No snow in December, no snow in January, no snow in February...then on March 19 we get hit with the fourth biggest single-day snowfall since the 19th century. 13 inches. That won't impress folks in Buffalo, but it kept us snowed in for a day.
Four white-tail deer crossing the hillside opposite my study right now, and the ducks are back in our creek. Three white-breasted nuthatches on the elm tree. Flickers trying (as they do every year) to drill nesting holes in the roof of my study. Towhees (both canyon and spotted) everywhere. First calling frog of the season down on the creek. First snake (western racer). From Winter to Spring in less than a week.
I have posted THE PHISHER to Amazon's Kindle store. This is the biographer of "Alex Sam", a Nigerian phisher I met on the internet and who, out of dozens of similar scammers I replied to, actually got in contact with me and subsequently made some radically positive changes to his life. It's a fascinating tale, full of near escapes and unpleasant realities. If you've ever wondered how young Nigerians get caught up in this disreputable world-wide enterprise, why they do so, and how some of the phishing internet scams work, you might want to check out the short book. Sam's details are far too ordinary and realistic to be fabricated. Learn, for example, how corrupt Lagos cops know exactly how much bail to charge each of the suspected phishers they haul out of internet cafes, and what foods to bribe them with. Sam's tale is part Midnight Express, part Neuromancer, all in an African setting. Read about it and you'll view those irritating daily phishing emails in an entirely new light.
I am pleased to report that the magazine of Fantasy and Science-fiction will be publishing CLAIM BLAME, the latest Mad Amos Malone short story...and I swear that I wrote it before Discovery Channel's reality show Bering Sea Gold came on the air!
BODY, INC., the second volume of The Tipping Point trilogy, was released by Del Rey this past Tuesday (27 March). I am delighted to add that THE SUM OF HER PARTS, the third and final volume, will be released on November 27th of this year, so those of you who have been following the story will have only a modest number of months to wait until the conclusion becomes available. On a directly opposite note, I have to go make weight as I am competing in the RAW Southwest Regional powerlifting championships tomorrow. This outing, in addition to the bench press I am going to see how my back and knees handle the dead lift (a poorly named event for older exercisers if there ever was one). It is consoling to know that I can always type while lying down.
It was a short month, and this will be a short update. More of a placeholder than anything, really. I'm not one of these inveterate bloggers who feels compelled to ramble on and on just to hear himself babble. Not that I don't have an opinion on just about everything...I do. It's just that I don't see the need to pontificate interminably on subjects from elections in Senegal to judicial decisions in Ecuador that are already available in profusion on the daily news. If someone asks for my views on a specific subject, I'm always happy to give it. This is one reason why I don't work in Hollywood or politics. For all too many folks, the line between curmudgeonliness and honesty is blurred to the point where they can't discern the difference. So, not being a syndicated columnist, I generally forbear from inflicting my opinions on those around me, many of whom are already understandably numbed from the inescapable weekly fusillade of opinion and news.
Besides, much of it is too depressing to mess with. I prefer to keep (perhaps cling would be a more accurate word) to an optimistic long view, for which discussion of daily events is less than encouraging. Those of you who are familiar with my writing know that even the ostensibly darker tales, like THE MAN WHO USED THE UNIVERSE or TO THE VANISHING POINT, terminate in more or less update endings. I'm just not one for killing off the good guys. If I want that sort of realism I just go to the morning news, where good guys and gals perish on a regular basis and far too many warlords and dictators enjoy long and contented lives.
Open Road Media, the publishers of the Spellsinger ebook editions as well as PREDATORS I HAVE KNOWN, is going to do a formal print run of the latter so that bookstores can order it in. Previously the hc and pb versions were only available as individual print-on-demand orders.
Two inches of snow fell in Prescott last night, after a month of Spring-like weather. The desert, including the high desert, badly needs the moisture. The dogs are busy chasing rabbits (they never catch them), I nearly hit a coyote a couple of days ago (when will they ever learn to use crosswalks?), towhees and juncos are busy at our feeders, as are the chipmunks (cat TV, live), and the local raptors (American kestrels, peregrine falcons, hawks, and bald eagles) are busy fishing Willow and Watson lake. I still can't get used to driving to Costco or Home Depot and seeing a bald eagle sitting calmly atop a dead tree, watching for fish.
Too short notice, alas, but for those who are in a position to read it in time and are interested, I will be a guest on KUSK-TV, Arizona's Morning Scramble show, some time between 8:45 and the end of the show, talking about the future of bookstores, ebooks, and publishing.
I will be attending the Gold Coast Film Festival in Queensland, Australia as a guest, approximately 19-26 April. In addition to the usual speaking and signing stuff I will be conducting a writing master class. Details for anyone interested can be found on the festival's website, www.gcfilmfestival.com. I hope to meet and chat with as many Aussie (and traveling) fans as possible. Prior to the festival I will be meeting in Sydney with producer Trevor Howis and others to discuss details of the proposed film of SPELLSINGER. I hope when I return home to have more information on the project available for public consumption, including updated images of Jon-Tom and...yes...the duar.
Following the festival I hope to head to Vanuatu for a week. I've always wanted to see Mt. Yasur, one of the world's most accessible continuously active volcanoes. Vanuatu, especially the outer islands, is a bit off the beaten track...the kind of track I like. Tanna, the island on which Mt. Yasur is located, preserves and boasts a very unique cultural identity. I used it as the basis for the alien society in my Commonwealth novel THE HOWLING STONES. To be able to visit the actual source of inspiration should be akin to stepping into one of my own stories.
The redoubtable Lovecraft scholar S.T. Joshi is editing an anthology of Lovecraftian tales, for which I have done a story called THE DOOR BENEATH. It's been a while since I did anything in the Lovecraftian vein and it was a delight to return to it. I will also be doing a new Mad Amos Malone tale for an anthology of "weird western" stories edited by John Joseph Adams. No title as yet. There are also some exciting new developments on the ebook front involving out-of-print titles that a number of you have expressed fervent desire in seeing released in such format.
Another year flashes by. Time speeds up, Einsteinian or otherwise. I am now on Medicare, which strikes me as ineffably weird. I hope never to have to use it, though logic, reason, and history would seem to dictate otherwise. Occasionally I pull out the little card and stare at it, wondering what otherworldly entity it actually belongs to. There are times when I feel like the flyver in the famous Laurel and Hardy short, tootling along until the wheels come off and the engine and transmission fall out. At other times I feel exactly as I did when I was 30, except that I'm in better shape now. It's all very strange...but then, it's a strange cosmos.
I finished RELIQUARY and turned it in to the Kidd Agency. We'll see who bites. There are not one but two possible anthologies in the works, one of which would gather all the Commonwealth short fiction together in one volume, in chronological order. Among other things, this depends on obtaining a release to a certain story from a particular publisher. We shall see.
No writing plans for the New Year as yet. BODY, INC. will be out in the Spring. Then, who knows? It looks as if I will be a guest at the Gold Coast Film Festival in conjunction with Supracon, to be held in Brisbane and Gold Coast, Australia the end of April. I'll also be conferencing with the folks who are striving to bring SPELLSINGER to the screen. If naught else, I'll certainly be making a stop at Mt. Yasur on the way home.
A number of folks have written inquiring about new books other than those that are part of THE TIPPING POINT trilogy (the second, BODY, INC., will be out in April). Part of the reason is that several titles, including BLUE MAGIC and MADRENGA, are still being read. Anything that isn't Stephen King or Neil Gaiman takes longer to be perused than in the old days. You can blame the popularity of video games and the confusion over how to deal with ebooks for the slow-down in the publishing industry. And I couldn't write a romantic vampire novel if I tried...which I wouldn't. Nothing against them, but they're not my cup of blood.
Another reason for the temporary paucity of titles relates to my involvement with a very large project to which I alluded many months ago but could not speak of until now. I refer to ENDWORLDS, by Nicholas Read, wherein I had a hand doing quite a bit of scribing. As this involved not only narrative but a vast amount of non-fictional reference material, it occupied quite a bit of time. The first volume, ENDWORLDS 1.1, is now available as an ebook. There is also video material, original symphonic music, all manner of odd non-fiction related stuff (some of it very odd and thought-provoking indeed), and much more, including some real-world searching that for various reasons I can't go into in detail...but you can, if you read the book and become involved in doing follow-up. What components of the books I wrote you will have to divine for yourselves...the entire enterprise is so much more than a novel. But least I can talk about it to some extent now. The unclassified parts, anyway.
The rough draft of RELIQUARY is finished and I expect to hand the finished manuscript in to my agents before Christmas.
Next month Hyperion will release on CD and mp3's the recording of the concert I attended in London on 17 July of the "cataclysmic" (their description) Havergal Brian Gothic symphony. I have listened to some excerpts and the recording quality appears to be excellent. I cannot recommend this recording too highly. There is nothing like the Gothic in all of music (except perhaps for some of Brian's other work). Listen to this recording and you'll understand why I traveled all the way to London to attend the live (and lamentably untelevised) performance. Hope for an American performance some day. Leonard Bernstein tried.
I rarely comment on graphic novels/comics. But occasionally something that stands out from the crowd pops into my field of you and I strive to pass along a recommendation. One such was the remarkable anthropomorphic (furry, if you prefer) BLACKSAD, which has been out for some time now. Recently I encountered the lovely DELILAH DIRK AND THE TURKISH LIEUTENANT, by Tony Cliff. Nominated for an Eisner award, the full 160-page graphic novel is currently only available in book form in French. However the entire opus is being offered 4-6 pages at a time, every Saturday, for free at: http://www.delilahdirk.com/ It concerns the adventures in 19th-century Turkey of a Greek Lara-Croft type and Selim, a Turkish officer whose encounter with Delilah turn his life upside down. Lovely, understated color artwork combined with writing for grown-ups.
I am 3/4 finished with rough draft of RELIQUARY. The publishing industry is changing so fast and with so much upheaval at the major publishers that it's difficult to know what is going to happen next or when. Meanwhile, to paraphrase Robert Crumb, I just keep on writin'.
For those of you who love classical music I recommend perusing http://www.good-music-guide.com/. Registering (free) on the site give you access to a vast quantity of downloadable rare classical performances, (also free) many available nowhere else. A chance to explore little-known works by composers you love and encounter great work by composers you never heard of (Vaino Raitio, anyone?). Most downloads are .mp3, but there are also a fair quantity of older, rarer selections in the .wma format. For those with iPods, etc., and MACS I recommend buying (very cheap it is) the easyWMA softwhere, which simply and quickly converts WMA files to .mp3 format.
Short update this month: hope to have more for December, including some convention travel plans.
I am delighted to announce that Vincero Productions of Australia has optioned the SPELLSINGER series for possible filming. At this point the intent is to do one or two films based on the first book (the hardcover, complete version). For those unfamiliar with the very limited edition of the Phantasia Press hardcover, this essentially would be the same as filming the two paperbacks. Everything is in the very pre-production stage at this point, from character design to possible voice talent. Funds must be raised and much more decided upon. I've already viewed the film (hundreds of times) in my mind's eye, but it would be beyond wonderful to be able to share those visions with those who are familiar with the books. There is already a facebook page set up to discuss the project. Go to: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Spellsinger/108279139193356. Production drawings and more will appear periodically on the page.
I am halfway through a stand-alone SF novel, RELIQUARY, which deals with the life of the last living human being. His name is Ruslan and he's not on Earth. But neither is he alone.
The Rainfurrest convention, held in Seattle the weekend of the 24th, was a lot of fun. I read my zombie story, FETCHED, which was rejected by the anthology editor who commissioned it (they wanted all the stories in the anthology to be from the zombie's point-of-view). Contrary POV or not, it was very well received by the audience, and I'm sure it will find a suitable home somewhere. One audience member from Georgia declared that it captured the atmosphere of that countryside and populace quite well.
On October 1st (which is why this upate is a couple of days late) I competed in the 100% RAW World Single-Lift Powerlifting Championships in Las Vegas. I won my age (60-64) and weight (198 lb.) division in the bench press with a final lift of 292.5 lbs., which I guarantee you astonishes me more than anyone else. In November I move up to the 65-69 age division and I hope to take a serious shot at the RAW world record for that age group...provided I don't break, sprain, crack, or shatter anything in the meantime. It's an interesting break (oops, poor choice of words) from writing.
I find the physical setting of Seattle and its surrounds the most beautiful in the U.S., surpassing even San Francisco. The food is wonderful and the new light rail system a delight, provided (like all such systems) that it happens to be going somewhere you want to go. In my case it was from the airport (one end) to Westlake Center (the other end). Westlake Center is an easy two-block walk from Pike Place Market. It was my first time to visit the market, which is a delightful mess of old buildings into which have been inserted fishmongers, specialty shops, restaurants, craftsfolk, and much more, with wonderful views of Puget Sound thrown in. The very first Starbucks is also there. Sadly, I no longer buy frappucinos at Starbucks in the U.S. since they changed the drink's base. But it's still the same as it was overseas. Borneo is a long way to have to go for a decent frappucino. Fortunately for my taste buds there is an independent here in Prescott (Method Coffee) that makes a blended mocha that tastes even better than the Starbucks' original.
No other convention appearances in the immediate future, but some possible surprises on the horizon. Meanwhile I wonder why the Canadians don't simply build a nice, shiny, new oil refinery near the Alberta tar sands and export the much higher value-added product that would result. They'd also gain some permanent jobs out of it while sparing the rest of us the Keystone pipeline. The finished, refined products could much more easily be slipped into the extensive existing U.S. petroleum products distribution system (trains, trucks, pipelines). Canadians in the vicinity would probably also benefit from lower gas/petrol prices. Unless of course the whole purpose of the project is to allow Canadian crude and finished products to be shipped overseas out of Texas at considerable profit to the oil companies involved...no, no, silly thought. Despite the consortium's earlier, failed attempt to build such a pipeline to the west coast of Canada, a project that was scuttled by First Nations opposition.
For those of you in the Seattle area looking for something to do the weekend of the 24th and would like to say hi, I will be serving as GoH at the Rainfurrest convention, being held at the Hilton Seattle airport hotel & conference center.
I am feeling a tad assaulted by Facebook requests from hundreds of people I don't know. Anyone who wishes to be friended on the site needs to include a bit of information about themselves with their query.
Here are a couple of shots from my time at Chernobyl. 300 meters from the reactor, dosimeter reading is a safe 500 microseverts/hr. At the fence surrounding the reactor, it goes to 10,000 microseverts/hr....not healthy. On top of the containment sarcophogus the reading is still over one million microseverts/hr. This will induce nausea, vomiting, radiation sickness and, with sufficient exposure, death. Workers in special protective gear atop the containment facility are limited to working no more than 10-15 minutes at time.
And here is some rough video taken during the final rehearsal of the Brian Gothic symphony. It's shaky and limited, but at least you can get an idea of the immense scale of the forces involved. 600 choristers in the ranked seats on either side of the orchestra, plus directly behind it. 150 in the two childrens' choirs on either side of the orchestra. 203 musicians, including 23 percussionists) and in the four symphonic bands that are only occasionally visible on either side of the auditorium. Plus the 8 trumpeters in the upper right section of the rafters (which section is included in this footage). And the unseen off-stage soprano solo. I would have dearly loved to have shot a lot more footage but....
If you're having trouble watching the video here, go directly to the vimeo website and search for my name.
Havergal Brian, Gothic symphony - excerpts from final rehearsal, 17 July 2011 from Alan Foster on Vimeo.
Just back from a couple of weeks overseas. Went to London for the BBC Proms performance of Havergal Brian's Gothic symphony. Unquestionably the highlight of a long life of concert-going. This was only the sixth performance of the piece ever and the first to be done exactly as the composer wished, with all the forces specified. 600 choristers, 150 in two children's choirs, the mighty Royal Albert Hall organ, four soloists, four off-stage symphonic bands, and an angelic brass offstage fanfare resounding from high in the uppermost level. 967 performers all told, I believe. The largest symphony ever written, and it awed the audience. People smiled, people cried, and at the quiet end the conductor wordlessly asked for and received half a minute of absolute silence. For that thirty seconds, it was as if no one in the hall breathed. Then a nine-minute standing ovation. It was a triumph, a piece of musical history, and worth every cent and moment it took to attend. Pictures in next month's update. As a bonus I was able to attend the opening night of the Proms, which featured a wonderful performance of Janacek's rarely performed Glagolithic Mass.
Following the London sojourn, which also inlcuded a lovely dinner with Nick Landau and Vivian Cheung, the owners of Titan Publishing (Terminator Salvation, etc.), I flew to Kiev (pronounced "Keev", incidentally) for a couple of days. Fascinating city. For music lovers, the great gate of Kiev, a painting of which inspired the last movement of Moussorsky's Pictures at an Exhibition, has been fully reconstructed. Many beautiful cathedrals and old buildings, and a lot of new-found energy among the populace. Ukranians, I discovered, like to eat like Americans. Solid portions of real food...no tiny towers of curled meet on a puddle of sauce topped with sprigs of some unidentifiable vedure. Then it was off to Odessa, the fabled seaport founded by Catherine the Great. Wonderful old buildings and a thriving street scene. Walked up and down the Potemkin steps, famed from Sergei Eisenstein's seminal film Battleship Potemkin (I did not push any baby carriages). In Odessa I participated as a member of the RAW American team in their first Eurasian powerlifting championships. I've attached a couple of pictures. The team picture includes, second from the right and last from the right, the Iranian contingent, with whom I had several interesting extended chats.
Back in Kiev, I took a day trip to Chernobyl. You can get surprisingly close to reactor #4, the one that blew, but there are definite restrictions. No open-toed shoes allowed. Avoid contact with vegetation and the ground. Limited time at the site. It's...perfectly...safe....
Next month, pictures from the performance of the Gothic and from Kiev, Odessa, and...Chernobyl.
Here is the cover for BODY INC. Book 2 of the Tipping Point trilogy. Due out November or December. The intent (obviously) is to do a series of covers that relate not only to the individual volumes but to one another and to the overall story arc as well.
Just finished CLAIM BLAME, a longish Mad Amos Malone short story. Not quite a novelette. We'll see where it settles.
A couple of weeks ago I did a nice, long interview with Tony Healy for Fringe Scientist. You can read it here: http://fringescientist.com/2011/06/12/interview-alan-dean-foster/
Here is an excellent rendering of a thranx egg chamber by the estimable Spanish-Norweigian artist Gabriel Montagudo. It's a 3.8mg file, so it needs a bit of time to load fully. Note that the eye color and antennae are accurate, that the thranx have all eight limbs, and that the foothands and truhands have the correct number of digits (four), though in this depiction the thranx adult workers are a bit short on gear. Perhaps hygienic considerations demand complete nudity. Everything certainly looks freshly washed and scrubbed. Copies of the image as a print, framed print, postcards, etc. are available from http://www.redbubble.com/people/kanaa/portfolio. As is more of the artist's excellent futuristic and sfnal work.
Remember my telling the tale a few months back of how I lived for the summer of 1973 with the extended family of the Tahitian Princess Mareta "Miri" Rei, and how I finally located her appearance in the 1938 Hollywood blockbuster WAIKIKI WEDDING? I put up a number of still shots from that film. Here is the only formal Paramount PR shot of her that I have been able to unearth.
This is the video intro piece that Open Road Media did for the enhanced eReader version of PREDATORS I HAVE KNOWN. The exotic animal shots are all taken from my own videos shot over the past 40 years (much more of which is viewable as the chapter introductions to the enhanced eBook version). The rest was all shot here in Prescott by Open Road's own estimable video crew.
