In Space

The Fiction Liberation Front

In Space

The Fiction Liberation Front

In 1988, Lewis Shiner saw the release of his second book, Deserted Cities of the Heart. The novel told of the impending end of the world, according to Mayan prophesy in a real-world Mexico City. With the impressive work, Shiner shed his cyberpunk identity, itself cultured by his earlier short works, his novel Frontera (1984), and his pseudonymous contributions to the Bruce Sterling-edited The Cheap Truth. Deserted Cities showcased a powerful writer who was far more punk than cyber. Soon after, Shiner released Slam, his anarchist novel about Austin communities of skateboarders and Wiccans, and then the rock & roll alternate history, Glimpses. As happens far too often to dangerous writers, Shiner disappeared into the literary fog except for the occasional shorter work and his 1999 novel, Say Goodbye.

In an attempt to jump-start his moribund career, Shiner recently launched the website Fiction Liberation Front ( Under the auspices of the Creative Commons license, an agreement that allows anyone to share and distribute the works as long as it is not for commercial or financial gains, Shiner plans to make all of his short stories, articles, and screenplays available. As of this writing, the site included 18 pieces (14 short stories, two articles, and two screenplays), nine of which appear for the first time.

Far from the first to offer works under such an arrangement – Sterling, Charles Stross, and Cory Doctorow have all provided entire books – Shiner might be the first to allow his entire oeuvre to be available via the Web. Ironically, just two months ago, science-fiction author Howard V. Hendrix issued his "Pixel-stained Technopeasant Wretch" proclamation claiming that writers who post their writings for free are "undercutting those of us who aren't giving it away for free and are trying to get publishers to pay a better wage for our hard work." Even before the Internet age, practically nonexistent short-story markets had caused pay rates to remain stagnant for decades. Now that the most viable option for shorter pieces is the Web, Hendrix's archaism may prevent authors from reaching their potential audiences. Shiner sums it up best: The reason he writes stories "is for people to read them."

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The Fiction Liberation Front, Lewis Shiner, Deserted Cities of the Heart, Howard V. Hendrix, Bruce Sterling

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