Friday, January 29, 2016

Lou the loser

After spending most of 2015 - the period from April 4 until August 22 - being told I was an worthless hack writer and overall loser by the s-f literary establishment because I was a Sad Puppy nominee for the Hugo awards, I sometimes go and read my entry in the Science Fiction Encyclopedia by John Clute to remind myself I sometimes rise to the level of occasional competency:

"In a spare, swift, convincing narrative style, conveying in a deadpan voice a wide array of sometimes Paranoid suppositions about the world, Antonelli juxtaposes realities with very considerable skill, creating a variety of Alternate Worlds, some of them somewhat resembling the constructions of Howard Waldrop, and making some sharp points about American history, race relations), dreams, and occasional nightmares in which the twentieth century goes wrong."

Curses! Found out again!

I got two rejections today, both from top notch quality magazines. The first said it was "definitely a close one" but the ending was weak, so they would pass.

I have said before, and I will say it again: Good feedback, even with a rejection, resonates with the author. Yep, the editor is right, that story did have a relatively weak ending. But I couldn't come up with a better one - at least right now - so I sent if off and crossed my fingers.

The fact the editor mentions something that already crossed my mind confirms my previous thoughts. Maybe I will come up with a snappier ending in the future.

In the second case, the editor said the story was "thoroughly entertaining" and he personally enjoyed it, but ultimately the tone was too light for the publication. Again, a good call, and good feedback regarding the magazine.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Return of the Brute Squad

Had a funny exchange yesterday at the supermarket.

The cashier looked at me, and said, "You look like somebody. You look familiar."

I said, "I look like a lot of old guys with a beard."

She said. "No, you look like Lou Antonelli."

"I AM Lou Antonelli!"

She started laughing. "I should have looked at your credit card signature!"

We both had a good laugh.

I told my wife later, "The way I answered, I think I sounded like Andre the Giant in 'The Princess Bride'."

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Farewell, David Hartwell

Two weeks ago I was cleaning up and rearranging stuff in a storage shed in my back yard. There are a lot of books and magazines there, and I ran across a small pile of old Astounding magazines from the 1940s - the kind on the real cheap pulp paper that by now has turned very yellow and brittle.

I thought of David Hartwell.

Living in New York state, our paths didn't cross much at the regional conventions I usually attend. I've met David in passing a couple of times at WorldCons, but he was usually surrounded by a gaggle of fellow old pros and I didn't have much of a chance of chat. He always seemed friendly and accessible, though.

Back in 2007, when the NASFIC was in St. Louis, we actually shared a panel - "Lost and Forgotten Writers from the Pulp Fiction Era". This panel Saturday morning was the single panel I enjoyed the most at the convention, and it was well attended.

I brought along some of those old crumbling pulp magazines to display on the table. As it happened, another panelist, Lloyd Kropp, did the same thing. David was on the panel and he had a lot to contribute. I really enjoyed it. We all had a good time, and there was a good interaction with members of the audience. I think everyone enjoyed it.

The magazines I took were all duplicates from when I had bought lots on eBay, so I didn't intend to haul them back to Texas. I said at the conclusion of the panel I would give them away,and when I mentioned this, there was a rush to the table.

David took a copy of Amazing Stories from 1947 that featured The Shaver Mystery. Kropp also took a copy of Amazing, and the rest went to audience members.

David and I chatted briefly after the panel. It was obvious he loved those pulp magazines and knew a lot about the era. I was impressed. I also learned a few other things. I didn't know he grew up in Massachusetts like I did.

Finding the old pulp magazines in the storage shed made me think of David again. Now he's gone.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

ApolloCon suspended

I was saddened to learn today via email that the Houston Science Fiction Association (HSFA) will not be holding ApolloCon this year.

I've been a guest panelist at ApolloCon a number of times - probably four or five - including last year. I always found it well run and fun. I especially enjoyed it last year because my wife Patricia also went.

The people who run cons are volunteers and dedicated, devoted and determined. My hats are off to them! I want to thank all the folks of the HSFA for all the hard work they did over the years for ApolloCon. They deserve a break. I hope they have lots of fun events in the future.

This is the second con I've attended multiple times over the years that has suspended. I still miss Conestoga, which used to be held in Tulsa.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Done right

Back on Jan. 13 I wrote about my feelings about "constructive criticism". Today I was reading through some old emails and found a message I sent to a reviewer back in 2011 who had written about my novelette "Dispatches From the Troubles" published in GUD (Greatest U. Denominator) No. 6.

