Sometimes you write something not because it fits a niche or is going to sell well, but instead because you need to be writing it. For those of you not willed to create constantly, that could seem like a strange concept. There’s no cosmic force sitting me down and forcing me to write anything, nor are there any sort of market forces. Instead, I was at a place where I needed to do something different.
With Amazon launching their Kindle Vella platform to serialize stories, I figured “alright, I’ll try doing this.” Serialized stories have been doing extremely well in certain spaces, mainly romance and, well… romance, but if you know how the publishing world is, romance is always on top. That’s not a bad thing, though. It just means there’s more experimentation within the space and for something to work well for romance authors, it’ll eventually work for other authors as well.
After a few days dealing with Amazon’s new Kindle initiative, that nagging feeling inside told me this was dead-on-arrival. Amazon is notorious for launching Kindle initiatives, not supporting them, letting them aimlessly wander for a while and then mercilessly killing them off, leaving the authors who invested their time, money and creativity into these spaces looking for a new place to publish their work. They launched the platform with zero fanfare, in “beta”, to just the US on their website and iOS devices. This was in July of last year and here we are, with nothing changed and no coherent plan for the platform. I pulled my story after five episodes and took it elsewhere.
Navigating the serial fiction spaces was tough. There are not a lot of great options for non-romance stories. While there are markets for science fiction, what’s popular now in these spaces are mainly LitRPG and “cultivation” stories. They’re similar, about “leveling up” and using video game mechanics, but the idea is too rote for me. Too mechanical. I was writing a story about a fighter climbing the ranks and overcoming the odds, but I wasn’t listing his skill tree or stats on a table or anything. I’m not a fan of numbers to begin with, and keeping track of something like this would drive me mad.
Still, I went forward with it, publishing the story on RoyalRoad, Patreon and Substack. I can’t say if any of these have been a rousing success, but then again, I’m not sure that I care. No, I wrote INTERGALACTIC BASTARD (nee DEATHMATCH) because I wanted to. I’d written 10 books in the space of 14 months and I was burnt out. I never set out to be a science fiction author. It was just something that happened, and after being immersed in the space for years, I was exhausted. Tired of reading modern SF, tired of the expectations and genre norms.
My first novel, Godslayer, was about a professional fighter in the twilight of his career, needing to learn when was the right time to pack it in. It was about the world being cold and callous to someone who’d sacrificed his body and brain functions for their entertainment and that need to always be fighting and getting better. I’m not sure I was ready to really give that book what it needed at the time, and I’ve grown as a writer since then.
So, this story I was working on had some striking similarities to the world of Godslayer. Originally, I wrote a short story I really love for an anthology about antiheroes. The story I wrote was about a space gladiator who was a giant asshole, fighting in the middle of a war with a mysterious alien force. The league doing their best to ignore this force of nature at war with the “civilized” planets. Things go haywire and he’s forced to learn some tough lessons. This story was entirely too bloody and crass for the anthology, which when I saw the final stories included, it was hard to disagree with. I’ve tried getting it placed in other anthologies since then, but am usually met with “this isn’t sci-fi enough” type of responses.
It’s hard blazing your own path, huh?
So, in the midst of my burnout, I took this universe I created for this still-unpublished story and show how it all started. But it wasn’t just my former career in combat sports that lurched me forward. Sure, I’d written about MMA and kickboxing before. I was Managing Editor at MiddleEasy for a while, owner of the world’s top professional kickboxing site LiverKick (formerly HeadKickLegend), wrote for BloodyElbow, UGO, MMAMania, Heavy and a bunch of others. I knew the fight game and how fighters were outside of the ring. And as I said, Godslayer was my first stab at a novel with a similar concept, just more grounded.
I mixed in my love for pro wrestling and made this project something different.
Like I said, it started as something to do to keep me busy during my burnout. I loosely adapted the character from my SCFL character, Technology Cooper, a British bruiser who smashes people with a barbed wire bat. Just… in space. Only, after I started delving more into the meat of the story and the characters, it was clear I couldn’t just have him fight all the time. There was too much of his life ripe for exploration. Somewhere along the way, something happened to this story, and it became something much more than just an experiment in serialization. It became an important look at addiction and forcing yourself to do something you’ve lost your passion for because of outside pressures, as well as just maturing past something.
Taking a late stage capitalistic cyberpunk aesthetic, pro wrestling and combat sports inspiration, as well as inspiration from comics by my pal Aubrey Sitterson (No One Left to Fight and his former audio serial SKALD), I made this.