Saturday, January 31, 2009

Austin remains weird

I was surprised to see a familiar name yesterday while I was using the Associated Press. For those of you who might not know, I'm the managing editor of a small daily newspaper. Every morning, one of the first things I do is scan the AP for news briefs. Friday I stumbled across a little weirdness from Austin; apparently someone last Monday hacked the message on a temporary electronic roadside message sign. It displayed the following messages:


The AP story described the culprits as "slacker hackers with time to kill". Whoever did it apparently cut a padlock to get to the sign's electronics. The message only flashed for an hour or two.

The little story certainly made the rounds. I was watching the BBC World News Friday night and they included it in their weekly roundup of world wide weirdness (hey, that sounds like an anthology title: WWW: World Wide Weirdness).

What caught my eye is that the photo was contributed by Chris Nakashima-Brown, who I know from having once been a Turkey Citizen. Chris is an excellent writer and has published some fun neo-Cyberpunk stuff.

I didn't have an opportunity to run a photo on Friday, but I had a hole on the news briefs page for Sunday and I dropped a copy of the photo with the "Zombies ahead!" sign in there.

Gave Chris a photo credit, too. If I knew his address, I'd send him a clipping.

Anyway, I slugged the photo "Austin remains weird". Yep, the folks down there certainly are succeeding in Keeping Austin Weird. They're an interesting bunch.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Announcing the third annual Jim Baen Memorial Writing Contest

I'm passing along this information from Bill Ledbetter:

Baen Books and The National Space Society applaud the role that science fiction plays in advancing real science and have teamed up to sponsor a short fiction contest in honor of Jim Baen and focusing on the near future of manned space exploration. Winners will be intelligent and entertaining stories about topics including Moon bases, Mars colonies, orbital habitats, space elevators, asteroid mining, artificial intelligence, nano-technology, realistic spacecraft, heroics, danger, sacrifice and adventure. Please don't send stories that show technology or space travel as evil or bad, or stories about Star Wars type galactic empires, UFO abductions or that contain paranormal elements.

The submission window is from January 1 to April 1 and will be judged by Baen Books senior editor Hank Davis and Jim Baen's Universe editors Eric Flint and Mike Resnick.

The GRAND PRIZE winner will be published in a future issue of Jim Baen's Universe, will receive a specially designed award, free entry into the 2009 International Space Development Conference and a year's membership in the National Space Society.

For full submission requirements and guidelines please visit the website at:

Thursday, January 15, 2009

And now a word from the author...

I need to note my anticipated publication schedule for "Dance With Me, Henry". I will post a chapter every Wednesday and every Sunday - so the next installment will be posted on Sunday, Jan. 18.

"Dance" is over 100,000 words long and has 16 chapters, so it will take a while to roll out. I think this schedule will allow time for everyone to read it at their leisure.

"Dance" was somewhat of an exercise - it's the first book I've ever written. I was curious to see whether I could even do it. I've seen over the years I have hung around with fiction authors that many start writing books and have trouble writing to shorter lengths. I've heard it many times - "I would write short stories but everything I write comes out to 10,000, 20,000 words." Books are real literature.

My perspective is totally the opposite. I'm a journalist. To me, a normal story is 300-600 words. When I'm at work and somebody turns in a 1,200-1,400 word story, I go "Gads!" and notify the composition department. That's probably why I've done well writing short stores, I'm very comfortable with the length.

I was just curious whether I could spin some kind of tale out to book length, and I set a goal of 100,000 words. "Henry" is the result. It may not be the greatest thing you've ever read, but I also don't think it will make your eyes bleed.

Comments would be appreciated. Stay turned for Chapter Two on Sunday.

Monday, January 12, 2009

KarlMarx Stadt

The subject of "political correctness" reminded me of this hilarious video. I wish I undestood the lyrics, but it's obviously loaded with sarcasm. So this is what a Communist World would have looked like!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Who are the heirs of Robert Heinlein?

After my recent rereading of "Expanded Universe", I am reminded how libertarian and patriotic Robert Heinlein was. Read "The Pragmatics of Patriotism" or "Who are the Heirs of Patrick Henry?" to see what I mean.

I'm thinking of this because of the hue and cry against Orson Scott Card, who is a Mormon and hasn't been hesitant about expressing his opinions. There are a number of discussions going on at various blogs on this subject. One of the more detailed is on Matt Staggs' blog, "Enter the Octopus".

So is Orson Scott Card off your reading list or what?

Interesting, huh? Like William F. Buckley once said, "Liberals profess to believe in a diversity of opinions, and then are shocked to find there are different opinions."

Let's face it, Communists subverted Western Culture by flattering and pandering to the elites; that's why political leftists - in English-speaking nations - can be so stuck up, obnoxious and arrogant (Think Gore Vidal). That allowed the conservatives to probably accumulate more political capital than they probably deserved - because the liberals were so "unlovable" - and run their tether out to the breaking point, putting our country in the fix it's in.

