Reminder: SWORDS OF SAINT VALENTINE Open Call on 14th February

In case you missed it, the #SteemPulp crew’s first open call, SWORDS OF SAINT VALENTINE, opens on 14th February. A Steemit-exclusive event, SWORDS OF SAINT VALENTINE aims to champion pulp-style stories and identify promising talent on Steemit.

The theme for SWORDS OF SAINT VALENTINE is love and chivalry. No genre restrictions, but we want pulp-style stories — fun, action-packed stories that place entertaining the reader first.

To participate, publish your story on 14th February in your local time zone and tag it with ‘swordsofstvalentine’. If you’re planning to write a serial, you must complete the story by the end of the month. There is no minimum word limit, but there is a hard limit of 15,000 words.

All authors who participate will receive compensation through Steemit payouts. Everyone who participates in this event will stand a chance to earn fair compensation for their time and energy invested in the story, and there is great incentive to publicise their stories far and wide. Authors of the best stories will be invited to submit their stories to the SteemPulp crew for inclusion in an anthology.

The selection criteria is two fold: fit to theme and aesthetic, followed by number of upvotes. Authors who pay for bot upvoting and resteeming services or use sock puppet accounts to upvote their own stories will be disqualified. There will not be a penalty for using the platform’s native post promotion service, and writers who are discovered by content curators will receive extra credit. Total payouts will not be considered as part of the selection critiera; an upvote from a whale carries the same weight as a minnow.

To summarise, here are the requirements for SWORDS OF SAINT VALENTINE:

Theme: Love and chivalry. Story must fit the pulp aesthetic.
Word count: No minimum. Hard limit of 15,000 words.
Event opening date: 14 February 2018. Publish your story, or the first part of a serialised story, on this date.
Event completion date: 28 February 2018. Serialised stories must be completed by then.
Selection criteria: Fit to theme and aesthetic, and number of upvotes.
Disqualification criteria: Use of paid upvoting and resteem bot services, and use of sock puppets. Use of Steemit’s native promotion service is allowed.
Extra credit: Discovery by content creators.
Compensation: Payouts on Steemit.

Selection and slush reading shall be performed by the SteemPulp Council — members of the SteemPulp crew who have pledged to participate in the event. Even now, @everhart@noughtshayde@t2tang@jimfear138@notjohndaker and @jd-alden are punching away at their keyboards, composing the finest fiction yet to be seen on Steemit.

I, Herald of the PulpRev and Warboss of Steemit, will also publish a story for this event. There will be fearless xiake wielding sword and gun, rampaging man-eating beasts, superpowered cultivators and martial valour. It shall be a tale where East and West collide and combine into a shining alloy of undiluted awesomeness.

SteemPulp is here to take Steemit by storm. Join us, and we will Make Fiction Great Again.

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Cover image credit: Saint Valentine on stained glass, royalty-free stock photo on Dreamstime.

To get a taste of the kind of stories we’re looking for, check out our PulpRev Sampler here.

Cheah on GeekGab!

Yesterday I had the great honour and pleasure to appear on GeekGab yesterday to discuss Steemit and the Pulp Revolution with Daddy Warpig and John McGlynn. Alas, Internet reception is spotty in my area: there was a lot of static and I got cut out halfway through the interview for a few minutes.

Regardless, here are the main takeaways from the interview, plus some thoughts I didn’t have time to articulate:

The Steemit Advantage

Steemit offers three main advantages. First, with the content committed to a decentralised blockchain instead of a centralised server, a Steemit blog is inherently resistant to external attacks and disasters. Second, no external party can alter the blockchain after commits are made, allowing users to bypass censorship laws and agencies. Lastly, Steemit helps users monetise content that they would otherwise post on social media for free.

To add on to the interview, I don’t think Steemit can replace a traditional blog anytime soon; it’s simply not user-friendly enough to search for older posts or similar posts by the same user. Further, it offers no defense against cyber-squatting. I still maintain a traditional website here, though my first blogging platform of choice is Steemit. Nonetheless, the incentives built into the Steemit platform incentivises everyone to write more, upvote more, comment more and keep improving their writing standard. It’s a virtuous cycle that rewards those who invest time and energy into mastering the craft and understanding the system.

Steemit is Self-Regulating

Posts can’t be deleted after being committed to the blockchain, and they can’t be edited after the payout period. This gives rise to concerns like copyright infringement and (not mentioned in the podcast) harmful content like child pornography and terrorist propaganda.

Fortunately, Steemit is self-regulating. Volunteers and bots like @steemcleaners and @cheetah work tirelessly to identify incidences of copyright infringement, spam and abuse, and flag violators into oblivion. With sufficient voting power, flagging makes posts so obscure they can’t be found. Likewise, users who find harmful content on Steemit are also able to flag such posts. To counter flag abuse, other accounts like @seraph will upvote posts to cancel out the effects of unfair flagging.

It doesn’t mean all is well in Steemit. Whale wars, flag abuse and disproportionate rewards remain points of contention even today. But it’s in everyone’s interest to see Steemit grow and prosper, and I’m confident that the Steemit community will develop organic solutions to these issues.

PulpRev is Here to Stay

Steemit offers writers the ability to monetise their stories twice. First by posting them on Steemit, and then by selling them again on Amazon and elsewhere. It’s an approach I’ve used for Invincible, and I plan on utilising it for future stories.

To be clear, you can’t predict how much money you’ll earn from a post on Steemit. You might get lucky and earn hundreds, even thousands, of Steem tokens. You might make less than a dollar. But the more you work, the luckier you become. Newbies like @jimfear138@t2tangand @notjohndaker have already enjoyed huge payoffs from their stories, and they are committed to pushing out even more content.

PulpRev is here to stay on Steemit. Everyone who uses the #steempulp tag is part of the Pulp Revolution, and is committed to regularly producing high-energy tales for your enjoyment. In #steempulp you’ll find something for everyone: fantasy, horror, science fiction, noir. We’ll set the gold standard for all fiction on Steemit.

And on 14 February, we will unleash our first coordinated fiction campaign: SWORDS OF SAINT VALENTINE.


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To learn more about SWORDS OF SAINT VALENTINE, click here.

To read my latest Steemit serial, THE SHANGHAI SONGBIRD, click here.

And for more long-form fiction, check out my Dragon Award nominated novel NO GODS, ONLY DAIMONS.

The Shanghai Songbird Part 2

There was just enough light inside the nightclub to see the stage and nowhere enough to peer into the hearts of men. Lee placed a tiny mirror on the table, no larger than a compact makeup case, trying to make the best of the dim candlelight behind him.

Wong didn’t mind. But in their corner booth, the policeman had a good view of the door. Lee was facing the wrong way, by choice. Shanghai might be an international city but mixed bloods always drew attention. Better if people didn’t see his face.

