I’ve often thought the term “biographical fiction” (or, biofic) sounded like an oxymoron. Literally, it could be translated as “true make-believe,” giving the impression that an author has completely repackaged history for the sake of entertainment. But as a writer who recently spent almost three years conducting exhaustive research on the Wright brothers to pen a novel about their woman-shyness, trust me, I wasn’t earning about relative velocities, bicycle repair and wing warping to simply do some entertaining. It’s all about sharing your interpretation of that history. So if you’re an author dipping your toe into this pond for the first time, here are three of the biggest questions you might ask: Why write biofic? What’s so rewarding about it?
It’s all about learning something new about the people who most intrigue you. When you peek behind the curtain to find out who those people really
were and what made them tick, you feel like you know something special. And when you know something special, you feel compelled to share it. In the case of the Wright brothers, what struck me most was their bachelorhood. I wanted to know why they never married, dangit, and why they felt nervous around women to the point they avoided them. In other words, I believe biofic is rewarding because it’s all about “digging deeper.” And authors are the kind of people who like to do that sort of thing. What are the challenges?
Research. Research and more research. Some authors may find this cumbersome and tedious. I find it fun--thus there are over 3 single-spaced pages of resources listed at the end of my Wright brothers novel. I’m not trying to scare a prospective biofic author from wading into the pond by saying that. I fall into obsess mode when drafting a manuscript and probably enjoy the learning experience more than the writing experience. I spent time pouring over ads from the year 1900. I even looked up late nineteenth century CPR, dental care, the stitches used in five-gore skirts, you name it. You don’t have to go to this extent! But if research of this caliber doesn’t drive you crazy, it sure makes the descriptions pop on the page.
The biggest bear for me--and what other biofic authors have said--was weaving the fiction within the facts. Caesar DID cross the Rubicon. Washington DID become America’s first president. Lincoln WAS assassinated and the Wrights DIDN’T marry. I couldn’t take two love-shy bachelors and turn them into philandering womanizers. I thought it would be disingenuous and at first, I found “the facts” too confining. It was imposing limitations on my imagination. But the longer I worked, I began to find it helpful, like framework. So I suggest putting your imaginative energy into filling in the details, crafting the dialogue, describing the emotions and building the world.
I’ve written historical, literary and women’s fiction, and hands down I’d say that writing biofic is probably the hardest genre to write. But I’d also say that laboring through my biofic novel was also the most rewarding experience I’ve had as an author. Why is biofic so hot?
There’s no doubt that biofic is one of the best selling genres. We simply love learning about people, especially well-known people. As a reader of biofic myself, I enjoy learning some new, overlooked tidbit about a famous person. Something small, but yet something that substantially defined them, their accomplishments and their lives.
As I mentioned earlier, it’s all about interpreting history, too, casting and seeing it in a new light. Someone reading about Thomas Edison, for example, might think he was one of the most brilliant inventors who ever lived, and thus portray him as a genius in a novel. Someone else, however, could come away from the same research thinking he was a brute who ignored his wife, cared little for his children, and treated Nikola Tesla like trash. In that case, he’ll be portrayed more as a jerk than a genius. And biofic fans value those different perspectives.
But most important (at least, for me), biofic lets readers and writers experience
real history. It’s the closest we can come to actually “being there” or “accomplishing that.”In fact, knowing more about the people who made such impacts on the world, in turn, inspires us to do a little more dreaming, ourselves.
About Tara Staley Tara Staley
is the author of Conditions Are Favorable
, biofic about the Wright brothers during their years experimenting with flight at Kitty Hawk. The book will be published April 23 in paperback and ebook formats and has been blurbed by nationally bestselling author Caroline Leavitt. Her debut novel Need to Breathe
was selected as a “LitPick of 2012” by Twitter’s popular forum @LitChat, and Underground Book Reviews named it a Top Pick this past January. She lives in NC with her husband and two sons, a cat, and too many cardinals to count.
