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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in ianrandalstrock's LiveJournal:

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Thursday, November 19th, 2015
5:01 pm
Convention weekend
Oh, by the way, I'll be at Philcon this weekend, in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. (Yeah, I know, I should have posted earlier. Life, work, etc.)

As per usual, I'll be spending many hours in the dealers' room at the Fantastic Books table (come visit! look at the wonderful books! offer to stand there for an hour so I can do a panel!). I'm also on programming:

Friday at 8pm in Plaza IV: "Science Fiction in the Headlines" with Mary Spila, Darrell Schweitzer, David Walton, and Meredith Schwartz.

Saturday at 3pm in Plaza III: "The Value of Editors" with Sally Wiener Grotta, Jon McGoran, Neil Clarke, Brian Koscienski, and Peter Prellwitz.

Saturday at 6pm in Crystal Ballroom Two: "It's 2015, Where's My Flying Car?" with JJ Brannon, Peter Prellwitz, Rock Robertson, and Inge Heyer.

Sunday at 12n in Plaza III: "Remembering Tanith Lee" with Darrell Schweitzer, Keith R.A. DeCandido, and Diane Weinstein.

Hope to see some of you there!
Sunday, October 25th, 2015
10:21 pm
Locus likes "Dancing Through the Fire"
Just found a copy of the October issue of Locus, which has a review of Tanith Lee's Dancing Through the Fire. Not skimping on words, Faren Miller makes it quite clear that she likes both the book and Tanith Lee. In part, she says "Dancing Through the Fire, subtitled 'A Collection of Stories in Five Moves', is no random gathering. Tanith Lee selected, introduced, and arranged these works before she died in May, also writing the prologue that gives the book its title, plus three new pieces suited to its symphony of shifting moods. The novelette 'Burn Her' seems particularly bold.... The tales themselves can be eloquent, inspiring, wry -- skewed takes on famous Lovers(?) -- often, marvelously, all of the above.... 'Burn Her' dances through the flame to glimpse a beauty that can only be suggested -- not revealed or understood, while we still live."
Friday, October 16th, 2015
5:33 pm
Why, you may ask, have I not gotten any work done today? Let me tell you: it was the final negotiations, following by the signing, of contracts for TWO new books, to be companion volumes to my Presidential Book of Lists. I'd written them as one, but the publisher thinks they'll go better as two separate books, so, one focusing on the Vice Presidents and one focusing on the First Ladies, both of which are expected in about a year from Skyhorse Publishing's Carrel Books imprint. Why yes, this is a good day!
Tuesday, October 13th, 2015
11:38 pm
The first Democratic presidential "debate" of 2016.
All right, so I watched the Democratic Presidential Debate. It did seem a bit more debate-like, since there were only the five of them for two hours (a bit like the first Republican debate, the so-called “under card”). But nobody really said anything to change my mind.

And something I said of the first Republican gathering, in August, still obtains: Being President of the United States is emphatically not about speaking in sound bites, but any such moderated debate is entirely about speaking in sound bites. If the complex issues facing the President could be answered and solved in thirty seconds, they wouldn’t land on the President’s desk. The Presidency is much more difficult, much more in-depth, and I want to know that whoever we choose can actually deal with such complexity. How they perform answering a question in 30 or 60 seconds is meaningless.

It’s interesting that the candidates spent so much effort attacking big business and the “billionaire class” while standing on a stage in the Winn Casino and Resort in Las Vegas.

Beyond that, I don’t think O’Malley said enough to attract my interest (although I was thrilled when he was the first to mention reinstating Glass-Steagall), nor did Webb (although I tend to prefer Webb’s experience of the five on the stage). Chafee stumbled mightily. Of the top two, Clinton sounded too much of “I’ve been running for President for 16 years. It’s my turn, so just vote for me. I’m only here to be polite to the also-rans.” Sanders impressed me the most, though I’ve liked him for a long time. Unfortunately, I disagree with about half of his positions.

So yeah, I watched the debate. And no, it didn’t do anything to convince me which of these five should be the standard-bearer for the Democratic Party (nor did it do anything to convince me who I should vote for in the next Presidential election). I still think my ideal candidate is partially Bernie Sanders, partially Donald Trump, a bit of Jeb Bush, a hint of Jim Webb, and a very large chunk of me.

