DUNGEON SAMURAI VOL. 1: KAMIKAZE is available for preorder!

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Yamada Yuuki is an ordinary college student with an extraordinary hobby: the classical martial art of Kukishin-ryu. Until one fateful day when a demon rips through the fabric of space-time, abducts everyone in his dojo, and transports them to another world.

To return home, Yamada and his friends must join forces with other displaced humans to conquer the dungeon that runs through the heart of the world. Standing in their way are endless hordes of bloodthirsty monsters and countless traps. Armed only with steel, faith and guts, they must battle their way through the winding catacombs to confront the demon waiting at the bottom floor.

Yamada was once a student. Now he must become a samurai.


It is my great pleasure to announce that my latest novel DUNGEON SAMURAI VOL. 1: KAMIKAZEis available for preorder exclusively on Amazon!

DUNGEON SAMURAI VOL. 1: KAMIKAZE will go live on 28 May. But the paperback is already available, and you can preorder the Kindle edition. The product of a successful Kickstarter campaign, DUNGEON SAMURAI is the tale of a harrowing, blood-soaked death march through a labyrinth filled with monsters and traps in a desperate attempt to defeat the demon lord of a world of death. if you love Darkest Dungeon, old-school Dungeons and Dragons and dark fantasy isekai stories, DUNGEON SAMURAI is perfect for you.

If DUNGEON SAMURAI is up your alley, pick up volume 1 now!

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Book Unreview: 9th of August

One of the signatures of PulpRev is our cheerful disdain of conventional genre boundaries. Where traditional publishers see a dividing line between fantasy, science fiction, romance and other genres, we draw on the older traditions that blended various aesthetics to create exciting tales. We do not box ourselves in by arbitrary genre distinctions; we embrace the freedom to create the most awesome tales possible.

But sometimes, genre-blending goes too far.

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A finalist of the 2017 Epigram Book Prize, 9th of August promises a thriller. The blub states:

Six suicide bombers have slipped into Singapore. Their mission: to set off explosives on the country’s 55th National Day.

They were sent by Tun, an Afghan with a tragic past. Trying to stop them is Inspector Rahim, who is tracking a new terror group. And caught up in the plot is Henry, a single parent whose wife revealed a terrible secret on her deathbed.

It’s a perfect setup for a counterterrorism thriller set in Singapore. The blurb promises a nefarious plot, a race against time, suspense, secrets, drama, all the elements of a first-rate thriller.

The prose delivers something else.

In the opening chapter, you learn that Rahim has failed. A bomb explodes in a train, causing havoc and destruction.

This undercuts thriller conventions from the start. People read thrillers because they want to experience a daring race against time. The outcome of the struggle between the terrorists and counterterrorists should be left in doubt up until the last possible moment, with both sides doing everything in their power to achieve their goals and foil the other side. By starting with an explosion, you’re telling the reader that the good guys will lose. The only question is how badly.

Without the possibility of a total victory, a final triumph of good over evil, many thriller readers won’t want to touch the story. Certainly I wouldn’t. The counterterrorist thriller novel traces its roots to crime fiction, whose raison d’etre is to show a determined, intelligent protagonist tracking down a criminal and setting things right by either avenging a crime or preventing one. Indeed, many counterterrorism novels are shelved as ‘crime fiction’. The good guys may not always win, they may not always get a golden ending, but at least there exists the possibility of complete triumph to keep the reader engaged. If the only question is how badly the good guys will lose, it’s not a counterterrorism novel any more.

And 9th of August most certainly isn’t.

The second chapter shows a schoolgirl wondering about her father. The next few chapters show other characters coping with everyday life. When Inspector Rahim shows up on the scene, he worries about basic bureaucratic nonsense and ends the chapter realising he’s forgotten the birth of his child.

There is no plot. There is no action. There is barely any character interaction to speak of.

This is not a thriller. In thrillers, the events of the first chapter sets the plot in motion, and the action doesn’t let up until the final chapter. Thrillers require constant forward momentum. There is no room in a thriller for anything that isn’t connected to the plot in some fashion.

The blurb promises a thriller. The prose reveals the story to be a slice-of-life drama-cum-character study. To a thriller reader, the opening chapters are too boring to hold his attention, and the sole action scene I encountered came too late and was too unrealistic, disjointed and slow-paced to satisfy his tastes. In contrast, a litfic reader wouldn’t be too interested in the violence, and the lack of character interactions, descriptions and depth wouldn’t satisfy him.

By improperly mixing tropes and approaches from both thriller and literary fiction, 9th of August fails to satisfy both readers.

Genre-blending isn’t necessarily bad. But to do it successfully, you must know what your audience wants, and deliver it competently.

Thriller readers want thrills. High-impact action scenes, protagonists doggedly chasing down the bad guys, treacherous plots, high stakes, excellent tradecraft, a final confrontation with evil. Literary fiction readers want to explore the beauty of the language, the poetry of everyday life, the lives of regular people, unique aspects of a society’s culture.

Their interests are so markedly different it is extremely difficult, if not outright impossible, to meet the needs of both at the same time.

By contrast, the pulp writers knew exactly what their audiences wanted. Their reader craved awe, wonder, excitement, intrigue, exotic locations, fantastic events. To these readers, aesthetics was secondary; it didn’t matter too much whether they were reading a story about adventurers seeking a lost city in a desert or a spaceship pilot wandering amidst planets teeming with alien life. If they got their dose of adventure, they were more than happy.

They key takeaway from 9th of August is that writers must know the preferences of their intended audience, and write to meet their expectations. Genre-blending is a viable strategy only if readers of those genres have similar wants and tastes. If you mix genres whose audiences have highly incompatible tastes, you’ll only end up with a product that satisfies no one.

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If you want to see what true genre-blending looks like, check out my superhero story Hollow City. One part police procedural, one part superhero fantasy, with a dose of technology, tradecraft and martial arts, it is what you get when you cross Michael Connelly with the Punisher.

To stay updated on writing news and promotions, sign up for my mailing list here.

Movie Review: Avengers: Endgame

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Avengers: Endgame is a movie about loss.

Loss pervades every frame of the movie. From the opening scene to the denouement, the story explores the impact of the Avengers’ greatest defeat at the hands of Thanos in the previous film. With half of all living beings dead, including some of their staunchest allies, what’s left of the Avengers must find a way to pick up the pieces and carry on.

Then, five years after the Snap, Ant-Man concocts a plan to save everyone.

It is high-risk, fraught with danger, with no room for error. A single misstep could spell doom for all life in the universe, and an ultimate triumph for Thanos. The Avengers, those who remain, must grapple with their psychological hangups, overcome their psychic wounds, and gear up for the greatest battle in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This is their endgame.

