Weird Luck Interview Part 4

Welcome to the final installment of this four-part Weird Luck interview series? In parts one, two, and three, press partners Andrew M. Reichart and Nick Walker talked about the origins of Weird Luck, their unique approach to worldbuilding, neurodivergence in the WL universe, and the expandable possibilities of the WL multiverse. In this week’s installment, you’ll read the backstory of the WL comic, plus Andrew and Nick reveal the future of WL and give us details about the Argawarga relaunch.

– N.I. Nicholson

Ian: Now I’m thinking about the recent discussion about the webcomic in this whole thread and wondering: at what point did you all decide to include and launch a webcomic in the Weird Luck, and what spurred the idea?

Nick: I bear the blame for the idea of doing a webcomic.

Comics were a central obsession for me throughout my childhood and teen years. I mean, I wasn’t just another kid who loved comic books; I was drawing comics before I could write, and while I was still in grade school I acquired an encyclopedic knowledge of the history of comics — not just comic books but newspaper comic strips all the way back to the days of The Yellow Kid and Mutt & Jeff. 

In fact, Agent Sojac’s name comes from the nonsense phrase “Notary Sojac,” which regularly appeared on signs and such in the backgrounds of the old absurdist newspaper comic strip Smokey Stover. That’s what kind of comics geek I am.

But once I was out of high school, the struggle to survive as an autistic person with no financial resources or familial support derailed my plans to pursue a career in comics. Too busy just trying not to be homeless, and by the time I had enough stability in my life to make substantial creative projects viable I’d gotten sidetracked into other things. I got into writing eventually, but not back into creating comics.

Meanwhile, from 1996 to 2015, I was a core member of a group called Paratheatrical Research. The work of Paratheatrical Research involved using a combination of intensive physical movement work and trance states to access and forces in the personal and collective unconscious. Essentially doing deep Jungian work via the methods of experimental physical theatre.

Andrew got involved in Paratheatrical Research as well. In 2013, we were involved in some Paratheatrical Research work that focused on exploring the archetypal forces known as the Muses. When I started connecting with the Muses, they made it quite clear to me that it was time to get back to the creative dreams of my youth — writing fun weird speculative fiction, and making comics.

By that time, I’d become a fan of several webcomics, and really liked the medium — especially its DIY accessibility and the way it fostered regular reader/creator engagement.

So one day in the Spring of 2013, Andrew and I were walking to a Paratheatrical Research session together, and I proposed out of the blue that we collaborate on a webcomic. Of course, the idea that it would be part of the Weird Luck saga went without saying, because it was me and Andrew.

It took a while to get rolling. We realized that the two of us didn’t have time to both write and draw it, certainly not draw it at the level of skill we were envisioning, so we had to find an artist who was into the idea. Eventually, Andrew got the extraordinarily talented Mike Bennewitz on board — Mike was already the cover artist for Andrew’s Weird Luck novels.

Then we spent a while experimenting with what proved to be a false start. See, the main setting of the Weird Luck webcomic is the city-state of Tal Sharnis, which was created when an interdimensional disaster caused two cities in different universes to merge with one another into one reality-warped hybrid city (the disaster also tore both cities out of their native universes and transported them to the desolate chaotic wasteland of the Plateau of Leng). One of the two cities that got fused together in this disaster was also called Tal Sharnis, and before the disaster (which everyone now calls the Great Merger) it was located on Amarantis, a world that plays an important role in the Weird Luck saga. The other city was a version of late-20th-Century San Francisco (well, really the greater San Francisco Bay Area, including Oakland, Berkeley, the Marin headlands, and the Bay itself).

Well, the original plan was for the webcomic to take place in this version of San Francisco in the time shortly BEFORE the Great Merger. When it was still San Francisco, and still located on a version of modern-day Earth, but reality is starting to come apart at the seams a bit as the moment of the Great Merger slowly approaches.

We spent a bunch of time working on that story before we realized it wasn’t catching fire for us as a team. Mike wanted to draw exotic alien locations, and wanted some of the characters he drew to be nonhuman and/or too wildly exotic to blend in on 20th Century Earth. Andrew and I wanted a story that would connect more closely with Andrew’s novels, a story where we could bring in space pirates and that sort of thing.

So we went back to the drawing board, and in the end the result is the Weird Luck webcomic we’ve got today, which we’re having a great time with and which is proving to fit perfectly with the sort of Weird Luck prose stories we’re feeling inspired to write these days.

That prequel story in the pre-Merger Bay Area, though… that story is going to be told someday. I might do it as a second webcomic with a different artist who likes drawing modern-era city life, or maybe as a solo novel, somewhere quite a ways down the road.

Man, nothing about Weird Luck has a short answer…

Ian: Wow. That is pretty fascinating. That managed to answer two of the next follow-up questions I had planned. But your mention of the novels brings me to this question: Tell us a little about the origins of Argawarga Press. 

Andrew: In the late 90s, I figured I should grab some sorta unique domain name before they were all snatched up by ‘domain name trolls.’ I picked ‘argawarga.’ In Riddley Walker by Russell Hoban, arga warga is onomatopoeia for the sound of being eaten alive by wild dogs. I read that book once and it changed my life. The word appeals to me because I’m a werewolf, I guess.

Now we’re turning a big corner, becoming an imprint of Autonomous Press, relaunching with the publication of our first non-Andrew book, Dora Raymaker’s Hoshi and the Red City Circuit.
– Andrew M. Reichart

Argawarga dot com was a Web 1.0 static HTML site that I wrote by hand. Basically a porto-blog, consisting of my writing and art. I wrote a couple of books, got an agent. He wasn’t able to get any traction with the books, bless him, partly because he wasn’t very experienced, and partly because they didn’t fit any mainstream market at the time. They’d be fine in the late 60s or early 70s, maybe, but they were far too skinny and genre-bendy for the 00s.

Not long after, though, self-publishing took a turn thanks to ebooks and print-on-demand. We now lived in a world where you didn’t run the risk of printing thousands of copies that sit in storage till you figure out how to move them. I’d had an interest in self-publishing forever, since the punk zines of the 80s, really. But two mentors inspired me to finally undertake it now: Micaela Petersen of Sto*Nerd Press and The Blunt Letters, and Clint Marsh of Wonderella Printed and the journal Fiddler’s Green. Their projects were very different from what I was proposing to do, but their gumption and vision made it seem perfectly reasonable to just, like, offer bound printed matter to the public.

So, I published my first two books under Argawarga Press. And then my third, and my fourth. And now we’re turning a big corner, becoming an imprint of Autonomous Press, relaunching with the publication of our first non-Andrew book, Dora Raymaker’s Hoshi and the Red City Circuit.

Ian: Without giving away too many spoilers, what do the both of you envision for the future of Weird Luck as well as the newly launched Argawarga imprint?

