In a market totally saturated with self publishing, it is very hard to separate the wheat from the chaff. The constant “read me” pleas that have infiltrated social media, now tends to have the opposite effect and are mostly ignored as spam. Since the Amazon review fixing scandal many people have been turned off by the self publishing tsunami. The problem now for authors is how to make a great new story stand out in a crowd.
Science fiction has always been a tough crowd to break into to. In pre-internet days if you wanted to be noticed you would submit your story to the hundreds of story magazines that existed at the time. Many of these died out when the internet took off but a few still exist today. The rise of the webzine has helped new authors find a voice; and now there are sites to showcase unknown writers looking to get noticed- Wattpad, Jukepop and readwave are great examples.
Jukepop is a serial story site that is free to join and free to read as much as you like. How it works is that readers vote on the stories they like and the author of the story with the most votes receives cash awards to help with the cost of professional editing. Completed serials are offered to libraries in the USA to further help promote the authors work. Many past serials have then gone on to obtain traditional publishing deals and that is what makes Jukepop such a great medium.
One day I was trawling through Jukepop looking for the next hidden gem of Science fiction; I came a cross Retcontinuum by Shauun Grulkowski and I was blown away. Shauun Grulkowski’s writing style is so fresh and innovative that it has given a new lease of life to time travel. Tagged as time travel noir, it is a blend of many styles and genres- that it defies classification and labelling.
Ray Irvine is in a dystopian future world of 2135. This is his story about signing up for experimental trials with the Sinclair group. Not knowing the true nature of why he signed his life away, Ray tells his story in various different styles including letters and transcripts.
Non-linear narrative is a difficult format to master and the best example of it is “Max Brook’s World World Z”. Shauun Grulkowski ingeniously crafted Retcontinuum with his now trademarked black humour and dark irony. Shaunn Grulkowski’s vision of the future is often sinsiter and provides very little hope; but Ray Irvine copes, with wit, sarcasm and great style.
“While time travel isn’t physically possible, science has found a way to record all of your present thoughts, feelings, and experiences over your consciousness at a fixed point in the past. This gives the user the ability to drastically alter their future.
The system works using your brain as an analog recording device, but, as Ray Irvine is finding out, all analog media is subject to degradation with repeat recordings.”
Retcontinuum is characterized bliss. If you have a small amount of reading time then this is the perfect size for any commute or lunch time escape. The chapters offer quick pithy reads as well as being highly addictive; Did I mention it is free to read? You can easily join Jukepop with a click of button via Facebook and the site will not spam you with third party emails.
Now that Retcontinuum is almost completed; Shauun Grulkowski followed up his story with a prequel Tradecraft . Tradecraft is still in its infancy and the first chapter was incredible. Tradecraft has a completely different voice from Retcontiuum and from the first chapter I can tell that it is going to be something very special. Tagged as espionage noir, the emphasis is on the Sinclair corporation rather than the theories of time travel.
“In 2119 The Sinclair Group is on the verge of becoming the most powerful corporation in the world. In an effort to put them over the top, they have hired Elizabeth Murphy as their top industrial spy. She’s tasked to infiltrate other corporations and steal data Sinclair needs to complete their top secret projects. But when she finds out what they’re planning on doing, will she take the money and say nothing, or try to take them down from the inside?”
I can not remember the last time I have been so eager to read the next part of a serial before, that I had to track down the author and speak to him myself:
Shaunn Grulkowski: It was sort of random. I was actually pitching an article to Cracked, and the editor there had a link to their serial on Jukepop. I hadn’t thought of writing a serial before, but it seemed like it might be kind of fun. Retcontinuum is the first thing I pitched anywhere, beside the aforementioned Cracked article.
PN: You just released the new prequel- have you completed it or do you write it weekly as you post it?
SG:Oh, I’m writing it as I go, same as Retcontinuum. That story has evolved into something COMPLETELY different than what I had pictured originally. I really meant to write something that didn’t have a “hero”, but as I wrote it, Laura kind of turned into the hero of the book. She’s the one who really sets everything in motion, and she’s the most proactive character in the book, I think. It’s tough as a dude to write women really well; I find that a lot of men do it badly. I’m a bit proud of how she turned out. She’s doesn’t have the usual idiosyncrasies that a lot of women written by men have. She’s not meek or sexualised in any way. She’s also not the “super-badass” Lara Croft-type, which I also find problematic in a lot of things I’ve read. I like to think that she comes across as a real person.
PN:You have such a unique writing style- who inspired you to write?
SG:You know, I never really thought I had a style, but I get a lot of feedback from readers that really seem to feel that I have a unique voice, so I’m not going to argue. I just want everyone to sound like actual people, which I suppose is why the dialogue is a bit different. I have a hard time getting invested in characters when they all talk like they’re delivering stage monologues. That’s why my writing has some awkward pauses and “uh”s in it. I suppose I’m a bit of a mumble-core sci-fi writer I guess. I feel like a lot of writers get hung up on being “writers” and flexing their vocabulary, rather than just telling a good story. I don’t feel like reading should have to feel like work, slogging through fifty pages of descriptions of a meadow. It’s hard enough to get people to read to begin with. I was talking to a buddy the other day, and I told her that getting someone to read your book, is like getting someone to sleep with you: either they’ve got to be really into you, or just really love bonin’. So, I really try not to make the things I write a task to get through. I also try not do describe the characters physically, except in the most broad sense. I don’t want to assign too many ethnicities, hairstyles, body types, etc. Reading’s the only form of entertainment where you still can imagine what people and places look like, I don’t want to take that away. Luckily no one’s noticed or complained so far, so I guess it works. As for particular people who inspired me writing wise: Kurt Vonnegut, Phillip Dick, Douglas Adams, Karen Traviss, and Irvine Welsh would be the biggest ones.
PN:What was the inspiration for Retcontinuum?
SG: OH I was pissing and moaning about how the ending of “Looper” should have undone the entire movie (I don’t want to get started on it, I’ll end up writing 60 pages about it, and no one cares but me) and I thought: fuck it, I’ll write a time-travel story myself. I spent an afternoon putting together how the time travel would work, and then commenced to writing a story that has very little to do with time travel at all. So there’s that.
PN: What is next for you?
SG: I’m not sure. I know almost nothing about the publishing industry. I suppose I’ve got some research to do. Or, better yet, maybe someone will just kick down my door and give my a three book deal and a moderately big-assed check.
PN: Will there be more Retcontinuum stories?
SG: I don’t want to say no, but I’m leaning towards that. I don’t want to get stuck writing books about ancillary characters that people might not be interested in. So, it’ll be Retcon and Tradecraft, maybe one other thing. But that will absolutely be it. Unless there’s some kind of humongous commercial demand for it. Because I’m a total prostitute.
PN: What are you working on next?
SG: I kind of want to do a YA novel, honestly. I’m wearing out the “F” key on my keyboard writing “fuck” so many times, so I might need a break. I was thinking about a high school with samurai and luchadors. Kind of a “Fistfull of Dollars” meets “Degrassi.” But we’ll see.