And the movie almost lives up to its name.

(Spoilers ahead!)

The Problem of Omnipotence

Endgame reveals the problem of omnipotence in storytelling. The Infinity Stones, married to the Infinity Gauntlet, grants the wearer nigh-infinite power at incredible cost. Thanos used it to execute his master plan of wiping out half of all life.

Yet (some of) the Avengers were spared.

This doesn’t make any sense. Thanos was portrayed as a military genius, scouring and conquering world after world. Surely he would understand the importance of doing no small harm to an enemy, of destroying him so completely that he could not retaliate. By leaving some of the Avengers alive — including and especially those who fought him in the previous film — he is simply sowing the seeds of his own destruction.

That said, from a storytelling perspective, having a ragtag bunch of heroes battle an omnipotent enemy can make for a great narrative. The heroes must struggle to earn their victory. If, on the other hand, the heroes obtain omnipotence, if they could destroy the enemy simply by snapping their fingers, then the story is no fun.

Endgame attempts to address this issue. The Avengers aim to secure the Infinity Stones and the Infinity Gauntlet to undo the effects of the Snap. However, no mere mortal can just put on the Gauntlet. The stones emit a fatal amount of gamma rays, so only superhumans can use it and live. And even then, it exacts a terrible cost.

This places a heavy price on the use of cosmic powers. Awesome power must come with awesome cost for it to have significance. But that’s not all. The theme of loss runs through the film. Even Ant-Man’s plan can’t save everyone, because…

Reasons.

It’s odd. The Infinity Gauntlet can undo the events of the Snap and bring back everyone Thanos destroyed, but somehow it can’t resurrect more recently slain characters. From a storytelling perspective it reinforces the central theme of loss, but the story logic makes no sense. Simply having one character say “I tried” just doesn’t cut it.

The Rising

For all that, the Infinity Stones and the Gauntlet are just the MacGuffins that drive the plot. The meat of the story is in the Avengers overcoming their traumas, dusting themselves off, and girding themselves for one last mission to save all creation.

Captain America is worn out and beaten down, but he refuses to give up hope. When the opportunity arises to undo the Snap, he jumps at it immediately — but he has to convince the other Avengers to join him.

Iron Man is a hollow shell of a man. After so much death and destruction, he has retired to his home. Unwilling to risk his family, he has shunned the Avengers and refuses the call. Thor, having lost almost everything, has gone to seed. The drunkard king of a people who no longer respects him, he spends his days guzzling alcohol and staring at the television. Hawkeye has descended into self-destructive nihilism, taking on high-risk assassination jobs to fulfill his death wish.

The first act of the film has the Avengers supporting each other, building up each other, bringing them aboard Ant-Man’s grand plan to save all life. The second act, with the plan in motion, has the characters directly confronting their fears and seeing a glimmer of hope.

Even in the face of loss, even after being beaten, they rise up and become worthy once again of being called heroes.

What’s Left Unsaid

Several key scenes in the story rely on meaning implied from dialogue. While a powerful tool when used properly, it’s not used to great effect in the movie.

Halfway through the film, Iron Man and Captain America set off to recover an Infinity Stone. Iron Man says, essentially, “Don’t ask me how I know” before telling him where and when to find the Stone. A coincidental encounter strongly hints at how he knew about it — but it requires multiple leaps in logic and a long think about the events of the story before you get it.

Unlike a book, a movie is a constantly-running medium. The audience doesn’t have time to set it down, think about dialogue, realise what’s happening, then return to the story. If you want to lead an audience to a conclusion in a film, you need to make the logical links more explicit. Endgamefails at this, budgeting only one or two lines at most.

This shows up again in the climax, when the resurrected Avengers and their allies show up for the final showdown. When Spider-Man shows up, he explains that Doctor Strange gathered everyone to bring them to field of battle in two lines. The lines are supposed to explain why Doctor Strange surrendered his Time Stone in the previous film, how this would set up Thanos final defeat and what Doctor Strange saw when he scanned 14 million timelines in search of a path to victory. It only makes sense if you stop to think about it — but in an action movie, you don’t.

The Anti-Snap

Despite its failings, the first two acts of the movie made for excellent storytelling, punctuated with moments of high drama and intense action. But when the climax came, the movie stuttered and fell flat on its face.

To set up the climax, a character had to sneak away from the Avengers to open a gateway for Thanos and his army. Somehow, nobody noticed that she was gone, even through every major character in the cast were present in the same room bare minutes ago, and gathered in another room later. I find it unbelievable that superheroes could simply not notice someone just walking off when that person was right in front of them.

After Thanos arrives, the movie steadily gets worse. He makes landfall with his army, intent on recovering the Infinity Stones and Gauntlet. Doctor Strange and his fellow monks bring an army of their own, summoning every ally the Avengers have made over the previous films. The two armies meet in a blackened field, and an epic battle between good and evil ensues.

Or so the scene promises.

The final fight descends into a relay race, with superhero after superhero passing on the Infinity Gauntlet, and Thanos hot on their heels. His minions try to stop the superheroes, but save for one scene, they barely slow them down.

The final battle ends not with a bang, but with a snap.

A snap by a normal human.

With fatal consequences.

From a meta perspective, it reinforces the theme of loss, and it plays into that character’s motivations. But from a plot perspective, it makes no sense. The Infinity Gauntlet passed through the hands of many superheroes, including superpowered beings. At the very least, these beings would have a higher chance of survival than the character than the character who made the sacrifice, by virtue of being more than mere humans.

A simple fix would be for these superpowered beings to be too busy fighting off the bulk of Thanos’ forces or distracting him, forcing normal humans to bear the burden of the Gauntlet. Instead, the creators chose to give everyone a camo appearance, defending the Gauntlet during the Great Relay Race.

Between the lack of logic and the lack of emotional build-up, the climax ended abruptly. There was little emotional weight to the final moments, turning what could have been a bittersweet ending into an ending empty of emotional weight.

The End of the Avengers

Despite its flaws, Endgame is a fitting end for the series. For its sake, I pray there won’t be any more movies — at least, not in this timeline.

Endgame removes or retires every major character who would fill a leadership position in the Avengers, sometimes in the most ridiculous ways. Thor, for instance, discards his birthright and his duties as king of New Asgard, choosing instead to go gallivanting across the universe, and hands over the throne to a minor character who had just two scenes in the entire movie, because, well, reasons.

With every charismatic character gone, there is no one left who can fill the shoes of the old Avengers. Spider-Man is a high schooler defined primarily by his worship of Mr. Stark, and is way too immature. Doctor Strange and Black Panther have other responsibilities. Other characters are just bit players in the cast. And, of course, everyone hates Captain Marvel — so much so Rotten Tomatoes had to creatively eliminate viewer reviews to make the film much better than it appears.

