Fantasy and Sci-Fi – The Problem

I’d like you to meet Ysayn…YsaynYsayn stepped out of a sleepless night a couple of days ago, and the rather dazed day which followed. Ysayn is a sorceress/magician/witch sort of character who lives in a fairly epic fantasy world with a bit of the Game of Thrones about it as far as life is concerned (though this is me so expect the characters to have a genuine good time at least some of the time). I feel like writing Ysayn’s story once I’ve wrapped the current book I’m working on, which happens in the next few days. here’s the problem…

My sci-fi sells more than my fantasy. Steel beneath the Skin was the book which exploded (and I kind of mean that) and gave me the chance to view writing as more than a hobby. The Aneka books consistently outsell all the other releases. I’m writing another sci-fi character at the moment and it’ll be interesting to see how she does when she appears on the electronic shelves. Whatever, science fiction seems to be a far more economic target for me to write than fantasy. I would love to know why.

My initial thought on why Steel took off the way it did was that there is simply less sci-fi being written than fantasy. I suspect that a lot of sci-fi is also less accessible, focusing heavily on esoteric physics and high-minded comments on modern society so a good, old fashioned space romp caught people’s attention. (Hell, Thaumatology 101 has more physics in it than Steel.) Then again, maybe it’s the urban fantasy bent of the Thaumatology books. Ysayn is more high/epic fantasy. Would Ysayn be more popular?

I would really like to hear people’s thoughts on this stuff. Sci-fi fans, tell me why you jumped on Steel. Fantasy fans, this is your chance to persuade me to do more fantasy. People who like both… uh… good! But why?

79 responses to “Fantasy and Sci-Fi – The Problem

  1. By and large, fantasy simply doesn’t appeal to me. I like my reading to at least have roots in the universe I know, even if it’s an extrapolation of it. It’s only the urban aspect of your Thaumatology that, for me, makes it readable. As it is, I have difficulty suspending disbelief at the magic/demonology side of it. The Other Side of Hell and For Whom the Wedding Bells Toll were the Thaumatology books that I least enjoyed. It’s no coincidence that they were the ones with the weakest connection to my universe.

    High fantasy? Mud and swords stuff? I guess I might give it a try, purely on the basis that I generally like your writing. But I suspect that I’d probably not enjoy it anything like as much as the Aneka books. I think I’d probably react in much the same way as I did to Unobtainium (rather negatively), and for much the same reason.

    • PS – it’s occurred to me that there’s actually more to my liking of the Thaumatology series than just its rooting in my universe. I also appreciate the application of Clarke’s Third Law (“any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”), by treating thaumatology as a science. This makes the suspension of disbelief a bit easier.

  2. Hi Niall,
    let me tell you about my experience with your books, I’ve read all “Steel” in one go, find out about it a little bit late, so all books have been available on amazon. Tried Thaumatology 101, haven’t finished the first chapter. It’s not bad, but something about character haven’t captured my imagination. I couldn’t make myself care about them. I really liked “Kat on the hot tin roof”, same thing here. The poor tortured soul.

    So i guess for me it’s less the genre and more the premise. Hey, i’ve read “Ugly” and bought “Shadows” (haven’t started yet, a bit backlogged here). And you really can’t claim those are sci-fi 😛

  3. While I read Steel before your other books I did enjoy the thaumatology and ultra human series just as much, I’m happy to continue to read whatever you put up for sale

  4. I read… well, everything you publish, actually, and love it all, but what I’m waiting for anxiously is the next Thaumatology book. So I guess that means I can’t really say why Aneka sells better, but I can guess.

    You are clearly a person who is familiar with physics, and you’ve integrated it into how you think. When you break the rules in your writing, it’s because you’ve decided to, and you do it in a measured way. That lends itself to science fiction in a way that it doesn’t for other genres. Add to that the fact that science fiction is the traditional home of nontraditional families (looking at Heinlein here, but he’s far from the only one) and you have a receptive audience to go with your natural inclinations.

  5. Tsukino Usagi

    While Steel Beneath the skin was the first of your books I read and I do enjoy that series, I have to say that I like your fantasy books way more. The Thaumatology books rate as my all time favorite books and that is really saying something as I read a LOT of books. Scifi as a whole gets way too predictable. Your fantasy books just have a little extra something that your scifi books lack.

    • I agree. Thaumatology reads better for me than Aneka. For me, suspension of disbelief is actually easier for Thaumatology. I DO like the scientific touches in Thaumatology, and appreciate the different take on the Universe it takes. Reality Hack is also good, though I’ll have to see how you develop the concept in the second book (?)

  6. It was “Ugly” that got me started on your books (thanks for finishing “Shadows” by the way, I’ve been waiting for it ever since) but it hooked me enough that I’ve now read everything of yours I could get hold of.

    If pushed to make a choice I’d say I liked Thaumatology slightly better than Steel; it’s certainly the series I’ve re-read more. Which is interesting in itself because as a whole I’d have said I went for SF rather more than fantasy – traditional fantasy, anyway. In fact, I think Thaumatology in itself has got me into “urban fantasy” as a genre, it wasn’t really something I read before but now I seem to be picking up more of it.

    Looking forward to whatever you write, really. Though now that you’ve hooked us with that shot of Ysayn I’m waiting for her story as well now…

    Keep up the good work!

