Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Con fiascoes of the past

I attended my first s-f con in 2003, when I was 46. During one of the panels, I noticed one of the authors kept refilling his water glass from under the table - despite the fact the water pitcher was ON the table.

Innocent me. I soon realized he was keeping a bottle of vodka under the table.

I once moderated a panel where one member - who was admittedly very knowledgeable about the subject - refused to yield the floor and was so enthusiastic that everyone, panelists and audience alike, had to let him hold forth for the full hour.

I mean, short of mugging him and stuffing him in a barrel, it was obvious we would not be able to shut him up.

One time I was on a panel where a few of the other panelists were good friends with each other. They chatted among themselves and pretty much forgot I was there at the end of the table. After a while I realized I wasn't going to be able to participate, and I slipped off and into the audience where I could relax.

It took them ten minutes to realize I was even gone.

One time I was moderating a panel when, from next door, another moderator came in - saying that his panel has poor attendance - and said that we should combine the two unrelated panels, which he then did on his own without waiting for anyone's feedback.

This was a literal hijack of my panel, and it was pretty astounding. I was dumbfounded at the size of the ego of the douchebag. He essentially wasn't satisfied with the size of his audience, so he stole mine.

I was in the audience for a panel where the moderator tried to keep all the panelists - as well as the audience - engaged. One author, thinking that he had cut her off at one point, therefore went on strike and thereafter, every time he tried he tried to draw her back into the discussion, would only say, in a huff, "I like bunnies."

So yeah, a lot of crazy crap happens at conventions. But in all the cases I just mentioned, nobody was expelled from the con.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Compute this!

I received an interesting request today, forwarded by Jason Rennie, regarding my short story "On a Spiritual Plain" published in Sci Phi Journal last year.

Here's some excerpts:

"I'm a final year undergraduate student at...  I'm seeking permission to use the text of the story for a special project as part of my BSc in Computational Science. For my project, I'm hoping to use Hugo-nominated short fiction from 2013 and 2014 to train a machine learning classifier to identify the type of stories nominated by the voting bloc(s) known as the "puppies".

"I then hope to test the classifier with the Hugo-nominated short fiction from 2015 and 2016. I'm interested in whether there are any distinct characteristics of puppy-nominated stories as compared to non-puppy-nominated stories that are identifiable through computational methods and, if so, what characteristics those methods use to make their classification.

"I'm now seeking your permission to use this copy of the story for the purposes described above.

"I will not share or distribute the story in any fashion and will copy it only for the purposes of format conversion. This project is purely for educational purposes and has no commercial applications. I will credit in full all of the stories used in the project.

"If you are the copyright holder for this work and you consent to my using it in this fashion then I would be very grateful if you could confirm this in writing."

I told Jason to reply that I have no problem with this use of my story. I doubt this budding Clyde Crashcup will find any identifiable characteristics unique to Sad Puppy stories. The whole issue was a social and political dispute, not a literary one.

On the other hand, he may just be out to do another hatchet job, though I'd be hard-pressed to figure out why anyone would care anymore, since the Puppy Kickers clearly won.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Dragon finalists announced

I got my email last night with the link to vote for the Dragon awards. Looking over the finalists, it appears the Dragons are what the Hugos claim to be, or used to be - a inclusive recognition of the best speculative fiction from the previous year.

There's a wide variety of authors and works selected, and a number of my Facebook chums appear.

BTW, I was not eligible in any Dragon category this year - my only published fiction in 2015 were short stories, and the short story category was handled through a separate but associated Award, the Eugie Foster Memorial Award for Short Fiction. Nominations for that are only accepted from editors and publishers.

Those who nominated works for 2016 included John Joseph Adams, Mike Allen, Scott H. Andrews, Michele Barasso, Neil Clarke, Ellen Datlow, Charles Coleman Finlay, Niall Harrison, Emily Hockaday, Michael Kelly, Jonathan Laden, Mike Resnick, Scott Roberts, Edmund R. Schubert, Jason Sizemore, Jonathan Strahan, Lynne M Thomas, and Sean Wallace.

