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Museum (2014 Update)

Recognition by 2014. Courtesy Mike Ashley et al., our magazine has become listed in the online SF-Encyclopedia with at least one entry: Deep Outside SFFH later Far Sector SFFH 1998-2007. There is also a stub pointing to this link from Outside: Speculative & Dark Fiction, our initial publication name on 15 April 1998 before threats of a law suit from a backpacking magazine. Brian and I then came up with the new name Deep Outside as a compromise. We soon added SFFH for SEO and as a concept sharpener.

In the course of our ten year run, we* published many talented newcomers, a few of whom went on to Nebula, Hugo, and other major awards or nominations. We also published at least one Nebula Award recipient (the late Pat York), and at least two SFWA officers including Linda Dunna and Dr. Andrew Burt. With the folding of Ellen Datlow's Event Horizon in the fall of 1998, we became the world's oldest web-only magazine without print antecedents, paying SFWA professional rates and following all their rules for a professional organization, until we ended our run in early 2007. By *we, I include such dedicated staffers as A. L. Sirois, Dennis Latham, John K. Muir, and Shaun Farrell. Brian (and Gwen Callahan, who had helped read submissions) left me as sole proprietor in 2001, at which point I kept the magazine but changed its name to Far Sector SFFH (which happened to be a domain name I had recently acquired and wasn't sure what to do with, though I really liked it and still do). We had changed Clocktower Fiction to Clocktower Books, and I became sole proprietor of the publishing house as well (Clocktower Books ISBN prefix 0-7433).

Mike Ashley, historian of 20th Century SFFH Magazines. I have been in touch with Mike Ashley (prominent U.K. anthologist and researcher) over the past few years. He is, among other things, the editor of many Mammoth anthologies. Mike's impressive projects include a signature history of 20th Century SFFH magazines in four volumes, his Story of the Science Fiction Magazines series. Mike originally sought me out a few years ago as he was beginning to plan the fourth and last volume, yet to be released from University of Liverpool Press at this writing (11 July 2014). He is an astute and detailed researcher, and had already done his homework well. He had found us (Deep Outside SFFH, Far Sector SFFH, Clocktower Fiction) on The Wayback Machine among other references (The SF Magazine in Canada; John Labovitz' list from the 1990s; and more). Recently, we pieced together, as best we could from my old notes and folders, a history of this magazine (1998-2007). I will add more notes to this update, but it appears that we are finally going to be on the historical map. Presumably, that means we can soon have a Wikipedia page as well, which should open up a link section to Clocktower Books as well. This is just one of several positive things that are happening this year to put Clocktower Books better on the map. We became a recognized publisher of International Thriller Writers (ITW) in 2009. Mike Ashley's will undoubtedly be the final, comprehensive, and definitive history of SFFH magazines in the 20th Century, and our magazine helps end the final chapters in that saga as the Internet age started breaking open in the late 1990s. More info to follow soon.—JTC

Museum (Original 2010 Info Below)

Side Notes

John T. Cullen has been online since early 1996, joining the early Web pioneers in publishing exciting stories in several fields. On these pages, in March 2010, we begin to gather as much of the old work that has not been lost by time, computer crashes, upgrades, fatigue, and neglect over the years.

Past web endeavors with founding years (as best able to recollect) include Neon Blue Fiction (1996), The Haunted Village (1996), Clocktower Fiction (1997), SharpWriter.Com, Clocktower Books (1998).

As to the web magazine, it began as Outside: Speculative & Dark Fiction (April 15, 1998), quickly morphed to Deep Outside SFFH (late 1998 to late 2001), and finally Far Sector SFFH (late 2001 to January 2007). Most of the art work on the first two versions was done by Brian Callahan (, who was my business partner until his departure for other green pastures in 2001. After that, much artwork came from A. L. Sirois and some from myself.

