Tuesday, August 31, 2004

The return of "Rice and Assault"

Yet again I prove my preternatural ability to almost sell stories to any market I choose. After a one-week turnaround, Gordon Van Gelder has politely declined purchase of "The Year of Rice and Assault" for the august pages of Fantasy & Science Fiction. Which I more than halfway suspected would be the case before I sent this one out (does a market actually exist for this one? I kinda doubt it).

Gordon did find the central premise of the story clever, but not clever enough to hold the entire thing together, alas. He also adds that while the title is clever (that word again) it may mislead potential readers to suspect they're about to get a Kim Stanley Robinson parody, which this most certainly isn't. This problem did occur to me quite a while back, but damned if I can't come up with a decent alternative.

No matter. The story goes out in the mail tomorrow to Asimov's. If Sheila Williams wants to buy it, I'll be more than happy to let her rename it anything she wants.

Now Playing: The Kinks Misfits

Getting slow in my old age

I've been noticing something for the past half-dozen years or so (probably longer than that) which I find more than a little annoying. My reading is slowing down. A lot. Back in high school and college, I could read a novel a day if I really got into it. Never more than a few days if other stuff was going on. I devoured them. I read fast. Nowadays, I read slow. As in no velocity at all. I rarely finish anything, regardless of length, in less than a week. Some books take a month or more to finish. Yes, I have more pressing demands on my time these days with the kids and RevSF and assorted other middle-age commitments, but that doesn't change the fact that when I do have time to read, I read slowly. This is particularly frustrating when the "Must Read" stack is not getting any shorter.

Another troubling development I've noticed of late, which may or may not be related, is that my writing speed has slowed down as well. How this impacts my fiction, I have no idea since I've always been slow when it comes to that. But my non-fiction, whether it be reviews, interviews, articles, press releases or whathaveyou... they take much longer for me to produce than they used to. I have no idea why. Perhaps I've run through my personal reservoir of stock descriptions, comparisons and phrases, and now must think longer and harder to come up with ways to express myself without becoming cliché. Maybe. That sounds reasonable, but I'm not convinced. And I don't believe I have any ominous neurological condition, be it a tumor, a brain cloud or writer's block. I'm just slowing down, and I don't like it one bit.

Now Playing: Blue Öyster Cult Workshop of the Telescopes

Monday, August 30, 2004

Feeling soggy

Don't know how much more fun Monday can handle. Or hold in store. Got a call at work from Lisa. The laundry room had flooded. Yikes! Water spraying everywhere. A hose had burst. Our laundry room is on the second floor of our house. At the time of our house-shopping a little over a year ago, we kind of raised our eyebrows at this, suspecting it was Not A Good Idea. Now we have confirmation of such. Just so you know.

Now Playing: Roger Miller Golden Hits

Saturday, August 28, 2004

Huh. It's tomorrow already.

So I'm sitting here at my desk, coding up the next batch of fiction for RevolutionSF and suddenly realize that it's past midnight already. Granted, that's not all I've been doing--there was some housekeeping and cleanup necessary over at an old website I used to webmaster for, but that mostly involved deleting a bunch of obsolete pages and graphics files. That stuff was finished hours ago. RevSF is what's kept me up. And I won't be doing any fiction writing tonight because of it. I won't tackle any of those reviews I've committed to but keep putting off, even though the books have all been read. I'm not going to be doing much-needed updating of my own personal website, which you can peruse by clicking here. All because of the time I spend on RevSF.

Why do I do it? The question is relevant all of the sudden because of the ongoing musings and hypotheticals regarding Amazing Stories. I select, edit and format one short story a week, plus chapters from two ongoing, serialized novels. That comes out to be the equivalent of a dozen short stories a month on average--16 in five-week months, and nine in months where we fall behind the schedule. I don't deal with the reviews or other features at RevSF, other than contributing the odd review, article or interview on occasion. GOrdon Van Gelder and Stanley Schmidt do a lot more for their respective zines than simply edit fiction, and I'm not trying to set myself up in a 1:1 comparison with them. Even so, I don't think it's too much of a stretch to say I edit the rough equivalent of one of the traditional fiction zines every month.

Wow. When I put it that way, I run the risk of impressing even myself. What's not so impressive is the fact that I've never earned one red cent from my work at RevSF. Nada. Neither have any of the other editors working here. No telling how much money Shane Ivey, the publisher, has sunk into RevSF over the years--all the ad revenue and other income the site generates doesn't cover operating expenses. But hey, it's a webzine. That's like some unwritten law. Webzines lose money: what else is new?

I edit fiction at RevSF because I enjoy it. It's not as important to me as writing, so you'll never see me hang up my writing career for a red pen, but as a sideline it's nice. I also edit because I can. I think I'm moderately good at it. I have a pretty free hand here--Shane's never reined me in on anything I've run (of course, I say this knowing he hasn't seen the Joe Lansdale piece I have coming in October. I still have nightmares). I want to edit anthologies--there's no money in editing them, but I have scads of theme ideas, most of which are somewhat more daring and flexible than Fantastic Mystery-Solving Pets. I've got a strong editing background from my day job, and for some crazy reason I've begun to believe I can see a story's strengths and weaknesses and convey those to the writer in a useful manner. Editing RevSF gives me a chance to utilize those tools in a spec fic manner. And it helps raise my profile among the other editors and publishers in the business. So, while I may not be earning any hard cash for this work, I am getting something of value: A track record.

And it never ceases to amaze me that I've managed to get enough quality stories to publish RevSF on a weekly basis. Our generous pay rate includes "all the prestige you can eat," after all. Even so, I've published works from Gene Wolfe and Paul di Filippo, Stephen Dedman and K.D. Wentworth. Sure, there are some weeks where the fiction is a little wobbly. I won't deny that. But overall it's amazing what consistency I've managed to coax out of this endeavour. The last couple of years have seen six RevSF stories cited with Honorable Mentions in Gardner Dozois' Year's Best collection, and it's my goal to break through and have a story reprinted there before too long. I think we're close this year. Real close. I look at what's been accomplished here, with few resources and no outside support, and shudder to think what kind of fiction wonderland I could achieve were I given access to an actual budget!

