Sunday, May 31, 2015

Still an honor

Those of us who feel the Hugo award is an honor well worth pursuing, such a myself, probably feel some resentment - as I do - towards those Sad Puppy "fellow travelers" who have made statements indicating they want to burn down or destroy the awards.

Folks, if you don't like the award, then why allow yourself to be nominated in the first place? I mean, we can all differ on the meaning, usefulness or value of an award, but if you don't even believe in it - why bother? It's a free country, which means we all have the right of free association. Nobody forced you to participate in the Hugo process.

At the very least, bear in mind - in light of the hostility that the Puppy effort has engendered - how your comments hurt those of use who would be proud and pleased to win one of the awards. Heck, I'm still proud to have been nominated, regardless how it turned out.

The "let it burn" folks on the Puppy side are, to my mind, the corresponding opposite of the "No Award everything!' side on the anti side. I suspect the vast majority of people who care about the subject are in the vary large middle territory.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Latest developments

It's always nice to get an enthusiastic short story acceptance. Lakeside Circus Editor-in-Chief Carrie Cuinn wrote "We loved 'Message Found Written on an End Roll of Newsprint' and would like to publish it in our next issue..."

I accepted the contract via an on-line form, and dropped a signed copy of the contract in today's mail. The next issue of Lakeside Circus should be coming out in late summer.

That's the fifth story I have pending publication so far for this year. I've had 93 published so far, so that would bring me up to 98.

I also received an invite from Sasquan, the 73rd annual World Science Fiction Convention, to participate in the programming. I have accepted and filled out my program survey.


Thursday, May 28, 2015

Kansas City chronicles - ConQuest 46

Normally, making such a long drive to attend a convention - my odometer told me it was a 996-mile round trip - would have been near impossible, but I took all day Friday (which is a slow day at work - the office normally closes at noon, anyway) and all day Monday (which was a holiday - the job was closed) to do it. Ultimately, the biggest problem turned out to be the thunderstorms I encountered in Oklahoma on the Indian Nation Turnpike both Friday and Monday afternoon. My first panel wasn't until 10 a.m. Saturday, so I could take my time Friday getting there.

By the time I confirmed I would be able to attend, the hotel's convention rooms were sold out. I instead came up with a plan to save some money, I stayed three nights at a Motel 6 at Prairie View Road and 83rd Street. This is north of the city near the airport. There's a bus line that goes from the airport down to 56th Street and Prairie View, and then hits the highway and goes straight into downtown. That's how I got to the Marriott downtown. My plan worked like a charm, I spent maybe $170 for three nights, and the bus fare was only $1.60 each trip. I avoided having to travel and park downtown in a city I'd never visited before.

The Heinlein "Good Old Stuff" I picked up at the ConQuest auction.
I had five panels Saturday, so I kept busy. I met a few people I haven't seen in a while, such as Robin Wayne Bailey, Bryan Thomas Schmidt and Allison Stein. I was on three panels with Bailey, and we also had a nice chat in the dealers' room about the work of Frank M. Robinson, who Robin said was his "adopted grandfather". Two of my panels were chaired by Schmidt, and we also got caught up somewhat. I last saw Allison in Oklahoma City last year at SoonerCon, and she was on the panel I chaired Sunday about the movie "Metropolis". She was nice enough to take my photo sitting on the mock-up of The Iron Throne in the dealers' room.

Speaking of the Iron Throne, George R.R. Martin was a guest at the convention, and the word in the halls was that his presence seemed to have boosted attendance. It was the wisdom that some people registered for the convention just so they could attend his book signing - whose line ran the length of the second floor of the hotel and back again. I'm sure ConQuest didn't mind any potential extra income.

I also met a few people I'd never met in the flesh before, such as Eric Reynolds, whose Hadley Rille books is publishing the "Ruins Excavations" anthology later this year. It includes my short story "Would Olympus Fall". Eric suffered a stroke last year and is in physical therapy now. He looked good but a bit frail, and I met him as he was slowly walking and taking therapy in a hall. He's a nice fellow and it was good to see him. I also met Rich Horton for the first time; we shared a panel.

