Friday, December 26, 2008

As promised...


Here is the text of the story I wrote that was published on Dec. 19 about Norman Corwin:

Author looks back on 70th anniversary
of Christmas radio holiday broadcast
By LOU ANTONELLI
Managing Editor
Every year, in the weeks leading up to Christmas, we are bombarded by broadcasts of holiday classics.
“How the Grinch Stole Christmas”, “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer”, “Frosty the Snowman”, “It’s a Wonderful Life”, “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” – it’s a long list.
But the grand-pappy of all Christmas shows, that beats all those above in longevity, harkens back to the Golden Age of Radio, and on Thursday celebrates its 70th anniversary.
“The Plot to Overthrow Christmas” was broadcast on Sunday, Dec. 25, 1938 by CBS radio as part of a series called Columbia Workshop. The radio play is still often performed, and various recordings find their ways onto the airwaves each year.
It’s a unique story that starts in Hell, ends at the North Pole, and is written entirely in rhyme.
It marked the debut of a man considered the most distinguished playwright of the Golden Age of Radio, Norman Corwin, whose radio productions during the Second World War are considered some of the greatest broadcasts of the 20th Century.
Amazingly enough, Corwin is with us today to note the 70th anniversary of the landmark broadcast. We interviewed the 98-year old Corwin by phone on Monday, Dec. 15, 2008, from his home in Los Angeles.
Corwin said The Mount Pleasant Tribune was the only paper so far to note the 70th anniversary of the show – or to know he was still around.
Despite his age, he seems to feel his longevity is unexceptional – he has an older brother he talks to every day, and their father lived to be 112.
Despite the years, he remembers the genesis of the famous radio play. “The Plot to Overthrow Christmas” was a great milestone for him.
“It was the first play I ever wrote for anybody,” he said. “The reception was very good. It really helped my career.”
A Boston native, Corwin worked as a newspaper reporter for Massachusetts newspapers and then began reading the news over a radio station. He moved to New York City in 1936 and created radio programming for an independent radio station.
That work brought him to the attention of the CBS Radio Network, which – in a drive to create more meaningful radio entertainment – was in the process of hiring some distinguished radio artists.
Corwin was in the same class of newcomers as Orson Welles and John Houseman. Welles’ version of the “War of the Worlds” on Halloween 1938 was notorious; Corwin’s program on Christmas Day almost two months later was not nearly as controversial – but is more fondly remembered.
The Columbia Radio Workshop was broadcast on Sunday nights, and the coincidence with Christmas hadn’t hit Corwin until – a few months beforehand – the man who handled the show’s publicity asked Corwin for his line-up.
“He said to me, “You do know that Sunday falls on Christmas. You know you have to do a Christmas show.’ I hadn’t given it any thought up to that point. He asked me if I had a problem. I told him, ‘no, that’s fine.’”
Fact was, Corwin hadn’t even an idea for the program at that point, but the publicity man had to tout the Christmas Show in advance, so he pressed Corwin for the title.
“So I just said it’s called ‘The Plot to Overthrow Christmas’. He looked at me and said ‘Really?’ I said, ‘yes’. So he said ‘fine’ and that was that.”
This led to the program having a title before it had a plot. Corwin said that proved to be a blessing in disguise, because that title gave him the beginning of the story, which he recites from memory:
“Did you hear about the plot to overthrow Christmas?
“Well, gather ye now from Maine to the isthmus
“of Panama, and listen to the story
“of the utter inglory
“of some gory goings-on in Hell.
“Now it happened in Hades,
“Ladies,
“and gentlemen.
“It happened down there that fiends held a meeting.
“The fiends held a meeting for the purpose of defeating –
“Christmas.”
Evil Mephisto (performed in the original broadcast by Will Geer, who played Grandpa Walton on the ‘70s television series) convenes the villains of history because:
“In carrying forward the work of Hell,
“We’ve left a very big job unfinished.
“After all these years there is undiminished
“Good will on Earth every late December
“Because of Christmas.”
After considering suggestions by the likes of Caligula and Simon Legree, among others, the convention of demons approved the suggestion of Lucrezia Borgia to assassinate Santa Claus. The Emperor Nero wins the luck of the draw and heads for the North Pole to do the dirty deed.
Once there, Santa’s kindliness and reasonability stalls the evil tyrant, and then Santa shows him the happiness of the holiday with the gift of a Stradivarius violin.
The play ends with the sounds of Nero playing “The First Noel” after he decides to stay at the North Pole and help in the toy workshop.
The unusual format – a radio play in verse – has attracted a lot of comment over the years. Corwin said it just occurred to him – “I had never written anything in rhyme” – but as it happened, “it came very easy to me.”
He was grateful for the public response to the broadcast, and a little taken aback. “I was as surprised as anybody.”
Despite the theme of evil underground machinations and subversion – which may seem prophetic in light of the horrible war which broke out less than a year later – Corwin said he had no such intent.
“I intended it to be a jolly piece, that’s all,” he said.
The public liked it and “the reception was really good,” he said. “It helped my career.”
But the long run, one of the best things that came out of the broadcast for him happened the next day when a CBS News correspondent knocked on his door.
“He said he listened to it, and liked it,” said Corwin. “He wanted to meet the man who wrote it.”
That was Edward R. Murrow. “We became good friends. We were friends for the rest of his life.”
Corwin’s greatest subsequent radio achievements came during the war where Murrow became so well known as a foreign correspondent. He was the master of the special radio presentation.
His production on the Constitution’s Bill of Rights, “We Hold These Truths”, was considered so important at the start of World War II it was the first program ever broadcast by all four radio networks simultaneously, and drew the largest audience in history.
During the conflict, he directed the series “This is War!” His program broadcast on the night of the German surrender in 1945, “On a Note of Triumph”, is often called by critics the greatest single radio broadcast of history.
Times change, and role of radio in American society changed, too. By 1955 he left working day-to-day in radio, and since then has kept busy as a screenwriter, author, and stage playwright.
Today he is a writer-in-residence at the University of Southern California, “where they teach good football,” he quips, and still teaches classes and lends his advice and experience to aspiring writers.
“The Plot to Overthrow Christmas” was performed perhaps four or more times before he left CBS, he notes. Hardly a year goes by when it isn’t performed live on the air again. It has also been adapted for a regular stage presentation.
Corwin says he is grateful for the chance to be able to look back on its first live performance after 70 years. “It remains one of my proudest achievements.”

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

"The Plot to Overthrow Christmas"

Many years ago. I heard a radio rebroadcast of a play called "The Plot to Overthrow Christmas". It was originally produced live on CBS Radio and was really something. It's about a conspiracy of the denizens of Hell to stifle holiday happiness. After deliberations, the conclave under the leadership of Mephisto agrees with the suggestion of Lucrezia Borgia to assassinate Santa Claus. Nero wins the draw to do the dastardly deed. When he arrives at the North Pole, however, Santa's kindliness stalls him, and then his logic and friendliness result in a change in heart. At the end, Santa gives him a Stradivarius and Nero stays on to help in the workshop.

Interesting, eh? Starts in Hell, ends at the North Pole. Oh, and the whole story is in rhyme.

A while back I was snooping around for an idea for a unique holiday story for my newspaper. I remembered "The Plot to Overthrow Christmas". I did a little research and realized that the 70th anniversary of its original broadcast is upon us - it was originally broadcast Dec. 25, 1938. Then I really got a surprise - the author, Norman Corwin, is still alive. He's 98 and a writer-in-residence at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. I got a hold of his email through a web site, and asked him for an interview.

He agreed, and we spent some time on the phone Dec. 14. I wrote a 1,200 word story for the paper on Sunday, Dec. 21. It was a real honor to talk to him, and have a little touch of broadcast history. I'd post the story here, but I'm away from the office right now for the holiday.

This is a video I found on YouTube of some group that staged its own production of "The Plot to Overthrow Christmas". This may give you a little taste of the story. When I get back to the office, I'll get my article and post it here.

Merry Christmas, y'all!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Queen of Guilty Pleasures - Part 6 (conclusion)

It was past 10 p.m. before Tersarius was done debriefing Jervinis in Dallas. Marcel was fuming in a cell and Hitchens was back doing whatever a crooked cop does in a small town.

He drove back to Juniper Valley. The Town Square was dark and quiet as he let himself in the Journal office. He walked around the editor’s desk and slowly looked over the shelves. There were many science fiction books. He glanced over some of the titles:

Web of the City

The Man with Nine Lives

The Sound of the City

“Seems to be a pattern here,” he thought.

He noticed a memo pad on the desk. The top sheet was blank, but he could see an impression of what had been written on the sheet above. He could just make out what looked like

HE

m

an

“He-man?”

He tore the sheet from the pad and stuck it in his shirt pocket. He began going through drawers.

He found a slick trade paperback. The Real Bettie Page: The Truth About the Queen of the Pin-ups.

“He did a little research here.”

He flipped through the pages and noticed the book opened at the foreword: “The Queen of Guilty Pleasures.” Then he saw who guest-authored the foreword.

“Payoff.”

He threw the book back in the drawer.

* * *

“I’m surprised to see you back in Southern California,” said Detective Sloan. “I did think I’d get a call. But I assumed after you took off for Texas, I’d never see you again.”

“If you think about it, neither of us should be surprised the trail led back here,” said Agent Tersarius. “You know how uncommon random assaults are.”

“You said in your message you think the person who set up this possible cloning deal lives here.”

“Yes, that probably explains how he knew Bettie Page still lived in the LA area,” said Tersarius. “Plus he fits what I would call the profile in this case. Someone old and wealthy who could afford to do this, someone who would remember Bettie Page as a pinup in the ‘50s. In this case, my suspect was 21 when she was a Playboy centerfold in 1955.”

