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February 10th, 2016

09:36 am: Superversive Blog: Interview with Author Marina Fontain

Finally, a distopia by someone who has actually lived in one!

Chasing Freedom e-book cover3

Today, we have an interview with Marina Fontaine of Liberty Island, author of the new book, Chasing Freedom.

How did you come to write this book?

It all began with a flash fiction contest at Liberty Island, an online fiction magazine. A New York Times columnist, Maureen Dowd, had written a fictional piece sometime in late 2013 that had future U.S. over-run by zombies because the politicians defunded CDC (or something like that, anyway). Liberty Island challenged its members to “write better.” I had a good chuckle, wished my writer friends good luck and went to bed.

Overnight, I had a “vision,” if you will, of an American family packing up to move to Canada. Also, they would be transported by a horse-and-buggy arrangement. That was all I knew. Mind you, before this happened, I had never written fiction in my life, but I got curious as to how this setup might happen. Why are they leaving? Why Canada? Why horse and buggy and not a car or bus or plane?

You can probably tell where this is going. I wrote out the full flash fiction piece, and Liberty Island published it along with other entries. But I kept wanting to know more about the world. I started getting more characters, more stories, and it just kept growing until at some point I realized this could be a full novel. And so here I am, much to my surprise, being told I can no longer call myself an “aspiring” author because my book is actually out there.  


How did you pick the genre?

Dystopia is a natural fit for me as it happens to be a combination of writing “what you know” and “what you read.” Having grown up in the former Soviet Union, I know first hand how an oppressive society operates—what it does to people, how the system sustains itself, but also the potential weaknesses and cracks that are invisible to the outsiders. I have brought a lot of this understanding into my writing, and it helped make it more grounded and realistic.

I have also read many dystopian novels, both classics and the more recent offerings. There were themes that I have loved, but also points of disagreement with some of the visions out there. I have tried to address some of what I thought were the pitfalls of the genre and create something that was fresh and—hopefully—exciting, even to the readers who might have been over-saturated with the dystopian literature as a whole.


Can you tell us (without too many spoilers) a little about the characters and their journey?

In short, my heroes are ordinary people who rise to the occasion, and my villains are those who do not. A big theme in my novel is individual choices, and how anyone can end up either making the world better or being led into doing evil. Thus, none of the characters are over-the-top cartoons. They are all recognizable and easy to understand.

For example, the main protagonists of my novel start out simply as teenagers posting subversive information on the Internet and end up leading the country-wide Rebellion movement. It comes at a terrible cost, but they chose that path and paid the price even though most in their position would not. There are several other protagonists as well, who mostly just wanted to live their lives, but get forced into picking a side—again, at a price.

On the flip side, the villains are more or less regular people who for various reasons become trapped in positions where they either act in despicable ways or enable others in doing so. The true villain in my novel is the system that destroys people’s souls. It is one of the themes not often addressed when talking of totalitarian societies. We tend to focus on the obvious victims, who get jailed or tortured or killed. But what of the many more who die not in body, but in soul, little by little, and often by their own choice to simply “get along”? That’s a bit of a soapbox for me, and I tried to work it quite a bit into the novel.


What do you do when you are not writing?

Here’s where it gets awkward. I have the least creative day job in the world—an accountant for a real estate company (OK, I can get pretty creative with those expense classifications, but nevertheless…) Aside from that, I am a mother of three and a pet parent to four guinea pigs. In my copious spare time, I read and review books, blog and hang out with my friends on the Internet. And before you ask, shockingly enough, my wonderful husband puts up with all of this. I have been very blessed indeed.


Is this your first book? Do you have others planned?

Chasing Freedom is my first. It is self-contained, although I might over time write a few short stories set in the same world. There is an anthology in the works called (tentatively) Right Turn Only that has accepted my submission of a short story based on the background of one of the characters in the novel.

As for completely new material, I am currently working on an idea that might become a short story or a novelette, depending on how fleshed out it becomes. One thing I’m finding out is that once inspiration strikes, you as a writer have no choice but follow, and I’m excited to discover where it ends up.




