Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Onward to AggieCon

Here's a little new item copied from my web site:

"Lou Antonelli has been invited to be a panelist at AggieCon 37, to be held at Texas A&M University in College Station March 23-26, 2006. AggieCon is the oldest and largest student-run science-fiction convention in the U.S. Held annually since 1969 by Cepheid Variable at Texas A&M University's Memorial Student Center, it has grown to become one of the larger conventions in Texas."

On my last job, I han an impossible conflict with AggieCon. An annual special section of the paper deadlined on the same weekend. But I think the coast is clear for next March.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Lou's Lasagna

Some old family friends from the Dallas area drove 2 1/2 hours to visit us for dinner last night. I baked a big fat lasagna,and everyone enjoyed it. We offered to let them stay overnight, but they drive back and were back home by midnight.

It was wild having three kids in the house, two of them teenage boys. For a while there, it was a regular three-ring circus. Our old 12-year old cocker spaniel just retreated to her kennel and stared at the pandemonium.

One of the reasons I keep up a personal web site is to keep my personal archives on line. I just posted "The Honor of the Blue Devil Patrol", the YA story published by Beyond Centauri this summer. If for some reason you only visit the blog and not my web site, its www.cedarhillsentinel.com.

I got "The Dragon's Black Box" from SciFiction earlier this week, but I knew about that and had already sent it off to Interzone.

Got the copy of Judith Merrill's 1955 Year's Best S-F I bought off e-Bay in the mail Wednesday. Pretty good volume, glad I got a copy. Merrill did an annual Year's Best for a long time; 1955 was a particularly good year for s-f.

Strangely enough, she only gave "The Allamagoosa" an honorable mention.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Thanksgiving

Drove three hours into Dallas to visit the mom in law, who cooked up a nice gobbler (fresh, not frozen - I was impressed). Side dishes included dressing, green beans, scalloped potatoes. Stayed six hours, drove back again.

"Italians will often have baked Lasanga instead of either."

I'm baking one tomorrow night for some friends from the Dallas area who are coming to visit.

Unfortunately, I have to work Friday (paper still has to come out, you know).

BTW, I've been told many times my lasagna is the best on this planet.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Positive News

Got word via e-mail from Down Under that "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" passed its first reading at Andromeda Spaceways. That's always good to hear. The nice thing about ASIM is that, even if you don't clear the second reading, they'll send you the editors' comments, which can be quite helpful.
That's what happened with "The Hideaway". It didn't clear the second round, but I make some changes based on the comments, and then it sold to Alienskin. I may have made more money from Alienskin than I would have from ASIM - can't be sure.
GVg returned "Business as Usual". Didn't like that one at all. I sent "The League of Dead Nations' to Strange Horizons.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

An Appreciation of "The Allamagoosa"

by Lou Antonelli
Word came out last weekend that SciFiction - the online web zine that publishes science fiction as part of the SciFi channel's web site - will be shutting down at the end of the year.
The SciFi Channel was formerly owned by an outfit called Vivendi, which was snapped up by NBC this summer. Apparently the bean counters at Rockefeller Center noticed they now owned something that actually didn't make money - so they killed it. Isn't corporate consolidation wonderful?
Ellen Datlow has served as editor of SciFiction for its past five and a half years. During that time, it has oublished some of the best original fiction around, period.
As a tribute to Ellen's fine work as well as the overall quality of SciFiction, a fellow named David Schwartz has set up a tribute blog that lists all the stories and classic reprints the site has featured. Authors and fans have been invited to write "appreciations" of the stories.
My contribution to this project is my appreciation of the first story to be honored with a Short Story Hugo 50 years ago, "Thr Allamagoosa' by Eric Frank Russell. Here it is.

