Archive for the ‘Science Fiction’ Category

Today?  Yesterday?  The start of the month?  These types of changes sneak up on one, but this afternoon’s traipse of the internet has revealed that TOMBS: A CHRONICLE OF LATTER-DAY TIMES OF EARTH can now be obtained in both Kindle and Nook for electronic readers.  The cost on Amazon is $8.99 as can be discovered (and should one wish, ordered) here while its Nook equivalent can be found for only $8.49 on B&N’s site here (though you then have to press the “See All Formats & Editions” button).  Of other statistics, TOMBS is listed by Amazon in both formats as having been published on June 1, though as we know that was actually the print version only.  Also, one may have noticed the new Nook version comes in at fifty cents less than Amazon’s Kindle, convenient for electronic bargain seekers, but while B&N charges the full list price of $14.95 for its print edition, Amazon cuts that by a whacking two cents to come to a mere $14.93.  (Needless to say, the days of pre-order and later-in-June deep discounts are past, but several reviewers on both the sites seem to indicate the book’s worth its full price.)

Yes, I am of course one of them, but one must scroll down and down past the other five, to just before the ending blurb for the ZIPPERED FLESH series plus PLAGUE OF SHADOWS.  Not surprisingly, the books featured for all six of us writers include ones by Smart Rhino Publications, including the upcoming ZIPPERED FLESH 3 (cf. June 19, et al.), in my case also covering the two “assassins” anthologies, UNCOMMON ASSASSINS and INSIDIOUS ASSASSINS.  But there are others too.  Also for all six of us there are interviews featured on Editor/Publisher Weldon Burge’s blog, BULLETS AND BUTTERFLIES (see, for me, also January 18).

All told, these are storytellers worth looking into, I think, with information on all of them — including . . . moiavailable here.

There is nothing like hearing a scary story over the crackling of a burning campfire.  Some of the most memorial stories we’ve heard were when we were young, gathered around the warming glow with other kids.  To this day, though you may not necessarily recall the words, but I’m sure you remember the feeling.  The unnerving chills as the sense of dread slowly begins to overwhelm, yet you’re captivated and eager for more.  The stories in this collection are crafted by talented writers to tap into that feeling.   (Amazon blurb)

So has come the word from Jesse Dedman of DEADMAN’S TOME that CAMPFIRE TALES, in two separate volumes, is up for pre-order on Amazon, awaiting official publication on August 1.  So what’s the deal there?  Well, we may remember long, long ago (see June 5 2016, et al.) that a story of mine, “In the Octopus’s Garden,” was slated to publish in CREEPY CAMPFIRE STORIES, except (cf. April 1 this year) CREEPY CAMPFIRE STORIES was to be no more.  But then (April 21) the campfire spark was rekindled, with DEADMAN’S TOME sponsoring a new CAMPFIRE TALES which, with this new announcement, is almost upon us.

“In the Octopus’s Garden” itself has been around the block more than once, originally published in 69 FLAVORS OF PARANOIA in March-April 1999, not to mention being lead story in my Stoker nominated (ah, now!) collection THE TEARS OF ISIS.  And elsewhere I’m sure too — that’s octopuses for you!  But the point is, it’s once more slithering up from the depths to be in the new CAMPFIRE TALES, Volume 1, for more info on which one need but press here.  (Or for volume 2 info, press instead here, or to run a quick check on THE TEARS OF ISIS just click on its picture in the center column.)

It wasn’t to be a big convention, even by NASFiC standards – I was told there were 400-some paid attendees, but actual crowds seemed considerably less.  But I hadn’t gone for a big convention necessarily, though part of it was the new novel-in-stories, TOMBS: A CHRONICLE OF LATTER-DAY TIMES OF EARTH, and a chance to show copies of it to fans in the hope word might spread.  In fact the convention could sort of be considered cozy, though part of the reason I really went was for the adventure.  The North American Science Fiction Convention, held for us home folks in years when the World SF Convention is going to be overseas, was itself overseas for 2017 — if only a little.  Farther than Cuba, though, or Haiti, in San Juan Puerto Rico.

So, yes, that’s still the United States, no problems with passports, but a lot of people speak Spanish too (which I myself don’t), and some don’t speak much English.  The money’s the same, which is helpful too, though some foods tended to be more salty, and others sweeter than I would prefer.

But in the hotel things were more familiar, including an unfortunately sparse con suite (most missed: morning coffee, heated things being forbidden, the staff explained, for “liability reasons”).  So, okay, make that a pioneer adventure.  Nor was there an autograph session, but there were a small number of readings scheduled, of which one was mine!  And there were panels, for the most part well attended.

