#SpaceOperaWeek: Five Current Space Operas You Should Be Reading

Yesterday I posted a definitive list of all-time best space operas, but there are some current new ones that provide a fresh take on the genre as well. I’m assuming you’ve already read my Star Realms: Rescue Run, so here’s what I’m excited to be reading lately:

1. The Revelations Cycle Series by Mark Wandrey and Chris Kennedy. Mechs. Monsters. Aliens. Mercs. This series is pure space opera fun with a really well-detailed world. The first book, Cartwright’s Cavaliers deals with one of the major human merc companies going through a bankruptcy and a young man inheriting the mantle to take it over and make it great again. It’s riveting fun all the way through, and you’ll love the CASPer mech suit action the whole way through. I Haven’t read the second book yet, but it’s on my short list to read soon!

2. Excalibur by Tim Marquitz. When I opened this up I felt like I was living what I wanted out of the Babylon 5 spinoff series Crusade that they never got around to delivering me. We have a somewhat disgraced captain who has been doing special jobs for the Covenant on the side with his band of fun and supremely competent crewmen. His ship is made of stolen alien tech — and those aliens are back in force, but for some reason, the fleet is caught with their pants down. It’s up to him to save the galaxy.

3. The Maxwell Saga by Peter Grant. I just picked up Take The Star Road, the first in a currently five book series. This is a Horatio Alger in space type of story, where we have a man picking up and working on a trading vessel to get experience to go join up with a colony that promises opportunity. A fun read the whole way, and he gets caught up with a Yakuza-type crime syndicate and their ancient legends. I’ve been told we can expect a new book in the series around Christmas.

4. The Darkship Series by Sarah Hoyt. There’s a world out there of genetically modified humans that is just rumor to the denziens of earth.They’re supposed to be terrible people to be eradicated, but our hero learns to love the people of Eden, or should I say a person of Eden, as adventure unfolds and nothing is what it seems. Lots of action and romance in this one. A new installment, Darkship Revenge, just came out a couple weeks ago!

5. A Greater Duty by Yakov Merkin. I just picked this one up, as it came out a couple of days ago, but it promises a lot of cool alien species, epic battles with a Galactic Alliance, and as a member of the #PulpRevolution, I know Yakov will have great instincts for a fun, dynamic story. It’s also edited by Superversive Press’s Ben Zwycky.

Jon Del Arroz’s Definitive Top 5: Space Opera Series

It’s #SpaceOperaWeek and I can think of no better way to launch my first regular Superversive column than to celebrate the genre in which I write and love. I’ll be doing more top fives as they feel appropriate, but as a writer of Space Opera, it makes a lot of sense to launch in celebration of some of my greatest influences. Naturally, these are just my opinions, so I expect outrage, disagreement, fist shaking, and the like at my choices. Just know that you’re wrong. It says definitive in the title, and we all know the internet never lies.

Without further ado, your Space Opera Top Five!

5. The Serrano Legacy – Elizabeth Moon wrote what at first feels like a light romp in the vein of “The Most Dangerous Game.” At the same time she has a compelling background with the Famlias and their political influence over the Fleet that both hampers and helps our heroes at different times. The characters are about the easiest to get attached to in science fiction, and when you get to the third book in the first trilogy – you start to see some really cool sci-fi concepts in a rejuvenation treatment that makes the elderly young again, and its consequences to society. Moon uses the universe as a backdrop for other stories from there, always relating to the Serranos and their influence over the fleet. From a pure fun perspective, this work is some of my favorite.

4. Hyperion Cantos – Dan Simmons shows the depth of imagination that Space Opera can attain. This series mixes literary prowess with Indiana Jones in space style fun. While the later books aren’t as good as the first couple installments, Simmons left his mark on the Space Opera genre and most modern authors riff off of his concepts even if subconsciously.

3. Star Wars: Thrawn Trilogy – Tie in fiction is looked down on quite a bit, and I actually will differentiate this from the Star Wars films, as we’re focusing on literary fiction for the purposes of this post. Honestly, this series stands on its own. One doesn’t even have to have seen Star Wars to enjoy the depth of character, the machinations of the supreme strategist Grand Admiral Thrawn, the coming to prominence of Mara Jade, or all of the other wonderful facets of this series. It takes Star Wars and adds real depth and gravitas to the universe. There are very few examples of space opera out there that are finer.

