So, shocking as it is, I read. I read Big 5, I read the ingredients on my food, I even read independently published and some small press stuff.
As you probably know, I’m not a big fan of ereading. I have a tablet that’s got a great screen, but never felt the need for a specialized reader. So i decided to try something on my phone. Glynn Stewart’s Starship’s Mage didn’t seem like too much of a commitment.
Perhaps the most surprising given my dislike of anything shorter than 90k words or so, is:
This is a lovely hybrid of space opera and whatever you call mages in space. The science side and the magic are done well. There are two additional installments right now on Amazon (and other venues) and firmer-than-rumors- of other chronicles. Each is about 20k words and a good chunk of world and story. The main character is a recent graduate of the mage academy who runs afoul of some unpleasant folks when he’s just doing the best he can. Really fun stories.
The first was fun, and after reading it I figured I wouldn’t hate myself too much for trying something longer.
So I went for:
SanClare Black is fantasy, the world isn’t the stock “vaguely England with dashes of France or German for variety” that we see in so, so many fantasies that so, so few do well. Jenna Waterford has a fantasy world with working trains, steam ships, the odd fire arm, and a gigantic tear in space/time in the middle of the world. Wizards, family feuds, and social conflict are all drawn deftly to enhance the characters and inform the world.
About 20 pages into SanClare Black I realized I could adjust the color of the font and text in my ereader. Going with sepia text on black was amazing. I zoomed through the rest of SanClare Black and picked up the other two Starship’s Mage installments. All four reads were quite good.
My devious and ubiquitous spies whispered in my ear that July 19th is Glynn Stewart’s birthday, and like most writers he’ll take sales as the sincerest form of birthday well wishes. The hoarders of hearsay also bespoke Jenna Waterford’s birthday as July 28th. I can safely promise you that even if your taste somehow isn’t met by either writer, there are thousands, upon thousands upon thousands of much, much, much worse books in the world.
One of the things that my time in the industry has taught me is that there is an avowed love of easily quantifiable books with very, very small variations (like sparkly vampires) that make them just slightly different from a dozen other books with similar premises tan came over the transom the same day. Neither Starship’s Mage or SanClare Black are something fit into the neat categories the book buyers at chains like and understand.
I suspect that if traditional publishing and the chains want to remain viable they are going to have to become a touch more flexible on the subject of subgenre. I’d truly like to see something like the keyword cues one science fiction and fantasy publisher uses become universal with say a range of seven to ten keywords required for each book. For those of you who are up for something new, when you read these come back and suggest keywords for them, I’m always interested in what readers think.