OP-ED: Don’t Ban Things Just Because You Don’t Like Them

This post has been on my mind for a few months now. Like others, it’s being written in advance for posting. But in a way I’m glad, because I’ve already written it once and retooled it. After some consideration, I think the best way to go with this post is to be short and sweet.

There’s been a real rash in the last decade or so of folks seeking to “remove” what they don’t like from the public sphere. Various methods are being used, from twitter mobs that go after creators to try and get them removed or banned from communities or positions, to the latest incarnation, which is to use politicians and laws to block or remove things simply because one disagrees with them.

I wish I were joking. Kentucky just passed a law that, as I understand it, gives state politicians ultimate say over all public library funds and what they go toward. The implication made by the supporters of the bill is that it will allow them to examine what books are on public library shelves or requested by readers and then block all library funding until the “problematic” titles are removed. A similar bill is being pushed in Idaho that would launch an investigation into public libraries of that state to find “problematic material” and remove it from the library (likely, from what I’ve gathered, along with punishments to the library and staff for offering such “problematic” literature).

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Things I Miss from Covid

I realize that title sounds a bit strange, or maybe even upsetting. Just bear with me for a moment. There were good things about the Covid-year, by which I mean 2020.

Yes, I know that Covid-19 isn’t gone yet. It’s still sweeping through places—even my hometown—leaving pain and sadness in its wake. We’re still not through this. Not entirely.

But a lot of people are content to pretend that we are. And while there are good reasons for the pandemic to be over … there are bad ones as well.

Yesterday, I was out for a bike ride. Long-time readers know that I’m a regular bike rider. I live near a river trail that runs through a good chunk of the city I live in, and it’s a great way to get some fresh air and exercise.

But I noticed something as I was shooting along this trail. Something that took my brain back to some comments I’d made during 2020, at the height of lockdown. See, this trail takes its course past several very nice parks, each of which has playground equipment such as swings and slides.

And I noticed, with a bit of sadness, that a decent amount of this equipment was, in the early evening, unused.

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Pre-Weekend News and Updates

Hello readers! Max here with a news post. Just keeping you abreast of everything that’s going on.

First, let’s talk about Starforge and how the Alpha 1 is going. The foremost of the current readers is nearing the 75% mark, with the other Alpha Readers behind that in varying locations. In fairness, I did point out what a large book this is.

Now, I have a second bit of news that ties into this. It appears that sometime in May—likely early, but that’s still up in the air—I will be heading back to my hometown of Alaska for a few weeks. This means that I’m going to queue up a bunch of posts for the site, yes, but it also means that for those in the current Alpha Read for Starforge, you will have several weeks to gain a substantial lead on me, or even finish the book.

Alternatively, you can take a weekend or two now and blow through it before May is upon us, and I might be able to make enough edits to start the second Alpha before I go.

Either way, those in the current Alpha are about to be able to get a good lead on me.

So yes, both those bits of news overlap. I’d like to finish the first Alpha before heading out and set up the second, because that would allow the second pass Alpha team to get a lot of reading in before I started making changes, but we’ll see what happens. It kind of comes down to how soon I can start the second editing pass from the first Alpha.

Again entwined with this, there will being Being a Better Writer posts while I’m gone. I’ll queue them up here as I do when I’m out, and write them in advance, as well as the occasional thinking piece on one thing or another.

Furthermore related, don’t forget that if there’s a writing topic you want to know about, you should be letting it be known in the post calling for topics. I’m going to be putting Topic List #20 together next week, so comment now!


Now, in other news, Patreon Supporters may note that I also uploaded another reward sneak-peek earlier this week. A Power in Ink is another short (though I’m giving the definition of “short” a real workout) for the Troubadours and Space Princesses anthology submissions, and while I do need to chop about 800 words from it, it turned out pretty good. If you’re a Patreon Supporter (or on the Discord), give it a look and leave a comment!

Which leads me to another quick note: I’ll likely be compiling another book of short stories sometime this summer while editing Starforge, because I have enough shorts now to certainly do so. Maybe. Shorts are usually something I play with as side projects, experiments, or goofy little ideas, but I do have a decent pile of them now, some of which you supporters have seen.

Either way, we’re looking at a More Unusual Events collection sometime in the next year.


Other than that … that’s the news! Have a great weekend everyone, and do some reading!

Being a Better Writer Topic Call: What Do YOU Want to See?

Surprise! This isn’t an ordinary Being a Better Writer bit. Many of you likely guessed that based on the day (Friday versus the traditional Monday), and you’re right.

That’s because this isn’t your usual BaBW post, it’s a Topic Call!

