Sunday, June 30, 2024

The Year in Review (so far) • 30 June 2024

It’s the last day of June and the middle day of the year, and so it seems a good day for reflection.

In fact, it seems such a good day for reflection, I doubt I’ll get this column finished in time to post it today. [~n.b. I didn’t] Fortunately, this being a Leap Year, I have some slight squish room, as the actual 183rd day of 2024 is July 1st. In June of 2025, I promise to do a much better job of planning ahead.


Looking back at the past six months, what we’ve done so far in 2024 seems to fall into nine distinct categories. Let’s make an inline submenu of them.

» Personal News

» Book Releases & Related Announcements

» Audio Books

» SHOWCASE stories

» The Pete Wood Challenge

» The Odin Chronicles, Season 2

» The Never-ending FAQ

» The Week in Review

» Odds & Ends

Personal News 

First off, it seems impossible to me that I actually forgot I began the year by being sidelined for most of January by eye surgery. Six months later, I am relieved to report that the side-effects and after-effects are mostly gone now, and my vision is vastly improved from where it was a year ago at this time. If you’re curious about this particular horror story (coming out of anesthesia in the middle of the operation was not fun), you can read more about it here:

Status Update • 6 January 2024

Status Update • 13 January 2024

Status Update • 27 January 2024

Book Releases & Announcements 

We released two original novels and a plethora of audio books this spring. The release of The Princess Scout, the latest novel in Henry Vogel’s best-selling Terran Scout Corp series, went very nicely, and pretty much exactly as planned.

The release of Emerald of Earth, Guy Stewart’s YA adventure novel, was somewhat rushed, as we wanted to get print copies into Guy’s hands in time for his suddenly scheduled signing at a local convention.

At the time the books were released, we made great hoopla over the fact that we’d chosen to “go wide” and distribute the e-books on every platform we could possibly reach. (“hoopla,” ironically, being one of the platforms on which we’d chosen to distribute our e-books, and also one of the slowest and most difficult to deal with.)

This turned out to be a serious strategic blunder, which led to our…

Doing the Mid-Year Pivot

The Mid-Year Pivot: One More thing… 

To go wide, we’d had to pull our books out of Amazon’s KDP Select and Kindle Unlimited programs. Once our books were no longer exclusively on Kindle, sales cratered. The one book whose sales did not take a swan dive into oblivion was—

The Midnight Ground made an excellent if unplanned test case. It was the only book we didn’t pull from the KDP Select program, because the e-book file was created using an Amazon-proprietary layout program that didn’t play well with other platforms. By the time we had the time to think about converting it to a different file format, we had enough sales data to make the answer clear: sales on Kobo, Nook, Apple Books, Smashwords, and all other non-Kindle platforms combined would not make up for the sales we would lose by pulling the book out of the KDP Select program.

It took us a while, but we did eventually get all of our books withdrawn from wide distribution and back to being enrolled in KDP Select and available exclusively on Kindle. By the time we did this, we also had the @stupefyingsf bookshop up and running, so you can find links to all of our titles—paperbacks, hardcovers, e-books, original novels, audio books, chapbooks, everythingright here.

The good news for readers is that all of our e-books are now free for Kindle Unlimited subscribers.

We have received a good bit of snark lately from people eager to point out that we make $0.004 per KENP (Kindle-edition normalized page) read by Kindle Unlimited subscribers. This is true, but at 4/10ths of a penny per page read on KU, we’re still making more than we were off of Kobo, Nook, Smashwords, and Apple Books sales combined. 

Audio Books 

We’ve been doing audio books since the beginning, without notable success. In March we were given the opportunity to participate in a beta program, and you’ll find more about that here.

Status Update • Audio Books: Past, Present, and Future

The point I want to stress is that we have audio books narrated by both actual living humans and A.I. generated voices, and I wish people would at least listen to the free samples before forming an opinion. You’ll find links to all of our currently available audio books here: (Scroll down a little to find the audio books section.)

Or to make it easier, all the links are also right here: 

AI-generated “Virtual Voice” narration
Emerald of Earth
The Midnight Ground
Hart for Adventure
The Recognition Run
The Recognition Rejection
The Recognition Revelation

Living Human narration

The Counterfeit Captain
The Fugitive Heir
The Fugitive Pair

The fun part of our announcing that we were participating in this beta program is that it generated a lot of passionate discussion on the subject of A.I. in the Arts.

