SELFIES FROM THE END OF THE WORLD: A Kickstarter from Jeremy Zimmerman and Mad Scientist Journal

A special message for you guys from Jeremy Zimmerman!

selfies-bannerWe’re spending February running a Kickstarter for an anthology called Selfies from the End of the World: Historical Accounts of the Apocalypse. This will collect short stories about the various ways the world can end, as told by people who experienced it.

This is an extention of our magazine, Mad Scientist Journal. Every week we put out a story told from the “World of mad science”, and collect them together with some extra content into quarterly publications. Last year we wanted to do something similar but bigger, and crowdfunded an anthology about Lovecraft’s Miskatonic Valley. And it went great! We had some great stories submitted and we’ve received a lot of great reviews for it.

Why the apocalypse? The phrase “selfies from the end of the world” popped into my head a while back, but I didn’t know what to do with it. After we came up with the idea for our Miskatonic anthology, That Ain’t Right, I realized this could be a great title for a similar volume about the apocalypse.

Our target funding goal is for the bare minimum to put out the book at the same quality as That Ain’t Right. One big difference from last year, though, is that we haven’t accepted any stories in advance. We want to be able to pick more stories from the submissions we get.

Since the title of the book is about pictures, though, the stretch goal we have for it is what we’re calling Postcards from the End: additional art that will be put into the book. For the higher end backers, they will also receive postcards with this art as well. We work hard to include up and coming writers, and we want to be able to help support illustrators as well.

Jeremy Zimmerman is a teller of tales who dislikes cute euphemisms for writing like “teller of tales.” His fiction has most recently appeared in 10Flash Quarterly, Arcane and anthologies from Timid Pirate Publishing. His young adult superhero book, Kensei, is available as part of Cobalt City Rookies. He is also the editor for Mad Scientist Journal. He lives in Seattle with five cats and his lovely wife (and fellow author) Dawn Vogel.

GUEST POST: Amalgams, Juxtapositions, and Fusions – Or, Where Do Stories Come From?

roninPlease welcome guest author Travis Heermann to the blog today! 

There is nothing new under the sun.

This maxim is something into which every writer smacks his or her forehead fairly early on in their efforts. This leads to the paralyzing fear: my work isn’t original enough.

Aside from artistic inspirations like the grandeur of nature and the triumph, tragedy, and pathos of human experience, art is itself an enormous source of inspiration for writers, musicians, graphic artists, etc. To see a film that leaves us exultant or weeping, to read a book that lights a fire in us that burns for years, to hear a song that brings a lump to the throat or makes our hearts sing, these are the ways that other artists are often spurred to create, to put their own spin on a concept, to join a conversation happening at that moment, a conversation with the zeitgeist that is larger than any single work. Art strikes chords in other artists to create, often in different media than the original inspiration.

When I was twelve, I discovered Edgar Rice Burroughs’ John Carter of Mars books, and that event turned me into a writer. I borrowed my mom’s old Smith-Corona typewriter and pounded out a couple hundred pages of pure pastiche, but for me it was an homage. I lost myself in creating the kind of fun and adventure I had experienced on Barsoom. I didn’t care that it wasn’t original in the slightest. I was a kid having fun.

After that, it was Robert E. Howard, then J.R.R. Tolkien, then Stephen King and H.P. Lovecraft. From Burroughs and Howard I learned action and adventure, from Tolkien, epic scope and meticulous worldbuilding, from King, techniques of character building and breathless terror.

As I got older and started to study the craft of writing through how-to books, publications like Writer’s Digest and the Writer’s Market, and sheaves of rejection letters, I experienced that paralyzing fear that whatever I was doing had been done before, much better, by dozens of people before me.

But I kept writing anyway. My first published novel The Ivory Star (Commonwealth, 1997) came out of those learning days and wears its influences on its sleeve (perhaps too glaringly I feel nowadays, but it was a work of pure, joyful fun).

“Good writers borrow, great writers steal.”

This quote has been attributed to Oscar Wilde, T.S. Eliot, and Aaron Sorkin. In the spirit of the sentence, who can be sure? (My money’s on Wilde.)

How many re-imaginings and retellings in modern times borrow (steal!) from Shakespeare or Grimm’s fairy tales? Fairy tales and folklore stories are nearly all retellings of older stories, morphed by the spirit of the times and places in which they are told. Mythology and folklore are constantly evolving. The Brothers Grimm simply captured a collection of stories like a snapshot in time. Those stories are still evolving, changing to fit the needs of the modern audience.

Modern writers and filmmakers borrow heavily from Shakespeare. Shakespeare borrowed heavily from the Classical Greek playwrights, from Ovid, from history, from his contemporaries.

