All posts by Aaron Rosenberg

Aaron Rosenberg Talks Time . . . of the Phoenix

Stories change and grow and evolve over time. It’s one of the things that makes oral storytelling in particular so vibrant, that the core of the story may remain the same but the details and even the style and flow can change to reflect current attitudes and issues.

Prose fiction doesn’t adjust in the same way, of course. After all, once you write it down and especially once you publish it, it’s a fixed form. Unless you plan to emulate Walt Whitman, who continually updated and revised Leaves of Grass, that book is now set, as is the story within it.

But when you’re working on a series, there’s still room to play, to revise, to change course. Sometimes it’s because you realized something partway through, and other times because the world around you has changed—or you have—and you discover that the story you started out to tell isn’t the one you want to tell now.

When Steven Savile and I started Time of the Phoenix, back in 2009, we already knew that it would be a series following the immortal Phoenix, avatar of humanity’s creativity, throughout history. We bounced around ideas about various historical figures, came up with a rough timeline showing who the Phoenix had become and when, and then sketched out a set of five stories from that. We released the first one, “For This Is Hell,” in 2011. We were both happy with that first story, and it did well. Continue reading

The DuckBob Q & A with Aaron Rosenberg!

Aaron Rosenberg — a best-selling author and founding member of Crazy 8 Press — is back again with his latest scifi comedy novel in the Duckbob Spinowitz Adventures, Not for Small Minds.

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Q: For those not familiar with your Duckbob character… um… how exactly is it that he’s a… well… a duck… man? Who happens to be the key to saving the Universe? (Full disclosure, milk shot through my nose as I typed those words)

A: Right, so the short version—Bob Spinowitz is a regular guy who got abducted by aliens (the “Grays,” the ones you see in all those movies and TV shows and documentaries) and they altered him into this man-duck hybrid. Then dumped him by the side of the road and left him to pick up his life from there. He changed his name to “DuckBob” because he figured people would call him that anyway so why not defang them a bit by beating them to the punch?

Q: Sure, sure. So… Not for Small Minds is the fourth and — so far as you’ve said — the last novel in your DuckBob scifi comedy series. How does it feel to be at the end?

A: Both good and sad. I really like writing DuckBob, he’s a great character with a great voice, so I’m a little sorry there won’t be more novels. At the same time, I’ve always told myself I wouldn’t be one of those people who wrote twenty-seven books in a series that really should have been only three. There’s a natural rhythm to these things, some stories are meant to go on and others are meant to end. I feel like I’ve finished DuckBob’s big story here and I’m happy with the results. To write another novel would feel like I was dragging things out, and I’d worry that I was diminishing him and his voice by stretching it past what was intended.

Q: The first three books in the series — No Small Bills, Too Small for Tall, and Three Small Coinkydinks — focused on Duckbob, Tall, and then Ned. Not for Small Minds puts Mary front and center. What was your biggest challenge — and your goal — for giving Mary center stage?

A: The biggest challenge was that I really wanted this to be Mary’s book, not DuckBob’s. But he’s the narrator, and he has a very . . . strong personality. Which meant I had to be very careful to let Mary, who tends to be more soft-spoken, shine on her own even though it’s all through his words. I also had to be careful because DuckBob absolutely adores Mary—as he should—but that means he sees her as this perfect being. Since this is Mary’s story, I needed to make sure her flaws were visible as well, so that we’d be able to relate to her properly and not see her as some idealized figure.

Q: Beyond the obvious — Duckbob and team rush to save the Universe again — what’s the gist of Not for Small Minds?

A: Mary invites DuckBob to accompany her to her college reunion. He jumps at the chance to see something of her past, but is a bit dismayed when he does. Then they’re summoned by the Grays to deal with the invaders from another reality once again—only this time it’s the Grays themselves who are under attack! Mary and DuckBob have to figure out how to rescue the Grays and deal with the invaders once and for all, but it’s going to take more than just them and Tall and Ned to accomplish that. They need a lot of help, which they get from the unlikeliest places, and that creates problems of its own.

