Saturday, September 29, 2012

"The Way of the Heretic"

David and Mary Gray have published the fall issue of the quarterly ezine 4 Star Stories. It leads off with my short story "The Way of the Heretic".

Here is the editor's blurb on the issue:

"In this, the Autumn 2012 Issue of 4StarStories, we are happy to present four really good reads. Lou Antonelli creates a future history of science gone amiss in his story, “The Way of the Heretic”. John Bruni introduces us to some way-out rock fans in “The Party’s Over”. Don D’Ammassa takes us to a unique world in “Sandcastles”. Finally, Marilyn Marquez Mercado gives us some scary insight with her short story, “Silence”."

This is my 71st story in 2012.this year.

Back in the USSR

Well, my Soviet Union pinup cosmonaut t-shirt arrived this week from Andrew Bawidamann, and when I put it on...


I was instamagically transported to Red Square circa 1982. I kept my mouth shut - since with my Texas accent I probably would sound like Slim Pickens in "Dr. Strangelove" to the indigenous Russkies - but I used gestures to get a passing commissar to take my photo.

It was good to be "Back in the USSR" - even briefly - but I had to leave, so I pulled off the shirt and


I was back in East Texas.

But I brought back a lot of material for an alternate history story, about the '82 Cuban Missile Crisis - so named for the main antagonists - Fidel, Raoul and Mark.

Friday, September 28, 2012

35 years on

A few days ago I learned via Facebook that the Columbia University Libraries have digitized back issues of the Columbia Daily Spectator from the 1940s to the present. This is a boon for me, since I was a reporter for the newspaper, served on the student council, and was also a staff member of the Office of Student Activities. These were the three main occupants of the since-demolished student center, Ferris Booth Hall. I think I hold the distinction of being the only person to have belonged to all three groups.

A search of the digitized archives comes up with over 200 hits for me from those pages, from 1975 to 1984. This archive will be of great help to me in the future, since my own old issues of the paper disappeared many years ago.

When I began writing s-f a decade ago, I recalled the irony of the fact that - of all the writing I did for the Columbia Spectator - I only did ONE book review, but it was James Gunn's "Alternate Worlds". I later bought a copy through eBay, and in 2004 I attended the Campbell Conference in Lawrence, Kansas, and he signed it for me.

Thanks to this newly-opened archive, I was able to retrieve the review and read it after 35 years. Although parts of it makes me cringe today, I thought I'd reprint it, so here it is, from April 28, 1977:

A guide to the cosmos


Alternate Worlds: The Illustrated History of Science Fiction by James Gunn (A&W Visual Library, $7.95)

The appeal of Alternate Worlds extends beyond the narrow confines of the science fiction genre. It is an interesting work of illustrated history by noted science fiction author, James Gunn.

Though issued in hardcover in 1975, its lofty $29.95 asking price kept many from looking into this scholastic and philosophical work. Since its issuance in softcover at a more reasonable figure, both science fiction buffs and the genre's casual readers can add the book to their shelves.

Gunn has done his homework. The book traces the origins of science fiction ideas from Homer to Vonnegut, and presents the basic concepts that led to the recognition of science fiction as a legitimate art form under the broader category of fantasy. It is also a graphically pleasing book, with 85 full color plates and 635 in black and white.

The color illustrations are science fiction pulp magazine covers. (If you are old enough to remember when the science fiction pulps were in their heyday, you may recall that these covers could get bizarre at times, but were always interesting.) The black and white illustrations are weighted heavily towards author's portraits, with many illustrations from famous science fiction stories thrown in.
The original illustration from the 1977 article

Gunn's opus is a celebration of the fact that in recent years science fiction has burst from the ghetto of pulp magazines and monster movies, and captured an ever-widening audience. But Gunn is a science fiction writer himself, and it becomes apparent that he is too close to properly assess the role of the genre in the modern world.

While it is true that science fiction has gained the recognition it so long deserved, it is pompous for Gunn to say "the world has finally caught up with science fiction" and that it is "the most relevant fiction of our time." This is probably the long-range effect of Isaac Asimov, generally known as the most pompous man alive, who, luckily, contributed only a short, saccharine introduction to Gunn's book, describing his love affair with sci-fi in prose so picturesque I thought I might be reading the Song of Solomon.

Once he draws away from philosophizing and turns to historical narrative, Gunn is on firm ground. He explores the development of the genre, particularly after the start of the industrial revolution, and offers solid opinions as the place of the authors in the development of the modern idiom.

Only as he draws closer to the present era (and his contemporaries) does his narrative begin to falter, mostly because he refuses to objectively judge their place in the history of the genre. Finally, he resorts to an embarrassingly redundant listing of names, with no value judgments whatsoever.