Here at the Underground, our goal is to promote as many quality indie authors as we can. Toward this end, we are introducing Author Spotlight Thursdays. Please welcome Jeri Walker-Bickett. 1. Tell us about your new book.
My books contains literary short stories adhere to realism and feature characters down on their luck, yet stubborn enough to move on. A tryst between a carnival worker and a pretty high school student begs the question of who takes advantage of who. A young man’s encounter with a drug addict finds him striking out on his own in hopes of a better life. An English teacher publishes literature deemed inappropriate by a Mormon community. A mother goes on a quest to get rid of the family’s aggressive pet. Finally, New Orleans provides the backdrop for a stroll with a psychotic housewife. Such is life!
Four of the stories were written years ago in graduate and undergraduate workshops, and the newest story, "Not Terribly Important," marks my return to creative writing after years devoting my existence (70+ hour work weeks) to being an English teacher rather than pursuing my original passion for writing. 2. If you had a writing motto, what would it be?
Two mottos apply to my writing and all of life in general. "Let's learn together!" reflects my belief that we can learn more from each other than we can alone. My other motto, "What do I know?" is also the title of my twisted book blog, as well as a throwback to the motto that guided Michel de Montaigne's personal essays and outlook on life. The best experts never stop learning, and the true bravery comes from fully exploring one's own mind. 3. What is one thing you want audiences to know about you?
I've got mad skills. Really. Academic scholarships were plentiful in my past, so I've had the joy of studying the craft of writing for many years and in many different contexts. Now I am turning my experience as a teacher of college composition, secondary English and creative writing into a newly forged career as a freelance editor and author.
The novel I am currently working on is titled Lost Girl Road. It's a psychological suspense ghost story that takes place in the woods of northwest Montana. Alas, my
drafting process is not a fast one, but nor do I want to be a writer who rushes into publication. The draft will let me know when the time is right. 4. What character in your book do you most relate to and why?
Hmmm, at this point in time I'm most like the English teacher in my short story "Not Terribly Important." Suffice to say, the themes explored in that story reflect much of what I find myself mulling over regarding the state of education in America and why I could no longer be a part of such a broken system. Back in the day, I would liken myself more to Julie, the teenage girl in "Pretty Girl" who is a bit of a wild child.
5. What is the best kept secret you've discovered in regard to indie publishing?
I'm still new to learning about marketing, and I read tons of great blogs. Personally, what has worked best for me is to use my blog to build a network of professional contacts I can learn from. Certainly, I wish I had taken some marketing classes in college rather than say, The History of the Personal Essay, but then again, being an academic bum made me into the person I am today.
All that aside, I'm still on the fence on what path to publication to pursue for my
novel. Time will tell. I will be attending the Pacific Northwest Writers' Conference this July in Seattle and am quite terrified of the agent pitching sessions! Either path to publication is wrought with lots of hard work and its own sets of pros and cons. I just want to make the right choice for me.Such is Life on Amazon.
While I’m far from the master of Goodreads, I am a computer guy as well as an Indie Author and have used the site for two years. I’ll offer my two cents as to certain features that work for me.
1. Register for the author program
. Pretty obvious, and Goodreads has their own FAQ here: http://www.goodreads.com/author/program
2. Make sure your books are properly listed
. Create entries for each edition of each of your books. Upload covers, set the ISBNs and ASIN. Although it is one of the
best book sites, Goodreads isn’t the best programmed site on the web (hopefully
this will change with the Amazon acquisition) and has more than its share of
quirks. One mysterious one, is the difficult process of actually buying a book
you’re browsing. Particularly given that affiliate referrals probably represent substantial income. For ebooks, the author/librarian can chose to list by ISBN or ASIN. It would make sense to use the ISBN, but so lame is GR’s generation of external sales links that ISBN based ebooks do no link very smoothly to their Kindle editions – so I
. I find the giveaway module (easily located on your Author Dashboard) to be excellent bang for the buck. You can run one giveaway for each book at any
given time. I offer them for 2-4 weeks and create a new one as soon as the old
one finishes. This will generate 1200-1800 submissions each time, which creates
engagement with your titles. And Goodreads charges nothing, you just need to
provide and mail out the books. I experimented, and you get the same volume of
interest REGARDLESS OF HOW MANY COPIES you offer. So I suggest giving away 1-2
copies per giveaway. I ran one with 20 once, and all it did was cost me a lot of
money and time to ship them all out. Now I always run with two copies. Ten
successive giveaways with 2 copies each will generate more traffic than one with
20. I also open it up to the entire world. Shipping costs more internationally
(remember to use book rate), but otherwise you cut your audience and turn off
international applicants. The reader or potential reader is your customer, and I
always believe in treating them with consideration.