At exactly nine in the evening Ouyang Li Yan took to the stage. Her sheer golden cheongsam glittered under the spotlights, its long slits showing off longer legs. She held her head high, regally poised on delicate high heels. Her eyes swept the crowd and landed on Lee’s. She smiled, a blazing sun just for him, and caressed her microphone with a gloved hand.

On an unseen signal, the band played. Matching her voice with the deep saxophone, she sang in English.

I knew a boy who loved to play hero / Of his flaws I knew exactly zero / But there’s one thing about him I know / To a beautiful face he’d never say no

Wong nudged Lee’s foot under the table. “I think I see the stalker.”

Lee looked at the mirror. “Who?”

“At the door. Huge Chinese guy in the cheap brown suit and tattoo on his neck.”

Lee adjusted his mirror just so, tracking the suspect. The guy was alone, staring on the singer. He loomed tall over the other patrons, taller than even the Westerners. His eyebrows were a thick dark line of hair. There was a black splotch covering his neck—it was too dark to make out what it was. He plopped down in a corner and ordered a bottle of baijiu, potent grain liquor.

Just before Ouyang had left his office, she had told him what the stalker looked like. This man seemed to fit the bill. Lee kept an eye on the mirror and an ear on the singer. She switched to Japanese for her next song, then Shanghainese. The suspect poured a cup of baijiu and carefully sipped at it. That or he was just pretending to drink it.

Ouyang worked the stage, fluidly switching languages and pitches. The man stayed rock-still, drinking mechanically. Lee cast his eye over the audience every now and then, but he didn’t see anyone else who matched the description she gave him.

When Ouyang finished her last song and went backstage, the man in the cheap suit sprang to life. He downed what was left in his cup and paid the bill. He tapped his foot repeatedly.

Ouyang reappeared, dressed in a green shawl and matching cheongsam. Audience members surged forward to greet her. The man in the suit got up, digging his hands into his pockets. Lee got up and followed.

“He’s trying something,” Lee said. “Let’s go.”

The man in the suit made his way through the crowd, shoving people out of the way. Lee worked a different tack, slipping through holes that formed in front of him, firmly pushing only when he had to, while keeping an eye on the back of the man’s head. The man jostled his way to the front, ignoring Lee as he slid in just behind him, stopping right in front of Ouyang.

The man whispered something. A woman shouted at Lee, drowning out what he said.

Ouyang’s face paled, her mouth opening ever so slightly.

The man’s right hand rose from his pocket, revealing a handgun.

Lee slipped in, seized the weapon in both hands, and wrested it up. The man pulled the trigger, and the pistol discharged harmlessly into the ceiling.

Lee startled. The crowd dissolved into shrieks and screams. The man resisted, trying to force his arm back down. Lee wrestled with him, keeping the gun pointed high, and the stalker fired once more. Out the corner of his eye, Lee saw the civilians ducking and running. Lee lashed out with his knee, connecting with the man’s thigh. The gunman’s stance crumbled. Grabbing the shooter’s wrist with his right hand, Lee twisted into him, taking him off balance—

BANG

—the body slammed to the ground. Lee pried the pistol out of unresisting hands and pointed it at the man’s chest.

Blood oozed out of the entry wound. Claret mixed with gray and white matter on the floor. The man’s eyes bulged out of his head. The world smelled of death and gunpowder and fresh soap. The body twitched and jerked erratically. Lee scanned the crowd and saw them retreat before him.

Wong caught up, badge in one hand and handgun in the other.

“He’s dead,” Lee pronounced.

The detective leaned over and felt for a pulse.

“He’s dead,” Wong confirmed.

Ouyang tottered over to Lee, clinging to his left arm.

“Oh my God,” she said. “He was…I was…are you…”

“I’m okay. Are you hurt?”

“No, no.” She sniffled. “I’m okay. I’m…I thought, I thought you were…”

Lowering the pistol, Lee held her close. “I’m fine.”

“Thank you. I’m so… thankful.”

She sobbed softly into his neck. Her breath warmed his neck, his ear, his cheek.

“Ahem,” Wong said.

Lee let her go.

Wong held out his hand. “I need the weapon.”

Lee inspected the gun. A Colt Model 1903 Pocket Hammerless. Pointing it to at the ground, he ejected the magazine with and racked the slide. A shiny bullet spun out of the ejection port, bouncing off against the floor. Lee reversed his grip and handed the pistol to the cop butt-first.

“I’m going to call for backup,” Wong said. “Do you need a doctor?”

Ouyang shook her head. “I’m fine. We’re fine.”

“Lee, I’m going to need your statement.”

Lee sighed. “Let’s wait until we get to the station.”

Wong nodded. “You two stay here and don’t touch anything.”

“Understood,” Lee said.

She held him again. They stayed that way until uniformed patrolmen flooded the club.

***
“Good news is, we’re ruling it self-defence,” Wong said. “Clearly a tragic accident by someone who had it coming. You’re free to go.”

Lee rapped his fingers against the heavy wooden table. In the interview room, it was just him and Wong and four silent walls.

“That means there’s bad news.”

“The dead man is Lin Da Hai. Triad. Hatchet man for Tang Zhong Sheng. You remember him, he’s the Dragon Head who owns a fifth of the city.”

Lee remembered. During his time in the Reserve Unit he’d clashed with Tang’s triad more than a few times.

“Did Tang send Lin after the girl?”

Another, more pronounced shrug.

“You don’t know, or you don’t want to know?”

“It doesn’t matter. Your work is done. The stalker is dead. Case closed.”

“Really? Work with me here. That guy looked like a crazy fan to you? What kind of obsessed idiot follows a woman around, does his damnedest to avoid being noticed, doesn’t even try to contact her, just tries to shoot her?” He leaned forward. “That’s not a stalker. That’s a killer.”

Wong’s face hardened to stone. “Leave this alone. This is police business now.”

“I never thought you’d leave a case alone.”

“You were a great detective, Lee. One of the best. But you’re out now. And we’re dealing with triads. Tang may hesitate to send a hatchet man after me. But you don’t have a badge or uniform anymore. It’s done. Get on with your life.”

The man exchanged icy glares over a rocky abyss. A lifetime later, Lee slapped his palms on the table and stood.

“I’m leaving,” Lee said.

“An excellent decision,” Wong replied.

Wong escorted Lee out. The detective saw the civilian all the way to the evidence room, lingering long enough for Lee to gather his things, and disappeared, leaving Lee to head out by his lonesome.

She was waiting in the lobby, a hat pulled low over her head. Looking up, she smiled at his arrival.

“Hey,” she said. “Are you okay?”

“Been better. You were waiting for me?”