By its very nature, RevSF is quite eclectic in its fiction selection. My version of Amazing Stories would be very different. My Analog would be more different still. I have no great, burning desire to helm one of the traditional monthly markets, because I've edited monthlies before and know how much hard work is involved, but if the opportunity can knocking, and the logistics were acceptable, I don't see how I could say no. For now, though, I'll be sticking with RevSF for a bit longer.

Now Playing: After Hours Midnight

Friday, August 27, 2004

Holy frell! More Farscape!

I do not currently get the SciFi Channel, nor shall I be getting it in the near future because of my undying bitterness regarding the way the screwed Farscape over in cancelling that series. Which presents me with something of a dilemma, as Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars airs in October. Hmm. I'll figure out something before then, I'm sure. But right now there's a new trailer up that promises quite a lot. How do you distill a planned fifth season's worth of plots down into a four-hour miniseries? I have no clue. And I'm not crazy about the generic "Mr. Voice" voiceover running through the trailer. But hey, it's Farscape. At the very least, the mini will be witty and entertaining. I can't wait.

Now Playing: Jimmmy Buffett Boats, Beaches, Bars & Ballads

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Now you, too, can run Amazing into the ground!

Paizo Publishing is looking for a new editor-in-chief for Amazing Stories. Please keep in mind that Amazing should be required by law to publish a zombie story in every issue, seeing as how the magazine has died and come back to life more times than your average B-list comic book super-villian.
As the top creative and business leader for the world’s oldest science fiction magazine, the Editor-in-Chief of Amazing Stories plays a key role in Paizo Publishing’s editorial team. The Editor-in-Chief oversees all aspects of the development and production of Amazing Stories, from the strategic to the tactical level, and is ultimately responsible for the successful growth of a key asset in Paizo’s publishing portfolio. The Editor-in-Chief works closely with the Publisher and with Paizo’s business team (including circulation, marketing, accounting, and advertising sales).

Reading through their full job description and requirements, I was suddenly struck by a disquieting notion: I fully meet the minimal qualifications, and exceed them in many instances. What is the world coming to? Never fear--I'm not actually going to apply. If the universe lost all hold of reason and somehow I managed to land the gig, I don't see any way of avoiding a relocation to Washington State. Nothing against Washington--Green Arrow did run around Seattle for the better part of a decade, remember--but we're happy in New Braunfels and cold, wet winters would get old pretty fast. Not to mention the fact that I wouldn't want to go down with the ship when Amazing inevitably turns belly-up three years down the road or so.

But still, it's fun to play make-believe. Publishing six issues a year, I'd like to do an "Artist of the Year" thing, with one artist doing all six covers, and having various authors craft a story around those images. That would definitely be fun--that's an approach that used to be popular in the 50s and 60s but has fallen by the wayside of late. I'd sign on John Picacio, otherwise known as the Beautiful One, to blow away our visual cortexes that first year.

And I'd make sure I had a Howard Waldrop story in my first issue. Howard has a reputation for killing off magazines that run his work. If I ran a Howard story right off the bat, I would either 1) break the curse and successfully publish for years to come, or 2) save myself a lot of time and trouble editing a magazine too weak to withstand Howard's eldrich might. Either way, I figure, I'd come out a winner.

Now Playing: Various Artists Saturday Morning: Cartoons' Greatest Hits

Preview pages!

Shooting Star has put some preview pages of Dracosaur online. Since I sincerely believe they look sweet, and am duty-bound to share them with you. That's the kind of nice guy I am.

Dracosaur teaser page 1Dracosaur teaser page 2Dracosaur teaser page 3

The comics have shipped (or so I'm told) but reorders are available. Just tell your local comic supplier and they'll get you fixed up. Or you can order directly from Shooting Star, but that takes all the fun out of it.

Now Playing: Christopher Franke Babylon 5 Vol. 2: Messages from Earth

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Dragons vs. Dinosaurs – It’s a fantasist’s fantasy at Shooting Star Comics


For Information, Please Contact:

Sean Taylor, Editor-in-Chief of Shooting Star Comics

Scott McCullar, Creative Director

Alpharetta, Ga. (August 25, 2004) – Dragons versus dinosaurs. It’s a fantasy fanboy’s (or girl’s) dream battle. And thanks to fantasy/sci-fi writer Jayme Blaschke, it has found a home in Shooting Star Comics Anthology #5. “Dracosaur,” written by Blaschke and drawn by Lori Krell is available now in stores.

“Jayme and Lori’s story is our first real foray into fantasy,” says Editor-in-Chief Sean Taylor. “And it’s a great first foray to have under one’s belt. I have to admit that I’m a big Ray Harryhausen fan, and when I saw the script to this story, the 12 year old inside me who saw Ray’s movies late nights on midnight TV almost went back and tried to track down my model dinosaur kits from days gone by.”

While Jayme is a regular over at RevolutionSF magazine, “Dracosaur” is his first trip into published comics writing.

Says Jayme: "I'm extremely excited to have this opportunity to work with Shooting Star. I've followed their publications since issue one of the Shooting Star Comics Anthology, and I have been impressed with the enthusiasm and creativity contained within the pages of the books.

"It's simply amazing to me that nobody has done the Dracosaur concept before now. Dinosaurs and dragons -- it practically begs to be written! Of course, I say that knowing full well some walking comics encyclopedia like Mark Waid will immediately point out that Igor Messerschmidt did indeed do a dragons and dinosaurs story way back in the 1967 Wacky Tales of Wonderment Arbor Day Special. To which I can only reply: Yeah, but was his dragon French?

Jayme continues: "The best part of King Kong was when Kong fought the dinosaurs. That's why King Kong vs. Godzilla is so fun to watch, even though it's the biggest accumulation of cheese in the history of cinema. The best part of Jurassic Park was when the velociraptors and T. Rex went after it. Forget knights and wizards -- I say, if you're going to write a dragon story, have some fun with it. And dinosaurs are lots and lots of fun.

Says Jayme of the experience of writing for comics: "It's been an interesting learning experience for me. My fiction's been published in a number of different places, but scripting comics is quite a different animal. I knew it would be, but you never quite understand the differences of the mediums until you actually apply yourself to the task at hand. That said, I found the comic scripting process quite fun. I ended up storyboarding out each page to help me structure the script as I wrote it.