“I don’t pretend to completely understand how it’s done,” said the detective, “especially if — if you cloned someone today, wouldn’t it take years for the clone to grow up? Don’t they age like a normal human?”

“That’s the interesting twist on the case,” said Tersarius. “I have an indication this may have been done before.” He pulled out the sheet from the memo pad. “When I ran this through the bureau’s lab in Dallas, they made out the whole message. It actually says “HE make another.”

“Is HE your suspect then? I assume those are initials.”

“Yes, and that’s where I’m going next.”

“Do you need my help?”

“No actually, he lives elsewhere, so it doesn’t fall under your jurisdiction. I just wanted to make a courtesy call. I’ll let you know if it pans out.”

The detective stood up and shook Tersarius’ hand. “Well, this was probably ground breaking.”

Tersarius gave a wan smile. “It might be earth shaking, if the suspect is who I think it is. On the other hand, we probably will cut a deal. We may need this man’s help more than we need him prosecuted.”

“You would have thought the first real attempt at cloning would have been for spare organs,” said the detective as he escorted the agent to the door.

“Well, the two things that drive mankind are a desire for sex and a fear of death,” the agent said dryly. “Human nature being what it is, I’m not surprised someone would have wanted to clone a concubine.”

He turned as he walked away. “Anyway, this is the first case I’ve seen involving a sex toy.”

* * *

Agent Tersarius parked in front of a ranch house with a California stone exterior.

A diminutive well-dressed man with intelligent eyes behind rather large glasses answered the door. “Good afternoon. Agent Tersarius, isn’t it?”

“We need to talk, sir.”

The old man gestured expansively for the agent to enter. “I got word from Texas to be expecting you.”

Tersarius knitted his legs as he sat down on a large leather couch. “I guess Tim Marcel called you as soon as he posted bail.”

A pretty dark-haired teenage girl came into the living room. “Hello. Daddy, you didn’t tell me we had a guest?”

Tersarius smiled at the girl. “I just arrived.”

“Bettie, dearest, could you get us some coffee, please?”

“Sure.” She smiled at the agent. “I’ll be right back.”

The author turned to Tersarius. “As you can see, there’s nothing romantic going on here, agent.”

“Was that the original plan?”

The old man sighed. “You’re very perspicacious, sir.”

He sat back in his chair. “Yes, I planned to use her as a paramour — but as she quickly matured, my heart wasn’t in it.”

“Quickly, eh? How old is she?”

The author looked at his with resignation. “Seven. She’s seven years old.”

“She looks like a 16-year old.”

“And her rate of aging is accelerating. She’ll probably die of old age by the time she’s 30.”

“Things didn’t work out the way you planned, then. Couldn’t bear to become attached to her?”

“You make it sound so crass.”

Irritation crept into Tersarius’ voice. “Crass? Damn, man, you were going to start making a series of then? So you’d have a fresh one when the previous one got too old?”

The author’s blue eyes flashed as he leaned forward violently. “No, dammit. I just wanted to see whether this first case was an aberration. I wanted new work done.”

Tersarius nodded in the direction of the kitchen. “So she wasn’t a product of the Texas lab?”

“No, I had a fellow in Nevada do that work. Marcel was a fan who happened to broach the subject of cloning in a letter. I used him to set up the second attempt.”

He sighed. “I just learned two days ago it wouldn’t have worked. I was going to tell Marcel to destroy the tissue sample. Then you showed up.”

“What did you learn?”

The author leaned back in his armchair and rubbed his hands in a very obvious way. “Now, are we going to talk about leniency?”

“If you happen to have something substantial to offer, yes.”

The old man smiled. “My man in Nevada isolated a genome that seems to determine the rate of aging once maturity is achieved. Apparently, it must have some kind of environmental trigger — which explains why, in an artificial situation such as this, the aging proceeds geometrically after infancy.”

“How has he been able to confirm this?”

“This genome in Bettie duplicates that which has already been found in victims of Progeria — except it’s not the same gene. Since we know what the gene looks like initially, a little splicing and we’ll have a cure for fetuses diagnosed as possessing the Progeria defect.”

“A cure for Progeria.” Tersarius lowered his voice as Bettie returned with a tray and a carafe of coffee.

“Thank you dear. I know you have school work to do. Please leave us two old fellows, we’re talking business.”

“Of course, daddy.” Her blue eyes sparkled. “Please say good-bye before you leave, Mr....”

“Tersarius.”

Her bangs swayed as she giggled. “I’m sorry, did you say Terry Serious?”

“Close enough.” They both laughed.

The author nodded after she left. “She’s my responsibility in every way. Now I have to watch her grow old so quickly. The least I can do is make some good come out of this — a rich, old man’s foolish fantasy.”

“She was cloned before the law went in to effect,” said Tersarius. “And you were stopped before the next attempt. The most I would have is a conspiracy charge.”

He sipped his coffee. “I think we can deal. The NIH will appreciate the information you turn over to them.”

* * *

“You could have flown in tomorrow morning.”

Tersarius was pulling off his tie. “After spending all that time in Texas and California, I wanted to get back home.”

He kissed his wife.

“Where’s the little one?”

“Asleep in her bed, like a little angel.”

They both looked at their daughter through a partially cracked doorway.

He smiled and turned away as he quietly closed the door.

She held his hand. “Wasn’t this job about illegal cloning?”

“Yes, but they didn’t succeed.”

“Well, did you learn anything?”

He looked at her thoughtfully. “Yes. Bringing life into the world is a big responsibility — also a big risk.”

She had hardly ever heard him say anything so touching. She hugged him, and he hugged her back even tighter.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Queen of Guilty Pleasures - Part 5

Marcel led them to a small shed behind the building where old bound volumes of newspapers lined the shelves. He pulled a box from behind some of the large books.

“Damn, you put the stuff out here?” said Hitchens, “with no air conditioning?”

“This sophisticated kind of package is totally insulated,” said Tersarius, as he carried the old software box into the building.

“I wouldn’t open it if I were you,” said Marcel. “It’s in there pretty tight.”

Tersarius cracked the box just enough to see the zero-energy container inside.

“How did you notice the box?” asked Marcel.

“Well, even though I don’t use the software much, I know Pagemaker is an Adobe product now. And this box says Aldus, so I knew it was pretty old. I mean, why would a newspaper be using desktop publishing software ten years old? And then I realized the name.”

“I tried to be too clever, huh?”

“I don’t get it,” said Hitchens, “What about the name?”

“This tissue sample is from a woman named Bettie Page. She was a top pinup in the 1950s and the Playboy Playmate for Christmas 1955. She became a Christian in 1959 and has been pretty much living a private life in anonymity since then.”

“I get it. The software is named Pagemaker.” Hitchens rolled his eyes. “Page-maker. Sheeyit.”

Tersarius pointed a thumb towards the door. “Time to visit Cloverleaf Farms.”

* * *

Despite it being the middle of a Texas summer, the grounds of Cloverleaf Farms were bright green. It was gated and a voice squawked from a box after they pulled up.

“I’d like to see Mr. Jervinis.”

“Do you have an appointment?”

“I don’t need one. I’m Agent Tersarius of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.”

There was a pause. “May I see your badge?”

Tersarius held it up in front of the lens. The gate swung open.

They drove up to a large and long building, where a chunky man with sandy hair came out. “Gentlemen, I’m Mark Ginn, the manager here at Cloverleaf. How may I help you?”

“We’d like to see Mr. Jervinis.” Tersarius looked around the expansive estate.

“Mr. Jervinis isn’t here right now. Is here something I can help you gentlemen with?” He obviously recognized Marcel but didn’t give Hitchens a second glance.

“I want to see your embryology lab.”

“I’m afraid that’s not possible. It’s secure and sterile and I don’t have the authority. Mr. Jervinis is the general manager, I’m just the manager of the boarding facility. Besides, do you have a warrant?”

“I believe there’s a crime in progress. Your lab is being used for illegal cloning.”

“Agent Tersarius, cloning livestock is hardly illegal.”

“Cloning humans is.”

Tersarius could tell from his reaction this was the first he’d heard of this.

“Are you going to cooperate, or do I need call the Dallas office for backup, and do a thorough search?”

Ginn let them in and the four men slowly made their way through the lab. Ginn seemed unfamiliar with the facilities, but Tersarius recognized the standard lab setup — refrigeration equipment, sterile hoods, incubators and such.

He looked around and rubbed his chin. “The right stuff isn’t quite here.” He looked at Ginn, who just shrugged.

He noticed a locked door off to the side. “What’s in there?”

“From my having visited in here before, I think that’s a personal office for Mr. Jervinis.”

Tersarius twisted the knob and shook the door. “Do you have a key?”

Tersarius let go of the knob, but it continued to twist. The door opened and a dark-haired man with a neat beard looked out. “What’s going on here?”

“Mr. Jervinis, I’m sorry.” Ginn spoke up. “I didn’t know you were here.”

“That OK, Mark. Tim, what’s going on?”

“This is an FBI agent Tersarius. He’s investigating a suspected case of human cloning.”

“There’s been no law violated, Agent Tersarius.” Jervinis was the image of reasonability. “I’ve only been involved in some personal embryological research, related, of course, to our reproductive services division here at the ranch.”

“Well, then, you don’t mind if I take a look inside.”

“Not at all.”

Tersarius went inside the small room, which also had a sterile hood and incubator, along with a small refrigerator and a microscope, all on one large table. He opened the refrigerator and pulled out a tray with vials.

He looked over the containers. He gestured towards the other men. “Gentlemen, step forward here. I want to show you how to clone a human being.”

