click for John T. Cullen's webplex hub
click for Clocktower Books site
click for Clocktower Books Museum site

CAFÉ    STORE    CONTACT

Science Horror novels (SH) by John Argo in the DarkSF series

This Shoal of Space. Published online in 1996, John Argo's novel tells the story of a young reporter named Zoë Calla, in a small California coastal town, who uncovers a plot to conquer the world. During the dinosaur age, an alien invasion fleet came to earth, but its ships burned up in orbit. One plunged into the sea, where its computer core is now trying to reassemble the ship and resume the invasion. Already it's got strange avatars living in Zoë's brain, and weird events happening across town. More info soon. Site under development.

Museum Notes by John Argo. I first wrote this novel in the fall of 1990. At the time, I was working with a prominent New York City literary agency, which sent me favorable outside editor review notes (I still cherish them), and unsuccessfully showed it around the city. Close, but no cigar. Praise, but no deal. But digital publishing was just around the corner, along with the First Amendment freedom to self-publish, despite all the opposition from Neanderthals in print, retail, academe, and (most sadly) myopians-at-law.

Tracy Eastgate, Under The Covers Reviews (circa 1998?)A complex, imaginative tale set in a small California coastal town where the every-day touches hauntingly on the fabric of far space. A young reporter looking for her big break investigates mysterious zoo murders and stumbles upon an intergalactic invader in a virtual netherworld. Two men hover at the periphery--sinister Det. Vic Lara and handsome curator George Chatfield, each with his own terrible mysteries. The ending is not for the literal-minded--but by today, most people have seen "The Matrix" and other VR-empowered flicks and can deal with The White Stuff, The Cold Thing, and other concepts expanded upon here. This was one of the first virtual reality SF stories, written originally in 1990 and far ahead of its genre. It's a horror novel in the broad sense, and yet it never technically departs from the strictures of SF. "Five Stars. Outstanding, A definite must read ... a powerful book"--Tracy Eastgate, Under The Covers Reviews "I want to pay you a compliment. Rarely does a book EVER get under my skin or in my subconcious enough to cause dreams of any sort, but I'll tell you what, by time this morning came, I wasn't sure I wanted to go back to sleep or not ... lol ... I actually had mild nightmares last night ... I love it ... this is an absolutely awesome book."--Tracy Eastgate, Under The Covers Reviews, in a letter to the author of This Shoal of Space.

Digital Firsts. In 1996, this novel became the world's first digital novel published online in HTML for reading online, without any portable media (CD-ROM, floppies, etc.); further qualifications: it was proprietary (not public domain, therefore Gutenberg irrelevant); and a complete novel (not samples or teasers); and a standard type (not hypertext, but the same sort of sequential novel the New York publishers were issuing for the most part); and it was of a standard length (actually a bit longer at 128,000 words).

Global Fan Base. We published it starting July 1996 at our second website (The Haunted Village in innovative weekly serial chapters. We would post the next sequential chapter every Sunday evening, to be read by eager readers around the world as they arrived at work for their morning coffee or tea. In those days, few had home computers, so most sneaked a little recreational reading at work. Publishing in San Diego, we received raves from readers across the U.S. and as far away as New Zealand, Germany, South Africa, Canada, and other far-flung locations.

Originally published in 1996 as Heartbreaker, John Argo retitled the novel This Shoal of Space in 1998. Brian Callahan, co-publisher at the time, did the first covers and all web design.

Bestseller. This novel became a bestseller at the original Rocket eBooks and Barnes-Noble websites, and later at Fictionwise, where it had nearly 500 ratings, about 90% of them Great or Good.

Virtual Reality. Among the original themes in this novel was the idea of Virtual Reality (years before films like The Matrix or Inception, although we make no claim for first place—unless you consider that the VR in this novel involves arrayed microcomputers (PCs), actually laptops in effect, which were new at the time (I owned an early Toshiba). I first encountered the concept of virtual paging as a technical writer working at a major aerospace firm in San Diego. When some mainframe programmers explained the concept to me, my agile SFnal mind immediately conjured what would become known as virtual reality. Ray Bradbury gets at least early credit for the concept with his short story The Veld in the 1950s, but I was having a lot of creative fun. That's what counts. The notion of arrayed computers also comes into play (read the novel, please).


Original novel written by John Argo in 1990. Copyright © 1999 by John Argo. All Rights Reserved. Clocktower Books first edition 1996.

TOP | MAIN

click to return to bookstore


What is DarkSF? We like to say that DarkSF is the Dark Chocolate of Science Fiction. DarkSF is not about gore or grue but about art and atmosphere. It is literary and poetic. Think of the artful genius of Ridley Scott's 1982 Blade Runner or Alex Proyas' 1998 Dark City or Julien Leclercq's 2007 Chrysalis, just to name three. The best SF is DarkSF because it tends to embrace sweeping themes in a rich broth of art and atmosphere. The list is long, and includes far more of world literature than our Puritanical society is allowed to think. Elements occur in the Epic of Gilgamesh, Homer's Iliad and Odyssey, Dante's Divine Comedy, Defoe's 1719 Robinson Crusoe, and tales by many modern masters. We'll be publishing a special DarkSF website soon to celebrate.


Clocktower Books Museum Pages. You can read more about all this at the Clocktower Books Museum pages. It's also preserved in the last iteration of The Haunted Village SFFH. Remember, this was before e-commerce, so we published my work for free (promotionally, as Karen Wiesner described it in her history about all this). Check out this Wayback Machine page (screen capture before squatters bought CTF and turned robots off in hope of extorting money; no such luck, trogs): The Wayback Machine entry for CTF dated 9 January 1998 states that we already had over 250,000 words of original fiction by John Argo online by that time—dating to our first websites published in early to mid 1996. Brian Callahan and I were two busy guys in the 18 months before 9 Jan 1998. All of that was my own fiction (John Argo). As a history (nonfiction) writer, I love learning about the past so I can understand the present and glimpse the future. As a true SF writer, I will pilot my keyboard toward the sunrise and tomorrow.