"I count myself very lucky indeed to have Lori Krell handling the art on Dracosaur. I first encountered her work at Texas State University, and she blew me away with her versatility. I managed to talk her in to doing some illustration work for RevolutionSF.com where I'm fiction editor, and the work she turned in was beyond what I'd hoped for. When it came time to select an artist to illustrate Dracosaur, she was my first and only choice. She illustrated the entire story on computer--her 'digital painting' is unique as anything in comics today. Each page she sent me cried out to be framed and hung on the wall. I'm forever spoiled now."

In addition to debut of Dracosaur, the book also features:

· A brand new sci-fi tale from X-Files writer, Stefan Petrucha—introducing the comics debut of artist Jeziel Sanchez Martinez!
· The debut of Yankee Doodle, the living sketch, by Scott Hileman, Chris Franklin, and Ethan Colchamiro.
· One of the most fun Bedbug adventures you’ve ever seen, brought to you by Scott Rogers.
· A new 70’s-themed martial arts tale in Scott McCullar’s Thrill Seeker Comics.
· A Jazz Age horror tale from Sean Taylor and Erik Burnham set in the off-kilter universe of Chicago Twist.
· A brand-new Aym Geronimo tale from J. Morgan Neal and Todd Fox.
· A brand-new Rex Solomon tale from Gregg W. Noon, J. Morgan Neal, and Sinclair Elliot.

For new readers, Shooting Star Comics Anthology #5 is a good starting point to get on board to see what is happening at what Steven Grant at comicbookresources.com calls, "...one of the best anthologies you are likely to find from small independents..."

The book is now available in fine comic stores everywhere.

SHOOTING STAR COMICS, LLC is a new comics publisher, committed to publishing a wide variety of genres and styles. Including both new talent and longtime legends in the industry, Shooting Star Comics produces a quarterly anthology series and will also be releasing new titles this year.

Shooting Star Comics is a proud member of the Small Press Association. More information about Shooting Star Comics can be found at the company’s website, www.shootingstarcomics.com.

A .jpeg of the cover to SHOOTING STAR COMICS ANTHOLOGY #5 and samples from the book can be downloaded from the website.

For additional sample artwork and other inquiries, please contact:

Scott McCullar, Creative Director

Shooting Star Comics
5665 Hwy. 9 Suite 103-140
Alpharetta, GA 30004

Now Playing: The Kinks Think Visual

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

It's a real, live book... almost

What does one do at work when the current project becomes tedious and you need a break, yet you've already read CNN.com cover to cover and the blogs you frequent haven't been updated in hours? Why, you cruise on over to your publisher's website and run searches on your as-yet-unpublished book. And sometimes you're rewarded with an actual website: Voices of Vision: Creators of Science Fiction and Fantasy Speak.

It looks to my untrained eye that the book will be published in trade paperback format, already has an ISBN number assigned and can be pre-ordered. Assuming the price and ISBN are real and not just random placeholders. I have no idea what Nebraska would do if they suddenly started getting pre-orders for a book that isn't even scheduled yet, much less has a jacket design or cover art, but it's tempting to find out. If there are any souls out there braver than I, please, let me know!

Now Playing: Dave Davies Bug

Do you dare challenge the might of the DARK TOWER?

Retrieve the Ancient Magic Scepter that has been stolen by the tyrant king! The Scepter is the Power Staff of teh Empire and a Kingdom has been offered for its return. It now lays hidden in the Dark Tower guarded by the tyrant's fierce band of Brigands. Three magic keys will open the tower to you. Find the keys in three foreign kingdoms, and you can lay siege to the Dark Tower!

Enter the Dark Tower if you dare!

Boy, oh boy, does this bring back memories. It came out in the early 80s right when Dungeons & Dragons was starting to gain a good bit of mainstream popularity. Dark Tower had cool artwork and packaging, a good degree of interactivity and presented a good illusion of role playing while maintaining a quick pace and manageable game mechanics. The sound effects were fun as well. I remember that my troops always got struck down by the damn plague whenever I got strong enough to wipe out any Brigand forces I might encounter. That, and I was forever getting lost. I was a round game board with clearly defined spaces--and my warriors still managed to get lost. Go figure.

What's cool is that I still have my game. It's back at my parents house, and the box is pretty ragged from lots of use, but it still worked a few years back. Next time I'm there I've got to double check and make sure the batteries have been taken out...

Now Playing: Talking Heads Speaking in Tongues

Monday, August 23, 2004

Kings of the Night cover art

Just because I feel obligated to offer a post of some substance tonight, here is the cover art for the Kings of the Night III e-anthology:

Kings of the Night 3, by Mats Minnhagen

The piece is by Mats Minnhagen, and I think it's quite nice. Evocative and medieval, in a desolate sort of way. I'm not impressed with the rest of the cover design, however. The font selected lacks any imagination at all, and why in the world did they slap the editor's name across the adventurers at the bottom of the image? That was just foolish from a graphic design perspective. Ah well, it's what's inside the book that counts.

Now Playing: Beastie Boys License to Ill

Adventures in formatting

Well, Blogger tech help finally got back to me. Their suggestions were terse and not very detailed. Let's see if they have any effect on things.

Not terribly effective thus far, I'm afraid. And their suggestion to simply use one of their templates is annoying--mainly because I am using one of their templates, albeit with different graphics, but still.

Well, we seem to have reached some degree of not ghastly with the page, after many false starts and repeated uploads. None of the official and proper coding seemed to work, so I reverted to habit, and played hit-or-miss until I rigged up something that seems to work. Sort of. Just don't look behind the curtain--it's not a pretty sight.

I should also point out that the Boston album ended a long time ago, and I'm now onto The Doors' greatest hits, but I won't.

Now Playing: Boston Third Stage

Saturday, August 21, 2004

The Year of Rice and Assault

I'm a liar. In yesterday's blogs I repeated in very strong terms that no writing would be done that day, because I would be at RecJam until very late and dead tired when I got home. Which was true. I was out until very late and dead tired when I got home. But this news report has been gnawing at me for the better part of a week now:
BRIELLE, New Jersey (AP) -- An 8-year-old girl who suffers from a rare digestive disorder and cannot eat wheat has had her first Holy Communion declared invalid because the wafer contained no wheat, violating Roman Catholic doctrine.
Last year, as the third grader approached Holy Communion age in this Jersey Shore town, her mother told officials at St. Denis Catholic Church in Manasquan that the girl could not have the standard host.

After the church's pastor refused to allow a substitute, a priest at a nearby parish volunteered to offer one, and in May, Haley wore a white Communion dress, and received the sacrament alongside her mother, who had not taken Communion since she herself was diagnosed with the disease.

