thing I know for certain. It was definitely not from watching Star Trek.

Maybe it happened in my later teens and early twenties, when I discovered Philip K. Dick, Tom Disch, Brian Aldiss, J.G. Ballard, John Sladek, Ursula LeGuin, Robert Silverberg. (Or God forgive me, Keith Laumer and Ron Goulart.)

Or perhaps we are asking the wrong question here. Maybe I never “discovered” science fiction at all. Maybe my interest is the natural result of having lived through a half-century that could only have been predicted, explained, and described by the branch of literature known as science fiction. Maybe it’s the side-effect of having watched the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs unfold as news, not as history, and of being more excited about Chuck Yeager and the Mercury Seven than the starting lineup of the Milwaukee Braves. (Okay, so I vaguely remember Warren Spahn, Eddie Mathews, and that new kid they signed—Henry Aaron, I think. Very promising. Did he ever amount to anything?)

There, that’s it. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. The next time someone asks me this question, I’ll answer that it’s all Ted Turner’s fault, for moving the Braves to Atlanta. Deprived of the usual boyhood athlete-heroes, I had to idolize test pilots and astronauts instead, and thrill to their exploits in the pages of National Geographic and Aviation Week & Space Technology.

What’s your excuse?

Sunday, December 6, 2020

The State of the Loon: 12/06/2020

 

I should probably start making a point of posting these status updates every Sunday morning—which means writing them and putting them in the publication queue on Saturday evening, so hmm. More planning required. I have not had the luxury of having time to do “planning” since mid-2019, I think. I’m told it’s quite a useful thing to do and can be very productive, provided you have the time to both do it and then to follow-through on the resulting plans.

The most salient bit of news to report is that this is it. After 40 years in the industry and 20 years with this company, my career officially comes to a close this coming Friday. A tremendous lot of last-minute business is trying to cram itself into this last week, so if I seem distracted, I am. 

On the Rampant Loon Press front, this means I have decided to slide the release of Stupefying Stories #23 to Tuesday, December 15. Otogu the Insatiable, Devourer of Days, is demanding too many sacrifices this week. By slipping the release to 12/15 this gives me time to get the print edition finished, proofed, and uploaded to Amazon, and ARCs (Advanced Reading Copies) sent out to all the contributors and potential reviewers, without killing myself. If Otogu is kind I will even have something like a mailing list up and functional in time to send out the release announcement. Having an RLP mailing list has long been a goal of ours. Now at last we have the time to do it. 


By pure coincidence, Stupefying Stories #18 reaches the end of its contract life and goes out of print on 12/15/20. We’ll have to do something to mark its passing—probably a free e-book giveaway—but as of this morning I haven’t decided…

Never mind, I just decided. Beginning Friday, 12/11/20, and running through Tuesday, 12/15/20, Stupefying Stories #18 will be a free download. And on 12/16/20, it goes out of print.

Therefore, here is your last chance to pick up:

AI, ROBOT • by Joel David Neff
PRINCESS NICOTINE • by John Skylar
A RING, A RING O' ROSES • by Simon Kewin
FROZEN TEARS • by Frances Silversmith
350 K IN MY SHADES • by Karl Bunker
SLOW STEPPER • by Juliana Rew
THE NORTHERN RECESS • by Fred Coppersmith
WHAT THE WITCH WANTS • by Aislinn Batstone
THE LIFE TREE • by Jamie Lackey

Hmm again. Interesting collection. For my money (and it is my money, isn’t it?) “AI, ROBOT” should have been on the shortlist for a plethora of awards but wasn’t, and I just love “350K IN MY SHADES.” There are a couple of stories in here that were originally picked up for theme anthologies that were subsequently strangled by Otogu halfway through development, so it makes for a strange mix, but I find it ironic in the extreme that this book contains stories by Jamie Lackey and Fred Coppersmith, just as we’re about to publish new stories by Jamie and Fred in issues #23 and #24. 

Anyway, that’s Stupefying Stories #18, going out of print next week, so get it now before it’s too late.

*   *   *

Meanwhile, what I set out to write about this morning was last week’s sales report. I’m pleased to report that the PRIVATEERS OF MARS launch went quite well, and to my surprise the print edition is selling much better than expected. This gives me the germ of an idea for future book launches, but we’ll have to conduct a few more experiments before I’m ready to begin drawing conclusions. 

I am also really pleased to see that creating the STUPEFYING STORIES PRESENTS catalog page has already paid off, in that we’re seeing more interest in JIMI PLAYS DEAD and THE BOOK OF JUDITH than we have in some time. This makes me happy because The Book of Judith was a true labor of love that got great reviews in the UK but almost no attention in the US, and I still believe in the book and want to turn that around. Again, I’m now beginning to get a glimmer of an idea as to how to do that. 

*   *   *

Finally, I am delighted to report that THE MIDNIGHT GROUND has at last hit the milestone of 50 published ratings on Amazon, and the average rating is 4.5 stars. Publishing lore has it that 50 reviews is the magic number, after which Amazon notices that a book exists and begins to help promote it. We shall see if that is true, but in the meantime, I’m also very happy to see that the daily KENP (Kindle Edition Normalized Pages) number remains high. A good KENP number indicates that people aren’t just buying it: they’re reading it. 

