Sunday, December 15, 2013

A letter to my high school German teacher

After renewing an acquaintance last week, I shot off a letter today to my old high school language teacher,who I saw back in June when I was inducted into the Academic Hall of Fame at my high school in Rockland, Massachusetts:

Here is a excerpt, with suitable editing to preserve privacy:

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While at the high school, Mrs. (another former teacher) was exuberant over how nice it looked after the renovation. "Doesn't it look great?!" she exclaimed.

And I said - truthfully - "I haven't set foot in the school since probably 1976; I never saw it run down, or become run down. Actually, it looks the same as when I last saw it."

That gave her some pause for thought.

It's these little observations that I've collected over the years for my speculative fiction. For example, imagine this scenario: As I walk into the school, and I think to myself what I just said - "Sheesh, it looks exactly the same!" - I knock my head, and when I come to, I'm back in high school.

Maybe I'm back in 1975, and I look the same and everyone looks the same, but I still have all my memories from up to 2013.

Or I'm back in 1975 and everything is the same, but everyone shrinks in horror because I suddenly aged 38 years.

Or the school is exactly the same as in 1975 - including posters, bulletin boards and such - but there is no one there, at first; then classmates begin to appear, but they are the one who have already passed away, and I'm afraid I'm a ghost, too, and fearful of being fated to wander the halls forever.

That's a little insight on how the mind of a speculative fiction writer works. I was just as imaginative and creative when I really WAS in high school, but now I have the writing chops to put that into print, plus I have the hard-won wisdom to put life's experiences into perspective.

Skidding back down to Earth in a shower of sparks, I am so impressed you read and like "Texas & Other Planets"! My next collection will be coming out early next year; its lead-off story is the first story that I've ever had nominated for a literary award. I will get you a copy.

One final note, regarding visiting the school: When we went into the media lab, where I was interviewed by the school paper, I commented - along the lines of how much the school looked the same as I recalled - that it used to be the language lab, and also still looked the same.

The media lab guy said, "Hey, I think you're right! You have a good memory."

The only thing missing was you at the head table giving me the Texas skunk eye when you could see my mind was wandering. But now you can take satisfaction in knowing I was just laying the groundwork for a fiction writing career.

Stephen King has said he doesn't have to come up with plots for his horror stories, he just remembers his nightmares. I have a good enough memory to remember my daydreams.

And turn them into fantasy and science fiction.

Oder, wie man sagt auf Deutsch, fantasie und zukunftroman.

Hah, see I WAS paying attention, after all!

All the best,

Lou Antonelli

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"It’s possible that you haven’t run into the stories of Lou Antonelli. Since 2003, he’s been publishing delightful short tales of alternate history all over the nooks and crannies of the SF world. Thanks to Fantastic Books, we now have 28 of these little gems in one place. "Many of Antonelli’s stories have an unexpected twist ending. And many of them are what he calls “secret history” stories, which aren’t exactly alternate history—they’re set in our familiar history, but there’s always some element that contemporary observers missed. " -

- Don Sakers, The Reference Library, Analog July-Aug. 2014

A better path develops for a distraught man in “Double Exposure” by Lou Antonelli (debut 6/11 and reviewed by Frank D). Jake is about to end it all. He has been trying to keep his high maintenance wife happy for decades and has needed to embezzle to satisfy her spending habits. Now, on the verge of indictment and abandoned by his spouse, he buys a gun. Before he pulls the trigger, he spies a Kodak one-day photo hut. Curious, he pulls up to the window. They are holding pictures of him and his last girlfriend from 30 years before. The package is a lot thicker than it should be. Double Exposure” is listed as an Alternative History story but I would classify it as a Magical Realism tale. It is set as a second chance tale, a look into a life that should have been. The author is inspired by his memories of the old photo huts (I remember them) and of their disappearance. A cool idea (photos of another life), one that I could imagine would make for a great anthology.

- Frank Dutkiewicz, Diabolical Plots

“Great White Ship”: A traveler stuck waiting for a flight strikes up a conversation with an old airline employee. The Old Timer tells him a story of a Great White Airship that arrives from a most unusual destination. The story of a craft from an alternate reality and how it got there is only the precursor to the final act. This is one of my favorite stories from this site. I have a great passion for lighter-than-air craft and their potential as a future means of transport, which opens the story. The author uses this speculation to launch into an engaging tale. As fascinating as the main story line is, the alternate history premise that accompanies it is just as worthwhile. This story was well written and very well thought out. It is well worth the read. Recommended.

- James Hanzelka, Diabolical Plots

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