Sunday, September 23, 2018

On fiction IPs, quick publishing, and burnout

This is going to be a bit of a compare and contrast piece, covering two now well established series, another that is in a fledgling state, and two others that I have great hopes for. The established series are Galaxy's Edge from Nick Cole and Jason Anspach, and the 4HU(Four Horsemen Universe) headed by Mark Wandrey and Chris Kennedy.

Galaxy's Edge does a lot of stuff very much right. They started with a bang, filling a desire with their #starwarsnotstarwars postings on twitter, and marketing that as the overall idea of the series. The money they spend on covers is large, but clearly successful, as they get emails from new readers drawn in by the covers. They've even been spotted in a few physical bookstores, something few indie books get, at least before they get signed by a publisher. Their output is about a book a month, and while that's great, all the books are by them, and start feeling the same after so many.

4HU started off a bit slower, with the first four novels being by Wandrey and Kennedy at 2 books each. And then they opened up the floodgates to other authors with anthologies. This let them get a feel for the audience early on and built the draw and talent pool available quickly. Currently, it sits at a 3 week release schedule plus some. The cover art varies a bit more, but there are only a couple I would actually replace of my choice. The cycling of other authors into the release schedule, with the novels tying together, but not directly interfering(through edicts such as only Chris and Mark actually write the 4H, and even appearances of characters from such need approval) with the other stories.

Silver Empire recently had a successful Kickstarter campaign for a universe called Heroes Unleashed, with interesting ideas that are somewhere between the two. What was termed Wave I will have 5 authors doing novels(likely series if successful). Morgon Newquist(school of arts and war) created this world with short stories in two anthologies(Paragons and HA! HA! HA!), and the others involved include some others I've reviewed here: JD Cowan(Grey Cat Blues, Knights of the End), Kai Wai Cheah(No Gods Only Daimons, Hammer of the Witches), Jon Mollison(Sudden Rescue, Adventure Constant), and Richard W. Watts, with whom I am unfamiliar.

Bradford C. Walker and Brian Niemeier both have run Indiegogo campaigns(Brian's is still live), related to their #AGundamForUS work, and both have some good ideas. Now, if both do well, they will eventually face the challenge of putting out new material and keeping a fresh feel to their stories, which is where I think Galaxy's Edge has begun to fall flat, so this is no mean feat. My advice would be to do a contained series, maybe 6 books, at first, and perhaps invite other authors after, either for shorter arcs or standalone novels. Yeah, this is a throwback to the books they are somewhat imitating, but it did work then, and should work again, if they find authors that get what they're doing.

When you play Social Justice, the world loses.

Monday, August 6, 2018

DC in denial of reality, and Hard Case Crime dismisses readers

I know there's the GenCon bit everybody has seen and written about. I just didn't expect the con to deal itself a deathblow this fast, and that's all I'll write here for now.

DC co-publishers Dan Didio and Jim Lee recently did an interview on ICV2 regarding DC's sales year to year and the industry. Bounding into comics provided a little commentary via numbers, but didn't go into analysis, instead asking for opinions in the comments section. Didio seems to think the biggest problem is over-saturation of the comics market, while Lee is pointing to declining traffic at Barnes and Noble and waning interest in The Walking Dead.

Both are in at least some way, dead wrong in how they're looking at things, though they have made a move to get into WalMart, and that will likely help. But neither espouses concern for the health of comic book stores, their primary outlet. They refuse to name either their or Marvel's recent badly moving books as reason that the industry suffers, especially the Diamond overshipments. Instead, they are pointing their fingers at the high quality of new publishers popping up. They do mention the high price point of issues, but fail to mention any remedy for that, nor is any mention of the mostly fail that digital comics are(DRM kills the ability to really share or collect, because you don't OWN the book you bought, not to mention the inability of reader programs to really work with experimental panel layouts, among other issues).

Now, yes, over-saturation will indeed make individual company and title numbers fall. But that doesn't change what the industry numbers should look like, which are down 4% from last year. That doesn't explain over 60 stores in the USA closing this year so far. Unless you explicitly mean, "Marvel overshipped to stores enough that they went broke." A shrinking industry is something they should be massively concerned about, but they don't express that anywhere. But that has NOTHING to do with small press comics.