Thursday, October 8th, 2015
10:17 pm
Comic con today, Capclave tomorrow
I spent my one day at New York Comic Con today, but didn't bother taking any pictures (1. it was too crowded; 2. I only had one day, so I wasn't slowing down to take pictures; 3. I figure there are already a gazillion others you can go look at). It was an overwhelming experience, because unlike most of my friends who have many years experience at comic cons, my only experience is the press day at NYCC the last few years, except this year, it wasn't the press day, it was just the first day of a four-day convention (actually, it may have been the same way last year, now that I think back on it). Anyway, it was overwhelming because there were tens of thousands of people there (or at least, registered for the weekend, and planning to be there the next days). I could only spend the one day, because tomorrow I'm going to Capclave, which with 500 or 800 people in attendance (or however many they get) is going to feel positively deserted in comparison.

So I walked in less than two hours after the place opened, looked around and thought, "this is a LOT of people." Then I thought, "there are a lot of kids here, too (like aged 5 to teenagers). Aren't they supposed to be in school?" But whatever, I decided their presence was, in almost all cases, examples of good parenting. Then I thought, "All this neat costuming stuff; those kids are all set for Halloween." And then I thought, "Halloween? They're in costumes right now! How could Halloween be any better for them (other than the proper application of candy)."

One odd thing I thought I noticed was the huge lines and massive crowds of people buying from (or lined up to buy from) dealers selling all kinds of related merchandise (games, costumes, clothes, toys, etc.) and the relatively few people patronizing the comics dealers (with their racks and boxes of, you know, comic books). Just noticing, not judging.

I saw some remarkable art, some wonderful chazerai, all sorts of nifty things, and lots of people in very good costumes. I also saw a few people I actually knew: Keith DeCandido at a table with his books, Steve Saffel behind his Titan Books table, David Mack and Lawrence M. Schoen at the Tor Books table, Kelly M. Kotulak, Thomas Nackid, and Ross Field at the Hibernacula table, and Marjorie Liu at her table in artists' alley.

Thinking back on the day, I saw a lot of money changing hands, even for the first day of a four-day event, and a lot of it was at tables selling books (as opposed to comics and other stuff), so I am reconsidering not being there as a dealer, mulling over ways to make it work next year. So, that's something else I'm thinking about.

Now to finish preparations to hit the road early tomorrow morning: Maryland, here I come.
Wednesday, October 7th, 2015
1:07 pm
Capclave this weekend
I'm temporarily back home, but leaving again Friday, this time for Capclave. If you're going to be in the Gaithersburg, Maryland, area, check out this good science fiction convention that focuses on the written stuff. And if you're there looking for me, I'll be in the dealers' room at the Fantastic Books table (Friday, 4-7pm; Saturday 10am-6pm; and Sunday, 11am-2pm). I'm also on programming:

Friday at 6pm in Salon A: "The Logistics of Space Warfare" with Roger MacBride Allen and Thomas McCabe.

Saturday at 3pm in Rockville/Potomac: "Small Press Vs. Self-Publishing" with Roger MacBride Allen, Martin Berman-Gorvine, and Scott Edelman.

Saturday at 7pm in Frederick: "Big Authors & Small Press" with Danielle Ackley-McPhail, Shahid Mahmud, and Lawrence Watt-Evans.

Anyone interested in helping staff the table (especially during the Friday at 6 and Saturday at 3 panels) would be very much appreciated.

