Wednesday, August 26, 2015

George R. R. Martin thinks I’m an asshole

George R.R. Martin has posted a long-winded history of “his” Hugo Loser’s Party, leading up to his explanation of why he decided to throw an invite-only private party at a rented historic mansion in Spokane last Saturday.

His rationale boils down to:

1. I’m rich and I can; and

2. I didn’t want to rub elbows with the riff-raff.

I ran into George at the “official” reception, and asked him about a non-Hugo related subject, an article I did last spring regarding his donation of a rare first edition of “The Hobbit” to the Texas AQ&M University Library System. He essentially blew me off; I realize now he was only there to find his chums and hand them the private invites. Of course, I had no idea what he was up to. And of course, he didn’t stop to hand me an invite. But I mean, if you read his blog post – I hardly think I would have been happy there.

In his blog post, at one point he says:

“Some who were not invited. NO ASSHOLES, the invite warned. We had a small list, and no, I won't tell you the names on it... but we wanted this party to be about joy and celebration and togetherness…”

Jeez, George, I may not be the smartest kid in class, but it’s easy to tell my name was on your Asshole list. You know what? At least I didn’t forget my working class roots.

Over the years, people have made up cute little explanations of what “R.R.” stands for. “Railroad” is one; thanks to your proclivity for writing sexual violence into your fantasy sagas, “Rape. Rape” has become another one.

Now I see they stand for “Rolls Royce”. Despite your sanctimonious protestations of being “just a fan who wants to have fun”, in the end you’re just another rich snob.

If I live to be 100 and die with a billion dollars in the bank (highly unlikely) I will never betray my working class roots like you did.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Setting the record straight

Some people have said I'm mad because David Gerrold snubbed me at Sasquan. That's not true - I'm not mad that he snubbed me, because he didn't.

He did offer to buy me a beer, but that I guess was little more than a rhetorical flourish. I'm sure he was very busy. It think it would have made a great photo, the pair of us quaffing brews - it might have even helped show some kind of reconciliation was possible. A missed opportunity, perhaps?

Bumping into him in the hallway outside an elevator, I absent-mindedly and rather spontaneously went to shake his hand. He refused, saying "I may have accepted your apology, but I haven't forgiven you." Realizing my faux pas, I turned tail and took off.

That's not a snub, that's him exercising his personal rights. He doesn't have to be nice to me, and he wasn't rude, just firm. I may have other complaints about how some things were done, but a beer and handshake weren't two of them.

Some of the usual suspects have claimed I denied being a Sad Puppy. That's a lie.

I was not an organizer, but I accepted Sad Puppy support. In retrospect, that was a mistake, but hindsight is 20/20. I would not renounce the Puppies because I would not be bullied, and it would seem I was denying the credibility of my work. Both my short story and book were good - perhaps not award winning, but that's always a valid estimation.

But I think it's the height of arrogance to expect someone to abase himself in the way the Puppy Kickers wanted.

It IS true that I will not participate in Sad Puppies 4, and I think it's a bad idea, but you know what? I can't tell other people what to do. If some of the Puppy Kickers learned that simple truth, a lot of the animosity generated this year could have been avoided.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Back from Sasquan

I've returned home from Spokane and the Hugo Awards ceremony, also known as (with a nod to Joan Baez and also The Band) The Night They Burned the Hugos Down.

Some thoughts:

The usual suspects proved Larry Correia right as he claimed they were a tight inbred little social clique, by the way they reacted to the Sad Puppies. George R.R. Martin's private invite-only "real" post-Hugo reception at an expensive rented historic mansion certainly clinched that.

They proved Vox Day right when they nuked five of the most important Hugo categories rather than let "the wrong kind of people" win them. He said they'd do that all along, destroying the credibility of the award, and they did.

They proved Lou J Berger wrong as he handed his "We are all fans" ribbons at Sasquan. No, we're obviously not, and the people who cheered for No Awards at the Hugo ceremony proved that. I threw Berger's ribbon in the trash as I left the hotel, along with all the others and my badge. No reason to bring home bad memories.

Yes, you literary snobs, you got what you wanted. Happy now? Feel better? Wonderful.

Rather than run the risk of rubbing elbows with any undesirables at the Hugo Losers Party, George R.R. Martin rented a historic Spokane mansion Saturday for his private party. For a poor kid from Bayonne, he sure grew up to be a rich snob,didn't he?

