As I approach the two month mark of writing here at Digital Science Fiction (two months already?), it seemed like a great time to return to the article series that I kicked off my tenure here with: “Science Fiction You Haven’t Read…But Should.” This series focuses on the wide world of Science Fiction, and narrows in on authors you may have missed. They may be indie authors whose self-published nature and lack of an ad campaign has kept them from reaching a broad audience, or small press gems that just haven’t made it much into the public eye yet. We kicked things off with author Hugh Howey, and we return with another self-published science fiction author who seems to be gather a fan base just on the outskirts of mainstream science fiction publishing.
Matthew Wayne Selznick is a California-based advertising businessman, but his jump into self-publishing fiction is a much more recent occurrence of the last less-than-a-decade. All of his novel-length books and individual short stories are available on ebook, while most of his book length work is also available in hardcopy, with limited edition chapbooks of the short stories available from Selznick’s site.
He has broken up his fiction into some story worlds, which we can hammer at world by world. First, however, comes his short story “Cloak.” This one appears to not fall within any of Selznick’s worlds, and is very different from his other fiction. It follows Harry Turpin as he struggles with losing his girlfriend, and realizes that his life is pointing him towards a world-altering choice. “Cloak” is a short, entertaining urban horror short story, and the only of Selznick’s work that isn’t really science fiction.
Selznick has a world of giant monsters, which he calls the Daikaiju Universe, a la the giant monsters of Japanese horror films. One story is available in this setting, “Reggie vs. Kaiju Storm Chimera Wolf.” The short story follows Reggie Samson as he tracks down and fights a giant monster, while dealing with the destruction of a town he used to live in, and the upcoming marriage of his ex. “Reggie vs. Kaiju Storm Chimera Wolf” has all of the fun of the genre Gojira (the beginning of the Godzilla phenomenon) became a classic of.
However, the real gem of Selznick’s work is his Sovereign Era stories. This saga is begun with Selznick’s only novel to date, Brave Men Run. Nate Charters is living the life of any high school outcast in 1985, when a Dr. William Donner announces to the world that there are superhumans, and they want autonomy. Donner’s announcement, coupled with his terrifying powers, pushes the world into fear, just as Nate is beginning to realize that he just might be one of these superhumans. As the world reacts to the new segment of their population, Nate comes under heavy bullying, while at the same time discovers love as only a high school teenager can.
The novel is simply excellent. Mixing ‘80s nostalgia with science fiction-inspired super heroes, the writing is tight, the characters are well-developed, and the novel is simply fun and engaging. Lovers of the 1980s and hair bands, of super heroes (especially outcast super heroes’ such as the teenage angst of the X-Men) will love this book, although it deserves a far broader audience than that. Brave Men Run is one of the most fun novels I have read in the past year.
After setting the stage with Brave Men Run, Selznick further explored his world and the plot threads that existed within it. Selznick used his website to release Hazy Days and Cloudy Nights, an ambitious serial that follows the world of a number of non-superheroes (many very familiar to readers of Brave Men Run) as their lives unfold. The plan was to begin before the super hero emergence, travel through it, and continue to follow the characters afterward. This ambitious project started off well, with an intriguing and well-written start that was easy to get sucked into, but ended well before its planned conclusion, not even making it to the time of Brave Men Run. The serial was available on Selznick’s site for a time, but as of today I can’t find it anywhere online. However, those interested in reading the very beginning can find the first two installments available via ebook as “How It All Got Started: First Monday of Summer, First Monday of Forever” and “How It All Got Started: Stand Up, Back Down.”
Selznick has penned two other short stories set in the Sovereign Era. “The World Revolves Around You” tells the story of a disreputable man and the “attraction” problem he is having, and is a nice story with a fun twist ending. “Brenhurst’s Tale – Another View of Brave Men Run” is, as the title implies, a retelling of certain events from Selznick’s novel from the point of view of a different character, in this case the villain. Fans who desperately want more of the characters from Brave Men Run, and sad at the stopping of Hazy Days and Cloudy Nights, will eat this one up. The other big contribution to the Sovereign Era is The Sovereign Era: Year One. Selznick invites seven indie authors to write stories set the year after Dr. Donner’s announcement, and each story is a gem.
Fans of fast-paced, quick and fun super hero science fiction will love Matthew Wayne Selznick. Give him a try, and you likely won’t be disappointed.