10 May

Seven Days in May is Published!

7-Days-in-May-900-600It is, as the Flying Scot used to say, a beautiful day for a motor car race, don’t you think?

I’m smiling ear to ear today because I can finally say that Seven Days in May is available!

For those unfamiliar with this unique little project, this is a collaborative collection of stories that my buddy John C. Bodin and I release each year, adding a new original story with each edition. This time the new piece is a short story titled “Speedway Fever.” Like the rest of our work. it’s chock full of pulpy SF characters we love, making tough choices, and (of course) dealing with troubles both on and off the track.

“I find it hard to express how much pure enjoyment and fun I got out of this slim volume.”
– Tangent Online

All six of these stories were great fun to write, and as you can tel from the quote above, Tangent Online recently gave us a marvelous review and even included “Ghost of a Chance” on their recommended reading list–which is way cool. We hope you’ll like it, too.

Did You Buy It Last Year? Get Your Update Free!

That’s one of the cool and unique things about this project. John and I have always figured that if you buy the work once, we’ll spring you a free electronic copy this time. Just drop me an email at the contact form above, and I’ll do the needful.


Amazon : USUKCADEAU
Kobo: USCA
iBooks
Nook
Draft2Digital
CreateSpace (Print)

 

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09 May

Brigid’s work, or the amazing coolness of “The Fake Path to True Memory.”

“Did you ever read Brigid’s story in the Faerie Summer bundle?” Lisa asked me.

We were eating dinner at the end of the day, just chatting about stuff. I read most of our daughter’s work before it gets published, but for various reasons I hadn’t seen this one. Lisa, as always, had copyedited it and had suggested that I read it back then, but it’s been busy.

“No, I haven’t,” I replied.

She paused. “You should,” she said.

So I did.

It’s titled “The Fake Path to True Memory.”

Wow. What a beautiful piece of work.

Back in the day, I wrote in this blog about Brigid fairly often. Someday maybe I’ll pull them all together. We’ll see. But as she grew older I tended not to. A young woman needs her privacy, you know? Now she’s grown up and living her life with her husband and her cat, and she’s a writer on her own. So, yeah, she can do her own thing just fine without me butting in. But, seriously, this is a nice piece of art and I don’t care if you think it’s simply a dad’s opinion or not.

Brigid is turning into one really fine writer. She’s finding her voice. Doing her thing. I’m deeply proud of her no matter what she does, but to see her putting work like this together, and work like she’s been publishing in the Young Explorer’s Adventure Guide (her Sugimori Sister stories are brilliant) and various Fiction River anthologies (Find “Killing Spree” in Tavern Tales and you’ll understand what I mean)…well…there’s this amazing coolness to it that makes me very happy.

If you love Faerie, you should pick up this bundle (Links in the write-up).

If you like that story, you should pick up her first book.

Just consider it all “Dad Approved.”

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09 May

The Kentucky Derby’s Conscientious Objector?

Having grown through my formative years in Louisville, Kentucky, I have an affinity to the Kentucky Derby. I admit that I don’t follow it particularly closely these days, but it was certainly a thing for me and I have lots of great memories closely tied to it (and the week that leads up to it). We still have family there. I still love my Cards. Louisville will always be the Holy Land for me.

I caught the race this year, mostly because we were at my parents’ place and it was on.

Always Dreaming won on a sloppy track, but for me the star was Thunder Snow, who ran one of the more memorable races in the history of the event. That’s how things go. I will probably forget Always Dreaming won, but I will not forget Thunder Snow, who essentially got 50 or 100 yards down the track and just said “ah, well, never mind, eh?” Originally, like most, I was worried that he was injured. But, no, he’s fine.

