January 1, 2006

Upcoming Horrors From Big Lizards

Hatched by Dafydd

As if the world were not frightening enough, now comes a brand new novel from the Big Lizard himself... and I'm actually going to use the blogosphere to help me sell it!

In my dark and checkered past, I used to be a novelist; I still think of myself as such -- I'm just slumming with all this political stuff. I managed to get eighteen novels published, God knows how. Many were Star Trek books, and of course I co-authored the four Doom novels with Brad Linaweaver (not the novelization of the movie; that's erstwhile cyberpunk John Shirley, I think... remind me someday to tell the story about how Shirley said the most offensive and insulting thing anyone has ever said to me).

But I also tricked various publishers into bringing out seven completely original novels, all long out of print: two fantasies (Heroing and Warriorwards), two science fictions tarted up as fantasies (Arthur War Lord and Far Beyond the Wave), and three young-adult adventure novels (Swept Away, Swept Away: the Mountain, and Swept Away: the Pit, from Harper YA).

But none was a hard-core science fiction, and I longed to write one (since that's what I like most). I finally got a contract and began writing the Pandora Point. Alas, part way through the book, the publisher went belly-up, and I was stranded. I got to keep the signing half of the advance (I never turn down honest money), but what I wanted was publication. I went ahead and completed the book anyway, figuring someone else would pick up the contract.


The Pandora Point takes place on an O'Neill colony, a self-contained cylinder in orbit, rotating to give some artificial gravity and housing several hundred thousand people. It was kicked into a highly eccentric orbit a long time ago... and now it only approaches the Earth once every 400 years. It's doing so now -- but nobody on the station has ever seen the Earth, or even the sun except as a pinpoint star in the sky. As the space colony approaches and the star (our sun) gets bigger and hotter in the viewports, all hell breaks loose... literally.

Fair warning: there is a lot of politics, though I don't let it get in the way of the action. There is also some, um, peculiar sex, and some violence. And some sports -- it helps if you were a fan of American Gladiators!

Double-alas, the reason the publisher went bankrupt was the same reason that nobody wanted to publish the Pandora Point: the SF publishing world decided that nobody wanted to read real science fiction anymore -- so they no longer publish it. Even such stalwarts as Gregory Benford, I hear, have hung up their jump-jets and declared they're out of the business.


The New York Science Fiction Literary Mafia declares that none of you is interested in reading books with original science-fictional ideas. They say that the readers would rather get their science fiction by watching Battlestar Galactica and Firefly/Serenity and no longer have any interest in the printed word.

I say that's a load of fertilizer. I love TV and cinema science fiction... but that doesn't stop me from liking to read, too! I say it's the science-fiction publishers who are no longer interested in original SF ideas... and they're just projecting their own tastes onto the readers (which, to be fair, is really all they have to go on). Since they don't publish any really original SF, it's not difficult to prove it "doesn't sell."

I predict that if someone were to publish real science fiction, written in contemporary literary style, but with the same hopeful, pro-futurist point of view that SF used to have -- and of course, with actual original science-fictional ideas, interesting in and of themselves (even apart from the books that contain them) -- that there would still be a market for it.

Like all my predictions, I'm prepared to test this one in open court. I'm in the process of negotiating with a publisher friend of mine who runs an "instant press" to bring out the Pandora Point in a few months.

The way instant press works is that they typeset the book, but they only print copies "just in time" in response to orders. They usually don't appear in bookstores, but they're available on Amazon.com. The advance is pretty low; but I already got an advance the first time it was sold; and the royalties are larger than normal, which can make up for it, if the book is successful.

When you buy such a book, it's the same as any other book you buy from Amazon: it will be either hardcover with a dust jacket or a trade paperback; it will have a nice cover painting (if we can find a good artist), be professionally printed, copy-edited, and so forth. The only difference is that you can only get it through Amazon (or directly from the author or publisher, of course).

My secret weapon for selling more copies than are normally sold by instant presses -- is the blogosphere; yup, you guys! In a little while, when the printed copies are available, I will start sending review copies to a number of authors of influential and widely read blogs. I want to stress I'll be looking for straightforward and honest reviews: if the blogger hates the book, that's the review he should write... though I hope he would explain why he hates it: he might hate it for the exact reason someone else will love it.

Because the reviews will be honest and uncoerced (yeah right, coerce the blogosphere), if a blogger says he loves it, you can trust him; credibility is everything in our world, so nobody is going to "do me a favor" by writing a good review for a bad book.

Once some reviews begin appearing, it will be up to you guys... and I'm counting on you. If the Pandora Point sounds (from the reviews and the sample chapters I'll put up here on Big Lizards) like something you'd enjoy reading, please order it through Amazon. There will of course be a link on every page of Big Lizards, possibly ads on other blogs (depending how much ad budget I can wheedle out of the publisher), and I might even get the link tattooed on my forehead.