Card's opinions are pretty normal for a Mormon. Where I live, here is East Texas, he'd be considered a mealy-mouthed middle-of-the-roader. The fact that readers and authors suggest he be boycotted because of his personal beliefs is silly. A person's merits as an author stand apart from his personal life. William Sanders is the biggest, rudest jackass in the world. He's still a great writer.

I don't read Card's stuff. I simply don't like it - that's my taste. Whether he is a liberal, conservative, Mormon, Baptist, Catholic or member of the Schwenkfelder Church doesn't matter to me.

Subjecting an author to some sort of moral or ideological litmus test is completely against everything America stands for. After reading the blog I linked to above, it makes me wonder whether - with his background in the military, and his open and obvious libertarian and patriotic beliefs, would Robert Heinlein been able to get a start as a s-f writer today?

Or would he have been marginalized in the favor of people who are just as opinionated in the statist, collective, and secularist direction, but much more "politically correct"?

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Soonercon 2009

I've set my second con for the year. I received, and have proudly accepted, an invite to be a guest at Soonercon 2009 in Oklahoma City June 5-7.

I've never gone to Soonercon. I planned to three years ago, and then auto troubles made my drop out at the last minute. I'm very impressed with the line-up of guests for this year, and I plan to be there, barring hell and high water.

The Guest of Honor will be Eric Flint; Artist Guest of Honor is Brad Foster; Toastmaster is Selina Rosen.

Also attending will be Aelle Ables, Bill Allen, Gary Babb, Julie Barrett, Rick Boatright, Peter Bradley, David A. Cherry, Kimber Chessmore, Tim Chessmore, Deborah Chester, Rosemary Clement-Moore, R. Cat Conrad, Brad Denton, Linda Donahue, Bill Eakin, Rhonda Eudaly, Melanie Fletcher, Paula Goodlett, Talia Gryphon, Beverly A. Hale, W. J. Hodgson, Dirk Hooper, Kevin Hopkins, Gorg Huff, K. Hutson-Price, Julie Kenner, K E Kimbriel, Bill Ledbetter, Julia Mandala, Lee Martinez, Jeff Provine, Oscar Ray, Shiron Ray, Susan Satterfield, Brad Sinor, Sue Sinor, David Thayer, Jeff Turner, Kathi Turski, Laura Underwood, Alain Viesca, Dayton Ward, Steve Wedel, K D Wentworth, Craig Wolf, Mario Wytch, and Brian Young.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Next publication

Johne Cook, the editor at Raygun Revival, emailed to say "The Silver Dollar Saucer" will be published in its January issue. That holds forth the potential of my having three stories in print at the same time. "Video Killed the Radio Star" is on-line right now with Apehelion in its December issue, and "Acroscaphe" - my collaboration with Ed Morris - is in the January issue of Planetary Stories.

"Acroscaphe" has some very nice art, by Mark Fults, very much in keeping with the pulp style and feeling. I've pasted a copy of the first illo here. Go have a read at

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

My mini Heinlein Library

Before Christmas I had to fly to the East Coast to visit family members. I hate flying, especially since 22 years ago I nearly fell out of a helicopter while on an aeriel tour of the proposed site of the Superconducting Super Collider (I'll tell you about it one day).

I took a battered copy of Heinlein's "Expanded Universe" with me as in-flight reading. I have a small portable library of three paperback books - which I can hold in one hand - which I consider my portable Heinlein collection. At home these books move between my night stand and "reading room" constantly. They are, of course, "Expanded Universe" - the edition whose cover is depicted with this post - Grumbles from the Grave, and the Robert A. Heinlein Memorial Issue of the New Destines bookazine from 1988.

While flying to D.C. I had a chance to reread "Blowups Happen", and remind myself what a great writer Heinlein was so early on. I also read some stories I have never had a chance to before, "A Room of Her Own" and "Cliff and the Calories".

"Room" reminded me of my own dabbling in politics. While Heinlein never held elective office, the story leaves the clear impression he helped someone else get elected. In my case, I did win a seat on a public school board, and then helped a lady get elected the following year. Ironically, I only served one term, but she served three and served for years after I was gone.

"Cliff and the Calories" only reinforces my feeling that you'll live longer - if you're prone to worry about your weight - if you eat what you please and relax. Worry will kill you faster than obesity.

These three books are the basics if you want to know who Robert Heinlein was. Probably the greatest regret of my life is that - because I went from youthful reader to middle-aged author and skipped the fan stage (I attended my first con when I was 46) - I never met him. He died when I was 30.

Oh, BTW, no post yesterday, I took the day off. It was my birthday. I turned 52. My wife and I attended a performance of the Yale Whiffenpoofs at the local community college. We both enjoyed it immensely.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Predictions for 2009

If you want a glance at my predictions for 2009, follow this link:

My Crystal Ball is Cracked

We will be fine!!!

Wow, I just realized it has been 25 years since this song came out. Betcha can't tell when I was young...

A blink, a link and some brags

Locus Online has posted a blink for the current issue of Planetary stories. Hope that drives a little more traffic to the issue to read "Acroscaphe".

The folks at SFSignal have been nice enough to add this site to their list of "Authors Who Blog".

