Author Archives: Keith West

Blogging Jirel of Joiry: “The Dark Land”

“The Dark Land” was the fourth of the Jirel of Joiry stories. It was originally published in the January 1936 issue of Weird Tales.

Of all the Jirel stories I’ve looked at so far, I found this to be the weakest. The story opens with Jirel lying unconscious and near death from a pike wound to the side. As the priest shows up to give her last rites, she disappears.

She finds herself on a platform facing a giant statue of a man. Around his head is a crown of flames. It isn’t long before the subject of the statue shows up. He appears in a swirl of light whose description sounds a lot like the transporter effects from Star Trek TOS.

The man informs her his name is Pav. He’s brought her to his kingdom of Romne. He intends for Jirel to be his queen. It’s her fiery fighting nature that’s drawn his attention. Continue reading

A Look at Heroic Fantasy Quarterly 33

The latest issue of Heroic Fantasy Quarterly (issue 33 for those who are counting) went live a few weeks ago.  Let’s take a look at it, shall we?

This is a standard issue of HFQ, in that there are three pieces of fiction and three poems.  I’ll review the fiction and mention the poems.  I’m not sure I can keep my comments shorter than the poetry, and since I’m not sure what purpose that would serve, I’ll keep my trap shut for once.  Two of the three stories take place in Central America, and all of them have female protagonists (although in one story, the viewpoint starts out female and changes to a male after another character enters the scene).  I don’t know if there is an unofficial theme at work, or if things just turned out that way.  Not that it matters. What counts is if the fiction is any good. Continue reading

Rest in Peace, Jerry Pournelle

Adventures Fantastic is deeply saddened to report that Jerry Pournelle passed away in his sleep this morning, September 8, 2017.  Pournelle was born on August 7, 1933.

I never had the chance to meet Mr. Pournelle.  He was a noted science fiction author, both on his own and in collaboration with Larry Niven.  Some of his better known works include the Falkenberg’s Legion series, King David’s Spaceship, and Janissaries. Among his collaborations with Larry Niven are the novels The Mote in God’s Eye, Lucifer’s Hammer, and Footfall.

Pournelle was also the editor on a number of anthology series, foremost among them the There Shall Be War series.

I would like to extend my condolences to Jerry Pournelle’s family, friends, fans, and his collaborator Larry Niven.

A Plethora of Birthdays of Giants

There are a number of birthdays today in the fields of the fantastic, including but not limited to C. J. Cherryh (1942), Timothy Zahn (1951), and S. Andrew Swann (1966).  But there are two writers born on this date (September 1) against whom all others with birthdays today pale in comparison. Continue reading

Announcing Road Kill: Texas Horror by Texas Writers, Vol. 2

I’ve been sitting on this for a while. The official announcement has been made, so I think I can talk about it now.

I’ve got a story in the forthcoming Road Kill Vol. 2.  You may have remembered I reviewed the first volume last year.

The launch date is October 21. Unfortunately I don’t think I’ll be able to make the launch party. It’s on the opposite side of the state.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with Texas, you can drive all day and never leave the state.

Anyway, I’m very pleased and honored to have been included in this book.  I’ll post more details when I have them, such as how to get a copy for your very own.

Thoughts on Novellas

There has been some talk about novellas lately, mainly how they are a good fit for sword and sorcery.  Check out one such conversation over at Fletcher Vredenburgh’s site.

But that’s not really where I want to go. I had a conversation on Twitter this morning that started out about how to find markets. No, that’s not where I’m going either, but feel free to make any suggestions you have about markets in the comments.  I want to discuss how best to sell novellas.

My natural length to write seems to be novelette and novella length. Mark Finn made a throwaway comment on one of the last panels I attended at Armadillocon, and the basic framework of a story popped into my head.  I came back and immediately started on it. In just over 2 weeks I was finished.  The first draft came in at 21.5k words.  The thing pretty much wrote itself.  I’ve let it sit, not only to put some distance between me and the story before I start editing, but classes have started.  The two weeks before and after classes start tend to be pretty hectic, with extra headaches this year I’m legally prohibited from discussing.  (I’m not kidding. Can you say FERPA?  I knew you could.) I’m hoping to do a cleanup pass this weekend and send it to a beta reader while launching into my next, which will be a hard science horror story.

One of the things about this morning’s conversation, aside from an agreement that we need to write shorter, was the lamentation made by more than one person that most markets want shorter pieces.

This didn’t so much get me thinking as it brought some thoughts to the surface that have been rattling around looking for a hole in my head through which to escape.

I wrote a sword and planet novel for NaNoWriMo a couple of years ago. It needs a lot of work before it’s ready to see the light of day, but I wrote a novella set in that world earlier this summer. I’ve got at least two WIPs that will be novelette or novella length, along with a few other pieces sitting on my hard drive.

I’m thinking about self-pubbing these since most of them are longer than what I’ve seen in guidelines for most markets they would be suitable for.  The question is what is the best way to go about this?

Do I publish each one separately?  If so, how do I determine price?  Anything less than $2.99 on Amazon gets a much smaller cut of the sale price, so I’m reluctant to price below that amount.  On the other hand, I want readers to feel like they’re getting their money’s worth.

Should I bundle some or all of them together?  The one just completed is a stand-alone that I don’t think needs a sequel. So is one of the WIPs. The other is part of a series, an installment of which has seen print in StoryHack Issue 0.  I have several completed entries in this series of varying length, so a collection of them isn’t out of the question.

What does the market want?  Would you rather read a collection of novelettes and novellas (with maybe a short story or two) where the stories have no connection to each other?  Is the better approach to collect stories in a series or common setting?  Does it even matter?  Befuddled minds want to know.

A Look at Dark Screams, Volume 7


Dark Screams, Vol. 7
Brian James Freeman and Richard Chizmar, eds.
Hydra
ebook, $3.99

The Dark Screams series is one of the best horror anthologies out there.  I’d like to thank Brian James Freeman for the review copy of this volume.

The earlier volumes in this series tended to feature five stories.  This one has six, and I liked all of them. Some of the stories are reprints, but not all. The copyright page of the review edition lists four of six as having copyrights of 2017. The mix of new and reprint stories is a good format. Continue reading

Kelly Freas at 95

Frank Kelly Freas was born today, August 27, in 1922. He passed away in 2005.  Freas’s artwork graced the covers of magazines and books.  His style was unmistakeable. Some of his covers, such as “Martians Go Home”, are classics.  One of my most prized possessions is a signed print of Skylab that appeared as the cover of the June 1973 issue of Analog.

I never had the pleasure of meeting him.  There was a calendar of his art in the 1990s. I still have it. Unfortunately, there haven’t been any others that I know of.

Rather than write about him, here are some of the covers he did. These are all from my library that I could put my hands on quickly. I’d post images without the writing, but I don’t want to violate copyrights.

Happy Birthday, Ray Bradbury

Bradbury as a young man

Douglas Ray Bradbury was born on this date, August 22, in the year 1920. He passed away on June 5, 2102. It’s hard to believe it’s been five years already.

Bradbury was one of the first science fiction and fantasy writers I ever read, back when I was in grade school. It was a life changing experience.

I’ve always preferred his fiction from the 1940s and early 1950s, the stuff published in Weird Tales and Thrilling Wonder Stories, to his later works, However, it’s been a few years since I read some of his later fiction. It’s about time I returned to it. I’m older now and my tastes have changed.

I’ve got a little bit of time free this evening, and I can’t think of a better way to spend it than with a few Bradbury short stories.

Rather than say anymore about him, I’ll leave you with this quote: