Friday, September 30, 2016

Blast from the past

The only time among my many writings for my college newspaper I did a book review, it was of James Gunn's "Alternate Worlds". I have cut and pasted it below.
It was originally published in the Columbia University Daily Spectator on April 28, 1977. If you would like to see the original issue archives on-line, here is a link (I shared the features page with Henry Kissinger and Iggy Pop?)

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. 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."
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, his reluctance to judge contemporary authors and 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.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Staying at home

I have many friends in the s-f world who are having a good time at Fencon in Dallas this weekend. I attended five conventions this year, in Austin, Oklahoma City, Kansas City, Chattanooga and Williamsburg, Va. and although conventions can be a lot of fun, I'm happy to be home this weekend.

I keep a busy schedule in my life, and often I need time on weekends to do personal things; when I travel to a convention I lose that time at home. Sometimes it causes personal projects to be put off for weeks.

I didn't attend Fencon last year; I went to so many conventions earlier in the year I didn't want to attend any after Labor Day. I didn't get an invite to be a guest this year.

I also didn't get an invite to be a guest at ConDFW, which was held Feb. 12-14, so this year marks the first time I didn't attend either Dallas convention.

One of my run-of-the mill lesser lasagnas.
My retro-futurist alternate history "Another Girl, Another Planet" should be out by the end of the year/start of 2017, so I will probably go to a bunch of conventions next year. So far I already have invites back to Ravencon in Virginia and LibertyCon in Chattanooga. I pretty much will accept any invites I get. If you have a recommendation for a convention, please let me know.

Those of you who attended Conquest in Kansas City may recall I brought home-made lasagna for the reception held in the con suite for the debut of the "Decision Points" anthology. That was on a Friday night; I've been told that for the rest of the convention people kept coming into the con suite asking "Is there any more lasagna?"

I will bring lasagna to any con I go to next year - unless I fly - so there is an incentive to invite me right there. If you have never tasted my lasagna, it's universally conceded to be the best in the world.
As we say in Texas, "It ain't bragging if you can do it."

Friday, September 23, 2016

Being fair

In the spirit of being fair, I want to make explicit my appreciation to Adam-Troy Castro for taking down his post about the claim I was the brilliant criminal mastermind who had Jim Wright's 9/11 post removed (temporarily) from Facebook.

I don't know where this rumor started, but I suspect it was projection by someone that was quickly reported as fact. I give Mr. Castro credit for having the integrity to concede his sources were unverifiable and to remove the posting.

I think his position could be summed up as - paraphrasing here - "Lou's done enough goofy crap to be lambasted about, let's not attack him for stuff he's not done."

Which is a perfectly reasonable position.

He also poked me quite fairly that in mentioning him I was being careless in inserting the hyphen between the "Troy" and "Castro" rather than between "Adam" and "Troy" - sloppy writing for someone who edits a newspaper.

Fair cop, there.

In my defense - by way of an explanation rather than a justification - I don't pay nearly as much attention to Facebook postings as what goes into a (pardon the expression) a real newspaper.
But he did give me a chuckle.

He was also good about - when some of his fans started "piling on" me - admonishing them not to go overboard. I had a twinge of recognition there, because I've dealt with the same problem with my fans, sort of on the opposite side of the street.a

Friday, September 16, 2016

A real mistake

OK, you know any time I express an opinion that someone like David Gerrold or Adam Troy-Castro disagrees with, their minions will mumble "That's a mistake. It will hurt your career."

Let me make my position clear. I don't have a science fiction and fantasy writing career. I'm a proud and happy small-town newspaper editor. I write fiction as a hobby, a sideline. I'm almost embarrassed sometimes that I've had more success as a talented amateur who writes sporadically than some people who tried long and hard for so many years. I suppose it's a testament to the utility of getting the English language into your bones. I've been writing for publication in community newspapers since I was 12.

For better or worse, whether anyone likes it or not, people like Gerrold and Troy-Castro are REAL s-f authors. It's their job, their metier, as the French say. Don't look to me as an opinion leader.

You want to hear a story about a real mistake? Back in the summer of 1975, I was working at a newspaper in Plymouth County, Massachusetts. I got a phone call from the custodian at the War Memorial Auditorium in Plymouth. He said he just learned of something that would be big news in a few months.

I was real busy at the time, and I asked him if I could call him back and get the details in a little while. And then I forgot to call him back.

Summer ends, I go off to college in New York City, I'm a freshman at Columbia University, walking down the street. I pick up a copy of the New York Post for Nov. 1, 1975, at the Mill Luncheonette, and there's a headline:

"Dylan make surprising start of Rolling Thunder Tour in Plymouth, Massachusetts."

THEN I remembered I never returned the call. That was what he wanted to tell me. That fellow was the guy who did the bookings at the auditorium.

I could have scooped the world on how the Rolling Thunder Tour was going to start by four months!

Now THAT'S a REAL mistake!

Sunday, September 11, 2016

The mind boggles

Jim Wright should be remembered in the s-f world as the sanctimonious poser who lovingly crafted in his workshop those wooden ass-terisks handed out at the Hugo ceremony last year.

Since he doesn't recognize how hateful and disrespectful that was, he can't be trusted as either an honest or intelligent person.

Wright served in the Navy and seems intent on being known as the most PC and abusive veteran in the U.S.

He has a blog and in marking the anniversary of the 9-11 terrorist attack, put forth a emotional screed that has been making the rounds. In his peroration, he states:

"Frankly, I have had enough of 9-11. Fuck 9-11. I'm not going to watch the shows. I'm not going to any of the memorials.

"I'm not going to the 9-11 sales at Wal-Mart. I don't want to hear about 9-11. I for damned sure am not interested in watching politicians of either party try to out 9-11 each other.

"I'm tired of this national 9-11 PTSD. I did my bit for revenge, I went to war, I'll remember the dead in my own time in my own way.

"I'm not going to shed a damned tear today."

Yeah, he has his right to free speech, and I have the right to denounce him, too.

What do you think?

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

It's nice to still have free speech, even when it's bullshit

From John Scalzi's Twitter Feed today:

"Today has been a reminder of the irony that those concerned about the "extinction" of the white race are the best argument for its demise."

Yeah, he "went Hollywood" years ago - gets a swelled head from being a successful writer, suddenly thinks he's an opinion leader on stuff he knows nothing about.

Before Scalzi, a writer was judged by the quality of their work first, and then - if applicable - their politics and faith would be cited. Now, you start with citing a writer's faith and politics before you decide if they are a good writer - which leads to ludicrous assertions such as that Larry Correia isn't a real writer. Of course, Larry laughs all the way to the bank.

Scalzi perfected the racket of finding out about someone through the SFWA, and then attacking them on his personal blog. The SFWA had legitimate deniability, but once Scalzi learned you weren't a doctrinaire leftist and atheist, he's rip you a second one somewhere else.

Sunday, September 04, 2016

Been away for a while

I left on Wednesday, August 24, to the East Coast and a respite visit with my mother while my sister took a few vacation days. I got back to Texas Monday, August 29, and had to hit the ground running at work because of the time I was away from the office. My time is also being eaten up as my wife and I work on the closing for a new home in the city where I work, which would end the 46-mile (one way) commute I have been making since January of last year.

Since my last post here, I sold two stories. I received word the day I arrived in Virginia that Silver Pen will publish my tail-biting time travel story "Time Like a Rope", and The Gallery of Curiosities podcast on Wednesday bought "If You Were a Dinah Shore, My Love".

Meanwhile The Siren's Call ezine has published "And He Threw His Hands Up in the Sky".

Speaking of "If You Were a Dinah Shore, My Love", it may seem a little strange, but you'd be surprised how often stories start with the title first.

Snappy or catchy titles have a way of prodding a good writer's creativity.

Back in 2003, when I was just starting out, I tried coming up with phrases that I could hang a story on. It often was as simple as flipping randomly through a dictionary.

One phrase that stuck to the wall was "Cast Iron Dybbuk" and I successfully wrote a story to go with the title. I sold it to Andromeda Spaceways In-Flight Magazine and it was published in the Summer of 2005.

In 2004, the first time I ever met Joe Lansdale, he told me he does the same thing, and in fact one of his bigger successes in short stories came when he wrote a story to match the title "Tight Little Stitches in a Dead Man's Back".

I bring this up to say that while many people have held forth about Rachel Swirsky's story "If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love" during the past few years, all that talk led me to come up with the abysmal pun "If You Were a Dinah Shore, My Love" - but then I was able to write a story to match it, and you know what - It turned out pretty good.

So as the saying goes, "It's an ill wind that blows nobody any good."

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...