Sent off the fantasy MADRENGA to my agents. The book came in a little under 100,000 words, so it's a nice long read without being sufficient for slaying trolls. Now we shall see who is interested in publishing it. I'm very pleased with the result. It's the first time I ever deliberately started a novel without having the slightest idea how or where it would finally fetch up. I wanted to explore the process of working with utterly unfettered imagination unconstrained by the slightest preconception but yet operating within fairly conventional story parameters. Which is a roundabout way, I suppose, of saying that it's a completely traditional fantasy tale. Well, maybe not completely traditional. I'm afraid I can't do anything that's completely traditional, especially where fantasy is concerned. Even more so than with science-fiction, the fantasy I write is to please myself. That's the impulse that gave rise to SPELLSINGER (which Lester del Rey turned down) and to BLUE MAGIC (which no publisher has taken yet). I just can't write to standards. The more popular the genre tropes, the more I enjoy messing with them. Alas, this does not always sit well with publishers, and editors are therefore often constrained more and more by economic considerations from taking the kinds of chances their hearts say that they should.
That doesn't mean I don't enjoy playing with tropes. For example, as a fan of '50's monster movies I always wanted to write a giant bug story. But I didn't want to simply write something that could pass for a Planet Stories potboiler. Nothing should be written without a reason. Beyond pure entertainment there should be a purpose behind every story. So forty years of scribing went by without a giant bug story (the thranx don't count...in a '50's horror movie they'd be the good guys trying to find ways to reverse the evil mutations). Then along came Gordon van Gelder's estimable anthology of climate change stories WELCOME TO THE GREENHOUSE, for which I was finally able to write that long thought-of tale: THAT CREEPING SENSATION. I was put in a position where I could write a giant bug story with a purpose; one with an actual sound scientific background. My roundabout homage, if you will, to Murray Leinster's great early classic, THE FORGOTTEN PLANET.
Here is the appropriately feline title page for BODY, INC., due out from Del Rey this winter.
PIKE'S PEEK is now available in the collection More Tales of Zorro (Moonstone Books). As a kid I was a huge fan of the Disney Zorro TV series starring the dashing Guy Williams. This is what happens if you grow up and become a writer: time, circumstances, and luck permitting, eventually you get the opportunity to write your own tale involving your favorite characters from when you were a child. Like my Uncle Scrooge story in which Scrooge, Donald, and the nephews meet up with Moby Dick...which unfortunately has not been published, but which I had an immense amount of fun writing. Ever wonder about the things that drive writers crazy? The title of the Zorro story is a pun. Some copyeditor or typesetter at the publisher plainly thought it was a typo on my part, and retitled it PIKE'S PEAK. This destroys the title's relevance to the story, but you'll have to read the tale to find out why.
PREDATORS I HAVE KNOWN is one of 22 books chosen to serve as demo titles for Samsung's new ebook reader app. So even if you can't get the enhanced version (which includes the chapter introductory video clips) for your own gear, maybe you can browse them the next time you're in a store that sells one of Samsung's tablets or phones.
MADRENGA should be finished some time next month. I've had a great deal of fun writing it. Fantasy is just so much easier than science-fiction. Easier to write as well as easier for people to read, which is why it sells so much better. There's no need to wonder why something works: it simply is. You still have to maintain the internal logic, but it's much more warpable than it is in SF.
Regrettably, due to personal matters, it looks like I will not be attending Leprecon in Tempe, Arizona 6-7 or participating in the NASA Western Regionals in Mesa. If this situation should change, I will post a notice prior to those dates.
The cottonwoods are leafing out, the vinca is blooming, there are cottontails everywhere, and the red-tail hawk family has arrived. Must be Spring.
The short video "moodscapes" that introduce chapters of PREDATORS I HAVE KNOWN and which consist of compilations of clips taken from home video of my travels are only viewable, understandably, in the enhanced version of the ebook. Which is a fancy way of saying you have to be reading the book on an iPad or Samsung Galaxy or some similar device. The enhanced version is readable via the iBook app, via iTunes, or the new Kobo ereader app for the Samsung and others. For those who would like to have the book in traditional form, both hardback and paperback editions of the book, including the wood-cut like chapter headings, are now available via Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and directly from the publisher, Open Road Media. For those who would like a signed copy, please contact me directly.
The second book of The Tipping Point trilogy, following THE HUMAN BLEND, is now officially titled BODY, INC., and will be out the end of this year. The third and final book, tentatively titled THE SUM OF HER PARTS, is finished, has been delivered to Del Rey and will presumeably appear in 2012.
Nothing new on THE ZENOIDS front. Discussions with various media outlets and such are ongoing. While waiting for a decision on BLUE MAGIC (OSHANURTH) I've begun a new, stand-alone fantasy novel, MADRENGA. Can't just write short stories...the era of the pulps and the digests is history, and I have no intention of becoming such.
I will be attending and speaking at LepreCon 37 in Tempe, Arizona on 6 and 7 May and competing in the NASA Western Regionals (powerlifting) on the 7th, going back and forth between the meet in Mesa and the convention in Tempe. Should make for an interesting day. At the RAW Arizona State meet on the 27th March, I surprised myself (I keep surprising myself) by bench pressing 287 lbs for a new state record in the 60-64, 198.lb and under class. Now on Mars, that would be....
Recent wildlife discovery apropos of absolutely nothing: if you have a fly wandering about on your computer screen and you move the cursor toward it, it will fly away (the insect, not the cursor).
The Chinese government has been very active in hiring letter-writers to post on U.S. news sites, supporting the government line and point of view whenever an even marginally critical article appears. These are invariably amusing and self-contradictory. For example, "Everyone in China agrees that the so-called call for Jasmine revolution goes against everything China stands for". Except that mention or discussion of even the word Jasmine is rigorously censored, so it would be impossible for even a modest group of citizens, let alone "everyone", to protest against it. The letters go on in that vein, with the writers blissfully unaware of the fact that they refute their own logic. The absence of anything resembling a sense of humor is telling.
Here is the best science-fiction film you'll see all month. It's five minutes long, and it's not what you expect.
PREDATORS I HAVE KNOWN was released by Open Road Media on 22 Feb., along with all eight of the long-unavailable Spellsinger books. These make their first appearance as ebooks. Here is the video promo for them and for PREDATORS. The brief animal shots are excerpted from my own personal videos. The file is sizable and might take a while to load, depending on your playback device and/or browser.
A while back I wrote a novella, BOX OF OXEN, set in near-future Israel and Palestine. Lou Anders, now editor of Pyr Books, was then handling the revived Argosy and acquired it for publication therein. Unfortunately, while the magazine was a beautiful and noble effort, it proved too costly to publish, was not successfully financially, and folded just before BOX could appear within its pages. Novellas are awkward children in the world of publishing. Too short to be successful except with certain specialty publishers, and longer than magazine or anthology editors prefer (better to have four short stories to promote in a magazine issue than one novella). As time passed, electronic publishing made rapid stries. Not wishing to see BOX languish, I gathered myself and some simple software and have put it up on Amazon's Kindle store, where you may now find and download it to your preferred e-reading platform for the modest price of $2.99. I'm proud of the story, I hope you like it, and it will be interesting to see how it does in this new publishing format. The cover is a slightly manipulated photo of mine with something of a small visual Easter egg loaded on one part of it. I'll also be interested to see who remarks on the latter.
As noted in earlier updates, PREDATORS I HAVE KNOWN will be available later this month (if it isn't already) from publisher Open Road Media. I am told Apple is particularly taken with the book...not surprising given its video content, some of which was produced especially for the book by Open Road and some of which was supplied by me from my own travel video files. Those of you familiar with ordering ebooks will recognize that to make an impact on Amazon's Kindle store, greatly down-sized book covers need to be bold and simplified. Here's Open Road's cover for the book.
And for those who have wondered if (never mind when) the Spellsinger books would become available as ereads, Open Road will simultaneously be released the entire series at the same time as PREDATORS: all eight books. As with PREDATORS, the Spellsinger books should also be available as trade paperbacks.
Weather permitting, I will be attending Mythoscon in Tempe, Arizona, on Saturday, January 8th.
It's appropriate that Carrie Fisher's one-woman special, WISHFUL DRINKING, is on HBO. Because her life, which forms the basis of the show, is like an HBO miniseries in which she has been cast in the leading role. Involuntarily. There is of course a great deal about Star Wars, but those of you who haven't read any of her books will quickly learn that she isn't Princess Leia: she's a cross between Sophie Tucker and Dorothy Parker. The typical practitioner of stand-up comedy sits down and writes jokes. Fisher's process strikes me as more akin to suffering from malaria: once you're infected, you suffer from the condition forever. Your life goes along normally until, without warning, a sudden attack lays you out flat and you experience uncontrollable chills and sweats. Fisher sweats laughter. Only, the pH balance is off and in her case it's heavily acidic. You need to pay attention: her best bon-mots are delivered almost sotto voce and in many cases zip right by the audience that's waiting for the next piece of Hollywood dirt. Occasionally Fisher will let loose with a full- throated "Just do it!". One isn't sure whether it's a suggestion or a cathartic primal scream. She's like the Energizer bunny. No matter what hits her, she comes back as if she's just stuck her finger in a recharging socket. Only in her case, it's her head. I'm not sure her's has been a life well-lived, but it sure as hell has been lived. And she's still here. After it's all over, you want to take her in your arms and give her a big hug. But warily, like a boxer locking up his opposite number in a protective clinch. You'll laugh, you'll cry, maybe it's just a sty in your eye. Fisher talking about life is like Jake LaMotta talking to Sugar Ray Robinson after their last fight. Robinson's beaten the crap out of LaMotta and won the fight, but LaMotta staggers over to the victor's corner with enough left to say, "Hey Ray...you never knocked me down. You never knocked me down, Ray."
That's Carrie Fisher. Life's slapped her around pretty good, and left its scars, but its never knocked her down. Watch the special. It'll put a smile on your face. Or is that a wince...?
The January-February issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science-Fiction has another Mad Amos Malone story, GHOST WIND. Now available for order directly from the publisher OR Books (www.orbooks.com) is an anthology of stories about climate change, Welcome to the Greenhouse. In addition to my THAT CREEPING SENSATION, it has original stories by Brian Aldiss, Joseph Green, Bruce Sterling, Gregory Benford, and many others. My first non-fiction book, PREDATORS I HAVE KNOWN, will be released by Open Road Media on February 22nd, together with accompanying original video. http://geekblog.oakcircle.com/2010/12/25/oh-hes-got-high-hopes/ In relation to asymmetrical capacitor lifters, has an interesting reference to the KK-drive.