A.I. and U

A.I. and U2

And what the heck, a few deep cuts from the vault:

The Future of the Writing Business  ←If nothing else, read this one!

The Future of the Writing Business: The AI Menace

A few words about the book business

Remember, I’ve been dealing with “the coming A.I. menace” since AI meant LISP code on punch cards. I have what is perhaps a somewhat different perspective on the topic.


I want to point out that we do make use of metadata tags, and that the Stupefying Stories site has a pretty effective search function. For example, if you go over to the rightmost column, you can use the Search box to find a particular author—e.g., “Show me everything by Julie Frost”—or click the Tags button, select “Showcase,” and find every Showcase story we’ve published on this site since 2015.

The tagged list does come up in LIFO order, though, which makes it somewhat unwieldy. In FIFO order, then, so far this year we’ve published 65 SHOWCASE stories.

“A Blaster Called Sam,” by Matt Bliss

“The First Seed on Mars,” by Logan Thrasher Collins

“Chapter 7,” by Andrew Jensen

“The Fine Art of Spellweaving,” by Catherine Tavares

“A Sweet Attraction,” by Robin Blasberg

“Cathy’s Ghost,” by Adele Gardner

“Equally Long and Differently Wide,” by Susan Cornford

“Bride of Moon-Eye,” by Garick Cooke

“The Captain’s Mistake,” by Kai Holmwood

“The Fate of Time Travelers,” by Jeff Currier

“Arrivals at Hope Station Have Been Indefinitely Postponed,” by Warren Benedetto

“Getting Sponsored,” by Eric Fomley

“The Break,” by Becky Neher

“The Prediction of a Horrific Crime,” by Humphrey Price

“Daydreams,” by Brian K. Lowe

“Reunion,” by Toshiya Kamei

“The Pros and Cons of Time Travel,” by James Blakey

“Deep in Time,” by Benjamin DeHaan

“As Flies to Wanton Boys,” by J. M. Eno

“Evil Little Head Beastie,” by Maddison Scott

“The Binding of Laws,” by Kelly A. Harmon

“They Tire of Waiting,” by Roni Stinger

“The Confession,” by Ed Ahern

“The Hangover and the Hag,” by Angelique Fawns

“Broken,” by Karin Terebessy

“Poisoned Stew to Go,” by Henry Herz

“The Job,” by Andrew Rucker Jones

“Upper Beta Great Alcove Very Happy,” by Ron Fein

“Magic Word,” by Greg Schwartz

“Pink Marble,” by Zoe Kaplan

“Rookie Mistake,” by Gregg Chamberlain

“You’re Not Alone,” by Mark Szasz

“Feedback,” by Guy Stewart

“He Really Meant It,” by Cameron Cooper

“Clashing Outfits,” by Robert Jeschonek

“gastronomic,” by Richard J. Dowling

“We Can’t Find Reverse,” by Iseult Murphy

“Rowan the Kingslayer and Meredin the Traitor,” by Akis Linardos

“Accounting for Time,” by Matt Krizan

“Mission Clock,” by Matthew Castleman

“Crossing Avenue,” by Robert Runté

“Temporal Avoidance Game,” by Jeff Currier

“We Have a Complaint,” by Gregg Chamberlain

“The Six Stages of Grief,” by Christopher Degni

“In the Crevice of His Pasture, My Master Found His Body Parts,” by Akis Linardos

“Echoes,” by Sean MacKendrick

“Without Fulvia,” by Anatoly Belilovsky

“The Room on the Other Side of the Plexi,” by Emma Burnett

“One for the Road,” by Sean MacKendrick

“Is There Anybody Out There?” by L. N. Hunter

“The Heartbeat of Ashentown,” by Michael M. Jones

“Ragnarök on Ice,” by Probert Dean

“The Last of its Kind,” by Nyki Blatchley

“Symbiosis,” by Jeannie Marschall

“The Flowers I Grew for Her,” by Avra Margariti

“Rocket Spring,” by CB Droege

“The Phoenix in the Rain,” by Michael Ehart

“Seedling,” by Eric Fomley

“The Last Guardian of Tarugal,” by Kai Delmas

“Claws,” by Gareth D Jones

“Welcome to the Death Machine Factory Tour,” by Ray Daley

“How to Return an Overdue Book to the Summer Library,” by Carol Scheina

“They Try to Kill Me,” by Jason Lairamore

“Deep Fake 37,” by Tom Koperwas

Surely there must be something on this list that makes you think, “Ooh, I remember that one!” or “I missed that one; it looks interesting,” or maybe even, “I should tell my friends about that one!”