Brief Aside by JTC. Reality, technology, truth, and progress are sending the New York City ('Big Six') publishing anomaly's self-ordained and mercenary gatekeepers packing. Early on, many of us saw that the Internet was a unique new publishing opportunity. This is not because we are unintelligent, or amateurs, or heretics, or the unclean whose trivial and ridiculous scribblings have not been blessed by the high priests and their acolytes in akad¯me, and so forth. Quite the opposite will eventually dawn on even the dimmest of bulbs. Many of us have multiple degrees, often quite relevant. My three are a BA in English (Univ of Connecticut), a BBA in Computer Information Systems (National University), and an MS in Business Administration (Boston University). I am a professionally trained editor, journalist, author, and scholarly researcher. Many of us have years of professional experience in writing, editing, journalism, book editing, and various other disciplines. In other words, some of us, at least, bring the highest professional standards to the work we create online. Many of us are far better educated and knowledgeable than many of the gatekeepers of cheap, sentimental trash that New York typically purveys. How many of their books of the last 40 years, since the advent of shopping malls and big box stores, will survive to still be read in the classrooms of 2212 or 2412? Given that they have literally owned the entire industry, vertically and horizontally, we may expect that a few literary works got through the censorship and gatekeeping—but not enough to justify their self-adulation.

I remember seeing a survey in The Los Angeles Times (remember them?) around the early 2000s. Most of the respondents (authors, editors, etc in the print industry) tended to think the Internet and digital publishing had no future. One or two still vocally railed against the idea that one would sell print books on line through retailers like Amazon. Stories of such shortsightedness and lack of vision abound. They are not worth mentioning in detail, because they are all dreck that has already run over by the wheels of progress. You can imagine similar outrage among the monks of the scriptorium when Gutenberg used moveable type to grind out Bibles. Does anyone remember the loathing among publishers (which lasted for decades, and still echoes even today) when Betty and Ian Ballantyne revived the Liberty Book (softcover, in WW2 rationing) and created the paperback in the late 1940s—which was anathema to the shamans and their acolytes of the publishers in boards. Ironically, they who speak of 'hardcovers' have not produced a true hardcover in over half a century. A real book between boards, hand-stitched in an antique wooden machine, entirely by hand, has not been manufactured in popular quantities in nearly a century by now. For all the drama and the posing, modern 'hardcovers' are really nothing more than paperbacks glued together between cardstock or cardboard. In fact, even the 'trade paperback' is really no more than a cardback that has come unglued.

In the long term, reality and the free market place will determine the outcome of the current death and birth struggles. Only a few years ago, in a survey of publishing and writing professionals by The Los Angeles Times (remember them?), there were still several people who loathed and condemned the new practice of selling print works online via and other retail sites. There remains to this day a vast horde of [censored] who keep insisting that everything online should be free, including tens of thousands of hours of hard work and sacrifice by dedicated and talented writers and musicians. If many of these artists online do not meet the standards of their'onors, the [censored], then we may well recall that most of the print industry's output ends up being remaindered for failure to sell. But again, discussions like this are pointless.

What is Traditional Publishing? In 2011, I did some studies for an online publication. I found several truths. First, most great authors (meaning that their work transcends their time and culture, and is read generations later by an avid public) had to self-publish because of the mediocrity and myopia of their era's gatekeepers. This includes writers like Edgar Allan Poe, Walt Whitman (who was a trained typesetter and printer), Virginia Wolfe (who owned her own press), D. H. Lawrence, James Joyce, Erma Rombauer, Zane Grey, Beatrix Potter, Anais Nin, Stephen Crane, and entirely too many great authors to name. They fill up much of the syllabus of the typical literature department whose hierophants despise 'vanity' publishers. If only they had a clue. Secondly, I could plainly see that the Big Six (or is it Five by now, or Four, as they collapse one by one?) is not the so-called 'traditional publishing' of which people so vacantly-eyed speak. The real traditional publishing, in the United States of John Peter Zenger, press freedom, and the First Amendment, consists of over 40,000 small press publishers who have survived the now moribund big-box, shopping mall industry of the New York City cartel. But make no mistake—I don't loathe them, because I am a business person as they are. I just hope to do it smarter and better. Time will tell. With their unholy monopoly broken by the new freedoms of digital publishing, anyone has a fair shot now. With the gatekeepers sent packing, the world's James Joyces and Walt Whitmans, its Virginia Wolfes and Beatrix Potters, are no longer at the whimsy of distant strangers half as smart and not a tenth as talented. That's as it should be—a level playing field. It's all anyone can or should ask for.