Chasing Freedom:


Personal Blog: Marina's Musings


LIberty Island Creator Forum:




Originally posted to Welcome to Arhyalon. (link)

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February 3rd, 2016

10:53 am: Superversive Blog: Guest Post by S. Dorman

Guest poster S. Dorman returns with another powerful essay:


My Hero, Lost On A Mountain In Maine

One of my heroes was lost on a mountain in Maine. Not on just any mountain, but The Greatest Mountain—Katahdin, it was named of the Abenaki. Highest mountain in the state and sharing with downeast coastal Quoddy Head first light each day in the continental U.S.. The mountain has a distinctive profile, standing lone and long. Its two often cloud-swathed peaks are connected by a narrow path of eroding stone called the Knife Edge, some places 2-3 ft. wide, some places dropping off almost sheer to the valley below. Below the summit of Baxter is a plateau where my hero spent part of his first day wandering in clouds, once dropping through krumholtz. Thoreau, one of the first to write about Katahdin, was guided partway by a native Abenaki and, going on from there, he may have taken the Abol Slide for his climb. We don’t think he made it to the top. The slide has been a well-known hazardous trail for generations. Abol is recently closed to hikers for its accident prone unstable debris, in most places solely an abrupt fall of talus, the unending eating away of rock in numberless pieces by frost-wedging — action begun by the glaciers. That glacial debris is in the Gulf of Maine an eon after these giants left us with nothing but rocks. Rocks.


My hero was lost on this mountain, terminus of the Appalachian Trail, in 1939. How can someone be lost on a mountain, you say? There’s only one direction to go — down. After reaching the summit with his companion, he descended to wander through cloud on the plateau below the summit over rocks and stunted mountain trees called krumholtz. But the surrounding wilderness below Katahdin is where my hero was truly lost, while searchers refused to look anywhere but on the mountain itself. They did not come within ten miles of him afterward, believing him perhaps fallen into a crevice of rock. He had fallen so, in the krumholtz, but managed to climb up and out. Altogether he was lost nine days, and covered perhaps 75 erratic miles. Coming from the suburbs of New York City, he nonetheless had had some youthful training in Boy Scouts, and tried to follow what he had learned with them: follow streams down. He needed fresh water more than anything and thought this plan would keep him from thirst and bring him out to civilization. He was dressed as a day hiker on getting separated from his party in clouds at the summit.

To tell you why Donn is my hero would take a catalog of physical, mental, and spiritual difficulties. At the head of the physical list is weakness from hunger. Next, for me, would be biting bugs: relentless blackflies, deer flies, mosquitoes, and another category of blood eaters, leeches, a.k.a. bloodsuckers. Partial nakedness was a difficulty: Before his separation in the clouds he’d kept his jacket but given his sweatshirt to a companion. Donn also lost his dungarees to miscalculation in a leap over one of the numerous gaps caused by glacial erratics in a stream he was following. After slashing his sneakers on talus, he lost them and suffered embedded thorns, deep cuts and swollen feet, stiff toes, and the loss of part of his big toe. I don’t need to add wild animals to the list because these turned out to be a source of comfort to him, even the bears. I think this would not be so today because coyotes now roam in packs through the state, but add rainstorms, fierce sunburn, sickness and vomiting.


A catalog of my hero’s difficulties would not be complete without acknowledgement of both psychic and spiritual sufferings. And this is where the real heroic harrowing comes in. He had punctuated the first day with prayer, and ended it with more. (Later he discovered that people across the USA had been praying for him.) On the second day, Donn was afflicted with images of delusion so strong that he was instantly convinced of their reality. He could not understand why people and mechanisms would not respond to him when he tried to communicate or confront them. It wasn’t until his knees, on trying to stand, appeared as metallic mechanisms that his prayers took on a strong character and were no longer simply a matter of habit. His prayers became a potent necessity.

Praying worked miracles in his ordeal, but always he felt God encouraging him to get up and keep walking. He had to make choices regarding his route that were beyond his ken. There was the time he decided to forsake an old tote road and telephone line tacked to trees in order to follow the water. Things of human make he came across in this wilderness were moldering and decrepit, camps, bedding, empty tin cans. Sometimes he was forced just to put one foot before the other. Sometimes he was unable to do so and had to crawl. Once he felt strong gentle hands lifting him by the shoulders, setting him on uncertain trembling legs, moving him along just a bit.

Sometimes it seemed Someone else was talking to me. They wanted me out of the woods, going home. They would keep me sane if I listened.

 Another time, near the end, he felt empty blackness come up into his head and mind. To me this blackness seems spiritual in nature but may have been caused by near starvation. Or perhaps it was simply incapacity of a body that could not follow on forever.

As noted, the book was first written and published in 1939 after the ordeal, but has since become iconic, and read in the Maine schools. The same first person narrative in other editions of print and audio have followed, with plans to dramatize.

