Author Archives: Scott Dyson

A tale of two reads – VIRGIN by F. Paul Wilson and LAMB by Christopher Moore

I recently came across LAMB by Christopher Moore in a bookstore in Michigan, and, well…I bought it.  Again.  I’d lent my copy out and it lost its way home.  I’ve read it before; it was my introduction to Moore’s work and I went on to read several more of his titles.  I have liked them all but LAMB remains my favorite.

I also bought a “boxed set” collection of ebooks (6 for $0.99) and the first one in that set was F. Paul Wilson’s VIRGIN.  Wilson is another of my favorite authors; his Repairman Jack saga gave me a lot of exciting reading pleasure.  After reading it, I found out that it was an early work written under a pen name.

The reason I’m writing about both of these is because I read them back-to-back, and both deal with biblical themes.  VIRGIN is sort of DAVINCI CODE meeting grave robbers.  Due to a series of “chance” happenings, an ancient cave is opened up in the deserts in or near Israel, and an ancient scroll is stolen.  When the scroll turns up in the United States, it is determined to be a fake – the ink is only 12 years old, even if the papyrus is 2000 years old.

But the truth of what it says cannot be hidden, apparently, and a priest and a nun go off in search of a religious treasure – the body of Mary, mother of Jesus.  And when they find her, things go off the rails.  It was a fun story that got a little preachy at the end, even if some of the preachiness felt…well – right! – in today’s world.  Seems the remains of Mary have a lot of power over people, and they signal a second coming…

LAMB is a very funny take on the life of Christ, told by his childhood pal and BFF Levi, who is known as Biff.  Biff takes us through the time of Joshua’s (Jesus’) childhood, how they come to be aquainted with Mary Magdalene, and what they do for those years between age 13 and 30 (or so).  (Hint:  It involves those Eastern wise men who came to seek out Joshua when he was born.)  Josh stays pure and on point and in character (for the most part), though he is also a normal kid in many ways.  But Biff is totally a normal kid, a lot like kids of today – interested in girls and…well, girls.  Biff is totally devoted to Josh, and travels with him as a sort of protector and someone who is able to deal with the world as it presents itself to them, on the world’s terms.

Turns out Biff checked out before getting to the end of the story, and is brought back to life by the angel Raziel to tell the story that only he can tell.

I may have found it funnier because, as a Catholic, I got the references.  A lot of bits in this book made me laugh out loud, and parts of this story were touching enough to bring a tear to the eye.  In some ways I wish this wasn’t fiction.

So while both stories get thumbs up from me, LAMB gets the far stronger thumbs-up.  I loved it.  I liked VIRGIN too, but not nearly as much as LAMB.  And now I’m done with reading religious themed books – until I find another, that is.  Or until I decide that a reread of LAMB is in order.

*****

Yes, I like physical books!

I guess I’m one of those few remaining readers who actually like to have a physical copy of a book.  So now I’m gonna get all mystical on you and give you a couple of reasons why I like them.  And maybe a couple of things that people mention that they like about them that I don’t really care about.

First, I don’t care about the smell.  Book paper does, somehow, have a different odor than, say, a ream of copy paper from Office Max, but I have never grabbed a book and just held it to my nose and basked in the glory of the scent of the book.  Nope, smell doesn’t do it for me.

Second, I don’t care about taking notes in the margins.  Of course, I can do that easily on my Kindle.  But I was never one to take a pencil or pen to a book.  A lot of my books look as good after I read them as they did when I first brought them home from the hospital…er, ah, the bookstore.  (Sorry, got books and babies confused for a second there.)

Now what I do like about them.  I like the way they look on the shelf.  I have a room in the basement, and I have far more books than I have shelf space.  But the shelving I have…well, I really like the way that all of the Stephen King books look when I line them up.  I like the way my Kellerman books look.  My Asimovs and Cards and my Evanovichs and my Connellys and Wilsons and Cobens and Crais’s and Whites and Graftons and Clancys and Deavers and…well, you get the picture.  They’re colorful and they just look elegant, to me at least.

