Archive for October, 2012
The following was written in 2007 as part of a contest in which I would write one lucky/unlucky fan into the Failed Cities. The winner, Jack Townsend, was one of the original Failed Cities super fans. He proved such a loyal and true soldier, in fact, that eventually I hired him on fulltime. He’s been my intrepid webmaster and lieutenant of all things digital ever since.
“How a Street Preacher Is Born” is one of a dozen such glimpses of never before seen corners and characters that comprise the all-new anthology Steel Graffiti: Stories from the Failed Cities.
Steel Graffiti will be included in THE FAILED CITIES—DEFINITIVE EDITION coming to all e-reading formats on November 14th.
“How a Street Preacher Is Born”
They come out of the Steel Seminary with their collars starched deadman-stiff and their tab shirts steamed clean, swinging their bata sticks the same way cherries swing their pricks: awkward as hell without knowing it.
The new boy in our House is Reverend Helljack. Five dollar handle like that’ll get you a razzing from the ranks all by itself. It doesn’t help his cause that he’s a walking, talking ad for Alpine Mist; a 6’1” Nordic blonde with princely features that are considered legal tender in the jailhouses where some of the more reformed members of our order once served time.
Reverend Mallet says the kid should’ve been a masseuse, that Nords are only good for rubbing down rich old biddies in some swank ski resort. You won’t get much mileage out of telling Mallet about Scandinavia a thousand years past; he thinks the Norse God of Thunder is a digimetal band.
His bata stick hasn’t got a mark on it and neither does the kid holding it in hands that can’t keep from shaking just a little bit and I ask Reverend Helljack if he’s ready to tend the flock.
“Hurdy Gur,” comes his answer, and I ponder whether he’s been scared dumb and gibbering ‘til he cracks the thinnest ghost of a smile and I realize it’s a piece of his personal catch-speak.
Initiation for the newbies is their first night walk, their first patrols taking the Steel Gospel to the streets. We don’t swear them in ourselves; we just escort them to it. For Reverend Helljack it’s a trio of laced 38th Street tribesmen busting the security grid of a corner store. He come up on them about an hour into Helljack’s debut patrol and I tell him it’s time to get his other stick wet.
He looks ready and like he knows good and damn well he’s not ready at the same time.
They always do.
We let the newest Reverend feel us standing shoulder-to-shoulder with him, let him feel strong and protected and goddamn legion in his mightiness. And then we hang back. It’s a little like a mama bird nudging her hatchling off the branch and a lot like throwing raw meat to a pack of rabid dogs. I took thirty stitches in the crown the night they pulled the same gag on me, and I was considered no less than a prodigy in my Seminary days.
Helljack’s in it up to his eyeballs before he knows he’s flying a solo mission. You can see the big cartoon storm clouds in his eyes right away, but I give him high marks for his recovery. The good reverend swallows his medicine and belts out two licks for every shot he takes. If they’ve got the sand for it, attrition is the sword and shield of the inexperienced, and Reverend Helljack wins that battle in spades.
In the end there’s three bodies on the pavement and one of the Neo Ricans gets away. The third body is Helljack, braced on his hands and knees trying to keep his broken ribs from forcing his guts up into his throat. We stand tall over him, waiting for it. Comedy or tragedy. They only ever wear one of those masks after the first beatdown.
“Hurdy Gur,” the kid coughs up through about a pint of his own juice. And then he smiles.
That’s how street preachers are born: in their own blood, from a womb of stained concrete and starless night. We swaddle them in a few skinny words of praise, a slap on the back, and the first notch in their bata stick. Their wounds heal, then scab over hard. The rest of them does, too.
That’s the steel you can only acquire outside the Seminary.
To preach the Gospel you can’t be made from anything less. Not in the Failed Cities.
Last week I made the announcement that I will be releasing THE FAILED CITIES—DEFINITIVE EDITION as a pan-format ebook next month.
This week I’m going to show you all exactly what that means, beginning with the cover.
This is a very special book to me, and I wanted the cover to be equally special. I found the maddest graphic design and illustrative skills I could bend to my will and we spent a laborious period of time perfecting the following, which I am now proud to submit for your approval (click to enlarge).
What you’re seeing was created by Scott Pond of Scott Pond Designs. This is the first time the Failed Cities have been fully illustrated in this manner, and I’m slightly awed by the results. If you know the world then you’ll recognize the landscape. If you’re new to the Failed Cities then I hope you’re intrigued by the topography, at least enough to want to visit its streets.
It’s a beautiful cover. I’m very proud of it.