Since opening up a Facebook page (in response to a fan's request), I'm trying to friend as many applicants as I can. It's very flattering to have so many requests, but even hitting "approve" takes time, so it's going a bit slow.
The following shot from a few years ago was taken, by Gil Serique, from the back of a dugout. We are on a small tributary of the Amazon upriver of Manaus. The water in front of the boat is clogged by a profusion of Victoria Regina, the world's largest water lily, whose pads can grow up to a meter across.
In six months I am supposed to apply for Medicare. I cannot tell you how bizarre that sounds.
THE HUMAN BLEND is out from Del Rey. It's always difficult when a trilogy is written as a single continuous narrative and the first and second books are not written with individual endings. I hope you'll bear with me to the end of the tale. The Magazine of Fantasy and Science-Fiction will be publishing two new Mad Amos Malone stories. The first, FREE ELECTIONS, is in the current issue. The second, GHOST WIND, will appear in the Jan.-Feb. issue. OPEN ROAD MEDIA, which is doing PREDATORS I HAVE KNOWN, sent a film crew out to Prescott to conduct an extensive interview and to shoot supplementary footage on me, my study and home, and the Prescott area. Practically a mini-biography. Prescott's a lovely area and I think everyone will enjoy the video.
Other than the San Diego Comicon, I haven't been to a convention in a couple of years. But this year the World Fantasy con is in San Diego, and the World SF con is in Reno. Both are comparatively accessible, some I expect to attend one or the other. Haven't made a decision yet. The place in the Sierra Nevada where my family has vacationed since 1951 (Lundy Lake) is a three-hour drive south of Reno, so I may try to combine the two. Lundy has an interesting old west history, for those interested in gold mining and such, and doubtless there is material available on line for anyone who is interested in checking out the area. It's a genuinely spectacular place, even for the Sierra.
Having recently rescued three kittens from a Texas barn, and another from here in Prescott, we are now up to nine cats and two dogs, so it's a little chaotic around the household. Driving home today, nearly ran into a big solitary male javelina about a quarter mile down the road. It's unusual to see one out in the daytime in this area. The summer birds have winged their way south, but the canyon towhees are still hanging around, as are the ravens and great horned owls. The two local lakes are full of commuting ducks, coots, loons, and others, and I believe our chipmunks have pretty much bedded down for the winter in our attic.
I've just finished reading YMA SUMAC: THE ART BEHIND THE LEGEND. Excellent book, and the nearest volume we're likely to have to a biography of this utterly unique performer. For those of you unfamiliar with Sumac, I suggest watching the clip of her on YouTube singing CHUNCHO. Try to find the original video/film clip and not the one from the film SECRET OF THE INCAS (though that's perfectly fine). CHUNCHO is about as close to a three-minute visit in music to MIDWORLD as you're likely to find. For further listening, I suggest the Queen of Exotica double-cd set. There's nothing quite like her. I remember encountering her first album, Voice of the Xtabay, as a teenager, and listening to it over and over.
Note that the old Subspace forum has been replaced with a new discussion board, the link for which is on the home page. We'll see how it works.
The reason for the absence of an October update is because I was in northern Borneo from 19 Sept. until 19 Oct., and trying to do a site update from such a remote location is, well, awkward. The trip was wonderful, as always, with the exception of the arrival in Hong Kong. Landing in the midst of a raging typhoon was a new experience: one I could easily have done without. Although I don't much care for flying in the best of conditions, I reckon I've done more than my share of air travel. Paradoxically, some of the best flights I've ever had were on tiny prop jobs in the back of beyond, and some of the worst were on big modern jets. This one was a toss-up... literally. You can always tell when you're landing in difficult conditions: the cabin gets very, very quiet. We bounced around pretty good, with lots of lightning flashing outside, but in the end it was just a matter of the usual roller-coaster ride until touchdown.
I began by spending three days in Hong Kong on business (potential movie stuff to be produced there...very interesting people and discussions). While the hotel was great (Langham Place, Mongkok), I didn't much care for the city itself. The last time I was there, save to change aircraft, was in 1975, and the city was desperately overcrowded then. Now it's simply insane. Back then the city had turned a single pier, Harbor Pier, into a multilevel shopping center that was crowded with small stores hawking handmade suits and dresses, carvings of Chinese subjects, paintings on silk, fabric stores, and the like. Returning to the site, I found in its place something called Harbor City; a mega-complex of stores, hotels, and restaurants. Wandering the corridors I encountered an endless succession of storefronts hawking Givenchy, Tommy Hilfinger, Burberry...you know all the names. Immensely disappointed in the selection, I went up to a guy at an information booth and explained that I was looking for arts and crafts made in China. He smiled and gestured at the surging crowd of happy shoppers. "Look around you," he said. "Givency, Tommy Hilfinger, Burberry...all made in China."
Danged if he didn't have me there.
In contrast to HK, Northern Borneo was everything I'd hoped for and more. The pristine Danum Valley was feverish with exotic animals, plants, and arthropods I'd never before had the opportunity to encounter in the wild. Everything from all three Bornean species of civet (including the rarely seen binturong) to wonderfully colorful insects and birds. Unless one has a good, long telephoto lens, birds are tough to photograph in dense rainforest, so I don't have much of them except for hornbills. I don't like to carry a lot of photo gear: it inhibits my enjoyment of and my ability to immerse myself in my surroundings. Managed to see five species of primate (red-leaf monkey, silver-leaf monkey, Borneo gibbon, long-tailed macaque, and pig-tail macaque). Orangutans were not to be seen in the Danum (local trees not fruiting), but I encountered them later in the trip, in Sarawak. Saw several species of flying squirrel. Giant mouse deer, bearded pig, lots of frogs including the rare Wallace's flying frog (not airborne, alas). The Danum's a fabulous place to visit and unlike the equally famous Malieu Valley, accessible.
I spent a week and managed to emerge with only four leech bites: two brown and two tiger. You know leeches: little crosses between Dracula and an inchworm. The tiger leech is a good deal larger than the brown and therefore has a greater...capacity. All four bites were due to my own neglect. On each occasion I failed to carry out all proper precautions and checks. Considering the number of leeches in the Danum (they are everywhere), I consider that I got off easy. My dream was to see a clouded leopard, but my guide explained that in fifteen years of working the Danum he'd personally had only four live encounters with that exquisite feline. Most sightings of the clouded leopard are via remote trip cameras. You don't see really rare animals by spending a week anywhere: you need to go out with a tent and sleeping bag, and spend months.
Diving at Sipidan Island (and Mabul and Sia Mil) was good, but doesn't top New Guinea or the Galapagos. The weather was problematic (overcast, occasional rain) and the (far too famous) place over-crowded with dive boats from the nearby island resorts. I did see a multitude of protected green and hawksbill turtles, for which Sipidan is famous. I actually found the waters around the island of Sia Mil more interesting, with their mandarin shrimp, giant black and gray frogfish, squid, and cuttlefish. A depressing quantity of trash kept drifting past Sipidan, doubtless originating from the fishing villages on the islands of Mabul and Kapalai, and from the base town of Semporna.
In Sarawak I located myself in the main city of Kuching, which turned out to be a wonderful combination of the traditional and the modern. It reminded me, fondly, of old Hong Kong. Lots of bustling small shops in the main riverfront bazaar and old colonial buildings. Outside the city I was finally able to see some orangutans in a local preserve. Though free and wild, they are heavily habituated to humans. While not the best solution to their predicament (poaching and loss of habitat), it beats extermination. Borneo is also home to more species of pitcher plant than anywhere else in the world, and I was able to see several varieties in the wild. On a river trip out of the city I caught glimpses of the hard-to-see Irrawaddy dolphin, a species that enjoys hunting in and is perfectly comfortable in fresh water.
Spent three days in the tiny but oil-and-gas rich country of Brunei, which sits sandwiched in between the Malaysian states of Sarawak and Sabah. Brunei is one of the world's few remaining sultanates and the Sultan is one of the world's richest men. His people don't seem terribly distressed by this, as there's plenty left over to spread around. 300,000 people in Brunei, and 300,000+ cars. Roads that are polished and pothole-free. Gas about US$1.60/gal. A full medical checkup costs US seventy-five cents. Plenty of subsidized housing. I was told you can criticize or comment on just about everything and anything...except Islam and the royal family. Among other items, the museum of royal regalia displays all the gifts that have been presented over the years to the Sultan and his family. Most of this kiss-ass suck-up stuff is exactly the sort of tchotchkies you'd buy to give your Aunt June or Uncle Charlie as a memento of a visit, except the scale is larger and the materials different (gold, silver, jewels). My favorite was from a Saudi prince, who thoughtfully presented an elegant pen-and-pencil desk set...something that was at least useful, as opposed to the solid silver boats and mosque reproductions in precious metals and stones.
All in all, yet another wonderful trip to another previously unvisited corner of our planet. Apropos of which I append herewith my first embedded video instead of the usual still photos or vidcaps. Resolution is fairly high, so you can use the enlarge-to-full-screen button/command if you wish. It's a large file, so it's best to wait until the video has played through one time, and then hit replay to view it smoothly.
Meanwhile Open Road Media has acquired my first non-fiction book, PREDATORS I HAVE KNOWN, which should appear early next year. Intended for multimedia platforms like the iPad and subsequently slated for release as a trade paperback, this will hopefully feature illustrative clips from all the video I've taken in the course of the past thirty years. Read the book, hit a hotword or keyword, and see video illustrating the encounter being discussed. Excerpts from all that video which I shot for research purposes will now, finally, be available to readers. You'll be able to see the inspiration for many stories...and tales to come.