Nick: We’re going to keep on writing and publishing Weird Luck stories for a long time to come. We have a lot of story to tell, and we keep on generating more. As I noted earlier, what’s been published so far is the very small tip of a very big iceberg.

We’re in the early stages of co-writing a series of Weird Luck novels, which will initially be published in weekly installments on the Weird Luck website and will eventually become available in paperback from the Argawarga Press imprint. Insurgent Otherworld is the first of these collaborative novels; it will be followed by Gods of the Endless Plateau, and then others in the years to come.

In late spring of this year, Autonomous Press publishes Spoon Knife 3: Incursions, the third volume of the annual Spoon Knife literary anthology. Andrew and I were the editors for this volume, and, like the previous volume, this one features two new Weird Luck short stories — one from each of us. We aim to continue releasing new Weird Luck short stories in every future volume of Spoon Knife. 

The webcomic has been on hiatus for a bit, but new webcomic pages are in the works. We’re just getting into the part of the webcomic that introduces Smiley, one of the central characters in the Weird Luck saga. Readers already got to meet a much younger Smiley in my novelette “Bianca and the Wu-Hernandez,” which appeared in volume two of Spoon Knife. The middle-aged Smiley of the webcomic is even more troublesome. Middle-aged Smiley is also the protagonist of my upcoming story in Spoon Knife 3: Incursions. Smiley has a gift for making any situation a whole lot more complicated and chaotic than it needs to be, so we’re looking forward to springing him on Agent Sojac and the rest of the gang in Tal Sharnis.

Andrew: As for Argawarga Press, we’ve got a big couple of years ahead, with five Weird Luck titles forthcoming — re-releases of my four books in new paperback and ebook editions, plus Insurgent Otherworld. Then when we finish Gods of the Endless Plateau, Argawarga will publish it as well, probably in 2020.

We’ve also got books coming out that are (as far as we know) outside the Weird Luck Saga: the aforementioned Hoshi and the Red City Circuit by Dora Raymaker, and a sort of tangential prequel, Resonance, which may come out as soon as next year. And she’s got a direct sequel brewing, which will make Hoshi fans glad.

Finally, for folks who like rare collectible stuff, I guess I could mention that every year I make a limited edition zine/chapbook, Weird Luck Tales, that includes a couple of Weird Luck stories. There are still a few copies left of last year’s No. 5, featuring my story “Monsters” from Spoon Knife 2: Test Chamber, plus “Things that Crawled from the Shadows,” which appeared on I made two limited editions of 99 copies each, one for the Outer Dark Symposium on the Greater Weird, and one for NecronomiCon in Providence. I’m in the process of making the exclusive edition for participants in this year’s Outer Dark Symposium, and I’ll have a second limited edition for sale later in the spring. Weird Luck Tales No. 6 includes my story from Spoon Knife 3: Incursions, “Space Pirate Stowaway,” and the backup story “The Art Collector’s Dream Diary,” published on this spring.

And I’ve got other Weird Luck stories in the works as well, which I’m submitting to various oddball genre markets. There’s lots of Weird Luck stuff yet to come.

Thanks for reading our Weird Luck interview series! We hope you’ve enjoyed this revealing look at the WL multiverse, the rich backstories behind it and its creators, and the exciting future that lays ahead. To make sure you don’t miss a post, like AutPress on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. While you’re at it, don’t forget to follow the Weird Luck Facebook page for even more WL updates!


Weird Luck Interview Part 3

Welcome to this third installment of the Weird Luck interview! If you haven’t already read parts one and two of this series, you can check them out in the previous blog posts. Previously, AutPress partners Nick Walker and Andrew M. Reichart discussed WL’s origins, worldbuilding, and collaboration. This week, you’ll read about how all the pieces — the novels, upcoming serials, and webcomics — all fit together.  

— N.I. Nicholson

Ian: Next, I’d like to ask about how all the pieces fit together in the Weird Luck universe, especially so that newcomers just getting into Weird Luck understand. I (think) I get how the webcomics, Andrew’s previous novels, and Insurgent Otherworld fit together, but how would you summarize or explain this to someone whose first exposure is to only one of these: say, they’ve only read the webcomic, or they’ve only read City of the Watcher?

Nick: The Weird Luck saga is an ever-growing web of interconnected stories. Most of the stories are in prose form, except for the webcomic — though in the future there’ll be more stories in comic form with various artists.

Most pieces of the Weird Luck saga are designed so that they can be enjoyed as standalone stories by anyone who’s never read any of the other pieces. But the idea is that the more pieces you read, the richer your experience, as you get more and more sense of how all the pieces fit together into a bigger picture.

There are aspects of the big picture — mysteries and hidden plot arcs — to be discovered and figured out as one puts together more of the pieces and stumbles on hints within various stories. That’s part of the fun for both us and the reader.

You can read just one piece — just the webcomic, or just one short story in an anthology somewhere — and if we’ve done our job right, that piece is perfectly enjoyable on its own. But we’re always hoping people will want to follow us down the rabbit hole and keep reading more pieces, getting deeper into the intricacies of the bigger tales we’re weaving out of the various pieces.
— Nick Walker

If you think of any saga made up of a series of stories — the Harry Potter books, for instance — there’s a bigger picture that emerges over time; puzzling things that eventually fit into place as you read more of the books. But one thing that makes the Weird Luck saga unusual and brain-twisting is that it’s non-linear. A new reader can start reading with any piece, and read the pieces in any order. And we’re not writing and publishing the pieces in the order in which they take place.

Also, the overall Weird Luck saga isn’t centered around just one single central character or small group of characters. Different characters have their different story arcs. You read any given piece and you’ll get part of the long-term arc of that piece’s central character — and probably also part of the long-term arcs of various other characters. A character who’s central in one piece might be a minor character in a bunch of other pieces. That’s part of the fun, part of the puzzle. Figuring out the story arcs, motives, etc., of the various recurring characters, based on the glimpses you get of them in various stories that take place at various points in their lives. There are characters and events that are important to the big picture but that one only gets to learn about one glimpse at a time in the course of reading stories that center around other things.

You can read just one piece — just the webcomic, or just one short story in an anthology somewhere — and if we’ve done our job right, that piece is perfectly enjoyable on its own. But we’re always hoping people will want to follow us down the rabbit hole and keep reading more pieces, getting deeper into the intricacies of the bigger tales we’re weaving out of the various pieces.

One of the most interesting things about doing it this way is that different readers will have different experiences depending on where they start reading. If you start with the webcomic, you encounter Bianca and you’re like, “Whoa, what’s her deal? Seems like something’s kind of creepy and sinister about her? What’s her species like? How’d she get her job? How’d she lose those fingers?” And if you keep reading the webcomic over time, you’ll eventually learn everything you need to know about her. Or, you could read my novelette “Bianca and the Wu-Hernandez” in the Spoon Knife 2: Test Chamber anthology, to find out the truth without having to wait for the webcomic to get to it. On the other hand, if you read “Bianca and the Wu-Hernandez” before you read the webcomic, then your experience of Bianca showing up in the webcomic is entirely different, because you already know her backstory, so it’s sort of like watching the first season of Hannibal, where the viewer already knows Hannibal is a serial killer but the other characters in the show don’t know it yet.