And so, given that, I give you: An Ode to Thunder Snow, the Real Hero of the Kentucky Derby & Equestrians Everywhere

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03 May

Jimmy Kimmel is wrong

Since this blog is chronically behind the times, I’m sure everyone is now aware that Jimmy Kimmel made a particularly heartrending monologue a couple days ago in which he described events surrounding the birth of his son, a kid who came into the world with a congenital heart defect. In it he talks about the ACA and health care in particular. Finally he came to this line:

“If your baby is going to die and it doesn’t have to, it shouldn’t matter how much money you make. I think that’s something that whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat or something else, we all agree on that, right?”

This is a great sound bite, but unfortunately, no, it is not right.

In fact, this is the root core of the problem we have. Republicans, as a general rule, most certainly do believe that it matters how much money you make as to whether your baby will live or die in this situation.

They won’t put it that way, of course. The compassionate of them will look you in the eye with deep regret and say how sorry they are for your loss, but that there’s no way society can continue forward if we lose that kind of money on a medical procedure.

But there really is no way of getting around this point: That is equivalent to looking a parent in the face and saying “if you had more money your kid would be alive.”

#

There are logical arguments for this point of view. You can, however, be both logically sound and wrong. That is the case here.

The first argument is that the country would go broke providing this level of support to everyone. This argument could be true (or not), but only if you view the world as nothing but individual transactions. This is how fiscal conservatives tend to view things–one transaction at a time. So it’s not too surprising that they feel how they feel about health care. There are, however, thousands and thousands of halo effects to consider—the future value of a person can be very, very high, especially if that person is both healthy and wanted. This argument is also predicated on the idea of the free market, where a medical organization is pretty much free to charge what they want.

The second argument is more personal: that taking my money to use for someone else is unethical and un-American. There is, of course, a grain of truth here. The United States was built on a mindset of rugged individualism. At its soul, this is a pretty harsh point of view, though. Very Darwinian. Survival of the richest. Given human nature, if this is how you feel, it’s probably how you are going to feel for a very long time. I do wonder, however, if this is how you really feel, why do you ever buy Health Insurance to begin with? Until the ACA you didn’t have to, and even with the ACA not buying health care is cheaper than buying it. If your ideology says you don’t want other people to use your money, and vice versa (I assume here that you don’t want to use anyone else’s money when you get sick), why are you buying health care? Or any other form of insurance for that matter?

Why are you buying life insurance? All you are saying there is that if you die, you want other people to pay for the people you leave behind. Shouldn’t that be your job?

#

So, yes, at the end of the day, Jimmy Kimmel is wrong.

A lot of people believe that if a baby is dying and the parents don’t have the money to save it, that this baby should be left to die.

It is a harsh position.

But it is a position that many Republicans have, and it is the root of the conflict we have with health care today.

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21 Apr

Daily Persistence: The First Ten Years, and More

Daily-snapshot
Time is weird.

Due to conversations Lisa and I have had recently, I just took a little break and went back to the web journal I kept back in the old days. Yes, I mean back when there was no WordPress, no Facebook, and no Twitter. I mean back in the day when there was only me and Notepad and a FTP link to server space.

It was an interesting spin.

I eventually called the place “Daily Persistence.” My first entry was over twenty years ago, September 21, 1996.

It would be almost a year (July 6, 1997) before I would actually title a piece—a tiny bit about meeting Dr. Demento, one of my weird heroes, at a convention. My next titled piece was in September. That whole year was raw. Very, very raw. Simple entries that primarily tracked submissions. That’s what the place was then, a simple Web Presence before there were more complex Web Presences, a place where I and a few friends could share stuff.

Then it grew.

I have nice little sidebar-link menus that run up to 2005, but the whole things continues to 2009–to get there, you need to follow the chained links.

I don’t know that I have a great point to this post, except to note that it was strange to do, and that it brought back memories.

And that time is weird, of course.

Let’s not forget that.

Time is definitely weird.

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20 Apr

My Male-Pattern Stupidity and Fearless Girl

I’m finding myself caught up in several conversations about Fearless Girl and Charging Bull. You know what I’m talking about, right? The statue of the little girl standing defiantly in front of the Wall Street bull and the flack that came about when the original artist, Arturo Di Modica, complained that her appearance altered his art. “My bull is a symbol for America. My bull is a symbol of prosperity and for strength,” Di Modica said in a Washington Post article. He’s charging what is essentially copyright infringement, and he wants Fearless Girl removed.