For those of you who don't know this, I'm Catholic, and pretty doggone firm in my faith. But bone-headed entrenchment like this, where the church bases doctrine on nothing more substantial than tradition, well, that sets the cat amongst my pigeons, as Harlan Ellison might say. I find it no small irony that one of the definitions of "dogma" is making a contention without adequate supporting evidence. Funny that.

So last night after I got home, I started noodling around on the old keyboard. One thing lead to another, and in one torrid, sweaty, greasy burst that required an additional pillow under my rear and lots of additional caffine, the whole ugly thing blurted itself out. The birthing process finished off around 3 in the a.m., and I dragged myself off to bed, bleary-eyed and feeling more than a little seedy, slightly concerned that Kim Stanley Robinson would ring my neck for riffing on his title. This is some of what my madness wrought:
Now, it happened that on the third day of the third week of the third year Lucifer and his minions had taken up residence in the Vatican. After storming St. Peter’s Basilica and giving severe wedgies to the Swiss Guard, the hordes of Hell set about making nuisances of themselves with a vengeance. They stubbed their cigarettes out on the furniture. They passed gas loudly in the Sistine Chapel and scrawled “Pull My Finger” on Michelangelo’s fresco. And they checked out all the Gutenberg Bibles from the Vatican library with absolutely no intention of returning them by their due date.

This morning, when I staggered out of bed, Lisa had long been up. "I read your story. Did you do that last night?" she asked, indicating the manuscript I'd left on the table.

"Yeah," I answered, wary. "Was it funny?"


"Was it... offensive?"

"Oh yes. You offend everyone. If it's ever published, I'm a widow."

It's going out to Sheila Williams at Asimov's in the morning. She won't buy it, but I feel it necessary to inflict "The Year of Rice and Assault" upon as many editors as possible before I disappear under "mysterious circumstances."

Now Playing: Smithfield Fair Jacobites by Name

Friday, August 20, 2004

In the second draft after Apocalypse

No writing will be done tonight, I fear, with RecJam taking up all of my evening. I will be so glad when this story is complete--for every word that remains from the first draft, another must be replaced. At least, that's the ratio I believe I'm running in regards to what stays and what is replaced. And the story isn't all that different--the plot's the same, just perhaps three steps to the side of what I'd originally written. Of course, those steps make a great deal of difference in the final quality (at least I hope so).

This following passage is a prime example of what I'm doing. Maybe 70 percent of the words carry over from the original, but I restructured the sequence, clarifying it more in the context of the story, tweaking the point of view some.
A surge of alien imagery overwhelmed Jönis. Nothing visual, but sounds, smells, touch. The most intense feelings of touch he'd ever experienced. He could actually feel the miniscule grains of sand shifting along the seafloor as he glided through the chill ocean, meters above.

Everything shifted, and Jönis abruptly found himself in shallow waters, another We/Young... swallowing him. He felt no fear as the We/Young enveloped him completely. Rather, overwhelming contentment took hold. His thoughts and feelings intermingled with the other We/Young, bled together.

A soothing, thrumming shell encased them. Whorled, patterend, intricately layered. The We/Old took root in the shell, sang to him then in his own voice. The We/Old spoke soothing words. It reflected Jönis' thoughts as his mind fragmented, divided a thousandfold. Comfort. Memory. The We/Old kept him sane, kept him safe and happy as the coldcoldcold came. Beyond the shell, the ocean stopped flowing. But that was as it always was.

With all the effort I'm putting into "Apocalypse," the damn thing had better sell!

Now Playing: Genesis Invisible Touch

No writing tonight

After a too-short and not entirely lazy summer, classes are about to resume here at Texas State University. I can tell because all of the streets are clogged with cars and the students illegally parked in the staff lots, hogging up all the spaces. The beginning of classes also means that it must be time for RecJam, the kick-off festival in Sewell Park along the San Marcos River, which runs through campus. It's quite a nice setting.

RecJam also boasts a concert (this year it's Blue October and Flickerstick doing an outdoor show) and is the main forum for student organizations to set up tables and recruit new members for the next year. SFFS will be doing so once again, setting up a table featuring video games and free candy to passers-by. Some members are going to wear Renaissance festival costumes. I'll be there with them, sweating in the late-August heat (but fortunately, it's not as hot as last year!). It should be interesting. We'll see how many young minds we can seduce over to the dark side...

Now Playing: Genesis Abacab

Psst! Wanna buy some fiction?

Well look what's gone and snuck up on me--the Kings of the Night III anthology, which contains my short story "Simultas," is now available from Fictionwise. It's a sword-and-sorcery anthology, with lots of buckling of swashes and the like. My story, set in a kind of alternate reality, post-Arthurian world, doesn't entirely conform to the traditional conventions of that sub-genre. The battles being fought are more intimate, the stakes personal. I read the piece at Armadillocon last weekend to a dozen or so folks who turned out (Armadillocon is great for readings) and the response was enthusiastic. So we'll see if that vote of confidence translates into tens, if not dozens, of sales.
What I have noticed as I edit these books is that there are still plenty of good writers creating great stories in the sword and sorcery mode despite the almost total absence of such magazines or anthologies to support them. This lack of venues surprises me for if people are writing them, I suspect, people want to read them too. Writers are readers after all. But unlike a writer's manual, sword & sorcery appeals to a much wider audience.

Why has S&S publishing fallen off since the 1970s? There could a number of causes. 1) the scores of bad S&S films between 1980-1990, 2) the plethora of shared world collections, 3) many S&S writers are still creating what they used to but the publishers have marketed them as something else, 4) AD&D and other role-playing games filled a portion of the market with game-related fiction, 5) the proliferation of "humorous" fantasy that turned the wheels of fantasy to a new, lighter purpose. But I think the number one reason was the "fad"-style of promotion publishers began around 1967 that left a bad taste in many reader's mouths. Paperback houses cranked out Conan-copies until the short renaissance collapsed in on itself. What might have been a growing and interesting sub-market became a weird relation that nobody wanted visiting anymore.