"I just wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed your review of Issue No. 6 of GUD at SF Site in May, and - of course - my story "Dispatches from the Troubles." It was a dense and complicated story; you obviously read it thoroughly and "got it" (believe me, not all reviewers read what they review carefully). You seemed to enjoy it overall, and even your criticisms were valid ("damn, he found me out!")."

I just thought I print this to highlight that there are reviews that are valid and insightful, and and even when noting shortcomings they can be helpfu

Saturday, January 16, 2016

"You've sentenced yourself to a life of bitterness and frustration, like me..."

Back in 2004, I traveled to Austin on newspaper business. Our local high school girls basketball team was playing in the state tournament. They won their semi-final game on Thursday, which meant they would play in the state final match-up Saturday. That meant I had time to kill that Friday.
I have always admired Howard Waldrop's fiction, and I knew he lived in Austin, so I had the idea to look him up and meet him in person.
Howard was home and I got to meet him in person for the first time, a meeting recounted by his foreword in my first collection, "Fantastic Texas".
Now, a year and a half earlier I had started to write and submit spec fic, and I had submitted 16 stories to Gardner Dozois at Asimov's (a process which is documented in my book "Letters to Gardner").
Howard said if Gardner was writing personal feedback on rejections, it meant he felt he would probably eventually buy something from me. Of course, I assumed he was just being nice, but the next week, while back home, I received Gardner's acceptance of "A Rocket for the Republic".
I wrote Howard and told him meeting him had brought me good luck. He later dropped me this postcard. I recently found it in a drawer while cleaning up a messy storage shed, and thought I'd share it.
If you have trouble reading Howard's handwriting, this is what it says:
"Dear Lou,
"Congratulations on the sale to Gardner. (You were already getting rejection letters - it was only a matter of time, whether you came to Austin or not!) ou've sentenced yourself to a life of bitterness and frustration, like me..
"Way to go!
"Yer pal,
"Howard"
Howard is a great writer, a nice guy, and it also seems, a clairvoyant.
In any case, I post the front and back of the postcard for you viewing pleasure.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

On constructive criticism

The news that Lois Tilton has resigned from reviewing for Locus reminds me to mention my personal theory about constructive criticism:

There's no such thing.

Criticism is criticism - it's always some kind of fault-finding, and it's always personal, because some person did or created what you are criticizing.

The fact it's so common doesn't mean its helpful or even useful.

I've always felt criticism should be an internal process; rather than just lazily blurt out the problem you see, analyze the problem, and then offer a solution.

That's called advice.

The criticism is implicit in the advice, but when you're at least trying to be helpful, the subject can skate past the fault-finding and go straight to improvement.

Many people also criticize others for things which are really matters of personal taste. If you go on a date, and you order chocolate ice cream for dessert, and your date asks for strawberry, you don't jump up and shout:

"You're a complete idiot! How can you like strawberry ice cream! What a sorry little asshole you are!"

Of course, those of you who follow science fiction these days know most criticism sounds like this. That kind of reaction is the product of privilege, from people with a very limited world view who have grown up never hearing anyone disagree with them because of their political, social or financial privilege.

Last year most of the criticism of Hugo nominated works was done in bad faith from people who simply deep down don't like the fact the authors existed at all. The fact they weren't aware or couldn't acknowledge their preconceived biases is immaterial.

Most of the reviews of my short story "On a Spiritual Plain" boiled down to "The premise sucks, and it's a weak story, and it's badly written, and Lou Antonelli is a miserable human being, anyhow."

Occasionally I was surprised by some genuinely thoughtful reviews. Any author worth his salt will recognize VALID criticisms. For example, saying a story of mine relies too much on dialogue and first person narration is valid; I lean on that a lot, and it indicates a weakness in my writing skills.

But IMHO, overall most so-called constructive criticism I hear simply reminds me (having been raised a Catholic) of original sin. Deep down, we're all sinners, and it's something we all have to fight constantly - to do good and help people, and improve the world.

Constructive criticism is usually just a justification for hatefulness.

Saturday, January 09, 2016

The Week in Review

Wednesday, Jan. 6, was a double anniversary - it was my 59th birthday, and also the first anniversary of my starting work as managing editor of The Clarksville Times.

It was also a good day because I signed a contract for the publication of my short story, "The Milky Way Dance Hall", in an anthology off new and reprint young adult science fiction, fantasy and horror stories in which choices play a pivotal role in the outcome of the story, featuring stories by top YA authors and star authors not typically known for YA as well as up and comers.

My story is one of five original stories in "Decision Points", and there are 13 reprints, including a special version of Orson Scott Card's never before anthologized "The War of Gifts," an Ender story.