Fans of the MCU have little connection with whoever’s left. There is no sense of history with those characters, unlike Iron Man or Captain America. None of those characters possess the screen presence or the charisma to be instantly recognized as a new leader of the Avengers. To continue the Avengers series — and, really, it’s too much of a cash cow for Hollywood to drop it — the MCU must spend another dozen movies building up the survivors and hope that, somehow, the characters become as iconic as Captain America or Iron Man.

Endgame is a high point to end the series. To save the franchise, let it be the end of the franchise.

At least, until the next reboot.

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If you love superheroes, you’ll love Silver Empire’s HEROES UNLEASHED initiative! Check out my latest superhero novel HOLLOW CITY to see my own take on a police procedural crossed with a superpowered vigilante.

Isekai is not Japanese Europe in a Video Game

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Isekai stories are a staple of modern Japanese fiction. Featuring humans from modern-day Japan transported to another world, it seems there’s a new isekai story published every month. Today, isekai stories are extremely popular.

And they are becoming extremely ridiculous.

The discerning reader will find much to complain about. Fanservice in place of character development. Main characters denser than neutron stars. Plot holes barely smoothed over by huge tracts of land. Coveniently overpowered magic, cliched societies, plot developments, over-reliance on gaming mechanics, the list goes on.

Most damning of all, in many isekai stories, after the protagonist is transported to his new world, his backstory no longer matters. His experiences, knowledge and culture are rendered either utterly irrelevant or pop up only to justify OP magic or technology.

That’s not the point of isekai.

The selling point of an isekai story is to take the reader from the familiar to the strange, to a land with infinite potential for adventure. The protagonist from Earth is the reader’s viewpoint character, representing the knowledge and the culture of modern-day society. When he is thrown into the fantasy world, he experiences culture shock, and must adapt to survive. Without this element of culture shock and adaptation, of being constantly on the back foot and trying to keep up, there is no point in having an isekai story. You can substitute a character who was born in the fantasy world and still have the same story.

Japanese manga and light novels commit many sins. Here are some of them.

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Titles and Honorifics

In modern isekai stories, you’re bound to see the use of Japanese honorifics like -sama, -dono and -chan in everyday speech, even if the fantasy society is loosely based on medieval Europe. This is highly irksome, and destroys reader immersion.

Japanese honorifics evolved in a unique society, one founded on rigid social hierarchies, high power distance, Confucian values that emphasize social harmony over individualism, and social etiquette literally enforced at swordpoint. Samurai could execute peasants on the spot for showing insufficient respect, and the shogun could order the death of lesser daimyo for failing to adhere to the protocols of his court. Societies without these historical elements and cultural touchstones generally do not evolve such an extensive honorific system.

You cannot create a fictional society simply by patching together elements from societies. You can’t simply insert Japanese-style speaking conventions into a society with medieval European aesthetics where everyone talks and acts with low power distance like in a modern society and expect it to be believable, because none of these elements fit organically together. The use of honorifics reveal themselves as nods to a Japanese audience instead of outgrowths of the story world. If you think too hard about it, it becomes immersion-breaking.

A more interesting take on Japanese honorifics would be a Japanese MC whose constant use of honorifics confuses everybody around him. He is the only person who uses them, which emphasises his status as an outsider from another world. As no one uses honorifics to the same degree, he can’t rely on honorifics alone to determine the interpersonal dynamics of a group. He needs to pay attention to how everybody relates to everybody else.

A counter-example of the use of honorifics and titles is Poul Anderson’s Three Hearts and Three Lions. Protagonist Holger Carlsen is an American-trained Danish engineer from World War 2 dropped into a fantasy world. Right off the bat he discovers a placid horse and a suit of armour that fits him perfectly. Everyone calls him ‘Sir Nicht’ because of his gear. This disorients him, because he is an ordinary engineer from a time and place where no one uses noble titles. The use of ‘Nicht’ instead of ‘Knight’ reinforces the otherworldly nature of the setting.

Religion

In many an isekai story, when the main character encounters organized religion, it usually falls into two flavours: Church of Evil or polytheistic cults with European aesthetics. This reflects the Japanese experience of religion — but the point of isekai is to get away from Japan!

Religions have left their mark on societies and individuals in unique ways. Religious values are expressed in societal attitudes towards various actions and peoples. Any isekai story where religion plays a significant component should take the time to flesh out the fantasy religion, its doctrines, and its impact on people and the world.

In the real world, religions had profound social impact. In Europe, the Christian Church taught children their letters for free by using the Bible as a foundational text in Sunday school, encouraging the spread of literacy. In polytheistic societies, when people call on gods, they either call upon the god most relevant to the current situation or their most favoured god (not a generic ‘Oh Gods!’ as seen in most fiction). In Thailand, people bow to statues of the Buddha on the street. Little details like this flesh out a society.

A great example of fantasy religion that works is The Faraway Paladin. Protagonist Will is a reincarnated human from Earth who is raised by three undead heroes. Every day, Mary, his adoptive mother, prays to the goddess Gracefeel for bread to feed Will. However, being undead, she burns in Gracefeel’s divine presence. And yet, Gracefeel still grants her bread. In this scene, you see Mary’s daily sacrifice, her tragic circumstances, and how divine intervention transforms torture into triumph. It is easily the most impactful religious scene I’ve seen from modern-day isekai.

In Three Hearts, Three Lions, Holger travels through a land divided between Law and Chaos, with Law represented by Christianity and Chaos by paganism and the Fae. However, he considers himself an agnostic. This clash between a religious world and an irreligious worldview forces him to keep studying the world, to keep changing, and to embrace the virtues of the faith.

Vox Day’s Selenoth series shows the impact of religion on a far grander scope. The Church forbids the use of magic, the sole exception being the miracles granted to the Order of Saint Michael, a religious army dedicated to fighting magic-wielding foes. However, among countries and races where the Church holds less sway, vastly different kinds of magic are commonplace. Here we see that the Church promises salvation, but at the cost of significant disadvantage over the orcs, elves and other magic-wielding nations and peoples of Selenoth, setting the stage for interesting moral dilemmas and conflicts.

The Impact of Technology

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Isekai heroes introduce many technological innovations to their new world. Fertilizer, four-crop planting, the almighty water pump, the divine wash toilet. Again and again, technology is introduced simply for the heroes’ convenience or to reinforce his OPness instead of having an organic impact on the rest of the world.

In Gun-ota ga Mahou Sekai ni Tensei Shitara, Gendai Heiki de Guntai Harem o Tsukucchaimashita, the hero is a gun otaku, the only one in the world who uses guns. No one thinks of attempting to independently recreate what he did, and the only person in the world who is interested in guns worships him as a living god. Guns simply become a way for him to do battle, and to distinguish himself from everybody else.