I also like browsing in that room for books.  There’s something about being surrounded by books that gives me a warm feeling.  (Some readers probably know the feeling; it is the same feeling you get at the bookstore or the library…except with prettier books (no clear plastic dustcovers) and all books that I love or have loved at some point in my life.)   Even searching through a box of paperbacks brings back memories as I come across forgotten books that I had a passionate fling with…oops, now I’m getting books mixed up with girlfriends…

I also like that I can resell them, easily lend them, donate them, and otherwise share them more easily (sometimes, the exception being sharing with my kids) than I can with an ebook.  I feel like I have an asset.  Like my 1969-1973 baseball cards, they don’t cost me anything sitting there, and they could return at least a few pennies.  I consider the dollars spent to be money I spent on the story.  Having the physical book is pure value in my view.

I like ebooks, too.  I publish ebooks.  I buy a lot of authors’ ebooks, especially independent authors.  I certainly spend more on them today than I do on physical books, in part because they’re so easy to read and obtain and in part because I don’t have any more space for physical books (my kids are contributing to the p-book collection now, so even though we don’t have room, we continue to build the collection).  I love the fact that I can cart my Kindle to a park or a restaurant (yes, when I get out of the office for lunch once a week, I take the Kindle and part of the attraction of going out is that I get an hour to read in peace).  I love the fact that I can store hundreds of books on that device, and pick and choose what I feel like reading.

For example, I just finished two books by author Sean Hayden (one was a collection of short fiction with Jen Wylie, the other was a short novella called LADY DORN), and didn’t know what to read before starting Bobby Adair’s fifth SLOW BURN book, and I decided to read something that was on my Kindle for a long time.  I found a book by Jon Jacks called WYRD GIRL, and it was a wyrd (weird) story that I didn’t love but I didn’t hate either.  It was a quick read and I was glad to clear it from the queue.  With a physical book, I probably wouldn’t have done that.

But I still love physical books.  I like the way they look.  I like the feeling of them when I’m reading.  Even so, I have enough of them to last me many years.  Ebooks are about the story, and while p-books are about more than that (at least for me), the story is what I really love.

*****

Amazon vs Hachette again?

It seems every other article on The Passive Voice and on Joe Konrath’s blog (okay, it’s every article on Konrath’s blog) is about the Amazon/Hachette dispute.  Most of them center on the 900 or so successful authors who signed Douglas Preston’s letter (I’m not bothering to link to it; it will be easy enough to find from TPV or Konrath’s blog if you want to find it) and their accusations against Amazon, who they feel is holding their books hostage, and therefore costing them money.  How it’s costing them money, I don’t know.  You can still order their ebooks at the click of a button, and you can still order their physical books as well – apparently their pre-order buttons are gone and so people aren’t able to buy their books before they’re out and then they don’t get listed as highly on the NY Times bestseller list the day their book is released and…

Well, you sort of get the idea.  They’re complaining about the fact that the dispute between their publisher and Amazon is costing their publisher sales – presumably sales that will be held against them in the future, since they’ve pretty much already been paid for their books with their seven figure advances.  I mean, Stephen King is a very rich man.  If he never wrote another book, he’d still be a rich man.  If his SON never wrote (or sold) another book, his SON would be a rich man, simply by inheriting his father’s estate (or a third of it).  Is King Koch Brothers-rich?  Probably not, but he’s so much wealthier than the rest of humanity, he certainly falls into that 1%.

But that’s neither here nor there.  The hard fact is that most people who write a book will NEVER be published by a large publisher.  Most will never be published by a publisher of any size…unless said publisher is themselves.  Who has made it possible for anyone with a book to get it published?  Amazon.  I suppose you can give some credit to iBooks/Apple, Kobo and Sony, and even to Barnes and Noble’s Nook.  But Amazon’s the big fish in this pond.

So Amazon’s publishing anyone and everyone…right?  No, not right.  The writers are publishing themselves.  Amazon (and B&N and the others) are distributing their works.  They are making it possible for a writer to reach readers.  In some cases, like mine, it might be only a couple of readers with each book.  In other cases, it’s hundreds, maybe even thousands.  In still other cases (we’re all looking at you, Mr. Hugh Howey), they sell enough to basically get rich.  Cool, huh?