  7. I read Steel first because if you use Amazon to find books it is much easier to get to. (toggle SCi Fi, Robots). Where Thaumatology is UF which has a huge listing. However My favorite by far are Thaum books. The characters just seem better to me.

    That being said, From the end of Hope it seems we might get Aneka and crew into a little Star trek like action and that could be very cool 🙂 But balanced with where Ceri could be going, I might still have to give the edge to the Thaum books.

    Kate on a hot tin roof was good and a cool world so I dont count them out.

    Ugly and shadows aren’t my cup of tea so can’t really comment.

  8. Put me down in the camp of preferring Ceri and friends to Aneka and co. I really love the direction the books went (larger scale and political) so I’d much prefer the next book in that series. I want to see Ceri ruling the world, dammit.

    As to which one selling better, it could simply be a matter of promotion, since they’re basically cheap unknown indie books whichever one gets on any kind of list that gets wide viewership will probably have a huge advantage.

    However, beyond that, my personal opinion is that the first Aneka book is considerably stronger than the first Ceri book. Just based on reading them I assume the Aneka book was written considerably later than the first Ceri book, just due to plotting, structure, characterization, etc. The first couple of Ceri books are really rough.

    And honestly, just from a first impressions, back of the book kinda perception, the Aneka one sounds less… silly? Cheesecakey? My memory of the blurb for the first Ceri book, which I deliberately haven’t refreshed so its just the perception that remains of the blurb, was basically “shy young woman lives with sex demon and shortly they have rampant lesbian sex”.

    Honestly the blurb didn’t appeal to me, I had just run out of other things to read and I like urban fantasy with lesbians, so I gave it a shot and it turned out to be a lot more interesting than just rampant lesbian sex.

    The Aneka blurb on the other hand was like “solider awakens in the far future as an unstoppable killing machine with a mission to wipe out the enemies of humanity!”. I exaggerate slightly but yeah.

    Anyway, thats a very long winded way to say I think you should re-release the Ceri books, especially the first couple. Clean them up the structure a bit, maybe merge a book or two, and restructure the blurb/marketing to focus on it being an Urban Fantasy with Strong Women Leads and Interesting Physics Based Magic and World Shaking Events full of Dragons and Demons. Or something. (And completely honest, I’d be slightly embarrassed if someone saw me reading a paper back version of basically any of the Ceri novels given the cover picture. Less embarrassed than Twilight, but still..)

    P.S. can we finally get some gay werewolves? Or at least bi?

    • I agree that promotion is likely to be a part of it, but to suggest that it’s “simply […] a matter of promotion” is a bit simplistic. Even if the Thaumatology books had ben better promoted on Amazon etc., I’d still never normally have bought them because I’d never have seen them. I generally don’t read fantasy, and therefore wasn’t looking in that area. (I’ve read The Lord of the Rings, but consider it hugely over-rated.)

      I first came across The Steel beneath the Skin because it was visible in a place I was browsing – i.e., science fiction in the Kindle store – and looked like an interesting premise. It was only after I knew that I enjoyed Niall’s writing that I then went looking for his other work and decided to risk spending a few bob on Thaumatology 101.

      Heck, I wasn’t even aware of the existence of urban fantasy as a sub-genre until I read Thaumatology 101. And that came after The Steel beneath the Skin.

  9. Also, seriously, why do you have like 10 different blogs and stuff? Until I realized you used twitter it was almost impossible for me to find out when a new book was being released. Its not like you’re writing under different pen names in wildly different genres or something, consolidate your blogs, post regular updates to your website and cross promote!

    • Well, the original theory was that I was separating the fantasy and sci-fi series. I’ve seriously considered merging everything into this one, which kind of covers everything, but… Not sure.

      As for the gay werewolves… maybe. (Actually, at some point there’s going to be major werewolf plot and I’m betting on all sorts of stuff coming up in those books.)

      PS. I’m trying to keep replies to a minimum here as it’s your opinions I’m after, rather than mine. And it’s all been good folks, please do keep it coming.

      • For what it’s worth, I’d also find it easier if you’d merge all of your blogs into one. I can see why you’ve done them separately, but it does complicate things. So… please 🙂

  10. i stared when i read steel but after i read and enjoyed it i went and brought thaumatology and read the whole lot, i like fantasy and scifi and i have read all of both series plus the new books as well, i really enjoy them all and cant wait for more

  11. Hi Neall,
    I’ve got a long history reading Sci-Fi so thats what led me to Steel, I also have a thing for Fembots…. so the Steel books really caught my fancy. I’ve re-read them all three times. Seriously hooked. The only other of your books I’ve looked at was the unobtainum book which I really liked and look forward to some more hopefully. I’m afraid I’ve never really been into Fantasy but I think I should take a look at your Thaumatology series. Anyway can’t wait for the next Steel book! I agree with the one poster that it may be down to marketing and ease of access (finding it on Amazon).

  12. It’s funny, but I never really thought of the Thaumatolgy books as real fantasy, because of the physics basis for the universe involved. More like far out science fiction. I really like books where the kinky hero/heroine gets thoroughly laid and has a good life while laying waste to baddies. (see John Ringos first 2 Ghost books, and “Good Intentions” by Elliott Kay). I agree with Robert that the presentation of Thaumatology 101 was rough. I don’t mean to be mean (sic) about the Poser artwork, but there are some great Poser artists out there that could really improve the look (WHICH SELLS). I have bought and enjoyed everything you’ve written so please keep going 🙂 I think, with improved cover art, you could charge a little more too.