I'm hoping to demonstrate Hugh Hewitt's maxim that blogs are the new paradigm for sales and merchandising -- and of course to make some honest bucks for myself at the same time.

And let's show the SF Literary Mafia where they can stick it!

(While I'm at it, I think I'll also talk to Alan about bringing those out-of-print books linked above back into print... why not?)

Thanks, and I'll keep you apprised as this project progresses.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, January 1, 2006, at the time of 3:38 PM

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The following hissed in response by: danupton

I'm curious. Considering your statement that nobody is publishing "real" science fiction any more do you think that David Weber and John Ringo's books (I'm thinking of the Honor Harrington, Counsel War, Posleen and March series) to be "real" science fiction?

Your idea kind of reminds me of a Heinlein novel who's name escapes me (the TV series "Starlost" was sort of based on it).

The above hissed in response by: danupton [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 1, 2006 4:32 PM

The following hissed in response by: Curt

Sign me up, I love good Science Fiction when I can find the time to read it between the Non-Fiction I read.

The above hissed in response by: Curt [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 1, 2006 5:20 PM

The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh


I don't know about Ringo, but isn't David Weber marketed as a "military SF" writer? That's a separate publishing category -- as are "slipstream" and "alternate history." Such books are published, but they are expected to sell X number of copies and no more; and I have heard that Jim Baen, for example, gets a bit frosty when books do better than expected... because that messes up his accounting projections.


The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 1, 2006 7:16 PM

The following hissed in response by: Scott Crawford

Looking forward to it. Now that you've reminded me, I just have to find my copy of Balance of Power. It shouldn't take long; the last time I moved, I only packed a hundred boxes of books...at forty pounds each.

Of course, that was seven years ago.

The above hissed in response by: Scott Crawford [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 1, 2006 7:48 PM

The following hissed in response by: Bill Faith

I'll look forward to reading it as soon as it becomes available. I don't read a lot of dead-tree stuff any more but in this case I'll make an exception.

The above hissed in response by: Bill Faith [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 1, 2006 8:18 PM

The following hissed in response by: matoko kusanagi

i'm in.
where do i pre-order?

The above hissed in response by: matoko kusanagi [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 1, 2006 8:28 PM

The following hissed in response by: Mr. Michael

It should be incredibly hard to proclaim with a straight face that straight sci-fi doesn't sell well; they haven't tried to sell very much in the last few years, have they? Try the Sci-Fi section at a non-bookstore point of sale: Sci-Fi has maybe room for five books, all of which are either Star-Trek or Star-Wars. Add in a few continuations of existing MegaSeller series (McCaffrey, Card, Anthony, etc) and there is no room for a 'single' book on the shelf. And don't go splitting Genre hairs... there's precious little top line stuff coming out; and you can only sub-genre when a genre is large. We've got slim pickins these days. And apologies sir, but if the Star Trek franchise doesn't tickle my fancy, right there 40% of the Sci-Fi shelf space is off my list.

Publishers want to believe that we all will rush out to read that NYTimes woman who doesn't need men. (Until the bar closes or whatever.) 40,000 copies sold after all of that press and the MSM backing her all the way? Please. MainStreamPublishing is as delusional as the MainStreamMedia.

I say Write ON! Publish the story. I'll pop for a few copies just to see if the series is worth investing more time in. If indeed it is a good story and makes me feel good after reading it, I'll pass along word to others. We are a close knit group, we Space Fans... and we are starving for a new series.

In the old days, if a novel was no good it wouldn't sell. Sadly, even if it WAS good it might not sell; so many other considerations come into play. Show us what you've got. If its good and it sells well through this medium, maybe we can do to those idiot publishers what we are doing to the NYTimes.

Mr. Michael

The above hissed in response by: Mr. Michael [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 1, 2006 8:41 PM

The following hissed in response by: Bill M

OK, I'll bite.

The reason "real" SicFi doesn't sell is they don't publish it. You are exactly right. I really can't get too interested in the "fantasy" SciFi that seems to clutter the shelves nowadays. I do like some of the Star Wars books. I don't buy 'em; I steal 'em from my sons - usually before they even get the chance to crack the backspline.

"Dad, have you seen...."

"Nope, you must have misplaced it. It'll probably show up in about a week or so...."

But, when I go into the store, there are seldom any books that intrigue me. This one just may!

The above hissed in response by: Bill M [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 1, 2006 10:22 PM

The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh

Gentle Readers:

Thanks for the precognitive support! It won't be for available for a few months yet; I'm not sure how long.