4. Self serve advertising
. Goodreads has a self serve pay per click ad service,
available on your dashboard. The per click price isn’t great, usually requiring
a $0.50-0.75 bid – and inventory is terribly constrained (many days your ad
won’t run at all). It’s also a tiny ad with a microscopic picture and very short copy. Still, I find it useful. The click thru rate is abysmal, which actually means that if your ad IS running, it generates a lot of impressions. Since the billing is by click, the terrible CTR isn’t a big deal. There is extremely little direct PURCHASE action on GR, partially because of their wretched external linking, so I always link the ad directly to my
Amazon Kindle page. I include an affiliate referral code for a modicum of
tracking. Conversion is about 5%, which is much better than the approximately 1%
I get off Google advertising. It is also possible to link your current giveaway
into the ad, giving you a second link for
5. Large scale advertising
. I once ran a more extensive campaign using a larger flash ad. The CTR was much better, but GR charges by CPM (impressions) at a rather
“aggressive” rate. It has been my experience that CTR based advertising offers poor value and CPM based abhorrent value. Still, my GR campaign lead to real sales, just not even close to the cost of advertising. It was about 25% effective in that the money from direct sales was about ¼ of that spent on advertising. Surprisingly (and you can tell I’m no fan of the ad biz) this was actually one of my best ad experiments. There is a general conspiracy by ad sales groups to withhold statistics, particularly conversion stats – presumably because of their inefficient and wretched performance. All that said, I’m considering trying one of these campaigns again, as there are relatively few
ways for authors to reach their audiences.
Andy Gavin is the author of the indie historical fantasy hit The Darkening Dream and his latest novel, Untimed. He studied for his Ph.D. at M.I.T. and founded video game company Naughty Dog, Inc. at the age of fifteen, serving as co-president for two decades. There he created, produced, and directed over a dozen video games, including the award winning and best-selling Crash Bandicoot and Jak & Daxter franchises, selling over 40 million units worldwide. He sleeps little, reads novels and history books, watches media obsessively, travels, and of course, writes.Your portal to the Andy Gavin universe begins here!
Ten things I look for when choosing and E-book.
That was the working title UBR gave me for this piece. Problem is, I can’t really come up with ten things. I am a pretty simple person with a pretty simple process for picking a book, especially an e-book.
First is the cost. This is my most important consideration, primarily because I am old fashioned.....and cheap. I just can’t shake the idea that a book, especially one I have spent more than $10 on, should have physical substance. It needs weight and texture, I should be able to hold it, to turn its pages, smell that unique book smell. Most of my e-books are freebies, none of them cost me more than $5. Also, it frustrates me when I am shopping for a book and find that the electronic version is priced close to the print version. In my mind, e-books should be cheaper than the print version (also, if the zombie apocalypse starts and the power is lost forever I want some real books around to keep me occupied until they get me, not just an expensive paperweight!). Like I said, I’m cheap.
My next criteria is subject. While I have been known to read anything in a moment
of boredom (cereal boxes at the breakfast table, the back of a newspaper or magazine of the person across from me at the doctor’s office) I do have genres that I prefer. So, tell me what is the story about? Mystery? Drama? Fantasy? Science fiction? I'm not really into biographies or anything too grounded in reality. I read to escape. I want to lose myself in a world of make believe. I have heard people complain about this story or other "it's too unbelievable, too far out there". To my mind, there is no such thing. I am willing to follow the story anywhere, willing to accept as reality the most unrealistic details if it makes sense within the context of the story.