Hope to see some of you there!
Thursday, October 1st, 2015
12:00 pm
Quantum Short
The Centre for Quantum Technologies is once again running their Quantum Shorts fiction contest, and once again, I've entered. The big prizes are judged, but the also have a popular vote award (people's choice). One of the important points of the contest is that all submitted stories are available on the web site, so if you'd like to take a look at my entry ("Through a Wormhole, Softly", it's available here. And if you think it's worthy of your vote, I'd very much appreciate it.
Saturday, September 19th, 2015
2:21 pm
Dancing Through the Fire publication day
It's release day for Dancing Through the Fire (and yes, I know Saturday is an odd day to do a book release, but today would have been author Tanith Lee's 68th birthday). I think I've said all I ought to about the book, but I do want to point out Publishers Weekly's review, which points to "the stunning new piece 'Burn Her,' in which a dead painter's right arm refuses to either stop painting or succumb to fire," calling it "Lee's graceful acknowledgement and defiance of her own mortality, a very high point" in this collection. That novelette is the story that caught my eye when I was first reading and editing the book, and I commend it to you. I don't normally talk about awards, especially not to recommend works for consideration for the various awards, but in this case, I want to make an exception. Tanith died much too early, and apparently with more yet to say. I hope that those of you who do make a habit of recommending/nominating stories for the various awards for which they're eligible will consider the novelette "Burn Her." Thank you.
Thursday, September 10th, 2015
1:35 am
PW reviews "Dancing Through the Fire"
Just found the Publishers Weekly review of Tanith Lee's Dancing Through the Fire (official publication date: September 19th), scant days too late to quote it on the cover of the book. PW says, in part, "Lee's decadent, Gothic-inflected pieces range from delicate fantasias about the whims of a personified death to straightforward, suspenseful sword-and-sorcery featuring resourceful but outmatched thieves.... The collection's most emotional and most recent pieces are meditations on the power of art.... But it's difficult to read the stunning new piece "Burn Her," in which a dead painter's right arm refuses to either stop painting or succumb to fire, as anything other than Lee's graceful acknowledgement and defiance of her own mortality, a very high point in this uneven swan song." The full review is available here.
Saturday, August 29th, 2015
8:16 pm
Is reality for those who can't imagine?
I saw a commercial for the forthcoming Muppets series (which I'm dreading for its reality format), and had a thought about the rise of so-called reality TV. Is it a result of an increasingly jaded television audience? Specifically, is it because television viewers can no longer watch the story, the characters portrayed, without thinking about the actors as actual people? In reality television, the characters talk to the camera, explaining their feelings and thoughts (since apparently the viewer can't tell what they're feeling through their acting). But they're also pushing away the conceit of the viewer looking in on another world, and instead inviting the viewer in to the behind-the-camera side of making the television program in this world.

As I'm writing this, I'm also wondering if the appreciation of reality TV is related to a decreasing interest in reading fiction. Specifically, the willing suspension of disbelief that we fiction writers expect of our readers, and that film-makers expect of their viewers. If you can fully immerse yourself in the made-up world of the television program, you accept the characters the actors are portraying as people, and ignore the actors portraying them (just as you can accept clothes draped on a mannequin without thinking about the mannequin). But in the reality version, you're not watching the story; you're watching the people who are making the story. You're not interacting with the characters, you're interacting with the actors portraying the characters.

So, what do you think? Is reality television for people with lazy imaginations? Or have I completely missed the mark again?
Thursday, August 20th, 2015
5:32 pm
They're not hacktivists, they're religious extremists
Using the term "hacktivists" to describe those who stole the private data from Ashley Madison and posted it on the internet is imputing to them a certain nobility they do not deserve. They are not champions of an honorable cause: they are the moral equivalent of the taliban, al qaida, and the terrorist group isis. These "hacktivists" have determined what is "moral" and what is "immoral," and are trying to impose their view on the world, just as those other, more recognized terrorist groups have done. But with so many focusing on "cheating" as the main thrust of the story, we're in danger of ignoring the true criminals involved in the act. And if we do accept their action "because the only people injured were 'cheaters'," what happens when these religious zealots in hackers' disguise decide that another secretive group should be outed, perhaps members of Alcoholics Anonymous, or people who've sought abortion counseling, or Masons? Stop using the term hacktivists and call them what they are: religious terrorists.
Monday, August 17th, 2015
7:07 pm
Midwest Book Review recommends The Heads of Cerberus
It's one of our reprinted public domain titles (although with a new introductory essay by editor Darrell Schweitzer), but the Midwest Book Review has just recommended The Heads of Cerberus by Francis Stevens, writing, in part "This novel should be much more available than it has been. It does stereotype its characters, but the author stayss away from insulting stereotypes. It certainly works as a dystopian novel, and is very much worth the reader's time." See the full review in their August 2015 issue.
Wednesday, August 12th, 2015
5:39 pm
Hurry up, election day is coming!
I'm a big political junkie, even though I rarely discuss my own political views. But there comes a point when even the biggest fans of something will say "enough!" And I think I'm there.