The stuff really seemed to hit the fan when Greg Fallis posted a conversation titled “seriously, they guy has a point.”

Among the responses to this I saw was by Caroline Criado-Perez, titled “On Fearless Girl, women & public art; or, no, seriously, the guy does not have a point.

The whole thing is fascinating.

On one hand, you can have some very technical conversations about copyright law. This part is interesting to me because I’m not particularly adroit when it comes to how copyright works in visual art. It’s also interesting to me because to my uneducated experience this situation appears to be unique to sculpted art. I’ve tried to equate the idea of placing two sculpted figures together to things like music sampling or call-and-response forms of literature, but it seems a different beast. Sampling and call-and-response works build on top of each other, or happen as a result of each other, but the existence of a sample or response does not keep one from enjoying the original on its own merits.

That’s the argument, right? That Fearless Girl makes it impossible to see Charging Bull on its original merits? Actually, no. That’s not quite right. As consumers of the works, we are free to view and interpret them as we wish. The argument Di Modica is making, however, is that Fearless Girl actually changes the meaning of Charging Bull.

This is where the whole thing steps into the more charged questions of artistic intent, artistic merit (which included the twist that Fearless Girl was paid for by corporate commission), and, eventually, into the idea of what a piece of art is in context of the audience who absorbs it. In other words, your thoughts on the situation say as much about you as they do anything else.

As I wrote on a Facebook comment discussing the argument:

To be simple, this seems to boil down to:

DiModica says: “I’m upset because this new art has changed the original intent of my work! Move your work or suffer my wrath!”

Fallis says: “The guy has a point, and oh, by the way, Fearless Girl was paid for by a company so it doesn’t mean what you think it does.”

Criado-Perez says: “No, the original art already contained the message brought out by Fearless Girl, it’s not our fault that you couldn’t see it until Fearless Girl showed up…and, by the way, it doesn’t matter who paid for it. Please put your big-boy pants on.”

At the end of the day, I find it tempting to say that this is one of those topics on which rational people can disagree, and leave it at that. It is, after all, true that rational people are disagreeing here. But it is also true that something being rational, or logical, does not make it true. It is, after all, logical to think the Earth is flat if you only look at the question from one perspective. Alas, however, the Earth is not flat. This means that a rational person is not always right.

If one allows me the consideration of being rational, my own journey through looking at this situation is indicative.

When I first saw the argument, I thought the guy really did have a point. I thought Fearless Girl completely changed Charging Bull, meaning the original intent was gone. After a muddled but oddly emotional discussion with Lisa, and after using another evening to silently mull it over, I came to the view that I was wrong. Di Modica’s original intent is still there—it’s just that his original intent is rife with the existence of oblivious privilege. In this sense, my own process of taking in the piece was a perfect example of why Fearless Girl works. I was oblivious at first, then slowly able to pivot to a different way of seeing it. I’m taking to calling this initial reaction my Male-Pattern Stupidity anymore. I think I’m a good guy at heart, but sometimes it takes me a little while to think through things and get to a healthy view of any particular situation. This process is, in several ways, the exact definition of privilege as applied to me. To never need to see (or be forced to see?) the full depths of meaning inherent in Charging Bull makes life easy in a particularly insidious way.

So, anyway, my first reaction to the piece was that the artistic content of Charging Bull was totally changed.

Similarly, copyright: First I thought Fearless Girls’ creators were in trouble, then I spent time reading about past cases and came to the conclusion that no, even if the existence of Fearless Girl did change the meaning of Charging Bull, it is unlikely Di Modica can win a copyright case on the technical merits of the situation alone. The arguments for this made total sense to me. But as I came to understand that the intent of Di Modica’s piece has not actually been altered so much as “more fully” exposed, the copyright argument pretty much vanished completely.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m no lawyer. I assume the case will make it through the courts, and that the courts will decide however they decide. I am, however, now of the opinion Di Modica has a very steep hill to climb.