Over a Apehelion, I checked out some of the comments about "Video Killed the Radio Star" on their forum. Some of the positives included:

"Interesting concept. Nice interweaving of real-world events into the story."

"The Texans in the story seemed just like all the Texans I know. They will decide they like and trust you on an impulse."

"The story held my interest from beginning to end, and that by-itself is one of the most important points of story-telling... A good one that was enjoyable and easy to follow yet not simple in style or tone. Fiction should entertain and this one certainly did!!"

Sunday, January 04, 2009

"Acroscaphe" is published

Well, speak of the devil, I just learned via Ed Morris' blog that issue No. 13 of Planetary Stories - Jan. 2009 - is on-line - with our collaboration:

Click here to have a read

Here is a video - available through YouTube - that promotes Planetary Stories:

Wow, love that soundtrack!

Here is what Ed had to say about our story on his blog:

"I've blogged about my collaborator, Lou Antonelli, on here before quite often. Absolute craftsman of a storyteller, and this one is no exception.

"Every time we get together on a story, it's a different kind of collaboration. I brought a little bit of Ludlum and guys like that to the table, but Lou took it a step further and suggested that it be a Fifties 'big bug' scenario done our way. Both of us spent a great deal of time and used many pairs of pliers and forceps yanking parts of this story from dark fathoms in our heads, way down deep where the pressure would kill most... but not all... life forms.

"Read it, dammit, it's free. Shelby Vick runs Planetary Stories pretty much on his own shoestring, and it is a wonderful showcase of all forms of Pulp style, in everything from SF to Westerns to Boys' Adventure. People need to keep those lights on, and tend the desk by the sputtering VACANCY sign.

"As we march onward into the new century, Robert Silverberg is proven right time and again, the part where he said that the futures postulated by Golden Age SF are still not necessarily outmoded or irrelevant at all. Planetary Stories keeps that lighthouse very brightly."

Getting caught up (science fiction)

First thing to note is that 2008 was the year with my least publications since I started at this, only two. Of course, one of them was "The Witch of Waxahachie" which was published in Jim Baen's Universe in April. The other was "Video Killed the Radio Star" published in December by Apehelion. I've posted a link to that story in my archives menu.

I had four stories published in 2003, the first year I had any publications. But last year I spent essentially half the year writing my first book, which I sent to Tor, "Dance with Me, Henry", so I really was quite busy.

BTW, Bill Crider noticed my posting of the story I wrote about Norman Corwin and passed the link on to folks interested in old-time radio. Thanks, Bill. I need to call Mr. Corwin and see if he got my tearsheet of the story.

Got to chat a while today with Howard Waldrop. I hadn't talked to him since I saw him in the VA hospital in August. I only recently got my contributor copies of the story I did for the SFWA Bulletin about his reading for Armadillocon of "The Ugly Chickens". I wanted to make sure he had a copy of the story. He said someone had sent him a copy; otherwise I would have sent him a Bulletin. If I had been paid for the story (I donated it) I would have split the money, but since my consideration was two copies of the magazine, I would have given him one.

I told him about the interview with Corwin; I also mentioned that I have an interview with Tom Doherty in the pile for the Bulletin (I should be paid for that one). He said they sounded like fun. They were.

I got my contract in the mail yesterday from David Riley to publish "Professor Malakoff's Amazing Ethereal Telegraph" in the next issue of Science Fiction Trails. With Planetary Stories ready to publish "Acroscaphe", that means I already have as many stories sold for 2009 as I did in all of 2008.

I thought "The Silver Dollar Saucer" was going to be published in the December issue of Raygun Revival, but that didn't happen. I have a query in via e-mail (but I have been paid).

Getting caught up (personal)

Apologies to my regular readers, with a week's absence in my posting, but I've been preoccupied with staffing issues on the job. With the usual winter illnesses, I think up until the middle of December I had maybe one day during the previous month when everyone was at work. Then holiday vacations kicked in. One editor took a week off, then I took an extended weekend before Christmas, and another staffer took a long weekend after Christmas.

Then things began to go downhill. One staffer left on a maternity leave, while the person who took the long weekend after Christmas was hospitalized with viral pneumonia, and will be out for at least two weeks. We've shuffled around to fill the post vacant because of the maternity leave, but I've had to fill in for the second post, which includes covering police and fire news. That resulted in my having to work 7-5 during the day and still be available to cover fires and wrecks at night. I was getting pretty run down. Then last Friday another staffer was taken to the hospital with a viral infection.

This weekend is my normal weekend off. My boss was nice enough to take the police radio so I can actually get some rest and caught up on my sleep. I don't mind covering for people when they are sick - it's part of the job - but you have to be realistic and recognize that you have physical limits, too. Last night was the first night I've had without a police radio on my nightstand since Dec. 24. I went to bed at 9:30 and slept until 8 this morning.

It felt good.

I'll get caught up on my s-f news in the next post.

Whatever happened to that old Sunbelt?

By LOU ANTONELLI Managing Editor It’s rained almost daily for the past four months. The ground is saturated; walking across grass is lik...