1 September 10
Thanks to everyone who sent in requests for books from my library sale, and I hope those of you who purchased copies enjoy adding them to your own. There are still copies of certain titles available, though a lot of the British 1st hardcovers are gone. Let me know what, if anything, you're interested in. I still have some British hc's left, as well as a selection of SF book club editions, plus of course the paperbacks
Heritage Auctions of Dallas is auctioning 8 Carl Barks oil paintings. For those of you who don't know, Carl Barks created Uncle Scrooge and wrote and drew all the great early Uncle Scrooge and Donald Duck comic books. I always site him as one of my principal literary influences. Many decades ago, a Los Angeles area fan and bookdealer, Malcolm Willits, got in touch with Barks and asked if he might consider doing an oil painting of some of the ducks. Remarkably, Barks received permission from Disney to do so...the only instance of an artist being allowed to draw/paint copyrighted Disney characters on his own. Barks eventually did over 200 such paintings, many reproducing or referencing scenes from his comics. In 1968 I was in Malcolm's Collectors' bookstore on Hollywood Blvd. and saw a Christmas painting of the ducks. Upon inquiring if it was for sale, Mal said, "Sure...$200". As a student at UCLA, I needed money for school expenses, and could hardly see asking my hard-working father for $200 to "Buy a painting of a bunch of ducks". That very same painting (A Christmas Composition) is one of the eight currently up for bid at Heritage.
The last Barks oil that I know sold, went for about $161,000.
Shoulda asked for the loan.
THE HUMAN BLEND (Del Rey, 23 Nov. release date) is available for preorder from Amazon and others. Nice cover. Fulfilled requests from several anthologies for short fiction...I'll announce them when I have actual publication dates, or when they're released. Some exciting news to be forthcoming, I hope, about a non-fiction book. The October site update will likely be delayed, and there may not be one until November 1st. Explanation will be forthcoming at that time.
My mother passed away on the fourth of July. She was 86, a grand lady, and with failing vision and lung capacity due to a lifetime of smoking, essentially decided to throw the shut-off switch on herself. Exactly as her own mother had done. She died quietly in her own bed, in her own house, with no tubes or cables hooked up to her and a smile on her face. During the early years of WWII she had served as secretary to the editor of the New York Times, and I wish I had spoken with her more about those days. But we always think of these things when it's too late to do so. Same thing with my grandfather, who was the controller for the Armstrong Racing Form in New York and who knew more characters than Damon Runyon. It's all lost now, along with Vermeer's technique for handling light and what Beethoven was really like.
So I've been more than a little preoccupied with matters domestic. Still found time to do some writing, though, and sold four or five short stories (waiting to hear on the fifth). For those who have asked for it, one is a brand-new Mad Amos Malone story, FREE ELECTIONS, which will be appearing in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science-Fiction. The others I will mention in due course, as they are scheduled to appear. Much talk afoot over plans to do PREDATORS I HAVE KNOWN as a vook, since the video to enhance the manuscript already exists and the market for such material is all but exploding, especially since the introduction of the iPad.
Recently returned from Comicon in San Diego, where I did business and met with many old friends. Spent a lot of time with Todd Lockwood, he of the supple brush, and his lovely wife Rita. Also chatted with many other artists, but amid the sound and fury of Comicon it's difficult to have an extended or serious conversation about anything, including art. Had dinner and much enjoyable discourse with Brooke McEldowney, of 9 CHICKWEED LANE and PIBGORN fame, who was traveing with his beautiful daughter Nicola. Brooke and I share a similarly jaundiced view of humankind that in no way inhibits our enjoyment of same, or of the world around us. Was able to say hi to Bob Orci for the first time since working on the STAR TREK novelization, and in hasty passing, to finally shake hands with his writing partner Alex Kurtzman. Briefly chatted with Charlene Harris of Sookie Stackhouse notoriety. A charming and humble gal, who I would have otherwise expected to find offering up cookies and lemonade on a hot summer evening. Con crowd control was much better than in previous years. There were fewer hall costumes, though the quality remains high. The danger to Comicon is that Hollywood will take it over completely. Films and tv shows that have nothing to do with fantasy, comics, or SF are starting to shoulder their way into the convention space. Their presence and money are not needed to make the Con a success, and I think the organizers would do well to restrict their intrusion or risk alienating the con's true fan base.
Among the Big Names who put in appearances were Harrison Ford, Angelina Jolie, Seth MacFarlane, and the entire casts of numerous movies and tv shows. I attend none of these presentations, where fans wait in line for hours for a glimpse of actual name performers. Frankly, I'd rather talk to artists and musicians, other writers and sfx techs. I really wanted to ask Michael Giacchino how much his wonderful score for Ratatouille was influenced by Gershwin's An American in Paris. About the best thing I did at the con was take half a day and go body surfing at Silver Strand beach. I'd brought along my short fins and shortie wetsuit, and after not having been in the Pacific off Southern California in years, it was absolutely bliss. Compared to the South Pacific or Indian ocean, the water is murky and cold. But there's something elemental about swimming with long lengths of kelp that wrap themselves around you as you tread water and take the measure of the waves. If you don't keep shaking off and unwinding from the dark, pungent strands, you can emerge from the surf looking like a bad outtake from a Predator movie.
William Shatner's myouterspace.com had a big premere on the aircraft carrier/museum Midway. Bill interviewed a number of the website's professional participants, including me. He's an experienced interviewer, and I was impressed with how he tossed the prepared questions in favor of propounding queries of his own that were both personal and pertinent. Where the man gets his energy I don't know, but I want a case of it.
My mother kept a second set of everything I wrote. So I've decided to keep those copies for my files and put my original office set up for sale, individually. For those of you who may have spent time looking for this or that particular tome, including some long-unavailable and other scarce offerings, here's your chance. Most copies haven't been touched since they were placed on my office shelves. There's only one of each title, of course, though there are British as well as American editions and many of the British copies are the 1st hc publication. If you're interested, email me to see what's available.
First, let me apologize for the lack of a June update. We were traveling in small-town west-central Texas, visiting my wife's home town and remaining friends and relations, and were gone for a month. Having switched over to a Mac, I didn't feel comfortable trying to do an update using only an HP netbook and dated (very dated) PC uploading software. Nor did I feel any urgency to regale others with detailed descriptions of consuming a continuous stream of chicken-fried steak and fried catfish. Of more interest might be the two excellent Italian restaurants we discovered: one in Eastland run by an immigrant from Croatia, and the other in Breckenridge operated by the redoubtable Meije Vraniqi, a refugee from Kosovo who is also an outstanding (if largely unknown in this country) poet. If you happen to read Albanian, however, it's possible that you know her. Life is full of surprises, the majority of them which seem to be acquired through traveling.
I'd also like to give a shout-out to the fine folks I worked out with at the Gold's Gym in Abilene, to the men and women attempting to restore the grand hotel in Weatherford, to the operators of the Dr. Pepper museum in Dublin (Texas), and apologies to the diamondback with whom I communed in a friend's shed near Moran but who was subsequently killed, as is the culture in the area. I'd also like to ask that whoever stole the few simple items my wife managed to salvage four years ago from her burned-out family home in Moran, particularly the doors off her grandmother's stove, return them to where they were being stored. Not much likelihood of that, but one never knows who reads what, and communication is now global.
By coincidence we happened to be in the area when Barbarian Days, honoring Robert E. Howard of Cross Plains, Texas, were being held. So I took myself down thataway, to the small town where my wife's father used to trade cattle, and had a look around. The Howard House is a museum superbly maintained and operated by the local folks. It's filled with Howardania, from period furniture to actual Howard relics, including manuscripts, books, and artwork, and is definitely worth a visit if you happen to be in the neighborhood. I own a postcard from H.P. Lovecraft to Howard, written and sent when Lovecraft was visiting Quebec. It reads: ""This place surpasses all my expectations in a veritable dream of archaic city walls, crennelated cliffs, silent(?) spirits, narrow, zig-zag, precipitous streets, and the leisurely civilization of an elder world!" (signed) HP Lovecraft. Written in Lovecraft's hand in fading brown ink and sent with a Canadian two-cent airmail stamp. It looks nice in my study, but it belongs in a place like the Howard museum, if they'll have it.
Just saw the cover for THE HUMAN BLEND (Del Rey, December release) and it's striking. And different. For those who have been asking, FREE ELECTIONS, a new Mad Amos Malone story, will appear in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science-Fiction. Look for another short, RURAL SINGULARITY, in John Joseph Adams's upcoming anthology MAD SCIENTISTS. I'll be attending the San Diego Comicon 21-24. On Friday 23d I'll be signing at the Del Rey booth (tentative time 1-2 pm) and on the 24th participating on a panel with, among others, Samuel Delaney and Nnedi Okorafor. Look for my friend Brooke McEldowney of 9 CHICKWEED LANE fame and be sure to pick up copies of his remarkable PIBGORN books, which he will have available for purchase. If you don't know PIBGORN by now, go online and check it out.
The meeting with the Chiodo Bros. (of KILLER KLOWNS FROM OUTER SPACE fame) in Los Angeles was fun and enlightening, and we shall see what if anything eventuates as a result. At the same time I did a couple of video interviews that I expect will show up in one form or another on www.myouterspace.com, and possibly elsewhere. Those of you who know me are aware that I have no difficulty talking endlessly (some might say interminably) about any subject whatsoever, including those I know nothing about, and therefore might find these vids entertaining.
Starbucks has ruined their frappucino. McDonald's frapes have next to no coffee in them, but at least they taste like something. What passes for a Starbucks frappucino now tastes, and looks, like coffee-colored dishwater. In case you wondered how overpriced corporate consultants justify their continued existence, here's a perfect contemporary example. Think DILBERT.
The problems with the website discussion board are not resolved, and I'm thinking of just dropping it entirely. I can always be contacted via email, and I might go to a blog. If I open one, then I have to maintain it, and that means dealing with more regular communications. Fun, but time-demanding. We'll see.
Well, for the forseeable future secrets must remain secrets. Hopefully with time comes revelation.
