All posts by J.M. McDermott

[GUEST POST] J.M. McDermott on Writing Science Fiction at the End of the Genre

J.M. McDermott is the author of Last Dragon, Disintegration Visions, The Dogsland Trilogy, and Women and Monsters. He holds an MFA from the Stonecoast Program from the University of Southern Maine. He lives in San Antonio, Texas. On February 1st, around noon, he will be signing books at the Twig Bookstore in San Antonio.

Writing Science Fiction at the End of the Genre
by J.M. McDermott

The end of genre is at hand. It did not die in a massive burst, and there was no single moment to point to that nails the coffin shut. No, it is the way things die when the demographics shift. The radios that play that song dwindle into the AM bands, go out like little lights, with a few hanging on a while, for old time’s sake. This is happening. This is our future. Genre existed to create a space for the marginalized dreamers, the outsiders, and the strange. But, everyone is strange now. Our biggest movies are genre. Our biggest musical acts are bisexual aliens. Everyone loves comic books, now. The conventions make the front page news all over the world. Like all good, American things, our young people love it more when it comes back to us made strange by a foreign culture. It’s not the Beatles, this time. It’s Anime.

Writing a book in this climate, a genre book, is a grand shrug against the tides of time.
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[GUEST POST] J.M. McDermott Says Our Digital Future is Already A Few Months Behind Us, So What Is It, Exactly, and What Should We Do About It? (Part 2)


J.M. McDermott‘s first novel was plucked from a slush pile and went on to be #6 on Amazon.com’s Year’s Best SF/F of 2008, shortlisted for a Crawford Prize, and on Locus Magazine‘s Recommended Reading List for Debuts. His short fiction has appeared in Weird Tales Magazine, Fantasy Magazine, Apex Magazine, and Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, among other places. He has a BA in Creative Writing from the University of Houston, and an MFA in Popular Fiction from the Stonecoast program of the University of Southern Maine. By night, he wanders a maze of bookshelves and empty coffee cups, and by day he wanders the streets of Atlanta, where he lives and works. He tries to write in between.

[Continued from Part 1…]

More Than Just Small Success… There’s Something Exciting In That Dark Amazonian Water

Amazon is a gorilla that would think nothing of ripping your arms off and beating you to death with them if it meant they could control more of the market share of the publishing world. Make no mistake about that. But, instead of ripping arms off, they have a different tactic in their quest to reach the top that is sneakier by far. Firstly, they have infinite shelf space. Secondly, they have magnificent accounting.

Here’s the thing that really got my attention when I self-published a novelette on the Kindle, the Nook, and Smashwords: With this project, DEATH MASK AND EULOGY, I am not at risk of a death spiral. When I first put the work up on the Kindle, I worried because sales were slow. Then, it occurred to me that there were no real consequences to slow sales. I could take the time I needed to build an audience, even being patient and letting an audience find the book without too any effort on my part at all beyond writing more books if I wanted to pull a Thomas Pynchon in the eBook realm. I have time for this eBook to find an audience, because I am not locked into an aggressive consignment contract that will pull books from the shelf in three-six months as a mark against future orders. My project can reasonably last on the shelves as long as there are software stores that distribute eBooks for a portion of the sales and no meaningful upfront fee. As I own all the rights (until Amazon and Nook decide to battle out over them with updates to their terms of use, which would be evil and wrong and therefore feel inevitable to me) I can walk at any time, and find another distributor on-line that behaves properly towards me and my content. (For instance, the lovely Weightless Books…)

Unlike most software, a text file is not really going to go obsolete as long as it can be reformatted for new text readers.

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[GUEST POST] J.M. McDermott Says Our Digital Future is Already A Few Months Behind Us, So What Is It, Exactly, and What Should We Do About It? (Part 1)


J.M. McDermott‘s first novel was plucked from a slush pile and went on to be #6 on Amazon.com’s Year’s Best SF/F of 2008, shortlisted for a Crawford Prize, and on Locus Magazine‘s Recommended Reading List for Debuts. His short fiction has appeared in Weird Tales Magazine, Fantasy Magazine, Apex Magazine, and Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, among other places. He has a BA in Creative Writing from the University of Houston, and an MFA in Popular Fiction from the Stonecoast program of the University of Southern Maine. By night, he wanders a maze of bookshelves and empty coffee cups, and by day he wanders the streets of Atlanta, where he lives and works. He tries to write in between.

Welcome to the Future, Which Will Be Evenly Distributing Itself Sooner Than We Think, But Not That Soon…

The digital age is already here. It is not evenly distributed, but it is already distributing itself nicely, and seems to be moving more towards that direction than away from it. Raise your hand if you own an eBook reader. Raise your hand if you read off of it more than off printed words on a page. Not everyone has raised their hands, but the day is coming sooner than we think, but not that soon, when the number of people who read text as ink printed on paper will easily be outmatched by the number of people who carry their entire library in their pocket to be downloaded from the server somewhere where they store all their books. It will be just like how some people listen to vinyl records as opposed to MP3 players, but even they will probably have a well-stocked iPod strapped to their arm when they go for a jog or hop about town in the automobile that comes with an iPod port, and couldn’t play a CD without skipping much less anything as warm and lush as a good vinyl record. Books may be the superior way to read, with the tactile, soulful qualities that have made them such beautiful companions for so many centuries, but they are still going to be replaced by text on screens. It has already happened. Sorry.

I’ve been keeping my ear to the ground, gathering data, and gathering links. I don’t think for a minute I’m an expert on any of this stuff, and I welcome anyone who can raise their voice to correct me where I’m incorrect or misguided. Part of putting this post up in the world is my desire to learn more about what’s happening. Here’s what I’ve come up with, so far.

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[GUEST POST] J.M. McDermott, a Candidate for a Masters of Fine Arts in Popular Fiction, Would Like to Whisper With You


J.M. McDermott is scheduled to graduate from the University of Southern Maine’s Stonecoast Program with an MFA in Popular Fiction. He has five novels out or forthcoming, including a reprint of his critically-acclaimed first novel, Last Dragon, from Apex books, and Never Knew Another, the first book of the Dogsland Trilogy.


1. Be a Fungus or a Vulture, or Else You Starve

I’ve been suspicious of the academic system most of my adult life. You see, some of the dumbest people I ever met in life had Ph. D’s, and some of the smartest people I ever met in life never seemed to need much in the way of education. I don’t think I’m alone in this, either. Stupid comes in all shapes and sizes, as does brilliant. I’ve met janitors who could debate complex philosophical concepts, who lived quiet lives assertively saving and investing for retirement with their library card in hand. I’ve met security guards who could enter easily into rigorous debate with art historians about the nuances of different brush strokes and biographic details gleaned from obscure letters. I’ve met professors of humanities that could barely string together three sentences coherently, in three languages, and wealthy business-leaders who made their fortune not on skill but on narcissism and talking loudly. Naturally, I’ve also met dumb janitors, brilliant professors, and everything in between. Especially in our current economy these last ten years, education beyond high school is almost completely decoupled from our actual employment in all but a few select fields. Most of our advanced degrees exist for the sole economic sake of producing professors to teach advanced degrees in that field. It seems amazing to me, sometimes, that anyone would pursue an advanced degree in anything useful, let alone something relatively useless in the current economy, like a master’s degree in the fine art of writing fiction. Better to just find work that suits your social and mental preferences to keep the lights on with a little money left over, invest your savings, raise a family, and try not to make too much noise until retirement. Lots of folks figured the whole system out, and it’s working great for them.

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