The riveting audio book performance is by actor Amon Purinton. He portrayed the experience of Donn’s receiving a bowl of soup, after near starvation in the wilderness as though he were being given a chalice of shed blood just then turned into wine.

One thing to add to this catalog of heroic ordeal. My hero, Donn Fendler, was 12 years old when he was lost on Katahdin in Maine.


Donn Fendler,

Lost on a Mountain in Maine.

The riveting audio book performance is by child actor Amon Purinton. He made the experience of Donn’s seeing a bowl of soup miraculous.

And here is a connection to science fiction: http://thegreenandbluehouse.com/2016/01/18/lost-on-a-mountain-in-malacandra/

The Hunt Trail Donn climbed to reach the summit:



Originally posted to Welcome to Arhyalon. (link)

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January 27th, 2016

10:01 am: Superversive Blog: Guest Post — Where Religion and Fantasy Meet

This essay began as a post on another blog. I commented on it and said that I'd love to post something on this subject for the Superversive Blog. And, here it is!

dore hell 5

Theologic License

 by Matthew Schmidt.

An apologia before I begin. Being Christian, and more particularly Catholic, I am writing this from the perspective of a writer considering Catholic theology while writing. However, I believe the same issue will occur to anyone who is attempting to write but also is concerned about their theological accuracy, whatever their theology may be.

The problem of mixing speculative fiction with actual religion has existed since the first time Og told a ghost story around the cave's fire, and, having returned to hunting the next day, wondered what ghosts meant for the Great Spirit. Whatever Og's conclusion was has been lost to time, but we see it again more recently (relatively speaking) in The Divine Comedy. In the depths of Hell, Dante comes across Odysseus, who is eternally punished for attempting to reach Purgatory by the sole effort of humans. What exactly the presence of Odysseus implied for the panoply of feuding Greek divinities of the Iliad and the Odyssey, in the further reality of the True Divine, is not considered.

But while Og needed only entertain his tribesmen for a few minutes, and Dante used Odysseus as a symbol of the inadequacy of mortal powers, the modern speculative fiction author does not get off so easily.
The questions for the fantasy author have plagued the genre since Tolkien. They arrive like rubberneckers at the world's construction site, incessantly pestering the author. If there is a fictional pantheon, are those gods “real?” Are they angelic like the Valar of Valinor, or noble beings like the Overcyns of Skai? Or are they mere frauds as Tash—a safe choice, but then Tash actually appears at the end of the Chronicles of Narnia and the issues are immediately raised. Add magic and ethical issues enter immediately, and whole essays have been written on the topic (see the excellent one by Tom Simon.)

The science fiction author can only avoid the same questions with sufficiently hard science and sufficient planning ahead. (Be sure to put three or so bishops on your generation ship to avoid issues of apostolic succession.) Reach for any other ingredient—time travel, artificial intelligence, or worse yet, extraterrestrial life—and now you have some irritating theological question, one that will devour your creative energies like a black hole.

And avoiding that singularity is the key. In my experience as a writer, attempting to write any kind of speculative fiction while staying behind every jot and tittle of established theology is futile. Fear of writing heretical ideas will do more damage to your writing than actually writing something theologically inaccurate.

After all, by the very definition of fiction, we write of things which God did not do. For Divine Wisdom did not see fit to make Mars habitable to life, allow steam to be able to power giant battle mechs, give information the ability to travel faster than light, or open doors to adjacent dimensions on a convenient schedule. Even “literary” fiction cannot escape this, as whenever it invents an character or happening that does not exist, it tells of an option that the Creator did not take. This leaves only fiction which describes events exactly as they happened, i.e. nonfiction.

But suppose you are willing to stretch the bounds of theology. Should you create a new theology to encompass your alterations? It depends. I’ve found that attempting to construct a sound theology for an idea before using it, unless this is actually relevant to the story, is also pointless, and also hamstringing. There was no point in Lewis breaking off onto a discourse on what Tash actually was in the middle of The Last Battle. At the same time, had he never considered what Jesus would be like in a world like Narnia, we would never have Aslan.

But let us return to Dante for a moment. The Divine Comedy is inaccurate in multiple ways, even setting aside the unexplained existence of various figures of Greek myth. The Catholic Church does not teach anyone specific is in Hell, let alone their location and specific punishment, and Dante must have been well aware of this. But the point of the Inferno is not to map judgments to sinners, or a soapbox for Dante to place his adversaries in eternal damnation. The Inferno depicts the soul of the unjust, and whatever liberties it takes to do this are to show poetic truths, not theological ones. Odyesseus is placed where he is to show the inadequacy of natural powers to reach the supernatural.