The last thing I look for is the reviews. Now, I will be honest here, in the past
reviews never meant that much to me. I never looked at bestseller lists or read
"professional" reviews. I always assumed to professional review couldn't be
trusted, that money was changing hands somewhere. But that changed when I
started reading more E-books. I have found many reader reviews on Amazon (and
more recently Goodreads) to be very helpful. And of course, there is this
newsletter. I found it through a friend whose book was featured in a review, and
I have been a subscriber ever since. Once again, it is the honesty and open
opinions that matter to me. Just the insights of another book lover. That being
said, I am not a fan of reviews that pick apart and criticize every aspect of a
story. In fact, my perverse nature will sometimes cause me to choose a story
just because I read a particularly mean review and feel compelled to find out
for myself how bad or good the story really is. Funny thing is, I usually come
away from the story wondering what the reviewer was so upset about. Maybe I’m
just a less demanding reader?
Who knows. I can only tell you that when I review a book, I tend to keep it
simple and direct. I liked it, here’s why. Now go read it a decide for yourself.
That is my kind of review. And that’s it, cost, subject, and reviews. Nice and easy. But whatever system you use in choosing an e-book, there are literally thousands of great books out there, so you should never be without something to read. A new story is just a
This week’s guest writer, Tamara Tipton, is what we term here at UBR a “power reader.” If she isn’t reading, listening to an audiobook, or watching TV (books with moving pictures!) she is likely unconscious. She has 2 blogs, writes reviews of the hit show Castle for fanbolt.com, and is a contributing author for The Falling Skies Blog. When not looking for the next great novel or blogging she’s a certified pharmacy technician, a wife, and the mommy and chief litter box cleaner to a herd of furry felines.
Underground Book Reviews writer and assistant editor Brian L. Braden
is pleased to announce the publication of BLACK SEA GODS
, his first full length novel.
As a way of saying thank you to all our UBR readers and authors, BLACK SEA GODS
is free today and tomorrow on Amazon
as an e-book.
A fresh, new direction in historical fantasy, BLACK SEA GODS
transforms recently re-discovered Black Sea legends, possibly the root of all Eurasian mythology, with ancient Chinese mythology to create an unprecedented epic fantasy series.
***The fish have disappeared from the sea. The animals have vanished from the land. All humanity, and even the gods, tremble under the specter of a pending cataclysm. The demigod Fu Xi races home from the edge of the world bringing news of a looming god war, but finds his land under attack by monsters he once called his children. He discovers a terrible curse has been cast, one intended to destroy the gods and all life. To his shock, Fu Xi learns mankind’s hope rest solely on him, a simple fisherman and a banished slave girl.
Beset on all sides, Fu Xi knows he must act quickly and races west to rescue the saviors. Unaware of the real doom that awaits, Aizarg the fisherman and his party begin a perilous journey across a dangerous steppe. They seek the last of the Narim, the legendary Black Sea Gods, who hold the key to their salvation. Leading them is the rescued slave girl Sarah, the only one among them who knows the path to the land of the god-men.
Over seven days the defining struggle of gods and humans begins under the onslaught of a powerful force whose true objective and origin remain a mystery. Fu Xi knows the secret to victory resides in a fisherman and a slave girl, whose lives he must protect, even if it means the rest of the world must perish.
Keep up with the latest updates on Brian Braden’s
writing projects on his blog
. If you miss the free promo, you can still buy his books, Black Sea Gods or Carson's Love
, on Amazon.
Here at the Underground, our goal is to promote as many quality indie authors as we can. Toward this end, we are introducing Author Spotlight Thursdays.