One example of what I mean about story arcs emerging a piece at a time is the Witch-Queen of Gomothrax. The Witch-Queen is a very important character in the Weird Luck saga. She’s had a major influence on the big-picture-level story. But she hasn’t yet appeared in person in any published piece. Instead, readers are getting little hints. You see Gomothrax, her home, at the end of Andrew’s City of the Watcher trilogy, but you don’t get to meet her. She’s mentioned in Insurgent Otherworld, in a letter written by Cordy’s friend Chiku, a researcher of occult artifacts, who reveals some interesting things about her history. And near the end of “Bianca and the Wu-Hernandez,” we learn in passing that Smiley grew up on fairytales in which the Witch-Queen was a character. More of her story will emerge in the future, one small fragment at a time.

As for how the largest pieces we’ve published so far (or are about to publish) fit together chronologically…

  • The biggest single chunk of story so far is Andrew’s City of the Watcher Trilogy,which consists of the novels Weird Luck in the City of the Watcher, Time-Traveling Blues in the City of the Watcher, and Cannibal-King. Because it’s a time-travel story, all three books of the trilogy take place more or less at the same time.
  • Andrew’s story “Monsters,” which appears in the Spoon Knife 2: Test Chamberanthology, takes place about 6 months after the end of Cannibal-King. 
  • Insurgent Otherworld begins about 24 hours after the end of “Monsters,” and takes place over the course of a couple of months.
  • The opening scene of the Weird Luck webcomic takes place about 9 months after the end of Cannibal-King and just a few weeks after the end of Insurgent Otherworld. 
  • Next year, right after we finish serializing Insurgent Otherworld on the Weird Luck website we’ll begin publishing our next collaborative novel, Gods of the Endless Plateau, in weekly installments on the site. Gods of the Endless Plateau begins immediately after the end of Insurgent Otherworld, and takes place over a long enough period of time that parts of it will be concurrent with the first few volumes of the webcomic.
  • My novelette “Bianca and the Wu-Hernandez” takes place 28 years before the opening scene of the webcomic.
  • Andrew’s novel Wallflower Assassin takes place sometime after the first several planned volumes of the webcomic.

Stay tuned for the final part of this interview series! Next week, you’ll read about how the Weird Luck webcomic came into being, plus Nick and Andrew chat the future of WL and the relaunch of Argawarga Press as part of the Autonomous family. To make sure you don’t miss a post, like AutPress on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. While you’re at it, don’t forget to follow the Weird Luck Facebook page for even more WL updates!

Weird Luck Interview Part 2

Greetings, readers! If you’ve read the first part of this four-part Weird Luck interview with our press partners Andrew M. Reichart and Nick Walker, you’ve read a little bit about the origins of the concept. (And if you haven’t, you can go read it in last week’s post.) In this week’s installment, they discuss worldbuilding, the expansiveness of the WL multiverse, and collaborative possibilities.

— N.I. Nicholson

Ian: I’ve read various materials and guides to world-building, including more recently N.K. Jemisin’s Worldbuilding 101 seminar notes. With that in mind, what approaches did you take to world building when it came to Weird Luck?

Andrew: Well, I reckon our story’s not typical. Our shared multiverse has continuity going all the way back to the tabletop roleplaying games and stories we collaborated on in high school. In fact, I can trace narrative continuity back to the first D&D game I ran when I was 12. It all ties in, and we’ve invented dozens of worlds along the way.

I was interested in alternate worlds ever since I read the Narnia books and Michael Moorcock’s Eternal Champion stuff. So that sort of interdimensional travel was a staple of my RPGs in junior high and high school. We co-created the Reality Patrol in high school. Characters have appeared who go back that far — I won’t name names, but Nick might want to. In any event, our world-building has been an organic process over decades, drawing inspiration from innumerable sources.

To point to a few specific sources: my City of the Watcher trilogy is a bit of a satire of portal fantasy, indicting it as a colonialist trope. “Ooh, primitive world in crisis, I the White Man from Earth will set things right for you and reign over your poor primitive selves!” As we say in California, “Yeah no.”

What we see of the magical world of Kaios is awful. An oppressive military dictatorship, a racist class hierarchy, a genocidal war against tribal peoples, and a blatantly complicit middle class (this last item being a critique we don’t see nearly enough of in world-building, IMHO). A hierarchy well deserving of destruction.

However, there’s also an indictment of revolution in the trilogy, insofar as (spoiler) everything goes fucking awry. This isn’t because I oppose, per se, militant self-defense against the status quo up to and including its violent destruction. I just think it’s realistic to acknowledge that, unlike the heroic battles of good vs. evil in epic fantasy, in real life this is always an awful process, likely to fail, and almost certain to instate a new status quo that is also awful.

Changing gears to our most recent example of worldbuilding: many of my contributions to the city of Tal Sharnis are rooted in recent real-world political concerns of mine. Patterns of gentrification & displacement, abetted by capital, city government, and police violence. The dehumanization that underlies policing, incarceration, and punitive models of “justice.” Pitfalls of grassroots organizing, including disorganization, infighting, co-opting, scenesterism, bad strategy, and ineffective tactics. Organizing against small-scale fascist groups which on the one hand may pose credible and growing threats, yet whose ratio of “spectacle” to “actual harmfulness” is the inverse of the dull yet massively deadly status quo. Etc.

Things like these get morphed in their translation from our world into Tal Sharnis, taking on a flavor and a life of their own as they draw influence from the local conditions. So, as an example, the True Guardians of Bifrost are earthling-supremacist, not white-supremacist. Which has its own unique implications, since the two are not deeply analogous. My intent is not to create direct satire of things in our world, as a simplistic 1:1 substitution. On the contrary, I present analogies as tools for thinking about how power operates, how the status quo preserves itself, and what sort of political effort actually results in substantive change, rather than just tokens.

Nick: Yeah, we’re definitely atypical. We’ve been collaborating on the shared worldbuilding project that evolved into the Weird Luck saga since we met in the Princeton High School art room when we were both fifteen. And, as Andrew said, it all ties in — every single bit of fiction and art and gaming we’ve done, since we met and in some cases since before we met. Andrew can trace narrative continuity back to his first D&D game, and I can trace the genesis of Agent Sojac back to a peculiar recurring daydream I had when I was in elementary school.