    • Actually, there are some new requirements for Apple’s iBook store which mean I’ve had to redo some of the earlier covers. Thaumatology 101 already had a new cover, but I had this idea for a sort of theme, so I have new covers lined up for the first 5 or so (so far). So there are likely to be new covers going out soon (next week if I’m not swamped).

  13. I read Steel when it came out – Amazon recommended it to me. I liked it, so I looked to see what else you had written, and I read Thaumatology straight through. I read the Aneka books as they come out, and now the superhero ones as well. When the most recent Thaumatology came out, I realized It had been a while and I didn’t remember who was who, so I read all the Thaumatology books again. 🙂

    I like all your stuff, but the Thaumatology books are best.

  14. I started with “Steel”, really loved it so I went looking for more. ( Which on a side note lead me to a site that said “A Galaxy Unknown” was on your too read list, which i had purchase some time earlier and hadn’t gotten around to reading. I read it and loved it so thanks for the push, in a manner of speaking, that made me read it.)

    I bought “Thaum. 101” after but it wasn’t until I had read “Greatest Heights of Honour” and “Ugly” that i read it, then i read upto “The Other Side of Hell”.

    I still havent read the last two in the Thaum series, though I have read all you other work.

    I cant say for sure, but I think I just got tired of the Thaum series. I used to read a lot of fantasy books when i was a teen, loved sci-fi just never read anything, but now that I’m older (30) I have rekindled (Kindle is my main e-reader) my love of sci-fi I tend to read more of them.

    Though I find it hard to pick ones to read my current favs are your “Aneka Jansen”, Andrew Beery’s “Katherine Kimbridge”(currently rereading) and Thomas DePrima’s “A Galaxy Unknown” and “AGU:Border Patrol”

    To sum up, for me, I love the “Steel” series cause it is what interests me at this time, a space adventure with a female lead that is strong, funny and just slightly non-human.

  15. For me Thaumatology is the series i prefer but I hare all the Steel series and enjoy that as well . Ugly is still not finished as I got about halfway through and just could not keep interested. I have yet to get Kat as the blurb and reviews put me off.
    I think that the sales might do more with more PR but I’m inclined to think most are personal choice. SF is more inclusive for most people.
    For me, I’m looking forward to the next Thaumatology entry.

    Sorry if there are errors in this posting I have new progressive glasses and seem to be having problems seeing the posting.

  16. Steel was the first book by you that I read and enjoyed. Some of the enjoyment was the combination of alien abductions/Galactic wars and the Ghost In The Shell premise of Aneka herself. The sex was neither here nor there but I didn’t mind it, especially when it just became part of the background in the later stories. I tried samplers for Thauma books but just couldn’t get into them and I usually like urban fantasy. Then again I usually dislike super hero stories but loved Ugly and Shadow. And I am anxiously awaiting a Kate On a Hot Tin Roof sequel. The steampunk was well done in that. Reminded me of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. I am definitely not into high fantasy at the moment. Loved the Lord of the Rings books but could never enjoy other high fantasy books (movies//tv seem to be different).. I liked the original Conan stories although they aren’t really high fantasy. You should read the Nonplayer comic if you haven’t already. The 2nd issue finally came out and it does mashup high fantasy and anime Sci-Fi pretty well.

    In the end I think the reason the Thauma books didn’t click with me is that the characters didn’t engage me. Can’t say exactly why though.

  17. The first of your books that I read was Thaumatology series and then Aneka Jansen series.

    My personal opinion is that Thaumatology series is the best, and surprisingly I think Unobtainium is the second best series.

    What I think you can do to make your books more popular is to get the series in several categories. Because when I look at your books, they are not in any spesefik category. See, for example, on your books under the Product Details -> Amazon Best Sellers Rank, there you have just a number, while other authors’ books are in several different categories. I do not know if you can change this, but it can have a big impact on whether people can find your books.

  18. For better or worse Thaum series gets classified as urban fantasy when it, in my opinion, should get classified as sci-fi/fantasy crossover and that may have something to do with it not selling as well. Urban fantasy seems to be the fantasy subgenre fantasy readers tend to turn their noses up at, and the best explenation for that I can come up with is to quote an ex-gfs reason for why she didn’t like urban fantasy.

    “Girl meets vampire, how tragic, I think I’m in love, bite my neck and f*ck me.”

    When people not familiar with urban fantasy see something classified as urban fantasy, visions of Twighlight and Lestat dance in their heads. Right or wrong people lump things like vampire romance in with legit urban fantasy and just assume its all emo teenagers and characters who don’t read like real people. While your books have their share of sex and romance subplot, your characters still act like real people even if they exhist in fantasy worlds and have fantastical lives.

    On a side note, every time I read that your next book will be from a new series or in a series other than the one I just read I get mildy frustrated because I want to see that series continue on. Then I read said next book and want to see more in that series instead. IMO, that’s a sign of a good author, able entertain a reader even if its not a genre they normally read. Not everything has to be Game of Thrones overly complicated, sometimes you just want a fun read without having to struggle to keep track of way too many characters and subplots more complicated than other authors entire books.

    • I’d just like to say that Arik’s ex gets the award for “best one sentence description of a genre ever.” 🙂
      It is a shame though, there is plenty of UF out there which is not like that, even if it is alarmingly hard to find.