1. Tell us about your book.
The Daguerreotypist is much more than the typical paranormal romance. Although it has all of the essentials for the die hard paranormal fan; the devil, time travel, and of course a few people dying along the way, it is much more than that. The overall theme of The Daguerreotypist is about loving what you have and being careful for what one wishes for. Too often we all yearn for something more, something we can’t have and we end up being miserable because of it. Like the Buddha and the four noble truths, this book will remind you of what is truly beautiful and necessary in life.
2. What is one thing you want audiences to know about you?
My love for my family. I love to write and work everyday to be the best that I can be at this craft, but nothing comes close to my family. Whether or not I sell one book or a million books, whether I am successful or not, my family is still and will always be number one.
3. If you had a writing motto what would it be?
Write because you love it and need to, not to gain fame and fortune.
4. What book character do you most relate to and why?
I believe that although I can relate on different levels to both my protagonist Rachel and my antagonist Isaiah that I relate to Isaiah the most. In no way do I relate to the cold blooded killer part of Isaiah. What I relate to with him is his dogged effort to perfect things around him. Too many times I’ve railed against the wrongs of society as Isaiah Whitfield does in The Daguerreotypist. Thankfully I found my wife and happiness before I lost all hope. Whether or not Isaiah is able to find the same joy in life I did, well that you’ll have to read the book to find out.
5. What's the best kept secret you've found in regard to indie publishing?
I would have to say freedom. Before I went indie I would spend too much time sending my books off to agents and trying to write the perfect pitch. Now I worry about writing. One still has to worry about marketing like a writer would if he or she went traditional, but overall I get to spend much more time creating, and at the end of the day that is what it is all about. Writing shouldn’t be about pleasing some uptight agent; it should be about the word on the page and the happiness of the reader.
Chris Savio was born in Anaheim California and spent his life bouncing back and fourth between Southern California and New Jersey. At a young age it was discovered that he had dyslexia. Not only did he overcome that disability and gain the ability to read and write, he became a special education teacher to try and repay the debt he felt he owed his teachers.
You can find Chris at Scary Reads
and on Amazon
I'm very excited to announce that Nessa: A Breeders Story
will release today, Tuesday, February 5th. The genesis of this story began when I polled readers in December and asked which character they'd like to get to know better. Surprisingly, many fans said Nessa Vandewater, Clay's mother. From there, Nessa's story grew and I am pleased with how it turned out. I hope you'll like it too. The novelette is priced at 99 cents, so it will be affordable to die hard fans and new readers alike. To celebrate, I'm also hosting a giveaway of an Amazon gift card to one lucky winner. Enter here.
Here's the pitch to wet your whistle.
Eighteen-year-old Nessa knows what it’s like to be an endangered species. Growing up in a dying world where nine out of ten babies are born male, she survives by trusting no one. When Marlin, the nineteen-year-old gunslinger with the sky-blue eyes, kills the man who has been keeping her enslaved, Nessa decides this handsome stranger might be her meal ticket. What she doesn’t realize is love is still possible, even in their decimated world. When Nessa discovers she’s pregnant with Marlin’s child, her difficult life now teeters on a knife’s edge. Can she bear to bring a child into their shattered world? Better yet, can Marlin keep them safe from those that hunt Nessa?
A companion story to The Breeders
, this prequel novelette (34 pages or 10,000 words) explores the origins of two important characters and gives a deeper look into their background. It contains minor spoilers to the novel and is intended for mature teens and adults. You can follow Katie French on Facebook, Twitter and on her website.
He couldn’t breathe, woke to a hand clamped over his mouth. Eyes wide, arms flailing, Eoghan tried to scream, but the sound stopped in this throat. Panic burned in his chest until his eyes focused on the face of his brother, inches from his own. Giving the briefest of nods, Cal retreated silently into the darkness. Eoghan struggled not to gasp.
He waited for his heart to descend from his throat to his chest, for his frantic breathing to slow. It didn’t matter how often Cal came to him this way, he was never prepared. If once he could wake reassured by his brother’s presence rather than frightened ... but fear was his oldest friend. For fourteen suns he remembered little else.