But could Dante had succeeded if he had stayed within the boundaries of theology? No. There was no one more suited to attempt Purgatory than Odysseus, and fail. Had Dante even invented another figure, that figure would require his own odyssey, which, to have the same power, would require yet more theological inaccuracies to create dangers against which mortal strength could prevail. Only then could this new Odysseus fail against the supernatural.

In that sense, even the Odyssey must contain poetic truths, no matter its pantheon. So, too, can we bring a great many works into the realm of the holy things.

But how far can we stretch this?

I will now take an example from the world of videogames. Of all the games I have ever played, Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor: Overclocked is by far the most blasphemous. Aside from the game-enforced necessity of summoning demons (in the post-apocalyptic Tokyo of the game's dark plot), and the consequentialism which drenches every “choice”, its greatest offense against sound theology is its “God.” The theology of “God” (as identified by the direct use of the Divine Name) is bizarre and contradictory, both shown as an omnipotent Judeo-Christian Deity and also only a most powerful being that overpowered the previous most powerful being. Said “God” is as if from the Old Testament filtered through a pagan lens: no mercy for sins, no remorse over doing evil to do good, and no ability to raise the dead. (Not even the Messiah can raise the dead, one character says to another in one scene.) 

But even despite that theology, and the extreme liberties which the game takes with biblical stories, even then there is a kind of poetic truth that would have been lost with a more accurate theology. Only if resorting to the use of demons, and only if demons are powerful, can it speak of the desire of power and its abuse. Only with the pagan need to justify blood with blood can it offer the choices it does, which sacrifice a few for the many. And only if God would create a paradise on Earth through violence would there be any reason against joining Him, and only if God could possibly be defeated would there by any reason for attempting to oppose Him. By a bad theology, it makes that final real choice: paradise of ruthless order, or hellscape of freedom. And even with all its darkness, at the very end of one of the last battles comes one of the most moving scenes I have ever seen in a game, a true eucatastrophy.

Do I recommend anyone go as far as DSO? No. I think there are ways to tell a similar story with much less darkness, and far less blasphemy. But such a different story would only be able to tell different truths. Yet, while different, possibly better.

And that is my final advice. What matters not is if a work fiction bends the truth. What matters is the truth it tells. A story can be utterly, and knowingly, inaccurate, yet still show a beauty it could not otherwise. Or, I believe, a story can stay within the boundaries of theology, and show nothing but evil. (For even demons believe there is a God.) And that is determined not by studying theology, or ignoring it, but hearing the call of Beauty in the wild.


For more about our author: http://oandhbooks.theinspiredinstructor.com/


Originally posted to Welcome to Arhyalon. (link)

January 8th, 2016

05:54 pm: Live Chat with the Fabulous Milo!

We are chatting live tonight at Superversive SF. Rumor has it we will be joined by the Fabulous Milo Yiannnoupolis.

Live chat here!



Originally posted to Welcome to Arhyalon. (link)

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January 6th, 2016

02:01 pm: Interview with Jessica Benya, author of Electronica

Jessica Benya and I have in common that we are both authors who attended St. John's College in Annapolis. The difference between us, however, is that I attened in the 80s, and she's still a student! 

When I was visiting the college in September, the book store manager brought her book to my attention. I read it and enjoyed it. It was rough at parts, but the character and the story drew me along. 

Impressed that a college student could also publish an enjoyable book, I asked Miss Benya some questions about Electronica, her novel about a futuristic distopia based on…dance.


Q: It’s quite unusual for someone to publish a novel while still in college. What led to the publication of Electronica?

           Electronica started around my senior year of high school. By being in the Humanities program, I was required to write either a twenty-paged essay or a ten-paged essay and a creative project. I had been writing stories for at least nine years prior, so writing was a very big part of my life. This helped me decide that this would be the year to finally write my novel. By the project being assigned by the school, I had very strict deadlines, which I needed to start my writing career.

            Thus, the first two drafts were finished before I graduated high school. Then it took two years until I finally completed it. I’m sure everyone who writes knows that feeling when they are editing that they can always make their work better and, by consequence, the said work never comes out. That was what I struggled with for a couple years. Then after a few beta readers and fearing I’d never have my novel released, and changing different scenes and so on, my novel happened to come out before my junior year of college.


Q:How did you come up with the idea of using dance as the distinguishing characteristic for the different factions?