#

Fifty years ago, Eric Frank Russell's "The Allamagoosa" won the first Hugo ever given out for short story.
SciFiction brought us many brilliant original pieces of fiction in its five and half years, but one of my most enjoyable reads of late was when it republished "The Allamagoosa" as one of its classics.
The story seems a little dated when read today - the jut-jawed spacefarers so common in earlier sf were already on their way out by 1955 - but in his sly observations about the rigidity of the military (British or otherwise) Russell seems more of a precursor of Douglas Adams than a descendent of Doc Smith.
In the way it depicts people facing bureaucracy in the future, Russell's story shows both an understanding of and sympathy with people that is unfortunately not all that common in a genre whose bedrock are the hard and cold sciences.
Like O. Henry, Russell often seems to be in the background with a sardonic chuckle. His stories are all the more endearing in that we know that his depictions of people and the way they react to life - especially when dealing with their own screw-ups - is honest and accurate.
His conclusion to "Allamagoosa" - with the spaceship captain going cross-eyed as he chews his fingernails alone in his cabin - not only flows naturally from the story, it's one of the funniest finales you'll ever read; all the more impressive because the story is not a parody or comedy.
It instead explains what happens when the crew of a spaceship can't account for an item in their inventory during an inspection, and how their efforts to bullshit their way out of the dilemma just snowballs all the hell out of control.
"Allamagoosa" is apparently a nonsense word the Brits use for something you don't know the name of - like "thingamabob" or "doosiehickey" here in the U.S.
One reason I especially like the story is because the screw up happens due to a typo in the ship's inventory. If you've ever worked in an office and had someone call a service tech because they didn't know they had accidentally unplugged their computer, you appreciate that - despite the technical brilliance of our tools, gadgets and toys - the human capacity to screw up due to ignorance, inattention or just plain damn laziness will continue unimpeded into the future.
I picked up copy of Vol I of the "Hugo Winners" series of paperbacks, edited by Isaac Asimov, two weeks ago for fifty cents at a local thrift shop.
Of course, "The Allamagoosa" is right at the front. I reread the last page just to see if it was still as funny as remembered - and I still laughed my ass off.
I've always thought Russell's reputation in the genre dropped because of the fact that - although he didn't pass away until 1976 - he stopped writing science fiction in 1959.
He is one of the few great names of the genre who apparently simply lost interest in it, from all accounts.
As a result, fans and editors seemed to have reciprocated the disinterest over the years.
Russell's work includes the justifiably famous "Sinister Barrier" and other great works such as "...And Then There Were None", "Hobbyist", "Love Story", "Symbiotica", "The Prr-r-eet", "Dear Devil", "The Witness", "Diabologic". "Space Willies", and "Wasp", among others.
If Russell perhaps didn't love sf until the day he died, no matter. The corpus of a great author stands apart from his personality.
Thanks to Ellen for keeping a great story and a great writer on public view.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Good Publicity

When "Rocket" came out, I sent a few press releases out to local newspapers in the East Texas area. The news release was the basis of the little blurb which ran in the September issue of the Texas Press Association newsletter, the TPA Messenger:

"Lou Antonelli, editor of the Bowie County Citizen’s Tribune, recently broke into the pro fiction writing ranks with publication of “A Rocket for the Republic,” in Asimov’s Science Fiction magazine. Antonelli mentions Nacogdoches, Corsicana, Tyler, Malakoff, Athens and Eustace in the story, which is a monologue by the 200-year survivor of the world’s first space shot."

I just learned (via a Google search) that the editor-in-chief of the Tyler Telegraph also used the info in his column this past Saturday, Nov. 5:

"Science fiction with a bit of East Texas flavor?

That was a winning combination for Lou Antonelli of Bowie County in East Texas, who recently broke into the professional fiction writing ranks with the publication of the tall Texas tale, "A Rocket for the Republic," in Asimov's Science Fiction.

"Asimov's, named for science fiction writer Isaac Asimov, is the second-largest science fiction magazine in the English-speaking world.

"Antonelli said he began work on the story while editor of the Malakoff News in East Texas in 2003. The story was published in the September issue of the magazine.

"Tyler, as well as Malakoff, Athens and Eustace, all are mentioned in the story, a monologue by the 200-year survivor of the world's first space shot.

"Antonelli also had four stories recognized with honorable mentions in the 2005 edition of "The Year's Best Science Fiction," published by St. Martin's Press of New York City.

