When it comes to aliens or monsters, I must admit to being more “Battletech” (no aliens save for one weird diversion) and less “Star Wars”. It’s just a matter of personal taste, I’ve enjoyed many stories that feature aliens and/or monsters, and I don’t hold anything against settings that do feature them. But it’s a taste I’ve found surprisingly consistent over time, and most of my plans for writing , as opposed to just reading, don’t feature sentient nonhumans.

Some of it is my preferred genres that don’t tend to diverge into science fiction or fantasy. Some of it is a dislike of “rubber forehead aliens” (I like Stephen Baxter because his aliens are truly alien). But some of it is a sad commentary on human nature. I can sum it up as “Why would I need monsters? Humans can be monstrous enough already.”

The AH conundrum-Solved?

A long time ago, I made a post wondering why there was so little “middle-tier” alternate history. Why was there so little alternate history that wasn’t either blatant or technical. There was a discussion to this end on Sea Lion Press some time ago, and (at least partially) from seeing and participating in that, I had an “ah-hah!” moment that might help explain the reason why.

The reason is simple: What would be “middle-tier” alternate history isn’t sold as or even considered alternate history most of the time. Using a ridiculously expansive definition, anything that isn’t an explicit reenactment/retelling of a historical event can be considered “alternate history”. A fictional city? Alternate history. A fictional political leader? Alternate history. A never-was weapon or car being used because the author liked it? Alternate history.

Even in lesser cases, where there’s a clear timeline divergence, it could be considered alternate history, but isn’t. For instance, since the timeline diverged in the 1980s with the arrival of Scion, Worm could be considered alternate history.

The sad truth (for alternate history fans) is that there isn’t much gain in labeling something alternate history. It’s known, but it’s known as a genre where the divergence is clear and blatant. For a more mainstream audience, it’s been shown that it’s better off being labeled as just what its genre is-a thriller, a mystery, or whatever it might be.

John Dies At The End

Now, it’s a little awkward that the surreal “classic” John Dies At The End is a book that’s struck near and dear to my heart.

On one hand, it’s a rambunctious romp of pure silly goofiness mixed with legitimate cosmic horror and a very wry writing style I’ve enjoyed.

On the other, well. First, in terms of legit offensiveness and tastelessness, it always toes and too often crosses the line. Second, well, it’s just a crudely bound volume of stories published one at a time on the internet long long ago, so don’t expect much in the way of cohesiveness.

The very crude nature of the book somehow makes it click-the two sequels have most of its weaknesses but very few of its strengths, so I don’t recommend them (in fact, the drop in quality between John Dies At The End itself and This Book is Full of Spiders is the single largest I’ve seen in any direct sequel).

If I had to write a big academic book…

If I had to write a big, academic, meticulously researched history/analysis book, I think it would be on the way the sort of story type I call the “cheap thriller” evolved throughout the centuries, from the beginning of modern printing all the way to the present. It would be an excuse to read lots and lots of cheap thrillers, and I find the trajectory of what’s popular and what isn’t at what time period legitimately fascinating.

A writing strategy

For my newest in-progress book, I’m trying a slightly unconventional writing style. I’m initially putting all the chapters in separate documents so that I don’t feel overwhelmed and can, if I only have the time or motivation for a “nibble”, can contribute to the chapter where I feel the most enthusiastic.

So far it seems to be working and I’m avoiding the “stare at the processor, do nothing” effect that has plagued my other writing for too long.