Well, I suppose it isn’t cool if you’re Stephen King, or James Patterson, or Douglas Preston.  If you’re those guys, you want the club to remain closed to new members.  Only those approved by … by who? … can get in.  Meanwhile, every dollar spent on a Scott Dyson (or an Edward J. Robertson, or a Steven M. Moore, or a Bobby Adair, or a D.J. Gelner, or a J.M. Ney-Grimm, or a Lindsay Buroker (I’ll stop there) is a dollar not spent on a book by King, or Patterson, or Preston.  Maybe, instead of buying books by all three of those guys, and supplementing the purchases with more purchases by Coben and Evanovich and Child and Connelly and…, this buyer only buys two of those authors’ new books.

Plus, we write trash, swill, whatever.  We must write swill, because no agent or editor at a big publishing house, ever got to look at our work, and no one could tell us that we sucked.  Except the reader.  The readers can tell us we suck.  And apparently they do, in blogs and in Amazon reviews and such.  But they also tell King and Coben and Patterson and Preston and Evanovich and Child and Connelly and… that they also suck.  Sometimes.

Because the reading experience is subjective, what one person likes is not necessarily what another person likes.

Well, I went a little off track there.

The truth is, Amazon  is not always a publisher.  What it always is, is a RETAILER.  Just like T.J. Maxx and Walmart and Target and Macy’s and Walgreens and Michael’s and Barnes and Noble and…wait, Barnes and Noble…they’re the ones Amazon is competing with, not the publishers.  They’re a purchaser of supplied product, in this case, books.

Why is that so hard to understand?

They aren’t paying a 70% royalty to KDP writers, they are taking a 30% cut for distribution from KDP author/publishers.  30% is their margin between $2.99 and $9.99.  Above and below those numbers, their cut is far worse for the author/publisher- 65%.   But when you think about it, what is being sold at that lower number?  It’s short stories and short-ish novellas, works that were otherwise unsellable.  I’m sure they do it that way because that is how they want these ebooks priced.  So those are their terms.  As an author/publisher, it’s take ‘em or leave ‘em.

What happens to RHP or Hachette or whoever, when they price above those lines?  I’m not sure, but I have a feeling they’re getting more than 35% of the profit.  I really don’t know.

Nor do I care.  While it bothers me to see misinformation getting bandied about, and authors saying things about Amazon that do not appear to be grounded in actual facts, in the end, it doesn’t affect me as a writer.

I have seven short (ish) stories priced at $0.99, and three collections/longer works currently priced at $2.99.  I just would like to see myself move more copies.

As a reader, however, I can unequivocally state that I refuse to pay more than $9.99 for an ebook.  Actually, I refuse to pay more than about 6 bucks for an ebook for myself.  I might go higher for my kids’ books.  I also will never pre-order a book (or a movie or just about anything else).  I don’t see the need for it.  It’s not like there is suddenly a shortage when it comes out, and it’s not like I don’t have enough books to read.  If they are successful in pushing up the price of ebooks to the reader, I will simply buy even more independent fiction.  There are plenty of authors I like writing plenty of books I like.  I’m not all that picky when it comes to a good story.  I will buy less traditionally published fiction.  What I do buy will likely often be remaindered copies.

So there.  That’s the extent of what I can do about higher ebook pricing.

*****

 

DIE 6 now available!

Die 6 Cover Image

It’s live! DEADLOCK PRESS and I are pleased to announce that DIE 6, a collection of 6 short stories, is now available in the Amazon Kindle Store for $2.99.