Ultimately, the partisanship we have seen (print versus digital, mall stores versus online retail sites) amounts to nothing more than hollow posing by those who have a vested interest in keeping old economies alive. It's like the oil billionaires who have long stopped the world from progressing to clean energy. Ultimately, speaking of oil and cars, it's not about the destination or the vehicle, but about the journey. It's not about whether it is 'okay' to read a digital book. One elderly editor I once called at a New York house for information on pricing, around 1998 or so, commented about e-books, as if she were speaking of child molesters or lepers, in a voice dripping with disdain and loathing—"I would *never* read one of those." She is probably now working as a barrista, and glad to have any kind of job. Time and progress move on, leaving their tire tracks on those who didn't have the vision to get on board. Soon enough, nobody will question whether it is moral or correct or smart to read a digital text. I remember when the Library of Congress refused to allow me to register a copyright because the book I had electronically published with Nuvomedia around 1998 'wasn't really a book,' but I could register the manuscript as 'unpublished.' Who really has time for this? Write a good book, publish a viable package, and find out whether readers will come. Ironically, that is all the New York industry ever did, and it was the right thing to do—except they got way too big for their britches. Pride goeth before a fall.

The free market will prevail, as it always does. It's all about the end user, the reader in this case. Give them a good tool and a decent story, and they'll turn the page on this entire industry, faster than any so-called gate keepers can keep up with. In the end, the only thing we artists and intellectuals can control is how well we do our work, and how lovingly we apply ourselves to it. Very few of us will be remembered, print or digital, but that cannot ultimately be what matters. The age-old joys of story telling, and story hearing or reading, remain as fresh as they were around the Paleolithic campfire.

First E-Books Ever Published Online

We Made History Clocktower Books, the world's second-oldest e-book publisher (as of 2013+; third in 1996) pioneered in a number of areas during the halcyon, virginal genesis days of the World Wide Web as a publishing medium. When you buy an e-book (including our own titles) from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iPad, or any other retailer, you are buying a product whose concept we pioneered in our early incarnation as Clocktower Fiction in 1996. That, along with other pioneering firsts by us, makes this website and publishing house a historically important landmark. We are proud of this heritage, and happy to share these true facts with a world that all too often moves on and leaves its history in the dust. Note: We only obtained a real domain name by about 1998--see Wayback Machine and other historical resources.

To be absolutely clear: At the moment in 1996 when we went online with our digital publishing project, digital publishing of full, proprietary books had not advanced beyond physical media (CD-ROM). One or two publishers offered portable media for sale by physical home delivery, and Amazon was just rocking New York City's boat by offering physical books that could be ordered for home delivery from Amazon's website. There may have been some public domain texts available. Pioneering short story publishers were already active—e.g., John T. Cullen's first third-party-'published' story was in Andy McCann's Planet Magazine, which existed already online since about 1993. However, no book author or publisher had ever, before us, published entire proprietary (intellectual property, registered with the U.S. Library of Congress) books online for digital download. We also pioneered, among other innovations, the concept of weekly serial chapters online. Note: Since both Brian Callahan and I, among our various degrees, have B.A.s in English or Literature, we were quite aware that Charles Dickens, for example, got his career start during the early 1800s publishing in weekly serials (magazines; journals). Interesting how history appears to sometimes repeat itself.

A Brief Clocktower Books Chronology

1995 While working at a San Diego software firm, a group of us were amazed one day to download a single image (of one page from an ancient Byzantine codex) on our Mozilla browser, which took about an hour or more. Memory is a bit hazy by now, but I'll try to retell the story sequentially as best possible.

1996 In April 1996, Brian Callahan and I created our first website (Neon Blue Fiction), which consisted of a splash page and a content page, without a single image at first. This was our venue to publish mystery and suspense thrillers. Initially, all we had were a number of short stories and one novel—the eponymous Neon Blue. We added an image of the NBF logo (TBD), and later in 1997, Brian uploaded the magnificent website now in the Clocktower Books museum.

