Monday, August 21, 2017

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 distinguished career, I'm sure many people have their own stories about their encounters with Aldiss. Mine is a little strange.

I had just started writing and submitting science fiction short fiction when, in the spring of 2004, I received my first pro acceptance, from Gardner Dozois at Asimov's

That made me think that I needed to start attending genre-related events - at that point I had been to a grand total of two conventions - and that summer the wife and I drove up to Lawrence, Kansas, to attend the Campbell Conference.

That year was the last where the members of the Science Fiction Hall of Fame were inducted at the conference (the event has since moved to the sf museum in Seattle). The living inductees were Brian Aldiss and Harry Harrison.

We arrived in Lawrence just in time for the dinner, and as I rushed into the student center - worried that we were running late - I saw a pair of old timers in tuxes heading for the door from the opposite direction.

As I ran up, I realized they were Aldiss and Harrison. In a clumsy attempt to be a gentleman, I grabbed the door to hold it open for Aldiss, who was first. But as I walked around him, I stepped on the back of his shoe and gave him a "flat tire". (My wife tried to make me feel better later by pointing out that Aldiss was wearing house shoes).

I don't think Aldiss was terribly happy, and I was so embarrassed I ducked both of them for the rest of the weekend.

That was my one encounter in person with Aldiss.

Ironically, the next year, when my debut story was published in the September 2005 issue of Asimov's, "A Rocket for the Republic",  the same issue included a story by Aldiss, "Pipeline"..

Sunday, August 20, 2017

In the race

It seems counter intuitive, but I think have a better chance of winning the Dragon Award for Alternate History than I had in getting on the ballot in the first place.

To get on the ballot, I had to compete with dozens of excellent books in the same category, while now on the ballot I'm only in a field of eight. Looking over the other works, I think I stack up well.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Compilation of Amazon reviews for "Another Girl, Another Planet"

Captivating mystery and original idea. Would make a great movie.

....finished it at 2 am, in a single sitting. Exciting, funny, charming; Heinleinian in that it combines adventure and philosophy, but its own unique pageturning self. Highly recommend.

Really fun book. Reminds me a lot of the early Heinlein stories. Part thriller, part mystery, part space opera it was the best read I've had in a long time. The universe it is set in is incredibly compelling (despite a nit pick or two), and it is a TREMENDOUSLY fun read. I was actually late to my doctor appointment because I literally could not put it down. I'm really hopeful there will be a sequel because I really enjoyed it.
I gave it four stars because there are a couple of spots that I found a little unbelievable (in regards to characters not plot). That being said, when Mr. Antonelli is on, he is ON. There are some action sequences that are really great, and some of sad parts are really moving. Well worth the money, definitely a fun, interesting, and compelling read.

Secret history wrapped in alternate history. I've been reading alternate history for some time now. I've only recently gotten into secret history with Simon R. Green's Secret Histories (aka Eddie Drood) series. (Secret history has been a longtime category of science fiction, just new to me.)
Another Girl, Another Planet uses an "unreliable narrator" for this alternate history. Where the person relating his story is surprised that anyone might believe his tale and where the person has no explanation for the fact that his story obviously took place in an alternate reality/parallel universe.
As someone who remembers well the 1960's through 1980's, I also definitely enjoyed Mr. Antonelli's use of historical figures (as well as some actual contemporary people) in this novel.
Another Girl, Another Planet is the story of a man sent to Mars in 1985 to be executive assistant to the colonial governor at the joint Soviet-NATO Mars base. Not only was there the joint mission on Mars but there was also a thriving joint Soviet-NATO Moon settlement (complete with several cities).
In this alternate reality, instead of an arms race after WWII the Soviet Union/Warsaw Pact nations & the U.S./Western powers had a space race and ended up deciding to go together on both the Moon and later Mars, as a better use of both of their resources. They had even set up a fixed rotation where the base was operated by the Soviets this year and twenty years later NATO would smoothly assume control of the base (until the next fixed turnover). Even if it were NATO's turn to operate the base, both sides had to agree on leadership positions such as the governor & lieutenant governor. That is, if it is NATO's operation, the Soviets must sign off as well on these critical appointees.
This alternate reality had both robots and androids, although both had been banned from Earth and the Moon by the time the story begins. Said robots and, in particular androids, were on Mars to both help construct the colony and also work there as common laborers, maids, waitresses, etc. etc. I enjoy science fiction novels with mixed societies of humans and robots/androids.
Another Girl, Another planet is a good yarn. Good worldbuilding, interesting choices as to how this alternate history was different from our own history, and I enjoyed getting to know the various characters. So far as I know, this is Mr. Antonelli's first novel. His earlier work has been shorter fiction, a lot of them short stories, and most of them secret histories/alternate history as well. Recommended for readers of secret histories/alternate history and Mars!