Bryan Thomas Schmidt has put together the anthology to be published by WordFire Press.

I also received two story payments on Wednesday, so my wife ad I went to dinner for my birthday using my PayPal debit card. Strangely enough the two payments arrived within 12 minutes of each other.

As the week went on, I got progressively sicker with a cold. I stayed home entirely on Thursday, but Friday I went to a luncheon organizing meeting of the new Lions Club in Clarksville.

When I divulged I am a former Lions Club member and a past president, they named me president of the new Clarksville Club. So that's how the week ended.

I'm still fighting the cold today, and drinking Earl Grey Tea - quite a departure for me, since I am a heavy coffee drinker. But I think I'm on the mend.

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Well, some great news on my birthday!

I am proud and excited to announce that I have signed a contract with Bryan Thomas Schmidt for the publication of my short story "The Milky Way Dance Hall" to be published in an anthology coming out this year from WordFire Press.

"Decisions Points" is a star-studded young adult anthology of science fiction, fantasy, and horror stories wherein character choice plays a major role.

It will feature new stories from Jonathan Maberry, Nnedi Okorafor, Jody Lynn Nye, KD McEntire, Kate Corcino as well as myself.

It will also include a never before anthologized Ender story from Orson Scott Card, and more reprints from Robert J. Sawyer, Cory Doctorow, Kevin J. Anderson, Lois McMaster Bujold, Robert Silverberg, Steven Gould, Rebecca Moesta, Beth Davis Cato, Alethea Kontis, Eugene Myers, Mike Resnick and Jennifer Brozek.

Needless to say, this looks to be one of the best anthologies of 2016, and I'm looking forward to it - as should you!

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

The Year in Review in the rear view mirror

Back on Dec. 31 I posted a short Year in Review, which mostly consisted of reviewing what a miserable year it was for us financially, with a paragraph at the end noting how much the Hugo nomination hurt.

Mike Glyer, the Lavrenty Beria of the s-f establishment (look it up), pulled out that last part and posted it his web site, File 770. I didn’t get savaged too badly, but I thought I’d run through a few of the comments:

The original post on File 770 on Jan. 2:
(13) YEAR IN REVIEW. Like on that game show, Lou Antonelli delivers the answer in the form of a question: ”2015? The Year in Review?” at This Way to Texas.
“And then, what I would have thought would be be a great thing, being nominated for the Hugo award twice, turned out to be the worst thing that ever happened in my life. But it helped me realize that, in the end, I really only write for myself and friends, and in literature – as in other things in life – trying to please other people is the fast track to misery.”

Teresa Nielsen Hayden:
“I doubt this is true or even possible, and if it is, it’s certainly not undeserved; but Antonelli doesn’t hesitate to baste himself in self-pity. He got two Hugo nominations, lo how he suffers!

To which Hampus Eckerman replied:
“I actually believe this might be how he feels and I see absolutely no reason to denigrate a person for feeling miserable, regardless of if it might have been deserved or not. Antonelli is human and it must have been a terrible situation for him where badly miscalculated the reactions of the Worldcon fandom and also managed to create a horrible PR catastrophes right before which severely damaged his reputation.
“I guess he now feels that his career has been damaged, possibly with no chance of recuperation and it is absolutely something he is allowed to feel miserable about.

RedWombat followed up::
“He’s certainly allowed to feel miserable, and in isolation, the blog post does nothing to indicate how much responsibility he feels for that….miscalculation.
“In…ah…gestalt, I’d be surprised if he took any responsibility for his part in it, but I suppose he could surprise me. I do hope his next year is better–regardless of how much of an ass he’s been, financial instability sucks. But I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t give his commentary a little bit of a side-eye, considering.

Teresa Nielsen Hayden comes back:
“Hampus, I’d feel more sympathetic if I hadn’t watched Antonelli and the other Pups repeatedly go way out of their way to misinterpret friendly-to-neutral fannish input as further evidence of their martyrdom. They insist on it, even when doing so requires that they flat-out contradict known and easily checked facts.
“When people work that hard to embrace that unlikely a conclusion, I start doubting that it hurts, or that they don’t want to reach it.

Lexica then said:
“If getting nominated for two Hugos and not winning is the worst thing that’s happened to Lou Antonelli, I envy him.

Hampus Eckerman replied:
“Here is the thing. I’m as much as for smacking down on bad behaviour as anyone else. But this was a post from Antonelli on a very bad year that cost both him and his wife financially. It was also a post that did not attack anyone else.
“It was a post about the Hugos without lashing out. Without putting blame on others. A post only about how the experience left him feeling miserable. And I think it is ok to write those posts without getting snarky comments back.
“If it had been the usual puppy nonsense with attacking absolutely everyone else, yes, then snark would have been appropriate. But I don’t like attacking people when they’re down.

