Saturday, June 22, 2024

[Link] Let Them Be Morally Flawed: In Defense of Queer Villains in Stories

John Copenhaver on Conflating Queerness with Evil

by John Copenhaver

Queerness and villainy have a long history of being conflated by mainstream entertainment, from Peter Lorre’s effeminate and threatening Joel Cairo in The Maltese Falcon to the obsessed and manipulative Mrs. Danvers in Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca to, more humorously, the violent Lord Humungus from Mad Max, decked out in leather fetish gear, to the many queer-coded Disney villains, such as the Evil (Drag) Queen in Snow White to the preening Jafar in Aladdin.

Originally, these queer-coded antagonists were molded to contrast mainstream heteronormativity; the straight cis-gendered heroes of these stories embody traditional ideas about gender and sexuality. On the surface, the villains aren’t explicitly queer, but they wear a cloak of queerness to imply a harmful false equivalency that being LGBTQ+ is morally dubious or, from another angle, that transgressing gender and sexuality norms indicates innate corruption or, perhaps, a moral weakness leading to greater evil.

If you grew up in the eighties and early nineties, as I did, it was difficult to find any positive queer role models in popular entertainment or books; few of these stories were within easy reach. So hungry were we for queer characters, we zeroed in on the flamboyant queer-coded villains, which despite the intention behind these characters, we embraced long before Disney seized the opportunity to capitalize on their beloved baddies and began franchising their origin stories. In doing so, they filed down their villains’ horns for mass consumption.

At first glance, transforming queer-coded villains into protagonists with rich backstories seems well-intentioned and progressive. This revision of villainy seems to challenge conflating queerness with corruption: “Those vicious villains weren’t evil after all, just misunderstood.”

In truth, Disney is just nudging these queer-coded characters into the circle of conventional morality, not widening the circle. The original vampy evil fairy Maleficent becomes a scorned and brutalized lover and later a protective mother figure. Vicious and glamorous fashionista Cruella becomes a Dickensian goth orphan girl-cum-fashion designer. While these films are entertaining, they don’t embody progress as much as they want us to believe they do.

Read the full article:

Friday, June 21, 2024



Airship 27 Production is thrilled to announce the release of its fifth volume in the Ravenwood series. The classic occult detective, Ravenwood – Stepson of Mystery returns in three brand-new adventures. From Manhattan to Istanbul, the master of the oriental arts, faces the puzzle of a man murdered three times in the same night. Then there is the stage mentalist seeing revenge against those who exposed his twisted mentor. Lastly, Ravenwood comes to the aid of his British manservant, Sterling, who has become the target of a sadistic killer who once served with him in the Great War.

Writers Dexter Fabi, Michael Housel, and Carson Demmans pull out all the stops and they lead readers into the bizarre, ever-wonderous world of magic via the exploits of the great arcane investigator of them all, Ravenwood – Stepson of Mystery.

Artist Sam Salas provides the black and white interiors and Adam Shaw the stunning painted cover.


Available now in paperback and soon on Kindle.


Saturday, June 15, 2024

[Link] Amy Tan Isn’t Perfect

This year’s Carl Sandburg Literary Award winner on getting over perfectionism in writing and the myth that Asians are a “model minority”

By Monica Eng

The Joy Luck Club has become the great Chinese American novel. What were the pros and cons of authoring the first big commercial Chinese American literary hit?

I was cast in the limelight as being some sort of expert about Chinese Americans or immigrants or mothers and daughters. With that limelight comes a responsibility put on me to speak for the community of Asian Americans, or all people in Asia, which is impossible. I had to constantly talk about the fact that Asian Americans are not a homogenous group. We are united by commonalities and needs within communities, but we can be very different in how we conduct our lives.

You’ve dressed up in S&M-style leather to perform with the literacy fundraising supergroup the Rock Bottom Remainders. How did that happen?