"The writer said he came up with the idea for "Rocket" while day- dreaming about how a community once was named Science Hill in Henderson County. An alliterative title and a desire to write a story with a Texas "voice" led to the first draft, which was written while he still lived in Eustace.

"The story is set in the early Texas frontier and also mentions Corsicana and Nacogdoches."

When I had my reading at the New Boston Public Library Oct. 18, one of the attendees said she had seen the same article in the Nacogdoces paper, so it was apparently used there, also.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

The slush pile shuffle

This past week, I did the slush pile shuffle as stories came back from all four of the major venues within a few days of each other.
As I noted earlier, I got "Business as Usual" back from Stanley Schmidt. I made the corrections he noted (I had a mistake on page one and page two) and sent it to Gordon. I sent Stanley "Video Killed the Radio Star", which had been sitting around for a while cooling off.
I sent "My Ugly Little Self", which Gordon had returned, to Sheila. Ellen sent back "The League of Dead Nations". I sent her "The Dragon's Black Box", which had also been sitting a while. I sent "League" to Abyss & Apex, which is one of the magazines who opened for submissions Nov. 1.
Tales of the Talisman is another (I think I sent them "Prof. Malakoff". They used to be called Hadrosaur Tales.
I also sent Aeon (another mag who opened a reading period Nov. 1) "Damascus Interrupted".
I found out by checking Ralan that Lenox Ave. has gone belly-up, which means "The Man Who Ran" is freed up.
Right now I have 23 stories in magazine slush piles, and one story in the pile for an anthology. I'm also about to drop "The Hideaway" and "The Cast Iron Dybbuk" in the mail to Ellen for consideration for the horror side of the next "Year's Best Fantasy and Horror".
I picked a copy of Heinlein's "Expended Universe" cheap off e-bay for a few bucks. It came in the mail yesterday. I have it on the shelf next to me desk at work.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Whoops!

I got back "Business as Usual" from Stanley Schmidt on Saturday. He said he thought it was "kinda fun, in a bizarre sort of way', but didn't strike him as quite right for the magazine.

He noted at least two places where I used "discretely' where I probably meant "discreetly". I'd like to say that was an oversight, but it's not. I got the two words confused and used the wrong one.

Oh, well, corrected by the best.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Reflections on "For Us, the Living"

I'm sure everyone has a story the wrote when they were really young that they latest admitted schtunck! I actually finished a story in 1987, when I was 30, which I still have sitting in a folder. After I finished it, I just stashed it away, because I knew it wasn't that good. I was more interested in pursuing my career in journalism at the time, anyway.

I didn't look at the story for 16 years, and then ran across it after moving in 2003. It was set at the turn of the century, and boy did I call the history wrong! I had the Berlin Wall falling ten years too late, and the Christian Coalition taking over the country too early (I had Pat Robertson winning the 1992 presidential election).

BUT... reading the story now, I realize that if I had kept after it, rewrote it and few times, and maybe got some feedback, it might have been usable. The problem wasn't with the story, it was with me - I wasn't interested enough in writing fiction then.

By 2002, when I started writing s-f again, I had achieved a number of personal and professional goals which had been unfulfilled earlier. I was ready to try something new.

I also think 16 more years as a writer also really helped. I remember when I tried writing in the 1980s how labored it seemed to me - the actual writing process. Now, the writing seems easy - my problem is coming with clever, biting and original ideas. Which is a problem everyone faces.

The story I wrote up in 1987 still has an idea I'd love to explore - western society collapses in anarchy and violence as people go crazy because of their inability to handle the pace of technological change in their everyday lives.

Just as in "For Us, the Living", you can see the seeds of Heinlein's later works, when I found the manuscript of this story, I could see the roots of what I wrote later. The story is mostly a monologue, by the last man who makes it into a cave in Central Texas before they close the entrance. Above insanity and destruction spreads. The newcomer explains to another man that, essentially, he saw it all coming, and was ready to make a fast break when the collapse happened.