The official Sasquan post-Hugo reception was labeled "The Lamest Hugo Reception Ever" on the ticket while the private soiree hosted by George R.R. Martin was called "The One True Hugo Losers Party". Pretty clear message, huh? Were there actually any Hugo losers at George's private bash? I certainly didn't get an invite.

Oh, to set the record straight about that letter I wrote to the Spokane Police Chief:

It was a personal letter expressing fears I had. It was not a report, formal or otherwise; it was not a complaint. People who state I filed a false police report or complaint to the Spokane Police Department are lying.

If I could be charged with filing a false police report, as they suggest, then I will make another stupid countercharge back that they tried to interfere with a police investigation, or report. Those are also crimes. Of course, all of these are bullshit.

The use of the term "swatting" is, of course, ludicrous. However, I'm sure had any Sad Puppies won any Hugos Saturday night, a bomb threat would have cleared out the performance hall in ten minutes.


Sunday, August 16, 2015

Just for the record

I post here my bibliography of all the short stories I've had published in 12 years:

2003
"Silvern" - ''RevolutionSF'', June 2003
"Silence is Golden" - ''RevolutionSF'', August 2003 *
“Comes the Juju Man" - ''GateWay'' science fiction, December 2003
"S*P*P*A*M*" - ''Bewildering Stories'', December 2003

2004
"Rome, If You Want To" - ''Surprising Stories'', May 2004
“Pen Pal" - ''RevolutionSF'', July 2004 *
“I Got You" - ''Bewildering Stories'', July 2004 *
“Flash, Boom, Bam - A Flash Anthology)" - ''Bewildering Stories'', July 2004
"Doppelgangster" - ''Bewildering Stories'', September 2004
"Double-Crossing the Styx" - ''Continuum Science Fiction'', Fall 2004
"The Rocket-Powered Cat" - ''RevolutionSF'', December 2004 *
 "Circe in Vitro" - ''Astounding Tales'', December 2004 *

2005
"They Call It Time" - ''AlienSkin'', Dec./Jan. 2005
"Won't You Come Home, Bill Buckley?" - ''Bewildering Stories'', Feb. 2005
"Big Girl" - ''Ultraverse'', May/June 2005.
"The Hideaway" - ''AlienSkin'', June/July 2005.
"The Honor of the Blue Devil Patrol" - ''Beyond Centauri'', June/July 2005.
 "The Cast Iron Dybbuk" - June/July 2005, ''Andromeda Spaceways In-flight Magazine''.*

 "Dialogue" - ''RevolutionSF'', August 2005. *
"A Rocket for the Republic" - ''Asimov's Science Fiction'', Sept. 2005. * **
"After Image" - ''Surprising Stories'', Sept. 2005.
"The Queen of Guilty Pleasures" - ''Bewildering Stories'', Oct. 2005.

2006
"The Dragon's Black Box" - ''Bewildering Stories'', February 2006.
 "A Djinn for General Houston" - ''Surprising Stories'', May 2006
"The Runner at Dawn" - ''Worlds of Wonder'', July 2006.
"Wish List" - ''RevolutionSF'', August 2006.
"Berserker" - ''OG Speculative Fiction'', September 2006.
"Good Old Gal" - ''Nova Science Fiction'' No. 18, Fall 2006

2007
"The Amerikaan Way" - ''Atomjack'' magazine, March 2007
"Avatar" - ''Darker Matter'', April 2007 *
"Insight" - ''Twisted Tongue'', May 2007
"It's Wonderful, Life" - ''Twisted Tongue'', May 2007
"Fermi's Fraternity" - ''Planetary Stories'', September 2007
"Body by Fisher" - ''FenCon IV Souvenir Program Book'', September 2007
"My Ugly Little Self" - ''Twisted Tongue'', December 2007
"Off the Hook" (with Ed Morris) - Dark Recesses - December 2007

2008
"The Witch of Waxahachie" - Jim Baen's Universe - April 2008*
"Video Killed the Radio Star" - Aphelion the Webzine of Science Fiction and Fantasy - December 2008