1996 A few weeks later, on July 5, 1996, Brian Callahan and I added our second website (The Haunted Village), which again consisted of a splash page and a content page (no images; same development path as NBF just above). Somewhere during this time, Brian, the artistic and technical genius, excitedly announced that he had figured out how to post images. He created some of the most beautiful artwork I have seen online to this date. The Haunted Village was our venue to publish science fiction, dark fantasy, and horror (sf/f/h or SFFH). For both novels (Neon Blue and Heartbreaker, we published the entire proprietary text (all chapters; copyright registered as an unpublished ms because the LOC still did not recognize digital as 'real' books). We uploaded one chapter per week, for each novel, starting in the fall of 1996, making these the two first proprietary novels ever published online for download anywhere in the world. This was the beginning of Clocktower Books (initially called Clocktower Fiction), at that time the third digital download publisher in history. Today (2013+), Clocktower Books is the second-oldest surviving digital download publisher after (to the best of our knowledge) Boson Books. Yes,

1996-1997 From the first, Brian and I would meet for coffee at a very cosmopolitan-looking java house in San Diego, where we would discuss our dreams. We dared to imagine that a world of commerce would one day appear on the Web, but we were eager not to waste time waiting, so we began to give away texts for free. Given slow download speeds, our early setup was to offer text downloads upon demand, after the reader had read some sample chapters. It was a pleasant experience. I received thanks and praise from every continent except Antarctica (a market I was never able to crack, given that the people at McMurdo were busy, and the penguins don't read much). Somewhere in that time frame, we became (I believe) the first people in history to offer free downloads of entire novels in weekly serial chapters. When people began to write that they'd read the first x chapters and couldn't wait to read the rest, I began emailing the entire novels (Neon Blue and Heartbreaker) as text files.

1997 As part of that effort, Brian created a publishing website (an 'umbrella' for all our activities) titled Clocktower Fiction. The clocktower part comes from a motif in an unplublished novel of mine. Like all early Web adapters, we wrangled with metaphors. Were we 'fiction' or 'books' or 'press' or what? In the end, we decided that 'book' would be a neutral enough term to span both the print and digital worlds, so Clocktower Fiction morphed into its present form as Clocktower Books. Brian left off in mid-design, but this website reflects the excellent beginning of what he had in mind.

1998 I pursued strategies in hope of gaining professional recognition for web-based authors of sf/f/h. With that in mind, and consulting the background chatter online from others thinking about these sorts of issues, we started a web magazine (never say 'zine' or other essentially derogatory terms). Initially, on April 15, 1998, we launched Outside: Speculative & Dark Fiction, just in time to make it into the 1999 Writer's Market along with the big SF/F pulp magazines. That, indeed occurred, and it was a source of professional pride to put our mark on history in that 1999 issue. Shortly before we launched, Bob Guccione's wife died, and he shut down her magazine, Omni. That magazine was publishing one sf/f/h short story a month, and paying the highest rates in the industry by far. Its fiction editor, Ellen Datlow, was the most sought after magazine editor in the genres. When Omni was no more, Ellen went online with a paying magazine called Event Horizon, which was a beautifully designed vehicle for fiction and nonfiction related to the genres and sciences. Unfortunately, amid the sea of metaphors, the wars of print versus digital, and the realities of the new economy, the magazine apparently never broke even and was abandoned. During its existence, we traded links with Ellen Datlow. We received a nice EH logo that we proudly posted. Also one night, I received a breathless email from Ellen, wanting to know 'what's up with that?' because we had not yet responded with our reciprocal link. We responded immediately after that, but she soon moved on to, apparently, the NY genre anthologies industry. There were many late-night emails among myself and various other Web experimenters. I remember corresponding in an exchange of ideas with John O'Neill of The SF Site and Matt Hayes of the resource site Spicy Green Iguana.