You want better sales, DC? Quit the diversity classes and get great writers and artists onboard, and pay them well. Tell AMAZING stories, and quit gaslighting the characters into something they never were. New guys? fine. Quit messing with Superman, WW, Bats, etc. Put out some newsprint titles at $2 or less, like Alterna does. Get it together, and make some money selling comics.

Now, onto Hard Case Crime. This is going to be tough for me. 

Hard Case Crime, on their Twitter account(my information again from BiC), has explicitly stated they don't want money from Trump supporters. For those not in the know, HCC is one of the larger crime pulp revival presses, with well over 100 titles by now, including Lawrence Block, Mickey Spillane, Max Allan Collins, and Michael Chrichton(as John Lange) in their catalog among others.The covers are magnificent portraits that tell you something is going down.

Insulting writers is a bad look in general. Insulting your customer base is a worse one. I like their books a lot, and have been excited about the comics partnership they developed with Titan. Now, I have to either cut them off, or be a blasted paypig to people that hate me openly. "Don't give money to people that hate you." -Brian Niemeier

Goodbye, Hard Case Crime. 

When you play Social Justice, the world loses.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Converged company signals its imminent end

Alderac Entertainment Company has been a bit converged for awhile, but was still attempting to focus on making good games, and having a measure of success with that. Yesterday they made an announcement regarding its big convention event(GenCon, PAX Unplugged, and a few others), Big Game Night. For their 2020 Big Game Night events, they're looking for games from women designers.

Before any idiot thinks that I don't think women can make good games, that's not true. But WHY THE CRAP SHOULD IT MATTER? Either the game is fun, or it isn't. Some of the Virtue Signallers went to the trouble of making a geeklist of games with women designers, omitting in many cases the male co-designers. But if AEG wants something that will sell long term, it's a path they will actually avoid. Almost all of the popular designers are men. And yes, people do buy games just based on the designer.

But let's look at the hobby itself. Most of the players are in fact, men, likely somewhere between 2/3 and 80%. Especially when you're talking about people that actually seek out new and complex games. Most game players don't try to take apart mechanics and see how they fit together, though; they tend to try to understand this game that they're playing now(This is aside from teaching games, a somewhat different skill). Some try to understand the mechanics, but don't develop a vocabulary for it. Others figure out how the pieces fit together, and like to discuss them. And the smallest set is those that actively design games(mechanically, not graphically necessarily).

I used to like AEG, even when they literally stepped away from making games I wanted to play. But why should I bother if they're going the "women who code" route? Even if they get the games they want NOW, they probably have to spend the next whole year rebalancing it and finding balance issues. Maybe they can get the games done in time. Or maybe they'll end up with a nice train wreck of money lost on rights and development and graphics.

And AEG joins Renegade on the list of companies I'm not buying from anymore.

When you play Social Justice, the world loses.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

On the comics collapse

There's a lot of talk of the markets shrinking in sff and comics from the tradpub sources, and here's a bit of my theory on the comics side.

I think Marvel and DC, with some help from Diamond(active to a point, but I have trouble believing they're that dumb) might be actively colluding to close the comic book stores. Diversity and Comics has made a good amount of noise over the fact that over 60 shops have closed this year alone.

Marvel is being overshipped, and the stores have to pay for the books. DC had a few exciting and high selling things early in the year, but their more recent moves are really bad from a sales standpoint, and the stores would be more inclined to take those chances after the big early sales.

Diamond, for the third real player, has for years made it very difficult and expensive to reach retailers and the public eye via their catalog. Alterna Comics has had trouble with them not shipping reorders and reprints, and the publisher has taken to shipping them directly himself. Most small press stuff can only be bought at cons or maybe from a local store, though one, Hollow Harbor, has connections with Miniature Market and sells through them.

Now, the why. They dominate the marketspace. They make a better percentage off of digital sales, though Diamond should be panicking over store closings. And through the digital space, they can better keep people from noticing smaller material, entering their entire back catalog over time. Why? Image almost took an equal share at one point, especially with Jim Lee's Wildstorm part of the business. He sold out for security over taking chances to become a giant in his own right as a publisher. Well, that and Batman.