As I’ll keep saying until I’m hoarse, share the links! Tell your friends! If you like what we’re doing here, remember that likes and hearts are nice, but shares and retweets boost the signal! 

The Pete Wood Challenge

As if the above stories weren’t enough, we also published 26 Pete Wood Challenge stories.

Sidebar: If you have a question about the Pete Wood Challenge, i.e., what the rules are, how you can participate, etc., etc., read this. Don’t ask me. Read this. Scroll down to the point where you see the words “The Pete Wood Challenge” in big bold red letters. Your questions are answered there.

The Challenge: choose two; cat, poker, storm, sandwich

“How to Win at Cards When You’re Sick of Being Queen,” by Elis Montgomery

“The Hand That Feeds,” by Tobias Backman

“Hosting a Tempest,” by Ian Li

“To Hell and Back,” by Kai Delmas

“Ante Up,” by Pete Wood

The Challenge: write a flash fiction story that plays off the keyword, “draft”

“The Draft Horse Doesn’t Leave the Stable at Night Anymore,” by Jason P. Burnham

“Service With a Smile,” by Gustavo Bondoni

“The Triennial Igneous Tri-Partite Competition,” by Pauline Barmby

“Forgetting on Draft,” by Elis Montgomery

“A Jackass Walks into a Bar,” by Pete Wood

The Challenge:
write a flash fiction story that plays off the keyword, “hike”

“Argentina, Before Barcode Scanners,” by Gustavo Bondoni

“Like Clockwork,” by Yelena Crane

“Summit, in Memory,” by Ian Li

“Astronaut Countdown,” by Brandon Case

“When the Woman in the Forest Says, ‘Please, You Must Help,’” by Elis Montgomery


The Challenge: write a 175-word or less story set on the island of Tristan da Cunha, “the most remote place on Earth” 

“Canned Kraken,” by Tobias Backman

“Floating Light Over the Waves,” by Brandon Case

“A Snail’s Pace,” by Pete Wood

“A Quiet Where Magic Can Grow,” by Kai Holmwood

“The Sirens’ Salvation,” by Kimberly Ann Smiley

“The Potato Singer,” by Ian Li 

The Challenge: write a flash fiction story that plays off the keyword, “punchline”

“Punch Flavored Punch,” by Yelena Crane

“Green Shoots,” by Christopher Degni

“Cruel, Unusual, and Optional,” by Gustavo Bondoni

“A Behemoth Problem,” by Kimberly Ann Smiley

“Wielder of Wit,” by Ian Li


The Odin Chronicles, Season 2

and launched Season 2 of The Odin Chronicles, our shared world collaborative serial. We’ve published ten episodes so far; have twenty more in the pipeline and scheduled to come out over the course of the rest of the summer. New episodes every week!

Rather than post links to every episode published so far, I’ll just post a link to the episode guide, so you can dive into the story wherever you like.

One favor, though, if you please. If you find the world of The Odin Chronicles interesting, consider giving a listen to the demo episode of the podcast version, which you’ll find on YouTube:

We made a strategic mistake with the audio version, in that we produced it as individual episodes rather than as a unified Audible-style audio book. At the time we were thinking of branching out into Stupefying Stories: The Podcast. This turned out to be a bad idea. Given my background in television production and audio engineering, and my absolute love of fiddling for hours in the recording studio, it really played into my tendency to go totally OCD over getting the sound and the voice actor’s performance exactly right. 

Now we’re at a crossroads: do we continue on with the idea of Stupefying Stories: The Podcast, or try to find an existing podcast that will become the new home for The Odin Chronicles? (Which, just so you know, is already finished, in the can, and fully paid-for. It’s kind of like having a litter of kittens who need new homes.)

Give it a listen. Let me know what you think we should do next.

The Never-ending FAQ 

In November 2023 we introduced “The Never-ending FAQ,” which was intended to be an occasional addendum to our Submission Guidelines but in 2024 evolved to become one of our most popular features. Some of the columns were purely pragmatic, e.g., How to use Adobe Sign, or Manuscript Formatting 101. Others were more snarky and sarcastic, e.g., Get Rich Quick Writing Big Hit Bestsellers! or our extended conversation on the subject of kopi luwak. (Most writers love coffee. Here’s the one coffee you absolutely should avoid.)