In contrast Shinjuku no Nectar features schizotech, primarily WWI levels of technology mixed with magic and sprinklings of more modern technology. Isekai’d humans, not just the protagonist, have irrevocably left their mark on this world. Exploiting humans and their knowledge is a core component of the plot, with technological innovations ripple across the world.

The March Upcountry series by John Ringo and David Weber isn’t strictly an isekai story, but it shows how to properly craft the emergence of high tech. After crashlanding on a backward alien planet, Prince Roger must recruit the natives to bolster his numbers. To turn them into effective fighters, he must jumpstart an industrial revolution. Training methods, politicking, research and more become important plot points. The introduction of technology turns Roger’s army into a feared fighting force that sweeps the planet, and he sheds his persona of playboy prince to become a barbarian warrior king.

LitRPG Mechanics

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LitRPGs are extremely popular, especially in the isekai genre, but also extremely artificial. RPG rulesets attempt to quantify the unquantifiable so people can run a game. They doesn’t translate cleanly into the written word. LitRPGs try, but run the risk of sacrificing awe and wonder.

In RPG style combat, you’re basically reducing the other guy’s numbers to zero before he does the same to you. You need to optimize your class and stats, choose the right gear, and so on. It may be familiar to gamers, but if I want to read all about stuff that I see in games, I might as well play my own games. If I read fiction, I want more than that.

LitRPG systems limit the scope of creativity and de-emphasize the deadliness of combat. A standing arm bar can restrain someone without killing him; go hard enough and it will injure or damage the elbow; drop to a knee and go fast, you’ll slam his head against the floor and potentially break his neck. Good luck getting a LitRPG system to capture the nuances of these force options.

Instead of expanding the mind, LitRPG squashes it down into a gaming paradigm.

But not all LitRPGs are bad. City and the Dungeon is excellent. Soda Pop Soldier garnered excellent reviews. The trick is to focus not on the gaming elements, but on characterisation and storytelling. The LitRPG elements are props to support a scene; they should not be the focus of the story.

Better yet: step outside the tired litRPG setting and embrace the full range of fantasy possibilities.

The Restoration of Isekai

For all the strops thrown at isekai stories, the genre itself isn’t irredeemable. The basic premise contains vast potential for action, awe and wonder. By setting the story in a fantastic world while using characters from Earth, you set the stage for adventures into the unknown while simultaneously retaining an anchor to lived reality. Countless failed or mediocre executions of the concept don’t necessarily mean the death of the genre; it merely means future writers should do it right.

Which is what PulpRev is working on.

Allexander Hellene’s A Traitor to Dreams, Rawle Nyanzi’s Sword & Flower, and my own upcoming trilogy Dungeon Samurai represent our movement’s attempts to restore the genre to its rightful glory. Keep your eyes peeled for these stories; we’re only getting started.

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While waiting for DUNGEON SAMURAI, you can check out my latest novel HOLLOW CITY. With superheroes, martial arts, gunfights and politics, it’s Michael Connelly meets the Punisher.

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The Way of the Pulps

A few days ago, I had the privilege of reading the synopsis of a trilogy being written by a fellow Singaporean. It was an honest-to-goodness Sword and Planet story, like Star Wars crossed with Final Fantasy. Holy warrior maidens, mind-altering magics, political intrigue, interstellar travel and warfare, it was like reading a revival of an old school pulp story. It had incredible potential.

Which is why it will never be published in Singapore.

I’m not exaggerating. The writer had shopped the first book in his trilogy to several Singaporean publishers. Only one responded, and he said that there was no market for science fiction in Singapore.

His tale affirms my stance: the Way of the Pulps is the only way for me.

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Pulp Publishing

SingLit and the Singapore publishing scene are so heavily intertwined, they are one and the scene. SingLit is, quite simply and utterly insidiously, literature with Singaporean elements. Not just any literature, but literature deemed by the gatekeepers to be of artistic and intellectual merit, to highlight Singaporean culture and in so doing expand it.

Genre fiction does not fall into this category. Stories of action and adventure, stories without Singaporean characters, stories not set in Singapore, stories by Singaporeans that lack even the slightest scintilla of Singaporeaness, do not count.

Don’t be fooled by the genre-looking stories labeled as ‘SingLit’. They are litfic in genre dress, focusing on character dramas, wordplay, and capital-C culture at the expense of actual storytelling. The only exceptions I’ve seen are books aimed at younger readers–readers who still prize story over Literature. For this reason, I have never, and do not, recommend any SingLit story to my friends and readers.

Not only that, SingLit is exasperatingly hidebound in its business strategy. Until very recently, you’d be hard-pressed to find examples of SingLit novels on Amazon. Only in traditional bookstores. Most foreigners — the kind who would benefit the most from reading about Singaporean culture — would never get a chance to even buy SingLit. Likewise, marketing efforts like advertising, interviews, and ad copies are limited to a Singaporean audience; if you don’t read local newspapers or visit local blogs and bookstores, you’ll never encounter an ad for SingLit.

Traditional publishing isn’t much better. Tradpub is not in the business of selling stories; it is in the business of selling printed paper through bookstores. With bookstores closing and profit margins narrowing by the year, tradpub must make conservative publishing decisions to survive. They would rather market and sell existing authors first, then books that fall into familiar genre conventions, and take exactly no chances on books that defy genre conventions.

Not only that, the big publishing houses in science fiction and fantasy are dabbling in the black arts of identity politics and social justice. Their mission isn’t to entertain readers; it is to push out progressive propaganda. They focus on marketing POCs and minorities and women authors solely on the basis of their identities; ad copies for their books focus on the exotic minority status of their protagonists and how they are overthrowing oppressive ancien regimes; and every time an author fails to toe the line, the lynch mobs descend on them.

Quite simply, if you have a Y chromosome, intact genitalia, and politics to the right of Joseph Stalin, your chances of breaking into SFF tradpub are practically nonexistent.

Contrast all this to PulpRev. Among our number is an Israeli Jew who writes space opera starring a diverse range of alien species, a black man who writes anime-inspired mecha and mahou shoujo novels, and a Catholic who just released a sci fi thriller inspired by 80s and 90s action flicks.

We don’t care about identity markers. We care about writing awesome stories for our fans. Instead of relying on bookstores and traditional distribution chains, we use distribution platforms like Amazon to sell our books to the world.

For us, publishing is how we engage and entertain our readers. Everything else is secondary.

