That’s ROCKETSHIPS AND SPACESUITS actually, to give BLACK INFINITY #8 its full subtitle (cf. January 11, 1, et al.), and it’s another big 230-plus page issue with lots of stuff in it. Including, to be sure, a story by me.

The story, to get it out of the way, is “Hanging Vines,” originally published in September 1994 in that year’s World Science Fiction Convention’s CONADIAN SOUVENIR BOOK, and as it happens this isue of BLACK INFINITY may speak especially to old-time science fiction fans as well. As Editor Tom English has it in his introduction, “The Romance of Rocketships,” celebrating particularly the 1950s and ’60s: For the science fiction enthusiast, the world had become a pretty cool place. All eyes were raised to the heavens, as people from all walks of life hoped in the future and dreamed of foreign worlds.

So this was reflected both in novels and film, the latter especially noted in English’s introduction — as well as in the issue itself, with a special feature by film historian Justin Humphreys on 1950’s groundbreaking movie DESTINATION MOON, almost in itself worth the issue’s price. But there’s also an article, for younger fans, on “Revisiting SPACE: 1999”; another, “Threat Watch,” on the dangers of space exploration; and of course the stories, fifteen in all this time, including classics by writers like Randall Garrett, Robert Silverberg, Poul Anderson, and three by one of my personal favorites, Ray Bradbury. And authors to watch for in the future too.

For more, or for ordering, one need but press here.

It was weird. Results are now in for’s Flash Suite competition (cf. January 3, December 14, et al.), and out of four official judges, none counted “Casket Suite” first. But two did vote it second. And in the fan voting, to count as a fifth “judge” as well as being the tie-breaker if needed, it wasn’t first either — but also came in second.

So, out of four judges’ totals where firsts counted 2 points, and seconds 1, no two judges agreed on a first, so that meant four separate 2-point stories. But two also had seconds from other judges for 3 points as well, with “Casket Suite” with its two runner-up votes getting 2 points plus another 1 as the fan vote second. So 3 points there too. And none of the other four was the one that came first in the fan vote.

Which means that les filles, as they do in their stories, slowly, seductively, wormed their way past their less toothy rivals — and grabbed onto the prize to take back to New Orleans!

Or, to quote the official contest page: ­And the Winners Are. . .

January 17th, 2022

Lord have mercy, what a contest!

Some of our finest flash fictionateering, ever,
ending in a three way tie for both prizes,
decided by the Fan Vote.

Not one to Waste Time, the Winners are:

the grand prize
“Casket Suite” by James Dorr

and runner-up
“Storm Surge” by Laurinda Lind

Yes indeed, a three way tie for both prizes.
The top contenders by judge votes were
“Clouds” by Ilhamul Azam, along with “Casket Suite” and “Storm Surge”.
As you may recall, a draw is decided by the Fan Vote:

“The Toll” by Stephen Page
won the Fan Favorite vote with over 30% of the 228 votes,
followed by
“Casket Suite” by James Dorr
with over 15%.

Of the top contenders, “Casket Suite had the most votes,
followed by “Storm Surge” by Laurinda Lind with almost 14%.

So it may not be the most elegant win ever, but Aimée and the Casket Girls will take it — as will I. And a special thank you to all those who voted in the fan contest, it was you who put us over the top!

And for any who may not have read all the stories, they still can be found by pressing here.

So, yes, one is “firster” than the other, the payment for “Hanging Vines” received from BLACK INFINITY (see January 1, December 11, et al.) for their just-published ROCKETSHIPS AND SPACESUITS issue recorded on January 8. But it being by PayPal which has a policy of not telling people when they’ve gotten money, I didn’t find out until yesterday, the 10th. But the only reason I checked up on PayPal was my receipt of the second, by check from Fahrenheit Books for “The Christmas Vulture” for AUTOMOBILIA (see December 10, et al.), yesterday as well.