“I didn’t have anywhere else to go.”

They left the polite fiction at that. Walking her to the door, the wet heat of a Shanghai summer slammed into his face.
“What are you going to do now?” she asked.

He exhaled sharply, briefly forgetting he wasn’t expelling a lungful of hot smoke. And abruptly grinned at her. “Where should I send the invoice to?”

She laughed. “You’ve prepared one?”

“It’s at my office.”

She brushed her arm lightly against his side. “Let’s go. You can hand it to me there.”

Neither of them owned a car. They settled for walking to the nearest tram station. With the hat she wore, no makeup, flat shoes, she was no longer the Shanghai Songbird, just another pretty face in the crowd. People paid more attention to Lee, if only to decide where he fit on the East-West spectrum. He kept his head down, watching for passers-by and stray garbage, until a thought hammered his brain.

“What did he say?” Lee asked.

“Who?” Ouyang answered.

“The shooter. He said something to you. What was it?”

“I…the police didn’t tell you?”

“They said it was none of my business. What did he say to you?”

“He said…he said, ‘Mr. Tang sends his regards.’”

“You know this Tang guy?”

She bit her lip. “Tang Zhong Sheng.”

“The triad Dragon Head.”

“Yes. The Commissioner was…very interested in going after him.”

“And now Tang is very interested in going after you.”

“Yes.” She shuddered. “I don’t…I don’t think this is over. I don’t feel safe. The Commissioner doesn’t want to protect me, but Tang…”

“Do you know where I can find him?”

It was meant to be a rhetorical question, but Lee caught Ouyang’s eyes narrow ever so slightly.

“What are you going to do?”

“Talk to him.”

“Talk to him? Really, Mr. Lee? That’s all you’re going to do?”

He laughed. “I don’t know what you’ve been told, but many problems can be solved simply by talking to the right people the right way.”

She looked skeptically at him. “Well, the Commissioner used to talk a lot about Tang. He told me once Tang liked to have breakfast at the teahouse on Fangbang Road.”

“Thanks.” He chuckled. “Guess I have to hold on to that invoice.”

She pouted. “Going to charge me extra, huh?”

“Just seeing this case through to the end.”

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For more long-form fiction by yours truly, check out my Dragon Award nominated novel No Gods, Only Daimons.

SteemPulp Open Call: SWORDS OF SAINT VALENTINE

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Saint Valentinus of Terni was a priest, a healer, and a hieromartyr. As a priest, Saint Valentine offered aid and succor to Christians in a time when persecution of Christians was a long-standing policy of the Roman Empire. As a healer, he restored vision to the blind daughter of Judge Asterius, who had held him under house arrest. When taken before the Prefect of Rome and Emperor Claudius II, he refused to recant his faith. He was tortured, beaten with clubs, and on 14 February 269, executed by decapitation. That day became the Feast of Saint Valentine.

Today, we call it Valentine’s Day.

In honour of Saint Valentine, the SteemPulp community cordially invites all Steemit fiction writers to participate in our first open call: SWORDS OF SAINT VALENTINE.

Give us pulpy tales of love or chivalry. Preferably love and chivalry. Give us romantic love and chivalric romance. Gallant knights and fair princesses, fantastic magic and strange technologies, gentle healers and steadfast clerics, cruel emperors and fearsome beasts, unwavering faith and unbreakable honour. No genre restrictions but one: the story must fit the pulp aesthetic.

SWORDS OF SAINT VALENTINE is a Steemit-exclusive event. It begins on 14 February at midnight in your local time zone. To participate, publish your story on 14 February and use the tags ‘swordsofstvalentine’ and ‘steempulp’. Your story may be written as a single post or as a serial. If you choose to write a serial, post each part regularly, and complete your story by 2359 hours on 28 February in your local time zone. We have no minimum word count requirement, but a hard limit of 15,000 words. At the end of the event, we will compile the best stories for an anthology, to be published under the auspices of the PulpRev movement.

There is no submissions process. We will have an invitation process. During the first fortnight of March, the SteemPulp Council will review all Steemit stories tagged ‘swordsofstvalentine’ and invite the authors of the best stories to participate in the anthology. We will use a two-part selection criteria: fit to theme and aesthetic, and number of upvotes.

Writers who use sock puppet accounts to upvote their own stories will be automatically disqualified. Writers who pay bots for resteems and upvotes will also be disqualified. We have a zero tolerance policy against anyone trying to game the system. However, writers may use Steemit’s native paid promotion function without penalty. In addition, writers who are discovered by content curators will receive extra credit. Total payouts are not part of the selection criteria: an upvote from a whale shall have the same weight as an upvote from a minnow.

The current SteemPulp Council is composed of individuals committed to participating in SWORDS OF SAINT VALENTINE. They are @everhart@noughtshayde@t2tang@jimfear138@notjohndaker and @jd-alden, all of whom have pledged to publish and complete a story each during the event. Naturally, as Herald of the Pulp Revolution and Revival, and Warboss of SteemPulp, I am also part of the Council. The Chief Editor of the anthology will be Jesse Abraham Lucas, the driving force behind the PulpRev Sampler.

Being part of the Council does not guarantee publication in the anthology. Even myself. The number of upvotes are permanently visible on the blockchain. While the Council will handle slush reading and selections, the Chief Editor shall make the final decision on the total number of stories to appear in the anthology, which stories to publish, and which to pass on.

Anthology publication terms will be discussed with invited authors separately. But if you choose to participate in this event, you shall receive compensation primarily through payouts on Steemit.

To recap, here are the official requirements for SWORDS OF SAINT VALENTINE:

Theme: Love or chivalry, preferably both. Must fit the pulp aesthetic.
Word count: Hard limit of 15,000 words.
Event opening date: 14 February 2018. Publish your story, or the first part of a serialised story, on this date.
Event completion date: 28 February 2018. Serialised stories must be completed by then.
Selection criteria: Fit to theme and aesthetic; and number of upvotes.
Disqualification criteria: Use of paid upvoting and resteem bot services, and use of sock puppets. Use of Steemit’s native promotion service is allowed.
Extra credit: Discovery by content creators.
Compensation: Payouts on Steemit

Good luck and PULP SPEED!

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Cover image credit: Saint Valentine on stained glass, royalty-free stock photo on Dreamstime.

To get a taste of the kind of stories we’re looking for, check out our PulpRev Sampler here.

The Year of PulpRev

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In the dankest corners of the Internet, on message boards and Discord servers, on digital and legacy media platforms, in books and films and television and games, there is a war. A war not against flesh and blood, but against the gatekeepers, against the degenerates, against the secret kings of the cultural spheres, against corruption in the souls of every man, woman and child. It is a war for the future of our culture.