    • I agree to some extent that ‘traditional fantasy readers’ probably snub urban fantasy as a genre, but I’m pretty sure these books wouldn’t appeal to people like that. I mean, they’re basically the definition of urban fantasy: take modern take america/england, add some magic creatures, let heroine (they’re always women) run around interacting with the creatures.

      All that being said, like it or not, Twilight sold a ridiculous number of books, I’m pretty sure if I needed to make money off my books I’d be much happier with a blurb in a popular place saying “if you liked twilight check this book out!”. I’m sure it turns off some percentage of people but its pretty easy to find some examples of the sales numbers of recent “classic high fantasy” novels and compare them to Twilight.

      And its not just Twilight, its an easy example (although if we’re nitpicking its far closer to a paranormal romance than urban fantasy) but the UF genre is huge in book stores right now. Even paper stores have shelves devoted to urban fantasy. You run the risk of getting buried in there but clearly its a genre that sells and sells well.

      I’m not sure its directly relevant but one of the things I enjoy about these books, as well as most urban fantasy in general, is I don’t have to read a 200 page world building + back story introduction just to find a character who is interesting.

  19. Hi,
    your Aneka Jansen series might use a number of standard tropes, but it is very unique in its depicting of “normal” people. Most recent SF I see (and fantasy, too, see GoT) go for great leaders and armies.
    While the Honor Harrington series by David Weber started small, his characters quickly became overwhelmed by missiles and spaceships. I must say that the part I liked the least in the Steel series was the space battle.
    The main stream Thaumatology for me is over with “Vengeance,” but I think there is room enough in that universe for other stories and other characters who are a little less powerful than Ceri. In spite of her being my favorite character all over your worlds.
    I also think that the Unobtainium universe has big possibilities. Bigger than the superheroines, which in my opinion have already many too many characters cluttering the scene.


    • Interestingly, I consider the main arc of Ceri and Lily to be completed with Vengeance as well. They aren’t going to vanish from the Thaumatology books, but I will be focusing more on some other characters when the series returns.

  20. (Sorry for the reply volume, for some reason I spend a lot of time thinking about things like this)

    Something someone said earlier in this thread made me think about how people classify books. Much is made of the idea that your first impression when you meet someone is formed in 7 seconds or what not and lasts forever. Regardless of how literally true that is, I suspect a lot of people glance at a cover + blurb and mentally categorize it pretty quickly, at least among people who read a fair amount.

    Given that assumption, I wonder if you could actually A/B test which blurb (ideally with a cover, but that’s obviously much harder to create) appealed to more people? I’m thinking mostly of the Thaumatology books here, but if you had one blurb that had the keywords “sexy, women, succubus, romance” and another that was like “realistic world with detailed magic system and adventures and mystery” or some such and you exposed them to a bunch of people, how many would prefer which one?

    Hopefully it would give you some kind of idea as to who actually buys your books and why. I still think its mostly a marketing issue though. There’s lots of people and lots of really, really terrible books that sell lots of copies, so I think in your case you just need people to know about them!

    • Please, keep going. I’m interested in anything anyone has to say. (No idea how I’m going to turn all of this into an action plan, but it’s all good.)

    • (See previous apology)

      P.S. You mention at the beginning you’re about to wrap up your current project, which sounds good, but I genuinely don’t know what it is, and I’m reading your blog! I think you mentioned the name reality hack on twitter at one point? So that’s probably the book, except.. what is it about, is it part of a series, when is it likely to be released, etc. I mean, its one thing not to have that info in an author profile or .. something, but I’m pretty sure this is not how book publicity works! How about “Currently writing: Book Foo, the third book in the Foobar trilogy, release date: xxx” at the top of every page? See also my previous comment about combining blogs and cross promoting!

      • Ah… Reality Hack is one thing, and then there’s the one after that. Because my production pipeline is fairly rapid, if I’m writing something which is new I don’t like publicising it too much in case I get part way through and decide it’s not working. However, you have given me an interesting idea… Hmm…

      • There is now a “What am I working on” page on this blog which gives you a view of, uh, what I am currently working on.

      • Nifty, good stuff to know =]

        I completely get the ‘not committed to a book’ thing but presumably if you’ve reached the stage where you’re editing it or .. something, whatever stage you’ve gotten to when you’re determined to complete it, you could start publicizing it. And obviously its easy to say from my perspective over here, but it needs some hype! “New book Reality Hack, release date June 15-20th, awesome new series, female detective investigates horror and may not survive!”. And slap that sucker in the banner of this site! Having some kind of roadmap is cool but if you’re about to release a book, put it everywhere!

        I don’t mean to be, dunno, obvious or condescending or anything, but just as an example Laurell K Hamilton (a favorite author) is publishing her new book. Obviously hers is a complicated just because of the logistics of pr and getting paper copies and stuff, but she ended up with a specific date and was able to build towards it.

        Check out the site:

        First element: Author’s name.
        Second element taking up 70% of the screen: “NEW BOOK COMING OUT!”.

        I mean, I dunno about everyone else but I’m actually on your blog/site because I want to find out about your new books!

      • Ms Hamilton is one of my favourites too. And Reality Hack is going to get a load of publicity as of next week, when I can sit down and breathe.

