Available now on Kindle and Kindle Unlimited, Audible, and as a print paperback, this is a sci-fi odyssey you won’t want to miss. In the gripping second volume of this electrifying sci-fi fantasy series, the battle for survival reaches new heights in the unforgiving depths of space.
A ragtag group of escapees hurtles through the vastness of space, pursued by armadas, saboteurs, and kamikaze armies. The Earth they once knew is blocked by the relentless Torth Majority who now threaten all of humanity.
Among the escapees is Ariock, a powerhouse of a gladiator with illegal superpowers, a legacy from his legendary great-grandfather who defied the Torth. Ariock is determined to follow in his footsteps. Then there’s Thomas, a brilliant supergenius, physically challenged but gifted with a mind that’s both awe-inspiring and enigmatic. His resilience is shrouded in mystery, even to his foster sister Vy.
Their common thread is fear of the unknown. Crash-landing on a distant, toxic planet, they discover it’s the ancestral home of the Torth, their galactic enemies. The remnants of the Torth era of origin still haunt this poisoned wasteland.
As they face mutant horrors and relentless galactic foes, Thomas envisions only doom and despair. But for Ariock and the streamship exiles, it’s a do-or-die struggle for survival—a quest to uncover light in a city trapped in eternal night.
With over 750,000 views as a web serial, the Torth series begins with Majority. Superpowered mavericks and supergeniuses vie for galactic dominance against a collective armada composed of 38 trillion personalities. Higher stakes than Red Rising or The Expanse. One of the 100 Best Indie Books of 2023 by Kirkus Reviews.
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I’m working on a new series about a country bumpkin who reverses the enshittification of magic.
So I just read and reviewed Bullshit Jobs, a nonfiction book that touches on a phenomenon that a lot of Westerners can observe. Big business seems to have a reverse Midas effect, where it turns good things to crap instead of to gold. Cory Doctorow wrote about this and the term entered pop culture. On a related note, an awful lot of people are employed doing meaningless tasks, ticking boxes and generally doing nothing more than covering the collective asses of their bosses. The number of middle managers in America has skyrocketed in recent years.
It’s great that so many people are recognizing this as a societal problem. It’s validating to know I’m not crazy. But I don’t think there is common agreement on the root cause of the problem.
From my point of view as a lifelong artist and writer… everyone is an artist and writer these days. Everyone believes they have something worth saying to the world. And for the first time in human history, everyone has the means to do so. In an attention economy, the people who are able to buy or beg the most attention from the masses are the winners. These are the people who influence everyone else. It’s all about popularism.
A CEO of a big conglomerate wants to claim they are a force for good in the world. Their junior executives feel pressure to help make that boss look good, and their underlings feel that same pressure to make their bosses look good. So we have an economy of ego-soothing. Let’s say the CEO had a power dinner with another CEO and they shake hands on a deal. It doesn’t matter if they made a good deal or a bad deal. It’s not about whether using Salesforce will be beneficial. It’s about pretending that it’s a win-win so the boss looks like they made a smart choice. That is where all the true emphasis is. The junior executives will scramble to maintain that illusion. If the fallout entails enshittification, it’s all about kicking blame to the bottom so none of the executives or middle managers take the hit. Problems don’t get resolved. They get duct-taped at best. There’s a lot of churn at the bottom.
The book Bullshit Jobs advocates reducing the average work week to 15 hours or less, since so many jobs/careers are extraneous. I think that would result in short-term happiness for a lot of people, and it might have longer term effects that are positive. The idea has merit on its own. However, I am not convinced it would solve the entrenched problems of an attention economy. Everyone wants to be heard. Social climbers will continue to exploit the attention of the masses—and if most people suddenly had a lot more free time, that would give celebrities a lot more leverage. Taylor Swift’s fans might organize to make a fan film, and that’s harmless fun. Or a dangerous cult leader might entice millions of bored young people. In other words, I don’t think that giving everyone more leisure time solves the pernicious problems engendered by societal wealth.