Regardless of how any court will decide, however, for my tastes Fearless Girl is an interesting piece of art specifically because her power comes out more fully as I think through the nuances of her relationship with her surroundings. For me, she does not change the original intention of Charging Bull as being about strength and power inherent in America so much as she comments upon it. Fearless Girl was created (with help from its corporate sponsors) as a view on representation, after all. She would work in that fashion anywhere she was placed, but the aspect of representation in Fearless Girl’s presence is brought out even more fully when you place her in front of Charging Bull, just as it would be if she were placed in front of the White House, or an all-male country club, or….

In this sense, Fearless Girl’s comment on representation doesn’t change, nor does she change anything inherent in the object she is placed in front of. Instead, she points out something specific that is already within that target’s original meaning and she holds it up for people to see.

How a person sees that specific something seems to be the deciding factor in how that person will react to the situation.

So, yes, I see that Di Modica is upset, and I understand the logic for why he is. I get it. I’ve felt it myself. It’s totally logical he would feel that way.

But the fact that his discomfort is logical does not mean he has a point.

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17 Apr

Writers of the “Current”

I recently spent a week in Los Angeles at the Writers of the Future workshop, blogging daily for them and generally having much fun. Part way through it, Galaxy Press asked if I would do individual capsules on each writer. I loved the idea, so I said “sure!” Those went over well enough that they have now asked me to do a series of profiles on past winners. Of course, I said “sure!” again. I’ve got a list of folks, and I’m working my way through them.

It’s been great fun.

It’s also been different from writing about the current winners.

Writing about these past winners has this sense of looking through a time machine, of course. It feels nostalgic in a lot of ways, thinking back to when these names were truly just starting out. Fresh slates, so to speak. Some of them I know personally, and for those the feeling is doubled. Some I “grew up” with. Most are more successful than me, I would say (in a non-jealous kind of way), or at least differently successful. There are New York Times bestsellers here, Hugo winners, Nebula winners, and winners of many other awards.

Unlike the current winners, there is no fresh sense of wonder surrounding these people. Instead, it’s been replaced with this very calm sense of pace, a feeling of competence, a sense, almost, of watching a rock climber scaling a mountain. Seeing their records is like looking back down the mountain, looking at where they are is to see them calmly reach into a resin bag to prepare themselves for the next handhold. It all feels very meta, all tied up in dreams and hard work and random luck and raw persistence. The mere fact of these people’s existence is a small piece of performance art.

It’s fun to feel like I’m somehow a little part of it.

Here are the profiles I wrote for the new winners: (which I’ll try to update when the last two get released)

Doug Souza
Jake Marley
Andrew L. Roberts
Sean Hazlett
C.L. Kagmi
Ziporah Hildenbrandt
Molly Elizabeth Atkins
David Vonallmen
Dustin Steinacker
Andrew Peery
Ville Meriläinen
Anton Rose
Stephen Lawson
Walter Dinjos

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14 Apr

Big Little Lies

So, Lisa and I binge watched HBO’s Big Little Lies the past couple days. It’s a good story. You should watch it too, if you haven’t already. But beyond that, it’s an interesting piece to me specifically for the fact that it addresses plot out of order (well, that and the fact that it utilizes a totally kick-ass soundtrack that includes, among other things, remarkable use of Janis Joplin [and the Big Brother and the Holding Company’s] “Ball and Chain” and a cover of “You can’t Always Get What You Want” from Ituana, which if I remember to do it I’ll embed at the end of this little piece). In all seriousness, every piece of music this series uses is so perfectly matched to the story that it’s almost worth multiple views for this alone.

Anyway, regarding out of order (and doing my best to not give any spoilers beyond what happens very, very early in the story…I hate spoilers):

Not having read the book, I came into it essentially blind.