The novel is already written, so there's no waiting on that; but Alan has to read it and make any editing suggestions to me; I have to decide how to respond to such suggestions (I almost always take an editor's suggestion, but I prefer to make the changes myself); then he has to typeset the manuscript, arrange for cover art, printing, and binding... and then we have to send copies out to various professional reviewers.

Brad Linaweaver has threatened to review it for me, but I'm not sure where. I'd sure rather it was National Review than Famous Monsters of Filmland or Cult Movies!

At that same time, I'll be contacting powerhouse bloggers in the 'sphere to see who can commit to a review (good or bad, however it works out). I'll especially be on the lookout for bloggers who have some connection to the dead-tree media as well, to see if any is interested in actually publishing the review in NR, WS, Chronicles, the American Spectator, and such.

We'll only have X number of review copies available, and I won't find out what X is until we see now much printing costs. Once I know what X is, and once I see how many of the initial contactees agree to review, I'll know how many other copies are available for other bloggers.

We will then pause for some time, while I try to beg, plead, and wheedle my way onto a guest spot on Hugh Hewitt's show (he's always enthusiastic about the future of commerce on the blogosphere). After he refuses -- oh, wait, let me be optimistic: after he politely refuses, then and only then will the book become officially available.

Fair Warning: This book is absolutely nothing like my Star Trek and Doom novels. It's a dark SF detective story... but unlike, say, James Ellroy, there's actually light at the end of the tunnel (and it's not the light of an onrushing train).

I'm hoping to (freely or cheaply) distribute the first few chapters as pdf files... with an Amazon.com link at the end of each one. That way, folks can try it before they buy it, or at least before they buy much of it. I'll have to talk to Alan to see how that works out; he has a standard contract he uses.

The book is long, and we'll probably have to split it into two volumes; but both volumes should be available at the same time, so there's no worry that you'll read number one, then have to wait six months for the completion.

That's literally all I know at the moment; stay tuned -- same blog time, same blog channel!


The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 1, 2006 11:25 PM

The following hissed in response by: Dirty Dingus

I'm surprised that you claim that Baen doesn't like surprise bestsellers. I don't think there is a single publisher who doesn't like to collect as much money as people are willing to give him, which is why he came up with eARCs to let us give him $15 now for something that will cost $5 in 3-6 months time.

Pretty much all the comments you and your commenters wrote about the "death" of the SF market has been written by Jim Baen/Eric Flint as they begin the launch of the Baen's Universe eMagazine - you might like to read the copy I preserved at http://www.di2.nu/files/BaensUniverse.html

Also authors seem enamoured with PDF but this reader for one will be taking your PDF and munging it back to HTML to read if PDf is the only option so please consider releasing the samples in HTML or some other reader friendly form.

Oh and please sell a nonDRMed eBook copy of the entire thing as well as the paperback. It will help drive sales especially if you think your readership is likely to contain people who travel a lot and have 5 or 10 minutes downtime now and again but no space for carting masses of books (i.e. anyone deployed in the military or contractors like your wife....) as well as weirdos liek me who have limited shelf space

The above hissed in response by: Dirty Dingus [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 2, 2006 12:55 AM

The following hissed in response by: Jim Webb

Um, I get what you're saying and look forward to the book (taanstaafl!) but it's not quite THAT bleak http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0765309408/qid=1136212482/sr=8-1/ref=pd_bbs_1/104-0903395-2601521?n=507846&s=books&v=glance

The above hissed in response by: Jim Webb [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 2, 2006 6:37 AM

The following hissed in response by: Jim Webb

Oh well, the link points to "Old Man's War" by John Scalzi. Very much in the vein of Heinlein.

The above hissed in response by: Jim Webb [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 2, 2006 6:39 AM

The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh

Jim Webb:

I define an "original science-fictional idea" as one that is so compelling, people can discuss its ramifications for hours even apart from any elements of the story that contains it... and which has not been explored previously. (I'll even allow original riffs on old ideas, such as Heinlein's "Universe," which was an original riff on the old idea of a generational starship.)

The prototypical example is from Poul Anderson's first novel, Brain Wave (1954): for hand-waving reasons, all creatures with a central nervous system experience a huge multiplication of their IQ, about five times what it was; humans thus move up to the equivalent of an IQ of 500, and so forth.

From this description alone, without telling you anything about plot, characters, or writing style, it would be easy to spend hours discussing the effects on society of such an increase in intelligence. That is what I mean by an original SF idea.

What is the original SF idea of Old Man's War? Granted, the book can be well written with great plotting and finely limned characters... but if there is an original SF idea worth hours of discussion, it isn't apparent from the reviews.

That is what today's SF lacks: original SF ideas, not plot, character, style, galaxy-spanning vistas, and so forth. That is what used to be our secret weapon against Hollywood and Burbank: that our stories contained original SF ideas, while the visual media typically did not (with some exceptions).


