Sunday, October 7, 2018

Quote of the Day


"Ultimately, each life is a mystery until we each solve the mystery, and that's where we are all headed whether we know it or not."—David Lynch

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Dragoncon 2018

DragonCon, like Christmas (or say, April 14th) comes but once a year, and as I write these words, DragonCon 2018 is in the books. This was the fourth consecutive year I attended and it was great fun as always. Though Armadillocon remains my favorite convention, Dragoncon is an extremely close second—and really they're so different it's probably more accurate to say they are both numero uno.

I kicked off the convention on Thursday evening with dinner at Trader Vic's with a group of Baen Books (and Baen Books-adjacent) folks.  The conversation was fun and free-wheeling. At one point we got on the topic of religion. For ten to twenty minutes we discussed our various faith backgrounds. Represented were Protestants of various stripes, a non-denominational Christian, both practising and lapsed Catholics, and a couple of atheists. The conversation was completely civil. Well, the conversation moved on, as conversations do, and eventually we got on the topic of Star Wars, specifically The Last Jedi. The conversation got so heated we had to forcibly shut it down after no more than two minutes and move on to something else lest it come to violent yelling in the restaurant. That's right, this same group that calmly discussed religious differences that people in the past were literally killed over almost came to blows over Star Wars. Hilarious.

On Friday, I participated in the DragonCon mentor program. This is part of the writers' track programming. Aspiring writers sign up for fifteen minute slots with a professional and are free to use that time to ask any questions they might have. I had two folks come by and talk with me, one of whom I'd met at World Fantasy. It was flattering and a little surreal that someone wanted my advice, and I hope that the things I said were helpful.

Saturday I was at the Baen Travelling Roadshow to hand out the Year's Best Military and Adventure SF Readers' Choice Award. This year, the award went to the very deserving Kacey Ezell for her story "Family Over Blood." I've known Kacey for a while now and she's a great person and a great writer. For several years now I've heard seasoned pros refer to her as "someone to keep an eye on" and I couldn't agree more.

We also announced volume five in the Year's Best Military and Adventure SF series. Look for it next June!

Is that Year's Best Military and Adventure SF Readers' Choice Award winner Kacey Ezell 
or Bad Janet from The Good Place?
Both!

Sunday was the Baen Brunch at Pitty Paty's Porch. This is where any and all Baen authors, editors, and Baen-adjacent folks get together and chat over tasty Southern-style food. I sat across the table from the legendary Mike Resnick and got to bend his ear about all sorts of things, including his time writing softcore porn novels back in the sixties. I've looked up to Resnick for some time, ever since reading his story "Kirinyaga" in college. He also published my story "See a Penny . . ." in his magazine Galaxy's Edge earlier this year, so it was really cool to get a chance to talk with him.

Later on Sunday, I moderated a panel titled "The Military Mind in SF," which went really well. And I can now say I've moderated John Ringo, David Weber, and Jack Campbell, which is a worthy distinction, I think. I also did a panel on promotion and PR on Monday.

Over the weekend, I spent a lot of time at the Baen Booth in the Vendor Hall, talking to fans and (hopefully) future fans, helping facilitate author signings, and generally hanging out with Baen folks. And of course there was much fun had over various dinners and at Speaker's Speakeasy (aka the Barfly Suite).


At the Baen Booth with Tim Powers and Ben Yalow

There's a lot more that went on—it really is a whirlwind—but I'll stop there. If you've never been to DragonCon, you really should give it a try. I can't wait for next year.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Quote of the Day


"Intellect is a great danger to creativity."—Ray Bradbury

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Song of the Day

Here's a twofer for ya! "When Sin Stops Love Begins" was an early release of Waylon Jennings', produced by his good friend Buddy Holly (who also played guitar on the record). It was later recorded at Norman Petty Studios by the Nighthawks, in a distinctly Buddy Holly style.




Thursday, August 16, 2018

Writing Advice of the Day


Interviewer: What advice would you give aspiring writers?

James Ellroy: Stop aspiring. You want to be a writer, be a writer. What's stopping you?