In a lot of ways, the problem of excess jobs/wealth is like the problem of excess calories available. Overall, people are living longer and are not likely to die from starvation, but yeah, obesity has skyrocketed. Likewise, people now have easy access to a lot of leisure time. Overall, people are more creatively expressive and not likely to die as overworked slaves doing hard menial labor. But yeah, busywork nonsense jobs have skyrocketed.
The universal basic income scenario, I think, does not address the root problems of massive societal wealth and an attention economy. If people are truly unhappy drawing a high salary while actually doing nothing useful, then I’m not sure how drawing a low welfare income while actually doing nothing useful will cure that. It sounds worse. It sounds like a potential recipe for resentment and despair—especially from people who actually do useful things.
I hope society stops incentivizing salaried drudge work by forcing that to be the only possible way for average citizens to get healthcare and family care. We need more people building their own dreams, or researching a cure for cancer, instead of feeling trapped in a paradigm where they need to sell the best years of their lives in order to afford children and care for elderly parents and get basic necessities met. Why do self-employed creatives or innovators have to jump through a zillion legal and financial hoops for mere access to the basic societal services that a salaried box ticking middle manager automatically gets?
Home loans and mortages. Credit scores. Insurance plans that function as automatic gatekeepers. I’m not saying these things should necessarily be gotten rid of or redistributed, but *access* to them should be equalized. There’s no reason to gatekeep it on the basis of whether you’re white-collar, blue-collar, or self-employed. There’s no reason to turn managers (and people who pretend to work) into an unintentionally privileged class. That’s incentivizing the wrong things in society and civilization. That’s the problem I would want addressed.
Feel free to have at me in the comments or wherever! You know where to find me on social media and email.
Today is the day! I am now a published novelist.
What a journey it has been! I will have more books published, including the sequels to this one, which are already written. But this one is special. It’s the one I spent the most time on. It’s my first novel on Amazon. It’s the one with all the pressure on it, as a series starter. And it’s the start of a series that I stand proudly behind.
Reviews and sales are immensely important to authors. I really appreciate everyone who bought a copy, and those who are planning to write a review, or who already wrote one on Goodreads or Amazon.
If sci-fi isn’t your thing, I would appreciate it if you tell a friend, or perhaps gift it to someone who loves thoughtful sci-fi! For freebies and peeks into my life, you can subscribe to my newsletter.
Thanks for being part of my life!
Also, I gave a bunch of interviews for this one! If you’d like to see what I’ve been up to, check out John Scalzi’s blog, Rune S Nielsen’s blog, Jendia Gammon’s substack, Bookishly Jewish, Queen’s Asylum, Bryan Aiello’s YouTube channel, Hinterspace podcast, NFS podcast and a Reddit AMA!
★★★★★ “Engaging from the start, this complex space opera features relatable, believable characters; highly original, meticulous world building; and difficult moral and ethical dilemmas.”
★★★★★ “Thoughtful explorations of morality, altruism, justice and mercy, and the idea that godlike powers come with godlike responsibilities add depth and breadth to this auspicious entry in SF literature’s mutant-superman genre.”
I have very incredible and awesome news to share. I’ve signed a 6 book series contract with Podium Audio!!!
My epic 1+ million word Torth series will be coming out in print, ebook, and audiobook editions, probably starting late this year or in 2024. This is super thrilling for me. My magnum opus dark sci-fi series is going to hit Amazon & Audible in a big way! (Books 1 & 2 will be combined.)
I owe it to taking a chance on serialization. I’m having a blast on RoyalRoad + Patreon. Feel free to ask me anything. Now I’m diving into edits!
If you’re unfamiliar with my Torth series, here’s a brief blurb:
In a galaxy-spanning utopia where societal leaders are networked together for instant communication, nothing goes unnoticed.
There’s no crime. No secrets. No privacy. And no way to escape.
Until Thomas unintentionally captivates the top super-genius influencer. If he’s going to help his enslaved friends, he’ll need to trick her… plus her audience of thirty trillion mind readers.
And so Thomas’s galactic conquest begins.