Q: Scifi comedy — as a subgenre — seems to go in and out of favor in the public consciousness. What attracts you to this type of story? Continue reading

Crimson Keep: We Got You Covered

When we wrote the first Crimson Keep story, “Demon Circle,” we really didn’t know what we were getting into. That’s because, up until Kevin Dilmore provided the opening line at our Crazy 8 panel on the first day of that ShoreLeave when we were going to be writing the story on-site in round-robin fashion, we didn’t have any idea how the story was even going to start, let alone where it was going to go. We didn’t know what kind of story it was, what genre it would be in, what the tone would be, any of that. It was only as we wrote that we figured all of that out—the story grew from author to author, developing itself under our fingers, until by the end we had a fully formed fantasy tale.

Then we had to come up with a cover.

Glenn took care of the first one, and the image was evocative if a little dark for such a goofy story. When we went back into that world and each wrote our own stories there, then collected all of those plus “Demon Circle” in the original Tales of the Crimson Keep, he built that cover as well. And you can tell at first glance that this is a collection of fantasy stories.

What you can’t tell is that they’re fun, and even funny, rather than dark and serious. This isn’t grim and bloody fantasy, it’s much lighter than that.

Which is why, when we decided to go back in and revise and expand and re-release the anthology—now with a new story by our newest C8 member, Mary Fan, plus an all-new round-robin story by all eight of us—I suggested that we would need an all-new and completely different cover.

Bob, Russ, and I discussed our requirements. “Think light-hearted,” I suggested. “Robert Asprin’s Myth Adventures series. John DeChancie’s Castle Perilous series. Heck, Piers Anthony’s Xanth series! The cover needs to say ‘fantasy’ but it also needs to say ‘fun.’”

Bob talked to our artist, Ty Templeton, and Ty did up some sketches. He sent us six of them, including one that he didn’t think would actually work because it was too busy.

I loved it. “That’s the one,” I said. “It looks like M.C. Escher meets Monty Python.”

Ty said okay, he’d give it a shot. And when he sent in the final, all three of us felt that it was perfect.

I think you can agree that now, when you pick up Tales of The Crimson Keep, you know that you’re definitely getting fantasy stories but you’re also in for a whole lot of fun. Almost as much fun as we had writing them.

Tales of the Crimson Keep – Newly Renovated Edition will be available in August.

Love, Murder & Mayhem – It’s Always Good to Duck


When Russ had the idea for our new Crazy 8 Press anthology, of course I was in. Who wouldn’t want to write a science fiction story about Love, Murder & Mayhem? The only problem was, I had to figure out what exactly I was going to write!

The most obvious answer was to do a straight-up noir, a dark, moody murder mystery with a heavy romantic element. But I knew plenty of others would have that genre covered. I also thought about writing a more modern mystery, more action-adventure with a touch of thriller, but again I knew there would be several of those. “What can I offer this anthology that nobody else can?” I wondered. And the reply was: DuckBob!

That made perfect sense. DuckBob Spinowitz is, after all, my favorite character to write (three novels, two short stories, and counting). He’s a ton of fun, and he is pretty much Mayhem personified, so I had that angle covered already. Plus DuckBob is very happily involved with the brilliant and lovely Mary, which took care of the Love aspect.

The only problem, then, was that pesky third leg of the tripod: Murder.

Which actually was a bit of an issue, because while DuckBob can get dangerously PG-13 at times in terms of sexual suggestion (Whoa Nelly—I know, right? It’s enough to make you blush!) he tends to be very PG in regards to violence (he is definitely a lover, not a fighter). He doesn’t mind bopping somebody on the head, or firing a ray gun in the air to get the crowd to quiet down. But he’s rarely set out to seriously hurt anyone. Murder? That’s out.

