Friday, December 14, 2012

Thought Provoking Fiction, An Underserved Market

Today's guest really struck a chord with me as I read his blog post. This is someone I hope to hear more from soon! Be sure to check out his books, too!--Mary Ann

First off, I’d like to thank Ms. Loesch for giving me this guest spot on her blog today. With the number of literary blogs out there now exceeding the magnitude of the national debt, I am tickled to death to be on a good one. All Things Writing is one of the few that I keep coming back to. In time, maybe my own blog will rise to this level but in order for that to happen I’d have to replace myself with guest bloggers. Hmm… Now that’s a thought.

At any rate, my name is John C. Brewer, physicist, craftsman, and the author of several books published with the micropress PlotForge, Ltd. I grew up reading fantasy and hard science fiction, and then moved into techno-thrillers. I even went through a Louis L’Amour phase there for a while, but who hasn’t? My favorites were Tolkien (of course), Eddings, Brooks, Anthony, Asimov, Bradbury, Clancy, Coonts, Crichton, Follett and perhaps my all time favorite, which you’ve probably never heard of, James P. Hogan. That guy could write some hard science fiction. All these authors crafted stories that were well-researched and deep. Except for Clancy, they had strong character development and usually a subplot that made you think. Clancy was always just... Clancy.

But in college I stopped reading fiction for the most part. Between books on particle physics and astrodynamics (partly inspired by those great Hogan stories), I was hoping to make science fiction a reality rather than just words on paper. It took a dozen years as a rocket scientist to realize that my employers didn’t share my enthusiasm and were primarily interested in making money, not creating cool stuff. So somewhere along the way, I started writing and reading again and recovered most of my brain. Still searching for a few bits and pieces.

Hogan inspired my decision to become a physicist and he’s still inspiring my penchant for melding scientific advancement with social impact in my writing. But in those years when I was absent from the literary world, this kind writing seems to have fallen out of favor. I don’t see the thought provoking kind of fiction one used to find at my local bookstore. Where are the Asimovs, Hogans, and even the Clancy’s? Who is filling Crichton’s massive shoes? In large part, the literary world seems to have been taken over by sound bite inspired marketing - books that offer little in the way of intellectual challenge and appeal primarily to a crowd that Tweets loudly and often.

I understand why this is true. With a bulky, expensive century-old business model, the remaining large publishers simply can’t afford to take a loss. By catering to the sensational whims of the social media crowd they can quickly recover enough of their investment to keep the whole operation creaking forward, or at least sideways. However, this business model does not produce much thought provoking fiction - an underserved market that I am convinced still exists. 

Regardless, I’m not really capable of writing anything else. That is why I ultimately went with PlotForge, dedicated to publishing and marketing thought provoking, intelligent fiction. Plus, they had a cool name and logo.

It is also one of the reasons I like Mary Ann’s blog. She, and her guests, understand and respect this emerging business model. In today’s world, it is a common misconception that publication by one of the big six (or soon to be big five) validates a book. A lot of book bloggers and reviewers fall into that same trap. That’s unfortunate, given the quality of storytelling coming from the major publishers. While it isn’t universal and, in fact, The Darlings, Mary Ann’s latest reviewed book, sounds pretty cool, it is a trend that can’t go unrecognized by a serious reader. So if you are looking for the kind of fiction that makes you think, then small presses and even some self-published authors have the upper hand. And checking out these alternatives isn’t much of a risk these days. The prices for ebooks are lower than their big publisher counterparts, and if the book has mostly four and five star reviews on Amazon or Goodreads you’re safe giving it a look. Most of the time you can even read the first few chapters online so there’s no risk at all.

Fiction is meant to explore the world of ideas. That is its power and my passion. Publicly traded companies with antiquated business models are stifling those ideas in pursuit of quick profits. Fortunately, technology has come to the rescue giving authors a way to get quality, thought provoking fiction into the hands of readers. So, if you’re like me and have been looking for a great story with ideas that stick with you, check out some indie authors. You might like what you find.

- John C. Brewer


John C. Brewer grew up in a navy family and has lived all over the United States. He has worked as a physicist, rocket scientist, cabinet maker, carpenter, soccer coach, submarine driver, auto mechanic, video game designer, gunsmith, and his favorite job, author. He is happiest when devising elegant solutions to problems, whether it is crafting his latest novel, building bookcases for a customer, or just learning something new. His hobbies and interests are no less varied ranging from writing, science, motorcycles, martial arts, spirituality, soccer, history, wood working, fitness, astronomy, explosives, shooting, and pretty much anything that goes bang!
John has always been fascinated with the natural world and our place in it. Like his boyhood heroes, the scientists and explorers of old, the basis of John’s insatiable curiosity is his belief in a knowable, divinely-inspired creation filled with order and chaos, good and evil, darkness and light. It is these timeless themes that drive his personal ethos and pursuit of excellence in all he does.
John currently lives in Huntsville, Alabama with his wife and sons, where he is at work on a new novel, a set of high-end book cases, and his BMW motorcycle.


  1. John, thanks for being on the blog today. This was a great post!

  2. Interesting post. I agree that more readers should give indie authors (and publishers) a chance. I didn't really know much about independent publishers until I started blogging; that was when I read about people whose books were published by those independent publishers or who self-published their books. It's good to know that writers' options for publishing aren't as limited as I originally thought they were.

  3. I know a lot of people who stopped reading because they find the popular selections these days to be boring. Personally, I can't tell you the number of books I have not finished because it contains nothing but a superficial story to hold my interest. I suspect there is a huge market for novels with great stories that are also embedded with thought-provoking ideas - once people have heard of them. I see exposure as the big challenge here.