I used to sing “Bye Bye Love,” but I don’t have a good voice. After our first concert, our musical director, Al Kooper, said, “I picture Amy wearing leather boots and fishnet stockings, wielding a whip and singing ‘These Boots Are Made for Walkin’.’ ” And I said, “That is such a sexist thing to say,” but I realized this wasn’t about me trying to prove I had a good voice. This was about being funny, because this plays against who most people think I am. I had to go to these leather shops and ask for whips and collars. So part of this song does require me to tell the boys to bend over, and then I get to whip them.

In your latest books and your Netflix documentary [Amy Tan: Unintended Memoir], you talk about your mom’s struggle with mental health and your own struggles. Why is it important to get these topics out in the open — especially in the Asian American community?

My mother was always very open about anything. Anything I said about her was fine. So that kind of openness has been my template in life. I am part of the Pacific Asian Network. It’s like a United Way for different Asian groups that also helps combat stereotypes about Asians as model minorities: the idea that they have no problems, no mental health issues, no children who are overweight, no poverty, no elder abuse. Those are all myths.

Read the full interview:

Friday, June 14, 2024


Airship 27 Production is thrilled to present the greatest pulp hero team up of them all. The threat of World War II looms over the eastern horizon and America prepares for when it will enter battle. When many masters of the occult and magical talismans from around the globe begin disappearing, Intelligence Officer Major Steel fears the Nazis are behind the kidnappings and thefts. He hurriedly enlists the aid of Secret Agent X, Ravenwood Stepson of Mystery, and powerful mage, Ascott Keane. But even their combined powers may not be sufficient and so he is forced to reach out to the devil incarnate himself, the villainous Doctor Satan.

Writer Glen Held delivers a pulse-pounding pulp adventure in the tradition of the thirties classics. While multiple Pulp Factory Award-winning artist Rob Davis provides the stunning cover and the black and white interior illustrations. 


Available now at AmazonAmazon in paperback and soon on Kindle. 

Saturday, June 8, 2024

[Link] Beat the Author Blues: How to Manage Writer’s Doubt

by Clayton Noblit

Being an author is hard. There’s no way around it. Some days, the prose will spring onto the page almost without effort. On others, it will be an exercise in stagnation and frustration as you stare at a blank screen in a fit of writer’s doubt. Oh, and the actual writing often isn’t the hard part. Authors and writers often work from a deeply personal place. And, if opening up to a new friend is anxiety-inducing, sharing your writing with the entire world takes it to a new level.

Think running a business is hard? Imagine if the business was based around your imagination being shared with others. This is what an author deals with on a daily basis. Thankfully, there are upsides to being an author. Sharing your creativity can be the most rewarding thing in your life. It’s a chance few will take, but those who do can see great rewards.

Here are a few common issues that authors face, and suggestions on how to overcome them, or put them in perspective.

  • Feeling devastated by a bad review
  • I’m not a real author
  • My writing isn’t good enough
  • The task seems too big
  • I don’t know enough about a subject to write about it

Read the full article:

Friday, June 7, 2024


Hell, Arizona is a flea-bitten two-horse town inhabited mostly by people with nowhere else to go. Drifters, tired worn-out settlers, and lots of outlaws. One of the few ongoing concerns is the brothel operated by Golden Annie. One day a slim, emaciated Englishman in a bowler hat arrives asking if he might be allowed to play her piano situated in the parlor. Surprised by the fellow’s look and demeanor, Annie agrees and is then impressed with his skills on the keys. Enough to hire him on.

And thus Percy Smith becomes Hell’s newest resident. Then a series of unfortunate events leads to his killing a violent customer intent on beating one of the girls. Soon Smith becomes the target of every owlhoot in the territory and unbelievably survives every challenge he encounters until he’s put a half dozen men in Boot Hill. Still puzzled by his true identity, Annie establishes Smith as the town’s new sheriff and soon his reputation begins to grow across the territory. Eventually getting the attention of the meanest, roughest outlaw of them all, Old Bill. Fate has put them on a collision course and it’s anybody’s guess who will survive.