I just heard a CNN anchor ask a Bush campaign spokesperson if the campaign is worried because Jeb Bush has fallen to seventh in some poll, in regards to the upcoming Iowa caucuses. I heard the question, I heard the answer ("he's tenth from the bottom! It's a glass half-full or half-empty question."), and I said "enough is enough. Why am I bothering to listen to the pablum?"

But then I wondered about that poll. I wondered how it was phrased. Specifically, the question I would love to have included in that poll -- and every other political poll that is run in the next six months -- is: "Had we not asked your opinion, would you have been thinking about the Presidential election of 2016 at all? How much of an impact, beyond the non-stop political reporting, does the Presidential election of 2016 have on your life right now, in the summer of 2015? Do you think we ought to even bother talking about the campaign and the candidates at this point, when the Iowa caucus (on February 1, 2016) is more than five months in the future, and it's only 434 days until election day (November 8, 2016)?" Sure, those questions may not be scientifically fair, but the results would probably send every news organization in the country scurrying to find actual news for the next several months, and that wouldn't be a bad thing.

Thursday, August 6th, 2015
6:52 pm
The first half of the first Republican presidential "debate" of 2016
Saw the first Republican "debate" this evening, trying to decide if I want to bother watching the second. It's not because I'm a confirmed Democrat (or Republican, for that matter), but because the "debate" is very uninformative. When you put seven or ten people on a stage, and ask them all the same (or similar) questions, and then limit their answers to 60 or 30 seconds each, you don't get anything informative, nor even interesting. Instead, you get a whole bunch of people trying to sound likable and knowledgeable in a series of sound bites that quickly run together so you remember almost nothing. Indeed, you'll have to listen to the pundits after the fact to see who "won," (and if you're like me, you'll disagree with those pundits anyway).

I watched, I listened. All I could take away from it is that I'm partial to Carly Fiorina and George Pataki (out of the seven on stage).

But the other reason I don't like this format of information presentation is that it has nothing to do with the reason we're judging these people. Being President of the United States is emphatically not about speaking in sound bites. I want to know that my President is thoughtful and perhaps a little visionary. I want to know that my President can follow a thought longer than 30 seconds, and that he doesn't shy away from in-depth studying of big issues to come up with potentially complex solutions that may take an hour to explain and a decade to implement. Being President is all about really big issues. Forcing candidates for the office to answer seemingly complex questions in a few sentences in a few seconds is almost as meaningless as requiring candidates for office to be fund-raisers.

But yeah, I'll probably listen to the second debate, too. Because that's the type of person I am. Oh, and remember, it's only a scant FIFTEEN MONTHS until election day, so we have to decide like right now who we're going to vote for (ugh).
3:26 pm
IGMS reviews that I almost missed
Just discovered that Intergalactic Medicine Show reviewed two of our books... in May. Of Allen Steele's Tales of Time and Space, reviewer Alvaro Zinos-Amaro said "The collection is... a robust sampler of Steele's recent work... these stories are richly ideated and neatly conceived.... History, and an acute perception of the passage of time, pulse throughout the collection. Alternate pasts, counter-factual presents and retro-futures provide Steele with elegant parallax shifts through which to examine our deepest impulses and drives." To read the full review, see this link.

At the same time, but on a different page, he wrote of Tom Purdom's Romance on Four Worlds: "Tom Purdom has been writing high quality science fiction for some time... yet despite his tenure in the field and the excellence of his work... he is not particularly well-known with modern readers, probably because his specialty, despite a handful of novels in the 1960s and 1970s, is the short form. Thus it was a particular treat when Fantastic Books brought us Lovers & Fighters, Starships & Dragons, Purdom's (first!) collection in 2014. And so it is a particular delight again that Fantastic Books has now issued Romance on Four Worlds, a collection of four thought-provoking, richly realized novellas centered on the subject of romantic love against the backdrop of a Solar System in various stages of human colonization.... these exotic settings and a series of prolific sf-nal extrapolations... recall John Varley at his best.... Purdom's treatment of situations and subjects that could easily be melodramatic, solipsistic, or even embarrassing is consistently thoughtful, sensitive and mature. There is a meditative quality in these novellas that hovers above even the most climactic sequences.... these four novellas convey to us that sense of endless possibility, offering marvelous vistas into splendidly realized futures full of literal and emotional color."