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Song of the Day

"This is it for me. This is where the soul of man never dies." —Sun Records founder Sam Phillips upon first hearing Howlin' Wolf




Sunday, August 12, 2018

Song of the Day

From 1958, it's Buddy Holly with "Rave On." It's a crazy feeling, cats and kittens!




Thursday, August 9, 2018

Linotype

Though I may well have seen one in person when visiting my grandfather, who was publisher of the Clovis News Journal,  I think I first became aware of the linotype machine from reading Fredric Brown. Brown was himself a linotype operator at various points in his life and supposedly would even compose stories on one occasionally. He often used newspaper reporters and typesetters as protagonists in his stories and novels, most especially "Etaoin Shrdlu" and "The Angelic Angleworm," which center the linotype machine as a supernatural entity of sorts.

The linotype machine was revolutionary, allowing typesetters to do their jobs at speeds that were unheard of in the days of hand-setting type. All but extinct now, they are marvels of pre-digital industrial engineering.

If you're interested in linotype machines, check out the documentary Linotype. It's kind hard to track down, but well worth it. Here's the trailer:



Or check out this short film about the last newspaper in America set on a linotype:




Or if you prefer your linotype information in text format and on the speculative side, check out Eileen Gunn's list of five SF stories about linotype machines, including the aforementioned Brown shorts.


Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Movie of the Day



From 1977 it's the Art Carney, Lily Tomlin neo-noir The Late Show. Carney plays Ira Wells, an aging and ulcer-stricken Philip Marlowe type who gets suckered into trying to find Lily Tomlin's cat. Of course things get out of hand rather quickly and soon Carney and Tomlin are thrust into the middle of a web of criminal mischief the particulars of which aren't all that important because this is a detective film in the Chandler mode and the outlandish plot is pretty much beside the point.

The Late Show isn't quite a comedy but isn't straight drama either, and it perhaps suffers a bit from an inconsistent tone. Carney (relatively fresh off his Oscar win) and Tomlin carry the movie, and it's as charming a detective film as you're likely to see, however. The Los Angeles of the 1970s is a world you want to enter, and you can't help but like Ira, a man out of time.

(Interestingly, The Late Show was produced by Robert Altman, who four years earlier directed his own take on a 1940s-style detective who is out of place in modern Los Angeles in The Long Goodbye. Stranger still, that film also features a missing cat. Guess Altman was on a very particular kick in the seventies.)

The Late Show isn't likely to blow anyone's mind or make it anywhere near the top of an AFI list anytime soon, but it's a great way to spend a couple of hours.

This one is recommended for fans of Art Carney, Lily Tomlin, Los Angeles, neo-noir, hardboiled detectives, the 1970s, Alka-Seltzer, missing cats.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Armadillocon 40 Report

I had a great time as usual at Armadillocon this year. It remains my favorite con and I was honored to be a part of it. Thanks to the programming committee for having me!

For the first time, I was an instructor at the venerable Armadillocon Writers' Workshop. The day-long workshop takes place on Friday before the con officially kicks off. Workshop organizer Rebecca Schwartz did a great job of making sure things ran smoothly.

A big thank you to all of the folks who came out to hear me talk on panels and an especially big thanks to everyone who was able to make it out to my reading on Friday! It's a lot more fun to read my stories and hand out candy to actual, living people rather than empty chairs.

It was great to see old friends and meet new friends. I am sorry that I wasn't able to do more this year. We had our second son on the Monday before the con and so I was called away to attend to my fatherly duties and wasn't on premises for much of the con. I only ended up attending one panel, one reading, and a couple of lunches with friends—far less than I usually try to squeeze in. And I did ZERO barconning. [sad-face emoji] Apologies to all the great panelists I didn't get to see panel and all the great writers whose readings I wasn't able to attend.

Looking forward to next year!