2009
"Acroscaphe" (with Ed Morris) - Planetary Stories - January 2009
"The Silver Dollar Saucer" - Ray Gun Revival - January 2009
"Professor Malakoff's Amazing Ethereal Telegraph" - Science Fiction Trails No. 4 - March 2009
"Good News for the Dead" - M-Brane SF April 2009
"Airy Chick" - Alienskin magazine, June 2009
"Stairway to Heaven" (with Ed Morris), Encounters Nov. 2009
"Smoke Gets In Your Eyes" (with Ed Morris), The Fifth Dimension, Dec. 2009
"Twilight on the Finger Lakes", Bewildering Stories, Dec. 2009

2010
"Across the Plains", Abandoned Towers, March 2010
"Scouts' Honor", Young Adult Literature Review, Spring 2010
"Dispatches from The Troubles" - Greatest Uncommon Denominator (GUD), Summer 2010*
           
2011
"Black Hats and Blackberrys" - Bewildering Stories, March 2011
"Irredenta" - World SF Blog, March 15, 2011
"Meet Me at the Grassy Knoll" - 4 Star Stories, Spring 2011
"Hopscotch and Hottentots" - Shadowgate, April 2011
"Ghost Writer" - Flashes in the Dark, June 16, 2011
"Mak Siccar" - 4 Star Stories, Summer 2011
"The Goddess of Bleecker Street" - Kalkion, July 2011
"Re-opening Night" - 4 Star Stories - Sept. 2011
"The Quantum Gunman" - Drink Tank 300, Nov. 2011
"Tell Gilgamesh I'm Sorry" - Bewildering Stories, Dec. 2011
"Rockets and Reindeer" - 4 Star Stories, Dec. 2011

2012
"The Centurion and the Rainman" - Buzzy Mag, March 2012
"Encounter in Camelot" - 4 Star Stories, Spring 2012
"Great White Ship" - Daily Science Fiction, May 11, 2012
"Accidental Witness" - Planetary Stories, Spring 2012
"Double Exposure" - Daily Science Fiction, June 11, 2012
"The Starship Theodora" - Nova Science Fiction, Summer 2012
"Pirates of the Ozarks" - Science Fiction Trails No. 8, Fall 2012
"Barsoom Billy" - Science Fiction Trails, No. 9 All Martian Spectacular Fall 2012
"Damascus Interrupted" - Phantasmagorium, Sept. 2012
“The Way of the Heretic" - 4 Star Stories, Fall 2012
"Snow Globe" - Bewildering Stories No. 500 Fall 2012
 "The Relic" - Stupefying Stories Dec. 2012
"Racing with the Sunset" - 4 Star Stories, Winter 2012
"Crab Apples" - Sein und Werden, Winter 2012

2013
 "Uncle Gumball Saves the World" - Pulp Spirit (with Ed Morris), January 2013
"Ladybug, Ladybug" - GalaxyFest 2013 Yearbook, February 2013
"Wet and Wild" - 4 Star Stories, March 1, 2013
"Hearts Made of Stone" - Song Stories (anthology), March 15, 2013
"The Return of Alfred Bester" - International Speculative Fiction, April 1, 2013
"Custodes" - The Fifth Dimension, Sept. 2013
"The Stinky Men" - Fevered Dreams, Oct. 2013

2014
"Bindlestiff's Daughter" - The Lorelei Signal, January 2014
"Playing Catch-Up" - SciFi Max, May 2014
"The Sub-Basement" - The Ironic Fantastic No. 3, Sept. 2014
"Back Own My Stab" - Every Day Fiction, Sept. 16, 2014
"Bigfoot Fruit" - Common Oddities Speculative Fiction Sideshow Sept. 2014
"On a Spiritual Plain" - Sci-Phi Journal No. 2 November 2014 ***
"The Girl Who Couldn't Fly" - "Unconventional Fantasy, a Celebration of 40 Years of the World Fantasy Convention' - Nov. 6-9, 2014
"Ad Valorem" - Omni Reboot, December 11, 2014

2015
"The Cookie Crumbles" - ConDFW XIV Souvenir Program Book, February 2015
"The Grove of Curiosities" - 4 Star Stories, No. 14
"Cerulean Dream" - Tales of the Talisman, Vol. X No. 3

“The Queen of the Lesser Gods" - C Spot magazine, June 2015

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

A Rocket for the Republic

My story, "A Rocket for the Republic", was published in the Sept. 2005 issue of Asimov's Science Fiction, which means it was on the newsstands ten years ago. I thought in honor of the anniversary I'd republish it here.