And a request: if you see reviews of Fantastic Books' books, do please let me know. Odds are, I've seen them. But (as in these cases), it's possible that I've missed them, that the authors have missed them, and that we'd love to see them. Thanks!
Thursday, July 30th, 2015
11:18 pm
Pi-Con this weekend
Don't recall if I mentioned that this weekend is another science fiction convention: Pi-Con​ in Windsor Locks, Connecticut. Actually the hotel is in Bradley International Airport. I will (of course) be in the dealers' room for much of the weekend, but I'm also well-programmed:

Friday, 3pm: "What Editors Look For" (part of the writers' workshop).
Saturday, 10am: "Are SF and Fantasy Anti-Democratic?" with Susan de Guardiola, Lisa Evans, and Carl Fink.
Saturday, 3pm: "Has Fandom Abandoned SF?" with Susan de Guardiola, Walter Hunt, and Catt Kingsgrave.
Saturday, 5pm: "What is a Book Worth?" with Jennifer Bresnick, Nicholas Checker, and, Trisha J. Wooldridge.
Sunday, 11am: "The Pros and Perils of the Prime Directive" with Susan de Guardiola and Ken Kingsgrave-Ernstein.

Looking at that list, I'm realizing they've given me a lot of panels with question marks in the title. Wonder if that means something?

Anyway, hope to see some of you there.
Saturday, July 25th, 2015
3:18 pm
Rolling Stone mention
Sometimes you publish a book that lives on in unexpected ways. This time, it's Daniel M. Kimmel's Jar Jar Binks Must Die, now referenced in a Rolling Stone article.
Friday, July 17th, 2015
12:45 pm
Spreading the word about "Dancing Through the Fire"
After doing the proper publicity blitz (at least in regards to sending out pre-publication galleys), I find I still have a few copies of the ARC of Tanith Lee's forthcoming collection Dancing Through the Fire. Any suggestions as to where they'll do the most good? Perhaps a book blogger with a decent following and a taste for the fantastical? Or a good friend of yours who talks about books in some massive media outlet? I already sent to the usual review outlets (the major sf/f magazines, the major book review magazines).
Wednesday, July 8th, 2015
8:15 pm
Locus likes "Tales of Time and Space"
The July 2015 issue of Locus calls Allen Steele's collection Tales of Time and Space (which Fantastic Books published in May) a "New & Notable" book. In Russell Letson's review in the same issue, he says "Steele's work has enough range, and his romantic streak is deep enough, to suggest that in an earlier age he might have become the kind of utility-outfielder magazine writer he pays homage to in 'The Jekyll Island Horror'." Letson continues, "these stories... a tightly grouped sample of his work (nine appeared in 2012-13), and setting them in context with the generally autobiographical headnotes gives the collection more heft than it would have had otherwise, and makes it a welcome look into the processes that produce the fiction."
Tuesday, July 7th, 2015
4:19 pm
More praise for Fantastic Books' April releases
The September issue of Analog Science Fiction and Fact is out, and in Don Sakers' book review column, two of the five books he comments on are from Fantastic Books. He likes both Tom Purdom's Romance on Four Worlds and Bud Sparhawk's Distant Seas.

Of Romance on Four Worlds, he writes "...a delightful little book chronicling the travels of a future Casanova.... These are classic picaresque tales, modern comedies of manners in which Baske gets himself into and out of trouble in the most amusing ways. That the characters are engaging and believable goes without saying -- Purdom writes great people -- but the four societies depicted are also a lot of fun." And he says of Distant Seas, "Sparhawk's descriptions of future sailing technology are ingenious and persuasive.... his depiction of Louella herself is what shines brightest. Intelligent, strong-willed, driven, and heroic -- Louella Parsons has all the qualities she needs to triumph over the many obstacles in her path. It's a delight to accompany her on her adventures."

Read the full review column at this link.
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