           Around the time I started to think of what to write about, I noticed many people in high school who preferred one general genre as opposed to multiple. That concept intrigued me since I wasn’t like that at all. I enjoy a multitude of genres. But since there were so many people who enjoyed only one type of genre, and those people split up into friend groups of the same music type, different factions of genres were set before me. And since I love multiple genres, that’s how I came up with the idea of people switching genres and living near the city since the city has all genres that anyone can walk to despite where they were sorted.

            Also, that same year I was part of a dance club, which I’m sure influenced why the deciding factor became dance. Dance is a good way to observe the culture of the different genres just as much as the music itself. You could argue that Electronica music and Classical music have more similarities than you realize, as one of my former teachers did, but their dancing is extremely different. That is why Classical and Electronica are on the two opposite sides of the spectrum. So dance became the deciding factor as to where people were sorted because of how the dancing in each genre varies greater to the naked eye than the music may itself, and speaks loudly of that genres culture.

            Finally, there was a scientific reason as to why dance became the deciding factor. Dancing raises endorphins, and the adrenaline different music causes would be visible in someone’s dance. By dancing, Vesper could monitor which genre excites and motivates an individual the most as well as noticing if the individual’s dancing fits well into that certain genre.


Q: There are so many schools of dance, how did you pick which ones you wanted to use for your novel?

           Well, every type of school of dance is present in Vesper. They are represented as different branches of the main generalized genres. Like DJ is in the Dub Step branch of the Electronica genre. There are other branches in the Electronica genre such as: House, Trance, Trap, Disco, etc. It would be impossible to write out every type of dance in one novel so I picked where the characters would be from and focused on the schools of dance that they would be inclined to. However, I wanted to be sure to touch on the opposite sides of the spectrum the society set up, so Classical ballet or polka-type dances rivaling Techno break dancing. All the schools of dance between them are set into branches within very generalized genres.


Q: The main character of Electronica is DJ. As of the end of the book, DJ’s first adventure has come to an end, but one could imagine many new challenges before her. Are there additional novels planned?

           My second novel is currently in the making. Now that DJ has gotten so far, I wanted to show her personal struggles as a young adult pushed into such a high position in society. Also, DJ would be trying to repay her debt to those who helped her in the Rounds. That is a story all on its own that I am excited to finish as soon as I can.


Q: The story has factions (like Divergent) and a contest (like Hunger Games), were these two series an influence on your work? And what other books/movies/sources do you feel influenced your ideas?

             Actually I didn’t know of Divergent when I began writing Electronica. The factions came about because of my love for organization and seeing the people around me that loved singular genres herding together. I remember being recommended Divergent a lot though because of the different factions. Hunger Games had some influence on my decision to create a competition, so did the Olympics that were happening the year I began writing.

           Finally, Rome was a big influence since I was taking Latin at the time and was learning about the Roman culture. Originally, my world was very much based off of Roman culture because I was so enthralled by it, and the Rounds were loosely based off of the Olympics. Then I pulled away from it, seeing too many similarities with other novels, and created my own world based on music and dance.


Q: How did you come to be at St. John’s and are you enjoying the Great Books Program?

           I came to be at St. John’s hearing that it was a writer’s college and had a different method of teaching by discussion rather than by lectures. I love the program, and am currently going through my junior year. While being here the college has changed my perspective on math and science, and I find myself enjoying them more. Linguistics is something I enjoy as well, for I took Spanish and Latin before college and then learned Ancient Greek here, and now am learning French.

           Finally, their music program is wonderful, and inspired multiple instances in my book when the music is explained in depth during particular situations when DJ is learning how to progress in the Rounds. The program has done a lot for me with my academic writing and speech, and I am excited to advance into my next semester.


Q:Do you have any particular plans yet for after your graduate? Do you have plans for other series?

           After graduating the idea of teaching excites me, so I’m currently leaning towards education. I plan to continue writing regardless, and hopefully complete this series of DJ’s world. Electronica is planned to be the first book of a trilogy. After this trilogy, I do have another series in mind that’s much more fantasy based. But I’m currently trying to keep my mind focused on the second book of my current trilogy, and will look at the ideal fantasy series later if and when I get there.


Q: I thought you did a very clever job of portraying the plight of those who could not dance without being too heavy handed. How did you come up with the idea of the substitutes?

           The idea of substitutes for the Council Member children came to me because of how publicized their births would be. A Council Member is equivalent to a President or a King in this world. If the President had a child, then the media would be filled with news of the new baby. Since the media would be very present and the Council Member wouldn’t show their child for safety reasons, they’d switch the child with a substitute. This way, the Council Member and their child remain safe behind the presented substitute.