Monday, August 6, 2018

Ray Bradbury: Story of a Writer

At Armadillocon this past weekend (full report to follow), I finally picked up Sam Weller's Ray Bradbury: The Last Interview. It's short and doesn't cover much ground that hasn't already been covered in Weller's The Bradbury Chronicles and Listen to the Echoes: The Ray Bradbury Interviews, but if you're a Bradbury fan, you'll find much to like. While reading through The Last Interview, I was reminded of the video you see below. From 1963, it's a half-hour documentary on Bradbury. It's well worth watching. A story called "Dial Double Zero" is featured, and so far as I know, it's never appeared anywhere else, so think of that as an added bonus.


Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Armadillocon 40 Programming



I will once again be a panelist at Armadillocon. If you plan on being there, stop by and hear me talk about things—specifically military science fiction, Black Mirror, and the business of writing. I'll also be an instructor at the Armadillocon Writers' Workshop this year, which I'm quite excited about. I'll have books for sale at my autographing on Saturday, and as is tradition, I will have fabulous prizes to hand out at my reading on Friday. Be there or be L7!

Check out the complete list of Armadillocon programs here.

Friday

Armadillocon Writers' Workshop
9:00 a.m. - 4:40 p.m.

Reading (with fabulous prizes)
5:00 p.m. - 5:30 p.m.
Southpark A

Saturday

Autographing
3:00 p.m. - 4:00 p,m,
Dealers Room

The Cold Black Mirror
6:00 p.m. - 7:00 p.m.
Ballroom F

Intro to the Business End of Writing
7:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.
Ballroom F

Sunday

Once and Future Military SF
1:00 p.m. - 2:00 p.m.
Ballroom D

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Song of the Day

Listen up, cats and kittens! From Sun Records in Memphis, Tennessee, here's Warren Smith doing "Red Cadillac and a Black Moustache."



Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Quote of the Day (Century?)


"David's hair does something and it has a function and the function has to do with God."

—Kimmy Robertson on David Lynch

Monday, July 2, 2018

Newsletter!


I've decided to start a newsletter, folks! That's right, all of you who have been clamoring for regularly scheduled updates from David Afsharirad can now rest easy.

You may have noticed a pop-up here on Tyrannosaurus Ranch asking you to subscribe. I hope you took that opportunity. If not, click here to do so now.

So, what can you expect from the Tyrannosaurus Ranch newsletter, the only official newsletter of David Afsharirad (accept no substitues and do not be fooled by imitators)?

I'm glad you asked.

Check out the first issue here to get a feel for it.

There will, generally, be four sections. They are as follows:

1. Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch: News and updates. Here's where you'll find story and book announcements, possibly updates on what I'm working on, things like that.

2. On the Nightstand: A short review of whatever book I'm reading and/or just finished.

3. The Silver Screen: A short review of whatever movie and/or television show I've recently watched.

4. On the Turntable: A short review of whatever music I've been listening to lately.

And that's it! The perfect amount of David Afsharirad-related news, delivered straight to your inbox monthly.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Here's Johnny!


I was too young to watch Johnny Carson host The Tonight Show. Indeed, for most of his 30-year tenure on the program, I hadn't even been born yet. My mother had to explain the gag in Home Alone in which we see young Kevin McAllister asleep with The Tonight Show playing in the background, a half-eaten ice cream sundae melting next to him in bed.

And so of course I was too young to understand just why folks were so sad to see Carson retire. I do remember overhearing my great aunt discuss the topic with my mother. We were on a family road trip out to visit my grandfather in New Mexico and had stopped over at my great uncle and aunt's house in west Texas, as we usually did. My mom and Aunt Carol were discussing Carson's leaving and Leno as his replacement. I think Leno's tenure must not have begun, because Aunt Carol said that Uncle Ray had already declared that he wasn't going to give Jay a chance. If it wasn't Johnny Carson, he wasn't interested.

I'm not sure why this stuck with me. I was only nine at the time and, as I have said, I had never seen the show, but memories are like that. Now years later, after reading about how much of an impact Carson had on American pop culture, I think I get it. It's been said that politicians and their handlers watched Carson's monologue to get a feel for how the public felt about a given topic. What's more, everyone watched Carson. The Tonight Show was a shared cultural experience of the sort that we just don't have these days.

If there is one upside to the Internet (aside from providing a home for Tyrannosaurus Ranch), it's that clips of Carson can be easily viewed today. Clips like this one of Orson Welles and Carson discussing the golden days of radio.


Or this one of Vincent Price showing Johnny how to cook a fish in the dishwasher.



Or how about this one of  Sinatra and Rickles.



Watching these old clips, I see why Uncle Ray said that with Johnny's retirement, the late night talk show format was dead for him. The Carson show really was something special. It is inconceivable that something like this would make it onto television today, and the world is a poorer place for it.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Harlan Ellison 1934 - 2018


As many know by now, Harlan Ellison died a few days ago. His death is a loss to the world of American letters.

Personally, I discovered Ellison a little too late to be able to say he had a great impact on my writing directly. I say "directly" because anyone writing science fiction or fantasy or horror in the last 40+ years has been influenced by Ellison, even if they've never read a single word he wrote or cracked the spine of one of the anthologies he edited. If he had written nothing other than "I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream" (surely the most terrifying dystopia ever put to paper), he would deserve to be called one of the greatest writers of  fantastic fiction. If he had edited only Dangerous Visions, he would deserve to be remembered as one of the most important anthologist the field has ever seen. But he did much, much more. His impact on the field almost can't be overstated.

Yes, he was also a cantankerous asshole, if the stories are to be believed. (And since he himself told many of the stories, there is no reason to doubt their veracity.) But he was also, if other stories are to be believed (and again there is no reason not to), he was extremely generous to new writers and veterans alike.

He also refused to write on a computer, which makes him a hero in my view.

If you've never read Ellison, do yourself a favor.

In closing, here's Ellison being very Ellison (and also very correct) on the subject of paying writers. It's from a documentary called Dreams with Sharp Teeth, which is very much worth checking out if you're interested at all in Ellison or the history of twentieth century fantastic literature.


Monday, June 25, 2018

In Praise of Form Rejection Letters

Every writer hates form rejection letters, it seems. You pour your heart and soul into a story, research the markets, send your story out into the world with high hopes, wait days or weeks or months to hear back, only to receive some variation on the following:

Dear Author,

Thank you for sending us your work. It was given careful consideration by our staff. Unfortunately, it does not suit the needs of the magazine at this time.

Sincerely, 

The Editors

Ouch, right!

In the old days this would come in the form of a fifth-generation photocopy, usually on a half-sheet of the cheapest copy paper money could buy. These days you're likely to get a nicely formatted email. Sometimes they even have a macro set up to auto-fill your name and the story's title! So fancy!

Contrast this with the much-coveted PERSONAL REJECTION LETTER. In this letter, an editor takes the time out of his or her day to write a note specifically addressing things both good and bad about your story. Everyone wants to get these. They are the best. We are told that they mean we, as writers, are getting close to the mark. That we almost sold a story! 

(Note: There is a category of personal rejection letter that no one wants to receive: This is the personal rejection where the editors tell you maybe your time would be best spent submitting elsewhere. (Read: don't send us your junk anymore.) These are exceedingly rare and are not the topic at hand.)

In the hierarchy of rejection letters, personals are head and shoulders above forms. I've seen authors get as excited about a personal rejection from a high-tier market as they do about an acceptance from a less prestigious magazine or website. (Confession: I may have done this.) I've also seen authors get foot-stompingly mad at receiving form rejections. This usually occurs when the form is sent after a great deal of waiting or after an editor asked for changes. But regardless, the message is clear: form rejections suck. That is the received wisdom, passed down from writer to writer, through the generations.

But how's this for a hot take: Form rejections are great and there should be a lot more of them.

I'll tell you why:

Personal rejections are the enemy of quick response times. The time an editor spends thinking about and writing a personal rejection is time that same editor could have spent reading the next story in the slush pile. Would you rather wait longer for a personal rejection or rip the band-aid off and get a form in a week or two? The result, after all, is the same: you didn't sell your story to that market.

Most writers prefer faster response times. We complain when a market takes too long. We refuse to submit to certain magazines if they're average response isn't fast enough for our liking. Well, folks, I have news for you: Form rejections = faster responses.