Akira Kurosawa adapted two of Shakespeare’s plays–Macbeth into the creepy, claustrophobic black-and-white film Throne of Blood, and King Lear into the stunning, full-color epic Ran. In both cases, Kurosawa took an archetypal story and juxtaposed it onto medieval Japanese history, putting his own unmistakable stamp on them.

It was this juxtaposition that became one of my inspirations for the Ronin Trilogy. The story of the Ronin Trilogy is amalgam of history, folklore, samurai cinema (good and bad), my experiences living in Japan, and countless other sparks of epiphany, the memory of which are lost to me.

Film influences include:

Seven Samurai by Akira Kurosawa
Ran by Akira Kurosawa
Throne of Blood by Akira Kurosawa
Excalibur by John Boorman
The Lone Wolf and Cub series

Literary influences are:

Le Morte d’Arthur by Thomas Malory
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
The Book of Five Rings by Miyamoto Musashi
Musashi by Eiji Yoshikawa

Readers of the Ronin Trilogy will soon recognize the Arthurian influences, and that was my central inspiration for the story: What if I juxtapose Arthurian legends on a samurai backdrop?

And this brings me to my final point.
The writer brings his or her original take to an old story, and their take is fueled and shaped by their own experiences and perspectives. Is this a foolproof elixir for a story’s originality? No. There are untold thousands of hopelessly unoriginal stories out there. Writers still need to strive for a fresh angle on a familiar story. This fresh angle often comes from new fusions, unexpected mash-ups, original juxtapositions.

Your particular set of passions and experiences is where the interesting new fusions come from. When I launched into the story that would become the Ronin Trilogy, I was infused with a wild excitement about Akira Kurosawa, Miyamoto Musashi, and Arthurian legend. The result is something that resonates in new and interesting ways beyond the inspirations.

So it’s true that there is nothing new under the sun. The angles to approach a familiar story, however, are infinite, just as no two writers are alike.

The story of the Ronin Trilogy is now approaching its epic conclusion, and I would appreciate your assistance in bringing it to glorious life. I am running a Kickstarter from now until February 24, 2015, to fund the publication of Book 3, Spirit of the Ronin. Please visit the campaign on Kickstarter here and consider supporting it.

Author Bio: Freelance writer, novelist, award-winning screenwriter, editor, poker player, poet, biker, roustabout, Travis Heermann is a graduate of the Odyssey Writing Workshop and the author of the Ronin Trilogy, The Wild Boys, and Rogues of the Black Fury, plus short fiction pieces in anthologies and magazines such as Fiction River’s How to Save the World, Historical Lovecraft, and Cemetery Dance’s Shivers VII. As a freelance writer, he has produced a metric ton of role-playing game work both in print and online, including the Firefly Roleplaying Game, Legend of Five Rings, d20 System, and the MMORPG, EVE Online.

He enjoys cycling, martial arts, torturing young minds with otherworldly ideas, and zombies. He has three long-cherished dreams: a produced screenplay, a NYT best-seller, and a seat in the World Series of Poker.

Guest: Jeremy Zimmerman, THAT AIN’T RIGHT #Kickstarter

Please help me welcome guest Jeremy Zimmerman to the blog today! Jeremy is editor of Mad Scientist Journal, and also of the THAT AIN’T RIGHT Lovecraft-inspired anthology currently being crowd-funded on Kickstarter! *Kermit flail*

thataintrightWe’re crowdfunding an anthology of tales set in the Miskatonic Valley, told by the people who live there. Sort of. We’re having authors write tales from the point of view of people who live or visit there. Why would we do such a thing?

Because we run a little e-zine called Mad Scientist Journal. It started with some random person at a convention proclaiming that there should be a scientific journal for mad scientists. And I registered the domain name on the spot. Since then we’ve published a couple years’ worth of stories with one bit of meta-fiction surrounding it:

All of our stories have a fictional narrator telling the story. They share the by-line with the real author and get their own bio at the bottom. We publish the stories on our site. Every quarter, we collect them and put them in an ebook with some exclusive stories (the “fiction” section of our Journal), some fake classified ads, and even an advice column. It’s sort of my love-letter to the long dead Omni Magazine.

But having a mostly free ezine doesn’t pay for itself very well. So we spent some time trying to think of a stand-alone book that could tie into the same sort of ideas as Mad Scientist Journal, but was different enough that we wouldn’t just publish the stories on the site.

Then one day, the phrase “oral histories of the Miskatonic Valley” popped into my head and sparked off a chain reaction. Instead of having stories about mad scientists, why not stories about regular people who have to deal with the Lovecraft-style horrors?