We ran some epic roleplaying games in our late teens and on and off through our twenties. Running roleplaying games — the old-school, tabletop, pencil & paper kind — is something I highly recommend for anyone doing worldbuilding. Readers are going to poke at your fictional worlds to see if they have real depth and coherence, and one of the best possible ways to prepare for that is to invite a gang of roleplaying gamers into your world as beta-testers, to poke at it first.

I don’t recall any moment where either of us said, “Hey, wouldn’t it be cool if all these game worlds and stories and stuff we’re creating all interconnected as part of one intricate multiverse.” It was just somehow obvious from the start that that’s what we were going to do, that anything we created should be integrated into a single ever-more-complex canon. The more interconnections, the more it suited our synchronicity-oriented aesthetic.

Andrew and I think very differently from one another. Not in the sense of disagreeing, because we largely agree as far as opinions and whatnot go, but in the sense that his mind works very differently than mine. Or mine works very differently than his? At least one of those statements is true. And that’s an asset, because each of us tends to focus on different aspects of the worlds and settings and characters and stories we’re building.

Andrew’s got a strong focus on the sociopolitical, and I’ve got a strong focus on the psychological. Andrew has a cinematic imagination —his books really demand to be made into high-budget action movies. I have a mind that can keep track of enormously complex continuity and how it all fits together, and I get fascinated by the intrigues and chemistry between characters.

So Andrew will come to me with a vision of some story he wants us to tell, something that sounds like a pitch for a really interesting action movie. And I’ll immediately see how it can be tweaked to make it fit in perfectly with all of our existing narrative continuity, and a dozen ways that we can create connections between this story and other stories. And so the canon grows, ever more rich and complex and ever more cohesive and intricate in its interconnections.

Readers are going to poke at your fictional worlds to see if they have real depth and coherence, and one of the best possible ways to prepare for that is to invite a gang of roleplaying gamers into your world as beta-testers, to poke at it first.
— Nick Walker

In our collaborative novel, Insurgent Otherworld — which we recently finished publishing in serial form on Patreon, and which we’re about to start re-serializing in weekly installments on the Weird Luck website so everyone can read it — you can really see our styles interacting and complementing one another. Andrew’s parts of the book are full of the street-level politics of Tal Sharnis: the warfare between fringe groups like the True Guardians of Bifrost and the Unravelers Curse-Coven, the police brutality of the Monster Hunters, the grassroots resistance to a gentrification plan by a predatory development company. My parts of the book deal mostly with the way the leadership of the local bureau of the Reality Patrol responds to these events in the city, and how Cordy and Bianca each find ways to fit in once they’re transferred to that bureau to help respond to those events, and the contrast between Cordy’s naive enthusiasm and Bianca’s devious manipulations. And by the end of the story, Andrew’s threads of it and mine come together seamlessly.

I may have drifted more into talking about our collaborative synergy than about worldbuilding, but for us those may not be clearly separable.

Ian: Wow. When I started reading the Insurgent Otherworld installments on Patreon, I could maybe sense a little bit that what was happening with Weird Luck was a sort of long-term collaborative synergy that’s been in the works for several years. As an outside observer, it seems to me like a rather organic process. I also loved how RPing, particularly D&D, factored into Weird Luck’s backstory and love your suggestion to writers to allow roleplaying gamers to beta-test their fictional worlds. 

Here’s my next question: How does your creation/expansion of the Weird Luck universe encourage crossovers/linkages between Weird Luck and other universes (Verity Reynolds’ Non-Compliant Space, for example)? In other words, how do you foresee that Weird Luck’s structure and artifacts might allow like-minded authors to forge stories that take place in its universe? 

Andrew: Well, the simple answer is: there’s a hypothetically infinite multiverse, with an unlimited number of ways to get from one world to another. There’s tech and sorcery and magical beings — in fact, somewhere there could very well be any tech or magic that anyone might wanna come up with. Does some new idea destabilize the status who? Not a problem; there is no real interdimensional status quo. Even the Reality Patrol varies from one place to another, sometimes so much so that branches may be at odds or even unrecognizable. The multiverse is a chaotic mess.

So, anything can be “canon.” And frankly Nick and I can probably integrate anything… ’cause we’ve been doing exactly that for decades. We’re masters of retcon (especially Nick truth be told). Hell, the party in my eighth grade D&D game had a frickin’ spaceship. That’s… not exactly in the rules, haha.

Nick: We’re excited about other authors and comic creators and such referencing and playing with the Weird Luck canon, as long as they check in with us about it first and become collaborators rather than appropriators.

At present, Verity Reynolds, Athena Lynn Michaels-Dillon, and some mysterious person named N.I. Nicholson all have open invitations to explicitly tie their stories in with the Weird Luck canon. That might happen in a small way — just small mentions and references, like if a character in a story by one of those authors says, “Don’t do that, you’ll bring the Reality Patrol down on us” — or it might involve more elaborate crossovers. Either way, we have understandings with all three of those authors that their fictional universes and ours are part of the same big multiverse and canon. We’re looking forward to bringing even more creators into this conspiracy.

Verity Reynolds is the first author with whom we’ve started collaborating on significant crossover stuff, where characters from her stories come into ours and vice-versa. I love that sort of thing. It definitely requires some discussion in advance — but that’s a feature, not a bug, because discussions of that sort are fun and tend to generate all sorts of story and character ideas for all the authors involved.

We’ve already referenced Reynolds’ Non-Compliant Space canon in small ways in Weird Luck stories, like Cordy’s brief mention of Niralans in one of the letters she writes in Insurgent Otherworld. Very soon, Autonomous Press will publish Spoon Knife 3: Incursions, the third volume of the annual Spoon Knife literary anthology. Andrew and I are the editors of this volume, and we’re each contributing a Weird Luck story to it. Verity Reynolds’ short story in Spoon Knife 3, entitled “Kill Your Darlings,” features a Reality Patrol agent as one of the central characters and is the first major crossover story between her Non-Compliant Space stories and the Weird Luck saga.

I also have a Weird Luck novel in the works, featuring Bianca, which because of my other writing commitments probably won’t be completed and published for another six or seven years. But when it finally appears, it will include an appearance by Aqharan Bereth, one of the major antagonists in the Non-Compliant Space stories. My conversations with Reynolds about Bereth’s history with Bianca generated all sorts of fun ideas about both characters. So we’re looking forward to more of that sort of thing, with Reynolds and other authors.

Definitely important to check in with creators if you’re going to use any of their actual characters. But the Reality Patrol is huge   — one could put Reality Patrol agents into any story and they might be from a branch of the Patrol that operates somewhat differently from the branches you see in the stories by me and Andrew.

Somewhere down the road, I’d love to produce some anthologies where we invite a bunch of authors we know to write stories explicitly set in the Weird Luck universe —say, a book of Reality Patrol short stories written by half a dozen different authors. But we’ll want to publish a lot more of our own work first, so that potential contributors and collaborators have a better sense of the Weird Luck universe. Because so far, the bits of the saga that we’ve published are only a tiny tip of the iceberg.