This is a terrifically inventive and highly creative novel about troubles with androids set on Mars and set in an alternative future. It is quite funny and exciting, but the biggest joy is the well thought alternative history. Highly recommended.

Lou Antonelli is a creative writer & thinker. He seems to have a great grasp on beauracracy, politics & space travel. Love stories & greed. It's all there & more. I've read 30 SciFi novels in 2 years and this is up there with the best. Worth the read.

A nicely done, thoroughly enjoyable alternate history adventure, unfolding from a clever premise. Antonelli does a fine job spinning this well-wrought tale. Rather than focus on "the human predicament," he focuses on the characters' common humanity (or perhaps I should say "personhood") to deliver an emotional payoff with lots of impact. It's definitely fun for fans of space opera, "competent engineer" stories, and Golden Age fans, but I think it has broader appeal as well.

Excellent book! It's the first book I've read by this author and I wasn't disappointed. Earth. Mars. The Moon. It didn't turn out the way I expected, but it definitely left me wanting to read the next book ASAP. :-)

What begins as a distorted view of memory lane sweeps you into a future of space exploration, robots and people just being human. A stunner of an ending. Very enjoyable.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The spin rack is STILL making a comeback!


I'm still engaged in my policy of buying genre books from the spin racks in Dollar General stores to encourage them to stock these "gateway" mass market paperbacks. Here are two I bought last week, in Clarksville and Blossom, Texas. Total investment: $4. Value of great fun fiction: Priceless

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Doing it right this time

A couple of years ago, I had what I thought was a good idea at the time and suggested two works for a list of Hugo recommendations being compiled by an author colleague of mine.

That compilation turned out to work too well, and the success of those recommendations led to a backlash. I don't think I exaggerate when I say I think everyone involved didn't t like the ways things played out.

I resolved afterwards to never to seek support from any list in advance, but to "paddle my own canoe" - to use an old corny expression.

That's what I did in promoting "Another Girl, Another Planet". I am happy that some people and blogs decided to support it for the Dragon award, but I didn't seek any organized support in advance - although I'll accept it if offered.

Of course, I've asked many individuals for support, and some of those folks have their own lists and blogs.

I am proud of "Another Girl, Another Planet" and I think it stands on its own merits. I am very grateful to all of you who nominated it for the Dragon ballot, and I continue to to be thankful as the final voting progresses.

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

News release from Dragon Con Media Relations

DRAGON CON’S DRAGON AWARDS PUBLISHES ITS 2017 BALLOT

Fans-Focused Awards Recognizes Excellence in Fifteen Categories of Fiction,

Comics, Gaming, and Filmed Entertainment

Second Annual Awards Will Be Announced at Dragon Con over Labor Day Weekend

ATLANTA – August 7, 2017 – Dragon Con’s Dragon Awards, a fan-chosen awards program to recognize outstanding achievement in science fiction and fantasy literature, comics, gaming, and filmed entertainment, has published its 2017 ballot.

The Dragon Awards are decidedly a “fans’ choice” award. All fans – not just Dragon Con members or attendees – are invited to select the Dragon Award winners by voting – for free – on the second annual Dragon Awards ballot. The full ballot can be accessed here: awards.dragoncon.org/2017-ballot/

To vote, fans much register on the Dragon Awards website: http://application.dragoncon.org/dc_fan_awards_signup.php   Ballots are then emailed to registered voters a few days later.