Editor Gary Thomas makes some good points in his introduction, excerpted above. The last point he makes, I suspect, is the strongest. Like any horse, if it's ridden too hard and not treated with respect, it's going to up and die on you. Many people--readers, authors, editors--viewed the myriad bad Conan knock-offs as the pinnacle of the form, rather than the dregs. The same effect plagued space opera and Tolkienesque high fantasy at different times to varying degrees. Will sword and sorcery make a comeback? Sure. Everything is cyclical. But it is interesting that the form has remained dormant as a viable market for so long.

Now Playing: Peter Gabriel Peter Gabriel Plays Live

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Autumnal moment

Unseasonably cool weather greeted me this morning at work. It's heavily overcast, so it's cool (low 70s) and humid. There's a pleasant breeze blowing across the university. And--here's the kicker--a cedar elm in the parking lot is happily shedding its leaves. Little golden-brown leaves flutter down happily, collecting and massing along the sidewalk leading to my building's entrance. The barn swallow nest above the door is empty, the fledglings taking wing sometime over the last day or so. If I didn't have a calendar to tell me it's still mid-August, I'd swear it was late September, or maybe even October. And thundershowers are expected again today. Such strange weather we're having this year!

Now Playing: Melissa Etheridge Melissa Etheridge

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Your kung-fu is better than my kung-fu

Okay, here's a quandry for all you loyal readers who know a good deal more about HTML than I do (which covers pretty much the known universe from junior high on up). Blogger just switched out the banner ad at the top of the page, and now there is a navigation bar up there instead. Which I actually find pretty nifty, even if their color selection leaves something to be desired.

My problem is that the nav bar now overlaps my title graphic. My blog's page also spills over beyond the borders of whatever size window I view it in, and the entry headlines are suddenly flush left against the window with no breathing space in there. This is the case when viewed either on a Mac or PC, with Safari or the dreaded Explorer. What gives? I've compared my HTML with other selected blogs that don't have this problem, and don't see any obvious screw-ups on my part. Any suggestions to fix this mess would be greatly appreciated.

Now Playing: Dire Straits On the Night

Back to writing

Last week, what with the convention and writers workshop coming up, not to mention other issues that demanded my undivided attention, I didn't do much writing at all. And by "much" I mean "any." So last night, having run out of excuses and flimsy dodges, I dove back into the "Apocalypse" rewrite. Here's a sample:
"Wood?" Jönis staggered forward, trying to make sense of the scene before him. The broken, blackened trunk jutted out of the snow, so thick he couldn’t see the other side, its length vanishing into the night. A lunar sequoia.

Jönis’ eyes burned. He’d loved hiking in the great sequoia forests of Montes Pyrenaeus, what seemed like ages ago. Unfettered by Earth’s gravity, they’d soared to impossible heights, piercing the sky itself. Now, however... now they were mere splintered stumps and charred limbs.

The irony that the rewrite is taking as much effort and time as writing an entirely new story is not lost upon me. This is due in no small part to whole sections being jettisoned and rewritten from scratch, since now my protagonist has a consistent viewpoint and motivation. If I'd have figured that out to begin with, it'd have saved me a lot of hassle.

Now Playing: More Internet radio Club 977

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

First day of school

We've got high drama today. Calista is now one of millions of children in the world who have left the nest to venture out into the world in search of learning. Which is a long-winded way of saying kindergarten started today. She likes her teacher, and several neighborhood friends are in her class, so other than a bit of a quivering chin when we left her, I suspect the emotional trauma will be minimal. For Calista, that is. Lisa may actually need professional therapy. Me, I'm stuck with playing the "stern and stoic" role as usual, which is really getting old. I mean, my little girl is starting school!

And they've swapped out all the computers at work. Now I have an even more intimidating Mac tower on my desk than before. And absolutely none of my files have been transferred over from the old machine, which means I'm stuck here twiddling my thumbs and doing absolutely nothing more challenging than surfing the net. As is my boss. As is his boss. We are stuck in productivity limbo. Ah, progress.

Now Playing: RCN 9412 (streaming radio, because my music library also hasn't been transferred)

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Back from doing the 'Dillo

Very tired right now, which usually follows from a weekend of conventioning. Armadillocon was quite the success. Reconnected with a lot of folks I hadn't seen in a while, and had several panels that went extremely well--the audience (packed, mostly) complained when they ended. A personal highlight was making Howard Waldrop bust a gut when I asserted during a desperate moment during "Fannish Feud" that I, JOHN MANDEVILLE was a novel written by GoH Sharon Shinn (for those of you who don't know Waldrop, the MANDEVILLE book is a novel he's been working on for three decades and counting). The writers' workshop on Friday was a lot of fun, although none of the participants burst into tears (despite my best efforts). Two-Headed Baby, the band that played the dance Saturday night, was bluesy-cool, and reminded me a whole heck of a lot of the late, lamented Los Blues Guys (probably because of Brad Denton's drumming and Rory Harper's guitar work. Those two being main instigators behind Los Blues Guys). And Saturday's parties were lots of fun, although mere shadows of the big Coppervale Press/Monkeybrain Books blowout of last year. I had no idea liquid nitrogen was so effective in the manufacture of ice cream. The things one learns at cons.

I also picked up nine issues of Omega Men I've been missing from my run of the comic title. A very uneven comic series with tons of potential. Yet another case of a science fiction title being ruined because comics writers treated the premise as "superheroes in space" rather than straight SF. When will they learn?

Also, in non-Armadillocon developments, my sprawling interview with the lovely and talented Paul Dini is now online at RevolutionSF. He's the guy who does all those nifty-keen animated television shows you know and love. Like "Ewoks" and "Droids." Plus a few lesser-regarded obscurities such as "Batman" and "Duck Dodgers."

Now Playing: Olympics

Thursday, August 12, 2004

I have no self-control

I couldn't resist. I had to send a letter. And for any Anglophiles or loyal
Subjects of the British Crown reading this blog, I'M JOKING! In the letter, I'm joking, not joking about sending the letter. Hey, the Kinks are my favorite band, remember? Can't get much more British than that...
Dear Ms. Rowat,

Thank you for your enlightening column on science fiction conventions! I’d
entertained thoughts of attending from Texas, and had chalked up all those
strange rumors of weirdness going on at these convention-things to gross
stereotypes. Thanks for clarifying things for me! I’ll certainly avoid this
thing like the plague now!

Although, to be honest, I’m somewhat relieved. I mean, what with all the
bad food and bad weather over there, not to mention the big-eared, weak-chinned,
cross-dressing soccer hooligans running around with bad teeth, I’ve long
been uncomfortable with the very concept of Britain. Fortunately, you’ve
covinced me that I don’t have to subject myself to such horrors.