I am grateful to Jessica for taking the time to answer my questions. It is quite intriguing that her faction-based story developed independently of other stories, such as Divergence. I have seen that happen many times. It is always interesting to me.

For more about Electronica, you can find the book here.

Originally posted to Welcome to Arhyalon. (link)

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January 2nd, 2016

11:35 pm: Four Funerals and a Wedding

John did not have a chance to write his normal holiday story this year, so I gave him one of mine to post. 

This story comes from my Against the Dying of the Light background, which currently remains unwritten–this story would take place somewhere in the later half of the series. 





Originally posted to Welcome to Arhyalon. (link)


December 21st, 2015

11:33 am: There Will Be War — Released Today!

Signal Boost!


The Premier Mil-SF Series Returns 25 Years Later

At the height of the Cold War, the most important series in military science fiction was THERE WILL BE WAR.

Created by science fiction legend Dr. Jerry Pournelle, the nine volumes of THERE WILL BE WAR combined the very best science fiction writers with some of the most influential military writers on the planet. A living chronicle of the Cold War, the series was thought to have ended with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989.

But history did not end. A new power, dedicated to world peace through world submission, has arisen from the ashes of Iraq and continues to steadily grow. A new type of asymmetric warfare, 4th Generation War, has struck everywhere from Paris to San Bernardino. The USA and Russia are clashing everywhere from Ukraine to Syria, as China quietly expands her influence in the South China Sea. It is clear to even the casual observer that, once more, there will be war.

There Will Be War Volume X is edited by Jerry Pournelle and features 18 short stories and articles that explore the new challenges posed by new enemies and new forms of warfare. From genetic war on Planet Earth to space combat among the distant stars, from ancient history to hyperintelligent weapons, the latest volume in the revived anthology series contemplates warfare from every angle. The non-fiction essays are intelligent and insightful, written by subject experts representing four of the U.S. Armed Forces; the centerpiece is an original essay by military historian Martin van Creveld on the bloody history of "War and Migration" that is as significant as it is timely.

The Volume X contributors are: Gregory Benford, Charles W. Shao, William S. Lind, Lt. Col. Gregory A. Thiele, USMC, Ben Bova, Allen M. Steele, Michael Flynn, Martin van Creveld, Matthew Joseph Harrington, Cheah Kai Wai, Col. Douglas Beason, USAF, ret., John DeChancie, CDR Phillip E. Pournelle, USN, Russell Newquist, Brian J. Noggle, David VanDyke, Lt. Col. Guy R. Hooper, USAF, ret., Michael L. McDaniel, Poul Anderson, and Larry Niven.

There Will Be War Volume X is 401 pages, DRM-free, and $4.99. Available only on Amazon.

All New Release subscribers who buy the book on Amazon before noon EST on Wednesday, December 9th, have permission to download free copies of West of Honor by Jerry Pournelle as well as the novel First Conquest from bestselling mil-SF author, and Volume X contributor, David VanDyke. It is not necessary to send any proof of purchase prior to downloading.

For those who require EPUB format, you can either email us a request with your receipt from Amazon attached, or better yet, download Calibre, the free open source ebook management program. The Amazon file is DRM-free, so it can be converted automatically in a manner of seconds. We recommend using Calibre; it is extremely useful to any reader.

"History has not ended. The world has not united in peace and liberal democracy. This series has been revived to again offer stories and essays on the challenges of the future; in a time when There Will Be War. "
– Jerry Pournelle

Originally posted to Welcome to Arhyalon. (link)

December 10th, 2015

09:31 pm: A Supeversive Story: A Girl I knew

A Girl I Knew

A brief Superversive short story by our favorite teen, April Freeman!


I knew a girl, she was an angel. Her beauty, soft and innocent, was so pure it seemed untouched by the corruption of the world. It was a beauty I’d never known before. Her soft hair was like a waterfall floating down her back, her skin was ivory and smooth, and she had a smile to be sought after; for it made her glow with warmth, and joy sparkled in the crinkles by her eyes. Her sweetness and humor was intoxicating, her wit sharp and her mind clear.

Her beauty was subtle, not like the glaring magazine covers with their glossy, made-up girls. No man passing by would ogle her, as they would the film stars with their showy bodies. Not this girl, she was a different kind of beauty. Pure, angelic, it come from within her. No one could deserve such a grace, yet that was exactly why she came to me.