“We believe strongly in the principle of one fan, one vote,” said Pat Henry, president of Dragon Con, Inc. “We believe that the vast body of fandom is in the best position to identify and recognize the most beloved works in science fiction and fantasy today.”

Henry went on to encourage every fan to go vote for their favorite works.

“We all know that a determined minority can carry the day when not enough people vote,” Henry said. “For that reason alone, we think it’s critical that fans everywhere vote for the books, games, comics and shows they love.”

The Dragon Awards were introduced in 2016 as part of the 30th Anniversary of Dragon Con, Atlanta’s internationally known pop culture, fantasy, sci-fi and gaming convention.

To accommodate as many creative genres as possible, awards will be given in each of 15 categories covering the full range of fiction, comics, television, movies, video gaming and tabletop gaming. Winners will be announced on Sept. 3rd at Dragon Con, which will be held September 1 to September 4, 2017 in Atlanta.

The ballot was selected in an open nomination process. Using the dedicated Dragon Awards website, fans were invited to nominate one (and only one) of their favorite properties in any or all the award categories.  Nominations ran from early April until July 25. The best and most popular of the nominated properties were elevated to the ballot.

All voting will be done electronically and only on the Dragon Awards site. No memberships or other qualifiers are required, making the voting open to all of the fans of all forms of science fiction. Fans have until Monday, August 28th at 11:59 p.m., Eastern, to register.  Voting ends 24-hours later, on Tuesday, August 29th at 11:59 p.m., also Eastern.

Further details are available on the awards website awards.dragoncon.org. Please direct all inquiries to dcawards@dragoncon.org or mail them to: Dragon Awards, PO Box 16459, Atlanta, GA 30321-0459 USA

About Dragon Con

Dragon Con is the internationally known pop culture convention held each Labor Day in Atlanta. Organized for fans, Dragon Con features more than about 3,000 hours of comics, film, television programming, costuming, art, music and gaming over four days. For more information, please visit www.dragoncon.org and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Monday, August 07, 2017

The Five Stages of a Dragon Award nomination (or Political) Campaign – with apologies to Elizabeth Kubler-Ross

I mentioned in my previous post that self-promotion to get a work on an award ballot reminded me of running for public office.

After some reflection, I realized the stages in the both processes are the same, so I thought I’d put them down:

First Stage: EXCITEMENT
You’ve decided you’re going to toss your hat in the ring. You’re looking forward to the campaign. It’s going to be exciting and you look forward to doing great things. Your friends are all behind you, and with some elbow grease and a little luck, you’re a shoo-in.

Second Stage: REALITY SINKS IN
OK, you’ve begun to realize what you’ve gotten yourself into. It’s a lot more work than you anticipated, and you wonder if you are up to it. This is going to be real work, and you wonder if you have the time. The initial euphoria has worn off.

Third Stage: SELF-DOUBT
Now that you’ve been campaigning for a while, you’ve gotten to know the competition, and realize they are good – maybe better than you. Plus now you’ve learned some people you thought would help you have other plans, and some have decided to support other candidates. What have you gotten yourself into?

Fourth Stage: DEPRESSION
OK, now you see that you bit off more than you can chew. You’re strapped for time, you’ve lost supporters, and you have to admit there are other perfectly qualified candidates who could legitimately beat you. They’re just as good, if not better, and have better networks and connection than you do. You begin to think of your concession speech.

Fifth Stage: FATALISM
Election Day (or the deadline for nominations) nears, and you realize that, no matter what, this will all be over soon, and you’ll be able to relax. You decide to make one last push and pull out all the stops for a get-out-the-vote (or nomination) effort. You want to be able to say, at least for your supporters if not for yourself, that you gave it your best shot, and can hold your head high regardless of the outcome.

First thoughts on the Dragon award

I haven't posted that much regarding the Dragon Awards. I only learned of the final ballot Thursday night, and the following morning my wife and I left for the five hour (each way) drive to Austin for Armadilloncon. While at cons I don't post that much; I prefer to mix and mingle and enjoy the event.
So here are a few insights:

First of, self-promotion is hard work, and also tedious. It's a necessary evil, however, insofar as other authors are out there promoting their own works.