2. Lensman – The original Space Opera by E.E. “Doc” Smith. He wrote this over the course of his life. Two epic alien species the Arisians and The Eddorians toying with the younger races like humanity in order to try to assert their will over the galaxy. These books are short, action packed, and they have a great punch to them. This series has inspired the likes of Star Wars and Babylon 5, and still is some of the most impactful work in the genre to this day.

1. The Vorkosigan Saga – This is a series by multiple Hugo winner Lois McMasterBujold, which debuted in the early 1980s. Originally penned as Star Trek fanfiction, the world was launched with Shards of Honor, a romance story in space about lovers from two worlds with completely different values. Though this is one of the lighter stories in the universe, it grew from there as we next met Miles Vorkosigan, the series’ main protagonist in The Warrior’s Apprentice. It’s got sweeping empires, weird body modifications, a great fleet battle, mercenaries, spies, about everything you’d want out of a book. And while that book shaped my interest in the genre in my youth, the series honestly only gets much better as it goes along. Lois hit on every mark possible in space opera and plays with a number of different story archetypes.
Jon Del Arroz is the author of the Alliance Award nominated and top-10 Amazon bestselling Space Opera, Star Realms: Rescue Run. His second novel, For Steam And Country, is set to be released by Superversive Press this summer. He is considered to be the leading Hispanic voice in Science Fiction, and hails from the San Francisco Bay Area. He regularly posts to his popular Science Fiction blog at http://delarroz.com. Twitter: @jondelarroz Gab.ai: @otomo

Superversive Stand For The Fans At OdysseyCon

I am pleased to make an announcement on behalf of several great authors in the Science Fiction and Fantasy community.That announcement is: fans, we care about you, and we want you to have a good time. We support your coming out to express yourself in fandom.

A couple of weeks ago, an invited headlining guest flaked on a convention, OdysseyCon. No notice was given, no accommodations were asked for, simply bailing two weeks before it happened, leaving the fans without an honored guest. The Con responded professionally and nicely, trying to work things out as much as possible, but that wasn’t enough for this person who took to social media, and got a cabal of angry virtue signallers to start swearing, berating and attacking anyone they could.

The people who are left in the dust are fans, innocent folk who just wanted to spend a weekend hanging out, playing games, talking science fiction, listening to some authors speak and having a good time in fellowship. None of these virtue signallers thought or cared about the fans. It’s frankly shameful and unprofessional. The fans are our sustenance, readers are our life. As such, I felt compelled to help the readers of OdysseyCon, and spoke with several award winning and bestselling authors to help their weekend, as their convention no longer has an author guest.

The convention did get some great guests to attend: Michael Butt, an independent horror film maker and Brent Chumley, an artist known for Magic: The Gathering and actually worked by my side on Doomtown: Reloaded. These are both stellar individuals, who are high energy, full of life, and amazing artists. What’s missing though is the literary component.

Not being local to Wisconsin, the best I could think of to help was to bring the fans more of what they love. This is a thank you to readers for being so faithful and dedicated, and my hope that this will bring the fun and good times that has made fandom so great. I present you, attending members of OdysseyCon, a group of free ebooks especially compiled for you, the fan and reader. Because there are authors that care and want you to have the most enjoyable experience possible!

Details of how to redeem this will be passed out at the convention, but here’s what you can expect. We’re bringing you great books by:

Nick Cole – Winner of the 2016 Dragon Award for his Dystopian fiction!

Jon Del Arroz – Your humble blogger and Alliance Award nominated author of space opera and steampunk!

Declan Finn – Dragon Award Nominee for his epic vampire fiction!

Marina Fontaine – Dragon Award Nominee for her chilling dystopian fiction!

Robert Kroese – Bestselling author, creator of eight successful kickstarter projects, and highly regarded Science Fiction author oft compared to Douglas Adams!

