In addition to rethinking my approach to Trang's cover art, I realized that I should change the book description as well. When I first revised the book description, I not only made it longer (including the jacket copy, an author bio, and a word count for the e-versions), I made it wacky--I was trying to push those comedy! and! adventure! buttons.

This was the wacky version:

Trang is an exciting science fiction tale of aliens, prophecies and inexplicable "scientific" phenomena! Follow the adventures of Philippe Trang, the first human diplomat to travel to an alien station! Watch him try valiantly to keep everyone from killing each other (not to mention him), with mixed success! A delightful blend of comedy, action and really, really bad language, Trang is sure to appeal to to fans of Lois McMasters Bujold’s Vorkosigan Saga and Charles Stross’ Laundry Files novels--at least those fans who can tolerate really, really bad language.

This is the current version:

Diplomat Philippe Trang has problems--lots of problems. Haunted by a recent mission on Earth that went very wrong, Trang is the first human diplomat assigned to a mysterious alien station. He quickly realizes that not everyone on Earth would like to see his mission succeed—and the several alien species on the station have some odd and nefarious agendas of their own. As he tries desperately to keep everyone from killing each other (not to mention him), strange forces threaten to destroy his very mind.... This intensely character-driven novel features a blend of drama, tragedy, comedy, and action reminiscent of the works of Joss Whedon or Charles Stross’ Laundry Files novels--plus some really, really bad language.

So, I'm hoping that helps the book find the right audience--people who find character-driven science-fiction stories interesting. I mention Whedon not just because I prostrate myself at his feet, but because he gets the "not much happens" complaint too (that is an issue many people seem to have with the original Firefly pilot). That baffles me, but there it is.

Certain genres are almost always character-driven--romance, for example. We all know what's going to happen in a romance, the interesting bit is how it affects the characters as it unfolds. But sci-fi these days is plot driven--that's why you have "rules" like kill someone in the first 10 pages.

Honestly, this is what dismays me about contemporary mainstream publishing in general and science fiction in particular--the narrowing effect it is having on literature. Ray Bradbury, who was justly celebrated in his day for being an incredible writer, did not produce plot-driven science fiction. His science fiction was literary--it was just so beautifully written that it really didn't matter what it was about. And there was room in the market for someone like that. Now there isn't. Think about that: If Ray Bradbury sent The Martian Chronicles to an agent nowadays as an unknown writer, he probably would get the same "Loved it! Can't touch it!" response I got.

How sad is that?

Hopefully now self-publishing will re-expand the possibilities. As an author, I still face the challenge of finding readers who will accept character-driven science fiction. But I'll say that I'm more hopeful of doing that than I am of finding a commercial publishing house that will!