There's always a mix of private and public promotion. Old-timers and very successful authors do a lot of promotion behind the scenes, because they can. I was able to do some of that, also, but in my case most of my self-promotion was up front and public. As a part-time writer I don't have those really deep roots in the genre.

People reacted very well. I think it's like, every mom thinks their kid's cute. You allowed to toot your own horn and extol your own work. Even if someone isn't as enthusiastic about your work as you are, they will be polite and respectful.

I got a late start, compared to some other people, in promoting "Another Girl, Another Planet" for the Dragon because of a simple mental error. I assumed the eligibility period was the calendar year, as it is for the Hugos and Nebulas. The book was issued in January, so I assumed it would be in consideration next year. It was only in May that a friend pointed out my absent-minded oversight. The Dragons' period goes from July 1 to June 30 of the following year.

When the initial Dragon awards were announced last year, I was pleased to see one of the categories was Alternate History. Previously the only recognition I'd seen for my favorite sub-genre was the Sidewise Award. Alternate history is becoming more and more popular, and I applaud any efforts to recognize and highlight its best works.

I knew as soon as "Another Girl, Another Planet" was published it should be a contender for the Dragon award in that category, and the ongoing positive comments and reviews since its release convinced me it had a chance. Once I realized it would have to be on the ballot for consideration this year, I embarked on a program of promotion that reminded me very much standard political campaign.

It's best in a political campaign to keep the message simple and clear and repeat it constantly. My message - AGAP is a good book and deserves your consideration - seemed to have worked. By the time the nomination deadline neared, the repetition, though, was starting to drive me nuts. I got sick of hearing about Lou Antonelli - and I'm Lou Antonelli!

I've been a finalist for both the Sidewise and Hugo awards, and in both cases, if you have made the ballot, you are contacted in advance, and asked if you accept the honor. Sometimes people prefer to take a bye.

Nominations for the Dragon closed July 24, and after a week had passed I assumed I had not made the grade. I was sure of it last Thursday night when I received an email that had a link to the final ballot.

I opened the ballot, to see who HAD made the grade, and was startled to see my name there. The Dragon award apparently is less bureaucratic than some others, I suppose, and they simply released the final ballot the way the nominations fell.

I was delighted, of course, and very proud. I also saw I am in exalted company. The Alternate History selections are all excellent works and the ballot overall is very wide-ranging and inclusive. I mean, heck, when the honorees range from John Scalzi and N.K. Jemison to Vox Day and John C. Wright, you've covered the whole, and I mean whole, spectrum of authors!

I'm tired, as I just returned home from Austin, but I'll put down more thoughts shortly. Have a great week!

Thursday, August 03, 2017

The ballot has been released for this year's Dragon awards.

Here it is:

2017 Dragon Con Awards

This ballot must be submitted by Tuesday, August 29th, 11:59 EDT (UTC -4)