Stay tuned for part three, where Andrew and Nick discuss how all the pieces in Weird Luck fit together. To make sure you don’t miss a post, like AutPress on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. While you’re at it, don’t forget to follow the Weird Luck Facebook page for even more WL updates!

Weird Luck Interview Part 1

If you’ve been reading the AutPress blog, the Facebook page, you’ve seen some news and shares about the Weird Luck webcomic written by our partners Nick Walker and Andrew M. Reichart and illustrated by Mike Bennewitz. Perhaps you’ve also followed the Weird Luck FB page and you’ve read the webcomics.

Either way, you’ve been exposed to a just few slices of a massive, complex multiverse with a potentially infinite time span. What’s more: Nick and Andrew have been developing it for at least 30 years.

April is a big month for both the press and the Weird Luck fictional multiverse. For one, Argawarga Press is relaunching as an imprint of AutPress. Also, many more Weird Luck stories are headed your way.

With that in mind, I had the opportunity to chat with Nick and Andrew over email during late February and early March about the vast multiverse they’ve created, the Argawarga relaunch, and what the future holds for both. This is a four-part interview series, with a new post going live over the next several Wednesdays. Enjoy part one, and stay tuned for parts two, three, and four.

  — N. I. Nicholson

Ian: From what I’ve seen, one central idea to Weird Luck is Chronic Synchronicity Syndrome. A brief explanation of what this is can be found in this AutPress blog post from March 14. I’m curious to know: where and how did you come up with the idea for CSS, aka, “weird luck”?

Nick: Andrew’s the one who first started using the term weird luck, so I’ll leave it to him to talk about how he developed it. But the concept was brewing in our private mythos for a long time before we had a term for it.

The collaborative mythos that eventually evolved into the Weird Luck saga has its roots in our teen years. It was shaped by the usual geekery like roleplaying games (of the non-computer variety), comics, music, and that sort of thing — but also by heavy use of LSD. We had this hybrid of geek culture, punk culture, stoner/headbanger culture, and psychedelic mystic culture going on.

Nick Walker

Nick Walker

There’s this thing that happens on LSD where synchronicity seems to be everywhere. And not just while you’re actually on an LSD trip, either: if you’re doing LSD regularly, and using it to tap into the levels of consciousness where archetypal forces dwell, synchronicity has a way of accelerating in your life in general, even on the days you’re not on any drugs. Carl Jung talked about that, about how tapping into the realm of the archetypal correlates with increased synchronicity in one’s life.

So that was our reality, back in those formative years when we were first collaborating and laying the groundwork for what would grow into the Weird Luck saga. We were fascinated with synchronicity, immersed in it and finding aesthetic delight in the ways in which it manifested. And this came to inform our whole creative style. From very early on, from our late teens onward, our work was full of, and shaped by, this delight in synchronicity and in the phenomenon that we eventually came to call weird luck. 

Andrew: I came up with the term “weird luck” during those acid days of the late ‘80s, not just as a description of the experience of synchronicity, but as a fanciful attribute we possessed as individuals. “Not necessarily good, not necessarily bad, but always weird.”

Outcasts pervade our work. Deviation from norms, struggles against one sort of status quo or other — these are underlying concepts that manifest all over the place.
— Andrew M. Reichart

Over the years this idea stuck with me. While I was working on what eventually became my first finished book, I reflected on various improbable narrative conventions we tend to accept — not just the blatant things like the deus ex machina, but lesser coincidences that pepper ordinary tales, especially genre stories. It occurred to me: why not explicitly use Weird Luck, the cosmic trait that bends probability around an individual, as an in-system explanation for this sort of unlikely turn of events?

Since I knew the Reality Patrol would make an appearance at the end of this book, and since they’d presumably be aware of this phenomenon (and suitably wary of it), I went ahead and came up with their nomenclature for it: Chronic Synchronicity Syndrome (both Common and Extreme varieties).

Although this started as a small throwaway idea, I ended up liking it so much that I ended up naming the book Weird Luck in the City of the Watcher when I finished it in 2004.

Occasionally I notice a story by someone else that’s especially thick with such improbabilities, presumably because the writer is deliberately playing with these tropes in some fashion. (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang being a brilliant example — though I can’t mention that film, as much as I like it, without giving a thumbs-down to its mediocre gender politics, bleh.) Of course, such characters have Weird Luck in my headcanon.

Andrew M. Reichart

Andrew M. Reichart

Nick: Yeah, Weird Luck is a great concept to have as part of one’s headcanon. When I’m enjoying any work of fiction, in any medium, I’m always noticing which characters register as queer to me, which characters register as neurodivergent to me, and which characters register to me as having Weird Luck.

I love the whole idea of the Reality Patrol having this medical-sounding term for it, Chronic Synchronicity Syndrome, because it references the way that phenomena like queerness and neurodivergence have been medicalized within cultures and social institutions in our own world.

Every authoritarian system tries to enforce certain norms, and has stigmatizing ways of categorizing the modes of being that deviate from those norms. The Reality Patrol can give the illusion of being enlightened in a Starfleet kind of way, because they’re cool with some forms of diversity that the dominant culture in our world is still definitely not cool with. But they’re still very much an authoritarian organization, so they’re inevitably going to be identifying some group or another as deviant and problematic. On an institutional policy level, the Reality Patrol is really good about gender diversity and racial diversity. But they’re definitely not cool with… whatever you want to call the spectrum of diversity that Weird Luck is a manifestation of. Karmic diversity?

And speaking of that spectrum of karmic diversity, one thing you’ll notice over time in the Weird Luck saga is that Weird Luck, like autism, definitely manifests differently in each individual. That’s something we play with a lot. It’s not just about how extreme a given individual’s Weird Luck is, or how good or bad, but also about each individual’s unique style of Weird Luck. What kind of weird synchronicities or improbable events keep recurring in their lives? It’s different for every character who has Weird Luck.

Ian: Oh! Nick’s last reply made me wonder about something. Since you’ve drawn parallels between how both autism and Weird Luck manifest differently in each individual and how both WL and queerness or neurodivergence have been medicalized, I’m curious about if/when such parallels actively impacted Weird Luck concepts at any point in their development.

Andrew: Well, outcasts pervade our work. Deviation from norms, struggles against one sort of status quo or other — these are underlying concepts that manifest all over the place.

Nick: Yep. We don’t do a lot of deliberately contrived parallels or analogies, because didactic fiction generally sucks ass. And apart from the parallels we’ve already mentioned, having Weird Luck isn’t really like being a member of an oppressed or marginalized group. The parallel breaks down if one attempts to force it to go anywhere. I mean, it’s not like people who don’t have Weird Luck have “Unexceptional Luck privilege.”

