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|Thursday, May 19th, 2016|
Just got confirmation that I will be speaking at American Mensa
's Annual Gathering
this summer in San Diego, California. My talk will be Sunday, July 3rd, at 12noon. Titled "Hail to the Chiefs! (And their Vice Presidents, and First Ladies…)", you can probably guess what I'll be talking about. July 3rd is the final day of the AG, and while noon is not the final programming slot, it's pretty darn close, so I'll be hoping to grab enough people who are staying to the bitter end to make sure the audience isn't depressingly small. On the up-side, I'm hoping to have finished copies of Ranking the First Ladies
with me at the talk (the official publication date is July 5th); I don't think I'll have copies of Ranking the Vice Presidents
(the publication date of which is early August).
|Wednesday, May 4th, 2016|
|Tuesday, May 3rd, 2016|
|Monday, May 2nd, 2016|
|Recommending Allen Steele's Arkwright
I just finished reading Allen Steele's novel Arkwright
(which I didn't publish, but I won't hold that against him). For a space-exploration nut like me, it's kind of depressing, because his theorizing of what's to come is probably spot on. On the other hand, he does present a plausible method for getting humanity out into the cosmos. He grabbed me early in the book with his scenes set at the 1939 WorldCon; a feeling of nostalgia and loss, because I met a few of those people much later in their lives, and now they're gone, so seeing them much younger was nice. There's also a good homage to Isaac Asimov's Foundation
series (you don't have to have read Foundation
, but it feels good if you have). Anyway, overall, a very good book: recommended.
And if, after reading it, you start scanning the heavens looking for Eos, try this article
|Wednesday, April 27th, 2016|
|Ted Cruz picks Carly Fiorina: good move?
Did Ted Cruz just guarantee himself a trip to an open convention, in exchange for giving away the bargaining chip that might get him the nomination?
I listened to Ted Cruz's announcement today, that he has chosen a Vice Presidential running mate (something that isn't normally done for the primaries, but what the heck, it's a strange election this go-round).
Then I listened to Carly Fiorina's speech accepting the role. Not bad. Not great, but not bad. But I think they're positioning her improperly at this point. One thing that caught my ear was her comment about how wealthy Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are out of touch with the real people like you and me, because she included herself in that "non-wealthy" group. Sure, a net worth of $60 million is out of Trump's league (and probably Clinton's), but it is far and above the average American. It would have been much better, I think, if she'd positioned herself as a business executive with skills equal to Trump's, that would have changed his uniqueness (business acumen among a field of politicians) into just a feature that was shared with another ticket. Her presence on the ticket does remove Clinton's uniqueness as the only woman in the field.
I also listened to some of the post-announcement commentary. "Why did he make this announcement?" "Why did he pick her?" "Did they do a good job on stage?" It got very tedious, very quickly.
Why did he pick her? To remind people that he's still running, to draw media attention away from the front-runners, to try to cut into Hillary Clinton's seeming lock on the female vote due to the fact that she is female, to help him in the upcoming California primary. Actually, that last one is probably the biggest, because he knows there's a chance Trump can win the nomination before the convention, in which case he's done. But if Cruz can win California, the race may just continue all the way to the convention. And he needs to get to the convention if he wants any chance of winning the nomination. But this particular decision, at this point, if he gets his immediate goal (an open convention) may come back to bite him at the convention: he's just given away a major bargaining chip. He can't offer anybody the Vice Presidency in exchange for getting the nomination. Fiorina may be a good Vice Presidential running mate, but she can't give him anything to get the nomination except, maybe, her California roots.
We now return you to the horse-race journalism we've been suffering through during this year's primary season (of which, I admit, this commentary is a part).
|Tuesday, April 26th, 2016|
|The Hugo Awards: they've done it again
Last year, I posted this commentary on the Hugos
(reprinted below, to go with this new thought). This year, as the new ballot has been released and once again the "true Hugo fans" are up in arms over the results, it occurs that if the anti-puppy people ever do get their acts together sufficiently to form their own party to "take back" the Hugo Awards, it will most probably result in the pre-nomination balloting we in the US are currently experiencing: primary season. Gosh, won't that be fun.
|Friday, April 15th, 2016|
|Touching guns makes one evil?