But it’s what’s inside this bad boy that really counts. Let’s dig into the official Table of Contents.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Foreword by Scott SiglerComments Off more... New Introduction by the Author: “Genesis of the Steel Gospel” The Failed Cities Monologues The Failed Cities: Hath a Darkness Steel Graffiti: Stories from the Failed Cities Afterword: “Reflections”
I’m not calling this thing the “Definitive Edition” as a marketing tool, kids. This is essentially two full-length books worth of content. It’s every scrap of Failed Cities fiction I’ve ever penned, plus a slew of extra “behind the page” content for those who care about such things.
With the said, let’s break down the TOC and what you’ll actually be getting.
THE FAILED CITIES
This definitive edition features the complete and unabridged text of The Failed Cities Monologues. A good chunk of that text was edited for purposes of performance, pacing, etc., so even if you’ve listened to the original series a hundred times you’ll find a lot of new material here. There are twenty-four monologues comprising a novel-length story. All of the characters are there. It’s the centerpiece of the book.
The Failed Cities: Hath a Darkness is a holiday novella I released in December of 2007. Set one year after the events described in the Monologues, it features most of the original characters as well as some new additions. It’s written in the same style as the original story and is told by the characters themselves. The plot revolves around a very special Christmas gift that touches the lives of several Failed Cities residents and chronicles their efforts to keep it from The Nicodemus Consortium.
Steel Graffiti: Stories from the Failed Cities is a brand new, never-before-released anthology of short fiction. Most of the pieces were written over the past several years, at odd times, whenever I felt the need to return to the Failed Cities for a while. I released one or two of these pieces, but the bulk of them have never been available before. Steel Graffiti is all brief glimpses of dark corners in the Failed Cities we might have heard about before in passing, but have never seen. There are some new places, as well. You’ll also hear from prominent side characters for the first time ever, and experience a few new voices.
I asked New York Times best-selling author and podcast fiction pioneer Scott Sigler to write the foreword to this ultimate edition of The Failed Cities. I’ve known Sigler for as long as I’ve been publishing fiction, and have been a fan of him and his work since day one. A prickly-skulled dynamo of an author, we both share a penchant for testosterone, ultra-violence, and the deep, often scarred pathos of the warrior mentality. He was also one of my earliest and most influential fans. He still is. I couldn’t think of anyone better, or bigger, to write the foreword to this book. He kindly agreed, and I’m grateful to have the Future FDO (the only time I ever have or ever will refer to him as such) put the Failed Cities into context for readers both old and new.
“Genesis of the Steel Gospel” is an introduction/essay written by me exclusively for this edition. It covers the earliest origins of the characters and the story, the writing and production of The Failed Cities Monologues, the reaction, the fandom, and why after six years it’s still something vibrant that’s worth putting all of this time and effort and energy into, instead of some early-work piece of shit of mine on a zip drive in a closet somewhere.
Finally, the afterword I’ve assembled for this book is something very different and something I feel is pretty special. It’s not written by me, or by some fancy-ass guest author. Instead I reached out to the cast, critics, and diehard fans of the original series and asked them to write their own reflections on the Failed Cities if they found themselves moved to do so. I received several dozen short reflections about how they came to the story, their experience of it, what it meant to them, and why it has stayed with them. I collected, culled, and collated the most impacting and representative of the bunch, and the result will be the final word on the Failed Cities.
These are all people who took the time and are continuing to take the time to be a part of something more than simply listening to a free audiobook. It pleases me greatly to include their voices in this definitive edition and give them the opportunity to tell you why.
THE FAILED CITIES—DEFINITIVE EDITION will be released Wednesday, November 14th and will be available in the Amazon Kindle Store as well as through Matt-Wallace.com for all you desktop, Nook, Kobo, and Sony e-reading needs. No digital format will be left out.
I can’t make it any more awesome than this, folks. The rest is up to you.
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But I did write this ebook with him. It is part of Sigler’s Galactic Football League Series of books. It is on sale. You’re going to buy it here. You’re going to read it. You’re going to enjoy it.
What’s it about? I’m glad you asked.
Frederico Esteban Guissepe Gonzaga is many things. He’s a hardboiled private investigator. He’s a master of disguise and assuming false identities. He’s a veteran combat pilot and expert in edged weapons. Ex-commando. Ex-mercenary. He’s also a gay man in a distant future that has seen humanity become a brutal, xenophobic theocracy ruled by hate and fear and terror.
Now Fred has been hired by Quentin Barnes, star quarterback in a futuristic interspecies bloodsport version of professional football, to find the athlete’s long-lost family. The case will take Fred across the galaxy, from harsh mining planets run by vicious gangsters to spectacular alien cities populated by warrior clans, hitmen, assassins, and gladiators.