Gunn is commendable in the degree to which he follows the true science fiction line in this history. Considering how indefinite the boundaries of the genre are, he does a wonderful job of separating the science fiction from the fantasy, so that writers like Vonnegut and H. P. Lovecraft are only mentioned in conjunction with the true science fiction they wrote.

Despite his weakness in placing the role of science fiction in modern society and his reluctance to judge contemporary authors, considering the size of the project undertaken, Gunn manages to produce a well-researched and coherent history. 

“Alternate Worlds” is likely to be used as a reference for years, and it is a piece of interesting reading, to boot.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

SASS get-together

‎FenCon Convention in Dallas this past weekend saw the distribution of the first literature ever prepared by SASS, a tri-fold brochure.

There was an informal meeting of some SASSians Sunday for lunch in the FenCon hotel restaurant. Treasurer Shedrick Pittman-Hassett lives in the Dallas Metroplex, Secretary Lou Antonelli lives in East Texas, and Michael Finn - who is the moderator of the Inkwell forum - lives in Houston. There were also two prospective members who joined the other for lunch.

The latest - and hopefully - final draft of the by-laws were distributed. The latest revision incorporate language needed because of being incorporated as a non-profit organization in the State of Texas. This version will be mailed to the 24 members of the by-laws study committee.

The secretary noted other changes included setting a minimum of ten dues paying members to formally call the first vote for adopting the by-laws, and the addition of a provision allowing a hardship waiver for dues.

A membership application is being prepared. The by-laws state that anyone who served on the by-laws study committee does not otherwise have to qualify for membership. The membership application will also be mailed to the members of the committee. It is anticipated that as many as half of the committee members may ultimately become dues-paying members.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Facebook page for SASS

SASS logo
We are getting close to taking membership applications and formally starting SASS (Society for the Advancement of Speculative Storytelling). Since some of the organizers are attending FenCon in Dallas this weekend, I made up a brochure last weekend that can be distributed to interested people.

I thought since people are starting to contemplating joining when we open for memberships, I made up  Facebook page for public viewing:

Right now, we have no official dues paying members, just a by-laws study committee, but we will be transitioning to a membership list in the coming weeks. We are working up a final version of the bylaws, which will include verbiage required because we are a non-profit group.

Dues will be $25, and we will call an election to approve the bylaws and permanent officers when we have ten full-fledged dues paying members.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

First con of 2013

I received - and have accepted - an invite to be a panelist at ConDFW next February. This will mark the tenth anniversary of my first con, which was ConDFW in 2003. Before then I didn't even know such things existed.

Here is some information from their email:


The dates for this year's convention are February 15-17, 2013.

    ConDFW is sponsored by the Texas Speculative Fiction Association, a gathering of fandom located in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.  ConDFW is primarily a literary-fiction convention, with additional focus on art and gaming.  It has consistently grown in attendance since its start and is well appreciated for its open, friendly atmosphere.  The Guests of Honor for this year's convention are Hugo award winner Jo Walton and graphic artist Brian Stelfreeze.

    ConDFW will be moving to a new hotel this year.  We're still going to be at a Crowne Plaza, but this time we will be at the Crowne Plaza North Dallas/Addison.  This hotel has a long and positive history of working with conventions, and ConDFW is glad to become a part of that.  Additionally, the hotel will have completed a multi-million dollar renovation in the months prior to the convention. 

    Programming for the convention will run from early afternoon on Friday through late afternoon on Sunday.


Their new hotel is the one that hosts FenCon. 

I hope that by February I will be able to clear my schedule so that I can attend the whole con; as I have noted on this blog before, I normally work Saturdays and it's hard for me attend cons these days. When I attended SoonerCon in Oklaoma City in June, I didn't get there until 5 p.m. Saturday. I wasn't able to attend ArmadilloCon at all, and I only will be able to make FenCon on Sunday this weekend.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

We have handouts!

I burned up an ink cartridge, but it was worth it today as I prepared the first piece of hand-out literature for SASS, a tri-fold which will be available at FenCon. I printed 55 of them, with two dozen each going out in Monday's mail to Shedrick and Mike, and a few others to individuals who have expressed an interest or curiosity in SASS.

SASS meeting

The logo of the Society for the Advancement for Speculative Storytelling
SASS (Society for the Advancement of Speculative Storytelling) was formally incorporated as a non-profit group by the Texas Secretary of State on July 31 of this year. I helped organize the group as a home for aspiring writers, newbies, semi-pros and people like me who are casual writers. I'd like to think it will have welcoming, congenial and supportive like many local writers groups are, but at a national level.

We had a by-laws study group of two dozen people who received various incarnations of the proposed bylaws from March until May. Shedrick Pittman-Hassert of Denton, Texas, volunteered to be treasurer and set up the P.O. box; he is the registered agent for SASS. Dario Cirello is the interim president, and Brad Torgerson is the interim v-p. I'm the secretary.

