John Birmingham’s sandbox

Merton Richard Johnson

So John Birmingham, the author of many cool books, has decided to create an apocalyptic universe. Writing about the apocalypse is not unique. There are many very good books that cover the subject, such as On The Beach, Alas, Babylon and The Stand. The approach that Birmingham has taken, though, is unique.

He has decided to make his book a shared experience with his readers through a pay-to-play format on Patreon. Here’s a thumbnail sketch of how it works. There are graduated paid tiers that allow readers more and more access to the inner workings of the writing- readers get to see the book as it is written, the raw manuscript. They get to comment on the plot and characters, become part of the process.

For an aspiring writer or avid fan of sci-fi, it really doesn’t get any better than this. JB is offering his acolytes a chance to become the beast at the very low price of two bucks a month for the starter tier. Let’s get real- you spend more than that on gas picking up junk food at the grocery store.

Click on this link and get started. There is nothing cooler than watching a book being born. And that is exactly what JB is giving people a chance to do.

BTW, I signed up (hell yes, of course) and contributed a short story to his universe based upon a tale I heard often while growing up- the death of my uncle in Korea, 1952.

Below is a teaser for the short I submitted to JB. It depicts heavy combat in Korea as the world comes apart at the seams.

The leaden sky promised more rain, but the thunder in Rick Johnson’s ears wasn’t a function of the weather. He walked northeast along Route Sword with his drenched companions; his heavy equipment weighed him down and choked him. An unidentifiable foul smell arose from the rice paddies on both sides of the road, and another smell wafted from the windows and wrecked chassis of smashed cars along the freeway.

In the short time that he had been in Korea, mortal corruption was the most common stink of all. Rick had smelled it when he stepped off the C-17 that landed at an improvised highway airfield, and it was so strong now that he felt his gorge rise. A half-burned corpse hung out of a small blue car’s window, liquids dripped onto the pavement below. He stepped on a Hello Kitty purse, he shrugged and pulled out some smokes. Artfully juggling his little machine gun so that it didn’t slip from its perch on his chest, he jammed a butt between his teeth and lit up. As he did so, the linked 5.56 in its plastic drum rattled like a snake.

More follows, but not on this page. The full short story is on his website.

By all means, join JB’s site. It’s not every day that a bestselling author gives his readers a chance like this.


4 thoughts on “John Birmingham’s sandbox

  1. I have been following JB for a while now and have jumped on board. Always thought of writing a story like you’ve done, but for my grandfather. His story that he wrote himself based on his war experience is here:
    He wrote them in the 50’s because there was a public request for soldiers to write down their memories before they passed away.
    I’m really liking your writing style as well. Have recommended you onto friends. Keep up the amazing work


    • Why, thanks! I’ve started in on your grandfather’s material, and I am quite taken with the old-fashioned tone. Remarkable stuff. Good that it was written down while memories were fresh.


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