L. Jagi Lamplighter – An astounding YA Fantasy Author whose Rachel series reviewers say is better than Harry Potter!

John C. Wright – A true Science Fiction Grand Master, nominated for more Hugo Awards in one year than any person alive, and Dragon Award winner!

Also included is the mega-bestselling Forbidden Thoughts anthology from Superversive Press, featuring incredible stories by Baen Books authors Sarah Hoyt, Larry Correia,Brad Torgersen and more!

Holy cow. That’s about the most star-studded line up you could possibly find, and there may even be more to come. Check back for updates. All of the authors want to thank you, the reader and convention attendee, for your support over the years. We really couldn’t do it without you and hope that you have a great OdysseyCon this year!

Amazon Bans The Corroding Empire

In times like these we have to remember that Amazon is a converged institution, that still lets the converged institutions that are big publishing have sway over them. They provided another example today that having a monopoly or oligopoly in a business is bad for the business and for everyone involved. I recommend congress do an immediate investigation into Amazon under Anti-Trust laws.  Here’s what went down:

  1. Tor Books author John Scalzi announced a book, which he turned in late, titled The Collapsing Empire.
  2. Castalia House quickly and effectively put out a parody book titled The Corroding Empire by Johan Kalsi, which beat out Scalzi’s actual work in pre-orders for several days.
  3. The parody, The Corroding Empire released today, to much fanfare (I’ve read a little myself, it is good science fiction work).
  4. Tor sent Amazon an ultimatum telling them to take it down.
  5. Amazon complied and sent Castalia House a notification that they were taking it down because they were pretending to be John Scalzi.
  6. Castalia House had their book removed, and there’s nothing they can do about it.

Now it’s clearly not something trying to mimic John Scalzi, but is something that’s an obvious parody. Their reasoning for taking this down is suspect at best. It would take a complete idiot to conflate the two in earnest, and moreover, the pre-order sales have already had its big bump. On Vox Popoli, Vox commented that the pre-ordered book had already sold “very well.” I expect with all the publicity that it’ll get from Amazon’s sketchy move, that it will sell even better.

Fortunately, Vox Day is on top of it. They planned to have trouble, and they have already got the book retitled with a new fictitious author’s name – Corrosion by Harry Seldon.

The new name is almost funnier than the first, referencing the Asimov character, Hari Seldon from Asimov’s Foundation series. Not to mention this is an absolutely gorgeous new cover. Well played, Castalia House. It goes to show that a modern press run by competent people can be much more nimble and adaptive than the giants of the past. The establishment won’t be able to keep up with this sort of thing, and that means in the short term that you can expect lashing out both more often, and more severely. In the long term, they won’t be around.

Even Mr. Scalzi has little he can do to react on twitter, image sent to me by Dan Wolfgang:

When The Blackballing Gets So Bad Even The MSM Reports

Hollywood Reporter actually posted an article A New McCarthyism today, following the theme of a lot of what I’ve posted about over the last few months, from my own local convention shunning me over politics, to Marvel Comics’ apparent litmus test of only hiring writers of the extreme left persuasion. This isn’t in Hollywood alone, but it’s something that’s across the entertainment industry from music, to writing, to comics, to games, and then to Hollywood itself. It’s actually far worse in some of the other forms of entertainment. I’ve posted up some of the direct name calling and shunning in public that’s been done to me by people like J. Michael Straczynski, hollywood writer, and Sharon Lee from science fiction publishing. As well as the doxxing that one of my former favorite bands The Early November did after they went off on a bizarre swearing tirade about the President on their twitter. The message is clear:

If you do not follow the groupthink exactly, you are not welcome here, and we will disavow you.  Continue reading

“Make Mine Marvel No More!”

Call me inspired by Goldeneye’s posts on comics here, but I’ve started to pay more attention to the comic industry, and I see that Marvel Comics has a big problem.

I was in my local comic shop today, of which I don’t frequent nearly as much as I used to. I don’t want to say I lost a love for comics, as I recently just plowed through the trade paperbacks of Chew and finished 4 of the end of the series in one night. I feel similarly about Revival and Terry Moore’s Motor Girl. However, it’s been at least three to four years since I stopped making weekly appointments to go to the comic shop on Wednesdays, eager to pick up new books. I mentioned in an earlier post that the way storytelling has gone, I don’t really want to pick up individual issues anymore. That’s certainly part of it, but I’m also consuming a lot less content than ever before.