I cannot tell you how many cold night and isolated days I spent, stuck in my own destructive ways, before I met her. But I’ve long since forgotten those days. She has that kind of effect on you, you know? When it feels like forever since you last were happy, truly happy I mean; then here she comes, all wide-eyed at the world and dazzling, making you remember what joy is, how to wonder at things again like when you was a child, and suddenly you can’t stop smiling, all the dark nights fade, and all you see is her.

You’ve got it bad by then. Your whole world has got a new spin on it, and it’s her. Smiling, beautiful, amazing her! You do anything for her. She makes you into a gentleman, brings out the best in you and forgives you of your worst. You treat her right, buy her gifts, you learn to control yourself when that beauty sits close to you, for you know that pleases her. And she’s sweet and humble, never demanding, or at least not without reason. She lights up your world, and you do anything you can to return, even a small portion, the love she gives freely to you. She gives without restraint. But nothing is free. Everything comes with a price.

Many have sought after her hand, wishing to make her their wife. To have her as their own to love and cherish for the rest of their lives, for surely it would take that long to repay all she has given. But all such dreams futile. For an angel has wings, and wings are meant for flight. She can no more rest in a home on the land, then a bird can make its nest in the sea. It is, perhaps, her curse.

 Her only reward, when she seeks the lost and those drowned in despair who have forgotten how to love, is to heal them. An angel, a beauty, a fair maiden sent to show them how to live and love in a better way.  Yet there is often pain that accompanies such growth, and always another soul she must fly to.

 I thought my heart was broken all over again, but I found I had more strength then I thought. It was her last lesson to me, to not let myself fall, and if I did, to pick myself up again. And I found my past, the loneliness and depression that held me captive before, was just that. The past.

 It’s been years since I could call that beautiful angel mine, and many things have happened. Another girl, more suited for myself, and as lovely and noble as the day, has planted herself firmly next to me. A true woman such as her would’ve never put up with the ways of my past self. She’s an amazing catch, who has filed my life with many wonderful and terrible things, such as children.

Yes, many things have passed, and this miracle-worker of a girl had long since slipped to the back of my mind. But, as much of my life has moved on and time has passed, I realized another price I had not seen in my sorrow for my angel’s departure.

To heal a man fallen into darkness, such as I and many others were, she had to get close. You know, it wasn’t enough to simply tell us there was still love and beauty in the world. Stubborn as we were, she had to show us. And so with each broken heart healed, a piece of hers was given any. And though she can never run dry, for her heart is deeper and purer then any can imagine, it is no less painful when she draws away.

If you have looked into her eyes, those eyes the color of the sea, you’ll see and understand exactly what I say. For in her gaze holds both the merriment and playful innocence of the rolling waves, and the depth and knowledge of the ancient creatures of the deepest sea. For, to heal each broken heart, she has wrapped hers around it; and when two hearts are mixed together, it’s never easy to separate. She has carried a thousand loves and a thousand broken hearts, none less painful then the last. And this girl, this crusader for the broken and forgotten, has a thousand more to come before she’d done.

I knew a girl, she was an angel, never stopping, always searching, saving lives, and spirts of men. She was a hero, never realized ‘til the battle was done, and a healer, taking the price of the medicine upon herself. She was beauty, she was life, she was powerful, and she was hope. And for a time… she was my angel.

For more from April, visit her blog Lost In La La Land.


Originally posted to Welcome to Arhyalon. (link)

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November 29th, 2015

07:52 pm: Superversive Blog: Help the spin rack make a comeback

Superversive photo




Back in 2008, when Tor publishing launched Tor.com, they apparently decided to reach out to mainstream media – as opposed to genre outlets – and used an outside public relations company.

I was contacted as the managing editor of an Associated Press daily newspaper, and offered an opportunity to do a phone interview with Tom Doherty. At this point, I had already been published in Asimov’s Science Fiction and Jim Baen’s Universe, among others, so I obviously knew who Tom Doherty was, and I jumped at the opportunity.

My far ranging interview ultimately became a newspaper article which I ran in a weekend edition, as well as another story I sold to the SFWA Bulletin. The Bulletin article focused on Doherty’s role in the genre, and his observations on the changes and turmoil in the publishing industry he’d seen in his long career.

The newspaper article focused on the role Tor envisioned for the web site. In talking about publishing original fiction, Doherty mentioned that those paperback spin racks we used to see in stores and pharmacies were often a point of entry for people to the s-f and fantasy genres.

They used to be ubiquitous – those tall, vertical wire racks that you could spin around to see all four sides loaded up with mass market paperbacks. Doherty noted how the consolidation of book distribution had all but eliminated them. He said he hoped the fiction published by Tor.com would serve the same function as a point of entry for new readers in the digital age.