The novella takes place between the events of Sigler’s popular GFL novels The Starter and The All-Pro. It’s kind of like that Star Wars anthology Tales of the Bounty Hunters only all the stories are about Boba Fett and also all the pages have been doused in premium rum and set on fire by a Maori flame demon.
Buy it. Even if you’re not a fan of Sigler’s and not familiar with the GFL series. You’ll still enjoy the ride immensely. That’s my personal guarantee.
And if you do enjoy it, keep an eye out for Title Fight–my *other* collaboration with Scott Sigler–coming soon to your digital reading devices. It’s another GFL novella, however this one is set in the world of blood-drenched cyber-gladiatorial MMA.
Now here’s Sigler, or possibly an unshaven monkey someone has fed a bunch of Prozac, to talk to you about the novella.
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In early 2011 I began teaching a monthly on-line writing workshop covering a wide variety of topics and skills for the aspiring professional author. I dubbed it The Loose Cannon, based on the Good Cop, Bad Cop edition of Mur Lafferty’s award-winning I Should Be Writing podcast, which I co-host with Mur.
I’m the bad cop. Obviously.
The Loose Cannon was founded on three overriding principles…
1) I would be brutally honest with my students about how bad they sucked and what they needed to do to improve.
2) There would be no abstract guidelines, maxims, or theories presented grandly and vaguely. Specificity and tangible, relatable examples would rule.
3) We would under no circumstances sit around and talk about writing and being writers and what that all means in an endless verbal circle-jerk. I would make my students write, then write some more, then keep writing until they got better.
Those tenets have guided me over the last two years of doing TLC (as it affectionately and ironically became known). In that time I’ve worked with students quite literally from all over the world; Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the UK, Israel, the Netherlands, and half the states in the Union. They came, and (shockingly, especially for me) kept coming back for more. I watched as they actually, genuinely improve by oceanic lengths.
They’ve gone on to sell short stories, sell novels, and even become publishers themselves. More importantly, they’ve gone on to be writers who don’t embarrass and depress me.
It got to the point where I no longer needed to seek attendees because I had my hands full with the existing class. A core group of them are still with me, my little salon of TLC alums, showing up every month to work on their craft and leave the “culture of writing” bullshit to the poseur 99% out there who live to hashtag their tweets with whatever writing-related subject is trending.
Many, however, have moved on. As is and should be the goal of any student studying any subject when they’re ready.
Thus, it’s time for new blood.
I’m opening no less than six new slots in my next TLC workshop in November. If you’ve thought about giving TLC a shot in the past, now is the time to step up and get gut checked. If this is the first you’re hearing about it, but you are awed by both my talent and obvious wisdom and want to absorb as much of both as is possible through the process of internet osmosis, now is also the time.
Saturday, Nov. 17th, 2012, 1:00 p.m. PST— “ ‘Show, Don’t Tell’ Explained” It’s the most oft used, under-explained, over-repeated, misunderstood phrase in all the masturbatory writing instructional land. But there’s an important lesson to take away from this classic principle. We’ll break down what it actually means, why it’s important, how to do it, go over prime examples of it in detail, and then practice doing it until you understand it and at least almost-kinda-sorta get it right.
Sunday, Nov. 18th, 2012 1:00 p.m. PST— “Simile & Metaphor Power Session” This is an advanced workshop designed specifically for my TLC alums, all of who have built up a tolerance and honed their skills sufficiently to handle the demands. We will delve into and stretch your command of descriptive language. You will be forced to think more abstractly and with greater detail than you yet have and express that in prose, repeatedly and spontaneously, on command. It will be intense, challenging, and utterly relentless.
If you sign up for the Nov. 17th workshop and you’d like to dive right in and subject yourself to the following day’s power session, I’ll grant you admittance at no additional cost. I also offer annual passes at a reduced rate. These spots tend to go fast, as the majority of aspiring authors are abject masochists who enjoy abuse and can’t tell the difference between punishment and validation.
I didn’t make you this way. I am simply profiting from it.
E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions and for rates and further details.
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Six years ago I had this idea. I thought it was fairly simple at the time. I was heavy into podcast fiction—serialized on-demand audio fiction, for the uninitiated—and I wanted to write a story that would bridge the books-on-tape-but-now-on-the-internet thing everyone else was doing with the medium in which we were doing it. It was a medium that lent itself much more toward episodic and audio drama.