Meanwhile, a book some readers have expressed interest in acquiring but that has been unavailable for a while has recently been reprinted. This is THE COMPLETE ALIEN OMNIBUS. A thick trade paperback, it contains in one volume the novelizations of the first three ALIEN movies. A pity there's no hc edition, but the pb is well-made and sturdy. Unfortunately, like its predecessor edition, it is available only in Britain. Why this should be so baffles me. The first printings were from Warner Britain. This new edition arrives from the redoubtable Little, Brown. Those who want it can probably order it from Amazon UK, or other sources. It's nice to have all three novels in one book, since I intended for them to be read as a single continuous story. I regret that Alien 3 is missing a fair portion of the adjustments and additions I put in the original manuscipt, but a contractor is not allowed to determine the final color of the house that he builds. For better or worse, that remains the province of the homeowner.
While waiting for a contract for the OSHANURTH trilogy, my agents and I are exploring alternative publishing venues for a sizable fantasy novel I penned called THE DEAVYS. Set in contemporary Pennsylvania and New York, this has had difficulty attracting a publisher because it seems to fall between the adult and YA categories. I don't categorize stories when I write them...I just write the stories. Given the number of possibilities for publishing that now exist outside the traditional industry, I expect it to find a home before too long. I think it's a fine read for adults or teens.
The daffodils have come and gone, as have three of our animals. Oscar, the dog who was the model for the lead character in the novel KINGDOMS OF LIGHT. Pixie, our oldest cat, who was nearly 19. And Cezer, my favorite cat and friend, who I could safely walk in the woods without a leash and who would come when called. I've always felt that if you can't handle the emotion of pets' passing, get a tortoise or a parrot. Something that will outlive you. Grieving never grows easy.
When I was starting out as a writer I made it a point to try and meet as many of the older authors as possible. Many of them are long gone now. Some frequented SF conventions, but others like Donald Wandrei and Daniel Galouye, E. Hoffman Price and James Schmitz, did not, and I'm glad I had the opportunity to get to know them a little. I've reached the age where sharing and passing along memories of such luminaries becomes bonafide history, which makes my early forays into such interpersonal connections valuable if not especially prescient. I regret never having the chance to meet Doc Smith or Norman Lindsay, but I am lucky enough to have met influences on the field as diverse as Fritz Lang and Robert Clampbett. One day perhaps I'll try to set these memories down. No time yet...still too much writing and traveling to do.
Two film recommendations. MOON you doubtless have heard about, if not seen. While it proves that in the age of CGI, traditional model work is more of an anachronistic technique than ever, and while regular readers of SF will spot the central plot point well in advance, it is more than worth seeing for Sam Rockwell's marvelous performance, one that should clearly have been nominated for an assortment of awards. The other film, which will be considerably less familiar, is ANGEL-A. Made by the redoutable Luc Besson (THE FIFTH ELEMENT, LEON THE PROFESSIONAL, JOAN OF ARC) and not without flaws, it is nonetheless a bracing change from the current spate of bloated sfx-gurgling fantasy films. It attempts to not only engage us and make us laugh, but also to say a thing or two about the human condition. Whether it fails to do so or not is not as important as the fact that Besson is willing to try. Not to shock you, but there are actually scenes where people engage in conversations of more than three paragraphs, and sequences that are not cut according to a stopwatch. Should you encounter the film, give it a try. If nothing else you can gawk at his female lead, the amazing Rie Rasmussen, who is only slightly shorter than Mr. Eiffel's tower and a good deal more limber. Within Besson's camera, both sparkle.
What is it with all these secret projects lately? I'm writing like mad but am unable to talk about it. Oh well...one day.
I've been recording and watching episodes of my favorite TV western from when I was a kid...Have Gun, Will Travel. A unique entry into what was then a genre overflowing with nattily-dressed marshalls, gamblers, and assorted squeaky-clean TV heroes (all that dust and hardly any of them ever got dirty unless dirt was written into the script). Star Trek fans already know that Gene Roddenberry wrote a number of episodes of the show, but my pleasure comes from seeing what could be done on a zero budget, with a lead actor as fine as Richard Boone. Boone could ride a horse and box, and was as adept at comedy as drama. Last night I watched an episode called LADY ON THE WALL, directed by none other than the redoubtable Ida Lupino and written by...Charles Beaumont and Richard Matheson. I reiterate: Charles Beaumont and Richard Matheson. It wasn't one of their extraordinary Twilight Zone screenplays, but with a little tweaking it could have been. What a delight.
THE HUMAN BLEND, the first book of the TIPPING POINT trilogy, will be released by Del Rey in late November or early December.
I have agreed to serve as the, um, governor of the planet Creatia, on the site www.myouterspace.com. This is a project of William Shatner's and it looks like it could be fun. Anyway, fans of the immortal film KILLER KLOWNS FROM OUTER SPACE should know that the Chiodo brothers are also operating on it. If you have never seen KKFOS, it runs occasionally on cable and satellite, and there is absolutely nothing like it in the genre. See it with someone you love (or someone who is terrified of clowns).
The RAW Arizona Powerlifting meet on the 27-28th of the month was enjoyable, as all such events are. I've found that there are fewer ego problems among a group of ten powerlifters than among any three writers or artists. Perhaps because they spend all their time fighting gravity and Mother Earth than critics or each other. Anyway, in the unequipped bench press I managed another state record in my age and weight group with a lift of 281 lbs. I'd love to do the full powerlifting lineup, which consists of bench press, dead lift, and squat. But my knees won't let me do heavy squats anymore and I'm reluctant to risk my back by doing deadlifts. I have enough trouble lifting myself these days. But the bench press...well, at least it's something I can do while lying down.
Still waiting (*sigh*) for a firm decision on OSHANURTH.
It is the first of March, and winter lies still and heavy upon much of the country. So I will tell you a tale of the South Seas. Of swaying palms and balmy trade winds. Of a lone young writer, only twenty-six, on his first trip overseas.
I arrived in Tahiti in June of 1973 intending to spend the summer lolling on sandy beaches being fed maitais by willowy vahines. Immediately I learned that the authorities frown on beachcombers of whatever age (they want you staying in their expensive hotels), and that the willowy vahines were all spoken for by very large and formidable local gentlemen. Prior to embarking from California I had taken some lessons in Tahitian dance and language. I asked the lady who taught me if there were any friends or relations I could say hello to for her while I was there, and she gave me a couple of names. Two days after arriving, already tired, hot, and somewhat discouraged, I presented myself at the door of the house of a woman named Miri Rei. It was a considerably bigger house than I had expected...a virtual Polynesian mansion. I was welcomed in, cordially delivered my greetings, and prepared to go on my way.
"Where are you staying?" the jovial Ms. Rei asked me.
"Oh, here and there. On the beach, I imagine."
With a twinkle in her eye (a permanent twinkle, I was soon to learn), this delightful lady of sixty-five gave me a radiant smile and replied, as if it was the most natural thing in the world, "Nonsense. You're staying with us."
Here is a picture I took of Miri Rei on her property as we chatted about some charming inconsequentiality.
As I spent the summer in Paea, at Ms. Rei's, I learned a bit of her history. That she had once been in love with a wealthy American who had wanted to marry her, but that he could not abandon his family business in the U.S. and she could not leave Tahiti. That they had parted, and she had never married, but with the money he had bestowed on her she had raised a number of adopted children. On her property facing the lagoon were several homes in addition to the Big House. In one lived Fredo and Esther Tetuamanuhiri, with whom I actually resided. Fredo was a big, charming Tahitian policeman with an easy manner and sly wit. Out in the lagoon he would fish for lunch or supper while I snorkeled until my skin raisined. Esther, one of Miri's adopted kids, was a ball of energy with a smile that echoed Miri's. From time to time I would take days off to fly to Bora Bora, or Huahine, or Raiatea. There were no willowy vahines for me there either (I was too much of a nerd, I suspect, and still learning how to communicate with the other species). But there was the nude model on Moorea, and Lucy on Bora Bora. The journey was, indeed, all that I had hoped for and a good deal more. Three months later I departed with memories of friendships never to be forgotten. Two years later Tahiti was the last stop on our honeymoon and JoAnn got to meet Esther and Miri as well.
May, 2006. In the middle of a two-part cruise across much of the South Pacific I have one day in Papeete, Tahiti's capital. I leave the ship and take the bus to Paea. Much, alas, has changed...even Le Truck (the buses). Now there are walls where once chickens and children gamboled free and unrestrained from property to property. Miri Rei is gone, having died in 1999 a couple of months shy of her ninety-first birthday. Fredo is very ill, but I think (I hope) remembers me. But Esther is much the same. We talk, and share memories of times gone by. My ship moves on. On Bora Bora there are twelve hotels and four more abuilding where once there were three...and criminally, there are jetskis blasting around the storied lagoon. I cling to old images as we sail on toward the Cook Islands.
January, 2010. An email arrives...from Esther. The internet permits wonders. We chat, and exchange reminiscences. I start to learn more. Miri Rei was...Princess Maheta Rei, descended from royalty of Raiatea and Bora Bora. The wealthy American who loved her and whom she loved in return was Cornelius Crane, scion of the Crane plumbing empire. Esther remembers well the Crane mansion in Ipswich, Massachusetts and "Uncle Conny". For a time they sailed between Hawaii and Tahiti on crane's yacht Te Vega, one of the largest steel-hulled schooners ever built. I find that, unknown, I have been on the fringes of a great and wondrous love story as profound and moving as anything you will encounter at the movies. And there is more....
Long before she met Crane, Miri won a dance contest in Tahiti. It propelled her to New York, where she danced in the Ziegfeld Follies, and onward to California. Hollywood in the 1930's was much enamored of stories with South Seas settings. Murnau and Flaherty's TABU (Miri was friend of its star Anna Chevalier), John Ford's THE HURRICANE, MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY, and many more. I learn that along with every other Polynesian living in Southern California at the time Miri likely appeared as an extra in these films. Many years later she narrated a film Crane sponsored, THE TAHITIAN (1956), about fighting disease in Tahiti. I research everything I can, without much hope of finding anything, and then...a credit. For a Paramount production called WAIKIKI WEDDING (1937) starring Bing Crosby and Martha Raye. There is a credit for one "Miri Rei - specialty dancer". I enter the time machine, and forty-three minutes and twenty seconds into the film, right after the Hollywood volcano makes its appearance, I find myself gazing utterly entranced at a dance number featuring a twenty-eight year old ball of Polynesian fire flashing...a radiant smile that reaches out to me across time and space. Here is Princess Maheta Miri Rei from 1937. Requesat en pace, Miri. I am a better human being for having known you when. I wish I had been privileged to know you then.