Here’s the description:

A short story collection that contains:

AN ARTIFICIAL YEARNING – a young man meets the girl of his dreams online, and yearns to take the next step – meeting in person. But the love of his life is not what he expected…

BLOOD TIES – a psychic who is in debt to the wrong people sees a way out if he can talk to the ghost of a bank robber and find the money that was stolen. Of course, it’s never as easy as it sounds…

THE TOOTH FAIRY – Perion, queen of the Dentata, is captured by a boy whose tooth she has come to collect, and tries to make a deal for her freedom, the cost of which is extremely high…

THE FUN HOUSE – Natalie is stuck taking her little brother to the carnival, but when they enter the Fun House, they experience the thrills and chills of their young lives…this Fun House is a little too real…

TIME HEALS ALL WOUNDS – When a woman shows up at Joseph’s door with an unbelievable story, he is left with no other choice but to accept it when agents from the future attack both of them in his time. His only escape – to travel to the future himself and attempt to set things right…

THE GHOST TRAIN – Three high school students in Addison Falls try to solve the mystery of both the strange dreams they are having and the reappearance of a “Ghost Train” passing directly through their mall. The answers are found in the past…

Plus a brief author’s note and a sample of “Rick’s Rules”.

Two SF stories, two horror/ghost stories, and a couple that cross genres…Enjoy!

It’s about 36,400 words of new fiction, along with a brief author’s note (no need to read it if you’re not interested in any backstory on the works), a sample of Rick’s Rules, and links to my other stories.

Please take a look at it, download the sample, and give it a read!  Thank you!

*****

Amazon-bashing…

No, not from me.  I’m not going to bash Amazon.  Like I said in my last post, if it wasn’t for Amazon and their Kindle Store, I would never have published.  But after a weekend of no blog reading, I came back and checked some of my usual spots and found that there was plenty of Amazon bashing, and Amazon supporting, going on.  The latest is Konrath and Howey vs. Chuck Wendig. 

I’ve been thinking about Amazon in terms of the “letter” that Douglas Preston posted, which has been signed by something like 400 major authors, including personal hero Stephen King, and the rebuttal, written by Joe Konrath and Hugh Howey and “edited” by Barry Eisler and others.  It seems that people (read:  trad-published writers) want to frame the rebuttal as an Amazon-love fest, and others (read: self-publishers) want to frame the Preston letter as a big-publishing apology.  When I read the quotes that Konrath put on his blog, I couldn’t help but agree that Preston’s letter is pro-Hachette AND anti-Amazon, but when I read Konrath’s and Howey’s “reader thank-you”, I saw a piece that mostly tried to excuse Amazon for any of the harm done to Hachette authors (like Preston, I assume, and many others).

I don’t for a minute think that Amazon and Hachette really care about the authors, any more than I think Walmart cares about Green Giant brand vegetables.  With respect to Walmart, if a producer of one of the products they sell goes under, they simply shift their sales to another similar product.  Amazon, like Walmart, is a retailer, and in the end, they don’t care about me as an author EXCEPT in terms of how much money they can make by retailing my products.  I’m a supplier to them, definitely part of the (very!) long tail because I only sell a couple units a month.  But even at that, they aren’t losing money on me.  In fact, they’re making a small amount every time my mom buys a book by me.  (I’m kidding.  My mom doesn’t buy any of my books.)  If things change and Amazon begins losing money on me and those like me, they’ll dump me like a hot potato, only faster.

On the other hand, Hachette is not a retailer.  They’re a supplier.  To them, writers are the growers of the corn and green beans that they package and ship to many retailers, not just Amazon, but Walmart, Barnes and Noble, Costco and Sam’s Club, Target, and thousands of mom-and-pop bookstores across the country.  Should they be concerned with the well-being of their suppliers?  Well, maybe not.  If farmer A fails to provide quality corn to them, they can go to farmers B and C and D.

I’m reminded of health care providers’ relationships with the insurance companies that pay them for most of the services they provide.  We have a love/hate relationship with those companies.  The best ones, the ones we most like to work with, do not try to place themselves between the doctor and the patient aside from reimbursement.  They don’t try to determine the necessity of treatments and reimburse fairly for services rendered.  Patients don’t sign up with an insurance company to get a health-care costs manager, but usually that is exactly what they get.

In my practice, we breath easier when we see patients listing certain insurance companies, and we clench our teeth when we see patients listing others that we know are hard to work with.  I hate it when an insurance company questions me as to necessity of a particular treatment.  I’d like to think I don’t recommend treatments that are not necessary.  It is just extra work for me to explain to them why its necessary.  This is always something I’ve already done with the patient.