1998-2007 Note about Our Famous Magazine: With the folding of Ellen Datlow's Event Horizon in the fall of 1998, we (Deep Outside SFFH) became the world's oldest professional web-only digital magazine of speculative & dark fiction (SF/F/H). From the beginning, we paid professional rates as defined by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) and followed all of their rules as far as SFWA defined professional standards, in hope that our authors would receive SFWA credit for professional authorship. Through our incarnation, around 2002, as Far Sector SFFH, until its closure in January 2007, we kept this status as world's oldest magazine of this type. Among our authors were a good number of excellent first-timers (we were always open to new talent). Among these was a young Indiana author named Ted Kosmatka*, who went on to Hugo and Theodore Sturgeon nominations and Big Six publication. Our authors included established writers, among them one SFWA President (Dr. Andrew Burt) and at least one regional VP (Linda Dunn). Our authors included such well-known personalities as Melanie Tem and Andrew Vacchs. Another accomplished author/editor in the SF community that we published was our friend Tim Pratt. We published a story by the late Nebula Award recipient Pat York. Our magazine was an imprint/activity of Clocktower Books. Among its achievements (we think) of note was being history's first non-NY pulp to be listed in the annual Writer's Market book (1999) as legitimate, professional SFFH short story markets paying professional rates.

Author Example: Ted Kosmatka. Ted's work has been reprinted in nine Year's Best anthologies, translated into a dozen languages, and performed on stage in Indiana and New York. He's been nominated for both the Nebula Award and Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award, and is co-winner of the 2010 Asimov's Readers' Choice Award. He grew up in Chesterton, Indiana and now works as a video game writer in the Pacific Northwest. His first professional sale was a short story (Ursus Theodorus) to Deep Outside SFFH. Other award-winning authors included Pat York (Nebula for Short Story), Tim Pratt (Nebula & Hugo nominee), and Andrew Vacchs (New York Times bestselling author many weeks). We hate to brag, but as the famous French comedian Fernandel once said in a 1960s comedy skit from Paris: "If you don't, who else will?"

1998 One day in the fall of 1998, I had an email from friend and fellow author A. L. Sirois, with a link he suggested I look at. It turned out that the Encyclopedia Britannica online had published an article about Clocktower Fiction, extolling us as Web pioneers in the field of genre magazines. It was a nice accolade, and stayed live for some years. Little shots of praise like that came at us from various directions, which was nice, even if with that and five bucks you could buy a latte, to paraphrase an expression from the age of dime coffees long gone.

1998-2008 During this period, I published my first personal website, SharpWriter.Com (SWC) as I styled it. This was to be my own personal writer's desktop, complete with dictionaries, thesauri, grammar & usage, and other online resources. It became a major portal, and was listed in 1999 by Writer's Digest as one of the top 101 Author Resource Websites. I continued revising it for about ten years. During all this time, I thought I was supporting my one, total, ultimate goal, which was to promote my own fiction and nonfiction writing. As the Web developed its own sordid underbelly, a running sewer of thieves, hackers, spewers of viruses and other malware, phishers, and every sort of criminal opportunist and predator, I noticed that the pleasant thank-yous and words of praise had vanished. Even a few years ago (2007-8), when I tried to revisit old times, I was giving away something like 1.5 million words or more of utterly free fiction and nonfiction, and over 120,000 visitors came in a year; but not a single person ever wrote to thank me, or to offer a word of praise. I think it represents the change when the Internet became a place to be afraid. People, with good reason, trust nothing they find. I should know—my computer was disabled by a virus (again) yesterday. Anyway, I pulled it all down, and have more recently (2009) turned almost exclusively to digital aggregators like, with initially small but solid success that promises to grow.

1998-2007 For just under a decade, we published a pioneering magazine of dark and speculative fiction, originaly Outside: Speculative & Dark Fiction (1998), renamed Deep Outside SFFH (1998-2001), and finally re-christened Far Sector SFFH (2002-2007). Although pointedly never recognized by SFWA, despite meeting all of their published criteria, we published new and established authors. It gradually became apparent that the Backwardians of SFWA were not going to allow the organization to offer credit for professional publication to our authors, while the minority Futurians among them wanted to. Our published authors included some talented newcomers who were later nominated for Hugos and Nebulas (e.g., Tim Pratt; Ted Kosmatka's first-ever story sold!) but also established authors like Melanie Tem, Andrew Vachss, and the late Pat York. In the end, we simply ignored SFWA as meaningless, and went to to be Futurians and invent the future while they clung to the wreckage of their 1930s publishing model.