One of the unanticipated highlights of the convention came at the  fundraising auction at 2 p.m. Sunday. I happened through the auction items on display just a few hours earlier and saw a neat lot of Robert Heinlein paperbacks, a dozen in all. Some were literally coming apart, but they were "The Good Old Stuff".

The titles are "Revolt in 2100", "The Puppet Masters", "The Green Hills of Earth", "The Man Who Sold the Moon",  "Orphans of the Sky", "Podkayne of Mars", "The Day After Tomorrow", "Farmer in the Sky", "Citizen of the Galaxy", "Starman Jones", "Between Planets" and "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress". All except the last were from the '50s and '60s.

I probably overpaid, based on the condition of the books, but I shelled out $45 to take them home.

I was a bit surprised at the spontaneous expressions of support I received at the convention from people sympathetic to the Sad Puppies cause. Although the party line narrative is to vilify the dissident movement, it's not quite as unfashionable among the rank-and-file fans, it seems. I went to the convention with a half dozen copies of "Letters from Gardner" - that's all I had on hand - and despite not having a signing, I sold them all. Some of the people claimed they only learned about the book because of the Pupps, and as a result of the discussion were supportive. At one panel I got a clenched first "Go Pupps!" salute.

Attendance at the panels I was on was a bit spotty. Of the seven I had all weekend, four had at least a two dozen people, two had a dozen, and two had a half dozen. Attendance definitely seemed to drop off towards Sunday. My reading was at 3 p.m. Sunday and I wondered whether I should skip it because nobody would be there. But three hardy souls attended. All either already had bought copies of "Letters" or wanted to buy one. I ran out of copies and missed a sale - authors hate when that happens.

I read "On a Spiritual Plain", and I was done with my programming just after 3:30 p.m.

One of the practical things I did while at the convention was upgrade my membership for SasQuan from supporting to attending. They offered a $20 discount if it was done at the con. I also had a nice chat with the people at the table. I told them of my belief, because of the mob mentality being fostered by some people against the Pupps, that they should just announce the winners and forget the dinner. But they are aware of the possibility of unpleasantness and plan to keep a tight rein on things. I wish them luck. I hope I get out of Spokane in one piece.

One person I ran into at the con said he has suggested that, to prevent catcalls, boos and jeering, that the Hugo committee announce in advance which categories will not have an award this year, and the ceremony only deal with the presentations to winners. That sounds like a good idea, also.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Pilgrimage to Butler (or how Robert Heinlein's ghost pranked me)

When I drove on Friday Kansas City to attend ConQuest, I noticed that Butler, Missouri - the birthplace of Robert Heinlein - was on the way. I decided that on the way back I would stop and visit the house where he was born in 1907.

Monday morning I pulled off southbound Hwy. 71 and drove into Butler. The city has a few small signs noting the direction to the house, and I found it fairly easily. It is located at 805 North Fulton Street; a sign - which apparently once hung from a post - marking the spot ("Birthplace of Robert Heinlein, Dean of Science Fiction writers") was propped up against the bottom of the porch.

I took the obligatory selfie - which was hard to do because the sign was so low to the ground - and then hopped back into my car to continue the journey home.

Crank. Grind. It wouldn't turn over!

I was completely shocked, because the car hadn't given me a lick of trouble all weekend. It sounded fine, but wouldn't kick in.

I said, "Bob, if this is a prank, it's not funny!"

I kept trying. No dice. I have AAA, so I placed a call.

An hour later a nice young man from Don's Towing showed up. He couldn't start it, either, so he towed it to the shop. Being Memorial Day, it was closed of course.

I was looking forward to staying overnight at a local motel and having the car attended to on Tuesday. When I went to retrieve my bags, just for grins I turned the key one last time.

It started.

"It's a miracle!," said the tow truck operator.

I thanked the fellow for the tow, and took back off. I made it fine the rest of the trip.