My Part of the Show

I had two panels Friday, the first on “Genre Blending” which, in my introduction, allowed me to point out TOMBS as an example, keyworded by Amazon as Horror and Dystopic Science Fiction and on this blog as Science Fantasy and Dark Romance.  Discussion included the reason for genres — originally to know which shelf to go to in the library or bookstore — and whether “literary” fictioneers look down on us (but with one advantage of ghettoization, we have our own festivals such as NASFiC, and another as I pointed out of coming to know a small number of writers well enough to allow

San Cristobal

a sort of apprentice system).  But for the future with more and more book sales via the internet the old shelf labels are being replaced by keywords, allowing cross genres for readers to narrow their searches farther.  Then following that, “The Critical Eye” (with me moderating) included discussions of writers’ groups and mutual critiques prior to publication, editors’ comments and suggestions and why and how to sometimes decline these, and finally post publication reviews, even if not all necessarily “five star” — and why fans do authors a real favor by writing reviews, even if only one or two lines, and sending them to Amazon, et al.

Saturday gave me another panel, “World Building as More than Background,” again offering an opportunity to present TOMBS as an example (“It starts by finding the rivers,” I answered to the moderator’s opening question – rivers move commerce, and commerce brings cities, and cities begin to define civilization).  Other questions:  If you like a world, do you expand the book into a series? Can you get mired in research, and how to get out of it (my answer there referenced my story “The Wellmaster’s Daughter” which I built from leftover research about deserts, and which became my first ALFRED HITCHCOCK’S MYSTERY MAGAZINE sale*)?  What do you do if your world is so popular readers want to write fan fiction in it?  And, as an example of a “built” world, this was immediately preceded by my reading (in fact, I came into the panel a minute or two late) in which I followed the back cover blurb and section II part of the Ghoul Poet’s story in TOMBS: A CHRONICLE OF LATTER-DAY TIMES OF EARTH, for orientation of a sort, with the story-chapter of “The Last Dance” to a rather large audience as readings go at conventions I’ve been to.  In fact, it was almost as though there were a cadre of readings groupies, other readings that I dipped into drawing relatively large audiences too, for which kudos to NASFiC and/or I hope it’s the beginning of a trend.

Then Sunday morning brought “Zombies Over Time and Space,” a more relaxed free-wheeling affair with an audience that didn’t mind our straying into vampires for part of the session (I had pointed out that functionally post-Romero zombies are really vampires, just after solid food rather than liquid, and that he himself had said NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD was meant in part as a homage to Richard Matheson’s I AM LEGEND).  Also touched on were Vodoun and Haitian zombies (the “zombies of folklore”), attempts at scientific explanation including various poisons (e.g. Wade Davis’s THE SERPENT AND THE RAINBOW, the “zombies of science”), the Nineteenth Century New England vampire epidemic, and semi-salacious gossip involving Lord Byron, Percy and Mary Shelly, and other companions.

What I Wasn’t On

There were other panels, including one I had been assigned to at first but then removed from in later schedules, “Writing Diverse Characters of Impact” on Saturday morning, that I still attended.  Others included “Alternate Histories Outside the West,” “Imagining the Impossible” (this primarily about visual art, but of interest to me as having to do with creativity), and “How to Make Religions in Fantasy/SF Stories Real” (also in its own way relating to TOMBS).  In addition, the Opening Ceremonies Thursday night were followed by an “Ice Cream Social” (and as we know, cf. July 7, my being caught in a sudden rain on my way back to the hotel I was staying at), Friday night offered an Artists’ Reception, and Saturday brought an “Alien Abduction Masquerade Party” including food and a live slide show and reading performance of 1976’s “The Capture,” by Robert Aspirin with art by Phil Foglio, depicting an SF convention hijacked by aliens.

The Castillos

Weather for the most part was good, despite brief bouts of rain the first three days. Sunday it was supposed to be rainy in the afternoon, which was to be my free time for exploring the old

El Morro

part of the city and the “San Juan National Historic Site,” but Weather Channel forecasts aside it turned out to be sunny.  Lovely.  So this was the main “adventure” part, including a glance into the huge Cementerio Maria Magdelena de Pazzis outside the city wall to the north, the Cathedral of San Juan, the Plaza Colon (a very nice park, of which there are several, in this case with a statue of Columbus at the top of a pillar but up too high for my camera to reach to), and to the south a walk down the Paseo de la Princesa along San Juan Bay and entering the city through its original main gate.

But the main attractions were the two castillos, that of San Cristobal to the east, dating back to the Seventeenth Century, and a century before that El Morro guarding the bay on the western tip of the city, begun in 1539.  Both fortifications continued to be added onto over the centuries, El Morro ultimately having six separate levels (of which I explored five but skipped the “water battery” at the very bottom, my knees beginning to give out by then), including a lighthouse at the top built (I think) in the early Twentieth Century — and still in use.