1999-2001 Brian and I stepped into the world of digital publishing early, signing a contract around mid-1999 with Nuvomedia to produce titles for their Rocket e-Book. Our rep was Chris Kahn, who is a nice guy and, as with so many solid people, his name continues to surface in the general publishing world. At the same time, we signed with LightningSource (under its earlier name, which I forget just now) to produce both Print On Demand and Digital titles. balanced, focused, and disciplined. No matter how hard we worked, or how generously we gave (for free) of our time and services, little of it was appreciated, and I concluded within a year or so that my calling in life was to be a writer, not a publisher, editor, retailer, or other functionary in the publishing industry. I realized I simply want to write good stories and publish them without going through all sorts of gate keeping denizens. Brian left in late 2001 and turned it all over to me. I have continued to run Clocktower Books as a small press, with half a dozen or so authors left, most of whom I brought into the picture originally. Clocktower Books was always, and remains, a bona fide small press in every sense, with some titles being picked up by the large book retail chains. My thriller Lethal Journey, a noir period novel set in 1892 and based on the true crime/ghost story of Kate Morgan at the Hotel del Coronado here in the San Diego area, actually made the 2009 Fall List at Publishers Weekly.

2001-2010 I spent seven years in the trenches of print on demand, learning the industry from the ground up (which is not to say there is not a lot more to learn). I learned how to do illustrations, maps, and covers. I learned how to prepare not only a polished, exciting text, but also the packaged end product that the customer will buy, in exclusion of most other books. This is really the Holy Grail of publishing, which really makes the acolytes of academia and gate keeping all the more irrelevant. Once you know how, and digital and POD publishing have opened all these new possibilities, you can bypass all the gate keepers. You just have to be at least as good as the people in the surviving six publishers of the conglomerated New York City cartel, all but one of which are foreign-owned to boot. The more you understand, the better armed you are to have a hope. Because in the end, your properly packaged product, whether POD or digital, can stand shoulder to shoulder with anything produced by the cartel of six big publishers who are all that is left of the NY publishing industry. It's an industry owned and operated by six publishers, maybe two wholesalers (Ingram and Baker & Taylor), two retail chains (Barnes & Noble and Borders, the latter of which has been on the ropes for two years at this writing, and may not live much longer), perhaps 30 literary agents who do most of the book deals, and maybe 50 authors who are the only ones able to make a decent living. That's why it's virtually impossible to break into the 'traditional' industry. It's a mile-high pie slice small enough to put on a saucer. The other 150,000 or more talented authors used to waste their lives writing, and die unpublished. This no longer needs to be the case, as the old industry melts on its saucer. I am still working on a deal or two on the print side, but have been focusing my attentions on the digital side. I'm quite satisfied with that.

Our Fictionwise Decade (2002-2012) Fictionwise was the first real digital download e-commerce site, which pioneered a lot of ideas. One of their key ideas was to take a single input manuscript from the publisher (initially a specialized subform of HTML called fw-html, later a simpler Rich Text Format or RTF file), put it through an XML grinder, and output multiple end user e-book formats (including PDF, MS-Lit, and at least six others). Clocktower Books had many bestsellers at Fictionwise, across most fiction and some nonfiction categories. John T. Cullen's history articles (The Reading Room) dominated the Nonfiction/History category for years, often with more than half the top 25 first page ranks/titles. By about 2009 (when Len Riggio at Barnes & Noble bought Fictionwise), the major online retailers began the next wave, with dedicated readers like the Nook, Kindle, etc. Fictionwise, ironically, had purchased the old Rocket eBook and rebranded it, but it didn't seem to catch on amid the new world of small, dedicated readers and larger pads. At this writing (5 December 2012) Fictionwise is within days of being permanently shut down. They will be missed.