Just now on CNN, the current "issue" was that in last night's Democratic debate, once again, Bernie Sanders said gun manufacturers and gun dealers -- who follow the laws and sell guns legally -- should not be open to lawsuits when guns are used to kill people. CNN had an outraged family member shocked that he could possibly believe this.
The part that surprises me the most is that Sanders hasn't said "Wait a minute. The law says it is legal to make and sell these things under certain circumstances. Why should the manufacturers or retailers be liable if they've adhered to the law? Why should they be liable if a legal customer then misused their product? When a car crash injures someone, the victim's family doesn't (and shouldn't be able to) sue the car dealer that sold the car, or the auto manufacturer. Why is it only guns?" Consider the recent spate of "slashings" in New York City: none of these victims are going to bring suit against the knife manufacturers, or the stores that sold those knives. Only guns.
|Friday, April 1st, 2016|
|Sunday, February 14th, 2016|
|Tuesday, February 2nd, 2016|
|Today in History
Glancing through today's newspaper, I came across two interesting tidbits in the Today in History feature.
1. On this date in 1990, the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at a record-high: 2,810.15. That was the first day the DJIA passed the 2,800 mark. Today, the DJIA closed at 16,153.54 (down 295.64 points today). For comparison, on this date in 1962, it closed at 706.55.
2. On this date in 1960, Senator John F. Kennedy of Massachusetts announced his bid for the Democratic Presidential nomination. That was for the election of 1960, some nine months later. Meanwhile, in the election of 2016, nearly two dozen people announced their intention to seek the major party nominations nearly a year ago, several have already dropped out, and last night were the Iowa caucuses. In other words: yes, indeed, the Presidential campaign season has stretched out significantly.
|Wednesday, January 13th, 2016|
Almost forgot, this is a convention weekend. I'll be in Boston, for Arisia
As always, I've got some programming assignments (actually, just a few this year, and surprisingly, all on one day):
Saturday at 1pm in Burroughs (3E): "Cinematic Writing and SF/F" with James Macdonald, Marlin May, John Scalzi, and Sarah Smith.
Saturday at 7pm in Marina 1 (2E): "The Ridiculous SF Premise" with Mark L Amidon, Ken Kingsgrave-Ernstein, B. Diane Martin, and Stephen R Wilk.
Saturday at 10pm in Alcott (3W): "Rockets & Lasers & Space Adventures!" with A Joseph Ross, Mehitbel Glenhaber, and Stephen R Wilk.
Even though all my panels are on Saturday, I'll be there the whole weekend, spending a lot of time in the dealers' room at the Fantastic Books table (we're open Friday 5–9pm, Saturday 10am-7pm, Sunday 10am-7pm, and Monday 10am-2:30pm). So come see me! Hope to see some of you this weekend.
|Friday, January 8th, 2016|
|Review of Star Wars: The Force Awakens (with some minor spoilers)
I finally saw the new Star Wars movie, and I enjoyed it. It was the big-screen spectacle I was hoping for, with enough echoes of the earlier movies to feel familiar mixing with enough new story-telling to not be boring.
But then I walked out of the theatre, and as I was getting into my car, I remembered walking out after seeing the first Star Wars
, in 1977. I was just a kid then, but I remember walking out of the theatre and looking up at the sky, thinking "they're out there! That's where I'm going!" I was excited, optimistic that that "future" (even though I knew it was "a long time ago") was possible, was going to be mine.
But today I walked out of the theatre and didn't look up. And I've been mulling over the movie for the past several hours, wondering why I didn't want to turn around and go right back to see it again. And I've figured it out: optimism.
There's no optimism in this movie, and that's a break from the previous Star Wars movies, a bad break.
Picture the first movie, the thing I'm talking about is neatly summed up in one line: when Leia says, "Aren't you a little short for a storm trooper?" And Luke takes off his helmet and says, "I'm Luke Skywalker. I'm here to rescue you." (https://youtu.be/VgHdyaBMMhc
) The epitome of optimism; the reason we love that first movie so much.