Now Playing: Dave Davies Bug

You won't believe the hooey

Apparently, this big-eared, weak-chinned, pasty-faced, crumpet-eating Brit thinks stereotypes are funny. At least, I assume she does while not busy brawling at soccer games while eating bad food with her bad teeth. I dunno--read You Won't Believe the Warp Factor and tell me what you think:
what's the betting bin Laden has a well-worn DVD of Plan Nine From Outer Space in his cave or a natty pair of mail order Vulcan ears?

Of course, it's hard to hold her condescending attempts at humor against her. After all, she's British. Wouldn't you be cranky too, if you hadn't had sex since before the Thatcher adminstration? You can offer your sympathies to Ms. Alison Rowat at letters@theherald.co.uk.

Now Playing: Dave Davies The Album that Never Was

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

God save the Kinks!

Holy crap! I log onto the internet and what horrible headline greets me? Dave Davies laid low by a stroke!
The 57-year-old cofounder of the influential British rock band the Kinks collapsed in an elevator June 30 after giving a round of interviews promoting his latest record, Bug, at the London offices of the BBC.

The guitarist's spokesman, Alan Robinson, says Davies remains in good spirits despite the fact that Davies "is paralyzed on the right hand side of his body." Robinson reassures fans that Davies still retains some feeling and can "still hold a guitar pick."

Strangely enough, E! Online seems to have the most accurate reportage of the incident. Other news sites are saying he collapsed during a concert. To have Dave bedridden in a hospital in the same year brother Ray was shot by a mugger in New Orleans is disturbing to say the least.

To say I'm a Kinks fan is just about the biggest understatement in history. I own every Kinks album ever produced on CD--multiple copies of some--and some bootlegs as well. I own both of Ray's books, X-Ray: The Unauthorized Autobiography and Waterloo Sunset, and Dave's book, Kink. I also have the strange, bleak and surreal Return to Waterloo, which is something akin to a movie version of Vertigo Comics produced more than a decade before Vertigo even existed. I saw Ray perform at La Zona Rosa in Austin about five years back, and utterly screwed up and managed to miss a Dave solo show in Austin a few years later. I've never gotten to see the Kinks. The closest I came was Easter Sunday 1986, driving home from seeing Billy Joel in Houston on his Bridge tour. The radio station began talking about the Kinks performing Tuesday at the old Sam Houston Coliseum. I'd just blown every cent I had on the Billy Joel show, so I didn't go to see the Kinks. As far as I can tell, the band never played in Texas again.

I really, really hope the brothers can patch up their differences now that they've had near-death experiences and tour with the whole band at least one more time. They're getting old. One of these days, the experience won't be so near.

Now Playing: Dave Davies Bug

Never, but never, piss off a bare-breasted woman

Stories like this just make me shake my head. When will these little chain managers learn that they're courting disaster by challenging women who breast-feed in public? Most states have right-to-breastfeed laws, and no matter what your opinion is of the current political climate in this country, we don't live in a Puritanical nation.
More than two dozen mothers staged a breastfeeding “nurse-in” at a Starbucks Corp. store in Maryland over the weekend in an effort to get the world’s largest coffee shop chain to adopt a policy allowing breastfeeding in all its U.S. stores.

Lorig Charkoudian, who organized the event, said on Tuesday that she began her quest a month ago when she was nursing her 15-month-old daughter at the store in Silver Spring, Md., and was asked by a Starbucks employee to cover up with a blanket or breastfeed in the bathroom.

During the ongoing stink, of course, Starbucks refused to acknowledge that Maryland has a law that allows mothers to breastfeed in public. Isn't this kind of nonsense what corporations pay their lawyers for? To avoid these kinds of embarrassing public hijinks?

Just the other week my wife's circle of friends was discussing a woman who'd been invited to a playgroup. Said woman began complaining about women who breastfeed--formula's "good enough" and in general making disparaging comments towards breastfeeding in general. One took her aside and confided, "You realize this is a La Leche League playgroup, right?" Blank stare. "La Leche is an international breastfeeding advocacy group." I wish I could've been there to see that penny drop!

So take this as a lesson kids, whether you grow up to manage a Burger King, McDonald's, Texaco or Wal-Mart, don't cross a woman who's breastfeeding. You'll regret it.

Blames goes to Jaquandor for putting me onto this one...

Now Playing: Christopher Franke Babylon 5

Sharpening the knives

On Friday, Armadillocon starts earlier for me than normal. Instead of a lunchtime arrival, I'm supposed to be in north Austin bright and early at 8:30 a.m. for the start of the writers' workshop. I haven't had the pleasure of meeting her, but Kate Saundby is my co-pro in our writing break-out group. We've got seven submitted manuscripts, and I've been doing little else these past few days beyond reading and critiquing. In addition to covering each page with red ink, I'm writing up a summary touching on the overall good and bad in each manuscript. The manuscripts themselves range in quality as one would expect. I read one last night that was engrossing and weird in an X-Files sort of way, only it was more like I Am Legend if that makes any sense. And, wouldn't you know it, the manuscript ended before the story did because of the workshop's length limitations. Grr.

But the critique sessions will be interesting to see. On my summaries, my sections on the "Good" run about half a dozen lines. My comments on the "Bad" run several pages. Writers with thin skin need not apply.

Now Playing: Electric Light Orchestra Afterglow

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Lotsa juicy fiction

My review of Geoff Johns' The Flash: Blitz graphic novel (technically, it's a collected volume, but you know what I mean, don't you?) is now live over at RevSF for your reading pleasure. And speaking of reading pleasure...

RevolutionSF has so many themes this month, we couldn’t pick just one! First up, it’s Original Fiction Month at the old cyber-ranch, with four, count ‘em, FOUR quality selections of short fiction that are making their public debuts right on this very site! And that’s not all—-we also mark the momentus occasion of the conclusion of Mark Finn’s epic “The Transformation of Lawrence Croft.” If you’ve ever wondered what would happen if you mixed ancient Roman gods and real honest-to-goodness magic with gamers and general con-goers, here’s your chance to finally have those questions answered!

And finally, this is the month that features two stories written by “Guys named Bill,” running on TWO CONSECUTIVE WEEKS! I kid you not--How often does that happen? I tell you, it gets downright spooky here sometimes...