I know that people are now thinking, B.S. it takes maybe three minutes to type out a personal rejection.

Well, yes and no.

First off, three minutes to write a personal rejection is considerably more time than the three seconds it takes to click the button to auto-respond with a form rejection. And unless personal rejections are as rare as hen's teeth, those three minutes per rejection start adding up. If an editor sends ten personal rejections at three minutes each, that's a half hour that could be spent reading new submissions. The response time just got that much faster if he or she just presses the auto-reject button or copy/pastes a form into the body of an email.

Secondly, I'm calling B.S. on you Mr. Pretend-Author-I-Made-Up-For-The-Purposes-Of-This-Blog-Post. Because there is no way that a meaningful personal rejection can be composed in three minutes. Okay, sure. Maybe some of them could be, but most are going to take longer. And most of those three-minute-personals are going to be about as helpful as a form rejection. While it's nice to say you got a personal rejection (and it can certainly be a boost in morale), realistically most of them don't do much else beside give you the warm and fuzzies.

Now, some personal rejections can, in fact, help you revise the story into something more publishable. However, in order to give advice of that caliber and with that great detail, an editor is going to have to do some thinking--and thinking takes time. Time that editor could spend on reading more stories.

And all of this supposes that receiving a personal rejection is a wholly salutary event in the life of the author who receives one. Well, for most that is the case. I certainly enjoy getting them, and as we've established, most writers I know feel the same way. That said, there is a downside to getting a personal rejection. Namely, they can open the door to debate, if only in the author's mind. "If it's so good, why didn't you accept it?" the author thinks after hearing the editor praise his or her latest short story in a personal rejection letter.

Have you ever tried to let someone down easy when they invite you to do something you aren't interested in. You make up an excuse, and then they counter. You give another reason you won't be able to attend, and they try to overcome that objection. Better to just say, "No." A form rejection is a polite but flat refusal. There isn't any wiggle room. There isn't space for the author to think, If only . . .

Now true, responding to any rejection letter, even personal rejection letters, is very bad form (DO NOT DO THIS!), but too often writers do this in their minds if not in an email to the editor. They think, addressing the editor from the safe confines of their imaginations, "You said you liked this, but that the ending was weak; what if I changed the ending to this?" 

Now, unless you are actually going to change the ending based on the personal rejection letter you got, this is a complete waste of time. You are lying in bed, staring at the ceiling thinking about what you should have said to Susie when she said she had to wash her hair on Friday night rather than go with you to the drive-in movie. (I assume this is how teenage dating works in 2018.) If you can take a personal rejection in stride, awesome. Let it make you feel good about yourself, file it away in a drawer (or an email folder), and move on with your life. But too many times I've seen people obsess over the exact wording of a personal rejection, poring over it like a Talmudic scholar, searching for hidden meaning in every turn of phrase. (This is but one part of that arcane art known in writerly circles as rejectomancy, a subject I'll tackle in a future post. Short version: we all do it and we should all stop.) A personal rejection is still a rejection and should be treated as such. That is, it should be filed away and the story should be sent back out to another market ASAP.

But say you are actually going to take the few lines of criticism from your personal rejection and rework your story. Good for you, being willing to incorporate criticism! But before you do, let's think about that . . .

Advice is great, but it's just one editor's opinion--and that editor has already rejected the story. If you revise based on a personal rejection, you're tailoring your story to a market that has already passed on it. 

Now, certainly getting advice, even if it is just one or two lines, from a professional editor who reads thousands and thousands of submissions can be a great insight into how your stories are being received. But unless the advice rings oh-so-true to what you want the story to be, you would be wise to think hard before making changes. Because what works for one editor won't necessarily work for another, and the thing you change might have been the thing that would sell the story to the next place you send it.

I realize this may be coming across as anti-personal rejection instead of pro-form rejection. It's not to say that personal rejections are bad and that the practice should be abolished. Indeed, personal rejections can be a great ego boost, as I have said. And often the advice editors give might result in changes that make the story more salable. It's always nice to get a peek behind the curtain, as it were. And I've certainly benefited from nice personal rejections from various editors.