Okay, I need to explain my reaction. The production value of Rings of Power is top notch. They have a stellar art department, music by Bear McCreary, great actors, incredible costume design. The only thing that isn’t awesome is the writing/story. And it’s not bad. It’s just…
I don’t even blame the writing team, because I think their hands were tied. They had to work on a major IP with tons of investment money and not take storytelling risks. When you tell stories by committee without taking risks, you’re gonna get some bland storytelling. I think they did a great job, given the constraints they had. They did their best. And it wasn’t bad. The writing here is certainly a thousand times better than the travesty that was the Wheel of Time adaptation.
Judging by media buzz, few people guessed who Sauron was. Really? Is that true? Because it seemed obvious to me by episode 2.
And I guess people were wowed by the stranger with Nori, and didn’t see that ending coming? I saw it a mile away. The final episode “I’m good!” scene was still fun and satisfying to watch, but it was extremely predictable. I think most viewers guessed who the stranger is, in Lord of the Rings lore.
I enjoyed watching the elves, the dwarves, the harfoots, and the Numenorians. But I didn’t feel invested in any of the characters. We all know Galadriel and Elrond survive, so there’s very little tension to those scenes. I guess a lot of people were charmed by Nori, but I found her charm to be very crafted/scripted. Didn’t care about Isildur. He gave off a spoiled Nick Cage vibe. Theo, son of Bronwyn? He seemed like was about to go bad at any second, but turned out to going through a simplistic moral struggle that didn’t really seem cogent. Durin & Disa were cute as a dwarf royal couple, and I did really enjoy their interactions with each other and with Elrond. But in the end, there isn’t much character conflict there, either. Durin’s conflict with his father is classic and predictable.
Every character in this show is going through bland, diluted, classical, predictable struggles. Galadriel thirsts for vengeance. That is all her character is about. Elrond is torn between friendships and duties. Meh. Durin has to obey his father. The Stranger is worried that he might be a peril, aka evil. Nori wants to wander instead of following the path. Arondir is torn between loyalty to his elven people and his love for a human (who is much younger than him, but that is never addressed). Etc. These are all very simple characters with simplistic, bare bones interactions.
The dialogues between Galadriel and Halbrand at the end? Those were okay, but not exceptional in the way that Game of Thrones (seasons 1-5) was. To me, it felt like it had to go through a lot of committee approval processes.
With everything else about this show being so exceptionally beautiful, it was hard for me to watch it wasted on mediocre storytelling. Those elven halls! Numenor! It was so gorgeous!
I wish Hollywood would dare to take risks on non-safe IPs again.
I just marathoned the audiobook editions of The Wandering Inn by Pirateaba, one of the largest web serials ever. I am agog.
10.1 million words, so far.
2.5 million of it is in audio, so far. That’s like 200+ hours of listening material.
The TWI series is actually bigger than my Torth series, which is a measly 1.1 million words in its entirety. TWI has more main characters, a larger world, and a bigger word count. It’s bigger than Game of Thrones and The Wheel of Time combined. The author is still putting out 2 chapters every week. They (no idea what gender the author is) have an active fan community, 4,000+ patrons on Patreon, and they (or their publisher?) hired the most talented female audiobook narrator I’ve ever heard.
And the series is awesome. I really got into it. Fair warning: The first book suffers from some amateur storytelling, including a main character that is hard to like or connect with until later on. I nearly quit a few times. But I’ve learned that my favorite series have problematic beginnings, so I pushed through, and I’m really glad I did. I’m ranking this one right up there with my all-time favorites. The author gets better and better, and the series is pure fun. It has the magical ingredient: Really outstanding interpersonal character dynamics.
It’s interesting that it remains addictive even without any majorly oppressive grimdark plot thread. Like Beware of Chicken and He Who Fights With Monsters and other SFF web serials that took off, TWI is light rather than dark. It’s fun rather than grim.
By comparison, I’m worried about how my series will fare on RoyalRoad. Mine just isn’t that light. It has a majorly oppressive galactic empire that needs to be defeated. One of my main characters goes super dark in Book 1, and spends the rest of the series on a redemption arc. Readers love that character–but only if they get past the beginning “gauntlet” of evil oppressive crap that he gets involved in.