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Pulp Speed

Pulp Speed is the gospel of PulpRev. At its heart, it is a production-focused mindset. Write more and write fast without sacrificing quality. Always seek to write even more. The baseline is Pulp Speed One, or 2750 words per day. Many of our more prominent members crank out 3000, 4000 or more words on a regular basis per writing session.

It’s not just about dumping words on the page. It’s about maintaining quality while improving output. The more stories you complete in a given time, the more you learn, the more you improve.

Baked into Pulp Speed is the concept of failing faster. You may crank out a bad story, or two, or a dozen. But you are still writing, still learning, and with each story you get better. This sets up a virtuous cycle of growth, leading to perennial improvement.

In contrast, the zeitgeist of SingLit is an all-encompassing mess. Every year, the Singapore Writers Festival promotes SingLit by organizing classes, talks, workshops, book releases, and other events. For over a decade, I have seen the SWF cover music, Singlish as a language versus a dialect, the role of journalism, the importance of various languages, feminism, everything butwriting. Save for a handful of master classes, SWF doesn’t help writers develop the craft.

There is no culture of growth in SingLit. There is no culture of anything that supports writers.

Traditional SFF publishing is even worse. The social justice warriors have consumed it from the inside out and are using it as a propaganda machine. Identity politics, #ownvoices, and accusations of racism/sexism/ableism/whatever-ism are the dominant themes of content churned out by Big Pub. What you create, and the effort you put into your work, isn’t important to these people, only whether you spout the ideology du jour.

And I’m seeing this attitude creep into SingLit circles.

Between Pulp Speed or a hot mess, I know which one I’ll pick.

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Pulp Tradition

The pulps draw upon a rich literary tradition. Appendix N, the pulp masters, the dime novels, the classics by H.G. Wells and Jules Verne, all the way back to the Bible, Norse myths, the Bhagavad Gita and more.

The pulps were printed on cheap paper, but the writers were anything but. They were adventurers and athletes; autodidacts and scholars. They were the luminaries and representatives of superior culture, upbringing and education. They understood what appealed to people, the importance of virtues and values, the power of the written word. They drew deeply from the well of an ancient tradition and brought forth gems and gold.

We do not seek to resurrect the pulps of the past. Rather, we seek to learn from them and to apply what we have learned to meet the tastes of present-day markets — and in so doing, build upon the bright line of tradition and culture exemplified by the pulp era.

TradPub actively undermines its own traditions. To create the narrative of white oppression of minorities, it is always Year Zero. Bloggers and writers affiliated with TradPub have erased, dismissed or belittled the pulp era. In so doing, they erased, dismissed and belittled Leigh Brackett, C M Moore and Manly Wade Wellman, and so many more. In their quest to push message fiction, they had to ignore and undermine people whose existence is inconvenient to their narrative.

Since the colonial era, Singaporean literature has traditionally portrayed aspects of the ordinary Singaporean experience in some fashion. We see this in Singaporean characters, Singaporean settings, the use of Singlish, and so on. At every turn, the essential Singaporeaness of the story is highlighted.

It may appeal to some, but my readers don’t want to read all about how their day could have been; they want to read about a world that might be. They want to read about starships and holy warrior maidens, valiant knights crossing swords with demons, adventurers exploring strange new lands, stories that let them escape humdrum reality for a while.

And the gatekeepers of SingLit have shut out every story that could satisfy them.

They are so fixated on the SingLit tradition that they will not publish any Singaporean author who breaks free from the mould. If it isn’t literary, it’s not SingLit in their eyes.

SingLit is parochial. TradPub is self-destructive. That leaves me with just one path: to don the mantle of the Herald of the Pulp Revolution, and blaze a road into the future.

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If you want to know what a pulp-style superhero novel looks like, check out my latest novel HOLLOW CITY!

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A Thirst for Beauty

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For a published writer, I realize I don’t read a lot of fiction.

Between my work and my other responsibilities, I don’t have a lot of spare time. A not-insignificant fraction of that time is usually spent chasing down avenues of research related to my current story. What little reading time I do have left is stolen from train rides, mindless chores, the odd half hour before bed.

Reading time is extremely precious to me. And I won’t waste it reading trash.

A common term employed in programming circles is garbage in, garbage out. Garbage input produces garbage output. The same applies to writing: if you read only garbage stories, the quality of your writing won’t rise beyond the level of garbage.

And, as a corollary, Sturgeon’s Law states that ninety percent of everything is crud.

Most modern fiction bores me. I spend most of the working week delving into operational manuals, management procedures and technical documents; the last thing I need from my fiction is even more of the same dry language. This right here disqualifies most of the modern ‘literary’ fiction I’ve seen.

It also disqualifies many Amazon bestsellers.

I get that light novels are popular, that indie authors have made a lot of money cranking out fast-paced stories written in simple language, that there are many readers out there who love such stories. I’m not going to knock on their tastes. But reading these stories remind me way too much of work; instead of drawing me into another world, they bring out the editor and writer in me, prompting me to issue edits and corrections and alternatives in my mind. The language is too coarse, the characters too shallow, the action too unbelievable for me to care.

Going beyond language, the premises and tone of other popular stories turn me off. Brutally nihilistic grimdark tales revel in despair and suffering; reading them is akin to wading through a psychic sewer. LitRPG stories set explicitly in game worlds where users can log off anytime they want have effectively zero stakes, as the player has nothing to lose even from dying. Harem fantasy stories are almost always wish fulfilment stories with hordes of beautiful women fawning over a passive or gamma male character, focusing on fanservice to the detriment of story and character. I could spend long hours complaining about the stories I’ve read and it still wouldn’t do more than scratch the surface.

There is enough suffering in the world that fiction shouldn’t add to it. If anything, fiction should strive to elevate readers above this fallen world and inspire them to work towards a brighter future. And yet, to be believable, fiction must reflect essential truths about human nature.

I may be a science fiction and fantasy author, but the truth is, my primary fiction reading is thrillers.

Thriller readers are a demanding lot. They expect authenticity from characters, action scenes and settings. The events in the story must be both plausible and exciting. Whether the plot follows a jaded detective hunting a twisted serial killer or a black ops contractor taking on a terrorist ring, the reader must be able to sit back and say, ‘This could really happen.’

Thrillers reflect truths. Truths about human nature and capabilities, especially at the extremes of performance were a gifted few soldiers and cops operate.

For a long time, I thought that was enough. And yet…

From the pen of Robert E Howard flowed vivid, mythical lands where adventurers and conquerors roamed free and wild. H. P. Lovecraft measured out cosmic horror drip by drip, line by line, before plunging the reader into the screaming abyss, far beyond hope of recovery. C. M. Moore infused her stories with heart, melding emotion and action in a distinctly feminine voice.

