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

Latest reviews

"It’s possible that you haven’t run into the stories of Lou Antonelli. Since 2003, he’s been publishing delightful short tales of alternate history all over the nooks and crannies of the SF world. Thanks to Fantastic Books, we now have 28 of these little gems in one place. "Many of Antonelli’s stories have an unexpected twist ending. And many of them are what he calls “secret history” stories, which aren’t exactly alternate history—they’re set in our familiar history, but there’s always some element that contemporary observers missed. " -

- Don Sakers, The Reference Library, Analog July-Aug. 2014

A better path develops for a distraught man in “Double Exposure” by Lou Antonelli (debut 6/11 and reviewed by Frank D). Jake is about to end it all. He has been trying to keep his high maintenance wife happy for decades and has needed to embezzle to satisfy her spending habits. Now, on the verge of indictment and abandoned by his spouse, he buys a gun. Before he pulls the trigger, he spies a Kodak one-day photo hut. Curious, he pulls up to the window. They are holding pictures of him and his last girlfriend from 30 years before. The package is a lot thicker than it should be. Double Exposure” is listed as an Alternative History story but I would classify it as a Magical Realism tale. It is set as a second chance tale, a look into a life that should have been. The author is inspired by his memories of the old photo huts (I remember them) and of their disappearance. A cool idea (photos of another life), one that I could imagine would make for a great anthology.

- Frank Dutkiewicz, Diabolical Plots

“Great White Ship”: A traveler stuck waiting for a flight strikes up a conversation with an old airline employee. The Old Timer tells him a story of a Great White Airship that arrives from a most unusual destination. The story of a craft from an alternate reality and how it got there is only the precursor to the final act. This is one of my favorite stories from this site. I have a great passion for lighter-than-air craft and their potential as a future means of transport, which opens the story. The author uses this speculation to launch into an engaging tale. As fascinating as the main story line is, the alternate history premise that accompanies it is just as worthwhile. This story was well written and very well thought out. It is well worth the read. Recommended.

- James Hanzelka, Diabolical Plots

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