A few months later, I was reminded of how common those spin racks used to be – and how often you could find science fiction and fantasy titles in them – when in the course of rummaging through some boxes of books I found a paperback copy of Diana Wynne Jones' "A Tough Guide to Fantasyland" which I bought in the only convenience store in Ovilla, Texas, in 1998.

Back then I owned and operated a small community weekly paper – so small I brought the papers to stores and vending machines myself. One day, as I dropped off copies of The Ovilla Vanguard at the store, I saw the “Tough Guide”, and I was so tickled that I bought if off the spin rack.

Picking it up again in 2009, I recalled what Doherty had said, and how true it was – the spin racks had really pretty much disappeared.

Now, fast forward two and half years, to the summer of 2011. I was scheduled as a panelist at ArmadilloCon in Austin, and one of the panels was on “Secret History”. The Thursday before the convention I stopped at a local Dollar General in Mount Pleasant to pick up some groceries on the way home from work, and while standing in line, I caught sight of a spin rack.

Yes, Dollar General still believes in the spin rack. I walked over and saw that among the books was a copy of Steven Brust's "The Paths of the Dead". While I don't read high fantasy, I bought the book because Brust was on the panel with me.

The following Sunday afternoon, as the panel on Secret History broke up, I stopped and pulled the book out. I told Steve "you know you are a best-selling author when you're on the spin rack in the Dollar General in Mount Pleasant, Texas! That means your books are sold EVERYWHERE!"

He really got a kick out of that! I asked him to sign the book, too, and he did, with a big smile.

The next time I visited the store, I checked out the spin rack again. This time, it looked like there were a few more s-f books. I found a copy of Kristine Katherine Rusch's "Paloma”, and then I remembered something Doherty said back in 2008 when I interviewed him.

Not only did spin racks make cheap paperbacks available to the masses, he said, but the men and women who ran the distribution routes made note of what genres sold, and they would restock accordingly.

So I decided to test a theory. If the same principle applied, every time I bought a paperback the person stocking the spin rack should notice.

Bear in mind, these paperback books are only selling for a dollar or three dollars – they have been discounted. I felt it would be a small investment – whether I planned to read the books or not –to support those last lonely spin racks.

I’ve been doing that for four years now.   I’ve found plenty of excellent titles, such as the Martin and Dozois “Warriors 3” anthology, “Fugitives of Chaos” by John C. Wright, “The Last Days of Krypton” by Kevin J. Anderson, “Rebel Moon” by Bruce Bethke and Vox Day, and the “Fellowship Fantastic” anthology by Greenberg and Hughes, among many others.

I’ve donated most of them to free book giveaways, a local book store, and, best of all, a group called Books for Soldiers. If you join the group, you can review requests and make up boxes for soldiers who specifically ask for s-f.

Has my plan to boost s-f paperback sales worked? Hah!

Over the past four years whoever was in charge of stocking that spin rack loaded it up with so much s-f and fantasy books that they finally moved all of them to a separate shelf nearby. Now the spin rack has the westerns and romances and thrillers, while s-f and fantasy has shelf space!

This is just one store, but I’d like to suggest that if you do the same, who knows what good may come of it? How can you go wrong?

Earlier this week, I stopped by that Dollar General store again, and as usual looked over the spin rack. Now I have an enormous selection of books to choose from. I saw an anthology I never heard of, another Greenberg/Hughes compilation:

“Zombie Raccoons & Killer Bunnies”.

And yes, once again, I plunked down a dollar and took it home.

I feel somewhat bad for the authors – I know they will get essentially nothing from my purchase at that price, and I know some of them in that anthology personally, such as Jody Lynn Nye and Steven Silver. But in the long run, just getting more and more of these books out to the public has to have a positive effect.

I know many fans and authors who are so broke that spending even a dollar or three dollars hurts, but I would suggest that if you can, these little occasional investments may pay off and help bring back a greater distribution of fantasy and science fiction mass market paperbacks.

My local grocery store recently did an extensive remodeling, and in the process added a shelf for mass market paperbacks. I assume they must have some market information to indicate that, after the slump caused by the advent of digital media, the cheaper, durable and disposable paperback format is making somewhat of a comeback.

Let’s encourage that.


Originally posted to Welcome to Arhyalon. (link)

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November 26th, 2015

09:52 am: To all our friends and fans!

Thanksgiving Peanut styel



Originally posted to Welcome to Arhyalon. (link)

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