As a side note, I'll be in attendance at Armadillocon in Austin this coming weekend, so if anyone wants to come up and buy me a beer in hopes of finagling a slot on the coveted RevSF fiction lineup for September, my deep sense of ethics preclude me from accepting anything other than Shiner Bock.

RevolutionSF is the home for unique imaginative fiction.
Fiction at RevolutionSF in August will include:

August 6
"My Own Prison" by Philip Reyth **Original Fiction**
"The Transformation of Lawrence Croft, or, Three Days of the Con-Dorks" Chapter 32 by Mark Finn
"Metamorphosis #87" by Don Webb

August 13
"Pan-Galactic Swingers" by Steven Utley **Original Fiction**
"The Transformation of Lawrence Croft, or, Three Days of the Con-Dorks" Chapter 33 by Mark Finn
"Metamorphosis #88" by Don Webb

August 20
"Empire Time" by Bill Glover **Original Fiction**
"The Transformation of Lawrence Croft, or, Three Days of the Con-Dorks" Chapter 34 by Mark Finn ***THRILLING ACTION-PACKED CONCLUSION!***
"Metamorphosis #89" by Don Webb

August 27
"Fish Stew and Other Alchemies" by Bill McKinley **Original Fiction**
"Metamorphosis #90" by Don Webb

All stories can be read at www.revolutionsf.com

Now Playing: Emerson, Lake and Plamer Return of the Manticore

If you destroy it, they will invest

Well, this is certainly interesting. No doubt many of you have already heard about the launch explosion of Space Transportation Corp's Rubicon 1 rocket. I thought that was certainly the death knell for the little X-Prize competitor. They were short on cash to begin with, and lost almost the entirety of their investment in the crash, which they admitted they hadn't run enough pre-flight tests on because they couldn't afford said tests. But it appears that's just the sort of wacky, can-do attitude wealthy investors are looking for:
Rubicon 1 may be shattered, but Sunday's explosive rocket mishap put Space Transport Corp. in the national limelight as an X Prize underdog with a can-do spirit.

The result: A slew of investors have e-mailed the cash-strapped company, saying they are interested in making an investment in the partners' dream of developing space tourism.

"The national attention has been great. We've gotten a flood of e-mail, a lot from potential investors," Space Transport vice president Eric Meier said Monday after he, company president Phillip Storm and volunteers cleaned up the wreckage and debris of Rubicon 1 on the beach near Queets.

If that's so, then it could be good news for Armadillo Aerospace, which also lost its rocket during a test flight on Saturday when the craft ran out of fuel:
It had not hit apogee yet, so the unstable vehicle immediately started rotating, hitting about 50 degrees/second. If the vehicle had been past apogee when it ran out, it probably would have just dropped feet first.

We had telemetry all the way to the time of impact, which matched the video perfectly, landing eight meters from the launch point. The vehicle hit the ground basically sideways, a little tail first. The bottom manway flange broke off the tank, and the 450 pound tank with 180 psi pressure still in it got punted about 200 yards away by the gas release. $35,000 of rocket is now a whole lot of primo Armadillo Droppings.

I wonder if they'll install a fuel gauge on the next rocket they build?

Now Playing: Blue Öyster Cult Workshop of the Telescopes

Monday, August 09, 2004

Busy weekend

A lot of things came to a head over the weekend, and somehow I managed to deal with each item in turn. Firstly, the signing sheets for the limited-edition hardback of Postscripts 2 came in, which meant I had the pleasure of scrawling my name maybe 200 times. As I did so, it dawned on me that while my signature for "Jayme" is actually fairly legible, "Lynn" and "Blaschke" are actually incomprehensible. My hand just made jerking motions for those words, rather than forming distinct letters. Even when I consciously tried to sign my name properly with all the letters clearly defined, the jerky scribble remained. Sheesh. Maybe I should just sign things "Jayme" from now on and be done with it?

Paul Dini's corrected and revised interview arrived in the mail as well. Paul's an interesting fellow. You'd think that a guy writing so many funny cartoons would crack wise a lot, but no, he takes his work very seriously. Answered every question with a straight face. Even the goofy, obscure questions I posed dealing with his work on the old Dungeons & Dragons cartoon. Still, he's a fun guy to chat with, and I wish I had the opportunity to do so more often. It's a fun interview, and I managed to get all the revisions made and formatting completed for web publications. Part 1 should go up on RevSF by the end of the week.

Lois Bujold also got back to me with her interview revisions as well. Mostly little typos and mis-hearings, as usual. A particularly enjoyable interview, because even though it took place "between books" it has a lot of relevant information on the direction both her Chalion and Vorkosigan series may take in the future. So instead of shilling the latest publication, it gives a solid, broad overview of her career. When we conducted this interview back at ConDFW, we sequestered ourselves in a semi-quiet section of the hospitality suite. By the end of the interview, I realized the room had grown deathly quiet. I looked up and a sizeable crowd had grown, some lining the walls and others in chairs with their backs to us leaning back as far as they could in order to hear the interview better. I know that the audience's rapt attention is more because of Lois' answers than my questions, but I take that as a sign of a good interview. In any event, the revisions were noted and the revised package was shipped off to Postscripts, hopefully for inclusion in the third issue if they find it of decent quality.

I knocked out a review of Identity Crisis no. 2 for the Comics Reviewlution feature at RevolutionSF.

I wrote several pages of revisions to rules and amendments to the covenant of the homeowners association we belong to by virture of living in our current subdivision. An activity which is almost, but not quite, as much fun as extracting teeth using only a ballpeen hammer and a rusty crowbar. You'll have to trust me on this one.

And I also have a stack of manuscripts to read before Armadillocon begins on Friday. That whole writers' workshop thing, which for some bizarre reason I'm one of the instructors. I still have to write up all my comments once I finish reading everything. I kind of wonder what value my input will have--I'm a whiz at writing stuff that almost sells to major markets every time out, but somehow I doubt that's what the participants have signed up to the workshop for.

Now Playing: Billy Joel 2000 Years--The Millenium Concert

Friday, August 06, 2004

So... is Michael Martin Murphy singing at the launch?

Those crazy Canucks! The Canada-based da Vinci Project has gone and made the Anansi X-Prize an actual competition by announcing a launch date for their Wild Fire Mark VI sub-orbital space craft. The date is Oct. 2, to be exact.