  21. Markus Wesselsky

    Hi there,
    First of, thanks for writing amazing books. I have followed your books since a few days after your first release on amazon. In my opinion your problem with thaumatology is that it is your fist series. The plot developed too fast in the first 2-3 books and it is obvious that you just startet as an author. Don’t get me wrong I love them but compared to steel they are really rough. I am reading between 70 and 120 books a year and your books are one of my favorites. Like it was said in the other comments, I think your problem with the sales is that UF is viewed as this vampire romance genre. To promote your sales rework the covers and perhaps the descrition of what’s in the books. It’s worth a shot.
    Now Fatasy vs. Sci-Fi vs. Urban Fantasy …. I read them all and don’t have any spesific preference. Please don’t retire Ceri and Lilly as the main characters just yet 😛 .There is so much more I want to know about them (Is Ceri immortal, can she learn to take dragonform, how will they govern the demon world and what about the classes Ceri will give? ).
    I hope this helps you out.
    Best wishes

    PS. I am not a native speaker so don’t mind any misspelled words 🙂

    • The English is fine. Ceri and Lily won’t be vanishing, and you’ll definitely be getting to see Ceri’s teaching. They’ll be around less because, honestly, there’s not much further I can go with them that’s actually exciting.

      • I’m definitely looking forward to reading about Ceri teaching a bunch of misfit sorcerers and demons and honestly this comment is mostly just to continue my campaign of getting you to write thaumatology sooner rather than later, but you reminded me of a really interesting section from one of the second edition dungeon master guides for D&D.

        It was a chapter devoted to how to create adventures for characters who had reached extremely high levels in the game, to the point that just throwing dragons and ogres at them wasn’t actually that much of a challenge, so it stressed creating political and social challenges to be overcome. Things that you can’t just hit with a sword or a fireball!

        I mean, what can I say, I’m just really excited by the idea of Ceri developing past blowing up random demons and dragons and getting to coordinate world governments. I want to read about the sea demons from the latest book traveling to Earth to lay down the undersea ‘pipeline’ to Australia! Maybe I’m alone here but I’m pretty sure you could have expanded the magic conference in the demon realm to a 200 page book and I would have happily read it and bought the next book.

        P.S. since I’ve derailed myself into the world of thaumatology, why is Ophelia working at the bar? I can kinda get Ceri/Lili enjoy it .. or something.. but shouldn’t a bag of demon gold get Ophelia a pretty nice place, even in london? Also why are some demons much bigger than other demons of the same ‘species’? Is it a direct power = size thing or what?

  22. As for the survey/polling I mentioned earlier, I confess its mostly just an example of curiosity, I mean I have a theory that it will work but its hardly tested. Anyway! Perhaps you could start a thread on amazon or goodreads or .. something and say you’re considering new books and give two blurbs, both of which are for book 1 of thaumatology but emphasizing the different aspects and ask which one people want to read.

    Orrrr.. something I’ve seen a couple of times is actually to use Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, which lets you assign a small ‘task’ to hundreds of humans and pay a tiny amount for each job, so basically you create a survey and pay people 10 cents or whatever to fill it out. Its not the most selective or scientific way to do a survey but it does get it in front of a bunch of semi-random people easily!

    Dunno if the data would be useful for something as specific as fantasy books, but surely there’s some place with a bunch of readers who would answer a question or two about theoretical new books.

    • Replying to your other post really:
      “why is Ophelia working at the bar?” – That was timing. When she started Ceri hadn’t worked out how she was going to fund the whole thing. Now Ophelia actually likes it. She’s vain and being wanted stokes her ego.

      “Is it a direct power = size thing or what?” Basically, yes. The Devos/Devim thing is different: Devim are essentially ‘runt’, beta-male children of Devos. If a Devos becomes very powerful, however, it’s likely that they would become larger, representing their magical power with apparent physical power.

  23. Responding here to some of what Robert has said regarding Thaumatology. Niall, I’m glad in a way you are reducing the focus on Ceri and Lily in favor of story lines following other characters, too many authors end up making the heros so powerfull they can pretty much snap their fingers to solve any problem and then keep trying to create situations that get more and more rediculous instead bringing it all to a satisfying end. Having said that, I am a bit sad to hear that we will be seeing less of them, as I think there are directions you can go that will keep the focus on Ceri and Lily. The political aspect as mentioned by Robert, probably being the most obvious, if done right and it doesn’t end up reading like Tom Clancy in Fantasyland. What comes to mind for me though, would the other worlds besides Earth, Otherworld, and the Demon Realm. I believe it is in The Other Side of Hell that it is mentioned that demon lords occasionally send demons to places other than Earth and Other world.

    More on original topic though, I forgot to mention in my earlier comment that, as others have stated, I agree you may wish to consider, for lack of a better term, upgrading your covers some. I actually preferred the original cover for Steel to the one you have now…sometimes less is more. The best looking cover I think would have to be For Whom The Wedding Bells Toll, don’t know what you did different for that but it looks of higher quality than almost all others. While alot of people who read many Indy authors will dismiss the quality of the cover art if its not up to the standards of those with a publisher as simply a fact of life with Indy works, an obviously high quality cover will help to attract those who partially judge a book by its artwork. Not something I’ve ever understood, but they’re out there…probably the same people who will cut off midword to point at a squirrel.

  24. “The Other Side of Hell and For Whom the Wedding Bells Toll were the Thaumatology books that I least enjoyed.”

    It’s funny you mentioned that because those books for me were perhaps the pinnacle of the series.