So I had to really think about that. How was I going to tell a DuckBob story that involved some sort of murder while staying true to the lighthearted, wacky fun that is his trademark?

My first thought was to go all “roleplay” on him—have him and Mary dressing up and playing “Detective” and “Femme Fatale,” complete with “murder victim.” That way I could have my cake and eat it, too—tell a moody noir murder mystery, DuckBob-style. But when I sat down to write the story it turned out DuckBob had other ideas, as he usually does. I’ve learned to trust his storytelling instincts (and his eye for good, cheap food), so I let him run with it. I’m very happy with the result. I hope you are too.

Love, Murder & Mayhem is now available for sale both in print and ebook formats.

Aaron Rosenberg is a Crazy 8 Press founding member and author of the best-selling DuckBob SF comedy series, the Dread Remora space-opera series, and, with David Niall Wilson, the O.C.L.T. occult thriller series. His tie-in work contains novels for Star Trek, Warhammer, World of WarCraft, Stargate: Atlantis, Shadowrun, Exalted, and Eureka. He has written short stories (such as the Sidewise-nominated “Let No Man Put Asunder”), children’s books (including the award-winning Bandslam: The Junior Novel and the #1 best-selling 42: The Jackie Robinson Story), educational books, and roleplaying games (including the Origins Award-winning Gamemastering Secrets). He is a founding member of Crazy 8 Press. You can follow him online at, on Facebook at, and on Twitter @gryphonrose.

Pangaea: Jumping Out

517dBviDsyL“Write a Pangaea story . . . and, GO!”

That was pretty much all the direction Mike gave for the anthology. Which, sometimes, is a good thing, and sometimes makes it a little . . . tough. After all, Pangaea is HUGE! I mean, it’s the supercontinent, after all—the one and only landmass in the entire world, as big as all of our modern continents put together.

That’s a lot of space in which to find a story.

So what do you do when you’re presented with such a dizzying array of possibilities?

You narrow it down.

For me, that meant reading through the small Pangaea bible Mike had written up, giving a few basic details about the world, and looking for any details that jumped out at me.

Fortunately, there were a few:

  • Geothermal energy
  • The “coastal” states involved in a technological arms race over building hydroponics
  • The plains, with their rougher, looser structure and wilder, freer ways

I considered those elements again, separately and together. Volcanoes, hydroponics, scientists, arms races, the coastal states and the plains.

And then I had an image appear in my head of a mad scientist laughing maniacally from within a city—built inside a live volcano.

I had my story.

Mike liked the idea, fortunately. With one reservation. “This sounds awfully pulpy,” he told me. “I’m not sure it’s going to fit the tone of the rest of the book.”

“Tell you what,” I replied. “If you’re really worried about it, I can preface it with a ‘torn from the pages of Lurid Tales of Mad Science!’ sort of header, set it up as being a story told in a Pangaea pulp. How’s that?”

He thought that sounded fine, and I got to work. The story wrote itself, as is often the case when you get a good strong narrative voice going—In this case, all of four lines and Hank Land had taken form (“How do you steal a scientist? It’s not like you can just stuff ’em in a sack! And what would someone be doing with them? Mounting them on a board like so many butterflies? ‘Look, I just added a botanist to my collection!’?”) and I was just along for the ride.

By the time I was done and had turned in “Up in Smoke,” Mike had already received several of the other stories. And, after he’d had a chance to read them over, he told me “you know what? Don’t worry about that header. Your story’s going to fit in just fine.”

I’m glad it did. Because I really like thinking that, in this world of Pangaea, Hank Land isn’t just some character on a page—he’s real, and live, and ready to roll, eager to chase down some bad guys and stop some crimes.

Fortunately, with all that space on the supercontinent, I have the feeling he’ll find plenty more cases to keep him busy.

I just hope he lets me tag along on them as well.

Pangaea is now available in digital and print editions.