Kinda neat-o looking. Strong color scheme, and I particularly like the organic complexities of the windows. While this craft is more a traditional "rocket ship" design (at least visually) than its SpaceShipOne competitor, it sets itself apart by using an inflatable ballute for reentry. Now that's going to be interesting to see. The 8,500-pound Wild Fire launches after an enormous helium balloon carries it to 80,000 feet over the wide-open plains of Saskatchewan, near "Cape" Kindersley. Space.com has a good overview of the race between Scaled Composits and the da Vinci Project.

My one concern is that with the much-publicized success of SpaceShipOne's sub-orbital test flight and announced launch dates for the X-Prize qualifying flights, the da Vinci Project may be pushing things a little too hard in order to stay competitive. As far as anyone knows, Wild Fire has had no actual test flights, so they're essentially rolling the dice on its maiden voyage. I wish them well, but it sounds a bit reckless to me. Even with shakedown flights, SpaceShipOne had some scary moments...

Now Playing: Marty Robbins The Essential Marty Robbins

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Exhuming chupacabra?

Not going to happen any time soon, I'm afraid. WOAI is reporting that Whitley Strieber, the purported UFO abductee that hosts a national radio show and maintains the Unknown Country website, has backed off on plans to exhume the Elmendorf chupacabra for genetic testing, complaining that there's too much media attention. This, from a guy who thrives on media attention.
McAnally will respect Strieber’s wish to keep the dig out of the media spotlight. But Tuesday morning, when McAnnaly thought the dig was still on, he double-checked the grave to make sure he remembered where he buried the hairless creature. When he did, WOAI reporter Jeff Vexler was standing next to him.

“He put in a couple of shovel digs and before I knew it, he had hit a bone,” explained Vexler. “And when I looked down, there was a pretty nice sized bone--maybe 4, 5, 6 inches long.”

So it looks like we'll have to wait a little while longer before learning whether the creature is indeed the fabled chupacabra, a dwarf coyote with mange, a hairless Mexican dog or a really weird looking muntjac. We'll also have to wait with bated breath to learn whether WOAI news reporter Amy Davis will learn to open a dictionary once in a while:
When WOAI began reporting the story of this bizarre, unidentified beast that was slaughtering McAnally’s chickens--Strieber's interest was peaked.

It's "piqued" Amy, not "peaked." Sheesh. This is stuff any first-year journalism student should know. Those kinds of language mistakes drive me nuts.

Now Playing: John Cougar Mellencamp Human Wheels

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Say buddy, can you spare some chèvre?

For reasons too drawn out to mention, I need to come into a dependable source of goat cheese which won't bankrupt the family. A probably dairy allergy is behind this sudden interest. Goat milk is easy enough to find in our local stores, but the only goat-derived cheeses are feta or creamy chèvre, which aren't all that suitable for a macaroni and cheese or cheeseburgers.

Most goat cheese producers appear to be located in California, if Google is to be believed. Redwood Hill has a cheddar-like goat cheese that showed much promise (ie affordable price) but shipping costs nixed that deal. I've found three Texas-based goat dairies that market cheeses: White Egret Farm outside of Austin, La Cuesta Farm in Clifton and Pure Luck in Dripping Springs. They all have positives, but also varying degrees of drawbacks. I find it hard to believe with the huge number of goats being raised in South Texas and the huge Hispanic population in San Antonio that there aren't any goat dairies closer to our area. But I'm not finding any. And sheep cheese is right out. Yikes! What am I, made out of money?

If anyone has suggestions, please, offer them up.

Now Playing: Altan The Best of Altan

For you political junkies keeping score at home

This site was pointed out to me yesterday, and it's fascinating, in a voyeuristic political webcam sort of way. It's the Current Electoral Vote Predictor. The simple brilliance of this site is that it ignores those stupid national presidential polls, since national popular vote is irrelevant in our electoral college system. Instead, it gathers state-by-state polls, giving insight on what the talking heads mean when they discuss "battleground states" on television as well as the campaign strategy of teams Bush and Kerry.

The biggest surprise came when I saw Bush was favored by only 55% of the voters in Texas. Sure, Kerry's support lags far, far behind and the state will easily go for Bush in November, but the support here isn't nearly as strong as I'd have thought (compared to, say, Utah) and the "undecideds" are surprisingly large in number.

Now Playing: Wyndnwyre Out of Time

Monday, August 02, 2004

About the author

Battle on Mercury came in today. It's worn, but in good shape for being 16 years older than I am. The dust jacket in particular has survived quite well. The endpapers are actually the only aspect of the book with significant damage--this coming from tape, glue and whatnot because of the book's library origins. This particular book is from the Irwindale Public Library, California. Between February 1, 1962 and November 10, 1977, it was checked out 16 times. It was eventually withdrawn from the library in 1999. The dust jacket boasts a bio of Erik Van Lhin, which is interesting to compare with the actual bio of Lester Del Rey:
Erik Van Lhin's literary ability is many-sided. He has written ad copy, typed manuscripts, read proof, helped manage a literary agency and, of course, written books. Though he lists swimming as a favorite pastime, this young author sticks close to writing and claims that his biggest thrill came when he learned of the sale of his first story. A native of New York City, where he attended New York University, Mr. Van Lhin did extensive research concerning the Sun's nearest neighbor before writing Battle on Mercury. Though he considers the facts he learned about the planet interesting, the most fascinating aspect of science fiction writing, says the author, is "the sympathy you feel for the aliens you create. Perhaps this means that we are learning to appreciate life for what it is and not for where it originates, or how it looks."

Now Playing: Clannad An Díolaim

Sunday, August 01, 2004

New RevSF fiction up

There's a new story up by Danith McPherson titled The Forever Cup of Coffee at Bitsy's Cafe at RevolutionSF.

Forever cup of coffee at bitsy's cafe

I really wish I got more stories submitted in this particular mode--space adventure just doesn't seem to capture the imagination of many writers these days. It's a common complaint from other editors such as Gardner Dozois when he was at Asimov's. Danith's piece will bring to mind some of the more famous of Fred Pohl's works, but it stands well enough on its own. I urge you to check it out!

And, of course, there are new chapters of The Transformation of Lawrence Croft and Uncle Ovid's Exercise Book live as well. Enjoy!

Now Playing: The Land Before Time (VHS)