    • I started with Thaumatolgy and loved it. I’m a bit worried about your last book though as much as I liked the series, as this is a very delicate point in the book where I believe what happens next could easily ruin the series if it’s not properly written and I wish you the best of luck because it’s still my most favorite of your series.

      I actually didn’t touch Steel for a while… At the time I didn’t like sci-fi and thought it sounded stupid… That was until I got bored one night though and checked it out. I ended up really enjoying it and liking it nearly as much as Thaumatolgy. Since then I’ve started reading sci-fi regularly but Steel is still a series that I consider a reading priority in this genre.

      Then I checked out your steampunk series but was overall disappointed. I’ve never read steampunk before but I’ve read every book you’ve published including the anthologies so I decided to give it a try also. I probably wont read any more of that series if you publish more. I don’t know if I just don’t care for steampunk or if it was your writing. I also felt like new readers might be confused as I am very familiar with your writing from reading your previous books and it felt like you wrote the book in a style that felt like it was a continuation of one of your other series and not a brand new series New readers would probably end up giving it a lower review than more veteran readers of your work.

      I recently tried out Ugly, also a genre I have never read and enjoyed it but still am a bit skeptical. I thought the plot was a little weak, which is okay, it’s seems to be your writing style and I’ve gotten used to it and enjoy and expect it in your work now. I haven’t read the sequel, Shadows yet but it’s on my list, I’m just a bit skeptical because the description sounds like it’s from Twilight’s POV and Cygnus still has a lot more to develop. I’ll be reading that next though.

      You mentioned you have trouble writing in male main characters which is why your books almost always are purely female and largely lesbian. IMO, keep it up, don’t try to get better at writing male main characters. It is another part of your books I enjoy.

      • Last thing, like some others said, I too don’t want you to retire Ceri and Lily.

      • On that last point I wouldn’t worry. I like writing female leads. I just wish I could do more convincing (to me) male characters.

  25. Here’s another thought…

    As I’ve already mentioned, I don’t generally like fantasy, but much prefer sci-fi. But I know that there’s a fair overlap of readership of the two genres, which goes some way to justifying bookshops’ irritating habit of lumping the two together. If you go into Waterstone’s/WHSmith/similar shop, you’ll find (if your local branch is anything like mine) that the fantasy/sci-fi section is dominated by fantasy. My perception of the virtual shops (Amazon/Kobo etc.) is that they’re much the same. But at least I can drill down through them to the point where I’m generally only presented with the genre/sub-genre that interests me (plus a few anomalies!).

    I find that there’s really not very much good, readable sci-fi being written these days or, if there is, it isn’t getting the promotion. Sure, there are a few good active writers but I’m generally finding it difficult to find enough to satisfy me. When I do find something I enjoy – e.g., The Steel Beneath the Skin – I’ll jump on it and devour anything else I can find by the same author.

    I wonder if there are a lot of others out there like me, and the “explosion” of Aneka derives from the (perceived, if not actual) shortage of good new sci-fi?

    • That’s my theory, yes. I know I have a lot of trouble finding sci-fi to read. Fantasy is easier, though finding fantasy that isn’t a vampire romance (or similar) can be a little difficult. With sci-fi it’s the opposite: it’s hard to find science fiction with characters you can feel any empathy for and the sheer weight of plot is usually overwhelming.

    • Markus Wesselsky

      You might want to read “On Silver Wings” from Evan Currie.
      It’s good Sci-Fi.


      • Thanks for the recommendation, Markus. I’ll give it a go.

      • Later…. Well, I read “On Silver Wings”. The story’s good. That was the only reason I finished it. But it was constantly annoying me while I was reading it.

        The writing is very poor indeed. There were characters who changed name and/or rank between one page and the next. Homonym errors abounded. My pet peeve was the gross overuse of the word “literally” – often when the author clearly meant “metaphorically”. The books would be improved enormously by deleting every occurrence of this word. Now, there’s a writer who really needs a good editor.

        The guy doesn’t know his science, either. Just, for example, read his descriptions of the space elevators that are so important to the story and compare them with the Wikipedia article on the subject. He doesn’t, for example, understand either that they have to be on the equator, or that the centre of mass has to be just outside the geostationary orbit (which is quite a long way out).

        I lost track of the number of errors (of both language and fact) that I reported.

  26. I know i already posted, but after reading the posts after me i have a few thoughts. 🙂

    1. Please ignore any form of LKH writting. PLEASE!!!

    2. Robert Lynn Aspirin had a great series where demon ment Dimension traveler. What would Ceri do in a world with NO magic field? she would have some stored but then? How many different worlds?

    3. Your first premise of sci fi vs fantasy. Why either or? Morgan Le Fay in the 25th century!!!!

    4. Ysayn is a sorceress/magician/witch sort of character who lives in a fairly epic fantasy world with a bit of the Game of Thrones. One day she helps a Tall white haired woman named Aneka who shows her a larger universe.

  27. I love both the fantasy and sci-fi series for different reason, but I lean more towards the fantasy. Here’s why:

    Aneka is too powerful. She has powerful friends, she’s nearly indestructible, she has an overpowered ship, and she has enough fire power on her person to level an army. She has wandered into The Superman Problem: You can’t really go after her directly, so you have to force her to spread herself too thin or you have to attack her friends. Unless a more powerful foe is brought about, she’s doomed to be boring as there are no real challenges for her. Cygnus is close to falling into this trap too.