By the time I found the story and reread it, I had sent off "A Rocket for the Republic" - which, of course, is a monologue. The other story isn't quite a monologue - the other fellow gets a few words in - but you know what I mean.

I also found the handwritten beginning of another story - equally optimistic - that starts out pretty much like "A Canticle for Liebowitz", except that civilization didn't collapse due to war or disaster, but instead because people's collective intelligence ultimately lagged so far behind their technology that no one understood how stuff worked, and then - after free trade agreements bring in foreign made electronic goods that are especially shabbily made and prone to failure - people stop believing that the stuff works and it DOES stop working because of their collective disbelief. Somehow the laws of physics are changed because of the dead weight of doubt and ignorance.

The story would have a young monk who finds an old textbook by a Mr. Wizard type fellow, and the text is so clear and easy to understand that the monk "gets it" and some of the old technology starts working again for him.

I never even finished a first draft of that story.

Even back then, I would write potential story titles down. My wife was the one who actually found the box with these old papers while we were unpacking after a move, and she went through them.

She found an old brown crumbling sheet of paper where I had written down story titles, and pointed out one was "Circe in Vitro".

Pretty funny, I finally came up with a story to match that title last year. It was published by Astounding Tales, and was one of my Honorable Mentions in "The Year's Best Science Fiction, 22nd annual collection".

Lou Antonelli
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Nice Haul

I've found over the years that if you don't mind rummaging through the shelves of thrift shops, you can sometimes get nice old s-f books cheap.

Earlier this year, I really confirmed this to myself when I picked up four great old Heinlein books at a thrift store in Winnsboro - where I used to live and work - for fifty cents each.

Friday afternoon I was home (because I have to cover football Friday nights, I get out early from the office on Fridays) and I took the opportunity to browse a thrift shop just a block from where I live. I found a copy of Asimov's "The Hugo winners Vol. 1" for 50 cents.

Good deal, thinks I. Then Saturday morning, I went to a book sale held by the Friends of the Library in New Boston, where I work now. This is the same group that hosted my reading of "A Rocket for the Republic" on Oct. 18.

I picked up a copy of "Lucifer's Hammer", "1984", "The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Volume IIA" and a Ray Bradbury collection, "Quicker than the Eye", for fifty cents each.

BUT, here's the best part. The hardcovers were a buck each, and I found a perfect copy of "For Us, the Living" there. Two years ago, I would have paid $25; now I got it for a buck, a dollar, uno greenback.

Friday, November 04, 2005

My apologies again

I haven't posted in so long I just about forgot how. (Note the screw-up below). Sorry, but I've been so busy on the job I had no time. I'm still one staff member short, and had to complete a special section for the upcoming Veterans Day holiday.

Gordon returned "My Ugly Little Self". Had some good feedback - not that I agree with him, but any feedback is good, IMHO. I will send it to Sheila next. I don;t mind running stories by Gordon first, since he'll return them quickly.

A web site called BestSF recently reviewed Issue 19 of Andromeda Spaceways. Apparently, it was the first time they saw the mag. They could tell is is kinda small, but they still had some positive comments:

"The magazine is digest-sized, and does have a higher quality cover than is often the case with smaller magazines. A couple of names on the cover ring bells (Antonelli, Lake, McIntosh) as they have appeared in some of the aforementioned bigger circulation mags."

Huh? I'm becoming a familiar name? Hot damn!

In the review of "Dybbuk", it was noted it has a "touch of Quatermass and the Pit, as a long buried burial chamber is opened and an ancient horror is revealed. The story is ok without being really outstanding, and I did grimace a bit with a slightly clumsy opening couple of sentences which has one too many usages of 'on the radio' to read smoothly ('Henderson mashed the button on his radio. As he did, he looked over to see whose channel had lit up on the radio.') I'd have edited out the last three words! "

Uhhh, actually, the reviewer is right, that was a mistake. After the story was accepted, I went back to a copy of the story I realized I had inserted "on the radio" one place and forgot to remove it in the other.

Busted!

My apologies...

Latest reviews

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. [JC]

---From the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction

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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