He's standing there, in a detention block, in the middle of a massive enemy battle station, surrounded by thousands upon thousands of enemy troops who would kill him without a thought, and he's there with his rescue team of six -- including two droids, two smugglers, and an old man who will soon be dead -- but he doesn't hedge, doesn't consider, doesn't fear anything: "I'm here to rescue you."
Episode V, The Empire Strikes Back
, picks up the optimism right at the start. Luke is late returning to base on Hoth, so Han is going out to find his friend. There's no question in his mind that he can find Luke, that he and Luke will survive, even though C-3P0 knows the odds are long against them. Han rides his tauntaun out into the gathering gloom on the icy planet, and finds Luke, and improvises a way to save his life. And in the morning, when the search craft flies overhead, how does Han greet them? Not "It's about time," not "thank the gods," not "we were worried." It's just the ever-optimistic "Good morning!"
And while the ewoks of Episode VI were lame fighting teddy bears, there was nothing in them but optimism. Little barely civilized woodland creatures going out to fight the newest of new technology, armor, weaponry, but they knew they were going to win, and they did.
The prequel trilogy were darker movies, telling a darker story, but even within that bleak tale of political intrigue, there was enough optimism to keep the feeling alive. From little Anakin in the first movie, who knows he can win the pod race, even though he's never finished a race before, he's up for anything; to Senator Padme in episode II, who learns Obi-wan is in trouble, and rushes off to save him, optimistically ignoring orders and safety to do what needs to be done.
Episode III is bleak and grim, so I'm reaching here looking for optimism, but there is Owen and Beru holding baby Luke, looking at the rising suns on Tatooine at the end. And Senator Organa holding baby Leia at his home. There are hints of the missing optimism.
But all that leads me to Episode VII, The Force Awakens
, and I've realized there wasn't a hint of optimism anywhere in the movie. We've got Finn, who's on the run from the military he deserted, just trying to survive (to the point that he's willing to go off and lose himself somewhere in the outer rim). We've got Rey, who's scavenging just to survive, and all she wants to do is go back to the desert planet to wait for whoever abandoned here there. And there's the most insouciant of the bunch, pilot Poe (who is supposed to be channeling Han Solo's devil-may-care attitude from the original films), but even he hasn't a bit of optimism in him. He's egotistical and talented, but he's just in the war to get the job done.
So what about the older cast: Han Solo? Naw, he's been beaten down by thirty years, and now he's just trying to survive, trying to get through the next day. Leia? Battle-weary and experienced, but she's just going on to go on. Luke? Hiding from the universe, nary a hint of optimism to be found.
I'm trying to decide if the death of optimism is a symptom of the modern world, or something else. We're living in the world of the never-ending war on terror, the daily pronouncements by our government that we need to be afraid, the uncertainty of what tomorrow will bring. But was the world so different in 1977? We were still living in the Cold War; Ronald Reagan had not yet declared morning in America once again, we'd just survived the oil embargo... I'm not so sure the world of 38 years ago was that much more optimistic than the world of today.
Is it simply the new film maker? J.J. Abrams does make big-screen spectacles, but I can't recall much optimism in any of his other movies. Is it that the viewing public is assumed to be more critical, more thoughtful, and that optimism is just too childish?
I don't know what it is. But I do know that I found that optimism lacking, and I'm disappointed.
|Friday, December 11th, 2015|
|Free Electronic Copy of "Burn Her"
Nebula nomination season is open. Hugo nomination season will be opening soon. And there are a slew of other awards you may be participating in.
In September, Fantastic Books published Tanith Lee's collection Dancing Through the Fire
, which has several brand new stories, including the novelette "Burn Her." Publishers Weekly
called the novelette "stunning" and "a very high point" in the book. Locus
called it "particularly bold" and said it "dances through the flame to glimpse a beauty that can only be suggested -- not revealed or understood, while we still live."
While we'd love for you to buy a copy of the book, we know some people don't have the time to do that before getting their nominations on record, so we're offering an electronic copy of "Burn Her" upon request. Just e-mail us at info [at] FantasticBooks [dot] biz, tell us which award(s) you're considering stories for, and which format you want "Burn Her" in: pdf, epub, or mobi. Thanks for your consideration.
|Thursday, November 19th, 2015|
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|
|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|
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|
|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|
|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.