“First, you examine the human cells under this high power microscope, to insure there’s no contamination. If you’re unsure, you can always use a small centrifuge to isolate them.”

He looked at Jervinis, who was beginning to look worried. “I assume you have one someplace?”

Jervinis nodded very slowly.

“Then you put them in this specialized culture media,” he said holding up a vial, “where the cells grow and divide. You need to grow a good supply of clean cells.”

“This stuff here,” he said, “holding up another tube, “is called minimal media. It’s formulated so that the cells stop dividing and become quiescent.”

He pulled out a sealed petri dish. “You then take an unfertilized human egg, not terribly difficult to obtain, and under the sterile hood, you use a microscopically thin pipette to puncture the cell wall and then suck out the egg’s nucleus.”

He opened the door to the hood and slid in the dish. “Then you take one of the cells and slide it into the egg’s cell membrane.”

He looked at the trio. “A normal human cell is much smaller than an egg, so you can implant it in the egg’s cell wall quite easily. Isn’t that true?”

Jervinis nodded again.

“Then you either use chemicals or electroshock to jolt the cells so they fuse. The nucleus of the clone cell merges with the egg and takes the place of the nucleus you earlier removed. The egg will develop with the genetic material of the clone cell rather than what it started with. Then it’s just a simple matter of artificial insemination with some willing host.”

He turned to Jervinis. “I assume from the caps on some of these vials you use the electroshock method?”

Jervinis reached into a drawer and pulled out a small box with some wires and clamps.

“Very simple, but it would do the job,” said Tersarius. “I commend your expertise. You’ve managed to put a neat cloning operation on a desktop. You obviously know your stuff.”

“You obviously do, too. Have you ever done this yourself?”

Tersarius gave a little laugh. “No, but remember I’m the one asking questions here. And the next one is, who you have been working for?”

Before Jervinis opened his mouth, Marcel turned to run but Hitchens quickly grabbed him and then shoved him back in the door.

“That’s OK, Mr. Editor, it isn’t hard to see you’re the linchpin of this project,” said Tersarius. “You thought implicating over the Frames would throw me off you, and that when I ran into the lieutenant, he’d do his job.”

“I thought he would do at least what he was damn well paid to do.”

“Well, it was obvious you’re at the center of this. I can see Jervinis recognized you but not the lieutenant. The Frames knew the lieutenant but not you. You and the lieutenant are at the center of this conspiracy — and you’re obviously working for the client. Why would you get the tissue sample instead of Jervinis here? You can’t do a thing with it.”

He turned to Jervinis. “By the way, do you have an idea of the name of the clone subject?”

The doctor looked at him warily.

“Oh, I’m sorry, now that I’m sure, I need your testimony and expertise for this case,” said Tersarius. “We’ll give you immunity. It’s obvious Marcel here is our connection to the client.”

“Actually, Agent Tersarius, I don’t know and I never asked. I thought it was better that way.”

“Which means our editor friend here was the only person who knew her name. Page-maker, huh?” He snorted. “Desktop publishing software. Desktop cloning. All sorts of in-jokes.”

Marcel glared at him. “I want an attorney.”

Tersarius cocked an eyebrow at Hitchens. “You want to do the honors?”

The lieutenant smiled. “My pleasure.”

“Oh, you son of a bitch! I’ll be damned if you’re going arrest me!”

Hitchens already had the handcuffs on behind his back. “Just tell the man what he wants to know.”

“I can’t.”

“Yeah, I know.” Tersarius said. “Let’s go.”

He turned to Jervinis. “I’d like to debrief you. I think I’ll learn more if you and I cooperate. I think we can chalk this up to research for future cases.”

Jervinis smiled and nodded. “Mark, please turn off all the lights and lock up behind us.”

(to be continued)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Queen of Guilty Pleasures - Part 4

The temperature was already past 100 and the sun beat down in sheets of glare. Although the Juniper Valley Antique Furniture Emporium was across the square, Agent Tersarius drove out to the highway.

AirFlo Gases was in a medium-sized industrial park. He could see a large vacant building with the faint outlines of “Superconducting Super Collider Facility” still visible on the fa├žade.

“We only sell direct to industries,” said the office manager. “You just can’t walk in and buy liquid nitrogen.”

“Really?” Tersarius was still holding out his badge. “This place is rather out of the way. How do we know if a terrorist came by and slipped someone in the plant some cash for a carry-out deal?”

The woman cringed. “Please, I had nothing to do with it.”

“Who did?”

The head of the shop where the tankers were loaded blubbered away immediately.

“Just tell me who wanted the nitrogen and I’ll be happy,” he said. "I'm not INS."

“I don’t know his name, he was a old white man. He had a real lab flask, though, so I figured he knew what he was doing.”

“Well, what he look like?”

The man hesitated. “If hope he’s not going to tell me we all look alike,” thought Tersarius.

“He was an old man, tall, bald in the middle with curly hair on the sides. He had a checked shirt on.”

“Anything else?”

“He had a funny hammer in his belt, with a small square head.”

“Relax, amigo, you’re a small fish. Gracias.”

Tersarius headed back up the highway and into town again.

* * *

He walked into the furniture store and saw a lanky man hammering away at the back of an old Victorian Era sofa.

The man’s eyes twinkled behind his wire rim glasses. He unfolded his tall frame as his tucked the upholsterer’s hammer in his belt.

“How may I help you?”

Tersarius pulled out his badge. “I understand you once worked for the government, Dr. Frame.”

The retired scientist stiffened.

“And if you are retired, why would you still need liquid nitrogen?”

“Am I under some kind of investigation?" He spoke very precisely.

“Yes. Liquid nitrogen is a very hazardous material, and you had no right to purchase it. The agency is very concerned about any possible terroristic threats against..."

The older man straightened. “There’s no terrorist threat!”

“Then what about The Prohibition of Human Cloning Act? You’re a little old to go to prison, Dr. Frame.”

An older woman with stark white hair pulled back in a ponytail came from a back room. “Who is it, Jim?”

“Someone who wants to know how we paid for the Sebring convertible.”

She stopped dead in her tracks and looked over Tersarius’ thin frame and dark suit. “Oh, dear god.”

Frame gestured to large couch against a wall. “Can we sit down and talk?”

* * *

Their story was simple and straightforward. Someone who knew about the retired couple’s background had paid them a large sum to prepare a kit for the transport of a tissue sample. Yes, it could have been used for a human sample, noted Frame. They never knew who paid them. An intermediary arranged the deal.

Lieutenant Hitchens.

When he was back in his car, Tersarius realized someone sitting in an unmarked car across the square was looking at him. They made eye contact.

They both got out and met at the gazebo in the center of the square. Tersarius sat down and spread his arms on the back of the bench. Hitchens stood with his arms crossed on his chest just below his badge.

“I really don’t care whatever else you have going,” said the agent. "I know this couldn’t have been your idea.”

The lieutenant had watery blue eyes and a droopy cowboy mustache. “I don’t know if it’s any y’all’s business.” He spat tobacco juice over the railing and onto the geraniums.

“The boys in Washington want to nip this new crime in the bud,” said the agent. “I’m sure you wouldn’t want to lose your money from Matamoros. Nobody’s going to care about protecting you because you got involved in some science project.”

Hitchens glared at him. “You drive a hard bargain.”

“Hard, but simple.”

Spit.

“We’re all divided up, like cells. Mah part was to handle the liquid nitrogen. After Frame got the kit ready, I turned it over to someone else, who’s the real middle man.”

“Yes, someone I imagine in the middle of things, who everyone trusts, and nobody would suspect. Certainly not you. Let’s go."

Tersarius took off at a fast pace across the small park towards the newspaper office.

* * *

Marcel shot a quick glance down the hall as Tersarius and Hitchens walked in.

“I wouldn’t bolt, if I were you,” said Tersarius.

“He knows,” said Hitchens.

Tersarius looked towards the credenza with a shelf lined with software packages. “I see you’ve already removed the box.”

Marcel looked angry. “I needed the money!” he snarled. "I can't make a living from this pissant newspaper."

Tersarius gave him a dubious look.

"I needed the money,” Marcel repeated. “Why else do you think I’d work with this crooked bastard?”

Hitchens snorted.

“Well, you’re not any better than him now, are you?”

“Can’t we make some kind of deal? Like for immunity?”

“You’ve been watching too much television. You tell me where you were taking the tissue sample, and maybe, maybe we can talk.”

“I had to wait until I was told to make the drop-off. This whole deal was set up with firewalls,” said Marcel.

“The guy at Cloverleaf, Jim Jervinis, contacted me. I passed along the information on what was needed to him,” he said, gesturing to Hitchens, “he got the stuff from Frame, and then I passed it along.”

Tersarius shook his head. “What’s Cloverleaf?”

“That’s a fancy horse hotel on the edge of the city, right on the county line,” said Hitchens. “So that’s where this was going.”

“I assume there’s a lab set up at Cloverleaf,” said Marcel. “They host a stud service, and have been big into AI for years.” He paused. “Of course, in this case, AI stands for artificial insemination.”

“Have you already called Cloverleaf?”

“No, I called Scott.”

“Did you call Cloverleaf?”

“I didn’t know they were in on this. My connection was to him.”

“Good, then we’re going to this Cloverleaf place and you’re both coming with me.” He turned to the editor. “Would you like to retrieve the box?

(to be continued)

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Queen of Guilty Pleasures - Part 3



Agent Tersarius picked up a car at the Dallas FBI office and drove 30 miles to Juniper Valley, a small suburb on the southern edge of the county. He drove around the Town Square.

Catty-corner from the City Hall he saw a rather dilapidated office building with a sign, “The Juniper Valley Journal — Your Hometown Newspaper.”