    Ceridwyn is also powerful, potentially more powerful than any other of the main characters in any series, but she also has WEAKNESSES. She gets tired, she can be shot and killed, she can be knocked out and restrained, she’s all-powerful in the Demon World, but if she pisses off a demon and they meet her in the Human World, she’ll have a tough fight on her hands. In short, you don’t have to be incredibly powerful to present her with a dangerous situation. The same could be said for Kate: she’s strong, but can be easily beaten.

    I guess the TL;DR version is that it’s fun to have a powerful character, but those character NEED to have weaknesses to keep the stories compelling.

  28. I don’t know about everyone else, but i think it really comes down to Anika just being a more interesting character then your other ones. Also all around Anika has had a bigger impact on her world than your other characters and she just keeps getting more important over time. I also think there is a bigger exploration factor in the Anika books. A since of adventure on a Galaxy sized scale. Witch leaves the reader with a less predicable and there for more exciting future. Your other books take place on a smaller scale then the Anika books and leaves you with a since that they are less important in the grand scheme of things.

  29. I like both fantasy and sci-fi. For fantasy it isn’t important if it is urban or high fantasy. In my opinion the story and characters are far more important then the genre itself. Ceri and Anika are both great characters in an interesting universe with a good ensemble of supporting characters (Did I just call Lilith a supporting character? – Please forgive me 🙂 ).

    But in comparison I like Ceri more because with Anika I have the feeling she is a little bit to omnipotent and got there to quick. Ceri was going a long way to reach her current power level and she was and is still vulnerable where Anika was never really in danger (except with her copy, but this doesn’t count because she fought herself). So Ceri is more down to the earth and more believable (in the frame of urban fantasy and sci-fi).

    But both women have a nicely crafted universe around them and there stories are captivating. I hope there will be more books about them because I feel (and hope) there is much more to tell.

    PS.: Thanks for the last Ultra Human book. It is a great story and I like to read moe about Cygnus and Twilight.

    • Lily will be around to teach you the error of your ways at some point.

    • Exactly.

      Ceri is a more interesting character because she has the obvious flaw of still being essentially human. She needs to breathe, can be shot, conked on the head, needs food and water, she gets tired, subject to extreme temperatures, and there are powers out there greater than her (some of the Fae and spirits are obvious). Aneka, while interesting in her own right, is just too damn strong.

  30. I enjoy both fantasy and sci-fi for fantasy I like stuff like this Anthony is Xanth novels they have good characters a bit of fantasy and some quirk to them as for sci-fi I find it falls into two main categories. utopian and dystopian they both have good and bad points one showed what we could have if for it and get a little lucky and the other showes what could happen if we let some of the worst parts of us loose. Both sci-fi and fantasy have some erotic parts to them but a lot of the sci-fi dose not do it well. I think that it is this that has led to the success of Steel it puts these two thinks to geter well and nether obscure the story or the characters. I am sorry to say that I have not gotten around to reading any of the other series that you’ve written so I can not sleek to why steel is out preforming them but I do know that good sex/romance novels and good sci-fi books point to steel as a good option to read next where as the others I would think are in an oversaturated market.

  31. Paul Szalkowski

    I am one of those who like both. When I go out to find new books what I am looking for is a good story told in a way that I can immerse myself in for it’s entirety. I think one of the reasons why the Steel books sold more than the Ceri and Lilly books is that the Jensen books at least for the steel trilogy are mostly self contained and jump to the “meat” of the story faster were ad the Thoumatology books are written to take all of them together so the take a bit longer to get were they are going, which is not a bad thing either it just requires a longer commitment from the reader.

  32. I have read all of the Thaumatology and Steel books. I like both but prefer the Thaumatology books because of the use of “real” locations and the characters feel more fleshed out. I also love the magic as science part. I originally started reading Thaumatology because it was suggested by my Kindle. I did not read it immediately because the plot blurb did not peak my interest. The best part is after seven other sentences: “Soon Ceri and Lily are in the middle of an academic war, surrounded by wizards, werewolves, and demons…” Mentioning the alternate history/WWII shattering might add to its appeal/audience. Sorry about the armchair editorial. Love the books, please keep writing!

    • World War II’s atomic bomb breached the dimensions and brought magic back to our world.
      Sixty years later, aspiring thaumatologist Ceridwyn Brent just wants to expand the science of magic.
      But first she must deal with demons, werewolves and a succubus house mate!
      Academic warfare is lethal when wizards and witches are involved!
      – Fall 2015 on the BBC –

      • The Thaumatology books are getting a reissue soon with new covers and, yes, I’ll be rewriting the back cover blurb on at least the first one.

  33. I too prefer the Thaumatology series. But the other books are all very nice too, which incidentally are turning out to be a lot of different books and settings.

    But I think which books someone prefers after reading them is not really all that important sales-wise. Before reading any of the books the Aneka series looks a lot more unique, finding sci-fi anywhere close to the Aneka books is very hard. The Thaumatology on the other hand looks like “just another” urban fantasy with sexy girls which has a LOT of competition. So I think being a bit more clear about what makes the Thaumatology series unique would help it a lot more than doing the same thing would help the Aneka series.

    One other thing, and I apologise if this comes over a bit rude.
    I think the covers of the books might not help the sales. When I have all of them (the Thaumatology more than the Aneka books) in iBooks it looks a little like I have a collection of porn.
    Again sorry if this has offended.

