The great thing about electronic publishing, is that a ton of stuff that would never have made it into print with traditional publishing houses is available to be read.
The terrible thing about electronic publishing, is that a ton of stuff that would never have made it into print with traditional publishing houses is now available to be read.
This creates a quandary. What rules do you use when you're trying to figure out whether what you're looking at is likely to be the great stuff that wouldn't have made it into print or the terrible stuff that shouldn't have made it into print? How do you pick and choose, short of simply diving in and starting to read? And if you aren't one of those fortunate souls with unlimited time to spend spelunking through the labyrinthine bowels of electronic publishing, who can't afford to sample everything, how do you prioritize the effort? It's worth figuring out a set of rules rather than just deciding to let the traditional publishing houses decide for you, because there really is a lot of good stuff out there. But as the King of Siam says in "The King and I," when it comes to finding it, "Is a puzzlement."
Enter Chris Kennedy and Mark Wandrey.
Now, Chris is a friend of mine, so you might want to take this with a certain grain of salt, but, having issued that fig leaf in the name of truth in advertising, I have enormous respect for what he has accomplished, both in his life before science fiction (as a pusher, not an addict) and since he and Mark joined forces to explore the potentials of electronic publishing. And, I might add, that the two of them understand what a completely natural fit science fiction and electronic publishing truly are. They understand that they are dealing with a format here which is particularly suited to the sorts of minds and interests that create science fiction readers. Moreover, they understand that the realities of electronic publishing mean that if they don't consistently produce good stories, their patrons have any number of other places they can go to find them. Which makes it a good thing -- for all of us -- that they have demonstrated the judgment to pick the good ones for inclusion under their imprint.
Both of them do pretty darned good work as writers themselves, which also helps immensely, and they also have a grasp of something I think may be even more important -- from the editorial/publisher's perspective -- given the nature of electronic publishing in general. They understand the value of unifying themes.
There are no word count limits in electronic publishing,because photons are cheap and the supply of pages is unlimited. I'm sure all of us have encountered stories with too many words in them -- some of us have even written them (although I have no intention of going there) -- and that can happen even more frequently in an electronic format. Mind you, I'm not saying that it always does; I'm saying that it sometimes does and that it is something of which both writers and publishers need to be aware. My personal feeling is that, despite the potentially unlimited word count, electronic publishing is the twenty-first century version of the 1930s and 1940s pulp magazines. There's a constant need for new content, production costs are low, and it's an ideal format for short fiction. For stories that get up and move and deliver in a relatively tight word count. And for anthologies of short fiction or for shared universes.
And that, finally (I did mention that electronic publishing allows for unlimited word counts, didn't I?), brings me to For A Few Credits More.
Chris and Mark have created something that plays to what I consider to be the strengths of electronic publishing. Shared universes have been around for a long time, but as someone who's done quite a few collaborations in his time, I can tell you that the Internet makes collaborating incredibly easier than it used to be. I know, because I've done it both ways. Yes, I've been around that long.
Before the Internet, collaborators basically had to live in the same town -- the same house was even better -- or else accept interruptions in the writing process while mail moved back and forth. When Steve White and I were working on Insurrection, our first novel, I discovered that for some reason known only to the US Postal Service, it took three days for a letter from Charlottesville, Virginia, to reach Greenville, South Carolina, but it took ten days (on average) for a letter to go from Greenville to Virginia. We never did figure out why that was, aside from some pretty bad jokes. But it was a definite factor in the speed and flow of what we were doing.
Today, I can be working with John Ringo or Eric Flint or Tim Zahn and the chapter I've written, or the review comments they've inserted, can be emailed back and forth in seconds. That's an advantage that would be almost impossible to overestimate. And what is true for collaborative novels, is also true for collaborative universes -- for shared universes.
The universe they've created is guaranteed to generate tons of action, it's also one that offers an enormous spectrum for the types of stories to be placed within it.
The Four Horsemen Universe is one in which humanity is the new kid on the block, very much at the bottom of the interstellar totem pole, with only one real asset: our willingness to fight. We're not the only species that has it, we're just the only species that doesn't have anything else to offer, and so, inevitably, we become some of the most proficient bounty hunters and mercenaries in a galactic "community" that makes China's Warring States or the condottieri's Italy look effetely civilized. There are rules, enforced by the various guilds, but just about anything goes within those rules and for those more enlightened races which don't like to do their own fighting (but don't much care who gets killed in the pursuit of their goals), humans become a valuable commodity. It creates a situation that is a natural setting for story lines ranging from "Rio Bravo" to "The Dirty Dozen" to "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly," but with the addition of starships, nanotech, combat mechs that could give Optimus Prime a run for his money, genetic engineering, and good, intelligent speculative fiction that goes well beyond a simple "shoot up the bad guys" mentality. That delves beneath the surface of the action to examine why it's happening . . . and what it can cost.
Which is what brings us to the stories in this volume.
They cover a wide range of "other peoples' conflicts" from the human's-eye perspective, and Chris and Mark have chosen them with their usual discerning eye. I think you'll not only enjoy them but quickly discover why they've given this volume its title after naming its predecessor A Fistful of Credits. I'm not saying Sergio Leone and Clint Eastwood would have been right at home in all of them, but Colonel Mortimer and Manco could certainly sit down to a beer with the characters in most of them.
Some are stronger than others; none are weak, and which ones you'll like best ultimately comes down, as always, to your own taste as a reader. I can say only that Chris and Mark have done their best -- successfully,in my opinion -- to give you a varied selection. You'll find something for every palate in this smorgasbord, and I look forward to book number three.
August 28, 2017
From the Author
We needed help.
So we asked some authors we knew, and some we just sort of knew of, if they'd like to help us expand our universe by writing a short story set in the universe. We were overwhelmed at the response--it will take us several books to accommodate all of the authors who immediately said "Yes!" when we asked them to participate. Like us, they found the universe a lot of fun and couldn't wait to jump in.
We gave them a short primer on the universe and sent them on their way with only two points of guidance: it had to be set in the Four Horsemen Universe, and it had to be good. As such, these 16 tales describe the highs and lows of life on the battlefield, as well as in the streets and alleys of the Four Horsemen Universe. While some deal with mercenaries, others introduce readers to members of the other guilds, organizations, and races. There's even a new form of life to get acquainted with and a look at alien interaction at its youngest level.
Like its predecessor, "A Fistful of Credits," "For a Few Credits More" includes all-new stories by a variety of bestselling authors--and some you may not have heard of...yet. Edited by universe creators Mark Wandrey and Chris Kennedy, authors Peter Cawdron, Rob Howell, Josh Hayes, Scott Moon, JR Handley, Corey Truax, Tim C. Taylor, Terry Mixon, Thomas A. Mays, Ian J. Malone, T.C. Bucher, Chris Winder, James Young, Nick Cole, Jake Bible, Kacey Ezell, Mark Wandrey, and Chris Kennedy take on various aspects of the universe, giving you additional insight into a galaxy where people will do almost anything for a few credits more.
Mark and I are indebted to the authors who participated in this project for their time and talents, and to David Weber for the foreword.
What makes David Weber worthy of kicking off this book? A New York Times bestselling author, he is one of the military scifi masters,having written a number of bestselling series, including the Honor Harrington science fiction series. If you don't recognize his name and body of work, you're not a scifi reader (and you'll want to fix that soonest--it's awesome!) He's also probably the best person I know--just being around him makes me want to be a better person.
Take a look at what David Weber has to say. He knows science fiction.
Virginia Beach, VA