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

Thursday, August 9, 2018


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.


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


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


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