No one was inside except a dark-haired middle-aged man behind a large desk. Tersarius smiled as the man stood up. "Can I help you?"

Agent Tersarius flashed his badge. He noticed the man flinched slightly

“I’m Agent Edward Tersarius, and I’m looking for information about Juniper Valley. I thought the local newspaper would be a good place to start."

The man relaxed slightly and smiled nervously. “You’ve come to the right place.”

They shook hands.

"I’m a microbiology forensics specialist with the FBI out of Washington, D.C.,” he said evenly. “I’m investigating a suspected attempt of illegal human cloning, and I have a lead that’s brought me here.”

Tersarius could tell the man actually understood him. “How can I help you, Mr. Tersarius. Is that a Lithuanian name?”

“Yes, it is, my grandparents came through Ellis Island. A phone call trace has led us to Juniper Valley,” he said. “How much do you know about law enforcement in this town?”

The man turned around and sat back in his seat. “We run the police log every week. Like everyone else.”

“Who’s the Coordinator in this town? You know, the guy you need to go to get permission to do stuff?”

The man glared at him. “I don’t know what you mean.”

“I assume whoever your local Coordinator is might be involved — for protection.”

"Coordinator" was the term used in law enforcement for the person in any law enforcement agency who worked for the drug dealers.

“I can speak plainly," said Tersarius. "We know Texas law enforcement is on the other side of the drug war. We’ve known it for years. All Texas police and sheriff’s departments have been compromised by the drug cartels.'

He leaned forward for emphasis. "It’s like during the ’20s and Prohibition. I don’t really care. I’m not here on a drug investigation, Mr....”

“Marcel, Tim Marcel.”

“A former Playboy Playmate and pin-up star from the 1950s was attacked in Los Angeles,” he continued. “The nature of the wound indicates the assailant may have collected a tissue sample.”

He let the statement sink in. “Perhaps whoever's involved in this cloning project has arranged for protection from your local Coordinator. These people make all kinds of side deals for extra money — easy enough, considering they control local law enforcement."

"We have a partial phone number that led me to Juniper Valley," he continued. "The question is, why would the trail lead to Juniper Valley?”

The editor looked wary. “What kind of businesses might be involved?”

“Reproductive services, artificial insemination, livestock cloning, perhaps? Microtechnology, cryogenics...”

“Whoa, stop right there. What’s cryogenics got to do with cloning?”

“If you transport tissue samples, they have to be cryogenically frozen."

Marcel walked over to a window and beckoned the agent. “You see that furniture store across the square?”

“Yes?”

“You remember the Superconducting Super Collider?”

“Yes.”

“The Collider was being built next door in Ellis County, at least until the assholes in Congress cancelled the project 12 years ago. The project’s headquarters were in an industrial park here in Juniper Valley while the tunnel was being built.”

Marcel turned to Tersarius. “The first people who came here were in cryogenics, because of the magnets they were going to install. When the funding was yanked, a number of people took retirement and gave up on government science work, including..."

He pointed. “Jim and Jill Frame, who opened up that antique furniture shop.”

“Thanks, that’s interesting.”

“Yes, and AirFlo Gases is still in the industrial park.”

“What’s AirFlo Gases?”

“An outfit that started up the same time as the Collider. They liquefy gases they pull out of the clean Texas air. Like liquid oxygen and liquid nitrogen.”

“You’ve been very helpful, Mr. Marcel. I may stop by and visit with you later. By the way, do you own the paper?”

“Yep, I do everything pretty much. Owner, publisher, janitor-in-chief. This is a small outfit.”

“Well, I know small newspapers don’t make lots of money. You hang in there.”

Marcel showed him to the door. Agent Tersarius turned before he walked out. “By the way, you never told me.”

“Told you what?”

“Who I was asking for?”

“Oh, yes.” Marcel shuffled his feet. “Lt. Scott Hitchens. He’s the guy.”

(to be continued)

We interrupt this serial...

Enchanted Rock

...for a bulletin. Apehelion has published my story "Video Killed the Radio Star" in its December issue, which went live Sunday, Dec. 14. Believe it or not, this is only my second story published in 2008, after "The Witch of Waxahachie" in April. I spent half the year working on my book.

Here's how the 'zine blurbs the story:

A recent graduate who desperately needs a job finds something other than gold in them there hills. A sci-fi tale about Enchanted Rock, the Republic of Texas and a secret long buried.

Certainly sounds like a Lou Antonelli story. Although because of length it is listed as a serial in the TOC, the story is published in its entirety.
Click here to have a read

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Queen of Guilty Pleasures - Part Two


Agent Tersarius alighted into the office like a crane on a branch. He perfunctorily flashed his badge. “I’m glad to meet you, Detective Sloan, and I appreciate your contacting us.”

The LAPD detective sat back. “I hope this isn’t a false alarm.”

“We evaluated your message. That’s why I’m here.”

“You think there may be something to this?"

“Ever since the Prohibition of Human Cloning Act of 2003 was passed, we’ve had a protocol enforcement.”

The detective sat up straight. “I guess you have a serious forensics background. It must be interesting.”

“Actually, I’ve been mostly stuck in a lab, and it gets boring as crap.”

He smiled. “I enjoy getting out of the lab. There are only a handful of FBI agents who can do forensic microbiology."

The detective’s eyes began to glaze. He shrugged and pushed a sheaf of papers towards Agent Tersarius. “Here’s the full report from the attending physician who treated the subject.”

Tersarius flipped though the papers as the detective spoke. “As an assault, it’s fairly atypical,” Sloan continued. “There was no prior contact, no communication during the assault, no attempt to take any valuables, and there was no attempt on the woman’s life. For now, it’s still only an assault. The bells went off because of the comments the attending physician added.”

“Yes, I see. Wound indicates attacker used specialized tool normally used for taking tissue sample from cadavers.”

Tersarius looked up. “That’s the operative term, tissue sample.”

“When I came to where you first mentioned the victim’s name, I thought it sounded familiar,” he continued. “Googled up a storm.”

“She’s lived in LA for many years. She was pretty famous in her day — they say she had 20,000 pin-up photos made in the ‘50s.”

Tersarius looked up. “Maybe some rich old man wants to re-live a teenage fantasy?”

“Is that possible?”

“I doubt it, but someone may be running an elaborate scam. Anyhow, it’s the thought that counts," he said with a thin smile. “I’ll take the case from here.”

“No problem, I wouldn’t know where to start, if this is what you think it is,” said the detective. “Now I have the good news and the bad news.”

“Give me the good news first.”

“A few minutes before the attack, while he was stalking the victim in the store, the perp stopped to make a cell phone call, and as he held the phone, a surveillance camera could see the key pad. We got the area code and exchange.”

Detective Sloan handed him a slip of paper. “Outside Dallas,” he said. “A town called Juniper Valley.”

“Texas A&M has been in the forefront of cloning technology for years,” said Tersarius. “What’s the bad news?”

“The plate is untraceable.”

“I guess that's not surprising.”

They both knew that with the corruption in Texas law enforcement caused by the Mexican drug cartels, more and more organized crime protection rackets were being run out of the state. "Somebody in law enforcement probably procured the plate," thought Tersarius.

Detective Sloan showed him to the door. “You think someone is finally trying to clone a person?”

“You know the saying. I’m not paid to think. But if someone is trying to violate the law, it’s my deal.”

He squared the papers. “By the way, how is the victim?”

“She’s fine, but still shook up. I’m sure she would have been happier if someone asked for her autograph.”

“Ouch.” The agent dropped the papers in his briefcase. “I’ll let you know what I find.”

(to be continued)

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Queen of Guilty Pleasures (Part 1)


Just as the development of the internet ended up being utilized the most efficiently for pornography, I would suppose the same will apply when cloning becomes common and relatively simple.

This conjecture led me to whip up a story back in 2005 about what would happen if someone stole DNA from an old woman who had once been a pinup to make a pretty little sex toy. The death yesterday of Bettie Page leads me to revisit my story.

It was originally published in Bewildering Stories in two parts in 2005. I'll take a little time this week to post the story here, just for your enjoyment, scene by scene.

#

THE QUEEN OF GUILTY PLEASURES
By Lou Antonelli

Bob the Stockman was absent-mindedly loading a shelf with dollar pasta when something caught the corner of his eye.

Bob used to be a telecommunications specialist — but the gigantic corporation went bust, and now he felt himself lucky to get a minimum-wage job at a Bargain Bucks store.

He turned and realized why his peripheral vision had tugged subliminally at his consciousness.

“How special,” he thought. “The Trash Perfecta. Cheap Trash, Old Trash, Euro-Trash.”

The astoundingly-dressed hooker was just picking up her yellow plastic bag full of junk food. An old overweight woman standing behind her stepped up.

Euro-Trash was behind her. Even in LA, this guy stood out — wraparound mirrored sunglasses, slicked back hair, olive complexion, a narrow white tie on a silver lame’ shirt and navy blue chinos. All under a heavy dark long overcoat.

“This dope is a slave to fashion,” thought Bob to himself. “Wearing a coat like that in LA in July.”

The elderly woman's pretty blue eyes sparkled as she made small talk with the clerk, who took her cash and turned to the cash drawer.

Before the old woman had a chance to pull back her arm, Euro-Trash reached into a deep coat pocket and pulled out the god-damnedest big syringe Bob had ever seen. In one smooth gesture he raised it and pulled the cap off the large needle. Leaning around the old woman, he plunged it deep into the fleshy part of her upper arm.

It took a moment for the pain to register. As she turned and started the scream, Euro-Trash raised his forearm to block her head, and then pushed her away, letting the needle pull out at the same time.

