“This Ray Gun for Hire. . . and Other Tales,” has been available now in print and e-book from Amazon for a couple of weeks. Initial reaction has been good so far. Not great, but it usually takes a while for sales to pick up– especially, I’ve found, with science fiction. My weird west stuff sells pretty well and steadily. But cracking the sci-fi market is another matter. “The Big Shutdown,” for example, has been pretty sluggish, frankly. The problem I think is that sf is such a big genre. It’s hard to get any attention for your work, there’s so much out there to compete with. Weird West is a small niche by comparison. Easier to make a mark there.
But now that “This Ray Gun for Hire” is out a few people have asked where the stories in this collection came from. I indicated in the book that some of the tales were originally published in different e-zines and anthologies, including Raygunrevival.com and http://www.spacewesterns.com, both of which are no longer in business. Here’s a little more detail.
Four of the five stories that feature ray-gun-for-hire Frank Carson were originally published in Raygun Revival, an ezine run by Overlords Johne Cook, L.S. King, and Paul Christian Glenn that was published online somewhere between 2006 and 2012. It was a cool publication to which some very good writers contributed. It was well thought of while it existed and it was a great place for writers just starting out. The Overlords were great people and L.S. King in particular a very good editor. Johne Cook was and is a huge “Firefly” fan, but I’ve never held that against him.
The title story, “This Ray Gun for Hire,” “Alexander the Great,” “Where the Space Pirates Are,” and “Forever Eden” all appeared in Raygun. The fifth story in the book, “The Tuqamari” has never been published before. It was almost published in Ray Gun Revival, but never made it because of a change in ownership. The new owner, some dickhead whose name I can’t remember, thought he shouldn’t publish my story since I was and had been on the staff as a slush reader. The Overlords wanted to run it but the new boss said no. Anyway, it’s all for the good, because now, finally, readers get to enjoy a new Frank Carson adventure. Three cheers.
“Forty Miles from Carbonville,” originally appeared in an anthology called– well I won’t tell you what it was called. It’s out of print now and no longer available. Thank God! It was a terrible book. Not that the stories in it were bad. But it was published and edited by a guy who had no interest in correct punctuation, formatting, or spelling. The thing was a shambles. I submitted a print copy of it to a book review editor and he laughed in my face, saying he’d never seen anything that badly produced. My contribution, “40 Miles from Carbonville,” however, is actually a pretty good story, if I say so myself. It is set in the same universe as the Carson stories, which by the way take place in the same world as “The Big Shutdown” my science fiction novel. All these tales are sort of connected, you might say. In a way, “This Ray Gun for Hire” is kind of a prequel to Shutdown.
The three remaining stories in the book were initially published on Spacewesterns.com, which was, like Ray Gun Revival, another place to find good sf stories with solid writing by quite a few good authors. Spacewesterns ran from 2006 to 2009. Nathan E. Lilly was the editor/publisher and he was really good at picking stories, and editing them. I owe him a lot for the way “The Hard Deal” turned out. He had helpful suggestions and a lot of patience through the rewrites. The result was one of my best stories. At least I’ve heard from others it’s one of my best. Maybe you’ll let me know after you read it. “Rage for Justice,” and “Green River Rain” also were in Spacewesterns. As you might have guessed, these stories are actually spacewesterns unlike the Carson stories, which I call sci-fi noir for want of a better term. I know some people might argue with that designation, but hey! It’s my book, I can call them whatever I want.
You know it’s unfortunate that websites and zines like Raygun and Spacewesterns no longer exist. It seems that, even though it wasn’t that long ago, it was a different world back then. There were more online publications, and a more open-door attitude toward what is and isn’t science fiction, as well as a more welcoming atmosphere for new writers than there is today. I’m no expert. I can’t define SF, I’m just a story writer. But the lack of publications like these must make it hard for new writers to get into print. In the end, that’s bad for the future of science fiction.
I’ll wrap this up by saying “This Ray Gun for Hire” is a tribute to those bygone days and to the editors and publishers of that time, even the ones who couldn’t spell.