More interesting than the minor parallels, I think, are the intersections of Weird Luck with phenomena like queerness and neurodivergence. There’s a lot of that in our work.

One thing that particularly fascinates me is how Weird Luck can cause neurodivergence or alterations to the psyche.

Think about it: our psyches and personalities are shaped by experience. So are our brains — neuroplasticity is a thing; experiences create neural pathways; our perspectives and personas are physically manifest as webs of neural connectivity in the brain.

If you have Weird Luck, it affects your experience of reality. In particular, your experience of causality.

In other words, what does it do to a person’s perceptions of reality, and their personality, if throughout their entire lives they’ve experienced causality as less stable and predictable than most people experience it? Because weird shit happens no matter what they do, and it’s a common experience for them to have their actions produce results that could never have been reasonably predicted?

My academic work is mostly in psychology, so that’s the kind of question that intrigues me and that shapes how I write our characters. When a character has Weird Luck, I’m always asking: How has this particular character adapted to — or had their worldview shaped by — the experience of having causality be less reliable for them than it is for most people?

We can see this in the contrast between Agent Sojac and Smiley, for example. Two central characters who are vastly different from one another — and some of their core differences boil down to how they’ve responded in more or less opposite ways to growing up with Weird Luck.

Agent Sojac’s like, “Weird and wildly unpredictable things happen all the time, so you’ve got to be vigilant, well-disciplined, and well-prepared.” Which of course is a very Reality Patrol attitude and makes her a great agent. Whereas Smiley’s like, “Weird and wildly unpredictable things happen all the time, so what’s a fellow to do? Hope for the best and improvise, I suppose.” Agent Sojac survives despite her Weird Luck; Smiley has arguably only survived this long because of his Weird Luck.

Of course, it’s not just the characters who have Weird Luck who can be outcasts or divergent or queer or struggling against the status quo. Bianca, who’s one of my favorite characters and who’s definitely queer and neurodivergent, doesn’t have Weird Luck.

Stay tuned for part two of this interview in which Nick and Andrew discuss worldbuilding and collaborations with other creators. To make sure you don’t miss a post, like AutPress on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. While you’re at it, don’t forget to follow the Weird Luck Facebook page for even more WL updates!

Need Pointers on Worldbuilding? Here’s Some Advice From N.K. Jemisin

[Featured image: The city of Gujareeh, from the cover of The Killing Moon by N.K. Jemisin]

Whether you’re writing a single novel or you’re constructing an expansive science fiction or fantasy epic contained in several volumes, you’re engaging in worldbuilding of some kind. Lacking a well-developed culture doesn’t just rob your weird fiction of strong settings in which it can unfold. Storytelling doesn’t just rely on plot, but also requires multidimensional characters and settings to create a self-contained universe for your narratives. We’re happy to review some sage advice about worldbuilding from award-winning author N.K. Jemisin, whom you remember we discussed in our Black sci-fi authors roundup this past November.

Immersing Readers in Your Fictional World

In a 2015 Writer’s Digest Online Workshop presentation, Jemisin addressed the common adage that only 10% of your worldbuilding should be apparent in your writing with the remaining 90% beneath the surface like an iceberg. She challenges that assertion when it comes to creating settings in your weird fiction, suggesting that it promotes the view of the “hidden” 90% as scary.

Moreover, she reveals that this “rule” can be skillfully broken and leaves us with sound advice for immersing readers into our fictional worlds. She proposes an “immersion pyramid” with three levels of absorption into your novel’s native culture:

  • High immersion, in which the world’s bizarre qualities are conveyed via context as opposed to direct explanations in the narrative
  • Moderate immersion, which includes occasional breaks for the narrator to explain aspects of the culture
  • Low immersion, in which the narrator frequently stops to explain details about your fictional world

She cautions weird fiction writers that deciding on an appropriate level of immersion can be tricky, since each person needs to strike a balance that keeps readers invested in their stories. Her own advice is to increase the level of immersion as the amount of difference between the “primary world” (the world most of us live in) and your distinctive fictional secondary world increases.

Don’t “Reinvent the Wheel”

Jemisin is herself a master when it comes to creating original and unique universes, but what’s notable is that she repeatedly defies the usual trope of making magical and supernatural worlds based on medieval northern Europe. Her first series of weird fiction novels, The Inheritance Trilogy, depicts a realm in which gods and mortals frequently intermingle within a collection of multicultural societies that regard race and social ranking as important. Bustle writer Charlotte Ahlin cites Gujaareh from Jemisin’s The Killing Moon as one example of a non-European fantasy world in a 2016 article, noting that it was roughly based on ancient Egypt and calling it “a complex and multi-cultural desert society.”

Jemisin also pointed to a “fear of worldbuilding” in her workshop, citing it as one possible reason why many fantasy realms tend to be based on medieval northern Europe. Writers of weird fiction set in distant-future societies may want to take a hard look at the cultures they create as well and consider building distinctive alternatives of their own, avoiding the trap of borrowing heavily from space navy-style tropes such as what’s present in Star Trek and similar works. Of course, if you’re going to borrow, you may choose to go the path of clever subversion — but that’s for another post.

Infrastructure, Environment, and Culture Support Your Story

We already know that setting is a critical component of crafting literature, but Jemisin calls attention to how your speculative fictional worlds impact your plot and characters. In her workshop, she mentions that inhabitants of your imaginary cultures will adapt to the climate, land, water, flora, and fauna present in their environments. Io9 writer Charlie Jane Anders supports Jemisin’s arguments by listing a lack of consideration about basic infrastructure and failing to account for how unusual technology or magic affects a society as just a couple of her “7 deadly sins” of worldbuilding.

Furthermore, Jemisin’s own Broken Earth novels prove these points abundantly. Stillness is wracked with daily deadly earthquakes and other destructive climate events. Without this setting, there would be no need for the series’ orogenes, the class of individuals with seemingly magical abilities who can control these forces. So the Stillness’ inhabitants fear of orogenes, thanks to their fantastic powers that can both heal and destroy, is no surprise.

AutPress Loves Weird, Wonderful Fiction

We’ve discussed some of the major points that Jemisin makes, but her full Worldbuilding 101 workshop outline is available on her own blog for your own reading. As you’re writing, don’t forget to feed your need to read. Check out the AutPress store for great suggestions like Verity Reynolds’ debut novel Nantais and Ada Hoffman’s collection, Monsters in My Mind.



Two Essentials for Beating Writer’s Block This Year

So you want to craft some fiction or poetry and you’ve got ideas brewing, but you’re struggling with how to get them out of the concept stage and onto the page. Maybe you blew through 50,000 words (or more) this past NaNoWriMo and you’re feeling some serious brain drain. Thankfully, we’ve got some tips to help you jump-start your creativity. If you’re contending with a wicked case of writer’s block or just need a little extra nudge, try our advice to help the ideas pour out of your head.