With his free hand, he pulled a narrow black container out of the opposite pocket and he dropped the syringe inside as he ran out the door.

Blood ran down the old woman’s arm and onto the counter as she sobbed. The clerk pulled a roll of paper towels out from under the counter.

Bob saw the whole business, which probably took all of ten seconds. He ran down the aisle and for a second thought to help the old woman, but instead sprinted to the door and into the parking lot.

Despite the heavily tinted windows, he could see Euro-Trash wildly turning the steering wheel as he sped into the street. In the split second the Porsche slowed as it entered traffic, he read and memorized the license plate. It was from Texas.

Bob went back into the store, where the cashier was hugging the old woman.

“There, there, Miss Bettie, the ambulance is on its way.”

The old woman pounded the counter with the fist of her uninjured arm, and clenched her teeth in pain. “A kook, another damn kook! Jesus help me!”

* * *

(to be continued)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Not much shaking

Returned proofs to Shelby Vick at Planetary Stories for "Acroscaphe". Waiting for publication, along with the stories at Raygun Revival and Apehelion.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Ed of an era

Forrest Ackerman died Friday. I think it's wonderful that - despite the fact his health was failing - he came home from the hospital and lived for a number of weeks while fans and friends from across the world sent him greetings. Apparently it helped buoyed his spirits.

Here is a link to the memorial on the SFWA web site:

http://www.sfwa.org/news/2008/fackerman.htm

I don't recall if I mentioned it in an earlier post, but like so many others, I sent him a birthday greeting when he turned 92 on Nov. 24. I wrote a little limerick, ran it off, and dropped it in the mail.

To Forrest Ackerman:

There was a great genius named Forry,
Whose life was one big sci-fi story.
When word one day spread,
He was quite nearly dead,
He growled, “I’m still here boys, dontcha worry!”


Happy 92nd birthday!
Lou Antonelli
Mount Pleasant, Tx.

#

Got the online proof of the story "Acroscaphe" ready to be published by the e-zine Planetary Stories. It's another Antonelli/Morris collaboration. It's been a year since our fantasy "Off the Hook" was published by Dark Recesses.

"Off the Hook" was a story that Ed started and I jumped into. "Acroscaphe" is the reverse, I did the first draft and then Ed came in.

I have three other stories lined up to be published soon, "The Silver Dollar Saucer" by Raygun Revival, "Video Killed the Radio Star" by Apehelion, and "Professor Malakoff's Amazing Ethereal Telegraph" by the annual Science Fiction Trails.

Not much money, but a lot of fun. Just call me the Last Prince of the Pulps.

#

Rich Horton, on his blog The Elephant Forgets, has published his rundown of the best of Jim Baen's Universe for 2008. He has included "The Witch of Waxahachie" as one of his favorites stories.

http://ecbatan.livejournal.com/2008/12/05/

Thanks, Rich! Glad you liked it.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Not again!

The Writer of the Future has posted on its blog the Honorable Mentions for the 4th quarter of 2008.

This is the FIFTH honorable mention I've gotten from them.

Jeez.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Another sale

Received word this evening that David Riley would like to include "Professor Malakoff's Amazing Ethereal Telegraph" in issue No. 4 of Science Fiction Trails.

"Science Fiction Trails is the magazine where science fiction meets the Wild West--Head on." says their web site.

Science Fiction Trails is a print magazine. Riley notes on the web page, "We always remind folks, these ain't your pappy's western stories."

This will be my 41st publication since June 2003. "Professor Malakoff" is now next in line after "The Silver Dollar Saucer" which is being published this month by Raygun Revival, and the "Video Killed the Radio Star" which is being published by Apehelion.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Good bluegrass

Not much doing on this end - I've been running at half speed recently. People at work keep giving the flu to each other, and I've been battling it for two weeks, in the sense of not getting really sick. But my sinues are irritated.

OK, finding that video of "Handsome Hank and the Lonesome Boys" doing the bluegrass version of "Video Killed the Radio Star" led me to look up more bluegrass. This group, Highway 76, does the best version of "Fox on the Run" I've ever heard.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Ackerman birthday

BTW, following up my comments from Monday on Forrest Ackerman's birthday, I see on the web that Ray Bradbury organized a birthday party for him at book store in Glendale, California - "Mystery and Imagination" - last Saturday and everyone sent greetings to Mr. Ackerman by camera. Among the people at the bookstore were Ray Harryhausen - amazing!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Nebula rec

The SFWA on Tuesday posted a list of stories which have received at least one recmmendation for the Nebulas as of November. I was happy to see "The Witch of Waxahachie" on the list. Of course, since I'm not a full-fledged member of the SFWA, I can't recommend any stories myself.

Whoever posted the list made a minor typo in my name, leaving out the first "n", but I posted a short message and they quickly corrected it.

There must be at least 100 stories on the list. There's seven from Baen's (this is just in the short story category).

Monday, November 24, 2008

Happy Birthday, Forrest Ackerman

Today is Forrest Ackerman's 92nd birthday. A few weeks ago, there were reports that he was at death's door and - after being treated at a local hospital for pneumonia - was sent home to die. In fact, there were premature reports of his death.

Baloney!

The latest word is that all the greetings and kind words have greatly lifted his spirits, and he's frail but fine. Last week sent him a birthday greeting of my own, a little limerick I came up with:

There was a great genius named Forry,
Whose life was one big sci-fi story.
When word one day spread,
He was quite nearly dead,
He growled, “I’m still here boys, dontcha worry!”


Happy 92nd birthday, Mr. Ackerman

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The kind of rejection, the kindest rejection...

"The Way of the Heretic" went off in Thursday's mail. It clocked in just over 6,700 words. It is one of the most personally satisfying stories I've done lately.

Hollered at Brad Sinor on the phone tonight. I'm working on this collaboration, "Blue Tango", and I wanted to check on a few points.

OK, here is what the title of this post refers to: I got back "Rock and Roll's Daughter" from one of the major magazines. The letter, dated Nov. 4, reads as follows:

"Thanks for letting me see "Rock and Roll's Daughter". This story is a lot of fun, and I enjoyed reading it, but I'm afraid it's not right for...(name withheld)". As always I look forward to your next one."

Jeez, these are the kind of rejections that exasperate you. My first reacton is, "hey, maybe if you broadened your story selection, you might enlarge your potential readership base.'

Then again, who am I to tell an editor what they should take for their mix of story selections?

"This story is a lot of fun" is something I get a lot, and shows how a lot of traditional s-f now is mopey and depressing. As I have said before, the cyberpunks had a bad attitde because they were pissed Reagan got elected president. The main lights in s-f for the past eight years have been in a similar funk because of George Bush. Well, now that Obama is elected, maybe they'll snap out of it. I actually got an email today through one of the Yahoo groups I belong to that ended with "Obama be praised!"

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

SFWA Bulletin story

The October-November issue of the SFWA Bulletin is out (according to Locus online) which features my story about Howard Waldrop's "phone-in" reading at Armadillocon in August. I haven't seen the mag yet - the last I saw of the article was the galley proof.

I received my payment from Raygun Revival today for the publication of my story next month of "The Silver Dollar Saucer".

Still tweaking the final draft of "The Way of the Heretic". I'm halfway through the pages.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

"The Way of the Heretic"

I always have a large notepad full of story ideas. After completing "Dispatches from The Troubles", I looked it over, and realized that sometimes you just have to be hit by inspiration. For some reason, I didn't feel like I wanted to launch into any one of them. I almost was ready to get back to "Blue Tango", but I felt I needed a little more time.

For some reason, as if my imagination wanted to "clean its palate", a story idea popped into my mind Friday night. I wrote up two pages of notes by way of a story outline Friday evening. I started writing the story Saturday afternoon. I finished this evening. It's 7,000 words and called "The Way of the Heretic". It's a post-apocalyptic story set in West Texas with a couple who left a polygamist sect that was spared a devastating plague because of its isolation.

This is a record for a short story, for me. I wrote it in two days. I've run off a copy and will sit down and proof and edit it Monday night. I like it, too; it has one of the most solid endings I've ever written.

Friday, November 14, 2008

This is amazing

In the course of researching "Video Killed the Radio Star", I found this BLUEGRASS version, done by a GERMAN group of country music fans, Handsome Hank and the Lonesome Boys. I am very, very, impressed.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

All together now...

Well, to mark the upcoming publication of the story "Video Killed the Radio Star" by Apehelion...

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

False alarm, good news

In case you didn't know, all those pessimistic reports about Forrest Ackerman proved to be premature. Although he is very weak, he has not passed away. The reports were so widespread that Locus On-line actually posted an item about his death, and then had to apologize. So far, he is still with us.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Publication date set

The serials editor at Apehelion, McCamy Taylor, sends news that "Video Killed the Radio Star" will be published in December.

Still don't know when a publication date will be set for "The Silver Dollar Saucer" at Ray Gun Revival.

I got back "When Hell's Bill Comes Due" from Andromeda Spaceways. The slush reader said, "Sorry, I liked the idea and it wasn't badly written, it even felt like one of those old-fashioned stories of the SF golden age."

But then the criticisms come in - some of which actually may be helpful. One thing that is baffling about this story is that - and slush reader saw this too - I've had trouble catching typos in this story. I may have to run a copy off and read it out loud to nab them. I used to do a reading of each story to my wife when I was done, but I've skipped that for probably the last three or four years. I may start that again.

Got back "Dispatches from The Troubles" from GVG. I dropped it in the mail to Sheila. She's got a nice fat Tuckerization in the story, anyway. Strangely enough, as the story went along - and you writers know how sometimes the plot and characters take on a life of their own and you the author need to get out of the way - the character plays a small but poignant role towards the end of the story that literally came out of nowhere.