That idea became The Failed Cities Monologues. I created two dystopian cities and told their story through the revolving voices and perspectives of eight different characters. I tried my best to climb as deeply as possible inside each one’s skull and make their voice as distinct and singular and real as my limited abilities would allow.
When I was finished I had a novel-length work that wasn’t quite one thing and wasn’t quite five other things and was as good as I could write any story at the time. It was serialized on the now retired Variant Frequencies podcast and then remastered and retooled and made available on Podiobooks. Where it has remained, completely free, ever since.
It didn’t explode the internet or the podosphere or the publishing industry. It didn’t go viral. It didn’t net me a six-figure novel contract. What it did, to my surprise and tentative pleasure, was slowly and steadily gather unto it a devoted group of shockingly ardent fans and supporters to whom it seemed to mean an awful lot. They all seemed to seize on the characters and the world in a way you hope people will but never actually expect them to.
It got pretty crazy. They made elaborate costumes and props and came to conventions dressed as the characters. They made their own tabletop RPG’s. They wrote me insanely long, detailed e-mails about how they related to their favorite Failed Cities resident and why and what it meant to them.
Those fans have remained. They’ve relistened to the podcast episodes thousands of times. They’ve continued to follow me over the interwebs, gobbling up every sparse consumer offering I put out there. You may be one of them. If you are, I owe you thanks, and something more.
And people are still discovering the Failed Cities to this day. In the past year I’ve gotten tweets and e-mails from new listeners and fans in Hawaii, Singapore, Canada, just to say thanks. That’s all. A couple of American film students wrote to tell me how obsessed with it they’d become and ask if they could adapt it into a webseries as their thesis project.
When the Failed Cities hook someone, it seems, the hook sinks deep and anchors unyielding.
You can’t ask for more as an author.
Pretty much since the beginning its fans have asked me when they can buy the Failed Cities in print and read it like a novel. This is a dictum that has been repeated by fans of my other stuff who don’t enjoy audio fiction and have been waiting this whole time to get into the monologues. I was no less interested than they in seeing that happen. It came close several times, but as I refused to publish it on anyone’s terms save my own the deal always fell apart for one reason or another. So I’ve kept it close as I’ve kicked around the country working on other things, and the text has never been made available in any form at any time.
Next month—November 14th, 2012, to be precise—I will be releasing THE FAILED CITIES – DEFINITIVE EDITION as an ebook and making it available in all digital formats. This book is more than just the monologues; it will collect all of my Failed Cities writings from the past six years. Everything. It will also include brand new, never-before-released fiction that will be the first (and possibly last) Failed Cities stories I’ve published in almost three years. In addition, there will be extra content written by some very special guests and me.
I have worked, and will continue to work, to make this book something special, something worthwhile, and something worthy.
After six years, if you’re still taking the ride with me you deserve nothing less.
I hope you’re still out there. I hope you still care as much as you did. I hope you’ll buy it. I hope for the fervent among you who have never stopped pestering me about this that it meets your expectations.
I also hope, if you got onto my stuff later or have never heard or heard of the Failed Cities before, that you’ll choose now to buy the ticket.
Beyond that I cannot stress how important it is that you spread the word about this. Word-of-mouth is God. I am doing this whole thing entirely on my own. I forewent any panhandling Kickstarter bullshit and laid out the cost and time to create the most polished and professional product I possibly could and get it to you as hassle-free as I could.
Promoting the book is no different. I don’t even have a podcast backing me at this point. It’s just me, tweeting in my polarizing way and e-mailing any even slightly influential person I know or with whom I have credit to help get the word out.
Just one asshole ringing a bell on the corner.
Please help me out with that part.
I need you to buy it, and I need you encourage as many people as possible to do the same. If you’ve been a silent fan/follower/admirer I appreciate you leaving me the hell alone all these years, but now is the time to get loud.
Horrendously, obnoxiously, compulsively, continuously loud.
The success of this book will also determine whether or not I release more full-length ebooks. I have another one on deck, ready to go, that will see my other enduring podcast world in text form for the first time. I’ve got two more in the pipeline. I’m also working on a new novel that I tentatively plan to release next year if this all plays well.
So, if you’ve been waiting for years to read the Failed Cities and hear your own version of the voices contained therein, the time has come.
If you’ve been waiting for more long form fiction from me, the time is coming.
But only if we can make this one sing.
Next week I will be posting the brand new and utterly gorgeous cover of THE FAILED CITIES – DEFINITIVE EDITION as well as its official Table of Contents. I’m very excited about both, and if you’re into this you will be, too.
Welcome back to the Failed Cities, my friends.
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