And then, Monday morning, I chickened out on taking the city bus (I had come in on the bus, however, through – someone has to say it, yes? – picturesque narrow streets) and hailed a taxi to the airport.  Time to go home.  But, having changed my seat to the left of the airplane the evening before, I did have a brief final look through the window at a tiny Morro Castle to start the trip back to the mainland.
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*”The Wellmaster’s Daughter” can also be found in my collection STRANGE MISTRESSES: TALES OF WONDER AND ROMANCE (for which, click its picture in the center column).

You saw the announcement in part in the comments in yesterday’s post, now hear it in full:  my prize-fight poem, “Godzilla vs King Kong” (see March 29; August 12, 6 2016, et al.), has battled its way to . . . well . . . a three-way tie for third place in this year’s Rhysling contest for best short poem.  That’s not the height of the fighters, mind you, but rather means poems of fewer than fifty lines, and Kong would tell you a third is a third and, even with others included, that’s still a share in the purse.  Or . . . but let’s let the sponsors put it in their own words.

The Rhysling Anthology Editor and Award Chair, David C. Kopaska-Merkel, and the officers of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association are pleased to announce the winners of the 2017 Rhysling Awards.  The organization was founded in 1978 to bring together poets and readers interested in science-fiction poetry.  This year, there is a 3-way tie for Third Place in the Short Poem category.

Each year, the SFPA publishes the Rhysling Anthology, comprised of works nominated by its international membership for the Best Poems of the Year.  The Rhyslings were first established in 1978, named for the blind poet Rhysling in Robert A. Heinlein’s short story “The Green Hills of Earth.”  Rhysling’s skills were said to rival Rudyard Kipling’s.  In real life, Apollo 15 astronauts named a crater near their landing site “Rhysling,” which has since become its official name.

Winning works are regularly reprinted in the Nebula Awards Anthology from the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.  Rhysling Awards are considered in the speculative literature field to be the poetry equivalent of the awards given for prose — achievement awards given to poets by the writing peers of their own field of literature.

The Rhysling Awards will be formally presented at DiversiCon, in St. Paul (Bandana Square Best Western) by SFPA President, Bryan Thao Worra and other members of the SFPA executive committee. All members are welcome to attend the ceremony.

Short Poem
1st:  “George Tecumseh Sherman’s Ghosts”
Marge Simon • Silver Blade 32

2nd:  “Build a Rocketship Contest: Alternative
Class A Instructions and Suggestions”
Wendy Rathbone • Asimov’s SF January

3rd (tie):
“Godzilla vs. King Kong”
James S. Dorr • Dreams and Nightmares 103

“Richard Feynman’s Commute”
Jon Wesick • The Were-Traveler Dec. 21

“The Box of Dust and Monsters”
Beth Davis Cato • Devilfish Review 17

Long Poem
1st :  “Rose Child”
Theodora Goss • Uncanny 13

2nd:  “The Rime of the Eldritch Mariner”
Adam Bolivar • Spectral Realms 5

3rd:  “Not Like This”
Mary Soon Lee • Apex Magazine Aug. 4

For more on the Rhyslings and SFPA one may press here.

Speaking of cats, the Goth Cat Triana is napping happily next to the keyboard, joyful that I have returned home to her.  More of what I did at NASFiC to come, but for now there are items to be caught up on.  And so this first popped up in today’s email from PHOBOS magazine (cf. February 24, et al.):  Good news!  The print edition of “Deep Black Sea” is now up for sale on Amazon!

Apologies for the delay, but I feel confident in saying this is our strongest issue yet, which of course is a result of the high quality stories by everyone present.  Thank you all for being a part of it.  Our next step will be putting out a Kindle version and making it available at select local bookstores. 

In the meantime, feel free to direct anyone interested to the Amazon site — and have them drop a review about how great your story is!  Reviews go a long way, even if it’s not five stars.

So . . . my story in this is a Lovecraftian romp, “The Dark Call of the Sea,” of a summer vacation at Innsmouth gone wrong.  For more, press here — and as quoted above, if you enjoy the issue, or just my story, please give the Amazon folk a review!

Then for a second item, my copy of CAT’S BREAKFAST: KURT VONNEGUT TRIBUTE (cf. June 15, et al.) arrived from Third Flatiron Publishing while I was gone, in a print edition at a (for Third Flatiron) whopping 270-some pages long.  My story in this is “Dead Girls, Dying Girls,” originally published in SO IT GOES:  A TRIBUTE TO KURT VONNEGUT (Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing, 2013, see April 24 2013, et al.), about girls both alive and dead . . . and bears.  More on it can be found here and, should you enjoy, it can be reviewed too.