Once exposed to the power of the prose of the pulp greats, I realized I had been thirsting for beauty for all my life. The beauty of the written word, with the power to bring the reader to soaring heights and lightless depths and back again, to take him to worlds that never were but could have been, to clarify and illuminate principles universal to the human condition. The thrillers I’d read couldn’t come close; with rare exceptions, the prose is best described as ‘workmanlike’ — clean and simple to read, but no more remarkable than scaffolding or a delivery vehicle, and utterly staid in comparison to the craftmanship on display in the average pulp story.

And yet…

The pulp masters were fond of literary techniques that would not pass muster today. Passive voice and awkwardly long sentences were commonplace. Lovecraft is infamous for run-on paragraphs that could easily stretch across pages. Howard’s portrayal of weapons rending armor and fighters throwing sword blows with all their might is factually inaccurate. Stories set in lost cities in darkest Africa or at the furthest ends of the world are no longer believable in an age of Google Maps and Infogalactic.

Times change. Tastes change. With every day science pushes back against the vast realm of ignorance, yet the growing illumination renders many old pulp tales implausible to the modern reader. Recreating the pulp age wholesale isn’t the path to commercial success. And I’m too detail-oriented to settle for unrealistic fight scenes. Reproducing old school pulp stories would leave that thirst for beauty unquenched.

This leaves me in the position of having to write the stories I want to read, to forge a path into the unknown.

This is the crux of the Pulp Revolution. To study from the pulp greats and adapt these lessons to modern times. To marry audience preferences and writing craft with literary power and cultural depth, and in so doing to revolutionise the field. This is the approach I’ve been seeking throughout my writing career, and only now have I the words and experience to describe it in writing.

It is the only way I have to slake the thirst within.

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For pulp-style superhero action, check out my latest novel Hollow City!

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Dungeon Samurai Vol. 1 Cover Reveal!

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It is my great pleasure to announce that the cover of my Dungeon Samurai Vol. 1: Kamikaze is complete!

Dungeon Samurai Vol. 1 will hit shelves in May, as planned. Kickstarter backers will receive their copies at least 2 weeks before the official release date. Volumes 2 and 3 will be published in June and July respectively.

In case you’re wondering what it’s about, please see the description below:


Yamada Yuuki is an ordinary Japanese college student with an extraordinary hobby: the classical martial art of Kukishin-ryu. Until one fateful day when a demon rips through the fabric of space-time, abducts everyone in his dojo, and transports them to another world.

To return home, Yamada and his friends must join forces with other displaced humans to conquer the dungeon that runs through the heart of the world. Standing in their way are endless hordes of bloodthirsty monsters and countless traps. Armed only with steel, faith and guts, they must battle their way through the winding catacombs to confront the demon waiting on the bottom floor.

Yamada was once a student. Now he must become a samurai.

I’m excited to see this project to fruition, and I look forward to your support when it is finally published.

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In the meantime, if you want a book you can buy and read now, check out HOLLOW CITY exclusively on Amazon. It’s the tale of a superpowered cop forced to become a vigilante after he’s abandoned by his superiors; with a price on his head, he must battle gangsters and supervillains while staying one step ahead of the law. Fans of superhero stories and police procedurals will love this.

HOLLOW CITY is live!

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Super powered cop Adam Song has dedicated his life to the law. In the military and the police force, Adam ruthlessly protects the innocent.

But this time he’s killed the wrong bad guy. Now the local drug lord’s son is dead, and the boss is out for Adam’s blood. Even his secret identity won’t keep him safe. The police department hangs him out to dry, his years of exemplary service forgotten. Adam must take justice into his own hands to keep his family safe.

Because Adam is a Song. And Songs take care of their own. No matter the cost.

When does justice become murder? And just how far will he go to protect his clan?

It is my great pleasure to announce the publication of my latest novel, Hollow City, Book 1 of the Song of Karma series.

Song of Karma combines superpowers with firepower, tactics and technology, ninja and noir in Silver Empire’s Heroes Unleashed universe. Adam Song is the Punisher combined with Daredevil, with the training and the weaponry to take on the hardest of the hardcore villains who walk the world. Once a cop, he must now become a vigilante.

But even he can’t escape his karma.

It was a blast writing this novel, and I hope you enjoy the future installments in the series.

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Mechanical Versus Mythical Magic

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Corey McCleeryAlexander HelleneXavier LastraRawle Nyanzi and Misha Barnett recently opined on the de-mythologicisation of magic in contemporary fantasy. All five pieces are worth a read, but the thesis running through the heart of the conversation is that de-mythologicisation robs the mystery from magic in contemporary fantasy, making it feel empty. Comparing the works of the pulp-era grandmasters and many contemporary writers, I’m inclined to agree.

Modern fantasy revels in showing off magic systems. From arcane engineering to divine petitions to litRPG rulesets, magic in many modern fantasy stories are built on mechanics and principles that are well-understood by magic-users and revealed to the audience. In these stories, magic is no longer about the upending of the rules of the physical world, the injection of chaos into an otherwise orderly and familiar world, or a climactic event that shapes the story. It is treated as a tool like any other, to be used by appropriately-trained characters to achieve their goals. What was once the province of grand mythology is reduced to mundane activity.

This isn’t to say that this approach is necessarily wrong, but the de-mythologicisation of magic transforms magic into mere spectacle. Like in Jim Butcher’s Desden Files or Larry Correia’s Grimnoir Chronicles, magic becomes a tool to be used to solve problems, no different from a gun or knife or hammer. The ‘lifestyle magic’ enamored of isekai manga reduces its utility further to super-convenient detergent. The employment of magic in these stories is simply about selecting the right tool and the right deployment method for the job at hand. What awe and wonder that comes from this method of magic stems from mere spectacle — a contest to see whose magic is more visually impressive/destructive/useful — or a creative use of the rules of the magic system to employ previously unknown effects.

The de-mythologicisation of magic shrinks magic to fit the minds of mere men. But the awe and wonder in magic, and in the fantasy genre in general, is about the opposite. It stems from men expanding their minds in an attempt to apprehend phenomena that they can’t explain or comprehend. It comes from hinting at a metareality with laws and undercurrents that run deeper and stronger than the physical plane the reader is familiar with. It is about recognizing concepts and values much greater and far-reaching than the individual, and, armed with this new knowledge, re-evaluating one’s place in the world. It is about what might be so, if the rules of reality were slightly differently.

If you would discard mechanical magic and embrace the potential for myth, you must leave behind the mechanistic pseudo-engineering approach of modern fantasy, and look deep into the literature, mythology and folklore of the distant past, a past where magic carried a hint of fire and brimstone, where the Fae existed just next door to this world. Based on my own explorations, I’ve found four critical elements to make magic mythical again.