On the subject of "Dispatches from The Troubles", I caught an episode of "The Simpsons" tonight that started with a St. Patrick's Day parade of Catholic Irishmen clashing with a bunch of Protestant marchers in downtown Springfield. It started to get goofy when the green leprechaun began duking it out with the orange leprechaun, but I did a spit take when the Hulk began fighting with the Thing.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Video Killed the Radio Star


"Video Killed the Radio Star" will be my 40th publication - not counting a few short stories I self-published in Sentinel science fiction in 2007.

As I said before, it's a monologue, and very much a Texas secret history. The title comes from the fact the story is a flashback to events in 1979. It has what I consider one of my best lines, and a piece of business very much in keeping with the spirit of secret history:

"I bet you didn't know Three Mile Island wasn't the worst nuclear accident in history. Actually, it wasn't even the worst accident in 1979..."

Because of its length, between 8,000 and 9,000 words, it will have to be published as a serial. I think it's the first novelette I've ever had published.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Another sale

Just got word via email that Aphelion ezine will take my story "Video Killed the Radio Star". It's a novellette, secret history, set in Texas, and a monologue.

Sound familiar?

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Sad news

The news is all over the discussion boards and groups that Forest J. Ackerman, the No. 1 s-f fan in history, is suffering from pneumonia and also had a heart attack. Mr. Ackerman is 92, I believe, so this kind of news is hardly unexpected, but still, he remains one of the last links to the golden era. This is the guy who wore a costume modeled from "The Shape of Things to Come" at the first world con in New York in 1939. Wow.

Friday, October 31, 2008

A scary story

in honor of Halloween. This scene is from the Peter Bogdanovich movie "Targets". Boris Karloff plays a character very much like himself, who decides to retire from movie making because the real world has become more horrible than his play acting.
This is a short throw-away scene, but this is also the essence of great story-telling: A master story-teller (Karloff makes it look easy, but pay attention to his voice and expressions) and an audience that wants to be entertained.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Got 'er done

Finished up "Dispatches from The Troubles" tonight. Came in at 11,434 words, 60 pages. One of the few novellettes I've ever written. It is ready to go out in tomorrow's mail. I was right on my guess earlier in the week on length and completion time. It took me a month; I sent off "Rock and Roll's Daughter" Sept. 29.
This is the 77th story I've written since I started in August 2002; I've had 38 publications (39 if you count the upcoming publication of "The Silver Dollar Saucer").

Off to bed. Tired.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Almost done

"Dispatches from the Troubles" is almost done, and should come in right at 12,000 words. This will be the longest thing I'ver written, other than the book. I expect it will be tweaked and ready to send off by the end of the week.

Friday, October 24, 2008

This much

Got an email rejection from overseas today. Damn, as Maxwell Smart used to say, missed it by this much:

"We always look forward to reading a new submission from you, so thanks for sending on "The Devil We Know". It's well written and intriguing, and we've come to expect. But I'm afraid we'll have to pass on this one too, the best of luck in finding it a home elsewhere, and DO keep submitting to..."

Jeez. That's still encouraging.

Back to what is already a novelette, "Dispatches from the Troubles".

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Dispatches from The Troubles

Up to 8,000 words on the story. This will be coming in at novellette or even possibly novella length. I have some crucial alt hist issues to decide as we careen towards a conclusion.

GVG returned "Rock and Roll's Daughter'. I made some changes - completely changing where the story began - losing over 200 words in the process and, I think, helping the pacing a bit. I sent it off the Sheila today. I'm not sure that she'd want an AH tale, but on the other hand, it's her call. She already has a YA story of mine in her slush pile.

Looking over the revised version of "Rock and Roll's Daughter", my impression was I did all the right tweaks. It may be a very good stab at a sequel to "The Witch of Waxahachie".

I promised Brad Sinor I'd get back to a near future memory regression story we've kinda cooked up, with the working title of "Blue Tango". I'd says its about halfway done. I will get back to it after "Dispatches from the Troubles" is finished.

Won't have time to write this evening, I have to attend a local Chamber of Commerce banquet.

"Hemingway, after all you are 90% Rotarian."
"Can't you make it 80%."
"No. I can't."

Sunday, October 19, 2008

O'Flaherty's Cantina

I'm up to 6,000 words in "Dispatches from The Troubles" and yes, I did get a scene set in a pub called O'Flaherty's Cantina.

Took a break during the afternoon and watched "Starship Troopers 3" on DirecTV. I wouldn't have paid more than the $3.99 that I did, but for what it was, it had its moments.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Irish/Mexican bar?

Funny how real life and alternate history can intersect. My boss recently returned from a cross country drive to California to attend the wedding of a old Army buddy. He said when he stopped in Williams, Arizona, - "Gateway to the Grand Canyon" - he dined at "Pancho McGillicuddy's Southwest Bar and Grill". I looked it up, and it's for real.

Considering the story I'm working on - "Dispatches from The Troubles" - that's hilarious. I will have to set a scene in a similarly-named bar.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Latests on dollars and dispatches


I'm underway on "Dispatches from The Troubles", almost 3,000 words. This story is a little innovative, it is exactly what it says, a compilation of news stories written about the Irish "Troubles", although an alternate history version where these disruptions happen in South Texas instead of Northern Ireland (look up the founding of San Patricio, Texas, to get an idea where this story takes off from).

Despite being a life-long journalist, I've never written a speculative fiction story that featured actual "news clips", although I segued into a number of television transcripts which are used in my novel "Dance with me, Henry".

A random thot: Both the first story I ever had published, "Silvern' in Revolution SF in June 2003, and my latest, "The Silver Dollar Saucer", which is on deck at Ray Gun Revival, use that particular coin as a maguffin. You'd think I am fixated.

BTW, I do own a 1935 Peace Dollar like the one above.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

20th anniversary

It was Oct. 12, 1988, when Rev. Ian Paisley of Northern Ireland heckled the Pope during a visit to the European Parliament

I remember when this happened, and I find it interesting that I am currently writing a high alternate history novella which manages to transpose "The Troubles' of Northern Ireland from Hibernia to North America (The 'Nueces Strip' to be exact, here in Texas), and Paisley is one of the characters.



Any in case, I am looking forward to "Dispatches from The Troubles". It's kind of a spin-off from "Dance with me, Henry", insofar as I had the character of Joseph Kennedy, Jr. in the book make some pointed comments about Irish subjugation, and it's very much in keeping with the high AH style - which is why someone like Paisley will make an appearance.

Friday, October 10, 2008

What if Americans became economic refugees?

Here's a tip of the hat to Capt. Xerox on the Website at tne End of the Universe, who brought this to our attention, to wit:

"People from poor countries come to the United States and other Western nations in order to live more comfortable lives, but what would happen if America became one of those poor countries? Would Americans abandon their homeland to become economic refugees? HBO is developing a TV series that imagines that what-if scenario and given the headlines in the financial papers these days, it seems eerily plausible."

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Brilliant? Twice? Me?

You may have noticed the adjective "brillant" was used in the evaluation of "The Silver Dollar Saucer" by the slushgods of Ray Gun Revival. This was the second time in a week I caught that word being used of me, which is pretty startling, I must say. Just recently I saw that the cyberpunk magazine Neometropolis has added a link to this blog on its web site. Ed Morris and I had a collaboration published there in Dec. 2006, "Eva". In introducing my link, editor John Jacobs said I'm "Another brilliant mind in the sci-fi community and Neometropolis veteran."
Huh? Me? Shee-yit. I'm just an old-fashioned pulp writer. Still, it's always nice to get ego-boos...

Monday, October 06, 2008

Praise for "The Silver Dollar Saucer"


The editors at Ray Gun Revival say its OK for me to quote their assessment of "The Silver Dollar Saucer". I am fascinated at their reaction because - after bouncing around a number of places, with so many other editors missing it all and being distracted by minor issues - suddenly the story finds someone who "gets it".

Here's what they said:

#

"This is very funny and imaginative. I even want to say brilliant. I really like the mixture of space opera and western dudes. I loved the way the author kept the main characters 'in character,' like talking about what kind of coal runs a spaceship, and not really knowing about the lack of gravity in space. (A personal quibble: I'd have preferred the story without the couple of profanities. But I suppose that could be called staying in character, too.)

"This is a great story. The author is inventive, clever, and managed to keep me guessing.

#

For his part, Ray Gun Revival "Overlord" Johne Cook said "It was a perfect fit for our publication!"

Ahh, so here's an appropriate tune, then. Cue the fuzz box...

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Another sale

I got word via email last night that Ray Gun Revival has agreed to buy my short story "The Silver Dollar Saucer". It will be published on-line in its pdf format. Ray Gun Revival publishes fiction in the tradition of the classic pulps, and I had pegged them a month or so ago as a possible venue for the story.

"Silver Dollar Saucer" is one of my older unpublished stories - it's been kicking around about three and a half years - but I'm not surprised it took a while to find it a home. It's an uncommon combination of a western, steampunk and space opera. It has gotten good comments over the years - and was even approved to be offered as an Amazon Short (the deal fell through because Amazon only sells shorts for authors who have books on Amazon, and I didn't qualify) - but it didn't fit well with anybody. For an imaginative genre, s-f publications can be very hidebound in only enjoying fiction within their individual narrowly defined boundaries. I don't think that way. For example, when I was publishing fiction on Sentinel S-F, I specifically said I didn't want any Lovecraftian crapola, and then David Marshall sent me a short called "The Scrawl of Cthulhu". I thought it was funny, and I published it.

In addition to straddling a few genres, "The Silver Dollar Saucer" starts and ends (in a way) in Texas, another strike against it. It also has some very funny moments and wise-cracking. I don't know how many times I've gotten rejections saying my stories were fun. I got one just this week. I guess s-f isn't supposed to be fun. So I knew the story would be a hard sell.