1. Tell Your Inner Critic to F*ck Off

There are times where you need an honest eye to review the fiction, poems or other work you’ve already generated. Married with a willingness to “kill your darlings” (yes, we know you’ve seen that phrase A LOT, but stay with us), the two can serve as a powerful combo to help you revise and refine down to your best work.

However, those aren’t the tools you need while you’re furiously trying to channel your ideas from the amphitheater of your mind to a blank screen.

Many writers strive to impeccably capture everything in that first go. In these cases, the inner critic can
“red-flag” every word choice, image or piece of dialogue in your fiction, or every line break, metaphor, simile or rhyme in your poems. The first draft ISN’T the time for perfect; it’s the time to bring your ideas into reality. You can do the other hard work of revising and rewriting later. Seriously.

2. Your First Drafts Are NOT Crap

The famous axiom that one’s first draft is always “crap” is usually attributed to Hemingway. Whoever said it probably wanted to either 1) emphasize the importance of revision or 2) drive home the point that whatever you put down first doesn’t have to be perfect.

Well, guess what? Whether it’s novel-length fiction, poetry, short stories or anything else, the very first things you write will be imperfect. But that doesn’t mean they’re crap.

Maybe you’ve had a well-meaning fellow writer parroting the idea, or a writing instructor insisting it was gospel truth. (We’d like to give that instructor a piece of our minds, but we digress.) Right now, it’s time to forget that “helpful advice.” Let your fingers fly over the keys or the page. Think of that output as simply the rough and unpolished beginnings of something beautiful, with raw potential living inside the text.

We offer this advice to help your first drafts take form in the here and now. Stay tuned for more writing tips, and don’t forget to check out the AutPress store’s latest releases like Verity Reynolds’ Nantais and Ada Hoffman’s Monsters in My Mind.

A gold and black artwork featuring a headshot of a dark-skinned person, with a golden halo around their head.

Black Science Fiction Writers You Need to Read

(Featured image: “Constellation I” by Lina Iris Viktor)

by N.I. Nicholson

As my AutPress colleague Dani Alexis Ryskamp likes to say, it’s wise to read obsessively and read ALL THE THINGS. If your medium of choice is speculative fiction, you might have read Isaac Asimov, Philip K. Dick, Piers Anthony, Douglas Adams, or other oft-lauded sci-fi writers until you’re blue in the face. But if you haven’t read N.K. Jemisin, Octavia Butler, or other Black science fiction writers, you’re missing out on literature with a rich past and that’s crafting new visions of the future.

Roots in an Afrocentric Cultural Movement

Before we delve into Black sci-fi authors, you need a quick history lesson in Afrofuturism. Anthropologist Niama Safia Sandy summarizes its core ethos: “Time is this really fluid thing. Now is now, but the past is now and the future too.” Jazz musician Sun Ra is considered an early pioneer, and a quote from his 1974 film Space Is the Place aptly speaks to that ethos: “I come from a dream that the black man dreamed long ago. I’m actually a presence sent to you from your ancestors.” Yet one of the earliest Black science fiction writers, Pauline Hopkins, has Sun Ra beat by about 50 years. Her 1902 novel, Of One Blood, documents the discovery of a clandestine, technologically advanced civilization in Ethiopia. (Wakanda, anyone?)

This movement spans multiple art forms, blending elements of science fiction and magical realism with African history to craft visions of the future. Award-winning musician and actress Janelle Monáe tells the story of Cindi Mayweather, an android fighting to save humanity and for android equality, through three concept albums: Metropolis: Suite I (The Chase), The ArchAndroid, and The Electric Lady. N.K. Jemisin, Octavia Butler, and Samuel Delany are just some examples of Black science fiction writers. Joined by visual artists like Lina Iris Viktor (the awesome artist who created “Constellation I”, which is our featured image) and filmmakers such as Wanuri Kahiu, they forge ahead to create new legacies in Afrofuturism.

Magic, Social Inequality, and a Broken Earth

Nora K. Jemisin is the latest of many Black sci-fi authors using the central theme of a planet or society in crisis in their works. As Lauren Wheeler over at Black Nerd Problems mentioned, Jemisin is the first Black author to win a Hugo for Best Novel. The first book of her The Broken Earth series, The Fifth Season, was selected by TNT for development into a television show. Its saga occurs in a world with heavy social stratification, ravaged by periods of catastrophic climate change. She’s one of the Black science fiction writers continuing the tradition of painting vivid waking dreams in words, imbued with a sense of urgency while spilling over into prophecy.

Bustle has called her “the sci-fi writer every woman needs to be reading.” I’ll take that a step further and suggest that any speculative fiction writer needs to read Jemisin to see how to effectively craft a fictional realm that richly immerses and rewards your readers. World-building is a tricky business, but N.K. Jemisin is a contemporary example who balances storytelling with the intricacies of sci-fi or fantasy settings.

Apocalypse and the Lasting Truth of Change

Octavia Butler, a Hugo and Nebula award-winning author, is also one of Afrofuturism’s literary superstars. The late writer’s works include genre classics such as Kindred and the Earthseed novels series. Kindred presents the tale of a modern Black woman inexplicably sent back to a pre-Civil War past, becoming entangled in the stories of her ancestors. Meanwhile, the Earthseed books, published in the 1990s, are more examples of work by Black science fiction writers that foretell our modern political and social circumstances with eerie accuracy. The series’ first novel, Parable of the Sower, shows us a world in 2024 marred by global warming, resource shortages, and privatized schools. The second book shows the same Earth in 2032, now also beleaguered by slavery, rampant misogyny, and a contingent of violent supporters of a political candidate promising to “make America great again.”

Sound familiar?

Butler’s work is a textbook case in extrapolating future outcomes from current circumstances. She was a master at discerning trends in local, national, and world events and paying attention to social conditions. Remember when Niama Safia Sandy said that “Now is now, but the past is now and the future too”? There you go. Not only that, she both read and wrote prolifically, which further illustrates my point about reading to shape your own writing. Octavia Butler should be your starting point for learning not only elements of fiction craft but how to weave into your work the relevancy that will keep readers hooked.

They Didn’t Leave Poetry Out, Either

I’ve mostly discussed speculative fiction, but let’s not forget that writers are whole universes. Much of modern Black poetry is innately focused on storytelling, as evidenced by writers like Roger Bonair-Agard, Terrance Hayes, and Patricia Smith. Tim Seibles uses this medium to give a first-person perspective to Blade, the half-vampire daywalking hunter from the Marvel Comics universe, in his collection Fast Animal. Nerds of Color displays its opening poem, “Blade, the Daywalker,” and it’s a model for revealing character traits, motivations, and voice in poetry.