--

A ROCKET FOR THE REPUBLIC
by Lou Antonelli

(Originally published by Asimov's Science Fiction, Sept. 2005)

"Well, I cain’t believe you found me, way out here! I was only joshing when I told the old boys at the feed store you could come out and see me. Damn, you’re determined, ain’t you?
"I know I ain’t got no telephone. At my age, I don’t need no one bothering me, anyhows. Still, I gotta give you credit for coming way on out here. You just doubled the population of Science Hill, or what’s left of it. Which is me.
"Yep, I’m the birthday boy. Done reached a hundred. I guess that’s why you drove all the way out here. Well, I’d be inhospitable if I sent you home without at least visiting with you. We can sit right out here on the porch on this swing seat, just set your dispatch case over there on top the railing.
"What’s that picture in there? Oh, that’s a magazine. Right pretty picture. Is that a rocket ship? You read science fiction, eh? Kinda like Jules Verne and Mr. Wells? Interesting.
"Ah know you came out to talk to some old fool who just happened to reach a hundred years old. Well, Mr. Editor, how about I give you a real story? I’ve never done told anyone about this before, but maybe it’s about damn time.
"Would you believe I rode in a rocket once? Yep, and it wasn’t on TV. No, it was a lot longer ago than that. A lot longer.
"If’n you promise not to interrupt me, I’ll tell you the whole story. I don’t want no questions, because a lot of what I’ll say won’t make any sense until I finish. Agreed? Good.

