INDIE WEDNESDAY: C.T. PHIPPS

Indie-WednesdayAlong my reading journey, I’ve made a conscious decision to include self-published and small press works in my reading schedule.  But it is difficult to know where to start: So many new authors and books to examine to find the perfect fit for my tastes.  And to help others with this same problem, I’ve decided to turn my Indie Wednesday feature into a day where writers can introduce themselves and their work to everyone.

With this in mind, I’m turning over the blog to C. T. Phipps, author of Lucifer’s Star, who has been nice enough to submit a guest post for everyone’s reading enjoyment.

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GRIMDARK AND INDIE SCI FI/ FANTASY

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A friend of mine recently read my latest work, Lucifer’s Star, and complimented me on my world-building as well as characterization. He talked to me about how much he loved the setting and was fascinated by a lot of the in-fighting between factions plus the main character’s angst over how he’d done terrible things in the galactic war before realizing none of it was justified. Then he told he didn’t want to read any more of the series.

lucifer's star

This, understandably, surprised me so I asked him why. His response? “Well, I just don’t get why you’ve jumped on the grimdark bandwagon. Let some light into your stories.” That amused me more than I expected since I wrote it, very deliberately, to be a grimdark space opera novel. Something my friend, until he read my book, would have said was an oxymoron since he associated space opera with light breezy Flash Gordon tales (and apparently forgot Dune existed).

What is grimdark? This is a topic of some controversy but it’s term which has entered internet parlance for “dark and gritty science fiction or fantasy with morally ambiguous protagonists.” A genre popularized by George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, Joe Abercrombie’s The First Law trilogy, Mark Lawrence’s Broken Empire, and Andrjez Sapkowski’s Witcher series. The term, itself, comes from Warhammer 40K‘s opening narration: “In the grim darkness of the far future, there is only war.”

But why write in grimdark? What is it about the genre which has attracted so many indie writers like Tim Marquitz, Seth Skorkowsky, Kenny Soward, Rob J. Hayes, M.L. Spencer, Anna Smith, and myself? I think it’s a combination of factors. However, one of the most important ones is the fact grimdark is an excellent opportunity to distinguish yourself in a field which has traditionally been oversaturated with softer fantasy and sci-fi tales.

Fantasy has, due to the nature of the market, historically been confined to exist within certain parameters that have limited it. What made George R.R. Martin’s work so excellent was that it broke down barriers which had long since been considered inviolate. Good triumphing over evil, nobility being inherently better than commoners, and the antagonists being inherently worse than the protagonists. By removing those restrictions, more variety in stories can be told without having to fall into pre-existing patterns.

Distinguishing your writing by being willing to “color outside the lines” of genre is something that is especially needed because the nature of the market has changed dramatically in the past decade. The existence of Amazon.com, print on demand, ebooks, and online marketing in general means that books no longer have the same limited shelf-life they used to. No longer do we need to worry about only the most famous books like The Lord of the Rings or Dune remaining in print forever.

Indeed, the benefit of systems like Kindle and Audible mean that older books have a new lease on life. Brian Lumley’s Titus Crow series was published in the Eighties but recently received a re-release in audiobook form by Crossroad Press. As long as it remains up for sale, which will be as long as the internet exists, new fans will be able to enjoy the benefits of the system.

What does this have to do with grimdark? It means that now is a great time to be an independent author since there’s more chance for exposure and making a living as a writer than ever. Unfortunately, it also means that there’s more competition than ever for the online market. You need to distinguish yourself and bring something new to the table. Very often, that means taking existing genres and subjecting them under a microscope to see the problems inherent in the genre’s assumptions. Grimdark having been born out of a deconstruction of traditional fantasy tropes.

Lucifer’s Star was a space opera set in humanity’s distant future with a lot of Westeros influence (feuding houses, duels, deconstructions of heroism, and noble heroes) but taking cues from the war-torn depressing future found in Warhammer 40K. My friend, notably, gave me a perfect tagline for it when he called it, “Like if you made an R-rated Star Wars.”

SPACE OPERAI focused on the fact space opera often made the conflicts struggles to the end between evil empires and plucky rebels without ever stopping to think about the dark side (no pun intended) of both. Real life wars usually end in peace treaties rather than the complete destruction of the enemy so I wanted to write from the perspective of what the soldiers on the “wrong side of history” thought. I also wanted to take some of the polish off the guys who merrily slaughtered their way through the enemies to see how their black and white worldview had flaws. Also, isn’t ownership of androids slavery? In the end, I was as much Aliens and Blade Runner as Star Wars. I just kept the laser swords and thrilling starfighter battles.

Grimdark, for me, was a chance to be part of a developing genre. There’s plenty of dark and gritty books out there as well as dark and gritty fantasy. However, grimdark is a relatively recent phenomenon which is building on the works of the past to create a genre where the darkness and ambiguity is the point.

The rules of grimdark are still in flux because it’s something that’s still being nailed down. People draw from inspirations ranging from other grimdark authors to other genres like horror or historical fiction. Eventually, things will become a bit more concrete on what is grimdark or not but the ambiguity is part of the appeal now. Grimdark authors can get in at the ground floor of a new movement in fiction which is getting ever more popular.

It’s not alone either.

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lucifer's starCassius Mass was the greatest star pilot of the Crius Archduchy. He fought fiercely for his cause, only to watch his nation fall to the Interstellar Commonwealth. It was only after that he realized the side he’d been fighting for was the wrong one. Now a semi-functional navigator on an interstellar freight hauler, he tries to hide who he was and escape his past. Unfortunately, some things refuse to stay buried and he ends up conscripted by the very people who destroyed his homeland.

LUCIFER’S STAR is the first novel of the Lucifer’s Star series, a dark science fiction space opera set in a world of aliens, war, politics, and slavery.

Buy Links: Amazon

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ct phippsAUTHOR INFO: C.T Phipps is a lifelong student of horror, science fiction, and fantasy. An avid tabletop gamer, he discovered this passion led him to write and turned him into a lifelong geek. 

He’s written Agent G, Cthulhu Armageddon, Lucifer’s Star, and The Supervillainy Saga.

Author Links:

Website
Facebook
Twitter
Goodreads

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One Response to INDIE WEDNESDAY: C.T. PHIPPS

  1. Thank you so much for sharing this!
    Darkness is indeed a part (some might say a considerable) part of the human soul, and trying to forget it exists is not only pointless, but in my opinion takes away so much of the inner conflict that makes characters so interesting. So… bring on the grim-darkness! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

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