Tag Archives: A Private Little War

Steampunk vs. Dieselpunk: Choose Your Fuel

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Editor’s Note: I did this post a while back for Richard Ellis Preston’s excellent blog, A Bag Of Good Writing. He asked me to lay out the differences between steampunk and dieselpunk because I had (rather accidentally) written a dieselpunk book with A Private Little War and he’s well known for turning out fine steampunk tales. What began as a small conversation ballooned into a bit of a manifesto, and since I like a good manifesto now and again (because they mean you care about something, and caring is a fine tonic against snark and cynicism), I figured I’d reprint it here. Please to enjoy…

Let me begin by saying that I love all you Steampunks. I truly do. I love your airships and your fancy goggles, your aether and your flywheels. I’m not just saying this because I’m writing here, in one of the bastions of steampunkery, but because I really am a fan. Corsets and cogs, pipeworks and pistols—I get the attraction to both the physical details of the setting and the joyously weird, post-modern frisson of plunking an evolved and of-the-moment characters down into a place where their very modernity drives the style and conflict.

But mostly I love you cats for your victory. Among all the various and scattered blank-punk sects out there, it is the steampunks who have moved the cultural needle the furthest. And I know this because, in the course of putting together my most recent book, the Kindle serial, Tales From The Radiation Age, I had no less than three people (one publishing professional, one working writer and one of my early readers) come to me and ask, “Hey, uh, you gonna put any of that steampunk in this book? Because people really seem to be into that these days…”

Continue reading Steampunk vs. Dieselpunk: Choose Your Fuel

Special Holiday Deal On A Private Little War

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“He felt something in his belly twist up like cold fingers curling into a fist. This is it, he’d thought. This is when it all goes bad…

So here’s some good post-holiday news for any of you out there who love sci-fi, aliens, biplanes and war stories and maybe have a little space to fill on your new Christmas Kindles. The inscrutable book gods over at Amazon have decreed that my novel, A Private Little War, shall be on sale for a few days. Right now, you can get the e-book version for just $1.99–which is a pretty good deal.

Fair warning, though. It is a dark book. Unlike Tales From The Radiation Age which is a straight up, pulp-style adventure story full of giant robots and dinosaurs, A Private Little War is grim and, at times, just plain nasty. It’s a story of mercenary pilots sent to pacify a planet full of technologically backwards natives and, as such, is a story about the kind of men and women who would take that kind of job–hired genocide artists, more or less, and those kinds of folks are not always the most pleasant to hang out with.

Still, I’m ridiculously proud of it for two big reasons. First, because it is exactly the book I wanted to write. Not nice, not pretty, not focus-grouped for maximum audience appeal. I went into it with the idea of trying to tell a war story that actually felt like a war story–absent political jingoism, shiny gadget-lust and that kind of rah-rah, strong-jawed white guy exceptionalism that seems to be the true geography of most bad military sci-fi–and at no point during the writing, selling or publishing of it did anyone come to me and demand that I gentle it in any way. It’s a pure artifact–or as pure as I could make it anyhow. A book about bad people who do bad things for a living but, on the other hand, it’s also funny and bloody and full of action and, occasionally, even sweet. That’s reason one.

Reason two? It earned for me one of my best days ever as a writer, which was the day that Hugh Howey (the guy who writes the Wool books and one of the true rock stars of this brave new world of book-writing) read it and said this about it:

“Following in the tradition of classic science fiction novels that revel in the folly of war, Jason’s debut novel has all the trappings of the golden age and all the makings of a masterpiece. The prose is deep and effortless. The characters are real. You’ll want to wear boots and a flak jacket when you read this book. It’s everything I love about hard science fiction and war stories, all wrapped up in one.”

Which, essentially, I want to tattoo on my chest so I can carry it with me every day of my writing career. For those of you who don’t know Howey, you should immediately go out and buy all his books for everyone you know (after buying copies of mine, of course…), but getting the virtual back-pat from him was particularly meaningful to me because Hugh Howey was who I wanted to be when I grew up. His Wool books were those rare sorts of stories which, from page one, word one, grabbed me by the neck and just shook me. Granted, he was pressing pretty hard on a lot of my geek buttons (mysterious vaults! class warfare! lost societies and secret histories!), but I literally could not put them down. I’d read them at work, hiding out in my office with the door closed while I pretended to be hard at work on something else. I’d read them on the train and in bed. And when I finished every single one of them, I went right back to the beginning and started over.

Anyway, what I’m saying is, I’m a fan. And while A Private Little War has taken a lot of shit from people who wanted it to be something brighter, shinier, more hopeful or less full of bad language and murder, knowing that Hugh Howey liked it just kind of wiped that all away. He got it. A lot of other people didn’t. And I’m cool with that.

So the point of this unexpectedly long and rambling post is thus: A Private Little War is on sale for $1.99 until January 10. Hugh Howey and me both think its a pretty swell read, so maybe you should check it out. And seriously, at a buck-ninety-nine, what kind of risk are you really taking? Maybe you’ll hate it. You won’t be alone in that opinion if you do. But maybe you’ll go the other way and join the book’s weird little cult of fans.

We’re a small cult, but we’re feisty. And we’d be happy to have you on our side.

A Private Little War [on sale at Amazon until January 10]

Hugh Howey [Because you really should check him out if you haven’t already]