What’s a Topic Call, you may ask? It’s an opening of the floodgates for readers to suggest their own writing topics they’d like to learn more about for future Being a Better Writer installments.

In other words: What do you want to see Being a Better Writer talk about? What writing topics do you wish to see addressed or brought up? What sort of questions do you have about, well, writing?

Topic List #19 is about exhausted, which means that it is time to start assembling a new list. I’ve got ideas for forthcoming articles, but what about you?

This is your chance. If there’s an aspect of writing you’d like to see Being a Better Writer discuss (or, if it’s been more than five years since the last post on a topic, revisited), what is it? Post your suggestions in the comments, and get your question answered in a future BaBW post!

Changes and Delays for Starforge – Weekly Update – April Fools

I don’t think anyone got past the first paragraph of changes without realizing this, but just in case you’re coming in late or didn’t catch the date, this was an April Fools post. Starforge is on track and looking more awesome with every day!

But you can still enjoy our fake list of changes below. No joke, some of these are changes people really would like to see!

Hey guys! Max here with a weekly news post, and buckle up, because we’ve got some big updates to talk about.

I’ll cut right to the chase and discuss the biggest one by far: It’s become clear by now from the Alpha Reader response that Starforge needs a rewrite. A big one. I know this will push it back at least a year, as large as the book is, but it’ll be worth it in the end to deliver the product everyone’s hoping for. In addition, the rewrite probably won’t take as long since we’re going to be cutting a few of the plotlines that really weren’t resonating with people.

I know. This is a blow. But it really is about delivering the best possible book, one that will sell and resonate with the largest number of readers. To that end, some changes have to be made. But I’m confident that the extra wait will be worth it.


So what changes are we making? Well, enough of the book is changing that a few updates here won’t spoil anything. But they are pretty hefty changes, mostly so we can bring Starforge in line with what the modern Sci-Fi reader wants.

For start, we’re dumping the whole “All” plotline. And all that stuff with the drones. Sci-Fi readers these days don’t want Sci-Fi elements like that. We’re still working on the replacement, but we’re looking at a lot of popular, award winning Sci-Fi from the last few years for inspiration and retooling the plot accordingly. While we can’t give away any details (that’d be spoilers), rest assured it will involve lots of people standing around and talking with pseudoscientific-sounding jargon that pretends to be social science but is really just thinly-veiled soapboxing.

Secondly, we’ll be taking some of the advice we’ve gotten over the years to heart and dumping the character of Jake entirely. There’s just nothing for a character of his “background” to contribute to things, and having him “contribute” before was just insulting to all other characters.

Third—and this is the most substantial change—we’re going to work Isekai into it somehow. We’re not sure how, but that’s what the audience wants these days. Jake’s replacement will probably be tailored to make this process smoother. Maybe something involving VR.

And fourth, Eidre is no longer a villain. Starforge will now be about how she’s right, and exploring a romantic relationship between her and Anna. That’s right, we’re finally going all-in on the romance! We know this is a bit of a shift, but the demands for space lesbians are insistent (as well as quite violent, and we’re frankly tired of all the threats), so we’re moving ahead with this. We’re also going to be retooling Anna’s backstory to include as much trauma as possible, and downplaying her more active, independent character traits to make the romance more believable, and amplify the eroticism (we’re going to try to appeal to as many fetishes as possible, so if we do bring aliens back, expect centaurs).

We know this is a big change, and probably means Starforge won’t be launching in 2022 as a result, but for Starforge to be the best book that it can be (as well as one that will sell the most copies to the current Sci-Fi climate). If this news is a bit disappointing, we remind you that at the end of the day writing is a business, and if Starforge isn’t selling the largest, most vocal audience exactly what they demand, there’s no point in releasing it.

Again, this news may be disappointing to you, but at the end of the day Starforge needs to pay the bills. Have a great April 1st, and we’ll see you all on Monday.

OP-ED: Merit and Accountability in the American Workplace

This post has been a while in coming, and I mean that to a degree most of you likely won’t expect. This, right here, these words you see before you, account for the third time I have written out my thoughts on this subject, the prior postings either being too disorganized or too negative and downbeat to ultimately find their way to the site.

Yet the topic kept circling back. Whether it was because of the constant barrage of, to put it kindly, angry or entitled posts I would see on social media from a particular group, or because I was in the opposing group those type of posts regularly attacked while also knowing (and seeing) firsthand what things were actually like, the topic kept coming back in my head. Though arguably, it also likely has much to do with firsthand experience I’ve had working at various jobs, seeing directly for myself how abysmal things have gotten … as well as how doggedly those who benefit from the current status quo fight to defend it.