I do have length on my side. 450+ chapters ready to go. But mine is finite. It has an ending.
I want a career like Pirateaba’s! They are incredible. They are the Brandon Sanderson of the web serial world.
You know what else? I think this whole web serial phenomenon speaks to the state of the publishing industry. The Wandering Inn is just as good and just as much fun as The Wheel of Time. If this was the 1990s, it might be the new Wheel of Time. Yet here in the 2020s, it’s an underground fandom instead of a trad pub juggernaut.
I think that’s due to the way algorithms are causing readers and literary agents to overvalue trends and books that are already popular, while also tamping down emergent stuff with unrealized potential. Pirateaba’s series has great word-of-mouth, which is allowing them to break out of the underground niche a bit and realize some of their vast potential. I’m sure 4,000+ patrons has enabled them to write full-time and hire an assistant and all that. But they only got there by writing an addictive series with millions of words and consistently adding new chapters. And even with their success, their fandom is still quite underground.
We live in unfortunate times for the arts, I think.
I’m really glad to have discovered Pirateaba, even if it was through underground channels where adventurous readers hang out. I think they have a great career ahead of them.
From what I’ve seen, A.I. generated artwork has a certain aesthetic to it. Faces are rarely defined. Imagery may be riotously detailed, which gives a superficial impression that it was lovingly worked on by hand for many days, but it lacks a coherent theme. That gives the impression that it is dreamlike imagery, or slap-dabbed together by someone in a creative frenzy. It is a certain look.
Perhaps that aesthetic will always be appealing. But I wonder if it will wear out its welcome? I’m already getting worn out on it. I feel as if I can recognize it when I see it, and it’s not what I want for my finalized novel covers. (Short stories, maybe.)
And I think the same applies to Jasper A.I. and other A.I. writing tools. People who read a lot of blogs and articles are learning to recognize overly emotional language that is incongruously used for conveying generic or low-value content.
I’ve seen A.I. performers, where people pay a service that simulates an actor to read lines. There is an uncanny valley effect with those. The “actor” looks quite human, but they blink a bit too often, and their smiles are quick and small and weirdly constrained.
I don’t know how the arts will adapt to these things. But speaking as a writer-artist, I’m not thrilled about it. I think this is all part of the race-to-the-bottom in the arts. Companies don’t want to pay artists and writers. Now they don’t have to.
The question is: Will the public accept A.I. art and writing as equal to the real thing? Or will they tune it out eventually? Will they tend to gravitate towards art and writing created by real people? Or will enough people fail to see the difference, or fail to care, so that the money flows towards A.I. tools more than it flows to human writers and artists?
As a writer, one can learn a lot from this breath of fresh air in the Fantasy genre.
One can write secondary world fantasy without war. Without prison scenes or gladiator scenes or slogging through a hellscape scenes. That doesn’t mean this book lacks suspense or escalating stakes or power progression. They’re there. There’s a magic system and fun characters, including a very proud rooster who was unexpectedly uplifted to sapience.
As SFF writers, we learn that our heroes are only as powerful/smart as our villains. In other words, we’re supposed to create strong villains to challenge our heroes. In this book, the strong villains are implied off-screen. They’re … somewhere, causing wars and stuff on some other continent. Sometimes local villains or bullies show up, thinking they’re badass and that they can easily defeat the simple farmer. Jin defeats these with ease, sometimes without even realizing it, because he’s so powerful. Then he goes back to farming or planning weddings or building snowmen and playing with friends. He is the Hidden Master. So cool.
Watching a supposedly simple farmer defeat bad guys with ludicrous ease is unexpectedly satisfying. It’s like that scene with Mat and his quarterstaff in Book 3 of the Wheel of Time.
I never thought I’d enjoy a book that’s all about mundane stuff, albeit in a fantasy world with magic. But this was just cute. And engaging. It’s like I got a book version of Stardew Valley instead of World of Warcraft or something. I would actually like to read the next one, when it comes out.
Consider me a disciple of CasualFarmer.