The entertainment industry is no longerin the business of entertainment. Marvel marvels in transforming marvelous superheros with decades-long careers of heroism into hollow husks spewing social justice diatribes at the expense of fiction. Hollywood reboots and remakes beloved franchises into thinly-veiled propaganda pieces: Star Wars, Iron Fist, Beauty and the Beast, Ghostbusters, and there is no sign of stopping. In the field of science fiction and fantasy, publishers and writers crow about #Resistance, #MeToo, feminism, social justice, gender equality and LGBTQ advocacy; and create ‘fiction’ for the sole purpose of ramming social justice messages down the readers’ throats. Cultural expression is reduced to a race to see how many -isms can be crammed into a single work.

And when faced with true monsters like Marion Zimmer Bradley, Walter Breen, Ed Kramer, Victor Salva and others, the gatekeepers remain silent.

Enough is enough.

For decades the Far Left has dominated the SFF field. In that time they built an empire of filth. Subversiveness, deconstruction, transgressiveness, antitheism, moral ambiguity, antiheroism, gratuitous violence and sex, social justice, diversity and progressivism aren’t simply themes to be explored, but ideas to be propagated to readers. After so many years of subversion, there is precious little left to subvert.

Thus, Samuel R Delaney, the man who wrote a book dripping with fictitious child rape, is celebrated as a science fiction grandmaster, while investigative reporting into actual child rape is derided and glossed over. Thus, the Hugo Awards, once a mark of the best SFF of the year, is now a marker of the most far-left SFF of the year among increasingly insular circles, and soon it will be replaced by the Dragon Awards and other awards. Thus, the hounding of YA authors for wrongthink, the censorship of SFF authors for offending sensibilities, the whisper campaign against minority authors who refuse to toe the party line, the naked discrimination against writers who do not adhere to the Narrative.

Consumers are voting with their wallets. Viewers roundly criticised the Ghostbusters reboot. Earnings for The Last Jedi saw an unprecedented decline of 69% from its opening weekend. Marvel and DC have seen massive drops in sales, and Marvel has been forced to cut its non-performing comics issues. Not coincidentally, those dropped comics are all about social justice, diversity and the usual buzzwords.

Customers do not want diversity, social justice and other -ists and -isms shoved down their throats. They want to be entertained. They don’t want stories about cat pictures, fat acceptance, the supremacy of the matriarchy, or the inevitable triumph of the dictatorship of the proletariat. They want good stories, stories with exciting action, masterful descriptions, and larger-than-life characters. They want stories that resonate with their souls.

The SJWs have built an empire of nothing, and it is crumbling to ashes. With each passing day they lie, they double down and they project. They refuse to accept that the market doesn’t want their drek, and instead insist on producing even more drek to edify the Unholy Trinity of diversity, feminism and social justice. In so doing, they are hastening their demise–and paving the way for we who would replace them.

It is time for a revolution. A Pulp Revolution.

The souls of readers cry out for goodness, and we deliver. Tales of action and adventure and awe and wonder. Fantastic worlds, amazing technology, stupendous magic, eldritch horrors, dastardly villains, heroes, knights, kings and queens. Masculine men in perfect synergy with feminine women. Transcendent gods and malicious devils. Virtue, courage, heroism, sacrifice, duty, nobility, honour. These are the stories we have spent our professional lives studying, advocating, and writing. We are ready to meet the call of the market.

As Herald of the PulpRev and Warboss of Steempulp, I declare 2018 to be the Year of PulpRev. The goal is absolute domination of Steemit’s fiction community. Steemit is virgin ground, filled with potential, and ripe for the taking. Through Steemit, we shall show the world the grandeur that is the Revolution and the Revival. We shall establish the golden standard for online fiction.

Our methods are simple. We shall study the craft of the pulp grandmasters and contemporary bestsellers to sharpen our own. We shall study the business models of indie writers, small publishers, Japanese light novels and Chinese web novels to lay the foundations for our success. Most of all, we shall employ our secret weapon: PULP SPEED.

We stand at a turning point in history. Markets demand what we offer. Technology gives us a means of censorship-proof publishing and an easy way to get paid. All that is left is for us to seize the opportunity and build the culture of tomorrow.

High energy. Regress harder. Pulp speed. These shall be our watchwords and our arsenal. Through 2018 and beyond, we shall sweep away the Empire of Nothing and build upon its ashes our Dominion of Pulp.

In 2018, we shall make fiction great again.

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Cover image: ‘David slaying Goliath. Line engraving by M. Vandercuicat after G. Freman’ by G. Freman. Credit: Wellcome Collection. CC BY 4.0.

If you want a taste of the kind of stories we offer, check out my Dragon Award nominated novel NO GODS, ONLY DAIMONS and my novella INVINCIBLE.

PulpRev Invades Steemit!

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Comrades! As the Herald of PulpRev, the first among our number to plant our flag on Steemit, I do declare that Steemit is perfect for our needs. It is virgin ground, ripe for the taking, filled with eager audiences hungry for our work, ready to yield untold rewards for the bold, the creative and the prolific! Steemit shall be our new front in the Revolution! We shall revive the blazing glories of the Pulp Age! Together, we shall leave our mark on the blockchain forever!

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Now, with the obligatory high energy propaganda out of the way, let’s talk how PulpRev can make the most of Steemit. And, by extension, all other fiction writers here.

Steemit and PulpRev

The PulpRev movement pays homage to the greatness of the pulp grandmasters of the 1920s, and carries that spirit ahead into the future. The heart of pulp fiction is short, punchy stories, stories of life and verve and action and adventure and white hats versus black hats and eldritch horrors and supertech and fantastic magics and all of the above and more.

Pulp fiction is also perfect for Steemit.

Steemit’s design favours short, punchy posts ranging between 500-1500 words. You can try to get away with longer posts (I know I have), but by and large 500-1500 words is a good rule of thumb. PulpRevvers will quickly realize that that chapters from old-school pulp tales run to roughly the same length.

As in pulp fiction, serials are king on Steemit. Once a post goes live, you have a window of seven days before you receive the payout. The more you link to a post, the greater the chances of discoverability — and with those, upvotes. If you’re not writing flash fiction, write multi-part stories and link back to earlier posts. When writing multi-part stories, post at least one chapter a day, more if your schedule allows for it, for maximum returns.

Write whatever fiction you want. Space opera, urban fantasy, crime thrillers. Novellas, short stories, novels. They’re all good, so long as you keep the reader entertained. But to make real money here, post regularly and post often. High energy, high output. That’s the pulp way.

Playing Tag

Use appropriate tags for your Steemit posts for maximum results. The first tag is the primary tag, and will be the one your post is categorised under. Research the most popular tags to see what kind of content fits under those tags, and tag your post accordingly.