Since all the cool kids are doing Kickstarters, we figured we could too. And to sweeten the pot, we thought we could have some pre-selected authors to go with it. Between our life as writers and our work with the ‘zine, we’ve gotten to meet a lot of really great people. So we emailed anyone we thought would be interested in writing to a deadline for almost no money. And we got back seven really awesome stories.

The Kickstarter has gone well so far. We’ve had some great successes. I’m really looking forward to seeing the final product.

Best of luck to Jeremy and everyone involved in this project. Please go to https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/bolthy/that-aint-right-a-lovecraftian-anthology to check out details about the THAT AIN’T RIGHT anthology, and to pledge an amount to support it!

Guest Author: R.B. Wood on WINTER IN THE CITY

ImageToday I welcome R.B. Wood, the editor of the upcoming urban fantasy anthology WINTER IN THE CITY. There are only a few days left to back this anthology on Kickstarter, and there are some pretty awesome goodies for those that do. I highly encourage you to check it out! Some of the authors included are Kevin J. Andersen, Brad Beaulieu, Richard Bowes, Pat Cadigan, Ken Liu, Mike Resnick, Mercedes M. Yardley, and Nick Mamatas. Click HERE to get to the Kickstarter page, and check out the great prizes for backers.

Without further ado, I give you R.B. Wood!

It’s no coincidence that many of the authors interested in participating in the Winter in the City urban fantasy anthology also write science fiction.

The two genres have many things in common—for one, both started in what was called the “pulp” fiction (or non-mainstream) arena.  Also, both are considered “Speculative Fiction.” Many of the earliest of authors wrote in both genres, and bookstores would lump the authors works together (think of Asimov’s mysteries.  They had no science fiction in them at all—but could almost always be found in the Sci Fi section because people expected Asimov to write science fiction).

Even today, George R. R. Martin started primarily in the science fiction and horror genres. But guess where are the bulk of his works are found?

With authors such as Pat Cadigan, Harry Turtledove, Kevin J. Anderson, Tim Pratt, Mike Resnick, Paul Di Filippo (in no particular order)—Winter in the City has attracted many authors who cross the genre line.

This is a good thing. Because I’ll tell you a secret, urban fantasy means many different things to different people

For example, the the old trusty Wikipedia definition:

“Urban fantasy is a sub-genre of fantasy defined by place; the fantastic narrative has an urban setting. Many urban fantasies are set in contemporary times and contain supernatural elements. However, the stories can take place in historical, modern, or futuristic periods, as well as fictional settings. The prerequisite is that they must be primarily set in a city.”

Well, okay.  Sub-genre of fantasy, got it. And the city setting piece, obvious, really.  It’s the middle bit that gets a bit wooly:

“Many urban fantasies are set in contemporary times and contain supernatural elements. However, the stories can take place in historical, modern, or futuristic periods, as well as fictional settings.”

Wait.  What? Urban fantasy is set in contemporary times, but could be futuristic or historical?  Real or fictional setting?

And it gets a bit more confusing if we throw in romance, which is a key element of how some define urban fantasy (think authors Patricia Biggs or Kelley Armstrong, or sparkly vampires).  The line begins to blur with the sub-genre of paranormal romance.

And wait there’s more!

On the other end of the sex-spectrum are the dark fantasy or horror genres.  Often, urban fantasy will contain monsters and mayhem on par with a Stephen King novel or an H.P. Lovecraft Cthulhu story.  I’d put the Dresden series by Jim Butcher and some of Laurell K. Hamilton’s stories firmly in the darker categories.

If we go back to Wikipedia’s definition—especially the line about “futuristic cities,” there’s a case to be made for urban fantasy bumping up to science fiction.

Which brings me to the one constant component across whatever definition of urban fantasy you subscribe to.

The city.

And that, dear reader was the initial thought-nugget for the Winter in the City anthology. Short stories of the fantastical that take place in different cities around the world.

The definition of the ‘Urban’ portion of urban fantasy will be fairly fixed in the guidelines distributed for our nearly four dozen authors.  That is the constant and focal point.

The ‘Fantasy,’ portion, however.  Well, we expect our authors to indulge themselves with giddy delight.

ImageR. B. Wood is a technology consultant and a writer of Urban Fantasy, Science Fiction and quite frankly anything else that strikes his fancy.  His first novel, The Prodigal’s Foole, was released to critical acclaim in 2012.  Mr. Wood is currently working on the second book of his Arcana Chronicles series called The Young Practitioner, multiple short stories, a graphic novel and a science fiction trilogy that he dusts off every few years.  Along with his writing passion, R. B.  is host of The Word Count Podcast – a show that features talent from all around the globe reading original flash-fiction stories.

R. B. currently lives in Boston with his partner, Tina, his dog Jack, three cats and various other critters that visit from time to time.