Thursday, November 30, 2006

Things are looking up

Thanksgiving isn't a fun week when you work at a weekly or (in my case) semi-weekly newspaper (that's twice a week for you laymen). A holiday that falls in the middle of the week screws up the production schedule. For example, my weekend paper deadline is Friday - which wasn't affected by the holiday. But of course, I had Thursday off - which means that, unless I wrote at home and brought stories with me to the office on disk, I would have had to turn a deadline around minus 24 hours.
Which of course, couldn't be done. So I had to write at home. The wife and I drove three hours to Dallas for Thanksgiving dinner with the mother-in-law, and then stayed only three hours and drive three hours back again so I would have enough time to write. Which I did.
Thanksgiving week is also a pain because most of the normal sources of local news - the cities and schools - are closed most or all of the week. I really had to be creative to fill up the pages.
The sport editor did take the long weekend off on vacation time, so I covered a football playoff game the night after Thanksgiving. Fortunately, I was able to hitch a ride in the cheerleaders' bus for the two hours drive. It also turned out to be a great game; hometown Hooks is now the only local team still in the playoffs and they go to the regional playoff round tomorrow night.
Since Patricia was home from school last week, we had no fuss about the car - and thankfully, I found a set of wheels this week. The aforementioned sports editor recently bought an SUV and didn't trade in her 1994 Chevy Corsica (yes, the sports editor is a lady). It's got 206,000 miles but still runs quite well, and she's let me use it for the duration. Nice gal. In the meantime I have local towing service looking for a wreck where we can get a Ford F-150 motor for my old truck.
With school and city hall opening back up this week, things loosened up considerably,and with the loaner car I don't have to worry about wheels for the time being. So things are looking up.
We're having some winter-like weather tonight - its dropped below freezing and there's a little precip. Patricia checked the weather reports this morning and she's stayed over in Mount Pleasant rather than brave the highway home. Tomorrow is her last day of student teaching. After that, it's on the glidepath towards graduation Dec. 16.
Still working in fits and starts on the fiction. I have a completed first draft of a short story where I've really been hung up over the title - and then I remember a song from over 20 years ago. The title of the song fits my story perfectly. And since I looked up the video on YouTube, here it is:

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Automotive disaster

Well, the bane of the poor Americans' existence - car trouble - has struck. Friday night I was driving 50 miles to cover a football playoff game when 43 miles away (in other words, almost there) the truck conked out. I saw the engine was overheating badly and I was just able to pull into a convenience store/gas station before the engine died. I found the radiator completely empty. I put two gallons of coolant in there. The engine still cranked, but it seemed to put out steam. What I think happened in that the thermostat hung up and let all the coolant boil off, and then the engine overheated - and cracked. The crankcase is full of a water and oil mixture, so the coolant must be draining into one of the cylinders now. I think this is what's called a cracked head. (The engine actually still turns over fine, but makes a loud clacking sound).

Patricia came and retrieved me and I got back home about 10 p.m. Friday night. Yesterday (Saturday) I was lucky enough to find a local tow truck operator who hauled the Ford back to Hooks for only $80. Considering it was 43 miles and two counties away, that was a pretty good price.

Now I have to go about trying to narrow the problem down and getting it fixed as cheaply as possible.

Thankfully, Patricia is out of school for the Thanksgiving Break - and only has one week f school after that - so I think we can manage with one car for a while. I have to take care of all this while battling a cold - I stayed home Wednesday on s sick day to nurse myself, and it seems to have helped, but this thing may linger for weeks.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

"The Prestige' and James Patrick Kelly

My wife and I recently went to see the movie adaptation of the Christopher Priest novel, "The Prestige". We both enjoyed it. Afterwards a certain similarity in a plot twist in the movie jumped out at me (like as soon as I hit the lobby) to a piece of business in a well-known story by James Patrick Kelly. I won't divulge it in case you haven't seen the movie. I e-mailed the esteemed Mr. Kelly and asked him about it.

As it so happened, he went to see the movie with his wife the same day, and yes, he knew what I was talking about. He said (tongue in cheek) he would have sent his crack legal team after Priest except both his story and Priest's book came out at the same time (which is true - it was 1995) and so there was no way one author could have known what the other was writing

It was a very pleasant exchange. And it leaves me wondering, why does this happen - different people all come up with the same idea at the same time? You hear editors mention it all the time.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Kiosk

I was browsing the December issue of F&SF and I see that a Bruce Sterling story, "Kiosk", is slated to be published in January.
That was the title of the story Bruce workshopped in March in Turkey City. It was pretty good the way it was (IMHO), but of course, he wouldn't have taken it to the workshop unless he wanted tweak it.
This should be interesting because I'll be able to compare what he peddled to Gordon Van Gelder and what we read at the workshop. As a neophyte, I should find this enlightening.
The child bride has been honking and snuffling and all day long. She'll probably have to take Monday off as a sick day. I think I even saw the dog's nose running.
I don't know how much it will help - in the long run this winter - but I DID get a flu shot about a month ago.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Jack Williamson passes away

Jack Williamson's life career began in the age of wonder* - when the potentialities of technology were only just being fully explored** - and ended during the age of plunder - when people began to realize that regardless of technology, people still need to get their hearts, minds and social systems in order. Truly a 20th century story.

When I first began to write s-f, and I began to pick up some books on eBay, one of the first I stumbled across was a perfectly pristine edition of "Rocket to the Morgue", written by Anthony Boucher in 1951 - a thinly disguised Williamson was one of the characters in the book. That was written more than half a century ago.