Use a mix of popular and unique tags. Popular tags raise your chances of being discovered–and your chances of being drowned out by new content from more popular writers. Unique tags reduce the chances of being swept away, but only readers searching for niche content will find you. Using popular and unique tags will complement each other’s strengths and eliminate weaknesses.

Consider this post. The first tag is ‘blogging’, to make it discoverable. ‘publishing’ and ‘steemit’ are other popular tags. ‘pulprev’ and ‘steempulp’ tags this post for posterity, so other Steemit users searching for content in this vein will find it.

Build Yourself

Don’t think of your posts as just posts and comments. Think of them in terms of content marketing.

Everything you do on the blockchain builds your brand. Every post you create, every story you write, every comment you leave, contributes to your brand. Think of your strengths and focus your energies on posting about them. This creates a brand focused on the topics you specialise in: fantasy, space opera, horror, and so on.

With that said, don’t limit yourself to fiction. Paint, draw, sing, shoot videos, narrate stories. Talk about fitness, diet, programming, gaming, movies, books, cryptocurrency, whatever tickles your fancy. The more you create about anything, the wider the audience you reach. My own non-fiction earnings on Steemit outstrip those from my fiction by a wide margin. If you’ve got something to say, say it.

If you strive to become Steemit giants, check out this post on how to grow your following.

Build the Community

We are PulpRev. Our greatest strength is a united front, an unbreakable shieldwall backed by shining spears and burning torches venturing forth into the great unknown.

Okay, not really, but Steemit is social media. Think Medium crossed with Reddit, with a nifty payout model. The more social you are, the better the results for everyone. Commenting, resteeming, promoting and upvoting posts are the way to go, but don’t be afraid to think outside the box. Think of shared universes, collaborations, translations, audiobook narrations, artwork. Use the medium, and other social media, to create win-win situations for everybody.

Use Steemit tags and hashtags on social media to distinguish ourselves from everyone else. #PulpRev and #SteemPulp are our primary tags. Using these often will improve our visibility and create an online group brand that distinguishes us from others.

Likewise, interact with other Steemit users. PulpRev are not a ghetto. Mingle around, learn more about the site, engage commenters and posters. Social media rules apply here, and the more value you create in Steemit, the more it gives back.

Research, Research, Research

To make the most of Steemit, learn how Steemit works. And, by extension, cryptocurrency.

At the minimum, you need to know how to post on Steemit, how to use markdown, sources of photos, how to comment, how the upvote, feed, and the payout system works. Pay close attention to restrictions: no archive function, no way to easily reference and find older posts, editing will be locked after 7 days, and so on. Be sure to read these posts about etiquette, the unwritten rules and how voting power works.

You need a way of converting Steem and Steem Dollars into fiat, directly or otherwise. That means you need to learn how cryptocurrency exchanges work. Sign up for an account on a cryptocurrency exchange that offers Steem and SBD pairings. If you can’t sell your Steem and SBD for fiat directly, you must identify Steem and SBD/crypto pairings and crypto-USD pairings. You must also understand the technology underpinning your preferred crypto pairing, and identify when network congestions may prevent transactions, as in the case of Bitcoin and Ethereum. Alternatively, you can pick an instant exchange platform like Changelly or Shapeshift. The transaction is instant, but the mining fees will be higher than the transaction fee in a regular exchange.

Whichever method you choose, if you intend to convert the Steem trinity into other crypto for long-term gains, be sure to get a crypto wallet and research the kind of crypto you wish to invest in. Exodus is an excellent wallet for newbies and veterans alike, but do shop around to see what meets your needs. When you do receive payouts, be sure to record your earnings for the taxman too.

If you want to go deeper, dive into the technology behind Steemit and see how you can take full advantage of its mechanisms. Look for cryptocurrency trends and anticipate price actions if you can. Learn crypto investing and trading strategy. Crypto is incredibly volatile, and you do not want to get burned.

The Revival and The Revolution

We are PulpRev. We shall revive the glory of the Pulp age. We shall witness the revolution to all nations and carry it to greater heights. The fiction world trembles with every story we post.

I am the Herald of PulpRev on Steemit. @notjohndaker, @jimfear138, @noughtshayde, @danwolfgang and @jd-alden follow in my footsteps. More are coming.

If you are not of PulpRev but you wish to join us, we are waiting for you. Write a story, drop the pulprev or steempulp tag, get on social media and our website, join our Discord, and we’ll see you on the Net.

We are PulpRev, and we are the future.

Appendix N Profile: Robert E Howard

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In the 1930s, the glory days of the pulp age, Robert E Howard cast a formidable shadow. The creator of Conan and Solomon Kane, a legendarily prolific writer with hundreds of stories and dozens of poems to his name, he molded the genres of weird fiction and sword and sorcery, leaving his mark forever. In his mythical Appendix N, Gary Gygax cited Howard’s Conan series as one of his many inspirations in creating Dungeons & Dungeons. Having heard much of Howard’s prowess, yet having never read any of his stories (the closest being the Conan animated series), I grabbed tomes of his stories and devoured everything I could find.

What I found was breathtakingly magnificent.

Every story was like diving into a bottomless well and returning with armfuls of glittering gold and glimmering gems. Here were hard-hitting tales of passion and zest delivered in muscular prose. Here were restless men of action, pushing ever onwards to the next great adventure and conquest; and beautiful women who recognized and reveled in their femininity, dangerous and clever and charming and tough. Here were stories of mortal and moral peril, of blackest evil and foul monsters, of savage men who found glory and triumph in the dark corners of the world.

These were the stories I’d waited my entire life to discover.

To understand Howard’s enduring popularity, we need to understand the elements that made his stories great. I’ll begin with the characters whose stories I’ve read: Conan, Solomon Kane and Breckenridge Elkins.

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Conan is Howard’s legacy. A powerfully-built barbarian from Cimmeria, he walks the world of the Hyperborean Age in an endless quest for adventure and treasure. He is a pirate, a mercenary, a raider, a soldier, a king. Unaccustomed to the norms of civilisation, he meets his foes head-on with sword in hand. With the raw strength that comes from a hard life in the wilds, he fights like an enraged wolf, less a man and more like a force of nature. Conan is the archetype of every barbarian and fighting-man that ever graced a role playing game.

Despite his shady background, Conan is the epitome of the noble savage and a paragon of pagan virtue. He goes through women faster than he goes through weapons, but he never coerces them, instead winning their hearts through derring-do. He is never shown knowingly harming an innocent on the page, saving his wrath for evildoers. Though well-versed in the ways of corsairs and mercenaries, he does not himself prey on the weak or break an oath. A leader of men, he freely aids those who help him, and quickly rises to leadership positions. He becomes a mercenary leader, a pirate chief, a kozak hetman, and finally a king. Apparently uncivilized, he is nonetheless talented in tactics and warcraft, easily deduces schemes of more civilized characters, and has a gift for learning languages. While not overtly religious, he nevertheless slays unnameable horrors and monsters, acting as a force for good. And through it all, he embraces life to the fullest.