Which I think is perhaps where things went wrong. Both the prior attempts to write out this post contained example after example, all first-hand, of how working in the US has become, well … awful. The problem was is that the post didn’t do anything constructive. It aired a litany of sins, pointed fingers … and then that was it. Not exactly great content. So after the second post had been a dud (which was last night), I stepped back and analyzed this latest attempt, and decided to come at things from a very different angle. Yes, I could throw stones, and there’s more than enough ammo to go around. But that won’t fix anything, because those who understand already know what’s gone wrong, while those who should understand have already insulated themselves from the issue and are often living a lifestyle dependent on never admitting the issue in the first place.

Ultimately then, there’s little reason to writing yet another post that airs the problems that are already there, whether or not they’re acknowledged. But a post that’s about the constructive, a post that is to those who will, slowly but surely, taking those same positions encouraging them to not dive into the same self-serving behavior and discussing how the US economy is harmed by such self-centered mindsets? Well … maybe that can do something. Just maybe.

So let’s talk about the idea of merit, the concept of accountability, and how both are vital to the US economy … despite being something that’s been largely ejected from the modern job market.

And look, I know there will be plenty of those that have, as noted above, insulated themselves from the reality of what’s going on out there. They’ll come at this post with torches and pitchforks, ignore most of it or attempt to leave a comment that’s effectively a giant strawman, or something else.

To all those posters: Tough. You’re welcome to go shout at your personal echo chambers about why “merit doesn’t matter” or “merit matters, but everyone else is just inferior” or whatever other cockamamie excuse you feel works. Knock yourself out. But don’t expect to be taken seriously here, or given a soap box to shout. Fair warning.

For the rest of you, let’s talk about merit.

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We’re Picking Up a Weak Signal …

Hey folks! Sorry for my effective absence this week. That frog in my throat I mentioned Monday has been determined to avoid eviction, and has tenaciously clung to my vocal cords in the way a politician clings to money. I have almost all my pitches back, and in truth yesterday felt like I did when this whole mess started last Friday. Now it’s Friday again, and outside of some gunk and my voice sounding a little off I still have that frog clinging to me.

It’s worse at night though. Laying down seems to shift where everything goes, and then I cough, and … well, I’ve had a few rough nights this week.

Long way of saying that I’m sorry there hasn’t been any other content this week other than Being a Better Writer and this little news post here. I’ve just been either fighting this frog or working on Starforge.

Yes, despite being sick, I went back to working on Starforge as soon as I felt up to it. And I’m making good progress. I’m just about done with edits on the first quarter, though I’ll likely make a second pass even before going into Alpha 2.

But hey, progress is good! Starforge draws closer with each chapter scoured!

But speaking of Alphas, there’s actually one other project that’s ready for an Alpha. The Minstrel and the Marshal, my entry for this year’s LTUE Anthology collection, is ready for Alpha Reading! It’s a short, only 17,000 words, and set in a new setting none of you have seen. If you’ve got some time this weekend and would like to take a look, let me know here on on the Discord channel, because I would like to get some other eyes on it before it’s submission deadline at the end of the month.

And uh … Yeah, that’s it. Sorry folks, it’s just been one of those slow weeks (thanks, frog). Monday I’ll have another Being a Better Writer post for you all, and maybe we’ll look at doing another live Q&A in the coming weeks as well, just to shake things up.

I’m going to get back to editing now and another notice of eviction for this dumb frog. Have a great weekend all!

A Tribute to the Greatest MP3 Player Alive

Some of you might be wondering why I didn’t title this A Tribute to the Greatest MP3 Player that Ever Lived, but there’s a reason for that!

But first, really quick, and before I get into this small tribute, I do want to offer a quick update about yesterday’s post, as some of you might be wondering what point it served. Well, it’s pretty straightforward: I’ve noticed that if one searches “Axtara” or “Axtara – Banking and Finance” you get the store pages, and the news page on the site that announced its release … but you do not get any of the reviews or previews.

So I made that post designed specifically for web crawlers looking for search results. With a little luck and some work, in a few weeks it’ll be one of the top search results, so anyone looking for Axtara will find the store pages, and a free preview of the first three chapters to read, nice and easy.

Since we’re doing news, editing on Starforge is now in full swing, and in addition Patreon Supporters will have another chapter preview coming soon. But not yet, because they’ve got The Minstrel and the Marshal for the moment, and that’s plenty of story to keep them occupied.

All right, that’s it for news. Let’s move on to the post: A tribute to the greatest MP3 player ever made.

Yeah, I know this is going to ruffle some feathers. But hey, my site, my opinion. Are you ready to see the image of the greatest MP3 player ever made? Here it is:

That’s right. The best MP3 player ever made is the oft-mocked Zune.