Around the time I stopped regularly buying comics, I cut ties and dropped the last vestiges of my Marvel Comics reading. EPIC CROSSOVER EVENTS had been anything but epic for me for years, making it difficult to read individual comic storylines (this issue of Amazing Spider-Man takes place after Civil War #4 and continues in X-Factor #17!), and trying to one-up the last with a new “shocking” death or even “shockinger” resurrection. This was hard for me to do. I’d been reading Marvel Comics since I was 10. That all started with a subscription to Amazing Spider-Man that my aunt bought for me for Christmas. If I had to choose desert island top 5 all time favorite comic characters, they would be: 5. Spider-Girl 4. Fantastic Four (I count them as one unit). 3. Captain America 2. Black Cat (way better than Catwoman) 1. Spider-Man.  Marvel meant a ton to me over the years, and if I added up all the money i’ve spent on their comics, I probably could buy myself a new car at the very least.  So it pained me to let them go.

What I heard today was disconcerting to me, because I care about Marvel Comics, and more because of what their mistakes do to the comic industry as a whole. The local shop owner told me that Marvel used to comprise about 48% of their sales, and now they’re down to about 25%. Whoa. That’s a huge drop. And I know that doesn’t mean that people are jumping ship and buying equal amount of titles of other books. The comic book readers like me, are mostly quitting except for picking out a few titles here and there. It’s really sad. Marvel, apparently, has it the worst, as the shop owner mentioned that the distributor comes into the shop, asks how things are going, with a caveat of “other than marvel” and they laugh about the poor sales together.

Now this could be anecdotal for one shop, but it’s not. If you look ten years ago, Marvel led comic sales across the board, every time, hands down, and had for decades prior to that. What happened was laziness, complacency, an unwillingness to learn from business mistakes and a healthy dose of social justice sprinkled in on top of that to seal their coffin.

Marvel went wrong in a few big ways that they need to correct:

  1. Crossover events. I mentioned how they’re just not special anymore. They haven’t been special in a decade. You may get a boost in sales temporarily but it doesn’t do anything for the long term. I hate them. Most readers hate them. We tolerated them for awhile because it looked like Bendis and Co. were doing cool things with the universe, but it turned out there wasn’t much of a real plan there other than to make new crossover events. I pick up a book to read its story. If you want to do a team up whatever with Spidery and X-Men you can make that happen within the confines of the one story and without 50,000 loose tie ins that the writers shoe-horn in. It makes for lousy books every single time.
  2. Variant covers. I was informed that it was recently or is “Venom variant month” where everything has a Venom variant cover. Look, variants were cool a couple of times, when it was special. Once it started happening all the time, it killed collecting. There’s barely any collecting going on now, and that’s your fault, comic industry. Marvel is repeating these mistakes by killing the specialness of such things even more.
  3. Social Justice. It stems from the editorial down to the writers, and they’re al the same lockstep of trying to force a left wing social narrative on everyone trying to relax and read Hulk beating up bad guys in a pure rage. Your overall audience aren’t hipsters in New York City. We’re spread out across the country and are probably split mostly along the way they country’s split. Recognize that. I couldn’t find any book that looked like the iconic characters any longer. Everyone is a gender swap trans muslim whatever gimmick of the month to virtue signal how diverse they are. And it suffers from the same problems as the first two points I made about the industry. When this was done once or twice, it was something different. It was cute. It made news headlines. Marvel got a quick sales bump. They went for that cheap gimmick on repeat rather than maintaining excellence in storytelling. It’s not making something new, it’s using a marketing gimmick for what would have been a single issue of What If? 30 years ago. A bigger problem is it isn’t to evoke the same sense of What If? fun and wonder, it’s 100% completely for the virtue signal. That intent shows through, it annoys people. No one wants it, for real.
  4. Distribution. This is an old problem, but it’s getting steadily worse. Throwing these things in specialty comic shops only or lost on the internet just gets clouded with easier to find, easier to digest content. Not exclusively Marvel’s fault here, but they need to get with a new program. I don’t have an answer here, but someone smarter than me working for Disney probably does.
  5. Not Telling A Story In An Issue. Stories go like this: Issue 1: Thor wakes up, brushes his (or her, or xer or whatever gender this week is popular) teeth. Eats breakfast. Heads out the door. Something happens. Cliffhanger to be continued! That is not enough to get me remotely interested in what’s going on, let alone to remember what happened a month from now to continue it. This is why I’m only buying trades, which hurts sales. I think the last instance I remember where whole stories were told was Tom De Falco’s Spectacular Spider-Girl, the third incarnation of that book. He’s a great storyteller. I miss him on Marvel books. When a book was a book. Cliffhangers ok, but give me a full story.
  6. Resting on the laurels of Stan Lee. There’s nothing new, and that’s nothing new. Really the problem is Iron Man is 50+ years old. And they’ll do their social justice gimmick “what if Iron Man is…. female! Because women and men are interchangeable!” and then, when a movie’s about to hit, they go quickly to revert back to some iconic unchanging Iron Man. Then repeat. There’s no long term investment available for these storylines. Marvel attempted it and succeed to make continuing stories for these characters up until about the 90s, but they couldn’t think of ways to keep them going and maintain continuity. I’m still pissed over One More Day. That was lazy writing. It doesn’t help that readers are disappointing, and any attempt to bring forth something new doesn’t last, but it’s partially Marvel’s fault for letting it get that way, and not really pushing their top talent toward those endeavors. Frankly, I loved Runaways, Arana, Spider-Girl, Spider-Man 2099. Many others did too. They didn’t get a long term commitment or lasting support from marketing or editorial. They were vestiges allowed to exist for a time as an experiment, but they were too little too late. To fix this, Marvel needs to make a real dedicated push and be willing to make a long term plan out of it. It probably involves disconverging the “Marvel Universe” and letting some books be separate, like Image does. I doubt they’ll ever be able to do that.

My last point is my greatest, and the reasoning is that any of these fixes can be done to one or two books, or for a bit. Someone will always come in with an ALL NEW SUPER COLLECTORS #1 and reset it to just these five terrible points on repeat. We know that as the readership, and that’s part of why Marvel’s lost its luster. It needs real creatives, real leadership to take it in a bold and fresh new direction to resolve this. I doubt it’s going to happen any time soon.

I long for the days of someone saying “Excelsior!” once again.

Jon Del Arroz is a science fiction author best known for his Top-10 Amazon Space Opera Bestseller, Star Realms: Rescue Run. He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and is oft hailed (quite soberly!) as the Dean Martin of the science fiction writing scene. Read his blog at http://delarroz.com and follow him on Gab: @otomo. 

Bringing Home The Baycon (Or What I Learned From Being Blackballed)

Forward: I would like to thank the Superversive group for allowing me a platform for my voice to be heard. I wouldn’t be nearly as brave as I am in speaking out without people like them. Superversive fiction truly is changing the world of entertainment, and I look forward to it growing in its reach. – Jon Del Arroz 

A couple of weeks ago,  I found out that I had been blackballed from speaking at my own home convention, a place I’ve loved and cherished for almost a decade. This was a wanton act of discrimination, and perhaps more importantly, a show of utter disinterest in promoting prominent local science fiction authors. With a supposed emphasis on diversity, this act done to a Hispanic author casts an even darker shadow. It’s about as disturbing as it gets to see folk that you considered friends for years treat you with that level of disregard, while in the same stripe ignoring attendees who deliver me death threats.

Most shockingly, the event organizers (of whom I know very well and very personally) in question did not respond personally, but delivered a form letter to explain the ostracization. It’s disingenuous and displays a dismissal and dehumanization of which I could hardly conceive.

From a  global health of fandom perspective, it leads me to the question: if an organization such as the Bay Area Science Fiction Convention doesn’t stand for Bay Area authors, and doesn’t care about Science Fiction first and foremost, what is the point of the organization? If other cons across the country are operating similarly, does a change need to occur?

Continue reading