He listened for sounds of wakefulness in the crowded boys’ dormitory. All he heard was a chorus of heavy breathing and soft snores. Thank Auraya hard work and
late services make for deep sleep. Slowly, he lifted the threadbare blanket and padded barefoot across the cold stone floor to the alcove where Cal waited for him.
The dormitory, so full of bodies, was somehow a hollow place. The high, small windows stole the light and life from the room. There never seemed to be enough air, but the chill multiplied like vermin in the walls. It was a dungeon, a place for the unwanted, where boys waited to become monks, or to be thrown out into the street. At fourteen, he’d waited longer than most.
Without preamble, Cal thrust the hardened leather case, broader than Eoghan’s chest and nearly as thick, into his arms. Eoghan’s foot slapped against the floor as he steadied himself and he waited, breathless, for some sign that other sleepers had woken.
Within the case he held was the Kas’Khoudum, the book of light: the reason Cal had fallen, but also why he’d been promised he’d soon rise above all others.
A respected scholar and priest, Cal was to take the position of chief archivist in the great library. It wasn’t a prestigious post. He’d have no land, no parishioners to tithe, and little possibility of becoming a member of any prelate’s staff, but he loved the old
books. Then his duties led him to the Kas’Khoudum and the terrible truths hidden
in its pages.
Because of this book, Cal discovered that everything the Faithful espoused was a lie. The Kas’Khoudum contained no commandments, no catalogue of sin, and certainly no list of penance or punishment. He hadn’t read yet of damnation or the tortures of the blessless soul after death. There was no instruction regarding the tithing of the people,
no hierarchy, and not even a mention of tonsure. Eoghan’s scalp prickled at the thought of it, the plucking. The monastery’s barber said it bred dedication and the stoicism to bear up under the burden of a monk’s duty. The goddess wanted them to suffer in this life, he said, so her consolation would be so much more rewarding in the next. Eoghan thought the practice unnecessarily cruel.
This book, with the shapes of dragons burned and burnished onto case and cover, encouraged Cal to enlighten his brethren, but they would hear none of it and accused him of heresy. Cal fled and became a fugitive.
Because of this book, Cal lived in hiding, preaching in the alleys, in barns, wherever the people would come to hear him, and snuck into the monastery dormitory in the middle of the night to teach Eoghan about the Kas’Khoudum and the truth of the
The book was the reason Auraya finally spoke to Cal and told him that he’d become the Kas’Hadden, the hammer of light, and her representative on Tellurin. Cal was going to change the world and Eoghan only felt proud, privileged, and intensely grateful that his brother hadn’t forgotten about him altogether.
Cal had visited him like this for moons, teaching him the language the book was written in, but tonight Cal didn’t lead him to one of the store rooms and ask Eoghan to read from the Kas’Khoudum. Something cold and hard settled in the boy’s stomach. He swallowed, his mouth dry and gummy.“ What?” Eoghan said, the word only
Cal grabbed his shoulders and spoke into his ear, saying the words slowly, clearly, and as loudly as he dared: “Hide it. It’s your responsibility now. Copy it. Bring faith back to the Faithful.”
Eoghan shook his head and Cal’s fingers dug into his flesh painfully. Giving him the book meant Cal expected something terrible to happen. Eoghan heard the confirmation of his suspicions in Cal’s voice, but how could this be? Auraya chose Cal for her champion. What would happen that the goddess couldn’t protect him from?
“They’re coming for me,” Cal said.
“Who?” It emerged a squeaky ‘oo.’
“Archbishop Manse and the Grand Inquisitor.”
Cal left Eoghan shivering from more than his bare feet on the cold stone, holding a book that might be the only thing he’d have to remember his brother by.
The thought galvanized him. Eoghan hastened to don cassock and cloak and scurried through the rain to the south wall, headed for the beggars’ graveyard outside.
Hunched over the book, he passed uncontested through the postern gate. Monks and the boys of the monastery came and went at all times of the day and night. Burial and vigil were nigh on continual. Though he felt certain they must have heard his heart pounding against his bones, the guards, huddled beneath their own cloaks, nodded him
through. On the other side, his bare feet squished in the mud, slipped until they scraped against buried stones, were cut on the sharp ones.