Our Smashwords Decade (2012-?) For the past two years, I have already been thinking of Smashwords as the new Fictionwise for the second decade of the 21st Century. They do what Fictionwise did, but in new ways and to new levels. Whereas Fictionwise had to overcome old, entrenched industry ways, Smashwords takes that input file (DOC), puts it through its XML grinder, and pops out well-formatted files for Kindle, Nook, Kobo, iPad, and all the major players who are increasingly eager to be part of the future rather than full of fear, loathing, and an addiction to the past. As a publisher, my dream would be to format a book once and upload it for both print and digital. When that becomes economically rewarding, and cuts across the current feudal, platform-dependent fiefdoms, someone will provide that capability. And again, tire tracks will be left, those with vision will move on, and readers will continue to read the work of authors— which is not only the highest good, but the only worthwhile object in this industry.

Ray Bradbury Praise—New Things. In January 2009, we received an enthusiastic fan letter from Ray Bradbury, praising Farlane Wolf's dark seasonal fantasy The Christmas Clock. New things keep happening, and we hope to be there—perhaps sometimes even as innovators.


Why Are We Not Famous Yet?

Why Are We Not Famous Today? Clocktower Books (originally Neon Blue Fiction and The Haunted Village, subsumed under the early umbrella Clocktower Fiction in Fall 1996) was one of the earliest publishing presences online as a digital download publisher. We achieved a number of pioneering firsts (see info at left and About).

Summarizing… Two major reasons for our long sojourn in oblivion come to mind. One, as noted here, we were there early, under the radar, and hated by the establishment. The cloud of ignoring us never went away, but then neither did we, so here we (still) are, and still in many ways as much outsiders now as we were when we were the only people online offering entire proprietary (and acclaimed) novels for download. We had readers on every continent except Antarctica, including readers at what looked like some private school for foreigners in Beijing. The other reason, quite obviously, is that we always sucked at self-promotion and marketing. We were always too modest and honest to brag or blow our horn, so here we are. Toot. When the avalanche of digital and self-publishing started to roll in, we remained buried in the cloud of disapproval and avoidance of "are digital texts really books? are they really stories? or is it evil heresy from dangerous outsiders that must be eradicated before it spreads and threatens the Big Six in New York and its academic acolytes and its wholly owned bookstore industry in the big shopping malls & beyond"?

Faith Before the Age of Reason. We were online long (e-years) before web commerce and long before the earliest commercial download e-books (Rocket eBook and Softbook). We were already active long before the Library of Congress recognized digital publishing as 'real' publishing—in fact, we had to register our first copyrights as unpublished manuscripts because the LoC refused to grant us recognition as 'real' publishers of 'real' books. The simple fact is that we were so new and radical that the establishment, and its propaganda organs including SFWA, Publishers Weekly, and many academic roosts, treated us with hate, fear, and revulsion as heretics. We never overcame that wilful campaign of suppression, but we are still here, publishing, pioneering, and kicking. We are still innovating, as with our growing Arcades project on this site (more info about that, soon). Isn't the fate of pioneers generally to be treated this way? We remain outsiders at a time when the publishing medium we helped pioneer is sweeping the empire of mediocrity (Big Six) out history's door with yesterday's irrelevancies. We do think it is time that Clocktower Books (and its authors) received due recognition for staking our (their) sheets to the wind of progress and the future. You can help (read further). It is understood, from many years online, that a handful of trolls will immediately rush to vent their gratuitous venom, but we trust that readers of good will and fairness will help carry the torch for us. To reader of good will, we say thank you. To trolls, we say: not by our choosing, it is an adage of marketing that there is no such thing as bad publicity, so thank you in advance for your time-and-attention (such as it is)

Take SFWA For Example: In regard to our magazine, SFWA consistently refused to recognize digital publishing during the 1990s, with the result that, although we followed all their rules, and at least two VPs told us to submit our application for membership as publishers, so our authors could get credit, SFWA consistently refused to acknowledge even registered letters and threw our applications (with checks) in the trash. We were told at the time, by insiders, that there was a war going on in SFWA between what I like to call Backwardians and Futurians. The Backwardians wanted to maintain the status quo of their 1930s publishing model, while the Futurians wanted to remain in the forefront of progress as one would expect from a science fiction organization. (Duh?). SFWA's tune changed in 2000 when money arrived, and they awarded the first Nebula to a digital short story (bully for Linda Nagata!!). This is typical of the time, and is a strong explanation of why we were swept under the rug, never to emerge again. But we (and our authors) deserve our moment in the sun, and you can help by recognizing our pioneering efforts for the sake of history and truth. Discuss us on social media, link your website or blog to our website, and buy/link our novels, short stories, nonfiction books, and articles..