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Where Conan is joyful and passionate, Solomon Kane is grim and brooding. Named for a wise king and the first murderer, Kane is a late 16th century / early 17th century Puritan whose sole passion in life is destroying evil wherever he finds it. With rapier and pistols by his side, Kane hunts for monsters, human and otherwise, in the dark corners of the earth.

Where Conan is the embodiment of nature, red in tooth and claw, Kane is far colder, but no less driven or ruthless. While Conan fights like a wolf, Kane’s rapier play is described as ‘cold, calculating, scintillant’. Instead of driving into the fray like Conan does, Kane plans his moves and takes advantages of openings as they arise. While Kane wasn’t as popular as Conan, and appears in far fewer stories, he is nonetheless the archetype of a crusading demon hunter.

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Breckenridge Elkins veers away from fantasy and into Westerns. Specifically, comedic Westerns. Delivered in the first person through Breckenridge’s dialect (some daresay accent), they follow the misadventures of Breckenridge as he travels the American West and (attempts to) find a wife along the way.

Breckenridge is an idiot. He is barely lettered and completely incapable of detecting the schemes and lies unfolding all around him. He takes too many people at their word and jumps to wrong conclusions all the time. This character device sets the reader laughing at Breckenridge’s foolishness, then laughing again as he attempts to untangle himself from his latest mess (usually with fists, Bowie and gun). Even his prodigious size and strength are used for comedy: he complains about how clothes and beds for people six feet tall are too small, describes enormous meals as mere snacks, and downplays knockout blows as light taps. Despite that, Breckenridge respects the law, helps his friends and family, repays his debts, protects the innocent, never shies from hard work, and always sees his jobs through to the end. A lesser writer would merely portray him as a bumbling oath; in Howard’s hands Breckenridge is a good-hearted if uncivilized cowboy and mountain man who suffers for his ignorance of human nature, but nevertheless fights his way out of trouble and brings plenty of laughs to the reader.

The trio are virile men of action and virtue. They don’t waste time brooding on slights, concocting overly elaborate plans or manipulating innocent people; they confront their enemies directly in honourable combat, using skill and wit and brute strength to win the day. They are larger than life, standing out from friend and foe alike, leaving their mark on the readers’ soul. They uphold moral codes and enforce them with blades and bullets, helping the helpless and dispensing justice to villains and their minions.

With his mastery of the craft and language, Howard paints vivid settings for every story. With a handful of words, Howard transports the reader to wintry mountain peaks and searing deserts, sweltering jungle islands and forbidding ruins, haunted swamps and lost cities. The Breckenridge stories speak of tiny wooden towns waiting to be busted up and the untamed wilds of the West. The Kane stories ease the reader from the mundane to the terrifying, beginning in some relatively innocent setting and ending in a place home to great evils and eldritch horrors. Conan wanders across many vividly-described lands, lands where glory, treasure, powerful magic and terrible monsters await behind every corner, where nations rest upon the bones of older, forgotten civilisations, and those nations too will soon be dust by the days of Kane and Breckenridge.

Howard’s economy of words is likewise remarkable. Many of these stories are short, far shorter than contemporary counterparts. Yet every single Howard tale is packed with memorable characters, intense action, and dramatic plots. These are simple stories, well told, enabling Howard’s prodigious output. There is more life, more fire, more soul in any Howard story than contemporary novels double or triple its length.

Robert E Howard is a grandmaster of the art. His incredible output and versatility exemplify the finest traditions of the pulp era, his command of the language and the craft is superb, and there is hardly a false note in his stories. Through Conan and Sword & Sorcery, Howard’s stories will endure the test of time.

If you’d like to support my own pulp-influenced stories, check out my Dragon Award nominated novel No Gods, Only Daimons.

The Quest for Pulp Speed

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A little over a month from now, thousands of writers will once again attempt the NaNoWriMo challenge. Once again, many will fall.

NaNoWriMo is simple: write fifty thousand words in thirty days. An admirable goal, and a challenging one. For the past ten years, the success rate hovered between a high of 19% in 2009 and 2010 to just 8% last year. To put things in perspective, NaNoWriMo has the same attrition rate as selection for the US Navy SEALs, Air Force Pararescue, and Delta Force. NaNoWriMo winners are rightly considered among the writing elite.

But if fifty thousand words in thirty days sounds too easy to you, take on the Pulp Speed challenge.

The essence of pulp is speed. Short, punchy stories flying off the typewriter in prodigious volumes. The great pulp masters were the most prolific writers of their day. Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote a hundred stories, H P Lovecraft had a hundred and eight. Robert E Howard wrote hundreds of poems and over three hundred stories in a fiction career that spanned just twelve years. William B Gibson wrote three hundred and twenty-five The Shadow novels alone.

To be a successful pulp writer, you had to be prolific. To be prolific, you had to write at Pulp Speed.

What is pulp speed? In the words of the inestimable Dean Wesley Smith:

PULP SPEED ONE

About 1,000,000 (1 million) original words per year. This averages to about 2,750 words a day for 365 days. (numbers rounded)

PULP SPEED TWO

1,200,000 words in a year. 100,000 words per month.

And remember, that is about 3,400 words per day. If you can write 1,000 words average an hour, that’s 3.5 hours per day.

PULP SPEED THREE

1,400,000 words in a year. To hit this, you need to be about 120,000 words per month (rounded up) or about 4,000 words per day average…

PULP SPEED FOUR

1,600,000 words per year. That’s about 135,000 words per month or about 4,500 words per day without a day off.

PULP SPEED FIVE

1,800,000 words per year. About 150,000 words per month. 5,000 words per day without missing a day.

PULP SPEED SIX

2 million words and more per year. 170,000 words or so per month. About 5,500 words per day average.

What is the Pulp Speed challenge? Write at no less than Pulp Speed One, and maintain it every day until the story is done.

This is NaNoWriMo on steroids. This is how the pulp masters won their place in literary history. This is how today’s indie writers earn success in the ever-expanding fiction marketplace. To be a pro, Pulp Speed isn’t a challenge — it’s a job requirement.

My current novel, KAGE NO OUJI, is well under way. Even with a full workload, I’m still able to meet the Pulp Speed word count day after day, week after week. If you want to write beside me, here are some pointers for the task ahead.

1. Be Prepared to Write

If you’re a pantser, this doesn’t apply to you. Just show up and do the work. But if you need to plan your works, if you need some degree of organisation to be successful, you must prepare yourself to write. You don’t want to waste precious time fumbling around, wondering what to write. When it’s time to write, write.

Before I began writing proper, I plotted out the entire story. Every chapter, every character, every key scene. For four days I did nothing but eat, breathe, drink and sleep KAGE NO OUJI. I organised them all in a reference document and keep it close to hand. Before I write, I take a few moments to mentally walk through the scenes I intend to write, consulting the plot as necessary. When it’s go time, I’m not frozen at the keyboard staring the screen. I know what to write and how to write — I just need to do it.

2. Create A Writing Regimen

If, like me, you have to juggle writing with a day job, it goes without saying that you need to make time to write. But beyond that, you need to be consistent with writing time. You need to train your brain to switch into writing mode when it’s go time. You can’t afford to be distracted by thoughts of work, lousy clients, what to have for dinner or whatever; you have to focus completely on your story. You need a regimen.

In the morning, I wake up, have breakfast, and write. Over the day, during breaks at work, I write. During lunch, I write. After work, I write. Every block of time is carefully planned and scheduled, ensuring I will be able to focus exclusively on writing. I brook no interruptions and allow no distractions. From the start of every writing session, I am writing, writing, writing. It is a career, a regimen, a way of living.

Through discipline, triumph. This is the way of the warrior, the athlete, the artist, the builder, the entrepreneur–and the writer.

3. Take Care of Yourself and Your Loved Ones

You can’t write if you’re sick or sleepy or stressed out to the breaking point. You can’t sacrifice your health on the altar of pulp. Sure, you may make greater word count in the short run, but that won’t matter if you burn out or work yourself into the ground. You can’t write to the exclusion of everything else.

Eat right. Sleep enough. Drink plenty of water. Without health you’ve got nothing. I make it a point to exercise every day when I have time: weightlifting, running, yoga, martial arts, bodyweight calisthenics. If you have family, don’t neglect them too. Be sure to spend quality time with your loved ones. You cannot neglect them for the sake of Pulp Speed.

Your life is not, and cannot, be all about writing. You need to take time off to recharge your batteries, keep your body in shape, and stay in touch with your loved ones. Writing is a means to an end, not an end in itself. You cannot let writing become a demon that drives you into isolation, sickness, and an early grave.

4. When Writing, Write

When writing at Pulp Speed, you will discover that every minute, every second is precious. Guard every moment jealously and fill them with words. If you’re watching cat videos on YouTube, sharing clickbait on Facebook, wandering down the mirrored halls of tumblr and Twitter, you are not writing. If you don’t write when you’re supposed to be writing you’re not going to make the word count. Save distractions for when you can take a break from writing.

Enforce writing discipline. Refrain from using the Internet if you can, and if you must, set yourself a very short time limit. If you need something to focus on, put on energizing music, music that won’t pull your attention from the page. Disconnect yourself from all means of social communication, or at least make it very difficult for people to casually contact you. If necessary, use apps that isolate you from all distractions, enabling you to write. No matter what happens, short of an absolute emergency, you must plant your rear end in your chair and write–and keep writing.

5. Develop Your Writing Stamina

Writing takes vast amounts of mental and creative energy. I jumped into writing at Pulp Speed right off the bat because I knew I could perform at such a level. I have regularly achieved outputs of over 3000 words a day when working on my previous stories. The challenge, for me, was to squeeze those words into a shorter time frame, and to keep writing daily. But if you’re not already used to writing torrents of words, you will burn out and fail.

If you’re not ready yet, build up your writing stamina. Get used to writing something, anything, every day. Take note of your average daily output. Then, week by week, steadily bump it higher and higher and higher. Ramp it up steadily, adding maybe a few hundred words every week, and the next thing you know, you’re writing at Pulp Speed.

With these five tips, I built myself into a writer capable of writing at Pulp Speed. Production of KAGE NO OUJI began on the 1st of September. I wrote the first proper word of the story on the 5th. Today, on the 28th of September, the novel stands at 73313 words. Daily average of 3187 words.

Pulp Speed One — without taking into account the extra words I threw into my blog.

Fifty thousand words in thirty days is no small feat. But if you think that’s too light for you, aim higher. Aim for Pulp Speed.

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If you would like to support my work, do check out my Dragon Award-nominated novel NO GODS, ONLY DAIMONS on Amazon.

Can Steemit Revitalise Short Fiction?

Astounding

A century ago, pulp magazines were the popular entertainment of the working class. Cheap and ubiquitous, the pulps brought exciting tales of action and adventure to the everyman. Fiction was no longer the pursuit of the leisure class; it was now within the reach of regular people. And the secret was length.

Back, popular fiction was much shorter than it is today. The average novel didn’t far exceed 50,000 words. Short stories floated between 5,000 to 10,000 wprds. Everything in between was a short novel or novelette. Pulp magazines, jam-packed with such stories, offered multiple exciting tales for the price and length of a single novel. Being paid by the word, prolific writers with a solid work ethic could support their families solely by writing for the pulps. With proliferation came even more stories to satisfy the demands of an ever-widening audience, creating a virtuous cycle that exploded into a cultural phenomenon.

Short fiction built the pulps. But today, conventional wisdom says short fiction is no longer viable.

It’s a given that the short fiction SFF market today does not pay well. Royalties usually float between one and a half to six cents a word, depending on the magazine’s budget, or none at all. Being published is virtually impossible if you don’t write about the right topics or have the right chromosomes: as Jon Del Arroz discovered, only 2.8% of female writers who submit short stories get published, and just 0.7% of men do. And most of the short fiction markets out there do not seek stories written in the pulp tradition.

There are other magazines today that try to emulate the pulps: Cirsova, Storyhack, Astounding Frontiers. While I’ve heard nothing but good reviews about them, they don’t publish regularly enough or pay well enough for writers to earn more than walking-around money.

Lyonesse, with its subscription model, attempts to use technology to solve the problem of royalties. In effect, readers pay the equivalent price of one novel for 52 stories, plus bonuses, delivered weekly. It’s a fascinating business approach, and I wish them the best, but from a writer’s perspective until Lyonesse reaches critical mass it won’t contribute significantly to one’s income either.

Being paid is critical. The promise of financial incentives drove many of the pulp writers to hone their craft and write vast numbers of stories. High quality and high numbers of stories attracted more readers to the pulps, in turn increasing the potential earnings for writers who serve these customers.

This is where Steemit comes in.

A week ago, Rawle Nyanzi discussed whether Steemit can monetise short fiction. True to the pulp spirit, Rawle has been producing lots of flash fiction online, the kind of content that seems a good fit for Steemit. However, he believes that the US tax code is presently too complex to justify the effort it takes to hop on board Steemit.