Again, the metadata tagging does work, although it presents the results in LIFO order. There are more than twenty Never-ending FAQ columns out there from this year alone, and they’re all just chock-full of valuable information for the aspiring writer. Click this link to begin exploring them in LIFO order, or if you’d prefer FIFO order, here’s the list of links sorted by date.

11/06/23: Tearing up our Q4 2023 Schedule
What the Hell happened to all our plans for after issue #26?

11/29/23: Assessing 2023
What is the point of Stupefying Stories, anyway?

11/30/23: Our plans for 2024
Our recovery strategy begins to take shape.

01/15/24: after a rejection, your next submission
Practical advice.

02/07/24: re simul subs
The Never-ending FAQ becomes a regular weekly feature. More practical advice.

02/14/24: after an acceptance, your next submission
Some editors don’t want more stories from authors they’ve accepted? Really?

02/21/24: Manuscript Formatting 101
Very practical advice, with examples and templates. ← READ THIS!

02/28/24: about our slush pile
Why we reject stories.

03/06/24: Recalculating “The Cold Equations”
This should have been a ‘Courting Controversy’ post. Better yet, I shouldn’t have published it.

03/13/24: submissions window closing soon
Just what it says.

03/20/24: using Adobe Sign
Step-by-step instructions for signing our publication contract.

03/27/24: Get Rich Quick Writing Big Hit Bestsellers!
Do you really want to know The Secret? Are you sure? ← READ THIS!

04/03/24: clearing the backlog
Assorted questions from the mailbag.

04/10/24: assorted odds & ends
More questions from the mailbag.

04/17/24: coming attractions and the growing A.I. menace
Yet more questions from the mailbag.

04/24/24: A.I. and U
A roundup of A.I.-related questions from the mailbag.

05/01/24: A.I. and U 2
A deep dive into exactly how we produced our A.I.-generated “Virtual Voice” audio books.

05/22/24: What happened?
I skip posting for a week and people panic. Also, we’re asked to state a specific policy regarding profanity, and we explore the question of sentience.

05/24/24: Addendum
Follow-up questions to the 5/22 post, and why aren’t we on Instagram?

05/30/24: Looking Ahead: The Next 7 Months
A discussion of how we do our hardcover and paperback books, and how we launched our misbegotten “go wide” e-book strategy.

05/31/24: Looking Ahead, Part 2
Why our “go wide” e-book strategy turned out to be an enormous mistake.

06/05/24: Doing the Mid-Year Pivot
Why and how we’re changing direction.

06/06/24: One more thing…
The DON’T PANIC! follow-up to our mid-year pivot.

06/12/24: now on Kindle Unlimited
A progress report on our move back into KDP Select and Kindle Unlimited.

06/26/24: teetering on the brink of July
Assorted questions from the mailbag, especially about The Pete Wood Challenge, and then some questions that are somewhat less serious, such as:

Q: If a man can’t tell whether his A.I.-equipped sexbot’s orgasms are real or faked, does this constitute a form of Turing Test?

07/03/24: from the mailbag
Assorted questions from the mailbag, and some puzzling stats about our readership.

The Week in Review 

Likewise, The Week in Review is a weekly wrap-up we introduced in February 2024 that rapidly became one of our most popular features, until our production schedule was disrupted by events in mid-May. We plan to resume running The Week in Review just as soon as we get the rest of our summer schedule stabilized. In the meantime, click this link to get a high-level gloss on what we’ve been doing so far this year.

Odds & Ends 

Looking back through everything else we’ve published so far this year, there are more things that just don’t fit neatly into other categories. There are things I wish I hadn’t published, such as the Courting Controversy posts. Yes, they worked, sort of. They brought in lots of readers—but they were readers who would rather argue about old fiction than read new fiction. Not the audience we want.

There were other things I wish I hadn’t had to write: Ray Daley’s obituary being foremost. Here’s hoping I don’t have to write any more of those this year.

We almost got back to what was planned to be a regular feature: Six Questions for…  Maybe this is something that would work better in our hypothetical podcast?

Finally, thanks to Guy Stewart, for posting a few of his Creating Alien Aliens and Mining the Asteroids columns, during the period when I was unable to post, or for that matter even see my computer screen, following the eye surgery.


In sum: wow, we did a lot in the first half of 2024! Now, let’s got on with the second half!

Kind regards,
Bruce Bethke
Editor, Stupefying Stories

P.S. Tell your friends! Share the links!