Now, there were a few times along the way the car seemed to sputter, in a way that made me think maybe I had tanked up with some bad gas in Kansas City. Indeed, after filling up again later in the day, it ran normally and I made it home in one piece, Southern Oklahoma thunderstorms notwithstanding.

I guess that's what happened.

Or maybe Bob Heinlein wanted to teach me a lesson.

One last note: I already posted this photo on my Facebook page. A Brazilian fan, Fl├ívio Medeiros Jr. commented "I can see a ghost looking through that window."

Maybe you can, too.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Off to ConQuest

I'll be on the road most of today (Friday) driving to Kansas City for ConQuest 46. My first panel is 10 a.m. Saturday, so I have all day. It's pretty much a straight shot north from where I live in East Texas, but it's almost 500 miles.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Cue Wilbert Harrison

My schedule for this weekend at ConQuesT Kansas City's Original Science Fiction Convention, with fellow panelists listed:

Saturday 10:00 AM Tips and Traps: Navigating the World of Short Story Submission
Jack Campbell, Jr., Steven X. Davis, Lezli Robyn

Saturday 1:00 PM Predicting Future Governments or Societies
Jan S. Gephardt, Victoria L’Ecuyer, Dr. Stan

Saturday 2:00 PM Space Opera: Then and Now
Bryan Thomas Schmidt, Robin Wayne Bailey, Rich Horton, Jim Yelton

Saturday 4:00 PM Are We First, Alone, or Screwed?--How Have New Discoveries Changed How We Look at the Fermi Paradox?
Thomas Trumpinski, Robin Wayne Bailey, H.G. Stratman

Saturday 5:00 PM Why indie bookstores are on the rise again?
Brent Bowen, Zo Allen, Dennis Young

Sunday 10:00 AM The Burden of "Metropolis" (M)
Jean Corbin, Jude Marie Green, Allison Stein

Sunday 12:00 PM Editors Are Not The Enemy
Bryan Thomas Schmidt, Chris Gerrib, Robin Wayne Bailey, Clair Ashgrove

Sunday 3:00 PM Reading

Thursday, May 14, 2015

The slush pile

I didn't write any new short stories the first four months of the year while I was engrossed in writing my novel "Another Girl, Another Planet".  A week ago I began to get back to writing short fiction again. On May 6 I wrote and sent off a new story, "The Yellow Flag" - only 1,800 words - that was bought immediately by Jason Rennie at Sci-Phi Journal, who published my Hugo-nominated "On a Spiritual Plain" last year. The amazing fact was that it was only four hours from when I started the story until I submitted it and heard back from Jason. That' got to be some kind of record.

I also wrote - that same day - a flash piece which was sent off to Analog as a Probability Zero submission. I think it's obvious some story ideas were bottled up and ready to be poured out.

Since then I've caught up on my submissions, logging in all the rejections that came in since January and finding the stories new homes. Right now I have a total of 17 stories in various slush piles.

One thing I noticed, as I went back and updated my submissions log, was that my submissions turnaround seemed to slow down in the last quarter of last year. Looking back, I realized how little free time I had because the corporate drone who I was working for was working me so hard. The Mount Pleasant Daily Tribune was bought by a newspaper chain last summer, and one of the little tricks and dirty secrets of these types of operations is that they give their employees workloads that simply can't be accomplished in 40 hours, in effect making the journalists work off the clock. I think the publisher was working me to the nub hoping I'd quit, but I'm pretty stubborn and he had to finally fire me on Jan. 2.

During the last half of last year I had very little free time, an it shows in my submissions log. In the period from September 2014 until the end of the year I wrote only one short story. It's also clear from the various dates and the apparent lag times how busy I was.

Saturday, May 09, 2015

Thoughts over coffee and (turkey) sausage

Even some of the harshest critics of "On a Spiritual Plain" have admitted the core idea was clever and/or original. The most common complaint - and let's face it, a lot of people go into their reviews with a bias because of the Sad Puppies involvement - was that it was "poorly executed".