Received last night, from FANTASIA DIVINITY Editor Madeline L. Stout:  I really enjoyed this story.  I love the twist.  For inclusion in this particular anthology however, it doesn’t really fit.  . . .  Although it doesn’t fit what we are looking for in the anthology, I would like to publish this in our September issue.  Please let me know if that would be something you are interested in.  And so, yes, I emailed back that I would be interested — the money’s not much, but the story, “Flightless Rats,” originally published in T. GENE DAVIS’S SPECULATIVE BLOG on January 12 2015 (see November 30, 26 2014) and starring New Orleanian vampiress Aimée (cf. April 17 2014, et al.), is a reprint and publication is publication, so why not?  Details to be revealed as they become known.

So this is being written on a hotel computer in San Juan Puerto Rico where I arrived MASFiC2017safely yesterday afternoon, checking into NASFiC and attending Opening Ceremonies that night.  More details on the convention will probably wait (except maybe for snippets, like this) to come most likely after I’m back home.  But one note — ah, those tropical weather patterns! — Opening Ceremonies plus a following “Ice Cream Social” over, who would get caught in a sudden, brief rainstorm?  Me, that’s who, who am writing this at the end of a similar rain event Friday morning and must rush back to the convention hotel now.

Again, more to come later.

Today’s serendipity comes to us courtesy of Usman Mlk, via BARNESANDNOBLE.COM (a.k.a. “B&N SCI-FI&FANTASY blog”).  No, TOMBS isn’t on the list, but perhaps it’s in a different category (or possibly not 😉 ).  But to start us off, quoth author Joel Cunningham in “The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Books of 2017 So Far”:  As six-month periods go, the first half of 2017 has certainly been, shall we say, interesting.  But even as the real world works ever harder to convince us that we’re all living inside a genre novel (though what kind will depend on your particular point of view:  sci-fi?  Alt-history?  Dystopian thriller?  Grimdark fantasy?), the authors we rely on to provide us with an escape into fictional worlds continue to up their game.

So I myself may be away from computers later this week, but there’s plenty for us all to busy ourselves with.  For a few suggestions, albeit from one who would love to sell you the books itself, press here.

By the time the first three reviews appeared, I was in the middle of TOMBS.  Later, re-read them and frankly can do no better, as they all appreciated this excellent novel-in-story format.  So begins the fourth review on Amazon just up today, by Margaret B. Boston, on TOMBS: A CHRONICLE OF LATTER-DAY TIMES OF EARTH.  Fortunately, she adds that she will try, continuing on with her own much-appreciated assessment.  She also gives it five stars out of five, as do the other three reviews as well.  To see for yourself (and, perhaps, to buy?) press here.*

Then one other note, as NASFIC approaches the first long-range weather reports for San Juan have been posted.  Highs in the eighties — warm, but not sweltering — and most days with clouds but only Thursday listed as threatening afternoon rain (and that still just a 30 percent chance).  And best of all, no hurricanes in sight.  So, so far so good (though another site warns I’d do well to bring mosquito repellent).
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*To keep myself absolutely honest, not all reviews everywhere have been five-star.  There is one on Goodreads that’s kind of crummy, though all that may mean is not everybody’s tastes are the same (and if you want to see it, no fool I, you’ll have to look up the site for yourself 😉 ).

Most of these are just room assignments, received yesterday in an hour-by-hour schedule of all panels and readings for NorthAmeriCon’17, a.k.a. this year’s NASFiC (see post just below).  One however is a bit more notable in that I seem to have been removed (or probably more accurately someone else added in my place, since I still have four panels plus my reading) from “Writing Diverse Characters of Impact” on Saturday morning.  Not to worry, I still have my reading and “World Building” panel that afternoon, so I’ll still be busy, as well as two panels Friday and one Sunday morning.  But with two exceptions not in the rooms we’d thought they’d be in, so herewith the new schedule of my doings, at least as of this posting:

Friday – 10 a.m. – Bahia 1 – Genre Blending
Friday – 4 p.m. – Bahia 1 – The Critical Eye (moderating)
Saturday – 2:30 p.m. – Sol Boardroom – Reading from TOMBS
Saturday – 3 p.m. – San Cristobal – World Building as More than Background
Sunday – 10 a.m. – Bahia 1 – Zombies Over Time and Space

Then Sunday afternoon look for me in Old San Juan where, weather permitting, I hope to be exploring Morro Castle and Fort San Cristobal.




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