Scarcity Drives Value

Scarcity plus demand equals high value. This is a principle that holds true for storytelling as it does for economics. In a world where magic is commonplace, its perceived value is relatively low. To the inhabitants of the world, magic may be as valuable as a bar of gold or a bar of soap, a well-made sword or a highly portable shield; to the reader, magic is seen as part of the background of the world, no more remarkable than a sports car or private plane would be in the First World. Magic is seen as an inherent part of the world.

In a setting where magic is scarce, the deployment of magic is a watershed moment. In such a story, the reader will be exposed to chapter after chapter of prose that lays down the baseline for the story world — society, culture, technology level, physical laws, and so on. The appearance of magic upsets the laws of mundane reality and forces the characters — and the readers — to observe events with fresh eyes. It points to a deeper and higher level of reality, whose understanding is limited only to an elect few.

In old pulp works, magic was deliberately scarce or low-key. In the words of Robert E Howard, magic was usually limited to a ritual that served as the climax of the story, an artifact that grants a certain boon to a character without making him n overpowered titan, or a singular act that advances the story. C. L. Moore’s Black God’s Kiss places Jirel of Joiry, an archetypal warrior-woman who is nonetheless a mere mortal woman, in an otherworldly realm; there are no displays of magical fireworks, rendering the sole act of deliberate magic, the titular kiss, an unforgettably impactful moment.

If magic were everywhere, it would not be valued. But if magic were limited to the arsenal of a select few, it becomes the stuff of legends.

Preserve the Mystery

Modern fantasy stories starring spell-slinging magicians must lay down the rules of magic. It places limits on what the magicians can do to prevent accusations of deus ex machina and overpowered magic. The reader must be informed of the limits of these magicians, of how the spells work, and in so doing, in their minds magic is reduced from mystery to mechanics.

To re-mythologise magic, you must preserve the mystery.

Do not explain how magic works to the reader. Do not explicitly place limits on what magic can do — instead, limit the appearance of magic and magic-users. Characters skilled in magic must be exceedingly rare and show up as little as possible, and go away as soon as there is no longer a need for magic. Neither the viewpoint character(s) nor the reader should have a complete understanding of how magic works.

A work of fantasy lures readers to a world much larger than themselves, than individual characters. Magic is an element of that metareality. To preserve this sense of scope, magic must by necessity be beyond the understanding of mere mortals. Every glimpse of magic should feel like a privilege, a veil being drawn back to reveal a tiny slice of truth, while leaving the rest of reality shadowed in mystery. By maintaining mystery, the reader will be struck by his ignorance of how the world works, and more fully appreciate what little he was seen. In trying to puzzle out the nature of reality in that story, the reader is transformed from passive consumer to active seeker.

Indie Metroidvania game Hollow Knight relies heavily on this truth. While the titular Hollow Knight can use some magic, the nature of magic isn’t revealed. All the player knows is that they require the use of SOUL, a mysterious essence gathered by striking enemies, but otherwise not explained. At the same time, other enemies may use magic and abilities unique to themselves, and there is an entire research lab dedicated to the study of SOUL (which doesn’t tell you what it is). Players aren’t explicitly told what SOUL is beyond some kind of life energy; they only see some of its potential effects on the world, preserving the mystery of magic. The entire world of Hollow Knight itself preserves the mystery of its lore and history, forcing the player to trek to the distant corners of the land, talk to characters, and piece together clues to understand the history of Hallownest.

Be Subtle But Sharp

Magic of the mythical kind is unknowable, otherworldly, ethereal. It comes from the blue, strikes like lightning, and vanishes without a trace, leaving all witnesses awestruck.

Modern fantasy magic tropes have given readers a picture of what to expect from magic. Balls of flame, bolts of lightning, sudden blizzards, and so on. These magic systems obey a well-defined ruleset, and their effects are predictable and manageable.

Mythic magic is the opposite of that. It is a chaotic upheaval of the established order, the rewriting of the rules of nature, the manifestation of the uncanny and the unknown. It is so little-seen and so little-known that the common man cannot know it — only know of it, and fear it.

Mythic magic is subtle. This could mean low-key effects — an amulet that mysteriously causes fortunate events to happen to the wearer, a key that unlocks all locks simply by inserting it and twisting it — that are useful but don’t turn the wielder into a powerhouse. Or it could work by mechanisms that are unknown to all but the divine, the infernal, and those who study it: a permanent glamour that prevents all people from interacting with the wielder, fog appearing out of thin air, strange weather phenomena. By being unknown, it is not bound by mechanistic rules; by being free of rules, it cannot be studied or predicted by outsiders.

Whatever effect this magic has, it is decisive. Once employed, it cannot be stopped (at least, without great cost), it cannot be predicted, it cannot be understood. Its appearance shapes the story at a critical moment, and it is gone.

In Jack Vance’s Dying Earth stories, magicians are limited to a set number of spells, which they must memorise well in advance. These spells, while powerful, can only be used once, and are instantly forgotten. To re-use the magic, the magician must memorise the spell again. The exact nature of the magic is unknown — even the magicians do not know how it works, only that it does — but once employed, its effects are immediate and decisive — and fade into the night.

In the real world, this can be seen in high-level koryu, like this video from James Williams. It appears as if the attacker were about to strike Williams and Williams is moving to block, but in an instant Williams moves and the attacker falls. Until and unless the mechanics of the maneuver were fully explained and broken down, to the observer it is just like real magic — subtle but sharp.

By being sharp, mythic magic leaves a powerful impression on the reader; by being subtle, it preserves the mystery and deepens the memory of the sight.

Embrace the Asymptote

Mechanical magic reduces magic to the level of men. Mythical magic conveys men to a phenomenon greater than themselves and far beyond their level of understanding. It is like walking towards a distant mountain; you see only the snow-covered peaks and the majestic slopes, and as you approach it, it looms larger and larger, so large it dwarfs you long before you even arrive.

The needs of a story may require some explanation of how magic works. But fight the temptation to explain everything. There should always be a gap between what the reader knows and the truth of the world. What little you feed the reader should be just enough to advance the story while still preserving the mystery. The more the reader knows, the more he begins to comprehend the vast gulf of ignorance separating him from the full truth — and the more he realizes that his tiny, limited mind is incapable of understanding the truth. The sum of the reader’s knowledge may increase as the story progresses, but when graphed it should take the form of an asymptote, ever-increasing without quite arriving at full comprehension.

A great example of this principle is H. P. Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness. The protagonist is a man of science, well-versed in geology and not ignorant of other physical sciences. Even so, he is barely capable of beginning to understand the strange happenings surrounding his ill-fated expedition to Antarctica. In his explorations he discovers evidence of elder civilisations living in the mountains, but the more he learns about them the more he realises what he doesn’t know about the world. When he comes to the unnameable horror at the end of the tale, he simply refuses to describe it. The reader isn’t informed of the monster’s nature or appearance; he only sees its effect on the narrator, tries in vain to compare it to the other sights he has seen, and is left speculating on what the horror must be.