How does this relate to Amazon and Hachette?  Well, in both cases we have to realize that the companies are primarily interested in one thing – their own bottom line.  But we also have to look at what they are providing in return for our production of the products that they sell.  And how much are they getting in the middle of the only relationship that matters – that between the writer and the reader.  It’s very similar to insurance companies in medicine.  The less they get in between the doctor/patient relationship, the more we like them.  We as doctors (and patients, possibly to a lesser extent) would be happiest if they would just shut up and pay as we believe they’ve agreed to do.  But they, in the interest of their bottom line, would prefer to monitor those out-going expenditures and make them as small as possible while collecting every last premium dollar.   We depend on insurance companies; without them few of our patients would be able to afford high level care.  But we hate them anyway.

Same with Amazon and Hachette.  We’d love it if they’d just shut up and sell our products and send the checks.  Amazon does this, for the most part, if you’re an independent publisher.  You see how many units sold, and they cut a check based on that number.  They’re pretty clear up front on the amount they’re going to pay, and you can see exactly what you’re getting.  But then again they’re a retailer.  They’re simply taking their cut out of your sale and passing on the rest to you.  (What’s the cut for?  It’s for making the distribution process simple.)

Does Hachette do this?  Most of us will never know, because Hachette isn’t interested in using us as suppliers.  Maybe their authors are happy with all of their contract terms.  Or maybe they aren’t.

But what does any of that have to do with Amazon?  Simply because Amazon isn’t pre-selling their products while they’re in negotiations with Hachette, and authors are losing sales?  Because Amazon is stating as fact that it may take longer than expected for Amazon to ship a Hachette product, because they aren’t stocking them in huge numbers because of this dispute?

Amazon’s just the retailer, or so it appears to me.  Understand that Amazon, like those health insurance companies and like Hachette, only wants to make as much money as possible and believes that the way to do so is to honor their promises to their customers, so without assurance that they can get Hachette products in the near- or more-distant future they won’t commit to advance ordering.  Just like Hachette wants terms from Amazon that will allow Hachette (not Hachette authors) to make as much money as possible.  Is Hachette changing their contract terms based on whatever happens with Amazon?  Somehow I doubt it.

It appears to me that authors’ ire should be directed at Hachette, not at Amazon.  Amazon’s ONLY the retailer.  Okay, it’s the biggest retailer, but still – there are still other online outlets for their works.  iBooks and Barnes and Noble and Kobo can still sell their works, and you can side load a Nook app on a Kindle Fire (though not on the Paperwhite – has to be an Android OS, I guess).

If Walmart stops selling your merchandise, hopefully you have a few other  ways to get your stuff to your customers .  Target, maybe?  Or Jewel?  Or even K-mart or Old Navy or whatever.  Do you direct your customers elsewhere?  “AVAILABLE AT TARGET STORES NATIONWIDE!!!”

Or do you start suggesting that Amazon is evil, their founder is the devil, etc etc, and insisting that HE and THEY cut their profits for your benefit?  Because they’re not evil…and the chances of them cutting their profit margins are about the same as Hell freezing over…

*****

Why should any of this matter to me?

Lots of words being posted on the Amazon/Hachette dispute, and I have to admit, it makes for fascinating reading.  I spend a lot of time, time I probably shouldn’t spend, on Konrath’s blog, and The Passive Voice, and Hugh Howey’s blog, and a few others, reading articles about the feud between behemoths.  When one falls, will the ground shake so violently that writers will be injured or killed from the aftershock?

I don’t know.  But the more pertinent question might be, why should I care?  Does it matter to me?

The fact is that without the Kindle platform for self-publishing, it would be unlikely that I’d have published any works.  I wouldn’t have finished the story that was published in QUANTUM ZOO, I would have a collection called 14 DARK WINDOWS, I wouldn’t have the trio of “vampire” stories that I call DEAD OR ALIVE, NIGHT FAMILY, and RICK’S RULES.   I wouldn’t have written three brand new stories to go with three older, slightly longer stories that are currently being collected in an as-yet-untitled volume of about 37000 words.