Attaboy, Eric!


And now, back to work.

~brb

Friday, December 4, 2020

What we need is a great big banner!


 P.S. Buy the book! Or if you’re a Kindle Unlimited subscriber, you can read it for free!

Currently ranked #19 in “90-minute Science Fiction & Fantasy Short Reads.” Who at Amazon thinks up these categories?

Thursday, December 3, 2020

Privateers after-action report: Day Two


This is very cool. Matt Castleman’s article on why and how he came to write Privateers of Mars is featured on John Scalzi’s blog this morning. If you ever feel as though you’re running short of ideas and/or motivation, it’s well worth reading.

A near-lifelong, almost forgotten about idea of author Matthew Castleman’s ended up turning into his newest novella, Privateers of Mars. Read on to learn how a child’s drawing transmuted itself into a published work...”

Read the rest at https://whatever.scalzi.com/2020/12/03/the-big-idea-matthew-castleman/ 


 

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Privateers book release: after-action report

 

With PRIVATEERS OF MARS released and selling, it’s time for some reflection on lessons learned.

1. It was nuts to plan to release both PRIVATEERS OF MARS and STUPEFYING STORIES #23 on the same day. Admirably ambitious, yes, but nuts all the same.

2. I must remember to build time into the schedule to absorb the shock of unforeseen external developments. We had all our ducks more or less in a row for finishing up SS#23 over the holiday weekend, but real life intruded. Assertively.

3. I must remember to build more time into the schedule for the dreary tail-end pipeline processes of publishing. I’ve become so accustomed to being able to click the Publish button and have content go live in seconds on other platforms that I forget that publishing to Amazon requires extra patience. Next time I need to allow at least two days for “soak time” after I upload the book to Amazon and before I announce that the book has been released.

4. Fortunately, there is a relatively easy way to build in that buffer time: create the print book listing first, and upload the print content first, and then create the ebook listing and upload the ebook content. Amazon’s sloth-like print approval process not only builds in the requisite soak time automatically, it has the unexpected benefit of linking the print and ebook listings right from the start. No more waiting a week for Amazon to figure out that they’re the same book and then to link the listings!

5. Consequently, rather than burn the midnight oil to rush SS#23 out this week, I’m going slide the SS#23 release into next week. Precise date TBD. Stay tuned.


6. I really need to do a better job of selling the Stupefying Stories Presents concept. SSP is our experimental platform: in this line-up you’ll find standalone novellas, single-author collections and story cycles like The Book of Judith and Privateers, overt experiments like Jimi Plays Dead, one-shot theme anthology projects put together by guest editors (yes, Guy Stewart, that means you), and even some genre-germane non-fiction titles. In short, SSP is our platform for publishing things that don’t fit into the context of a regular monthly SF/F magazine (which is, after all, what we’re trying to make Stupefying Stories evolve into), but that are too good not to publish.

Fortunately, as the Amazon marketplace continues to evolve, they’re giving us better tools for promoting this idea. E.g., the new Stupefying Stories Presents catalog page. I’m rather pleased with how it turned out.


a. One thing the catalog page does for us that I really like is that if you open the listing for any one of these titles, you get a banner of links to the other titles in the collection.

b. One unexpected discovery was that if you’re not using the catalog page to promote a series of books that must be read in sequence, Amazon doesn’t give a fig about volume number. I guess that simplifies cover art considerations.

7. Finally (for now), I really need to do a better job of selling the co-op publishing concept. For example, the reason why Privateers is priced as it is is because Matthew Castleman agreed to take a smaller payment up front in exchange for a much larger share of the sales. To me this seems to make perfect sense: I’d cheerfully pay a little more for a book if I knew that that extra markup was going directly to the author.

But then, I’m an author, so perhaps my perspective is skewed.

That’s all for now. Upward and onward,

~brb



Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Just released! PRIVATEERS OF MARS, by Matthew Castleman

 

Meet Jacob Rhys: 

Scoundrel, brawler, gambler, drunk, and licensed privateer in the employ of the Free Mars State, until the authorities on Ceres impounded his ship. When shipyard engineer Valerie Morton found him face-down in a dive bar a week later and showed him the “official” report listing what was discovered in his ship’s cargo hold, Rhys read it—and as he read it, he began tapping nervously on the grip of his sidearm. 

Then he stopped tapping and looked up at Morton.

“I’m getting my command crew back together. We are, handily, short an engineer. Do you have strong aversions to petty or grand larceny, extortion, card cheating, recreational and spiritual drug use, sexual practices that may involve recreational and spiritual drug use, and ubiquitous, often unnecessary violence?” 

After a slight hesitation, Morton shook her head.

“Good. Welcome to my crew.”

 

PRIVATEERS OF MARS
64 pages of old-school non-stop pulp sci-fi action by Matthew Castleman!

Available TODAY in paperback, on Kindle, or free for Kindle Unlimited subscribers!

Reviewed in the United States on December 1, 2020
Reviewed in the United States on December 1, 2020