The story opens with a crime scene and the first episode is highly populated with snippets of interviews. It says this is a mystery, a crime story, a whodunit. And in the end, that is, of course, true. Played according to Hoyle, the next steps would be to bring the investigators in, and watch their struggle as they attempted to wrestle the truth from the suspects. The suspects would play off each other. Deviousness would ensue.

But instead, Big Little Lies goes a different direction, dropping into deep flashback to give us the lives of four women dealing with four different kinds of problems and four different family situation. No, strike that, what at first seems to be four women is actually five. The primary thrust of the story is told in that flashback, and rather than a true “whodunit” the story is a “howdidithappen.”

To a greater degree this annoyed me at the beginning.

I’m used to my mysteries being about the interaction of the investigators. I was more annoyed as the beginning of part two, when it became obvious what the structure was going to be. But by the middle of that episode I stepped back and started watching what the story was really about, and the fact is that this isn’t really a crime story at all. Of course, there’s a crime, and, of course there’s an investigation, but…well…to go further would break my rule on spoilers I think, so I’ll leave it there except to say that the structure works quite well for the story itself.

In fact, having now seen the series, I’m interested in reading the book itself to see how closely it’s followed. I assume fairly closely. In reality, I don’t know that the story could be told in any other fashion.

As a general note, and in regard to the series itself, I should say that I loved the cast of women in particular (the men were a tad predictable, but then, I suppose maybe that’s my male pattern stupidity raising up to pretend we’re not really that simple when in reality we might well be). Nicole Kidman and Shailene Woodley had the strongest roles (to me), and played them about as well as can be played. Zoe Kravitz is almost impossible not to watch, Reese Witherspoon and Laura Dern are award-winning actors, and it shows. The child actors are all pretty remarkable, too.

Anyway, if you like character-driven stories with a hint of danger, crime and mystery, you’ll love “Big Little Lies.” And if you’re a writer wanting to see how to play with time inside your work you’ll find value in watching it even if that kind of work isn’t your usual cup of tea.

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10 Apr

Stealing the Sun, Book 5!

I’m terribly pleased to note that Starbound, the fifth book of the Stealing the Sun series, is now available at online retailers near you. This is a story near to my heart right now because, quite honestly, it wasn’t going to exist at all until the thing rose its hand up and pretty much demanded to come to life on its own. I love it when that happens, of course, though it would be easier to deal with if it didn’t wait to do it until I was smack-dab in the middle of working on a release cycle.

The life of a skiffy writer on a deadline is a wondrous thing, right? I mean, cry me a river.

Regardless, I love this book–which is technically a long novella (hence the reduced price from the rest of the series). I hope you love it, too.

Here are the details, including a handy button you can use to grab it.


Interested in starting with Book 1?



An arms race across the galaxy

Reeling from war, the United Government’s Interstellar Command wants control. In constant fear of discovery, Universe Three wants revenge.

Amid a changing starscape of intrigue Torrance Black-hero turned science ambassador-gets one more chance to find intelligent life outside the Solar System: convince the most prominent scientists alive to spend one of their precious Star Drive missions on a trip to Alpha Centauri A.

Win and he saves an alien species. Lose and his career is done. How far is Torrance willing to go?

How far will he have to go?

red-buy-now

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04 Apr

My Week at WotF #33

So, yeah, I spent the last 8 days in Los Angeles at the Writers of the Future workshop (volume 33). It’s been a total blast meeting the winners and writing about them. Along the way I got to catch up with Mike Resnick. Robert Sawyer, and Kevin Anderson, and learn once again from Dave Farland and Tim Powers–not to mention the long string of judges who stopped in to talk about the craft and the business. The contest is a major, major event in the lives of these quarterly winners, and it’s a heady experience to watch them progress through the week.

It’s going to be a great group, too. I’m sure I’ll be posting more about the gang soon, but if you’re interested in daily details of the week you can find them here:

Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4
Day 5
Day 6
The Event!

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