Carson Demmans delivers a one-of-a-kind story that will keep readers guessing as to the Smith’s hidden secret. Artist Sam Salas provides the nine interior illustrations with Adam Shaw the eerie, beautiful cover. Art Director Rob Davis works his book design magic. 


Available from Amazon now in paperback and soon on KindleAmazon now in paperback and soon on Kindle.

Tuesday, June 4, 2024

Chris Riker: I'm Nuts

Chris Riker is a father, author, and journalist. He grew up in Rhode Island and now makes his home in Georgia with his wife, Ping. He has always loved books, from science fiction and fantasy to historical novels and biographies. Building on a background in broadcast news, including a five-year stint at CNNI, he is now focused on telling stories with strong characters and moral resonance. Chris Riker’s premiere novel, Come the Eventide, focuses on a world after the fall of civilization and a dolphin named Muriel who is trying to save mankind from extinction. It is available now on Amazon and Audible. His second novel, Zebulon Angell and the Shadow Army, follows a hard-living Uber driver from Atlanta who happens upon a sex pill, leading to intrigues and adventures that take him inside the haunted tomb of China’s first emperor.

Tell us a bit about your latest work.

I’m pleased to have written Goody Celeste, which came out just recently. (I have a new one. More on that in a bit.) It’s been a chance to relive my childhood summers in 1969 Rhode Island. Of course, I got to invent a better version of me, one who’s not so oblivious to the world, and to women’s feelings. Ha! My main guy, Paul, meets Cece, a smart, beautiful witch, and together they face their problems. 

What are the themes and subjects you tend to revisit in your work?

I’m worried about planet Earth. From this, I have discovered my fascination for two main themes: 1) Eat the Rich. Pretty self-explanatory, really. I’ve come to believe that extreme wealth is a fatal addiction. The idea that only “more” is enough is truly cynical and destructive. (This is why I worry for our beautiful planet.) This leads to 2) Hope. I’m a stingy writer. I will never offer you much hope. Wishing for a pony? You’re not getting it from me, fella. On the other hand, I don’t like nihilistic endings. So, you will always know that the hero will find the faintest glimmer at the end. And it’s usually coming from a change within. I think this theme is best seen in Zebulon Angell and the Shadow Army. Zee’s opening line is: “I wanted to conquer the world that morning, but my beer tasted skunky, and my head was full of cats.” In fact, I’d written that line years earlier, and it was only in 2021 that the story sprang forth. Zee does get a chance to do great things, but because he is who he is, he blows the opportunity to smithereens. He also meets Emperor Qin’s ghost, but you have to read the story to find out how. Point is, (spoiler) he learns about himself.

What happened in your life that prompted you to become a writer?

I’m nuts. I’ve always loved words. I read and I write. When I was in grade school, I got into an argument over grammar with my principal. (I think I was wrong, but you’d never have convinced the younger me.) When my mom took me to the beach, I’d jump in the water for ten minutes, and that was enough. I’d spend the rest of the day in the bathhouse, reading paperback sci-fi. Even in August, I wore my February pallor. As I say… nuts.

What inspires you to write?

I guess it’s fear of mortality. Odds are, I can’t afford a solid gold pyramid, so I’ll just jot down some stories, hoping to echo a while beyond my time. I’d love to say I want to teach people to be nicer to each other and to Planet Earth, but that’s an even bigger longshot.

What would be your dream project?

I’d love to see my work turned into a streaming show or movie. I have a huge ego, so I’ve sent copies of my novels to famous actors. Nothing. (hmmm) I read an interview with Jennifer Coolidge while watching “White Lotus.” She said she wanted to play a dolphin, so I mailed her a copy of Come the Eventide, which stars dolphins and octopodes trying to save the Earth. Nothing. (hmmm)

If you have any former project to do over to make it better, which one would it be, and what would you do?

I actually don’t. I fiddle with some of my short stories when I go to post them on my website (one more check!!!!), but I really feel you have to close out a project. Now, if Hollywood wants to “improve” my work… I’m easy, but not cheap.

What writers have influenced your style and technique?