#

"I was already an old man when this happened. I was a widower then. I had married late, when I was 20. That was in ’23. We married in Tennessee and came out here with impresario Hayden Edwards in ’28. We had a little one, but she weren’t but a year old when we all came down with Yellow Fever in ’30. I pulled through but my wife and the baby didn't.
"We lived in Nacogdoches, but after that I didn’t feel like keeping the farm up. So I sold it and went to hire myself out. There was talk that ferry men were needed on the Trinity River. Settlers were beginning to make their way up to Dallas. I went to live at the ferry landing on the road between Nacogdoches and Waco.
"One day I went out hunting. When I came back, the other men said Jim Bowie had come through. He was heading towards San Antonio de Bexar, where a gang of Texians were fixin’ to mix it up with the Napoleon of the West. Some of them went with Bowie.
"After he cleaned them all out, Santa Anna began a march, like he was going to clean us all the hell out of the province, too. People got the word and scooted out without their hats and bonnets. It was called the Runaway Scrape. I had holed up at the crossing. I figured someone needed to run the ferry, whether it was for Texians or Mexicans.
"Thing was, I guess that great ol’ Second Napoleon got cocky and Gen. Houston caught him napping with his arm around his yellow rose. That was at San Jacinto Bayou. That’s when Texas became a republic.
"None of the other ferrymen ever came back from the War for Independence. I guess they must have got themselves kilt. I pretty much kept up things with the help of a few hangers-on, and worked my hams raw for a good four years. Then one day a regular damn procession came down the coach road from Nacogdoches.
"There was a fine coach and seven wagons, some of the biggest wagons I had ever seen. This fellow who sounded like a limey said they weighed five to ten tons each. I just burst out laughing and told them there weren’t no way that sorry little ferryboat could haul any of them, and I asked him where the hell he was going. He said he didn’t quite know.
"He was a nice fellow, talked to me right respectful. He said he was a ‘scientist’ It was the first time I had ever heard that word. He said he needed to find a place away from any cities where he could work with his engines and apparatuses.
"I knew a farmstead that had been abandoned since the Runaway Scrape. I told him he didn’t need to go no further, I knew a place he could probably have for naught if he bothered to go back to Nacogdoches and register the deed.
"He looked at my pissant ferry and across the Trinity bottoms and said it sounded like a good idea. I took them to where the farm was.
"The teamsters left all the wagons, and rode back to Louisiana. The gentleman asked me to get up a work crew for a barn raising and I did. I got men from the ferry landing, as well from Corsicana and Tyler, and we went to sawing and pegging the largest barn we could put together. It only took a week.
"He paid everyone in new U.S. silver, and afterwards asked me if I would stay and help him at his labber-ra-tory. He’d always been civil to me, and I couldn’t see hows working for him could be worse than pulling a ferry.
"His name was Mr. Seaton. I think his Christian name was Robert, but I always called him Mr. Seaton. He was a real British gentlemen, always talked to me polite and never cussed at me.
"Mr. Seaton told me he knew the men in England who were working on the steam railroad. There were no railroads in the Republic then.
"He said he thought the railroads would be dirty and hateful, with steel rails running across the land and the steam engines putting out soot and cinders. He had a better idea, he said.
"The first time he said he thought people could travel between cities by air, I thought for sure he meant balloons. But he said he wanted to make a rocket, just like the ones they used in the Army at night, but large enough to hold people, and shoot them between cities.
"Of course, I thought that sounded like the biggest fool idea I ever heard, but when he explained it and made some drawings on paper, I actually began to believe him. He said the Congreve Rockets like they used in the British artillery could travel four miles, and if a rocket was bigger, it could farther. If it was big enough to carry people, it could go hundreds of miles.
"Instead of locomotives running past you putting out soot and cinders, these rockets would just over your head. Nobody would notice them. And they could go from city to city in minutes instead of hours.
"The biggest problem would be a soft landing, but he had designed a set of a silk canopies--I guess you call them parachutes today--that would loose and let the rocket drift down like a leaf. He sounded mighty reasonable.
"He got together his engines and equipment in the East Coast, but he figgered setting off rockets would spook the neighbors.
He thought he’d find the empty space he needed and set up his workshop here in Texas, and as large as the Republic was, it could use his service more than anyone.
"Those wagons he brought all the way from New Orleans, they had all the steel plate and boilers and engines he needed to make his rocket. And I helped him put it all together.
"Mostly, I did a lot of riveting. The winter of ’40 I kept the doors of the barn open because of the heat as I stoked the coal and pounded those rivets. Mr. Seaton was real good with drawing and explaining his drawings and so I was able to rivet and screw everything together, although I didn’t the hell understand half of it.
"He had a steam engine that squeezed air and could make it liquid. I saw him make liquid air and put it in a silvered glass bottle. He said good old gunpowder wouldn’t cut the mustard to shoot such a large rocket. But he said when you mixed the liquid air and alcohol and lit ‘em, it would burn like hell. Did, too, the time he showed me.
"Mr. Seaton never left the place and worked all hours of the day. I would go to Athens every so often and get supplies. He pretty much had brought everything he needed for the rocket ship. There was plenty of wood for his steam engine, and of course I knew how to use a still to make alcohol.
"It took nearly two whole years, but by the spring of ’42 the rocket’s nose was out a hole in the barn’s roof. It had vanes on the bottom propping it up on the ground.
"When he thought we were ready to try the rocket, we moved the equipment to the farmhouse and put it up safe.
"He had a setup in the rocket where he would sit on a seat and turn a wheel that moved the vanes on the bottom, so he could steer as it shot up. He had a second seat in front of a big mica window, maybe six inches around, where I could sit and tell him what I saw. We had belts and buckles and straps all around we could use to tie ourselves down so we wouldn’t go bouncing around like inside a biscuit tin.
"When we were ready for the big test, I have to say, I was scared, but after being with him all that time, I couldn’t let him down. So I just gritted my teeth and prayed Jesus to come down safe.
"Mr. Seaton pumped gallons of alcohol in one side of the rocket and gallons of that freezing liquid air in the other side. Then we climbed a few bales of hay and lashed ourselves inside.
"He had some kind of battery set?up to make the spark to set off the stuff, and when he threw the lever, my heart just about stopped. But we didn’t explode!
"The rocket rumbled and shook. When I looked out the window I didn’t see the barn, but I did see the trees getting smaller. It felt like lead in my chest, and I could hardly keep my eyes open, but I could see the trees like the birds see them, and I knew we were rising up. I looked over to Mr. Seaton and he had a big smile on his face.
"After a few minutes the pain in my chest let up a little, but I saw Mr. Seaton beginning to frown. I saw he couldn’t turn the wheel, and he was cussing himself. That was the only time I ever heard him cuss. I think the problem was the rocket was moving so fast the wind was pushing too hard on those vanes at the end and he couldn’t turn them.
"Finally, he called me, and I unhitched myself and scooted over to his seat. I held on to a strap with one hand and with my free hand helped him to try to turn the wheel.
"I could see Mr. Seaton begin to sweat. After a while he told me to go back to my seat. It seemed like forever, but in a few minutes later he began to turn the wheel. But I didn’t feel no difference in the rocket. And then I noticed my straps were starting to coil around me like a snake!
"The alcohol and liquid air was all burned up, so the roaring sound had let up. But then we both heard a hissing sound. I thought maybe it was something outside, so I looked through the mica window again.
"I couldn’t believe my eyes. It looked like I was looking down at a big billiard ball, but it was blue and fuzzy. It also had brown and white scum all over it.
"The hissing sound got louder. I looked down and saw I was floating two inches above my seat, like a Hindu fakir!
"I looked over to Mr. Seaton, who had his head in his hands.
"Doomed" was all he said.
"Then I realized what had gone wrong. Because he couldn’t steer, we didn’t make a big looping curve like he showed me on a piece of paper once. We were supposed to make a big lazy curve up from Texas and come down in Philadelphia - like a rainbow.
"But instead we shot straight the hell up! That billiard ball down there was the earth, the blue was the ocean and the brown and white scum was the ground and clouds.
"I knew that our doors were tight and the rivets solid, but the air outside must have been thinner than the air on top of the highest Rocky mountain, and so our air was hissing out the seams. I guess it was because our air began to get thin that we started to float around.
"I knew it was curtains for us, so I cleared my throat and told Mr. Seaton I was honored to have been his employee.
"Thank you, James," was all he said.
"I began to get real light?headed and it was hard to breathe, when I saw a bright light in the window. I thought for a second we were heading into the sun, but then the light passed us. A minute later, the rocket jolted like a giant baby had just grabbed a play pretty. Then the levers on the door began to pop. I got a buzzing in my head and just as I passed out I saw the door open.

