Well, hello there. There’s no telling how you found us, but here you are, and I’m sure you have questions. Let’s cut to the chase and I’ll anticipate some of the obvious questions and then leave out some others. This is going to be that sort of place—informal, whimsical, and just a little mercurial. We are Overlords, after all.
Let’s start there.
Q: Who and what are the Overlords?
A: The Overlords are the three co-founders and co-editors of Ray Gun Revival magazine. We operate as a fictional hive-mind working on the magazine for fun and to promote Space Opera and Golden Age Science Fiction to generate interest for a new generation of readers, and to sustain a venerable genre for long-time fans. The Overlords are, in no particular order, L.S. King, Paul Christian Glenn, and myself, Johne Cook. ‘Overlord’ evokes a certain menacing throwback charm à la Ming the Merciless from the Flash Gordon pulp fiction adventures.
Q: Pulp Fiction? With Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson and the glowing suitcase?
A: “The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the iniquities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men?” Not the Tarantino film, no.
Think instead of the glory years when science fiction stories were printed for cheap on inferior pulp paper, such as publication of the fabulous Lensman series by E. E. “Doc” Smith, commonly-accepted as the first grandmaster of Space Opera.
Q: What is Space Opera?
A: Before I tell you what it is, let me start by defining what it is not:
Opera. In space.
Westerns were sometimes referred to as “Horse Opera” and certain daytime television shows are still called “Soap Opera.” Thus it was that pulpy Golden Age Sci-Fi was sometimes referred to as “Space Opera.” Once a derogatory term, thanks to smart and lively writing from a host of great authors, Space Opera has now come into its own.
But what is it like? Space Opera is a genre that defies easy explanation. On one hand, it is the narrowest of genres. On the other, it spans everything from High Fantasy to Hard Science Fiction. Space Opera is generally considered as a subgenre of Speculative Fiction that emphasizes clear-cut enemies (preferably obvious good-guys vs. obvious bad-guys), romantic or swashbuckling adventure, exotic settings, a vast scale (preferably cosmic, galactic, or greater, and the larger the better), and colorful, larger-than-life characters.
I can think of two examples for our purposes—one classic, and one contemporary.
The original Star Wars episode (now annotated as Star Wars: Episode IV, A New Hope) is a classic Space Opera story. You’ve got titanic clashes of good versus evil, technology that thrills but isn’t explained, bombastic music, powerful mythic themes, fast moving character interaction, a dash of romantic tension, and lots of swashbuckling action.
Fast forward nearly thirty years later. Joss Whedon’s Firefly / Serenity singlehandedly fulfills the early (and squandered) promise of the Star Wars stories, and then it expands on that foundation, getting darker, funnier, and evoking more emotional gravitas while remaining true to its roots. I think it is no accident that Space Opera and Space Westerns have so much in common.
Q: So why this magazine, and why now?
A: Because Space Opera had fallen on hard times, and we intended to help revive it, especially for young or new readers to the genre.
One of the definitions of ‘revival’ is “a restoration to use, acceptance, activity, or vigor after a period of obscurity or quiescence.” We used to see a lot more Space Opera, but the written genre has gradually fallen by the wayside in favor of edgier Science Fiction. And while there’s nothing wrong with that, something is missing, a sense of adventure, a sensawunda (as they say). Instead of complaining about the lack of quality Space Opera for this generation, we talked it over, got out our cheesy ray guns and our Big Red Button™, and created this magazine.
Q: That’s a good point—where did the ray guns come from?
A: One of the iconic elements of early Space Opera was the hand-held laser pistol. When casting about for the name for the new publication, one of us blurted the name out, and the others snickered, and it just sort of stuck.
Where good harder Science Fiction explains how its effects and underlying scientific principles work, Space Opera is content to show these devices to you and then briskly move along without bothering to explain the science behind it. For us, the real story has to do with things like an orphaned savior growing up in humble circumstances on a backwater planet and his destiny as a leader of a noble rebellion, and not about the actual construction of self-aware robots or the science behind cheap, ubiquitous anti-grav vehicles.
The other iconic element from that era might be some variation of the thermos-shaped rocket ship, but we chose this one.
Q: What’s the deal with the space monkeys?
A: (shudder) It’s best not talk about them. Ever. Next question.
Q: Why do you sometimes abbreviate Ray Gun Revival as RGR?
A: Because when spoken aloud, Ray Gun Revival sounds to some like Reagan Revival, a different publication entirely. I mean, one can almost picture the head of Reagan going on about Star Wars technology while the head of Walter Mondale rolls its eyes. “Well. . .”
Q: How often is RGR published?
A: Ray Gun Revival is a free electronic magazine (e-zine) published weekly online. Our gracious hosts at Every Day Fiction pay semi-pro rates for up-and-coming authors up to four thousand words. (Our Publisher reserves the right to pay Pro rates for marquee authors. Who that is and what that rate is remains between them.)
Ray Gun Revival magazine publishes a healthy mix of short stories. In our first four years, we also published high quality ongoing serial stories by authors who love the form. We’re still working out how to resume that tradition with our sister site, Every Day Novels. More on that as it develops. Think of the old episodic Saturday matinee films with cliffhanger endings and you’re in the ballpark. The fun of an ongoing serial is a longer storyline, providing a larger cast and more epic scope than that afforded by standalone short stories.
RGR also has a number of spinoff sites, including Ray Gun Radio (a space opera podcast currently on indefinite hiatus, run at various times by Taylor Kent and Rick Copple) and Ray Gun Reviews (book reviews by Matthew Winslow and company).
Q: Are the Overlords really that arrogant?
A: Ok, for the record, the whole faux ‘arrogant Overlord’ schtick is a pure comedic posture. Nobody around here takes it seriously for one split second. It simply makes writing ad copy and conducting interviews that much more fun.
Plus, we get to unleash our inner evil laugh, mwahahahaha! (For the record, we had that well before Dr. Horrible.)
Q: Does that mean you’re not really going to vaporize our puny planet?
A: Let’s just say that if you go RIGHT NOW and tell ten people about Ray Gun Revival magazine, it won’t hurt your chances. BWAHAHAHAHA!
Johne Cook, Lee S. King, Paul Christian Glenn
Overlords, Ray Gun Revival magazine