When you live beside a live creek and the third largest rain event in the 113-year recorded weather history of the town where you live hits, you have a tendency to keep an eye on rising water levels. That's what we did last week, when our Willow Creek turned from a dampish stain in the sand into a maddened torrent that raged from bank to bank. Our house sits on a promintory that juts out into the creek, so the water winds around it. For some eight hours we could hear the flood clearly from within the house. Outside, it sounded like the world's longest freight train. No damage to the property. A few minor drip-leaks. Nothing like the storm of 1983 where our particular small area received 18 inches of rain in a twenty-four hour period. That was the storm that required evacuation and cost us half an acre of land. It's impossible to write or do much of anything under such conditions except marvel at the power of running water. And it always seems to happen late at night so I can't get any decent pictures.
I've never played d&d, or video games. Never could make the time. But when Wizards of the Coast asked if I'd be interested in writing something in a D&D setting, I said sure. I love trying new things. The result was THE STEEL PRINCESS, out in the current issue of their DRAGON magazine. I really did fall in love with the main character.
I apologize to all who were looking forward to STAR TREK: REFUGEES, which was to be released in May. This first sequel novel set in the new ST universe, along with three others by diverse hands, was pulled by the publisher. Speculation as to why this was done abounds on the web and in the blogosphere. My own opinion is that those who control the franchise wanted to make sure these four new tales did not in any way present possible conflicts with the story of the next film...whatever that may be. I suspect the books will be published one day, possibly once the screenplay for the second film has been more or less finalized. I regret that despite many requests I can't provide further details as to the story itself, except to say that I enjoyed writing it.
I'm not a particular fan of westerns, but when I was growing up they dominated night-time television. My one real favorite was HAVE GUN, WILL TRAVEL. Played by the redoubtable Richard Boone, the lead character, known in the series only as Paladin, was a sophisticated gun for hire, as comfortable in the San Francisco hotel where he resided as out in the mountains dealing with bad guys. Lately I've taken to recording and watching the series, which runs in the early morning on the Western Channel. As with THE TWILIGHT ZONE, I'm struck by the incredibly skimpiness of the show's budget. It was a time in TV-land when sfx consisted of a couple of guys at the studio hammering stuff together out of plywood and fiberglass. You had to compensate for the lack of spectacle with words. Few actors could express irritation and contempt at the follies of humankind better than Boone. Think Alan Rickman, only with physical mass. Notwithstanding the often primitive sets and camerwork, HGWT was a wonderful show. No other TV western made such a strong attempt to provoke thought among its audience. There's also the joy of seeing name actors in small TV roles, from Charles Bronson (who appeared in, I believe, six episodes) to Vincent Price, to last night's appearance by that busy western character actor DeForest Kelly. In one episode, Boone is menaced by Yavapai Indians. Pretty amusing considering that my home town of Prescott wraps around the Yavapai reservation
VCI Entertainment is preparing a special DVD edition of the cult SF film DARK STAR. Despite having nothing to do with the film (I only wrote the novelization), I was recently interviewed by them for the extras portion of the release. I expect this had something to do with my still being alive. You live long enough, you become history.
I will be competing in the NASA Arizona State powerlifting championships in Mesa, AZ on the 6th. Should anyone be in the area, I will be happy to chat or sign books during the (ample) downtime.
And a happy new year to all of you who made it through. Snow here last week, pleasant today. I had a call a couple of days ago from Peter Dolingo, son of the noted Russian SF writer Boris Dolingo. The Dolingos live in Yekateringburg. A major city, with the best airport I've ever used in Russia. Peter, who spent a recent summer working in San Francisco, asked if it was warm here. I told him it was snowing and cold. He off-handedly replied that it was thirty below there. Unusual for December, but not for February. Peter wins the cold derby.
One of the things I regret is that I do not have enough time to correspond with (much less visit) all of the friends I have made around the world. The globe has shrunk so much for me that everything and everybody seems right next door. This feeling cuts two ways. On the one hand, it's both strange and reassuring to know that I can hop from Turkey to Germany to India to South Africa to the Pacific (you get the idea) and be assured of being welcomed as an old friend. On the other, the place has just grown too damn small. Even the solar system is starting to seem...neighborly. Must be all those holiday shots from Mars and Titan. It makes me more pleased than ever that I write science-fiction and that my horizons (the mental ones, anyway) are not circumscribed by what can be visited on a two-day round-the-block ticket.
THE HUMAN BLEND, the first book of The Tipping Point trilogy, is set for a November release. I owe some anthologies a couple of short stories, which I hope to do this week, before embarking on a significant project that I hope to be able to discuss in next month's update. Still awaiting confirmation on OSHANURTH. I'll be competing in the NASA Arizona State powerlifting championships in Mesa next month, and the state RAW championships in March. That is, if I can lose the results of holiday cooking.
The Tipping Point books allow me to indulge in what I believe is a critical and oft-neglected feature of good SF: attention to future detail. Far too frequently, writers get lazy and fail to acknowledge how the passage of time affects everyday life. SF films are especially woeful in this regard. Think of the pile of Everyready batteries in Aliens 3. All too often the clothes people wear are unchanged, the food looks the same, nothing is updated save the central scientific ideas. FTL travel is common- place, but everyone still uses toothbrushes. Robots are advanced, but made of 21st century materials. An example of an SF film where the writers strove mightily to deal with this conundrum is WALL-E. I try very hard to keep the everyday science in my stories as updated as possible. But if you live long enough, science overtakes your earlier works. A fan pointed out that the downed lifeboat of the marooned humans in the ICERIGGER books should have been easy to spot by any orbiting satellite. Not to mention using the far-future version of a cell phone to contact the single human outpost on the planet. High-resolution satellites and cell phones didn't exist when the books were written. When they're reprinted, I intend to update the science.
When I teach a course in writing SF, I always ask student to envision science and society as they were a hundred years ago. Then two hundred, then five. When we start discussing those subjects as they existed in the year 1010, I then ask them to imagine that they're someone from that time trying to write about today's world. That's the trouble with trying to predict science and society in the year 3010...never mind 5010, and so on. It just cannot be done. But as conscientious sf writers, we should strive to do our best. That means...no flashlights powered by c-cells. No keyboards...typing will become an ancient skill, like pen calligraphy. Different ways of preparing food and drink. And on alien worlds, for heaven's sake...alien biomes.
First, a thank you to all who sent birthday greetings. Except for the isolated shedding of body parts (hair, an occasional tendon, etc.) I have the most peculiar feeling that like Benjamin Button, I'm growing younger. Either that, or senile infantilism is setting in. When people ask where the money went I've begun to find myself saying "My health is my wealth". As friends, acquaintances, colleagues, and miscellaneous eminencies of note begin showing up in the obituaries instead of on pages I actually want to read I find myself increasingly in the position of Stephen King's main character from THE GREEN MILE, outliving those I've known and loved. Fortunately, I keep making new friends younger than myself. Wheel of time and all that.
I'm finishing up the second and third books of THE TIPPING POINT trilogy, the first book of which I expect to appear from Del Rey next year (and depending on publishing schedules, perhaps the second as well). Still waiting for contract confirmation on OSHANURTH. Life moseys onward. I have a couple of trips in mind. One to the Middle East that would start with diving and exploration in Oman, thence to the UAE where I have friends, onward to Jordan. If I can figure out how to get a non-tourist visa I would love to spend some time in Saudi Arabia. The other trip would be to Zambia and Malawai. Zambia for leopards, as well as other wildlife, and Malawai because there is now a dive shop that makes diving possible in Lake Malawi. If possible, might even slip over the border into Congo. All depends on domestic considerations and work demands, of course, but I think half the pleasure of taking such trips lies in the planning and anticipation.
While in Los Angeles recently I spent a fascinating evening with Guy Orlebar. Formerly with Goldman Sachs Japan, Guy is married to a Japanese gal and speaks decent Cantonese and Mandarin in addition to Japanese. Deciding he'd much rather do films than figures, he moved to Hong Kong where he has already directed and produced one picture. His current project, which we discussed, would be the first Chinese-U.S. co-production science-fiction film. Live actors + CGI, with a most unusual attention to actual science. For example, artificial gravity would actually be addressed instead of being presented on spaceships as a given. The solar system would be depicted realistically. All manna to someone who winces every time they see easily correctible science errors thrown in their face every time they sit in the theater paying to see such stories. We'll see what develops.
Not much new beyond the usual frenetic work. There will possibly be a mid-November update of some importance, which subject matter must for the nonce remain unmentioned. News at 11.
Work proceeds apace on the last two books of THE TIPPING POINT trilogy. I love it when a gap in a novel outline suddenly fills itself in, not only logically but in directions one never anticipates. And when the characters start getting uppity and acting out on their own. Nothing pleases an author more than when he becomes a spectator to his own creation.
To tide you over, here are a few shots from the last journey.
Typical clothing shop in the capital of the French Comoros.. They make nice shirts.
Restaurant on the main street in the Seychelles capital of Mahe. More than a little ironic considering the trouble that country is having with real pirates right now.
Zanzibar is famous for its hand-carved old wooden doors, some of which are hundreds of years old. This one leads to...use your imagination.
STAR TREK: REFUGEES, the first book sequel to the recent film, has been turned in to Simon & Schuster/Pocket Books. I believe publication is scheduled for June of next year, and I hope I have done right not only by the film but by those of you who are waiting to see what can be done with the characters in a novel setting. I very much enjoyed writing the story.