Speculative fiction themes can also be used to interlace and order poems as I’ve done in my next book, slated for release in 2019. You might have seen a glimpse from it if you’ve read the first Spoon Knife anthology. Wielding poetry as a storytelling device, Time Travel in a Closet features a multiracial transgender man forced to relive episodes from his traumatic past, thanks to involuntary acts of time travel. While his future self cannot interact with these events, he’s forced to answer a pivotal question: how will he use them to reconstruct his sense of self?

Black-Authored Sci-Fi Is THE Future

As I wrap up this discussion of what you can learn from Black sci-fi authors, I’ll leave you with a few things to consider:

  • Jemisin’s The Fifth Season won a Hugo award and was positively reviewed by The New York Times and NPR. It’s also a 512-page book with not one but two glossaries in the back.
  • Butler’s Kindred was adapted into a graphic novel, then released in January 2017. That’s nearly 40 years after its initial publication in 1979.
  • Nova, a 1968 novel by Black sci-fi legend Samuel Delany, was called “fresh and exciting” by com writer Jo Watson…in 2015.

Whether you’ve been brains-deep in crafting new chapters this year or you’re furiously banging out prose this NaNoWriMo, reading Black-authored science fiction is the smartest move you can make to develop your own craft.

stack of blue hardcover books

4 Things You Can Do to Help Your Favorite Author Succeed

Following a favorite writer can be hard on a fan. Often, it’s years between books, and even when a writer is as prolific as possible, it can be hard to find people to connect with unless there’s already a broad base of fans. That means your favorite funky sci-fi series might just have to be enjoyed in solitude. Luckily, there are a few things you can do to connect your favorite authors to your social media following. There are also a couple of great ways you can help promote a writer’s work so that more people will see it. None of them take very long, and when fans get active about promoting the books they love, it provides opportunities and leads to others who are looking for their next great read.

Since publishing companies base their release schedules and their future book contract offers on the sales of individual books, promoting your favorite writer isn’t just a way to share the love. It’s also one of the best ways to make sure the author will be able to continue doing good work. Here are four things we encourage every Autonomous Press fan to do when they want to help encourage our authors.

1. Review the Book

You don’t need to be a professional writer to put together a review for your favorite book. In fact, you don’t have to write more than a sentence if you don’t want to. Doing something as simple as going to the Amazon page for a book you love and leaving a four or five star review with a statement like “This book changed my life and made me a fan of all this author’s work” is enough. See, the major bookselling sites like Amazon recommend books based on past readers, reviewer social networks, and the number of reviews it has received. Whenever you leave a review, it helps those numbers.

If you want to go a little farther, leaving three or four paragraphs will let you show people why they should love the book. Make sure you give a brief summary of the plot, compare it to one or two other similar works, and provide clear explanations for the things you like about the book. If you do that, then you will be able to sway readers who might be on the fence. You will also be able to get more traction out of your review, because on top of being great for Amazon, it will also be a great fit for book loving social networks like Goodreads.

If you blog at all, then you might want to consider posting a blog about the book. If you do, make sure you link to the writer’s page and to a place where people can buy the book. This does a few things:

  • It helps your review show up when people search for the writer or places to buy the book
  • It helps the writer find your review for their own promotional purposes
  • You provide the book wider traction on search sites by making sure it is mentioned on more websites

2. Suggest the Book to Other Reviewers

OK, so you might have a book blog or a Goodreads account, but chances are that unless you’re a journalist or an aspiring author yourself, you probably don’t have access to a large platform for your reviews. That’s OK, though. You can suggest books to reviewers with larger platforms than yourself, too. Sometimes they will post threads on their venues asking for suggestions, and that is your opportunity to get in there and make a suggestion. It can also be helpful to drop notes or link to your review in the comments of related books. For example, if you follow a reviewer and they cover something similar to your fave’s books, you can always drop a comment suggesting your favorite to people who also enjoyed that book.

3. Nominate Your Favorite to Your Book Clubs

The fastest way to get ten or twelve new fans of a book to talk to is to get that book picked up in your local book clubs. Whether you gather in a friend’s living room to exchange notes on favorites or your club is larger and more organized, it helps to make sure you can spread the word and it gives you the chance to really talk about what you loved in detail. If you have the reach and the support to turn this into a larger-scale reading event like a community read-along, then that’s even better.

4. Buy Copies as Gifts for Friends

Last but not least, if you have people in your life you want to share a book with, it’s important to put copies into their hands. This is most easily done by gifting out copies to anyone you want to encourage to read the book. It also helps you figure out what to get people when you have a gifting opportunity for people you don’t know that well. Nothing works better for a Secret Santa present than a great book, too.

When you go all-out to make sure people know about the books you love, it helps build community around them in ways that are important for both readers and authors. Make sure you are taking the time out to encourage writers by gifting your favorite books. You can also help people find new writers by giving them books that their favorite writers are in–for example, if you know someone who loves Michael Scott Monje Jr.’s Shaping Clay series, you might want to get them The Spoon Knife Anthology to help them explore similar writers, or even Spoon Knife 2, the anthology where “Michael” is revealed to be Athena Lynn Michaels-Dillon, one of our founding partners.

Getting Started on Goodreads: Indulging Your Love of Books (and Making Your Writer Friends Happy)

If you’re a book lover who hasn’t fired up a Goodreads account yet, you’re missing out. Half social media, half catalogue, Goodreads lets you wander the stacks of a nearly endless library or bookstore—where the staff recommend new reads based on your personal preferences, steering you toward great literature from both traditional and independent publishers instead of simply plugging whatever’s new, bland, or overstocked.

Sound like a dream come true? Here’s how to start living the dream:

Sign Up

Goodreads asks for a name, email, and password when you sign up. If you like your social media accounts linked together, you can use a Facebook, Twitter, or Amazon account to sign in as well.

Add Some Books

Under the “Home” or “My Books” tab, you can search for books you have read, are currently reading, or want to read, and add them to your personal Goodreads bookshelves. Goodreads’s library contains millions of titles—from the “Big Six” to small independent publishers—and you can also add titles if the search function doesn’t find what you’re looking for.

Rate and Review Your Books

When you add books to your “read” list, don’t forget to give them a rating from one to five stars. Ratings help Goodreads recommend books you’re likely to enjoy. Writing a review also helps the books you enjoyed most float to the top of other readers’ recommendations and build your network on Goodreads. Reviews are a great way to help writers you know get paid.

Get Social (If the Mood Strikes)

Like any public library, Goodreads can be as personal or social as you make it. If you want to stick to browsing book options and building your own shelves, you can—or you can join discussion groups, start a book club, and share your shelves and reviews so that you can talk about books with other avid readers. It’s up to you!

Brick-and-mortar publishing is anything but a meritocracy. It’s easy to find books from the biggest publishers, and tough to find books from smaller independent publishers, even when some of the best literature you’ll ever read comes from a small press. Goodreads helps level the playing field for your favorite writers, and it helps you ensure you’re finding the books you love—not just the books with the biggest marketing budget.