Mike Finn of Houston, hosts our forum, the Inkwell. He will be attending FenCon in Dallas next weekend, as will be Shedrick, who lives in the area. Although I can't attend the con either Friday and Saturday, I plan to drive in Sunday morning; Mike and Shedrick and I will have lunch and talk about SASS stuff, among other things.

We're just about ready to have a formal unveil and start taking dues and have an official membership list; then we can vote in a permanent board.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Latest story published, "Damascus Interrupted"

The Phantasmagorium web site has published by Alternate History/Christian Horror story "Damascus Interrupted". You can find it on-line 

Ed Morris, fiction editor at Phantasmagorium, said "It follows our guidelines to the letter, and still manages to be pure, unadulterated Antonelli Brand Alternate History. Lou Antonelli, you are a cross-genre surgeon who delivers such hybrid children with skill, wit and panache. Pleasure to be running this one this week..."

It is my oldest unpublished story, I wrote it in January 2003. It was originally supposed to be my first published story, but the small print mag that originally wanted it went out of business beforehand. When I attended my first con, ConDFW in February 2003, this was the story I had sold. A big reason I wanted to attend the con was to learn about the markets, because I realized that if my stuff was actually publishable, I needed to know what I was doing.

At ConDFW I met Jayme Blaschke, fiction editor at Revolution S-F, and it was Jayme who ultimately published my first story in June 2003.

"Damascus" is my 70th published story since then, and my ninth this year.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

And it's an even dozen

David Gray at 4 Star Stories, who already plans to publish my story "The Way of the Heretic" in his fall issue, says he will publish my story "Racing with the Sunset" in his winter issue. That means that, if all near-future publications come off as anticipated, I will have 12 stories published in '12.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

One day at Fencon

After the fiasco that prevented me from attending ArmadilloCon in July, I had to admit I have scheduling problems that prevent me from taking Saturdays off from work, and I cancelled as a panelist at FenCon. I have to say that, with FenCon just two weeks away, it was a wise move, because things haven't changed. The only way I can take a Saturday off is if someone takes the shift for me, and right now my normal replacement is on temporary assignment in another county, and the only other person who could work for me - my boss - is working two jobs because someone quit without notice.

But I can't see what could tie me up on Sunday, so I hope to drive in and at least spend the day there, and meet up with the usual suspects.

I hope things change next year, the next con I would really like to attend is ConDFW in February. I also really hope to attend Lone Star Con. But I have to be careful with my plans, because things have way of changing at the last minute.

Latest acceptance

Bewildering Stories has been around for many years and published one of my stories as far back as 2003. I still send them an occasional tale*. Editor Don Webb says he will be publishing my short story "Snow Globe" by the end of the year. That will be my 72nd story published - if the others in line for the rest of the year are published as anticipated - and my 11th of 2012. I'll be curious to see whether I pick up another publication later this year, because that would make 12 stories in 2012.

* The story "I Got You" that BWS published in 2004 earned an Honorable Mention in The Year's Best Science Fiction.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Not much to report this week...

...on the writing front. Because of a change in my work schedule, I actually didn't have a day off this week. I used to have Mondays off. Now I have Fridays off. Because of the change, I had to work this past Monday (yes, on Labor Day) I haven't had a  full day off since Aug. 20. But I will have Friday off as the new schedules cycles. I plan to use it to work on genre stuff.

Sunday, September 02, 2012

George, Joe and Me

I was checking Facebook this morning when I noticed a post from Joe Lansdale saying that a book by one of his favorite authors, George V. Higgins, has been made into a movie. The movie is called "Killing Them Softly" and it debuted at the Cannes Film Festival in May. It will be released in the U.S. in October.

I didn't know that Joe was a George V. Higgins fan, and I picked up the phone and told Joe that - it's a small world - George V. Higgins and I are from the same town, Rockand, Mass. Higgins graduated from Rockland High School in 1957, the year I was born. I graduated in 1975.

George Higgins' father, John T. Higgins, was high school principal when he was a student, and something about having his dad in the principal's office during his time in school gave George a real attitude about Rockland. Maybe he was picked on; maybe he resented the time his father accidentally stepped off the stage in the school auditorium, and he fell to the floor, breaking his leg - and the little bastards laughed at him.

In any case, after he graduated, Higgins never would admit he was from Rockland, and often claimed Brockton as his birthplace - which was true, that is where the hospital was.

John T. Higgins left the Rockland schools and was treasurer of the Massachusetts Teachers Association when he died suddenly in 1966; he was 60. George was in law school at the time.