#

"Well, as you can imagine, I thought it was the angels come for me, but when I woke up I wiggled my toes and fingers and saw I still was alive, and in the softest feather bed I ever had seen.
"The room was plain, clean and white. I propped myself up on my elbow. Then Mr. Seaton walked in a door I hadn’t noticed along with this strange fellow.
"He was tall and looked like he could be a Chinaman, but his slanted eyes were too large and he was as pale as a ghost. Mr. Seaton was smiling now and he gave me his hand so I could get off the bed. He explained the other fellow and his posse lived on another world, like ours but far away, and they used rockets not only to go between cities but worlds.
"You mean like Mars?" I asked.
Yes, like Mars," he said, "but much farther away."
"He said these fellows had like a lighthouse, I guess, out there between worlds, and the lighthouse keeper had seen us come adrift and sent out a lifeboat rocket ship.
"When I understood this, I turned and bowed with my hands together like I had seen a Chinee do once. The tall fellow bowed, too, and I thought he kinda smiled.
"Mr. Seaton said although his plan for a rocket railroad had come a cropper, he was happier now because of meeting his new friends, and during the days we were in their rocket, he spent almost the whole time talking to them.
"They were civil to me, too. I talked to them, and when they talked back at me, for some reason their voice always seemed to come from a pillbox on their arm. I don’t know why they had to throw their voices.
"I think they knew I didn’t have any book learning Anytime we talked about anything very complicated, I would lose the rabbit I was chasing. Mr. Seaton tried to explain things to me simple?like so I could understand better.
"Sometimes we could look out a window, a real big one, bigger than a window in a New Orleans whore house and see the world turning below us like a gristmill. When the clouds were sparse Mr. Seaton would point out whole countries.
"See that boot? That’s Italy."
"The pale fellows told me I could go wherever I wanted in their rocket ? which was pretty damn big, I tell you.
"One day I went by a door and saw a glow like from a fireplace, ‘cept it was blue instead of red. I thought that was peculiar and I went inside. The blue fire glow was coming out from some filigree on the walls.
"Wasn’t but a minute later a passel of the pale fellows came running in the door and they grabbed me like they was hogs and I was a pumpkin. Mr. Seaton came running in, too.
"The pale fellows tossed me right quick into a bed and stuck needles into me like I was an old woman’s pincushion. In a corner some of them talked to Mr. Seaton, who looked more worried. After all the hoorah died down, Mr. Seaton told me what the problem was.
"These fellows had a special coal that burned blue instead of red.
"Problem was, the blue fire was just as 'hot' as regular fire but you couldn’t feel it! It was just like I had stepped into a furnace, when I went in that room with the blue glow.
"He said that although I didn’t feel anything then, in a few minutes I would have shriveled up like bacon and died.
"Later Mr. Seaton told me the pale fellows realized, after I had the accident with the blue furnace, that maybe it was better I go back home.
"Truth be hold, I was getting homesick myself. Mr. Seaton said he wanted to stay with his new friends. He told me they could set me down right back where we started and soon, Mr. Seaton and I and a few of the pale fellows got into a kind of round lifeboat rocket and floated like a balloon in the middle of the night down to the farm.
"Mr. Seaton shook my hand like a brother and told me where the strongbox was with all his papers. He said I could have everything he left behind as my due for being such a good employee.
"I bounded down the steel gangplank and waved good?bye. They left like a mist in the night. There was a full moon and I found my way to the farmhouse. I lit the whale oil lamp and got ready for bed and slept in real late the next day, almost until nine.