Eoghan buried the book along with its name, the language it was written in, and every other memory he had of it. He commended it to its new guardian and tried to forget. The girl had been interred that day and would speak of his visit to no one. Even using the spade, he was mud to the elbows, dirt to the knees. He had to strip off the cloak and cassock and let the rain cleanse him before he dressed again and returned through the gate.
Back on his pallet, holding his jaw closed to keep his teeth from chattering, Eoghan’s fear devoured him.
A few tense and sleepless days later, the news reached the monastery: a heretic had been captured and would be interrogated by Grand Inquisitor de Naude himself. Following the inquisition, there would be a public execution, the likes of which Aurayene hadn’t seen in many a sun. Though the name of the alleged heretic was made public, everyone in the monastery acted like they didn’t know Callum MacDubghall.
Only Eoghan harbored any doubt about Cal’s guilt. Wasn’t the point of an inquisition to ascertain the nature and degree of the sin? There seemed to be no investigation here, no considered judgment, just foregone conclusions.
Eoghan abandoned the scriptorium, buried himself in unauthorized research, and poured over the heretical annals. Had anyone accused of heresy ever been found innocent? So rarely that it gave Eoghan little hope. Many had been released for recanting their heretical beliefs, but Cal would never deny Auraya.
Welcome back to Underground Book Reviews Summer Short Fiction Series. This month I'll bring you three very different short fiction pieces starting with Datafall by Rich Larson.
Datafall by Rich Larson
Datafall is a collection of seven science fiction short stories. Larson’s prose is short and efficient, not a word wasted. Each syllable is crafted for maximum effect to forge stories that are almost tight to a fault. I admire this style, but I think this approach slightly detracted from Larson’s first four tales.
Datafall’s first few stories are intriguing, but stiff. They’re written with machine-like efficiency, but border on cold and lack a certain degree of emotional depth. The themes are effectively executed, but are not especially original or memorable.
Thankfully, Larson’s prose warms in the last three stories and we get a glimpse of not a good writer, but an excellent writer. Back So Soon is somewhat humorous story about self-image and relationships in a not-so-distant future. Factory Man is a fresh take on the Frankenstein theme and a bleak, but powerful, commentary on human life. As for the final tale, Datafall, Larson was smart naming the compendium for this story. This little nugget is very short and beautifully written, a perfect piece of sci-fi gold.
The reader should consider the first four stories in Datafall as the warm-up for the final three. They make this inspired compendium a worthy read for any sci-fi fan and it earns it an 82 out of 99 cents.
Welcome to The Short Fiction Review series here on UBR. This month I’m reviewing three very different pieces of short fiction by self-published and traditionally published writers.
Lamppost by Malcolm W. Keyes
Lamppost, a sci-fi novelette by Malcolm W. Keyes (a mysterious pseudonym of a published speculative fiction author), takes the reader on a thoughtful exploration of the human soul, a mind-blowing ride though the multiverse and, along the way, we get to blow up evil aliens.
This is the story of Jonah, a military starpilot who mentally fuses with his spacecraft to become a single entity. Exhausted from a career of battling universe-devouring machines, Jonah is burned out and must take drugs to fulfill his duties. Depressed and strung out, it is duty that gives Jonah his only reason for living. He is unable to form normal human relationships. Eventually, Jonah is ordered to seek counseling. With his counselor’s help, Jonah finally finds himself and connects with a childhood sweetheart, Ariel. In her he finds love and a new reason to live. Just when he is able to feel human
again, Jonah is ordered on the mission of a lifetime, a mission to save the universe.
Lamppost is Darkstar meets Top Gun with a little of The Last Starfighter thrown in. The writing is fast and clean, sophisticated and yet simple. It’s difficult to pigeon-hole this book, and that’s the way a good story should be. Lamppost by Malcolm W. Keyes gets 88 out of 99 cents.