But if we, as writers, attach too much importance to personal rejection letters, then we certainly heap an unfair amount of derision on the form rejection. So, let's talk about why form rejections are actually great.

I already mentioned the thing about response times. The more form rejections sent out, the faster a market's response time will be.

But the biggest reason I'm a fan of form rejections is something I hinted at earlier. Rejection is going to be a constant in the life of a writer. You have got to get used to it and you have got to learn to take it in stride. You should spend as close to zero seconds mulling over a rejection as possible.

When writing and revising a story, you should do the best job you can. Send that story out to readers you trust to give you feedback, and then revise it until it's as close to perfect as you can get it. Then send it out. And when it comes back, send it back out as soon as possible, until you've sold it or run out of places to send it to.

Wondering why a story is being rejected is largely a waste of time. As artistic a process as writing and revising a story is, submitting should be cold and calculating. Just keep those stories in circulation like a story-circulating robot. Form rejections facilitate this. Form rejections help writers learn to move on from rejection quickly. They are impersonal and cold--though not, in my estimation, at all impolite--and this is a good thing. There are no lines to be read between in a form rejection. There is no space to pause to wonder if the editor is right and you should work on the character's motivations.

And for God's sake, please stop wondering what form rejections mean! They mean what they say: "No thanks." That is all.  Writers waste too much time worrying about these sorts of  things.

So, the next time you get a personal rejection, put it aside and submit the story elsewhere. When you get a form rejection, do the same.

Write. Submit. Repeat. That's the formula.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Recommended Movies June 2018

Here are some films I've watched recently that you should check out, if your taste is as impeccable as mine.




1. Solo: A Star Wars Story

Thought I'd start with a small indie film that most probably missed. But seriously, folks! It's a bit odd to have a Star Wars movie with no Force, no Jedi, no lightsabers, but I think Solo pulled it off. This isn't changing the paradigm or breaking new ground, but it is a very, very solid entry in the Star Wars saga and the most straight-foward fun of any of them since Episode IV. Probably my favorite of the Disney Star Wars movies. Alden Ehrenreich ain't Harrison Ford, but then no one is, and he does a good job of filling the Han Solo riding boots.


2. You Were Never Really Here

Arty, intense film about a man who rescues underage girls who have been sold into the sex trade. Not the slam-dunk I was hoping for, but Joaquin Phoenix delivers. Lynne Ramsay also directed We Need to Talk About Kevin, and if you liked that, you'll probably like this. You Were Never Really Here is based on a novella by Jonathan Ames, who created the HBO series Bored to Death, which also didn't quite deliver as much as I wished but which was still worth a watch.


3. The Woman Chaser

Great movie or the greatest movie? This black-and-white comedy stars Patrick Wharburton as a car salesman turned filmmaker. Set in 1960 Los Angeles, it's period details are spot on. The Woman Chaser is based on a novel by the great paperback writer Charles Willeford, and if you've read Willeford, you know what you're in for. Hilarious, if you've got a twisted sense of humor.  Released in 1999 to much critical acclaim but no audience interest whatsoever, it's now available on various streaming platforms.


4. Small Town Crime

John Hawkes plays an ex-cop who tries to solve the murder of a woman he finds on the side of the road after an alcoholic blackout. If that sounds too cliche for you, then you should probably skip this one. But if you are me and that sounds right up your alley, then Small Town Crime is worth watching. It's Tarrantino-esque and Coen Brothers-y. Like Solo it doesn't exactly break new ground, but it does what it does very well.


5. First Reformed

Though The Woman Chaser is one of my all-time favorite movies, I've saved the best for last here. Written and directed by the great Paul Schrader of Taxi Driver and Raging Bull fame (among others), First Reformed is going to be a serious contender come awards season, particularly for Ethan Hawke, who turns in as good a performance as he ever has as an alcoholic minister struggling with his faith and the loss of his family. Filmed in Academy ratio and without a score, this is definitely in the "art house" vein, but don't let that trick you into thinking this is some pretentious, navel-gazing horse hockey. The intensity and tension mount throughout until you reach an ending that will keep you thinking for days.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Recommended Reads June 2018

I've been wanting to write more reviews on here, but haven't been able to find the time to do them in-depth. So instead, I'm going to try to post more frequent, but shorter reviews of books, movies, ketchup, whatever. Starting with . . .