  34. I’ve read both your Aneka Jensen books and your thaumatology books in the last few weeks, and tended to prefer the thaumatology ones.

    The main reasons were connection, While being primarily about stuff the real world doesn’t exhibit, the backgrounding that is put in place for one’s imagination has a solid weight of reality that high fantasy only manages when it gets very ‘wordy’. The Aneka Jensen books had this by staying within the bounds of conceptually valid reality, but with future projection being the ‘difference’.

    High fantasy usually manages to connect only through relatable characterisation, and by creating parody of real events (either current or historical), and usually functions as a form of commentary on humanity as a result. I do enjoy reading it, but if the characters aren’t strong, such books quickly find well deserved obscurity.

    Having said all that, I’ve enjoyed your books, so would certainly at least try it…

  35. I discovered Steel through a random search on Amazon for ‘sci-fi’. At the time I’d never heard of you so didn’t know you have other books. After enjoying Steel so much I went back and ended up buying all of the Thaumatology series as well and have enjoyed both series greatly.
    As to why the sci-fi? Your hypothesis that there’s a flood of urban fantasy relative to epic fantasy and/or sci-fi sure seems plausible.
    I also wonder if your book description for Steel is easier to grasp in an instant relative to the Thaumatology series. I’d also never heard of the word thaumatology (or its root word) before your books. It may be less easy for the average reader to connect with in that browsing instant.
    In reality it’s probably a combo of these and many other factors.
    Thanks for all.

  36. I started out reading your Thaumatology series and loved it. I’ve pretty much devoured everything you’ve written since then and will continue to do so. The only thing,if I have to find something, I’ve hag am issue with is that reality hack seemed kind of like a rip off of the matrix movies. That’s a minor quibble though. I’ve read all of your books at least three times each. Keep it up. Please keep worrying Ceri (I named my Diablo 3 character after her) and Aneka. They’re my favorites.

    • Yeah, Reality Hack has obvious similarities to The Matrix, but I think they are just that, obvious similarities. The same “we all live in a simulation” meme is a fairly common one in science fiction and modern philosophy. There are serious physicists who believe that the only explanation for the universe is that its a simulation running on an alien computer system. Go figure. I also promise that no one is using anyone as a battery.

      Funny note: an early review of Steel Beneath the Skin said something like “Don’t bother, it’s just a rip off of Star Trek.” Presumably this was because the government had “federation” in its name.

      • Similarities is a better way to put it. “Rip off”was too strong for what I was trying to convey.

        I’ve always wanted to ask you, how do you put out books so fast? It seems like most authors take a long time to put out a book, but you put out multiple books each year. Crazy thing is they’re all good.

      • Thank you.
        I can generally produce a first draft of a book in 4-6 weeks. I’m getting a little slower due to more plotting, but 4-6 weeks is about right. It then takes me 2 months to get it out to the shops. I don’t have an editor (proofreader, yes, but not an editor) which woulld slow things down, but mostly I don’t have a publishing company to worry about.
        Beyond that, I usually write what I want to see at the endin the first draft so there aren’t endless rewrites before I have a manuscript to go forward with.
        It’s not the greatest writing technique in the world, but I guess it works wll enough.

      • WordPress won’t let me put this in the right place (I guess it has a limit on the number of levels of reply that it’ll allow). Anyway, you’ve said that you don’t have an editor.

        Do you want a copy editor? If so, I’m interested in seeing if I can help. I’m not a professional editor (my specialisation is pensions legislation), but I seem to have spent most of the last 25 years correcting the English, as well as the substance, in literature produced by my employers’ marketing departments.

      • Peter – The reason I don’t have an editor is because I don’t want one. Whether you classify it as egocentric or cowardly, I don’t like someone else having such a large input into my books. I get it how I want it to be and I don’t want someone else telling me it should be different.

      • I’d be happy to proof just for homonyms eg there used for their and vice versa. Only if you feel the need, I don’t have any compulsion on this subject but it is really easy for me as an artifact of the way I read.

      • Thanks, but I’m covered. Some of the earlier books may not look it, but I am.

  37. OK, that’s fair enough, Niall. I don’t have a problem with that position. I was only offering.

  38. I have been with Aneka from the start. Swashbuckling, intense, science fiction that has everything. Thaumatology and witches is more esoteric. Everyone loves Star Wars and Star Trek and the wonders of the future that might be. I hope that you will continue with Aneka and Fox because these stories are so much fun. They take us all someplace we would like to see. I wanted more of R Daneel also though. Keep going Niall, this is good stuff, and thank you.

  39. Well this answer might be a bit late.
    (exuse me if my english is abit rough i’s not my first language.)
    But from an economic viewpoint I think you should still write it.
    why well most autors have a niche. your’s might be the rare combination of Science Sex and intelligent and sexy female leads.

    These combination is kinda normal in mature urban fantasy books normaly with romance being more involved aimed at a I dare say mostly female audience.
    (you will be quite low on a list of serious books and urban fantasy with the taumotogie books.)
    Even If I still hope for a next Episode after all the series also really kicked of after dragon legacy and more so after ancient.

    Epic High fantasy like game of thrones the malzan book of the fallen the black mage guild, a song of darkness, and oh so many others, have still a mostly male audience for ones . And you might find a new audience among them and a good number of them will read your other books when you were not on their list before. (after all sex is normaly no that important in high fantasy.. well in game of thrones it is so maybe it changes 😉
    You might just catch a starting train.

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