So that’s two stories, the second not quite published yet but expected this month, with two payments, just two days apart. (And, yes, at the start of the 22nd year of the second millennium, but one can take this “twos” thing too far.) But that’s still pretty close and it’s worth celebrating, both being reprints (“Vines” from CONADIAN SOUVENIR BOOK, September 1994, and “Vulture” from the Fall 2010 issue of UNTIED SHOELACES OF THE MIND) but with a combined payout of enough to buy groceries for a whole month. Or perhaps even two.

But the thing is, also, that we all can use reasons for celebrations in these, the years of the COVID pandemic, however large or small, or coincidental. And for a writer, the first cash acquired in a new calendar year is quite reason enough!

The e-mail came yesterday, that LAST GIRLS CLUB (cf. December 23, et al.) had been delivered to my mailbox. Except it wasn’t there. But then, today, a similar message and, as I came home from the library and shopping, it was in my mailbox!

A miracle? Probably not, although dated as issue no. 4, Winter Solstice 2021, it is subtitled THE DEVOUT ISSUE. But then Editor Eda H. Obey explains: Well, if you’re still with us this far then you’ve figured out we aren’t pulling punches. It isn’t easy to confront who we fear as well as what we fear. And, yes I do fear the devout. Believing beyond all reasonable doubt is dangerous territory. . . . And these people need to be faced down. My country is devolving into a theocracy and I am not having it. Texas is turning into Gilead, conservative preachers are preaching sexual repression and misogyny from their pulpits, inspiring incels to gun down innocent women in massage parlors (Mar 16 2021 Atlanta, GA), the Supreme Court is tinkering with abortion rights. . . .

It goes on, with the issue containing eleven stories in all, all presumably concerning at least some aspect of religion or belief. Mine, eighth in the lineup, is “How Many Angels,” originally published in CREATIO EX NIHILO in July 1997, and involves the “Dancing Mania” — an actual phenomenon striking parts of Europe in the Middle Ages — and how, in this case, it helps right a wrong. Or at least maybe act as Divine retribution. And then beyond that there are eight some fact pieces, some but not all on Faith topics as well.

In all, it seems a quite full issue for its 48 pages. I don’t know if LAST GIRLS CLUB is available, though, in the usual places, Amazon et al., but ordering info can be found by pressing here.

Well, technically it came out on December 22, still in 2021, and if given a date would most likely be the Winter issue, but as the year turns its arrival here was today, Tuesday, January 4 2022. So for purposes of this blog that makes it the first received in a brand new year.

It took half way to forever, at that, to even be published. The magazine is CURIOSITIES (cf. December 23, et al.) which accepted it way back on the first of May — in 2019! And the story older, appearing initially in 2012 in Untreed Reads’s YEAR’S END: 14 TALES OF HOLIDAY HORROR, but is a good story and one that I’m glad to see being reprinted. But also, as it turns out, for its new debut what better than an actual date at about Christmas time of a week or two later?

It is, after all, a New year’s story.

The call way back when, from CURIOUS GALLERY: Hello! This project is a comfortable two-headed beast at play in the curious and often dark corners of retropunk fiction. That means steampunk, dieselpunk, dreadpunk, bronzepunk, others too numerous to name punk . . . but not atompunk. Sorry, space fans, we draw our line at Sputnik. So in this case it’s “clockpunk” (although with a big clock that’s powered by steam), with the story titled “Appointment In Time,” about an Englishman taking part in an erstwhile colony’s time-honored — and at its heart primeval — turn-of-the-calendar ritual.

But see for yourself! For info or ordering one need but press here.

Fan Voting
the 2022 FLASH SUITE Contest

You must vote for two (2) favorites,
or the poll will not accept your vote.

There are two prizes, after all.

Fan Voting is open until the stroke before midnight on
January 15th.