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Milestones and Other News

Well, this week has been full of interesting. Interesting in a way that brings to mind that common curse (thought as I understand it, it is neither ancient, nor Chinese) “may you live in interesting times.”

I’m not just speaking of my own experiences here. The war in Ukraine continues to be a constant source of “interesting” as the world rightfully dogpiles on Russia for invading its neighbor in a naked power grab. The longer things go on, the more insane Russia looks, from their claims to their actions. Last night they shelled a nuclear power plant, briefly setting it on fire.

These are not the actions of sane people. You don’t shell a nuclear power plant in an area you’re trying to conquer. That’s supervillain 101. Russia is proving more inept than comic book villains right now, but with very real consequences to their nation’s actions.

Here’s hoping Kyiv is the stone their entire military trips over and can’t recover from.

Yeah, sorry to start off with such a dour topic, but that’s sort of the state of things these days on the international stage.


Thankfully, not everything making the news is terrible these days. Have you heard about Sanderson’s Kickstarter success?

Well, I have. Repeatedly. Constantly. So yes, I have heard about it, you can stop messaging me everywhere about it. It is cool, but I heard about it the first day.

Now, those of you that haven’t might be wondering what’s going on. Well, what’s going on is that today (literally), Brandon Sanderson has made publishing history. But you probably wanted a little more background than that.

So earlier this week, Brandon released a video saying that he’d “lied” to all his fans. A lie of omission as it turns out, but during 2020, when the world was in lockdown, Brandon found that all of his public appearances at cons and whatnot were now canceled and he had a lot more time to write. Based off his graph of time spent, I’d guess it was “like the old days” before he was a megastar. But the “lie” was that he kept quiet about this and pretended to be writing books at his “star level” pace.

At least, until this big unveiling that with that extra time no longer spent traveling (roughly a third of his workdays a year, IIRC) now spent writing, he’d written four books that no one knew about. And he was going to be publishing them through his own imprint (Dragonsteel Books) with a kickstarter campaign to finance the publication and gauge interest.

As I said above, we are now two days into this kickstarter, and it is the most successful kickstarter of all time.

Now on the one hand a lot of this isn’t surprising. Megastar author announces kickstarter, gets money. But there’s a bit more to it than that. Because this is Sanderson’s imprint. This isn’t like when when a major studio or publisher hops on Kickstarter just because they can.

This is Sanderson’s own imprint. In other words … this is indie.

That’s right. Four indie books, from one of the biggest authors in the world, who would have publishers promising their first and second-born children for a chance to publish his stuff, and they broke the all-time kickstarter record in less than two days.

Sometimes when discussing history, people talk about turning points. In the world of book publishing, this, I think, will be one of them. The Martian scoring a movie deal and becoming an international sensation despite not having major trad-pub backing was one. The meteoric success of Brandon’s kickstarter? I think this will count as another. Years from now, when moldy historians are discussing the moments when “indie” books finally became accepted the way indie games, music, and movies are, they’re going to point to this moment as one of those moments.

And there’s still a whole month to go.

If you want to check the kickstarter out (and maybe be a part of publishing history) you can check it out here.

But either way, this is a major success, both for Brandon as an author and for publishing as a whole.

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What If … Colony was a Game?

All right folks, I did promise you something goofy, fun, and light-hearted while I did my taxes (though I don’t think I used all those words exactly), so here we go.

What if … Colony was a game?

Any kind of game. Board, tabletop, video, whatever. And yes, I’ll admit to having thought about this before and formed some of my own ideas (shades of that old game design education shining through). But what about you guys? If Colony hit it big and picked up a Netflix or Amazon streaming deal with all the usual tie-ins, what sort of merch would you want to see, specifically when it came to the entertainment tie-ins. Could any of them be anything special, or would they just be shameless cash grabs? Who, if you’re this specific, would you like to see handle such a product (for example, I’d love to see Colony as an RTS title by Blackbird Interactive in the style of Homeworld; the sub combat would add some great wrinkles and bring terrain to full fruition in an already awesome RTS style).

That’s it! That’s the discussion! What sort of game would you want to see tackled, and what would it look like? A Colony board game? A 4X? A collectible card game? Go nuts!

NOTE: As of posting, I certainly know of no streaming deal or tie-in products with the book (and I would be the first to know). This is more a fun exercise for some of you to really exercise those creative muscles.

And who knows? Maybe someone from Leder Games or Wizards of the Coast will stumble across any discussion, get interested, and something really cool will come of it. We’ve got Godzilla and Street Fighter Magic the Gathering cards. At this point, anything is possible!

So hit those comments!