Hopefully, many more than I can list. I’m a firm believer in stealing tricks from the best. (Not the works, but the tricks.) I grew up with Asimov, Bradbury, Clarke, and Heinlein. Of those, I still go back to Bradbury for the sheer joy and beauty of his writing. Instead of technobabble, he’ll write poetry. Now, there’s a trick I try to steal! I also love Murakami, Garcia Marquez, Stephenson, Eco, and more. These guys have a million times my intellect, so I flatter myself just by reading them.

Where would you rank writing on the "Is it an art or it is a science continuum?" Why? 

Good question. I work with students and with other aspiring writers, so I do see the value of respecting both art and science. I would lean maybe 60-40 towards art, but you gotta have solid grammar and a developed voice. That’s hard work and accepting the fact that the English language is a beast that will never be tamed.

What is the most difficult part of your artistic process? 

Time. Will power. Fending off the depression that comes from waking up in a cold sweat at 3am with a plot hole glowing like a nemesis before my eyes.

How do your writer friends help you become a better writer? Or do they not? 

They absolutely do. I know that I’m perfect. They help me pretend I’m not. Actually, there’s nothing better than feedback. Abject praise may feel good, but seeing the puzzled looks across the Zoom screen when they ask me what the hell they just read – that’s invaluable. I need to know where to fix my perfect stories.

What does literary success look like to you? 

Being invited to book signings, podcasts, and interviews. Maybe getting the chance to blather on about the process. I would like to sell books, of course. Lots. It’s getting harder and harder, thanks to billionaire tech bros who have flooded the market. I watched the streaming version of Stephen King’s "Lisey’s Story." In one scene, an author steps out of a stretch limo to a cheering crowd. Um. Not holding my breath in 2024. Anyway, I’d love to think some people would get to know me from my writing. That would be cool.

Any other upcoming projects you would like to plug?  

Novel #5 is finished. I’m shopping it around, but agents are 100 percent business-oriented. They cannot and will not “take a chance.” So… I will probably self-publish. I want to read up on a few marketing techniques first. How I wish writers could be writers. Anyhoo… Alexander and the Butcher finds a Shatner-esque actor in 1963 researching his role as Alexander the Great… and then going back to meet (and do much more than meet) the real thing. Look for it soon.

For more information and FREE short stories, please visit:

Amazon Author Page

Saturday, June 1, 2024

[Link] Yes, People Do Buy Books

Despite viral claims, Americans buy over a billion books a year

By Lincolm Michel

This week fellow Substacker Elle Griffin published “No one buys books,” which looks at quotes and stats from the DOJ vs. PRH (Penguin Random House) trial where the government successfully blocked PRH’s $2.2 billion purchase of Simon & Schuster. Griffin’s article has gone viral for its near apocalyptic portrait of publishing. Much of the overall thrust of Griffin’s article is right: Most people don’t buy many books, sales for most books are lower than many think, and big publishing works on a blockbuster model where a few couple hits—plus perennial backlist sellers—comprise the bulk of sales. But I hope Griffin wouldn’t mind my offering a rebuttal of a few points here. As I think a few things are off.

I was alerted to the article by people rebutting it by sharing my 2022 article about the hard-to-believe claim that 50% of books only sell 12 copies. This claim, and similar ones, go viral pretty regularly despite making no sense. In the comments of my 2022 post, Kristen McLean from BookScan attempted to recreate the viral statistic and couldn’t come close even by restricting sales to frontlist print sales in a calendar year. It seems unclear what the 12 copies claim is referencing at all.

While I think Griffin does great work collecting these quotes, I would offer a word of caution. PRH’s legal strategy was to present publishing as an imperiled, dying industry beset on all sides by threats like Amazon. PRH allegedly even paid high fees to have agents and other industry professionals testify on their behalf. I’m not saying any of the quotes are lies. I’m saying the quotes and statistics are fitting a specific narrative in the context of a legal battle.

First though, let’s step back and look at the biggest question. Do people buy books?

Read the full article:

This article is a response to this one from last Saturday: