Tag Archives: science fiction

Mirages and Speculations

Setting is a crucial part of storytelling. Setting affects the story in many ways. What challenges do the protagonists face from nature and their environment? How has the landscape shaped the culture of the people who live there?

There are some common tropes for fantasy and sci-fi stories. Fantasy stories are often set in a parallel version of medieval Europe, with small villages, walled towns and thick forests to traverse. Sci-fi stories are often set on gleaming high-tech space stations. There’s nothing wrong with these settings, of course. Sometimes they suit the story perfectly.

But an unexpected setting can result in an unexpected kind of story.

Mirages and Speculations is a fantasy and sci-fi story set in a different kind of landscape: the desert. Think wind-swept plateaus, scorching sands, and arroyos. Come discover if that glimmer on the desert horizon is a lake, or the gleam of light off the side of a flying saucer. If those swirling clouds are dust devils–or djinn.

Seventeen authors of science fiction and fantasy take you into worlds both futuristic and fantastic under the desert skies.

You can order it as print or e-book from Amazon here.

Paid to Play: Writing Licensed Fan Fiction in Kindle Worlds

We’ve all heard that writing fan fiction is something that professional writers don’t do. Fan fiction has a stigma attached to it of being vastly amateur and a waste of time for aspiring authors who should be cutting their teeth on their own works. The truth of the matter is that fan fiction has a very large fan base and can provide a great opportunity for new writers to hone their abilities. Yet, being paid for writing fan fiction has always been reserved for authors who sign literary contracts to write “media tie-ins.” The media tie-in was essentially the sole professional version of fan fiction until Kindle Worlds came along.

Kindle Worlds is a project from Amazon that allows authors to write licensed fan fiction in any of the licensed world. Authors can earn royalties (typically 30%) from their works in a licensed world. Works can be any length from short story to full novels. The only “catch” is that Amazon and that licensed world own your story in perpetuity. Licensed worlds include the worlds of bestselling authors Hugh Howey, Bella Andre, and Kurt Vonnegut. Other worlds include television properties (Vampire Diaries, Wayward Pines, Veronica Mars) and comic book properties (G.I.Joe: A Real American Hero, Quantum and Woody, XO Man-o-War). All an author has to do is have an idea, check the Kindle Worlds quality/content guidelines for that licensed world, write a story, and publish it. It’s licensed fan fiction, and I can say from experience, a huge opportunity.

A few years ago at the World Science Fiction Convention in San Antonio, I met Hugh Howey. We had a great conversation then, and ever since via infrequent emails. I first heard about Kindle Worlds from Hugh. Roughly about the time that I finished the second of his Silo Saga novels (SHIFT), I had an idea for a story in his universe. Knowing that the universe was available through the Kindle Worlds program, I worked up a story and promptly hesitated. On the cusp of submitting the story, I chickened out and emailed Hugh for advice. He told me to publish the story, and I did. I’ve published several short stories via Kindle, but none has sold like my Silo Sage novelette “Vessel.” It’s been out for a couple of years and has never left the Top 200 in Kindle Worlds Science Fiction and Fantasy, topping out at #3. The story has done nicely, putting some extra money in my account while generating name recognition. I never thought about name recognition as a by-product for Kindle Worlds until I had an idea for another story in a different universe.

As a kid, the cartoon series G.I.Joe: A Real American Hero was my favorite series of all time. When I saw that its universe was part of Kindle Worlds, I was amazed and thrilled. In the Kindle Worlds stories, there are some really good ones including those by bestselling author Carrie Vaughn and my friends Peter Wacks and Aaron Michael Ritchey. On a getaway weekend to Breckenridge a couple of years ago, I had an idea for a story in that universe and wrote it inside of a week. After some read-throughs and edits, I used the Kindle Worlds cover builder, formatted the book, and set it live. What happened next is surreal. About 24 hours after I set the title live, I had a Twitter notification on my account (@TheWriterIke). I’d been mentioned in a tweet from Amazon Kindle Worlds that reached almost 35,000 subscribers. They’d also tagged one of the major G.I.Joe toy collector groups, and they then retweeted it to another 6,000 subscribers. The story hit #7 in all of Kindle Worlds within the next few hours. I gained fifty or so Twitter followers. Like “Vessel,” my short story “Friends In High Places” has continued to do very well, and the fact that it’s licensed fan fiction is something I’m very proud of.

I believe firmly that writers should seek payment for our work. Exposure doesn’t pay the bills. Kindle Worlds is a perfect opportunity to play in someone else’s world while earning royalties and gaining exposure. Check them out at KindleWorlds.Amazon.Com and see if there is a licensed world you’re familiar with. Then, if the muse whispers in your ear, sit down and write the best story you possibly can. You never know what might happen with it.

Harl Vincent, Pulp Engineer

I have to admit, I have an affinity for the early science fiction, fantasy, and weird tales that came out in the beginning of the twentieth century. Some of the tales are cringe-worthy these days, especially when viewed from a scientific perspective. Remember, nobody landed on the moon, airplanes were still in the experimental stage, and many people in rural areas had never even seen a car yet. Everything beyond the atmosphere of our pale blue marble was up for speculation, and science fiction authors were more than happy to think of wild new ideas as to what was “out there”.

A good example of the strangeness that was contemplated was Captain Sterner St. Paul Meeks, who wrote a set of early science fiction stories in the pulp magazines that included weird amoeba-like creatures that lived in the “heaviside layer”, a boundary between our atmosphere and outer space. These creatures were chowing down on the tasty rockets the humans kept sending up. Eventually, scientists discovered the truth, and the stories migrated onwards using the new information to write even weirder stories.

Harold Vincent Schoepflin, who thankfully went by the pen name of Harl Vincent, wrote for many of the early Harl Vincentscience fiction pulp magazines. He was born in 1893 in chilly Buffalo, New York. Harl was an educated gentleman who worked as a mechanical engineer for Westinghouse, specializing in industrial electrical devices. He used his engineering background to great success with his stories, giving his tales an air of scientific possibility.

Harl Vincent’s first sale was to a new pulp magazine called Amazing Stories. Harl read an issue of the magazine, headed by Hugo Gernsback (the namesake of the Hugo awards), and decided he would try to pen a story for fun. To his surprise, his story, The Golden Girl of Munan, was picked up and published in the June 1928 edition. It was the start of a beautiful friendship, and Harl went on to write many stories for Amazing Stories and several other of the speculative fiction pulps. He developed quite a following, and his name appeared often on covers to alert his fans that there was a new Harl Vincent story inside.

As Harl’s genre skills developed, he branched out to other pulps including Argosy All-Story, a highly respected weekly magazine that ran from 1882 to 1978. Most of his longer works were either novellas or serialized short novels, with the exception of his full-sized novel, The Doomsday Planet, that came out in 1966.

During World War II, Harl stopped writing for the pulps and focused on his family and his engineering career. He didn’t get back to writing until he was 73 years old, when he published the aforementioned Doomsday Planet and a short story for the speculative fiction magazine If in 1967.

Before Harl started writing, he had married Ruth Hoff and had a son and a daughter. Unfortunately, he was an avid smoker, and he eventually succumbed to emphysema and pneumonia when he was 75.

Always interested in science fiction, he continued to read the popular pulp magazines until he returned to writing his novel and a short story before passing away. Harl was a staple at the local science fiction conventions in Los Angeles, where he and his wife relocated from the snowy winters of the western New York area. He joined the Count Dracula Society and the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society, and he attended meetings as often as he could.

As for me, I’ve always enjoyed Harl Vincent’s work. I have a collection of original pulps with his stories in them, and I’ve worked with Villainous Press to bring out some of his forgotten works. Currently in print are Barton’s Island (my personal favorite), The Golden Girl of Munan (which consists of both of his novelettes combined on the lovely Golden Girl), Purple & Gray (which was fascinating in how it foreshadowed the fight between the working class and the rich and powerful elite), and several others. I plan on editing and releasing two books per year until all of his works are once again available.

Book cover - Purple & GrayGolden Girl of Munan coverBarton's Island cover

If you happen to have some old brittle pulps that are not in collectible condition, feel free to contact me. I’m always looking for the original appearances of his stories so I can scan them. Reading the pulps still brings a smile to my face.


 

About the Author:DeMarco_Web-5963

Guy Anthony De Marco is a disabled US Navy veteran speculative fiction author; a Graphic Novel Bram Stoker Award® nominee; winner of the HWA Silver Hammer Award; a prolific short story and flash fiction crafter; a novelist; an invisible man with superhero powers; a game writer (Sojourner Tales modules, Interface Zero 2.0 core team, third-party D&D modules); and a coffee addict. One of these is false.
A writer since 1977, Guy is a member of the following organizations: SFWA, WWA, SFPA, IAMTW, ASCAP, RMFW, NCW, HWA. He hopes to collect the rest of the letters of the alphabet one day. Additional information can be found at Wikipedia and GuyAnthonyDeMarco.com.

The Last Line

While every word in a flash fiction piece is important, often pulling double or triple-duty, in most cases it is the last line that makes a flash piece effective and memorable. Personally, I find flash stories that completely change because of the last line to be the hardest to do and the most enjoyable type of fiction. It’s akin to poetry in prose form.

Let me whip up an example 55-word flash piece for you:

The Final Bully
Oh, how they loved me when I arrived. Two years later and I’m the pariah, all mistakes that were not my fault.
I can’t stand this hatred.
Open the antique desk drawer, ignore the pistol.
Press the red button next to it.
It’ll take ten minutes before the planet-busting bomb shockwave reaches the White House.

It took me eleven minutes to write that. Everything up to the last two lines are there to set up the story and to allow your brain to automatically fill in the empty spaces between the words. Even the title of the piece, not part of the story according to the rules but available to misdirect the reader, can be utilized to give the final line some additional impact. The concept works today because suicides are all over the news and the toxic political atmosphere during this election cycle. This story wouldn’t be as effective if I wrote it back in 1977. It relies on the reader to bring along the news of the time into the reading experience.

The last line spins the story from where most readers expect the plot to go towards something completely different. It turns out that the final bully is an insane politician with science-fiction weaponry at their disposal. Note there is no actual clue if the president is male, female, non-binary, or even a lizard person. It is a far future event, unless we’ve invented planet-busting bombs and are hiding them in Montana. It brings along the rhetoric about presidential temperament from this year to add more background to the story without writing the words.

By making the reader think one thing and then adding a twist, the tale tends to go from a vignette towards a full story. Those last words gives a true ending. I personally find that the shorter the word count, the more important the twist is for my writing. It is also the thing that readers remember long after they’ve closed the book or surfed elsewhere on the Internet.

 


 

About the Author:DeMarco_Web-5963

Guy Anthony De Marco is a disabled US Navy veteran speculative fiction author; a Graphic Novel Bram Stoker Award® nominee; winner of the HWA Silver Hammer Award; a prolific short story and flash fiction crafter; a novelist; an invisible man with superhero powers; a game writer (Sojourner Tales modules, Interface Zero 2.0 core team, third-party D&D modules); and a coffee addict. One of these is false.
A writer since 1977, Guy is a member of the following organizations: SFWA, WWA, SFPA, IAMTW, ASCAP, RMFW, NCW, HWA. He hopes to collect the rest of the letters of the alphabet one day. Additional information can be found at Wikipedia and GuyAnthonyDeMarco.com.