One follow up comment to such a review said "I'd be interested to see how this could have been handled by a more competent writer." You know what? I agree! But I'm the one who stuck his neck out, took the chance, and made the effort. I did the best I could, at the time and under the circumstances. It's very seldom anyone writes a story where people sit back after reading and say, "This could not have been done any possibly better." There is always room for improvement!

Every story I write is a step on the path towards becoming a better writer. The stuff I write this year shows improvement from the stuff I wrote last year, or ten years ago, for that matter. I believe that as long as you're alive, you're learning. Once you stop learning and growing, you start dying. We're all going to die eventually. So many people in life are always to late to everything, but they get a head start on dying by losing their enjoyment of learning, and their sense of wonder.

I feel sorry for people who, because of social and clan bonds, miss so much of the enjoyment of life. I guess there' s an advantage of coming from poor immigrant stock. I never had anything to live up to.

I think if people would just stop checking authors' resumes first and read the stories, they might find some great stuff out there. They might also enjoy not having to do contortions to justify reading some fiction they are supposed to like because of social, political and religious prequalifications.

Thursday, May 07, 2015

Some surprises

Some people who have gone into reviews of stories that made the Hugo ballot through the efforts of the Sad Puppies have an obvious bias and start off with a bad attitude, but I've seen at a couple of cases where, in these reviews, aspects of "On a Spiritual Plain" surprised them

For example:

"I have to admit that I was surprised to find this kind story on both of the Puppy slates. Their mission statement was to bring manly fun and rousing adventure back to SFF, but instead they offer here a calm and quiet story...."

and

I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the chaplain, although a Methodist, serves all the Terran religions on the planet.  After the death of the second man, a Hindu, the chaplain "called up a copy of the Bhagavata Purana and read it."  ... The Sad Puppies are on record as disliking calls for diversity in fiction, but, as this story shows, perhaps there's a little leeway here."


Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Some kind of record

Since I've spent the first four months of the year writing my novel, I thought it was about time to get back to writing short fiction. I banged out my first new story of 2015 yesterday.

And I've already sold it - 1,800 words to a respectable semi-pro magazine that pays five cents a word.
The most amazing part is the elapsed time from when I started writing to acceptance:

Four hours.

Now a few points:

1. I do write fast. That's a virtue I acquired from being a journalist. The actual writing took an hour and a half.

2. I am a pantser, and I tend to write in bursts of inspiration.

3. 1,800 words is not very long, and easy enough to proof and check quickly.

4. I had a particular market in mind as soon as I sat down to write.

5. Electronic submissions DO speed up the process.

Still, I even impressed myself.

Monday, May 04, 2015

Reach out and insult somebody

The official announcement of the nominations for the 2015 Hugo awards was made on April 4, so its been a month since then, Gee, time flies when you're having fun.

One thing I've learned in the past month is that, thanks to the wonders of the latest technology and the internet, someone you don't know and have never met, who may live thousands of miles away, can call you an "asshole" in public.

Sunday, May 03, 2015

"Another Girl, Another Planet"

It took four months, working at night and on weekends, but my retro-futurist alternate history, "Another Girl, Another Planet", is done and submitted to a publisher.

Thanks to my beta readers, Stoney Compton, John Alexander Husisian and Gabe Smith.

Saturday, May 02, 2015

The (type) written word

Ok, to mark the occasion of the Hugo voting, I am going to do something a little different. I have found the start of my Hugo-nominated "On a Spiritual Plain" that I typed at a table in the dealers' alley at the GalaxyFest convention in February 2013. I banged out 12 pages on my Smith-Corona Classic 12 portable manual typewriter before heading back to Texas.

Once home, I scanned the 12 pages and converted them to text, and completed the story in Microsoft Word. Here's my idea: Since there are 12 weeks until the end of the Hugo voting period, each week from now until the end of July I am going to give away one of the original typewritten pages. You can compare each page with that passage in the completed story, if you wish. You can just stare at the page and wonder at obsolete technology.

If you want to be considered this week, just like this post or make a comment below. I will announces the first winner next Saturday, May 9. If you are the lucky winner, I will personally sign and mail the page to you!

I will start on Page 12 and work my way forward, so on July 31st I will send off the title page.

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