I should finish SICK, INC., the second volume of THE TIPPING POINT trilogy, some time this month. It looks as if the OSHANURTH trilogy is accepted, but until contract details are agreed upon I can't announce the publisher. Look for that information in the November update. I'm delighted, as I have invested a great deal of myself in the writing and the opportunity to explore my love of the sea. While OSHANURTH is grand fantasy that takes place entirely underwater, the oceanographic details are as accurate as I can make them. They reflect and make use of many things I have seen and experienced.
A Russian friend of mine, an aspiring filmmaker from Ekaterinburg for whom I polished the English subtitles of his first film, has made his first commercial. Check it out...you won't be disappointed. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EBby_n1hT6I
On the 17/18th of this month I will be competing in the RAW World Powerlifting Championships at the Riviera Hotel in Las Vegas. In between embarrassing myself, I will be happy to chat and/or sign books for anyone who might happen by. I guarantee a different atmosphere from the usual SF con, although some of the grunts may be recognizable. I'm going to try and break my Arizona state record. This past Monday I tried 305 and it went nowhere. On the other hand, I'm not dead, either.
Have a happy Halloween and remember...dark chocolate is good for you.
I will be attending DRAGONCON in Atlanta 3-7 Sept. and hope to see some of you there. It's been many years since I was last in Atlanta and I hope to see the new dinosaur exhibit at the natural history museum...and if I can manage the time, eat at Aunt Pittypat's. I reckon I'll give the Varsity a miss this time.
The rough draft of STAR TREK: REFUGEES, the first sequel novel to the ST film, is finished and I expect to turn in the final draft before the end of next month. I'm very pleased with it. I've a done a story for the second collection of original Zorro stories (what, you didn't know?). You'd be surprised who has done stories for both of these anthologies. And I've done an original story, POINT MAID, for the universe of D&D. The only problem with it is that I'm in love with the main character and can't use him outside the realm of d&d. But within...who knows what might eventuate?
Made the time to go and see DISTRICT 9. Very clever, and I'd applaud the film if only for the fact that it's not set in New York or Los Angeles. There are some social issues (especially if you're from Nigeria) and plot holes big enough to drive a small starship through, but it's wonderful to see an SF film made by fans of the genre who actually respect the genre. As to those plot holes...rocket fuel that doubles as a DNA manipulator, oppressed and mistreated aliens with access to hundreds or thousands of high-tech weapons who never use said weapons in their defense, a starship that just needs half a liter of home-distilled goo to jumpstart it, aliens who are removed from their starship by helicopter but never think to snatch one to return to it, an alien savior determined to rescue his poor benighted people and when he has the chance, promptly takes off and leaves them all behind...and the abandoned cheer his departure, overnight body changes from human to part alien....
Viewers and reviewers say the aliens remind them of prawns or insects. Me, I kept thinking Dr. Zoidberg (sorry). More alien than the usual funny mask and prosthetics, yes, but still bisymmetrical and with human proportions. It speaks volumes for the film industry's vision of aliens that the most alien ones we get are in something like GALAXY QUEST.
Westercon was a great deal of fun and it was good to see some old friends again. Raced back home to get back to work on STAR TREK:REFUGEES. I'm about a quarter of the way through and having a great time.
Some interesting (actually more than interesting) points of congruence between a book of mine and an upcoming SF film. See if you can work out the pairing, which has already resulted in some querying at this end (and no little gnashing of teeth).
Spent three days at Comicon in San Diego last week. The usual fascinating madhouse. Like sitting out all night waiting for good seats to view the Rose Parade, it's something everyone should do at least once. In addition to (again) meeting and chatting with old friends, I had the opportunity to have dinner across a long table with Mr. and Mrs. Patrick Oliphant. I wish the table hadn't been so full or so noisy. It's not everyday you have have the chance to chat with the number one political cartoonist on the planet. I'm afraid I struggled to make the most of a conversation that consisted primarily of shouted intermittent inconsequentialities.
Also met and spoke with Greg Evans, who does the award-winning strip LUANN. And spent a fair amount of time with Brooke McIldowney (of the strips 9 CHICKWEED LANE and the astounding on-line only PIBGORN) during which we attempted to solve all the problems of the world and, alas, failed. But his beautiful and brilliant daughter Nicola just might do it, if she doesn't get sidetracked by more enjoyable and less stressful pursuits. Picture of Brooke and I at Peohe's restaurant on the bay in San Diego.
STAR TREK: REFUGEES is coming along nicely, and I just finished a portion of a chapter that I've been wanting to write ever since the new film came out. You'll know it instantly when you read it (if they don't cut it). SICK, INC. awaits its final rewrite, following which I will conclude the Tipping Point trilogy with THE SUM OF HER PARTS. And on a less intellectual but no less stressful note, I won my age & weight division in the unequipped bench bress at the RAW Southwest Regional powerlifting meet with a lift of 275lbs.
I'm posting this a couple of days early because I'm due as GoH at this year's Westercon in Tempe, Arizona from 1 July to 5 July. I hope to see some of you there.
Many thanks to all of you who wrote in to say how much you enjoyed FLINX TRANSCENDENT. Perhaps when Flinx grows sufficiently bored (or a new idea strikes) we just might see him on the move again. He's a bit of a restless chap, and there's this starship sitting around....
The Mac is proving to be a lot of fun. It's infinitely faster than my old Dell and Safari is a pleasure. As soon as I figure out what I'm doing wrong with Fetch I'll try to start doing updates on the Mac instead of this charming HP netbook. What I probably need is an instruction manual for Fetch...the online help doesn't begin to answer the necessary questions.
Awhile back I wrote a novella, BOX OF OXEN, that the redoubtable Lou Anders purchased for the resurrected Argosy magazine. Unfortunately, the magazine folded. Lou moved on to bigger and better things at Pyr, but because of its length and subject matter the novella has had a hard time finding a new home. If you're curious to see my SFnal take on the Israel-Palestine situation, the novella is available for a couple of bucks via Scribd.com. As a number of readers have already written to discuss it, I'm curious as ever to hear additional feedback. Maybe one day it will appear in a regular magazine, but for now the Net has been its temporary savior.
I recently dropped the AT&T landline to my study in favor of telephony over the net via Vonage. There is an occasional echo (most oddly when I just call the house), but mostly connections are clear and sharp. And one third the cost. Vonage's service has also been excellent. Technology marches on. It also improves washing. When one of our water heaters went out, instead of buying a new monster cylinder for the kitchen we put an Ariston-Bosch compacter hot water heater under the sink area. It weighs nothing and because of the location delivers virtually instant hot water (and I mean hot!) directly to the hot water faucet. This isn't one of those little in-sink hot water heaters you see advertised for making soup and coffee: it's a 12 gal. heater. Plenty for washing everything except maybe the Thanksgiving dinner dishes.
What's that? Something about SF? Oh, right. I hope to finish the rough draft of the second book in THE TIPPING POINT trilogy, SICK, INC., sometime next month. Then I'll do the sequel book to the STAR TREK movie...still waiting for final okay on the outline from Pocket Books.
Well, it finally happened. Despite the presence of Norton Utilities, Windows Defender, a top-rated firewall, and much else my trusty old Dell finally picked up a boxload of trojans. Blocked access to all programs and files, including (cleverly) the Restore control. I took it into Best Buy and they wanted $200 to clean the hard drive. At which point I bought a Mac. Very nice machine. Still getting the hang of things, and I have to decide between Transmit or Fetch for updating this site, but so far no real problems. Biggest aggravation is the lack of a forward delete key on the compact keyboard. Naturally I had everything backed up on several separate drives, but I did lose saved email files. Nothing critical, though. And I still haven't found an easy method for transferring .wab MS address files into the Mac address book.
Meanwhile things including updates may move a bit more slowly than usual, though I'll still put something up every month. I'm using my old software on the HP netbook that I (providentially) bought a few months ago.
Bookscan, the industry system that tracks actual book sales, on their SF list, had STAR TREK at #2, FLINX TRANSCENDENT at #6, and TERMINATOR; SALVATION and TRANSFORMERS:REVENGE OF THE FALLEN at 11 and 14. Very flattering,that.
There is a very good chance that I will be doing a follow-up original novel to the Star Trek film. Details as they come....
For those of you interested in details on the numbered and signed edition of the STAR TREK novelization, you can go directly to the source
For those of you who have inquired, prints of Todd Lockwood's cover for QUOFUM are available for sale from his website. Mike McCarty recently conducted an interview with me for Science Fiction Weekly that is available at: http://www.scifi.com/sfw/interviews/sfw18827.html. SF Weekly is the online zine of the SciFi Channel. The photo of me used in the interview was taken this past February on Fais Island, Yap state, Federated Republic of Micronesia. Very isolated place. 400 inhabitants, no airstrip, one or two supply boats a year. The remainder of the time the locals live a subsistence lifestyle based on fishing and agriculture. There are such places left in the world.
A few of you have asked about my work space. Following are some pictures of my study. This is located atop a garage (separate) from the main house. Being able to oversee the construction allowed me to do things like leave space on the walls for artwork, locate the windows where I wished, and order bookcases that would fit beneath the windows. It has all worked out very well.
Unlike the thumbnails on the bio/photo page, these do not enlarge. In picture #4, you will note the original Spirits of the Earth Makonde sculpture from Tanzania that inspires the ending of INTO THE OUT OF. In the upper far right is the original Dean Ellis cover art for the first edition of ICERIGGER. Visible in #2 (center) is the original Michael Whelan art for NOR CRYSTAL TEARS and to the far left, the Barclay Shaw art for THE SPOILS OF WAR. Center front in #2 and #3 is a very finely decorated didgeridoo signed by the Wiradjuri artist Talapagar. My desk (hidden) is at the top center of #5. The fabric covering the couch is a Hindu marriage-bed spread from Mauritius (but probably woven in India). The royal Saruk Persian carpet was my maternal grandmother's and despite much coaxing, alas, will not fly. The view in #6 is from the small deck outside the study which overlooks a more-or-less perennial creek some fifty feet below.