I'm very satisfied it found a home, and I have asked Ray Gun Revival for permission to publish the editor's comments upon acceptance. Talk about blowing my own horn!

This will be my 39th publication since June 2003.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Regrets to Fencon

Fencon is this weekend in Dallas, and this will be the first I've ever missed entirely. I made it at least one day of the past four. I think I attended on Sunday for the first one, and last year I was there Saturday night and Sunday.

Unfortunately, work, time and health problems made me decide to skip this year. I've been having diabetes-related problems with my feet, and I have a work-related deadline on Monday. I have to do some writing Sunday at home and I simply don't have the stamina to run to Dallas and also do the stuff I need at home.

I made it to ConDFW, Armadillocon and the Nebulas this year, so I feel I made the rounds. I would have enjoyed the con, but you have to be realistic about these things.

Last year I pitched the Fencon folks on inviting Howard Waldrop, and not only did they, they made him Toastmaster. Now, ironically, neither of us will make it. Howard is still recovering in the VA hospital in Temple; I spoke to him Thursday, and he said the earliest they might release him is Thursday of this coming week.

I wrote his bio for the souvenir booklet, and now we're both no-shows. Ah, well.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Talking to the class

I had the opportunity Saturday to talk for about a half hour to a creative writing class being taught at Northeast Texas Community College at its campus in Pittsburg. The instructor is Jory Sherman, who is more of a western and mystery writer. We have a mutual friend in Joe Lansdale, and some time back - when I realized Jory lived so close to me - I told him if he ever wanted or needed a guest lecturer, I would volunteer.

The class had about a dozen students. Although I dashed in on a pillar of fire - I was very rushed because I had just put the Sunday paper to bed - I still think I made sense and rushed through a lot of tips in a short while. Apparently I independently recapitulated some pointers Jory had given earlier, which impressed the students with their validity.

It was the last class of the session and I think a useful and entertaining conclusion.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Latest story

I finished "Rock and Roll's Daughter" today and dropped it in the mail. This is the first short story I've completed after finishing up my book, "Dance with me, Henry" this summer. It's set in the same universe as "The Witch of Waxahachie" and essentially introduces Raevon Holley, President Holley's daughter, who is also his most valuable secret agent.


It came in right at 5,000 words and is a nice first attempt at developing a character who may become important later. We'll see what kind of reception it gets.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Hackers kill ezine

A quarterly webzine, Sepentarius, which paid five cents a word, met its demise recently for what is probably the worst of all reasons - hacking. The word went out via Ralan as well as the SFWA newsletter. Here is the word as posted on their own web site:

#

We were hacked again, and were used as a malware distribution point. We were locked out until today. We still DO NOT have access to email. Our benefactor has pulled the plug.
We tried our best to give pro pay genre writers a chance to get published. Apparently hackers feel we shouldn't. That's it, we are through.
For the five authors who have received payments for the September issue, enjoy the bonus. You are free to submit your excellent stories elsewhere. I will follow up with a release of contract.
If you know some teen named Ghost51, tell him thanks for ruining things.
We will be removing this website at the end of September.

#

I mean, that really stinks.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Gather up the magazines


To expand a little bit on my previous post: Jory Sherman (http://www.jorysherman.com/)is an accomplished author who lives in Pittsburg, Texas, and teaches a course in creative writing at the local community college. Some time back I told him if he ever wanted someone to talk about s-f and fantasy, I'd be happy to talk to his students. He's taken me up on my offer. Insofar as I am so recent an author, I suspect I'll have some good advice for them on how to break into the field

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Musing on fiction

An instructor at the local community college has asked me to give a presentation as part of his class in creatuve writing on Saturday afternoon. This should be fun.

Monday, September 22, 2008

BSFA Awards

Winners of the British Fantasy Awards, presented this weekend at Fantasycon, include:

The Sydney J. Bounds Best Newcomer Award: Scott Lynch

BFS Special Award: 'The Karl Edward Wagner Award': Ray Harryhausen

Best Non-Fiction: Peter Tennant for Whispers of Wickedness Website Reviews (Whispers of Wickedness)

Best Artist: Vincent Chong

Best Small Press: Peter Crowther, PS Publishing

Best Anthology: Stephen Jones for The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror 18 (Robinson)

Best Collection: Christopher Fowler for Old Devil Moon (Serpents Tail)

Best Short Fiction: Joel Lane for "My Stone Desire" (Black Static #1, TTA Press)

Best Novella: Conrad Williams for The Scalding Rooms (PS Publishing)

Best Novel: 'The August Derleth Fantasy Award': Ramsey Campbell for The Grin of The Dark (PS Publishing)

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Back to the keyboard

I haven't posted this week because I got caught up in writing my first short story since I finished my book ("Dance with me, Henry"). It's set in the same world as "The Witch of Waxahachie". The first sequel out of the gate, "Holley with an E", takes the alternate history version of Buddy Holly and brings him to center stage as the President of the Republic of Texas. In the process of trimming that story down at the request of the publication which now has it, I took out an introduction to the President's daughter, Raevon Holley. The story I'm working n now, "Rock 'n Roll's Daughter", takes Raevon Holley and brings her to center stage.

BTW, "Dance with me, Henry" has nothing to do with these "Waxahachie" series stories. Although the Waxahachie stories may be strung together eventually into a book - and indeed, a criticism I heard more than once about "The Witch of Waxahachie" was that it seemed like a book excerpt - the series hasn't accumulated yet enough to make it to book length.

"Dance" on the other hand, came together in one big outline, and isn't related to anything else I ever wrote. It clocked in at just over 102,000 words.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Visit with Tom Doherty


Here is a copy of the story I wrote about the Tor.com web site after interviewing Tom Doherty Tuesday. It was published in the Mount Pleasant, Tx., Daily Tribune today. It was easy to get reprint rights, since I'm also the managing editor.

#

Web site creates portal for science fiction fans
By LOU ANTONELLI
Managing Editor
With the internet becoming a bigger part of everyone’s life, its uses have also proliferated. Once used simply for email, bulletin boards and research, today it is also a major source of entertainment.
A New York City-based book publisher stepped out recently and created an innovative web site that combines blogs, bookmarks, and the other common personal uses of the internet with original science fiction literature and art, published free on-line as a comprehensive web portal for people interested in the genre.
The fact Tor Books publishes science fiction and fantasy may be a reason the web site has done so well, says the company founder and President Tom Doherty.
“Science fiction readers are early adapters,” said Doherty, “It’s a fast changing field.”
Doherty, 73, has seen a lot of technological change since he got his start in the business as a salesman for Pocket Books in 1957. He says the latest innovation with the Tor.com web site is a wonderful tool to allow the company to interactively “communicate more broadly with its readers.”
Doherty founded Tor books in 1980, and it is the most successful of all science-fiction publishers. It has won the award as Best Science Fiction Publisher in the annual poll conducted by Locus magazine - a trade publication of the science fiction field - for the last 21 years.
Since the Tor.com web site was launched in July it has featured original fiction by some of the best-known and “hottest” names in the genre, included Stephen Gould (whose book ‘Jumper’ was recently made into a motion picture), Charles Stross, John Scalzi, Cory Doctorow, Elizabeth Bear, and others. It also features original art with image galleries from today’s most celebrated science fiction and fantasy artists
Tor.com will also serve as a major social networking destination where registered member SF and fantasy enthusiasts can engage with one another and personalize their online experiences.
Doherty – who’s usually described as a ‘living legend’ in the publishing industry – said the development of the Tor.com web site was a collaborative effort that spanned a two years and involved many people, including editor Patrick Nielsen Hayden.
“I am very proud of it, it came out very well,” he said. “Everything came together.”
Given its audience, Tor took advantage of the annual comics convention in San Diego held this summer (Comic Con, July 24-27) which drew 130,000 people for the rollout of the web site.
“The roll out went great,” said Doherty. “We got great feedback. Everyone was very enthusiastic.”
Doherty’s publishing company, Tor/Forge (the Forge imprint publishes other types of fiction, including a strong line of historical novels, thrillers, and American westerns) had a web site, Tor-Forge.com, but it wasn’t meeting the need Doherty saw.
“The web site is great as a catalogue, but we wanted something broader, we needed to communicate more broadly with our readers,” he said.
The days of supermarkets and drug stores having long book shelves and wire spinner book racks are almost gone, he said, a victim of market pressures, he said.
While committed readers still go to book stores, those other traditional outlets for impulse buying of paperback books have almost disappeared. “It’s a big problem,” said Doherty.
Those impulse buys in other retail locations have traditionally been a way many people find a first book they like, perhaps leading them to become regular science fiction readers, he noted. “When we lost that, we lost an important part of our outreach,” he said.
The creation of the Tor.com web site is an attempt to re-create what was lost, “some kind of modern equivalent,” where people can go to try out the latest literature in the field.
“It’s a step in the right direction. It’s a way to let the world know that this kind of thing is out there,” he said. For example, on Thursday the web site published an original short story by Elizabeth Bear, “The Girl Who Sang Rose Madder”.
Once on the web site to read the free on-line fiction, visitors can also check out blog postings by the authors themselves. Authors such as Stross, Scalzi, Doctorow, Gould and Bear frequently post on the web site, as well as others, such as Editor Patrick Nielsen-Hayden.
While there, the readers can check out the other features, such as links and bookmarks, they will also see what books Tor is publishing. “We want to attract people so they will be coming back week after week,” he said. “Most people can tell vey quickly, after visiting the web site one time, whether they are interested in what we are offering.”
As much as he likes the web site, Doherty says he doesn’t post all that often. “I’m too bloody slow typing,” he says with a laugh.
One of the things that has kept Doherty at the top of his field for so many years is being on the cutting edge of landmark publications. “I learned from the best,” he said, “Ian and Betty Ballantine.”
The husband and wife team helped start Bantam Books after World War II and went on to found Ballantine Books, which became the most prominent publisher of science fiction during the Golden Age of the 1950s.
The Ballantines made history in the 1960s when they acquired the rights to publish the works in the United States of a British university language professor who wrote fantasy on the side. The paperback publication of “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy and “The Hobbit” in the United States by J.R. R. Tolkien is widely credited as the start of the modern era for the fantasy genre.
Doherty follows in the same tradition today, and those “impulse” visitors to the Tor.com web site will see the company is about to release “Paul of Dune” on Tuesday, Sep. 16, a direct sequel to the famous Frank Herbert novel, written by his son, Brian Herbert, and Kevin J. Anderson.
Despite being in the thick of the book publishing industry for over half a century, Doherty says he has no plans to retire. “I still enjoy being active and involved. I think it would be very dull to retire, although,” he said with a chuckle, “I probably should take more vacations.”