I always thought it was fascinating that the principal who succeeded John. T. Higgins at Rockland High School was named Joe Cogan, and in 1974 - when I was a junior in high school - Higgins' third novel (following "The Friends of Eddie Coyle" in 1970 and "The Digger's Game" in 1973) was named "Cogan's Trade". That's the first time it occurred to me that novelists even scores by naming villains after nemeses.

By the time I was in high school, John T. Higgins was dead, Joe Cogan had left as principal in 1969, and George was keeping as great a distance as he could. But Mrs. Higgins - John T.'s wife and George V.'s mother - lived in Rockland until she died in 2007, age 98 (she outlived her husband by 41 years, and her son by eight - George died in 1999.)

I wouldn't say Doris Higgins was reclusive, but she didn't seem to socialize much. From what I heard, there was lingering resentment in the Higgins family over the way her husband had been treated. Reading between the lines, I assumed John T. Higgins had been a no-nonsense educator, and that would have put him in conflict with the other strain in public education, which is to use school jobs as patronage. In Massachusetts, where the Irish Democrat glad-handing policy of handing out jobs to insure political loyalty was very strong then - and probably still is today - I'm sure that caused problems.

Doris Higgins was a member of a historical committee when I was in high school (the city celebrated the centennial of its incorporation in 1974) and I served as a student rep. Higgins was 65 at the time, grey-haired, stern and like I said, no-nonsense. We met a couple of times at her home. What I remember the most was that she has two large Dobermans and was very concerned to keep them away from the guests. That was back when Dobermans had a much worse reputation than they do now, and I think she thought some people would be scared of them.

Anyone who knows me well knows I've always been a big dog lover, and I wanted to play with the pooches, and she wouldn't let me!

I regaled Joe with all this trivia this morning. It was a good excuse to visit. He and Karen are heading overseas for a tour in Italy and Germany starting on Tuesday (I've never traveled overseas and have never owned a passport). Keith and Kasey will be joining them later. It's nice to see Joe is doing well, he's certainly earned it.

Like I said, it's a small world.

Saturday, September 01, 2012

Ten years on

Today marks marks the tenth anniversary of when I wrote my first s-f story. Here is an excerpt from the introduction of my first collection, "Fantastic Texas".

"In 2002, at the age of 45, I was having some mid-life musings. One weekend, the life support system at our residence failed (translation: it was August in Texas and the air conditioning broke down at home). My wife high-tailed it back to her mother in Dallas, while I waited it out until the repairman showed up on Monday. Meanwhile, the only way I could survive was to sit at a desk next to a small window unit. Thankfully, that’s where the computer was. I recalled during my mid-life reveries that I had never acted on a whim to write s-f in any serious kind of way. I did an internet search and found a web site where you could write stories and self-post them. I cranked out a 2,000-word story, staying up until 4am, uploaded it and went to bed.

"I woke up Sunday at the crack of noon and logged on to see how badly my story had been savaged. I was pleasantly surprised to read many positive comments, and I realized I might actually have a shot being an s-f and fantasy writer. I didn’t think about it at the time, but I suppose spending thirty years as a journalist honed my English skills. I’ve never had an editor say a story was poorly written or ungrammatical.
"I started writing s-f in a serious fashion, and the following summer I had my first sale. In 2004, I made my first pro sale. I guess I can say I write s-f and fantasy for the best of all reasons, because I enjoy it, and it’s fun. I still work every day at my newspaper job."

That weekend was the Labor Day weekend in 2002. That first story was ultimately printed by a British magazine called Twisted Tongue in May 2007; it was called "Insight". My first publication was a short story called "Silvern" at Revolution SF in June 2003; it is still archived on-line here. My first payment was five bucks for a flash called "They Call It Time" that was published in Alienskin in Dec. 2004. Although Gardner Dozois accepted "A Rocket for the Republic" for Asimov's in March 2004, the story was published in the Sept. 2005 issue, and the check reached me a week or two later than the five bucks from Alienskin.

"Rocket", of course, was my first pro sale, and my only story that ever ranked in a competition; it came in third in the annual Asimov's Reader's Poll in the short story category that year. Both "Rocket" and "The Witch of Waxahachie" - my second pro sale that was published in Jim Baen's Universe in 2008 - picked up a few Nebula recommendations. My first collection, "Fantastic Texas", was published in 2009 and "Texas & Other Planets" was published in 2010. My collaborative collection with Ed Morris, "Music for Four Hands", was published in 2011.

I've had stories reprinted in The First Bewildering Stories Anthology in 2006 and Zombified: An Anthology of All Things Zombie in 2011. My non-fiction has been printed in the SFWA Bulletin and the anthology Zombie Writing.

As of today, I've had 69 short stories, flashes (and one novelette) published in print or on-line; I've had eleven Honorable Mentions in the annual list published in Dozois' annual The Year's Best Science Fiction.

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...