1. Dope by Sara Gran

Pitch-black noir set in 1950s New York City. The main character is a recovering heroin addict who is hired by the wealthy family to find their daughter, who has fallen deep into dope addiction herself. The characterization and the plot are both top-notch, but the period details are what sells this. Seriously, I read a lot of hardboiled crime and noir from the 40s-60s and if you told be this was written back then, I would have believed you. One of the best noir novels I've ever read, from any period--period. Check it out, but be warned: this is Noir with a capital N. The ending is devastating in the best noir tradition. Not for the faint-hearted.


2. The Adjustment by Scott Phillips

Another modern crime novel I would have believed was written in the mid-twentieth century. (How do these people do that?!) This one is from The Ice Harvest scribe Scott Phillips, and like that novel, is set in Kansas, though The Adjustment takes place just after WWII. Wayne Ogden is perhaps the most unlikable protagonist I've ever read--and I've read lots of Jim Thompson and Charles Willeford--so if that's not your cup of tea, skip this one. But if you're a fan of Thompson or Willeford and like your crime fiction tinged with misanthropy and nihilism, check this one out.


3. One Summer: America, 1927 by Bill Bryson

Though it's another period piece, this one couldn't be more different from the previous two books on this list. Bryson is one of the best nonfiction writers working and though I'm only 100 pages into One Summer, I feel no reservations adding it to this list. If you're a fan of American history and/or great writing, this one is for you.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

The Year's Best Military & Adventure SF, Volume 4 Out Now!



Well, well, well . . . look what hit bookstore shelves (both real and virtual) yesterday: it's The Year's Best Military & Adventure SF, Volume 4, edited by yours truly! Buy multiple copies for friends, relatives, and strangers you sit next to at the bus stop. It's guaranteed to satisfy!

Buy it on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Baen eBooks. Or even better, support your favorite local indie bookstore. If they don't have it in stock, ask for it by name.

Still not convinced? Well, take a look at the table of contents:

Preface by David Afsharirad
The Secret Life of Bots by Suzanne Palmer
The Snatchers by Edward McDermott
Imperium Imposter by Jody Lynn Nye
A Thousand Deaths through Flesh and Stone by Brian Trent
Hope Springs by Lindsay Buroker
Orphans of Aries by Brad R. Torgersen
By the Red Giant’s Light by Larry Niven
Family over Blood by Kacey Ezell
A Man They Didn’t Know by David Hardy
Swarm by Sean Patrick Hazlett
A Hamal in Hollywood by Martin L. Shoemaker
Lovers by Tony Daniel
The Ghost Ship Anastasia by Rich Larson
You Can Always Change the Past by George Nikolopoulos
Our Sacred Honor by David Weber

Friend, you won't find a better collection of short fiction with a military or action/adventure science fiction theme!

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Another Dimension Anthology Wins Serling Award

Another Dimension, edited by Angel Leigh McCoy, was the recipient of a 2017 Serling Award.

The Serling Award is bestowed annually by the Rod Serling Memorial Foundation. It is "given for achievement in the artistic aesthetic Mr. Serling endowed upon the world." 

I am thrilled to have been a part of this anthology. I contributed two pieces: a short story, "The Next Thing," and an essay in celebration of Twlight Zone writer George Clayton Johnson called "Selling Daydreams: The Life and Work of George Clayton Johnson."

Thanks to Angel Leigh McCoy for including me, the other contributors for thier excellent stories and essays, and the Serling Foundation.

You can read about the award and the Rod Serling Memorial Foundation here.