Fortunately for me, I don’t have such problems.

Steemit lends itself well to short and serial fiction. Short fiction can be read in a single setting, and the reader can quickly decide whether to upvote it or not. Serial fiction takes full advantage of the 7-day voting window for each post: posts published in quick succession will feed into each other, allowing for a potentially higher payout.

Quite fortuitously, short and serial fiction are the same kinds of fiction that built the pulps.

For authors who can put in the work, Steemit doesn’t just offer a platform to monetise short fiction — it can revitalise the format. A quick look at the fiction tag will show you stories that have earned hundreds of dollars, and stories that have earned hundreds of dollars per chapter. There is significant financial incentive to be prolific and technically excellent, there is a critical and growing mass of customers, and Steemit is only getting started.

I think authors who write in the pulp spirit will find Steemit an excellent platform to write short fiction, get feedback, and GET PAID. It can’t take the place of pulp magazines, but there is no need to. Traditional and up-and-coming magazines can focus on developing a particular genre or aesthetic, while Steemit helps authors build their brands. Steemit makes the fiction pie bigger for everyone, creating the potential to set up the virtuous cycle that led to the pulp explosion of the early twentieth century.

As for myself, I’m putting skin in the game. You can find my story TWO LIVES on Steemit. I’m preparing another story for publication as well. Come 2018, I’ll have more stories in the wings.

I think Steemit won’t just revitalise short fiction — it’ll transform it. And I’ll be there to make it happen.

TWO LIVES can be found here: 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5.

If you prefer longer fiction, check out my novel NO GODS, ONLY DAIMONS here.

When In Doubt, Go Epic

High Crusade

Whenever I plan a story, I occasionally run into hang-ups. The setting isn’t coherent, the technology and/or magic system isn’t evenly applied, the characters aren’t plausible, the plot lacks history or context, the stakes are too small. In every single instance, they are resolved by the use of a simple expedient: make everything bigger, brighter and more beautiful.

Science fiction and fantasy is the literature of ideas. It is the celebration of the human spirit and a paean to the imagination. SFF readers don’t want to be reminded of the dreariness of everyday life; they want to be immersed in strange new worlds with cultures and characters and tools similar enough to ours to be understandable, yet strange enough to be exciting. They want adventure and treasures and righteous battle, they want romance and chivalry and intelligence, they want to be taken to the depths of despair and just as quickly be elevated to the rapturous heights. They want, if only for a short while, to be transported out of this time and place and be reminded of the glories of the universe.

Epics, in the original sense of the term, fulfilled that purpose. The great epics celebrated the deeds of legendary heroes, pitting them against gods and monsters and cosmic forces. They reminded the audience that evil lurked everywhere–and that even mortals can overcome the most terrible foe. Through the epics the people tasted strange foods that no human could create, saw riches and wonders beyond human ken, smelled the salt of the wine-dark sea, and heard the compelling, majestic and irresistible voice of the heavens. Through larger-than-life characters and conflicts, the epics showed the people that there was much more to life than everyday mundanity — and in doing so, expanded and elevated their minds. And, most of all, they were fun.

SFF continues the grand tradition of Beowulf, The Eight Immortals and Nieblungenlied. It doesn’t matter that it’s fiction written for a contemporary audience; there will always be a human need to experience awe and beauty and just plain enjoyment, and among the established literary genres, SFF fulfils that need. It is its raison d’etre. It is why a century ago, pulps were the best-selling stories in the world.

Much contemporary SFF no longer fulfils that desire. Pink SFF — SFF more concerned about virtue-signalling and evangelising causes — has perverted the purpose of SFF. Where we once had heroes, we now had amoral nihilistic villains; in the place of wondrous kingdoms we have rotting empires; virtue is punished and the evil elevated; gods were no longer mighty and dignified, but rather weak and piteous, or simply satanic. There is no beauty to admire, no virtue to celebrate, no heroes to adore, no truth to learn. This is why SFF is now the least popular literary genre in the world — and quite likely at least part of the reason why many people just don’t read any more.

Book of the Long Sun

Story worlds are fragile things. They are consensual hallucinations held together by skeins of words and dollops of imagination. To be complete, to be coherent, these settings must have histories, peoples, politics, cultures, religions, believable geography and climate, technology and magic, language and art. These seemingly-disparate elements feed into and build upon each other, organically growing into worlds. If you replace or subordinate these elements with a single overriding political message, one that must reign supreme over every other ingredient, the result is a bland and colorless word stew, barely fit to be called a setting.

Do you want to read a story that hammers home on every page the evils of racism and oppression and sexism, or would you rather follow Conan the Cimmerian as he travels through fantasy Europe, Africa, South Asia and the Middle East, fighting men and monsters and wooing beautiful women? Does a family drama following the travails of a pack of werewolves who live in a tiny island sound interesting, or would you rather follow the exploits of a masked black-clad vigilante who dispenses rough justice with psychic powers and twin .45s? Which sounds more like a space opera: The story of a young boy who discovers he has supernatural powers, joins an order of warrior monks, participates in a galaxy-spanning war to overthrow an empire, trains to be a fighter pilot and swordsman, struggles to stay on the side of light, redeems his evil father and destroys a superweapon capable of destroying entire planets; or some kind of revenge tale featuring someone from an empire whose major identifying marker is that its people refer to each other as ‘she’ — even those with masculine titles.

The answer should be obvious.

World-building is the Bifrost that connects the author’s vision to the reader’s perceptions. A story world must allow for adventure and romance, fantastic cultures and fascinating peoples, vice and virtue, horror and honour. Without these, a story lacks colour, coherence, and cheer. It lacks fun — and if a story isn’t fun, people aren’t going to read it.

If you’re an SFF writer and you hope to make a profession out of it, your stories have to be fun. It doesn’t matter if you’re with PulpRev or Superversive or you just fly solo. If you want people to read your stories, they have to be fun. To make a story fun, the story must be set in a compelling world where fun adventures await.

If you get stuck crafting a world, if you’re struggling to bind plots and ideas together, if your magic or technology feels boring, there is a single ready solution: go bigger. Don’t let yourself be hemmed in by your beliefs or assumptions; let your imagination run wild. Escalate your stakes to encompass cities, countries, continents, worlds. Enable your magic or technology to solve increasingly larger plot problems – with an appropriately higher price. Make your villains more crafty and well-resourced and intelligent, and your heroes more skilled and brilliant and dynamic. Make everything more.

Make everything epic.

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If you want to help make SFF epic again, do consider voting for my novel NO GODS, ONLY DAIMONS for Best Alternate History novel at the Dragon Awards. You can pick up a copy on Amazon here, and with 36 reviews and an average rating of 4.4 stars out of 5, I daresay it deserves a shot at winning.