1. Best Science Fiction Novel

A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers

Babylon's Ashes by James S.A. Corey

The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi

The Secret Kings by Brian Niemeier

Rise by Brian Guthrie

Space Tripping by Patrick Edwards

Death's End by Cixin Liu

Escaping Infinity by Richard Paolinelli


2. Best Fantasy Novel (Including Paranormal)

The Hearthstone Thief by Pippa DaCosta

Beast Master by Shayne Silvers

Blood of the Earth by Faith Hunter

Dangerous Ways by R.R. Virdi

Monster Hunter Memoirs: Grunge by Larry Correia and John Ringo

Wings of Justice by Michael-Scott Earle

A Sea of Skulls by Vox Day


3. Best Young Adult / Middle Grade Novel

It's All Fun and Games by Dave Barrett

Swan Knight's Son by John C. Wright

A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas

Firebrand by A.J. Hartley

The Hammer of Thor by Rick Riordan

Defy the Stars by Claudia Gray

Rachel and the Many Splendored Dreamland by L. Jagi Lamplighter


4. Best Military Science Fiction or Fantasy Novel

Invasion: Resistance by J.F. Holmes

Cartwright's Cavaliers by Mark Wandrey

Caine's Mutiny by Charles E. Gannon

Iron Dragoons by Richard Fox

Alies and Enemies: Exiles by Amy J. Murphy

Star Realms: Rescue Run by Jon Del Arroz

Starship Liberator by B.V. Larson and David VanDyke

The Span of Empire by Eric Flint and David Carrico


5. Best Alternate History Novel

Witchy Eye by D.J. Butler

Another Girl, Another Planet by Lou Antonelli

1636: The Ottoman Onslaught by Eric Flint

The Last Days of New Paris by China Mieville

Breath of Earth by Beth Cato

A Change in Crime by D.R. Perry

No Gods, Only Daimons by Kai Wai Cheah

Fallout: The Hot War by Harry Turtledove


6. Best Apocalyptic Novel

Codename: Unsub by Declan Finn and Allan Yoskowitz

The Seventh Age: Dawn by Rick Heinz

A Place Outside the Wild by Daniel Humphreys

The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin

American War by Omar El Akkad

ZK: Falling by J.F. Holmes

Walkaway by Cory Doctorow


7. Best Horror Novel

A God in the Shed by J-F Dubeau

The Changeling by Victor LaValle

The Bleak December by Kevin G. Summers

Blood of Invidia by Tom Tinney and Morgen Batten

Live and Let Bite by Declan Finn

The Hidden People by Alison Littlewood

Nothing Left to Lose by Dan Wells

Donn's Hill by Caryn Larrinaga


8. Best Comic Book

Monstress by Marjorie Liu, Sana Takeda

Buffy The Vampire Slayer Season Eleven by Christos Gage, Rebekah Isaacs

Wynonna Earp Legends by Beau Smith, Tim Rozon, Melanie Scrofano, Chris Evenhuis

Saga by Brian K. Vaughan, Fiona Staples

Ms. Marvel by G. Willow Wilson, Takeshi Miyazawa

Motor Girl by Terry Moore

The Dresden Files: Dog Men by Jim Butcher, Mark Powers, Diego Galindo


9. Best Graphic Novel

Love is Love by Marc Andreyko, Sarah Gaydos, James S. Rich

Girl Genius: the Second Journey of Agatha Heterodyne, Book 2: The City of Lightning by Phil Foglio and Kaja Foglio

Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files: Wild Card by Jim Butcher, Carlos Gomez

March Book 3 by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin

Stuck in My Head by J.R. Mounts

My Favorite Thing is Monsters by Emil Ferris

Clive Barker Nightbreed #3 by Marc Andreyko, Clive Barker, Emmanuel Javier


10. Best Science Fiction or Fantasy TV Series

Marvel's Agents of Shield, ABC

Stan Lee's Lucky Man, Sky1

Stranger Things, Netflix

Wynonna Earp, Syfy

Lucifer, Fox

Doctor Who, BBC

Westworld, HBO

The Expanse, Syfy


11. Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Movie

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 directed by James Gunn

Doctor Strange directed by Scott Derrickson

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story directed by Gareth Edwards

Arrival directed by Denis Villeneuve

Logan directed by James Mangold

Wonder Woman directed by Patty Jenkins

Passengers directed by Morten Tyldum


12. Best Science Fiction or Fantasy PC / Console Game

Final Fantasy XV by Square Enix

Mass Effect: Andromeda by Bioware

Dishonored 2 by Arkane Studios

NieR: Automata by PlatinumGames

Titanfall 2 by Respawn Entertainment

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild by Nintendo


13. Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Mobile Game

Con Man: The Game by Monkey Strength Productions

Super Mario Run by Nintendo

Sky Dancer by Pine Entertainment

Monument Valley 2 by Ustwogames

Pokemon GO by Niantic

Fire Emblem Heroes by Nintendo


14. Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Board Game

Hero Realms by White Wizard Games

Mansions of Madness (Second Edition) by Fantasy Flight Games

Terraforming Mars by Stronghold Games

Gloomhaven by Cephalofair Games

Betrayal at House on the Hill: Widow's Walk by Avalon Hill

Scythe by Stonemaier Games


15. Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Miniatures / Collectible Card / Role-Playing Game

Magic the Gathering: Eldritch Moon by Wizards of the Coast

Dark Souls: The Board Game by Steamforged Games

Star Wars: Destiny by Fantasy Flight Games

A Shadow Across the Galaxy X-Wing Wave X by Fantasy Flight Games

Pulp Cthulhu by Chaosium

Bloodborne: The Card Game by CMON Limited

Monday, July 31, 2017

Why I am in the doghouse...