Thus the announcement: voting is open for two of seven Flash Suite Contest finalists, including my own (*ahem*) “Casket Suite” (cf. December 14, 10, et al.), a five-part saga starring New Orleans’ legendary Casket Girls, Aimée et les filles, who arrived in 1728 from France. And anyone can vote by pressing here. The only real rule, you must vote for two choices, the two you like best of which, hopefully, one will be mine.

If you haven’t read them yet, the site also has links to all of the contestants, and to biographies of the writers, plus pictures of sorts (we were asked, actually, for pictures of our favorite chairs, in which mine is already occupied by the Goth Cat Triana). And again you must remember to vote for two, and by January 15 — so ask your friends too. In any event the results will be made known on Martin Luther King Day, January 17.

Or for more information in general, press here.

As it happens I missed December’s Bloomington Writers Guild “First Sunday Prose Reading and Open Mic” (see November 7, October 3, et al.). But today is the first Sunday of a new year and, while having had its own hiatus up to last fall, “First Sunday” remains as a still-in-person live program, at Morgenstern Books, with me back as well.

Both featured readers this outing were Writers Guild stalwarts, local poet Eric Rensberger and Guild Chair as well as First Sundays coordinator Joan Hawkins. Eric led off with one in a series of prose pieces centered on old books, many going back a century or more and of often a personal nature, in this case including notebooks and letters on, as he put it, “19th Century heterosexual relations culminating in marriage” (although not excluding period digressions, in this case one on the symptoms and attempted cures of “prairie itch,” a.k.a. “Texas mange,” “swamp itch,” and other assorted local and/or descriptive sobriquets). Joan followed with a creative essay — with “trigger warning” — about an autumn she’d spent in the course of a college program in Sweden, including intervening in a suicide attempt by one of her Swedish fellow students, but with other more uplifting aspects too.

In all about fifteen people attended, remaining for the post-break open reading as well. In this I was fourth of seven participants (the last in absentia for Tonia Matthew, read by Joan Hawkins) with a tale I’d initially planned for December, “Dead Winter,” about a vampiress’s losing her temper on Christmas Eve.

It looks like top billing for me this time, though of course that’s just due to the cover design and my name being shortest. Nor is it the first time. But the real point is that BLACK INFINITY 8 (cf. December 11, August 25, et al.), with its final subtitle ROCKETSHIPS AND SPACESUITS, is now out on Amazon.

For those familiar with this great, (somewhat) retro science fiction magazine, I probably need not say anything more. Nevertheless, to quote fellow author Vonnie Winslow Crist (her story in it, “Below the Surface”) via FaceBook: For classic sci-fi fans, it’s 232 pages (with lots of illustrations): 15 stories celebrating rocketships & spacesuits (including 3 rarely reprinted Ray Bradbury classics). Also stories by Gregory Norris, Kurt Newton, James Dorr, Robert Silverberg, Poul Anderson, Alan E. Nourse, Randall Garrett, and others (including me). There are photo-illustrated feature articles on DESTINATION MOON (by film historian Justin Humphreys, curator of the George Pal Estate) and SPACE:1999 (by Gregory L. Norris); Matt Cowan’s popular Threat Watch retro-movie column; a look at the history of rockets and spacesuits in 1950s and ’60s pop culture by Tom English (with a comprehensive list of films); an all new comics story featuring the Last Star Warden by Jason McCuiston, and a classic, rarely seen, “lost” comics story by the legendary Alex Toth. So ring in 2022 with a blast of spaceship goodness.

Technically actually out December 30 2021 by Amazon’s reckoning, my story in it was also my first sale for the year just passed. Titled “Hanging Vines,” it is itself a reprint, originally published in CONADIAN SOUVENIR BOOK for the 52nd World Science Convention in September 1994, and has to do with opening new worlds a bit on the cheap, and the perils that come when one’s landing vehicle is a used spaceship.

But see for yourself, with much much more, by pressing here.

(Triana’s New Year’s resolution is to make sure to always get sufficient sleep)

She’s making her list, checking it twice. . . .


(Illustration discovery courtesy of Lynn Gaeta)

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