Rays of Sunshine. We enjoyed some sunshine, as well. On the digital side, we were an early adopter of Fictionwise, 2001-2012, the world's first great digital download pioneer. We had many bestsellers there in various categories, including the world's first novels published online as digital downloads. These included This Shoal of Space by John Argo (earlier titled Heartbreaker, later titled This Shoal of Space (also for a time Cold Bright: Zoë Calla & the Dark Starship and the suspense novel Neon Blue as well as the SF novel Pioneers by John Argo.

John T. Cullen dominated the Nonfiction/History section at Fictionwise for years, especially with his series A Walk in Ancient Rome (nonfiction/Ancient History; first authorized print edition due from CTB in mid-2013). On the POD side, we were able to get our books into print and into bookstores/libraries around North America during the 2000s. Our books have been steady sellers for years online and in print.

Clocktower Books and Deep Outside/Far Sector SFFH remained a wonderful secret known only to a small number of connoisseurs. A miserable experience with an 'editor' who was everything but, around 2001, did not help. As the avalanche of e-books began, and all those Backwardians who had been screaming that digital was immoral, evil, etc., began haltingly and stumblingly trying to imitate us, we became lost in the shuffle and there we remain as of 2013. Our hope is that, in time, those authors we published will remember us to the world at large, because we have no Oprah and no big media to speak for us or remember our story#151;aside from this website, and a few mentions still online at places like the Wayback Machine.

Standing in the Shadows of Love… We still dwell in the shade of opprobrium, and being utterly ignored, dating to the times when digital was considered unmentionable. As late as 1999, even Amazon was assailed by the Backwardians in highest places for their unimaginable heresy in offering hardcover books for sale online rather than in print-bully bookstores.

Help, in the Name of Love! It is sort of comical if it weren't so unfair and tragic—not just to us as human beings, intellectuals, pioneers, and publishers, but to our many authors over the years. If you want to do something helpful, discuss Clocktower Books online in social media and put up links to our website ( our our magazine ( and Try some of the amazing titles we published during the pristine genesis years of the World Wide Web. Above all, happy reading—that's what it is ultimately all about. (JTC)

Comedy, but True History. As disappointing as it was, in the late 1990s, to recognize that the Backwardians were winning at SFWA, and the digital future would be denied, there was some sardonic comedy. We were informed that, for some eye-glazing, inane reason, the Backwardians had reluctantly (and ignorantly) agreed to edge closer to this frightening new thing called the Internet; they extended recognition to one digital publication on line (Gothic dot net, no longer in existence in its form at the time)—probably for the usual insider type of reason (somebody knew somebody). Brian and I both knew that the #1 tenet of the Goth movement was a livid, fanatical hatred of SF and Fantasy, promoting instead their own idiosyncratic brand of Horror. It was ironic, therefore, that the Backwardians would stumble in that direction. In a fit of anger, one Sunday afternoon, I dashed off a short Horror story titled City of Mirrors (today available in the John Argo anthology Adventures Beyond Time and Space (note: SF). I purposely engineered this story (to prove a point, which happened beautifully). I made it a Horror story, but I had the hero arrive in paragraph one aboard a spaceship. It is the only SF element in the entire story. As predicted, Gothic dot net immediately rejected the story, without reading any further, saying "we reject any story that has even a single SF element in it." What was equally ironic was that here we were, Deep Outside SFFH, obeying all the SFWA rules and clamoring for recognition (not for ourselves, but for our authors, including SFWA members and officers), while Gothic dot net would not even answer SFWA's alledgedly generous recognition of them. SFWA picked the one place that hated them more than anyone on earth. Sick Simpering Tyros...a little black comedy from our early struggles online.