And pick yourself up a copy of Another Dimension here.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Movie Review (Sort Of): Buddy, Buddy



Buddy, Buddy was the last film directed by Billy Wilder, one of the greatest directors who ever lived. It was written by Wilder and longtime collaborator I.A.L. Diamond, the writing team behind Some Like it Hot, The Apartment, Irma la Douce, and The Fortune Cookie. It stars the comedy gold team of Walter Mathau and Jack Lemmon.

And it isn't good. Which is so weird!

In his review of the movie, Roger Ebert proclaimed that Buddy, Buddy contained no laughs. Zero. And while he might be overstating things a bit, I can't really argue with him, either. It's just not funny. It's just not good.

That said, it's not bad, per se. Watching the film was a pleasant enough way to spend a little under 2 hours.

I've turned movies off they were so bad, but I didn't want to turn off Buddy, Buddy.

I've rolled my eyes at the stupidity of movies, but I didn't roll my eyes at Buddy, Buddy.

I've spent hours detailing the plot and character problems in movies, but I have nothing to say about Buddy, Buddy in this regard.

I've railed against certain movies (looking at you Human Centipede) whose very existence feels like an affront to the concept of film making, but I won't go on a rant about Buddy, Buddy.

And of course I've enjoyed bad movies in a so-bad-they're-good sort of what, but not so Buddy, Buddy.

It's not bad; it's just not good. (And I know I've said that several times already, but I just can't get over the fact.)

At some point, I read an interview with someone involved in the movie industry that has stuck with me. I can't remember if this person was a writer, actor, director, producer or what, but he said that there is no way to tell if a movie is going to be great or going to be a pile of hot garbage until you see the finished product. This sounds absurd, but the more I learn about the film industry, the more I believe it to be true.

Let's take two movies from the opposite end of the spectrum: Jean Luc Goddard's Breathless and Star Wars. During the making of both films, the crew supposedly though that they would be a disaster. Yet both films were, essentially, saved in the editing room. You hear about this a lot. Or you hear about movies like Swamp Thing. By all accounts, the script for Swamp Thing was really good. Craven thought it would be his ticket out of the horror movie ghetto. Adrienne Barbeau thought it could be the next Star Wars. Then the budget got cut during filming. Then cut again. Then again. If you've seen the finished product . . . well, it ain't Star Wars, let's just say that.

So no matter how good a movie looks or doesn't look on paper, what matters is the end product. I kept thinking about this as I watched and reflected on Buddy, Buddy. This should have been a comedy classic. First off, there's the pedigree, which I mentioned in the opening paragraph. But even leaving that aside, it's just a really great concept. Mathau plays a hitman who sets up in a hotel room across from the courthouse where a star witness is set to testify against the mob. His job: assassinate the guy as he climbs the courthouse steps and then beat a hasty retreat. Lemmon is a standards and practises executive at CBS whose wife has left him for the founder of a Sexual Research Institute. He's taken the hotel room that connects with Mathau's and plans to commit suicide. Of course, their paths cross and hilarity ensues.

Only it doesn't.

All of the story beats are there, and on paper they're all funny. But on screen they fall utterly flat. Buddy, Buddy is a testament to the fact that when it comes to film making, the whole has to be greater than the sum of its parts.

After all of this, would I recommend watching Buddy, Buddy? I don't know. Maybe? It's certainly a curiosity.

It is a shame that Wilder went out on such a low-note. Probably it's best to rewatch Sunset Boulevard or The Apartment or Some Like it Hot. Or if you want to see what the team of Wilder/Diamond/Lemmon/Mathau were capable of, check out The Fortune Cookie.

But if you want to watch a movie that will keep you scratching your head as to why it's so utterly forgettable when it shouldn't be, in that case, I wholeheartedly recommend Buddy, Buddy.

See a Penny . . .

My short story "See a Penny . . ." was published earlier this year in the January/February issue of Mike Resnick's Galaxy's Edge Magazine (issue #30). You can buy it in various formats (paper and ebook) here. Or go to Amazon here, where you can buy it for your Kindle or, if you're old-school, in paperback.

I'm glad that "See a Penny . . ." found a home in Galaxy's Edge, which is one of my favorite science fiction magazines being published today.