I wouldn’t have bothered doing the rewriting I’m currently doing to what I affectionately call my “Dental Mystery”.  I wouldn’t have finished my “Chris” serial killer story, I wouldn’t be putting any work into my “Never Ending Night” story, and I wouldn’t have bothered even writing my “The Inn” story.  These are all longer works, north of 20K words, but not approaching 60K.  They’re all relatively short horror novels or novellas  (except my dental mystery) and I suspect that, without Kindle, none of the above are publishable.

So for me, does it matter what Amazon does with Hachette?  Does any of it matter?  Without Amazon, I’d be sitting on a zip drive full of old short stories.  And that would be about it.  I wasn’t going to go through the process of querying agents or publishers directly.  I thought about it more than once.  I spoke to the publisher of Echelon Press (a small press) and she pretty much told me to just submit it to their editorial process.  I don’t know if it would have made it through the process.  But doing the work of rewriting, without a guarantee of it coming to anything, didn’t seem appealing to me.

Anyone who reads my blog knows that I feel like I have a very full plate.  Maybe its no fuller than anyone else, but it seems to be so to me.  I have a fairly busy dental practice, a high school son in marching band, another junior high school son in typical middle school activities, including band, and a busy family life.  We travel as much as we can afford to travel, and we never seem to have time to do all the things that we want to do, let alone affording me the time to sit down and spend time writing.  I’m not one who can sit in front of a blank computer screen and start writing…I need to ruminate.  Takes me a while to get started.

No, going through the processes of traditional publishing was something I was unlikely to even attempt.

So what does it matter to me if Amazon, at some undetermined future time, decides to cut reimbursement rates from their current levels of 35% and 70%?  Would it bother me?  Yes, probably in an academic sense, but in a sense of it actually affecting me financially, probably not.  I have a profession that provides me with a decent living.  If my writing career takes off, great.  If it doesn’t, I’ll be sad, but not affected financially.  I don’t count on it.

Maybe that makes me different from a lot of self-published authors.  For many, writing IS their career.  For me, it’s still a sideline, and is likely to remain that.

So the answer is, no, none of it really truly matters to me as a writer.  As a reader, I want Amazon to succeed, because it increases the availability of books to me at affordable prices.

I’d like to make some sort of comments about the documentary I saw on CNBC last night, titled “AMAZON RISING”.  But I don’t know what to say.  They’re a retailer.  It’s not like they’re truly changing the world in any fundamental sense.  They’re just making buying things easier and more convenient.  They’re probably saving consumers some money today.  I’m more interested in Bezos’ space program than I am in his retail innovations.

Except Kindle.  That particular innovation has allowed me to put my stuff out there in front of readers.  All I can do at this point is try to increase my visibility, and hope people find my stories.

And then hope that they like the way I’ve written them and the way I’ve told them, and that they like the stories themselves.

*****

QUANTUM ZOO is live on Amazon!

QUANTUM ZOO!QUANTUM ZOO was released while I was out of the country, on June 17th, and has already hit number 1 on the Amazon SF Anthology list!

If you haven’t picked it up yet, get it now…it’s on sale for a limited time for $0.99!  It won’t be such an incredible deal for too long!

Here’s the link:  QUANTUM ZOO in the Amazon Kindle Store

There are 12 (count ‘em!) high quality stories in the collection, ranging from Egyptian gods to alien zoos.  Even a little supernatural stuff!  And of course my story, PLAYING MAN, can be found right smack in the middle of all this SF/Fantasy goodness!

Grab a copy and read it!  You won’t be disappointed!

Go ahead.  I’ll still be here when you get back….

*****

QUANTUM ZOO has a website!

QUANTUM ZOO!

If you’re following along at home, you will already know that I have a story which will be published in the indie anthology QUANTUM ZOO, along with eleven other authors.  I was honored and thrilled to be included in their numbers.  Most of them have significant writing credits and credentials; all of them have more of those things than I do.

Anyway, there’s a website!  It contains info about all the authors as well as story excerpts and some other goodies.

There is going to be a Facebook release party as well, though I won’t be able to “attend” due to other commitments.  I’ll post more when I know more.

Here’s the website address:  http://quantumzoo.blogspot.com/

Please check it out!

*****

The End of the World!