Yeah, looks like another award I'm backballed from.

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Well, this is a new one...

A few months ago I saw that that the DragonCon alternate history track was seeking panel proposals. I jumped at the chance to suggest a topic near and dear to my heart, Secret History, and I submitted a proposal for a panel to be called "Secret History: Bet You Didn't Know It Happened That Way".

That was the last time I thought about it, I never heard anything else - until yesterday.

When I got my panel confirmation.

I never got an invite to be a panelist at DragonCon, and I never bought a membership. I went to five cons between April and July, so I was pretty full up with cons, and never really thought about DragonCon (I've never been there).

I'm proud to have helped come up with a panel topic, but I've sent my regrets.

The panel will be held at America's Mart 204-Room J (4th Floor Monday at 1:00pm (last panel of the Con for that room).

I'm glad to have helped in some small way!

Sunday, August 07, 2016

Today's philosophical musing

Sometimes personal integrity prods you into supporting a cause or proposition or candidate also supported by people who hate you.

But you can't go through life doing things based on what other people think or trying to please other people.

So just go ahead and be true to yourself. Your true friends will understand you; your false friends will betray you; your true enemies will mock you; and a few times - yes, a few times - some of your enemies will realize you're a person of integrity.

Then, they still may not like you - but they will respect you.

Thursday, August 04, 2016

How to write, edit and sell a story in four hours

Sci-Phi Journal published my short story "The Yellow Flag" on Monday. This is the story that I started one day after lunch when I realized I had some free time on my hands. I think it took an hour and a half to write - it's only 1,842 words long - and then I spent a half hour proofing it before I shot it off to Jason Rennie.

I thought it was the kind of story Jason might like, and I was right. I think he emailed me with the acceptance by 4:45 p.m.

I really doubt I'll ever top that record for a quick turnaround.

Now, like they say on the commercials, don't do this at home - and don't feel bad if you can't do it yourself.

First, being a journalist by profession, I can write fast and fairly clean. That's not to say the story wouldn't have benefited from more editing. But heck, when I looked at it, I said to myself "I think this could be published as is", and I sent it off to see what happens.

"The Yellow Flag" is my 100th published short story, and it is only the THIRD to be accepted on the first submission (the other two were to Asimov's and Daily Science Fiction).

Secondly, it helps to know your market, and having already been published in Sci Phi Journal, I had an idea in advance that it might be a good fit.

The story was written, submitted and accepted on May 6, 2015. Even with a semi-pro market like Sci Phi Journal it took over a year to see publication.

Here's a link if you haven't read it already.

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

The Three Amigos

I had a great time at ArmadilloCon this past weekend, and on Saturday I had a chance to visit with both Joe Lansdale and Howard Waldrop.

We got together for a photo in the Dealers Room.

 Even with the publication of my 100th short story Monday, I'm still dead last among the three of us; I think we probably collectively have about 500 short stories published since 1972, which is when Howard first hit print.

Cover reveal for "Another Girl, Another Planet"

I did my cover reveal for "Another Girl, Another Planet" Saturday at my reading at Armadillocon.

This is the back cover blurb:

Dave Shuster is confronted by secret government agents over a photo taken by a Mars lander of a graveyard complete with crosses on Mars. The secret is out, and the conspiracy is revealed!

Shuster claims that—in an alternate timeline—he was a low-level bureaucrat in the administration of a joint U.S.-Soviet Mars colony. In that timeline, the Cold War takes a very different turn—largely influenced by Admiral Robert Heinlein, who was allowed to return to Naval service following World War II.

And then Shuster is thrown into a power vacuum immediately upon his arrival on the Mars Colony in 1985. He finds himself fighting a rogue industrialist and is caught up in a murder mystery involving the illegal use of robot technology

Coming soon!

This is one of my best ever alternate histories.