In this gap between the reader’s knowledge and the reality of the story world lies room for awe and wonder.

Make Magic Mythical Again

I am not in principle opposed to stories with mechanical magic systems. However, with even the supernatural reduced to fit the comprehension of mere men, such stories tend to be about human concerns and conflicts. Stories where myth manifests as magic point to deeper truths and higher realities than this, opening vistas of possibilities and inspiring awe and wonder.

The best modern fantasy with mechanical magic systems tend to be exercises in spectacle and one-up-manship. The worst are hollow and empty of greater meaning. If you want fantasy stories that touch the hearts of readers and point to higher truths, make magic mythical again.

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If you’d like to see what magic granted by gods and demons look like, check out my latest novel HAMMER OF THE WITCHES.

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Lessons from the Dungeon Samurai Kickstarter

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Having achieved 110.5% of its funding goal, the Kickstarter campaign of Dungeon Samurai was a great success. I am grateful to all backers and everyone who have helped with the campaign, and am now preparing the manuscript for publication. Looking back on the campaign, I’ve 5 lessons to share.

1. The Campaign Begins Before It Begins

The most important lesson of the Dungeon Samurai campaign was the importance of lead marketing. That is, stimulating interest in the target audience and converting them into buyers before the crowdfunding campaign begins.

Once the crowdfunding campaign kicks off, you only have a limited time to find backers. You don’t want to spend that time trying to excite people in your product. You want an eager audience primed to back your campaign and spread the word the moment it goes live. This saves time and energy on generating leads and selling your ideas to potential backers, letting you focus on more important task.

A good example of this from PulpRev is the #AGundamForUs initiative. For the past year, PulpRev writers have been creating mecha-centric novels, such as Brian Niemeier’s Combat Frame XSeedor Rawle Nyanzi’s Shining Tomorrow. By talking about their work during the creation process, they were creating an audience before they went live with their own campaigns.

The biggest mistake I made for Dungeon Samurai was the lack of lead marketing. To be fair, the original plan was to publish it as a web novel on Steemit. But by the time the manuscript was ready for publication, publishing on Steemit was no longer a viable option. Crowdfunding became the next best way of raising funds to publish it. I spent a lot of time and energy playing catch-up and seeking backers. If I had to do it again, I’d definitely start talking about my fiction well before it’s slated to be published.

2. Always Be Hustling

Once the campaign is live, it’s pedal to the metal, full speed ahead.

During the 30 days of the campaign, I was rushing every day, doing something to promote the campaign. I was arranging interviews, sending out advance review copies, participating in podcasts, writing background material to promote the stories, promoting the campaign on social media and more. In addition to working three different jobs.

It’s a relentless rush from start to finish. You can’t simply kick back and let the money roll in. You need to communicate with your audience, keep them updated on your campaign, and contact people who can help you reach out to even more people. And if you have other real-life responsibilities as well, it will be exhausting.

If you’re working a solo campaign like I am, there’s no way around this. What you can do is prepare well ahead. Arrange for interviews before the campaign goes live, send out eARCs to bloggers and reviewers, and other time-consuming tasks. Remember: the campaign begins before it begins. The more work you do before it starts, the less time you’ll need doing scut work, and the more time and energy you have for the important things.

3. Ask and You Shall Receive

Crowdfunding is, quite simply, asking lots of people, many of whom are strangers, to give you money in exchange for a product. You have to ask before you can get support.

However, I am, by nature, an introvert. Arguably a hermit. In every personality test I’ve run, I almost always max out the scores for introversion. Running a crowdfunding campaign runs counter to my natural preferences.

But I went and did it anyway.

I am enormously grateful for the help I’ve received along the way. From interviews with PulpRev creators to Kickstarter pledges to social media mentions, people were perfectly happy to step up and lend me a hand however they could.

Which leads to an important corollary: if you don’t ask for anything, you won’t receive anything. If you don’t tell people what you have to offer, they aren’t going to help you. If you want to succeed, you’ve got to reach out to as many people as you can.

The greatest obstacle here is fear of rejection. But you have literally nothing to lose. If you ask and get help, great! If you’re rejected, you’ve lost nothing except maybe the time it took to craft your pitch. The surest way to tackle this fear of rejection is to boldly contact as many people as you can, to work past the fear and partner with those who are eager to buy what you have to sell.

4. Who You Know Matters

Blasting all sorts of people with mass emails, newsletters, press releases and so on is exhausting. Some people have the time and stamina for that. I don’t, not when I’m working three jobs in addition to crowdfunding. To maximise returns, I elected to focus my marketing campaigns.

Dungeon Samurai appeals to a select group of people: fans of old-school sword and sorcery tales, OSR Dungeons and Dragons players, and PulpRev. I reached out to my friends in those groups, pitching Dungeon Samurai and asking for interview opportunities, and received many favourable responses. Through their interviews and social media signal boosts, they helped push the campaign to a wider audience than I could have alone.

I am also blessed to have a wife who is a superb networker. It’s no exaggeration to say that her tireless efforts accounted for half of all backer contributions. She helped me sell the books and ideas to her stupendously wide circle of friends, leading to the campaign’s ultimate success.

The lesson here is two-fold. First, focusing your marketing efforts on your target audience leads to maximum returns on investment. Second, relationships matter. Fans, friends and family are far more willing to go to bat for you than perfect strangers ever would.

Be an active part of the community, help everyone you can, and speak as often to your target audience as possible. Without relatonships, you won’t get far.

5. Maintain Momentum

Funding is a milestone, but it’s not the end. You can’t stop work just because you’ve received the money. If anything, you need to redouble your efforts, since you now have a responsibility to your backers to deliver on time.

You need to keep your backers updated, continue with production, handle shipping and logistics, track your finances, and more. The entire process isn’t over until you’ve completely fulfilled your backer obligations. You must see things through to the end.

In the case of Dungeon Samurai, the cover artist is hard at work on the cover of Dungeon Samurai Volume 1: Kamikaze. I am going through the manuscript as well to take care of formatting issues and other last-minute edits. The project remains on schedule.

I’m also pleased to report that I’ve begun work on my next series, a cyberpunk espionage/military thriller titled SINGULARITY SUNRISE. Do keep an eye out for it in the near future.

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While Dungeon Samurai is still in production, I have other books ready for prime time. If you love demons, magic, hardcore action, counterterrorism and conspiracies, check out my latest novel HAMMER OF THE WITCHES.

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