Now POD printing approaches usefulness for comics printing at competitive prices, and if alternate models start hitting the mainstream comics market in news and books, then they don't control the industry anymore. Dave Sim became a legend for self publishing Cerberus; these days, he would have gotten rich at it as well. So yes, they're terrified of Arkhaven and Dark Legion. D+C's Jawbreakers and Ethan Van Sciver's Cyberfrog have them shaking. And they don't have a clue what to really think about the project Chuck Dixon has gotten going. Red Rooster? Should eat up a good chunk of Astro City/Black Hammer readers.

Mark Waid talked to Antarctic Press to get them to drop Jawbreakers. He's now under investigation for tortious interference. But I wonder how deep the DOJ is going to look. As a leading Marvel writer(history and reputation, not current talent), he might unwittingly have led the Mouse to a trap.

When you play Social Justice, the world loses.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Comic Review: Earth AM from Hollow Harbor

Cower not, fierce reader! I'm still around, and right now, I've got a comic for those of you into indie sf books. It's from small publisher Hollow Harbor.

Earth AM takes place over 200 years into the future, and humanity has split into four factions. There are skyrytes, cyborgs, underaneans, and humans. AM stands for "After Mutation". The first issue has no clear resemblance to contemporary comics.

The writing is solid, with very solid art backing it up. There's a bit of background in there, though it's not a world origin. That, we're dropped into. We do get more backstory following one of the leaders, though.

The humans are desperately trying to hold off all three of the other factions, the Skyrytes need food for their aerial cities, the Underaneans are destructively greedy, and the Cyborgs seem to be plotters at the level of the Byzantine Empire.

Anyway, here's a sample page from their site that's inked but uncolored:

This is a small publisher, and doesn't appear to be in regular distribution. You can get digital versions of the book via kindle, and if you want a physical copy, Miniature Market is carrying them. (Both are based in St. Louis). They have another book, Tyrants, that I'm looking to check out soon.

Right now, I'd give this book a solid 8/10 fell deeds.

When you play Social Justice, the world loses.

Monday, April 2, 2018

PSA on drug reactions

Yes, I know I haven't written in awhile. I'm having some trouble adjusting to the new area, or at least, more than I thought I would.

But now I'm going to take some time discussing drug reactions. If you know you're allergic, don't take it. Make sure the doctor and pharmacist know.  Allergic reactions to drugs go wildly bad.

For instance, reactions to Bactrim go from some mild rashes to swelling of the face to sloughing of all of the skin(most extreme, and this does include the lungs). There are some NSFW pictures online if you want to see how bad certain regions of the body can react.

I've also had a friend that had a severe reaction to Hepatitis C series immunizations. While these reactions are rare, they are very dangerous, and usually involve intensive care for awhile, as well as befuddled doctors. 

Drug reactions can be as varied and dangerous as food allergies, so if you are taking a new drug, try to have someone watching. I had my reaction severity limited, because someone else recognized reaction symptoms that I missed. I was saved a LOT of pain and suffering because of that.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Injustice Book Review: The Ophian Rising by Brian Niemeier

Cower not, fierce reader! This day, I finally take a look at Brian Niemeier's latest novel, the last of the Soul Cycle. Yes, I'm running way behind my normal schedule and pace. I've been buried between work, injury recovery, and learning a new town(and some of these are going to be ongoing). But enough about my productivity issues. Let's look at this tome.

First, it is way too complex for tradpub to have considered it. Yes, even with three prior books, we still have new things to encounter, and I'm grateful that we have more discovery to make. For proper comparison, tradpub sff ALL passed on Dune, which had been serialized in magazine form as a few pieces. CHILTON published Dune as a whole work.

I can hear someone complaining they want action right now. BE QUIET, YOU! There's plenty action in this book, and at times it feels like we go from complex idea directly into a fight. And why not? It doesn't have to be a man with a gun, it can be any real threat. The action flows well, though sometimes the abilities of characters do make it hard to track exactly what's going on, which I would count as one of its few flaws.

And we aren't limited to action, either. We have intrigue, secretive groups, and worlds across multiple planes. Threats to the souls of all in the world, and a revelation of the truth connects it all to help bring a close to the story.

All in all, an excellent finish. If you haven't gotten into this because you wait until series are done, GET CRACKING. Take your time, there's a lot to digest.

The Ophian Rising: 8 of 10 fell deeds.
The Soul Cycle: 9 of 10 fell deeds.

When you play Social Justice, the world lose.