Turner Classic Movies showed Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds" last night at midnight. My wife recorded it and was watching it this afternoon.

During the the nerve-wracking final scene, when the characters are trapped in the house by the sea, I snuck up behind her chair, and crossed my arms, and then slapped each elbow with the opposite palm at the same time.

If you've ever done this, you know this makes a creditable flapping noise.

THIS IS CALLED BEING TOO CLEVER BY HALF.

Patricia jumped 20 feet, and now I owe her a week's worth of foot rubs, plus back rubs, and a lot more, and then she will - maybe - decide if I am allowed to live.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Another great review

Review: Another Girl, Another Planet by Lou Antonelli

By David Afsharirad 
On his blog Tyrannosaurus Ranch


I don't really read science fiction novels much these days. With as many science fiction short stories as I read in order to assemble The Year's Best Military and Adventure SF series, when it comes time to wind down with a book, I find myself reaching for different genres. When I do read a science fiction novel, I tend to gravitate toward older works that I've meant to read but haven't gotten around to. All this to say, if a science fiction novel came out in the last three or four years, there's a stunningly good chance I haven't cracked its spine.


But I made an exception for Lou Antonelli's Another Girl, Another Planet. The premise was just too interesting. I couldn't resist.


With Another Girl, Another Planet, Lou Antonelli gives us the 20th Century we deserved rather then the 20th Century we got. It's an alternate history story in which Admiral Robert A. Heinlein (yes, that Robert A. Heinlein) convinces the United States and the U.S.S.R. to work together on a joint space program, rather than against one another in an escalating arms race. As a result, by 1985 (when our story is set) there is a thriving colony on the Moon and the frontier has moved to Mars.


The hero of the story is Dave Shuster, a low-level bureaucrat who is sent to the Mars colony to take over a vacant administration position. Once there, however, he discovers that the Martian governor has died while he was en route. Shuster is now interim leader of the colony.


The engine for Antonelli's plot is an Asmovian mystery involving a mysterious robot and android factory on Mars and a missing girl (an old flame of Shuster's) back in New York City. The mystery is well-done and kept me turning pages, and Shuster, who narrates the novel, is a likable protagonist with a great voice.


But the real joy of the novel is the world that Antonelli has created. For one thing, it's incredibly well thought out. More than that, it's just downright fun. In Another Girl, Another Planet, familiar faces from our timeline turn up in different settings throughout. Familiar technology such as fax machines exist alongside Moon-to-Mars rocketships. To say too much would be to ruin the fun of the novel, so I'll just mention two things that typify what I'm talking about. The first is when Dave Shuster finds a cassette of Buddy Holly's early material, from 1957 - 1961, before he and The Beatles became engaged in the U.S. vs. Britain Music Wars. Another is that we find out what happened to famed skyjacker D.B. Cooper in this timeline.


If I have a criticism to level against the novel it's that, from time to time, the forward movement of the plot is sidelined so that some aspect of the alternate timeline and/or retro-futuristic technology can be explained. But these diversions are so entertaining that it's hard to say that they should have been cut. I certainly would have missed them. Readers not as enamored with 20th Century history and pop culture might find themselves a little lost in all of the references, but I suspect that, for the most part, they will just sail on by, not causing a distraction.


Published by Kevin J. Anderson and Rebecca Moesta's Wordfire Press, Another Girl, Another Planet is available now. Here's a link to it on Amazon. Or, if you prefer, you can buy a DRM-free version from Baen.com.


If there were more books like Lou Antonelli's Another Girl, Another Planet, I'd 

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...