In his Wikipedia entry, it mentions that Isaac Asimov was thrilled to get a postcard from Williamson after he published his first story. That not only highlights how long Williamson was around, but also the fact that he was such a considerate person.

I've never seen or heard anyone say anything about Williamson except that he was gracious and polite.

I never met the man, but just this past year, I sent him a birthday card. My application to join the SFWA was approved in April, and shortly afterwards I saw from a calendar that his birthday was coming up on April 29th. Since I got the SFWA directory, I dropped him a birthday card in the mail.

I attended the Campbell conference in 2004. He wasn't there, but there was a documentary about s-f writers. Each time a writer was introduced, they started the segment with a voiceover and then brought the picture up, so you heard the author before you saw them. At one point, voice started up with a distinct drawl, and I sat up, thinking "Hey, that guy sounds like me!" Then the image faded into view. It was Williamson.

When I used to work at newspapers closer to the Dallas area, I would get news releases from Eastern New Mexico University about his library and conferences. It actually was a good way to keep on top of the news.

Williamson's own observation that he was drawn to the magazines he found in the news rack because the tales seemed so much more imaginative and interesting than his real life resonates with so many s-f authors - including myself. Perhaps that's one of the reasons s-f has lot a bit of its zip in recent years - the world is getting so weird that fiction pales by comparison.

As for his longevity, it just goes to show you that good genes and a good attitude go a long way. By way of my own personal comparison, I recall he was one year younger than my grandfather, who passed away 22 years ago.

You know the old saying, "you can't take it with you." We don't get to take anything material into the next life. We do get to take a good name and reputation, and measured by that, Williamson departs as one of the richest men in the world.

It's sad to hear he passed, but really, is anyone truly "dead" who is still loved by so many others?

Lou Antonelli

* Hardly surprising that his autobiography was titled "Wonder's Child".

** His first story was published three years before Thomas Edison passed away.

Friday, November 10, 2006

A disappointment

Well, maybe I can get caught up with some of the topics I have noticed and wanted to mention in the past few weeks. The one that's probably been sitting around the longest is Gerry Studds.
Gerry Eastman Studds was the congressman from a district south of Boston from 1972 to 1997. He was the local congressman when I started working in journalism at my hometown newspaper in the 1970s.
Studds was the first congressman I ever had to deal with in a reporting capacity. He was polite, articulate and as it turned out later, gay.
Much has been written and mentioned over the years about how states that were formerly solid Democratic - such as in the Sunbelt - now are Republican. What people tend to forget is that there are a number of northern states that used to be a lot more Republican.
Although the Democratic Party has always been strong there, I think most people would have considered Massachusetts a predominantly Republican state up until the 1950s. Even as it was trending heavily Democratic in the late 1960s and early 1970s, it elected a pair of Republican governors, John Volpe and Frank Sargent (Sargent was ousted from office by Michael Dukakis).
By 1970 probably half the state's congressional delegation was still Republican, but that changed in the 1970 and 1972 elections.
The congressman up until 1972 from our local district was a fellow named Hastings Keith - very honest and well-respected. Studds ran against him in 1970 and nearly beat him, and Keith, being the sensible man he was, realized the long-term trend was against him and retired. Studds won easily in 1972.
(Keith, by the way, in later years, led an effort to reform the congressional pension system, because he thought it was silly that many congressmen had multiple pensions from different sources when they didn't need the money; from what I recall, he had about three different pensions, from the military, congress and some other governmental service. He only passed away last year, from what I recall.)
Studds trotted to re-election in 1974 (a ham sandwich could have won re-election as a Democrat in that Watergate year), and then in 1976 he had a Democratic Primary opponent.
That was the last year I worked at my hometown paper, so that was the last congressional campaign I covered at home.
The Democratic primary opponent, Edmund Dinis, was the DA in Fall River, and he didn't run a good campaign. The main thing that came out was a lot of innuendo that Studds was gay.
We all thought that was mudslinging, and made fun of it, but in 1983 Studds admitted that a decade earlier he had an inappropriate relationship with a male congressional page. He was censured by the House.
I was appalled at the time, especially when I realized that the page had been the same age as myself. If I had been involved in Democratic politics instead of journalism, Studds may have been hitting on me instead.
A month ago Studds suffered a stroke and a week later passed away at the age of 69. A number of reports quoted his "husband" - he had entered into a gay marriage when Massachusetts made it legal in 2004.
Many of the reports noted he was the first openly gay congressman.
I don't know what leads people to be gay, although from my experience and observation one of the causes seems to be inbreeding among WASPy types. Studds came from an old New England family; of course, in retrospect, the surname almost seems like a joke.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Hello there!

I haven't posted her for a few weeks - bad conjunction of events. The typesetter quit (with no notice) two weeks ago four days before the deadline for the single largest section the newspaper puts out each year. Needless, to say, it was hectic. The post still hasn't been filled, which means I've had to do some extra work (although I've been able to minimize the damage by shifting a few things around and making smart usage of some OCR software).
Not only does this eat up my time, but I have to space out my typing because of my chronic carpal tunnel syndrome. I have to alternate between typing and doing other things or else the pain gets unbearable.
Last weekend, I was two people shorthanded because the sport editor went out of town on Friday and Saturday to cover the regional cross country meet. Friday I worked a from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. and then covered the football game starting at 7:00 p.m. I was finished at 2 a.m. and then had to get back up and on the job by 10 a.m. Saturday and worked until 7 p.m. that night.
Like I noted previously, there was absolutely no way I could have attended World Fantasy Con.

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

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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