I’ve always been a big fan of end-of-the-world stories.  I don’t know why.  Something about them just tickles my imagination.  Maybe it’s my own buried desire to test myself against such circumstances to see if I would come out on top.  Maybe it’s just that the stories that come out of such situations, the good versus the evil, intelligence versus stupidity, the luck versus the well-planned action, the way the characters react to the changed circumstances and to each other — all of that grabs me and pulls me in

Stephen King, author of what I consider to be the gold standard for post-apocalyptic fiction, once said in an interview, “The Stand was particularly fulfilling, because there I got a chance to scrub the whole human race, and man, it was fun! … Much of the compulsive, driven feeling I had while I worked on The Stand came from the vicarious thrill of imagining an entire entrenched social order destroyed in one stroke.”

Maybe that explains it for me.  It’s just fun!

I’ve tried to write some post-apocalyptic fiction; so far I’ve been unsuccessful.  I think it’s because I put myself into the stories too much.  I’ve tried writing main characters that I can’t really identify with too much, but that’s hard too.  I don’t know if others have the same problem, but I like to sort of “be” the main character.  Not me, obviously, but with enough of “me” in him (or even in her).  It’s hard with post-apocalyptic stories because I tend to think of how I’d react in the same situation and write my character that way.  And I’m a conflict-avoidance type, and you can’t really have a good story without a lot of conflict, or so it seems to me.

I already mentioned that I see The Stand as the gold standard.  That’s my personal opinion, but I have my reasons.  It’s a classic good versus evil story, and I really like the way that the survivors of the superflu separate.  People’s basic nature makes them lean one way or another, but yet there are shades of grey in the good and the bad.  It doesn’t hurt that King wrote some great characters.  Nick Andros, Larry Underwood, Stu Redman, Frannie Goldsmith, even Harold Lauder are all characters that open themselves to exploration and contemplation.  They are all complex with complex motivations.

My second favorite story is Lucifer’s Hammer by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle.  It’s a very different story.  There are no supernatural elements in this one.  It’s all about people.  And it’s probably the type of story I prefer, generally speaking.  In this story, a comet is streaking toward Earth on a near-collision course, and it is first noticed by a couple of amateur astronomers.  The tale follows several different characters whose paths converge on a Senator’s ranch in the mountains.  One of the main characters is a TV reporter who decides to do a story on how to prepare for a possible disaster.  I found his preparations to be a very interesting part of the story.  In the end, it’s a story with a hopeful vision for humanity — the Senator (a good guy; could a story like this be written today?) says with his dying breath, “Give my people the stars.”   Science and technology win out, and I like this vision.  It’s almost opposite of King’s version:  in The Stand technology is depicted as being sought by the forces of evil, even if its purpose is turned to good in the end.

So what prompted me to write about this stuff today?  It was my weekend reading of Bobby Adair’s Slow Burn books.  There are four in all, and I’m about half-way through the third.  It’s sort of a zombie apocalypse.  Take King’s plague and put it with Night of the Living Dead but throw in the self-reliance message from Niven and Pournelle and you have Adair’s vision of the future.  I’ve read a lot of post-apocalyptic fiction, and I have enjoyed most of the sub-genre coming out of indie fiction (especially Edward Robertson’s Breakers series and of course, Hugh Howey’s Wool series), but I’m not a huge fan of the zombie versions.  They’re okay.  I’ve read several of them.  They just aren’t my favorite ways to approach this sub-genre.  they aren’t what I’d choose to write.

But this one is grabbing me more than any of the others I’ve read, including ones by Amanda Hocking, Dan DeWitt, Brett Battles, Scott Nicholson, and others.  Why?  I think it’s the characters.  I really like the main character, Zed.  He reacts like I think I might react (not that I’d get the gun stuff) but the way he latches onto the other characters and hangs on for dear life.  I like Murphy too.  They make a great pair.

But it’s also the situations he finds himself in.  Setting the story in the locations Adair sets it in works for me as well.  Having Zed work his way around the college and then around the suburban homes and such captures my imagination also.

I have a list of “End of the World” stories on Amazon and I think these stories are going to get added to it as worthwhile post-apocalyptic fiction very soon.

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