The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 2, 2006 7:00 AM

The following hissed in response by: KarmiCommunist

ummm...looks like i just lost some 35-minutes plus during an electrical outage. Well, my fault...

Second try, shorter version, and still not saving:

I'm just slumming with all this political stuff.

Take a 538th “sip” from ‘Da Well of Paranoia

Vote in November of 2006, and write before then. Write...write...write.


The above hissed in response by: KarmiCommunist [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 2, 2006 7:06 PM

The following hissed in response by: KarmiCommunist


Once upon a time, a very long time ago, a ship of unknown origins, was heading to the earth for the last time. SNIP...

Write poetry...


Wandering through the dense fog,
the wet mist from it rolled down my face.
I felt the despair of being a lost soul,
the only comfort I felt were the water droplets,
as they gently caressed my face.

Write away...

The smoke, from my new ‘habit’, drifts upwards…upwards in a type of egotistical conceit.

Then, one day my ego gained in strength,
and told me It was bad, and that I was soooo good.
So, foolish young boy that I was, I stood up,
raised my clenched fist towards the Heavens,
and cursed my Spirit...losing my Angel forever.
From "Simplicity".


SNIP...We're heading to another plane where our beliefs may be offensive. We should be, much like we would be if we were just on an adventure to some remote part of our physical world, where the local inhabitants were head-hunters. Not just arriving, and telling them that they're wrong and barbaric for hunting heads. Hoping to save our own heads, we'd probably hold our ego/minds in 'check', and try to make friends with them. Perhaps even admiring their talent and 'power' of being able to shrink a severed head, and preserve it so well. Let me suggest that this 'hidden' plane might be even less receptive to our ego/mind than the head-hunters, and that it could also be much more dangerous.

Go for it again...do it!!!


The above hissed in response by: KarmiCommunist [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 2, 2006 7:43 PM

The following hissed in response by: Teafran

I have been reading SciFi since I was ten - I'm sixty now and am wondering where my next political/hardcore scifi is going to come from.

Let's face it - the hardcore scifi nowadays is crap - Ringo's Posleen War saga was just one Posleen slaughter after another with little to recommend it not to mention that after halfway through the second book, it was flat out boring. With all due respect to David Weber, can we NOT have another Honor Harrington borefest?

To tell the truth, hardcore has gone to the realm of fantasy with Jim Butcher's "Dresden Files" probably at the top of the list (I believe that the SciFi Channel picked up the "Dresden Files" with potential for a series) - Rachel Caine's "Weather Warden" series is also a good entry, much like Butcher's semi/hemi/demi not a typical hero thing.

I digress.

As a long time fan of scifi/fantasy in all it's genres, fantasy, fantasy/hardcore, hardcore/fantasy, etc., I have always wanted to review a book and give an honest appraisel of what I see as compared to what I have read for more than 50 years. I've never had the opportunity to do so.

So, I make this offer - I will buy a pre-publication copy of "The Pandora Point" from you so there is no freebie involved. I will make an effort to review the book honestly and fairly and make it web available for others to reference if they wish.

I'm not a high power blogger - hell, I haven't made a blog entry in my own blog for over a month I've been so busy with my own life.

What I am, though, is an average schmuck with an average education, former engineer, combat veteran, father of four, sportsman/charter captain and enthusiastic scifi fan. That's the audience you want to reach - those of us who are have/been long time fans desperatly want something better than what we've been served in the past ten/fifteen or so years.

If you want to take me up on my offer, the email is good.

And best of luck with the new book.

The above hissed in response by: Teafran [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 3, 2006 7:05 AM

The following hissed in response by: Texas Jack

Dafydd, the reason I put your site on my favorites list was because of Heroing and Warriorwards. (I've stayed because I like what I read here.) I started reading SF over fifty years ago. My library consists of somewhere near 2,500 paperbacks, of which about 95% are F/SF. My tastes range all over the place, from Adams to Zahn and all points between. Anthony and Bova, Campbell and Foster, Heinlein and Laumer, McCaffrey and Norton, Pohl and Rowley, Sheffield and Turtledove, Van Vogt and Wylie, and a hundred more, some with only one book and others with dozens (about 60 for Andre Norton), all are welcome friends. All that a reader needs is the ability to suspend disbelief; then a Hobbit or a Dragonrider become people, and an FTL spaceship quite the normal way to travel. Not read? God willing, I'll die with a book in my hand.

The above hissed in response by: Texas Jack [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 6, 2006 11:58 AM

The following hissed in response by: cdquarles


You have made another sale when the book comes out. I enjoy Sci-Fi/Fantasy more than any other kind of fiction.

The above hissed in response by: cdquarles [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 21, 2006 6:04 PM

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