#

"I thought we had been with the pale fellows in their rocket for weeks, but the windup clock in Mr. Seaton’s room showed we were only gone two days. The barn was still smoldering.
"I was totally flummoxed when I went through Mr. Seaton’s papers. He left me a wealthy man. He had thousands of dollars in banks in New York, Philadelphia and New Orleans. Over the next few years I used the money to hire some help and got the place fixed up better than ever.
"In ’45 news came the U.S. had annexed the Republic, which is what most people wanted all along. A widder woman who lost her husband in an Indian raid caught my eye and I took her as my wife. We had neighbors now, and when some of the people saw the books and tools that Mr. Seaton had left me, they suggested they be used for an academy.
"We set up an academy in the first floor of the new Masonic lodge and hired a schoolmaster. With the academy and all, folks began to calling the settlement Science Hill. I reckon Mr. Seaton would’ve liked that.
"Of course, I never told no one about the rocket and the pale fellows. I never got into details. People heard stories about the barn and assumed Mr. Seaton done blowed himself up. I never told otherwise.
"My wife and I never had no children, which was probably just as well. When the war started, I was 57, but I was strong and healthy and I enlisted. I guess I always felt guilty somehow about missing Jim Bowie when he visited the ferry crossing.
"During the Battle of Chickamauga I took a minie ball clean through the chest. They laid me out to die. But three days later I got off my pallet and started the long walk home.
"Everyone said it was a miracle, but I knew when I was lying there I felt my ribs and muscles knitting up. I figured the doctoring the pale fellows done to me when I had that accident in their rocket must have stuck with me for good somehow.
"I came back to Science Hill, but a lot of other men didn’t so many that the settlement began to die. It happened in many other places. By ’72 the academy had closed and the Masonic Lodge had its charter taken back.
"My wife died in ’85. By then the railroad made it to Henderson County, but it ran through Athens and Eustace and skipped clear of Science Hill. That was the end of it.
"I knew by then, after having a few accidents with a knife or chisel over the years, that I healed up quick. I also saw that I was holding up well.
"Over time, everyone died or moved on, and I was left alone in Science Hill. No one noticed I was just out here by myself. I kept up the farm fine, there was enough for me to do.
"One time, when I was almost a hundred, I was at the feed store in Malakoff getting grain for the chickens. One old boy said, 'You can’t be James Reid, you’re too young.'
"Another old boy said, 'Don’t be ignorant, you’re his son, right?"
"I agreed. Nobody knew any better.
"So over the years, I’ve used a hair dye and chin whiskers to fool people. But in nineteen hundred and forty-two, when I was in Athens, I was buttonholed by an old boy about registering for the draft. Rather than arguing, I filled out the form, straight, birthplace and all, but I put down 1903 instead of 1803.
"I reckon those records went to the historical society after the war, which is why they have me down as a hundred now. I guess it got back to you, Mr. Editor.
"When I buried my second wife I never told her what happened with the rocket and all I said to myself, if I live to be 100, I’ll never tell anyone what happened.
“Well, here I am at 200, so I guess it was about time to come clean, huh?
“You know, I heared the last time I was in town the folks down in Houston are ready to shoot off more rockets like they did 40 years ago. I wonder if they’ll run into Mr. Seaton and them pale fellows. I’d sure like to hitch a ride, and meet Mr. Seaton again, and shake his hand. Maybe I’ll ask ‘em to shoot me up there. Ain’t nothing I ain’t done before.
“Shut your mouth, son, you’ll swallow something.”

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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