Then McJulie weighs in:
“If Mr. Antonelli is going through hard times money or healthwise, I’m sorry for his troubles. But if he wants sympathy because he just feels really bad now about the fact that his former bad actions have led him to a worse place in his life… I’m not willing to grant that.

So here are my comments by way of a follow-up:

Teresa Nielsen Hayden seems to think getting even a Hugo nomination is a big deal. Well, maybe once, but not anymore, and certainly not after 2015. Vox Day is in the process of destroying the award, and Nielsen Hayden and her chums are cooperating magnificently. I respected and admired the award once, also, but the way things are preceding, I doubt it will be around along much longer, and its respectability is already destroyed.
So, yes, catching a lot of shit over a worthless award was the worst thing that happened in my life, especially when you factor in my disappointment.

Hampus Eckerman seemed to embrace a small flicker of humanity in that pixeled cesspool, and “got it”. I’m impressed.

Finally, I made my original comments simply as s statement of fact, certainly not looking for sympathy. Like I have said in the past, don’t ever go on the internet looking for sympathy.


Saturday, January 02, 2016

Here's my end-of-the-year roundup -

My publications in 2015 were as follows:
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"The Cookie Crumbles" - ConDFW XIV Souvenir Program Book, February 2015:

A short story that supposes that all American businesses are controlled by one secret organization,and that the real reason there has been such an anti-smoking campaign for the past 50 years is because R.J. Reynolds defied that control. In an alternate reality, it was Nabisco, and cookies are subject of the health-directed efforts, not tobacco.
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"The Grove of Curiosities" - 4 Star Stories, No. 14:

"A tale of a want-to-be Squire who, equipped only with his wits and sense of honor, embarks on a quest that may cost him his life" - http://www.4starstories.com/4StarStories_Archiv…/story_1.htm
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"Cerulean Dream" - Tales of the Talisman, Vol. X No. 3:

"Hurricane Katrina had a far-reaching impact for New Orleans and the country. Lou Antonelli shows us the impact it had on mermaids." - http://www.talesofthetalisman.com/Tales10-3-TOC.html
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“The Queen of the Lesser Gods" - C Spot magazine, June 2015:

Mythological creatures are not gods or monsters, but survivors.
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“Would Olympus Fall” – Ruins Excavations anthology, Nov. 2015:

An archaeologist digs for lost Aztec gold in a post-collapse America.
http://www.amazon.com/Ruins-Excavation-Eric-T-…/…/0989263169
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“Port Radium” – Tales from the Otherverse anthology, Nov. 2015.

An alternate history: "What if Douglas MacArthur had been a German general during WWII?"
http://www.amazon.com/Tales-Otherverse-James-…/…/B018CQF05I…

I think "Port Radium" is a decent alternate history, "Cerulean Dream" can be considered either fantasy or s-f (depending how you hold it up to the light) and "Would Olympus Fall" a good near-future story.

If anyone would like to read any of my stories published in 2015, just PM me and I'll get you a copy.
Hope your new year is going well.

Friday, January 01, 2016

2015? The Year in Review?

Honestly, one of the worst years in our lives. I was fired on Jan. 2 after working as managing editor of the local paper for seven and a half years - the last half year with new owners. But I assumed at some point the new owners would want their own person in the job, so I had some contingency plans, and I was working at another newspaper by Jan. 6 - but with a big drop in pay. I made up a lot of that decrease with a part-time editing job, but that ended in the fall.

My wife was forced to resign as a teacher - the local school district is pretty much a hiring agency for locals, and she was treated so shitty she couldn't take it any more. She found another job, too, but again, with a big drop in pay.

As the year ends, we are making 58 percent of what we were at the start of the year - so we're struggling financially.

And then, what I would have thought would be be a great thing, being nominated for the Hugo award twice, turned out to be the worst thing that ever happened in my life. But it helped me realize that, in the end, I really only write for myself and friends, and in literature - as in other things in life - trying to please other people is the fast track to misery.

On the positive side, the odds are probably pretty good that 2016 will be a better year - that won't be hard to do.

I will post a list of my publications in 2015 in another post later today, since that is also something traditionally done at year's end. I had six short stories published, some of them - I'd like to think - that were pretty good.

The time I stepped on Brian Aldiss

Word has come that the great British science fiction author Brian Aldiss has passed away at the age of 92. After such a long and distingui...