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Interview with Tom Doherty

Two weeks ago the PR firm hired by Tor books to beat the drum for the new Tor.com web site contacted me in my capacity as managing editor of my newspaper to pitch a story idea. Each Sunday we have a page devoted to only entertainment news, and I thought Tor.com - web portal that it is - fit the bill, and told them I was game. Through their auspices, I had an interview this afternoon with Tom Doherty himself. It was informative and fascinating, and will have my article written up by the end of the week. Quite an experience.

Friday, September 05, 2008

You knew this was coming...



Just a note: My tombstone will read

"HAH! Lou Antonelli expected the Spanish Inquisition!"

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Gustav's guests

Hurricane Gustav is bearing down the coast, and being a good distance inland, and right on I-30 (the interstate that connects Dallas with Little Rock), Mount Pleasant is getting evacuees. The local motels are all full, and the family life centers at the local churches are beginning to fill up. I'm off this Monday, so I have a full weekend off - the first since Armadillcon - and I'm using the time to get caught up with my record keeping.

I took a minute to compile all the lists of story ideas I had sitting around. One list was almost three years old, from Sept. 2005. The first story on that list was "The Witch of Waxahachie". The new list has 70 story ideas.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Summation of Armadillocon

This year’s event was the first time I attended since 2004, and the first time I was a panelist. Conflicts with job-related events kept me from attending the past few years. I must say I was very impressed with the quality of both the panels and the guests. I was happy to buttonhole con chair Kurt Baty on Sunday and tell him that.
Considering that I’m not from Austin, and that I really work on the fringes of the genre, I am very satisfied with what I learned and what I took away from the event. Unfortunately, I probably walked on eggshells the whole time because of my bad experience last year when I attended the NASFIC in St. Louis and ended up in the ER Sunday afternoon. I have perennial problems now with allergies during the summer, and this is right at the time of the year when I get the sickest. Last year a combination of exhaustion and the unintentionally-bad idea of riding the train to St. Louis made my ear explode into a full-blown infection that took a month to beat down (I probably need to mention that when I have allergies, my ears get congested worse than my sinuses – probably a lingering side-effect of being a forceps baby).
This year I was afraid of getting sick again while out of town, but everything worked out for the best and I made it home safe and sound. Now onward to Fencon in October!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Nothing much to report

I have to say that, after finishing and sending off "Dance with me, Henry" and then going to Armadillocon last weekend, I'm taking a bit of a breather. My main project this week was listing a piece of property we own near Cedar Creek Lake. It's almost an acre of land with an undeveloped cabin on it. We bought it for a song at a tax sale five years ago. Unfortunately, I changed jobs and subsequently we haven't lived very close to it. Also, I've used my free time to develop my fiction writing skills. We decided it was time to sell it, since it doesn't look like we'll ever do anythimg with it.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Saturday night report


Saturday night at 8 p.m. at Armadillocn featured the panel on "How to Sell a Story to Asimovs". It was a packed house, and the only panel I was on at the whole con where all the panelists were in attendance.

Don Webb, Maureen McHugh and Sheila Williams recounted anecdotes and gave advice. I was the moderator, so I probably contributed the least, but I tried to keep things flowing. I think everyone in the audience enjoyed it. That's Maureen, me, Sheila and Don, in that order, in the photo.

Later in the evening I visited a few suites. The Fencon suite was lively and friendly; ConDFW was a little more subdued, but Dan Robb was there as usual. The Con Suite itself again the best stocked and maintained I have ever seen.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

More on Armadillocon

I know some people reel out these long blog entries, but I really have other things to do in my life, and so I try to blog only so much per day.

My first panel was Saturday at 11 a.m. I left Mount Pleasant at 5:15 a.m. and made it in exactly five hours. I immediately ran into Maureen McHugh - who I had seen at the Nebulas in April - and Andrew Swann, who I had never met. He's from the Cleveland area and knows Maureen from when she lived up there. He's a real nice guy and a very accomplished author. I had them in stitches describing the crackpot plot of my high alternate history book, "Dance With Me, Henry."

Andrew joined me and Rhonda Eudaly at 11 a.m. for the "Stump the Panel" session which was lots of fun. It didn't have a big turnout, but those who came had a good time.

Soon afterwards I ran into Lawrence Person, who was chatting with Steve Utley. Steve had to introduce himself - although we have corresponded and talked a number of times, I had never met him and had no idea what he looked like. Bill Ledbetter came by, as well as Jayme Blaschke (Jayme and I had Steve sign our copies of 'Lone Star Universe') and we all visited for some time. Steve had some fascinating insights in what the Austin s-f community was like in the 1970s and 1980s.

By early afternoon checked into my hotel room and I took a break to recover from the long drive and the start of the con.

2b cont

Monday, August 18, 2008

Report from Armadillocon

I'll probably be posting for the next few days about Armadillocon, but I did want to get this in right away:

Howard Waldrop was going to be a guest at the con, and continue his tradition of doing the closing reading. Of course, he is still recuperating at a VA hospital in Central Texas, and couldn't be there in person, but they figgered out a way he could participate.

Howard is in a VA Hospital in Temple, which is 60 miles north of Austin. I left the Con at 2:30 p.m. because I had a three hour drive to Dallas. My wife grew up in Dallas and I stayed overnight Sunday with my mother-in-law. I finished the drive to East Texas this afternoon.

One reason I wanted to leave the con early was to stop by and see Howard. When I got there Barb Denton, Alan Graham and Howard were set up in a lounge on the floor where he is staying. Apparently Brad Denton laid the plans for the "remote broadcast"

The reading back in Austin started at 4 p.m. and while Howard's pals back in Austin were reading "The Ugly Chickens" we all visited and had a nice time.

When they got close to the end, Brad called and Barb and Howard began to follow along, so Howard was able to jump in and finish up. Howard's spirits and wit remain strong, but he's still a little frail physically (or else he wouldn't be in the hospital). Since I'm a journalist I always carry a camera, and so I took digital pics for posterity of the event.

What impressed me was how, when he began reading,Howard sounded his old self. It was like he was back at the first Armadillocon. I guess that came through to the folks back in Austin, from all reports. After he finished, Howard just sat there for a while listening on the cell phone. Finally he said with a big smile, "they're still applauding".

Afterwards. Barb and Alan left and headed back to Austin. I had to use the facilities and then I said good-bye to Howard. I told him I would mail him a copy a photo taken when he was reading, and I asked him to write down his mailing address at the hospital.

The shudder I got when he started reading his story reminded me of the way I felt when I was a young man and saw the video of Buddy Holly playing "Peggy Sue" on the Ed Sullivan Show. Howard Waldrop is a true genius and a Texas original. It was a coincidence, but I feel very blessed to have been there when he did his reading.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Off to 'Dillocon

Well, I'm ready to drive down to Austin for Armadillocon 30. It will take me 5-6 hours. Thank goodness the price of gas has been dropping lately.

Here is my schedule, by way of a last minute reminder:

Sa1100DZ Stump the Panel
Sat 11:00 AM-Noon deZavala
Antonelli, Eudaly, B. Foster, Graham*, Swann
Watch our panelists make up sf/f uses for common objects supplied by the audience.

Sa2000DW How to Sell a Story to Asimov's
Sat 8:00 PM-9:00 PM deWitt
Antonelli*, McHugh, Webb, S. Williams
What is the editor really looking for? What do others -- from a variety of viewpoints -- see in her choices, and how is the magazine evolving?

Su1000R Reading
Sun 10:00 AM-10:30 AM Robertson
Lou Antonelli

Su1100DZ No More Excuses: Making Writing a Part of Your Life
Sun 11:00 AM-Noon deZavala
Antonelli, Kenner, Richerson, Sarath*, M. Wells
Having trouble fitting writing into your life? We'll have tips, tactics, and boot camp-style exhortations to get you to stop making excuses and spend more time writing.

Asterisks indicate the moderator of the panels.

For my reading Sunday, I will be reading from the first chapter of the alternate history I just just completed, "Dance with me Henry". It's currently with an editor at Tor.

I know readings for minor authors such as myself are usually poorly attended, especially opposite strong panels. so I plan a reward for whatever audience I draw:
I will give away an unopened 10-CD boxed set of the audio version of "The Yiddish Policemen's Union". It is a $39.95 value. I got it because it was sent to a newspaper as a revieiw copy. The newspaper didn't even open it, and I picked it up for essentially nothing at a newspaper conference. Whoever sits through my reading can have it. If we have more than one other person, we'll draw lots or something.

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; ...