Releasing the Virgins soon

The Fantastic Books Kickstarted project Release the Virgins was originally supposed to be finished in November. We’re running a little late, but I’ve got the final manuscript in hand, and electronic galleys have gone out to the authors. As a teaser, the final table of contents is:

Foreword by Ian Randal Strock
Introduction by Michael A. Ventrella
Valedictory by Lawrence Watt-Evans
Sidekicked by Hildy Silverman
Command Decision by Steve Miller
Are You There, Cthulhu? It’s Me, Judy by Beth W. Patterson
Innocence Lost by Gail Z. Martin
How Mose Saved the Virgins of Old New York by Allen Steele
The Fires of Rome by Jody Lynn Nye
Salvage by Shariann Lewitt
The Midwinter of our Discontent by Keith R.A. DeCandido
Coming Attractions by Daniel M. Kimmel
Cracking the Vault by Matt Bechtel
The Coffee Corps by Alex Shvartsman
The Vestals of Midnight by Sharon Lee
Paradisiacal Protocols by Gordon Linzner
Brass Tacks by Cecilia Tan
Old Spirits by Brian Trent
The Running of the Drones by Patrick Thomas
Dangerous Virgins by David Gerrold
About the Authors
Kickstarter Supporters

Trying to hang on to my cash

Found a link to this article from a friend on Facebook: “Why Sweden’s cashless society is no longer a utopia”.

As I wrote in a 1996 article in Analog, and as I still believe, the transition to an all-electronic, no-cash society brings far too many pitfalls to make me happy with the thought. In a cashless society, ALL transactions can be tracked, recorded, and reported. In a cashless society, the money you have may not necessarily be yours (consider the current problems with ebooks and emusic files, which may disappear at Amazon’s whim, because you’re only renting them).

Earlier today, I was reviewing American Mensa’s monthly financial statements (in my role as a member of the finance committee). I was looking at a $4.5 million annual budget, with line-item expenses ranging up to tens of thousands of dollars. But in those documents, I also saw a credit card transaction for a $3 soda, and another for a $5.10 purchase at an airport newsstand. While the ability to see those transactions—when serving in an oversight role—is good, a cashless society would rapidly be overwhelmed with such minutiae, to the point that reviewing one’s monthly finances would become incredibly tedious. And once we decide to ignore that tedium, it becomes even easier for your bank or government money program to modify your balance at will. Heck, that’s an outgrowth of what we see today: people pay far more attention to the price of an item when they pay with cash than when they pay with a credit card. When there are no cash transactions, it will be very easy for all prices to become “approximate.”

I keep a little bit of cash on hand, in case of emergency, in case of… well, anything. A few years ago, I was in Massachusetts when a massive ice storm hit, knocking out electricity across several states. I needed to get home before the power had been turned back on, and one of the very real struggles was driving far enough to get out of the blacked-out region, in order to find a gas station that did have power so that its pumps could sell me gasoline. On that drive, I also needed to purchase food, and I was lucky to find a clerk in a darkened store who was willing to make the sale, but of course, I had to pay cash. In a cashless society, a blackout means not only a lack of electricity, but an inability to travel, an inability to purchase anything.

Have you ever wanted to purchase a surprise for your spouse? Better make sure you don’t have a joint account, or it won’t be much of a surprise in a cashless society. Ever wanted to buy something just a little naughty? How much more inhibited are you going to feel, knowing you have to use an electronic payment that is automatically tracked. Gifts for the grandkids? Oh, sure, honey, there’s a little more value on your money card now. Enjoy.

I know I sound like the fuddy-duddy, the Luddite, railing against this march to the future. And indeed, I’m fairly sure a cashless society will be here soon. At this point, I can only hope it will wait until those of us who like using cash have died out.

#cashless #cash #creditcard #debitcard #electronicpayment

Busy week leading to another convention

philcon_logoHave I mentioned that I’ve got another convention coming up next weekend? Actually, Philcon comes at the end of a very busy week for me.

Monday evening, I’ll be with Greater New York Mensa for yet another taping of NPR’s Ask Me Another. Tuesday, Richard Lederer is coming to town, so I’ll see him at Hunter College (free admission, so feel free to join me). Wednesday will be a smaller Mensan dinner, greeting another out-of-towner. Thursday night is a friend’s birthday celebration. And Friday, I load the car and head to Cherry Hill, New Jersey.

If you’re coming to the convention, you’ll be able to find me (as always) in the dealers’ room (open on Friday from 4 to 7pm, Saturday from 10am to 6pm, and Sunday from 10am to 3pm). I’m also scheduled to be on four panels:

Friday at 11pm in Crystal Ballroom Two: “Eye of Argon Interactive: Chapter Five” with Richard Stout, Kim Kindya, and Daniel Kimmel.

Saturday at 11am in Plaza II: “Indie Publishing 102: The Editing Process” with Brenda W. Clough, John Skyler, Ann Stolinsky, Alex Shvartsman, and Michael Hanson.

Saturday at 3pm in Plaza IV: “Finances for Freelancers” with Susan Shwartz, Russell J. Handelman, and Erin M. Hartshorn.

Saturday at 8pm in Plaza II: “Meet the Editors!” with Hildy Silverman, Darrell Schweitzer, Joshua Palmatier, Alex Shvartsman, and Neil Clarke.

Sunday afternoon, I’ll pack up the remainder of books in the dealers’ room, drive home, unload the car, and collapse. Hope to see some of you out there while I’m awake!

Asimov’s likes SF for the Throne

1515410250Peter Heck, writing in his “On Books” column in the November/December 2018 issue of Asimov’s Science Fiction, says of Science Fiction for the Throne: “Here’s a book everyone needs,” and “A good one for when you’ve only got a few minutes to read something!”

What more do I need to say? If you want to read the rest of the review, see the magazine, but you probably just want to read the book, right?

Mensa Convention Weekend

wg2018large800b2Because I haven’t had one in three weeks, this coming weekend is another convention weekend! (Well, I did take a wonderful road trip to Vermont this past weekend, but there was no convention at the other end.) This time, it’s Boston Mensa’s Wicked Good Regional Gathering (and yes, it is conflicting with Chicago’s WeeM; if you have a problem with the scheduling, talk to those who scheduled the two). At any rate, Wicked Good is the current incarnation of the first Regional Gathering I attended (which at the time was called Pilgrimage, and was held in November). Now it’s held in Fitchburg, Massachusetts, and this time, I’ll be speaking on “The Democratization of Publishing” (at 9am Saturday), and then I’ll be talking Mensa business at the RVC Meet-and-Greet or Rap Session or whatever title we’re using this weekend, at 11am Saturday. But I’ll be there all weekend, for anyone who wants to talk Mensa business, or for anyone who wants to talk publishing, science fiction, or any other fun and fascinating thing. That’s the joy of Mensa gatherings: the plethora of conversational topics with an incredible range of people. Hope to see some of you there!

#speaking #publishing #mensa

Always a Boom Today

I just saw the season premiere of Madam Secretary, and I’ve lost track of how many episodes begin with an explosion (or a shooting, or crash), and then flash to “one week earlier,” or “yesterday,” or even “one hour ago.” This episode was yet another of those.

I’m seeing it so often that I’m starting to feel like I’m the only one who finds this form of storytelling both annoying and lazy. I get that television is a collaborative form of storytelling, so it might not be the writers’ fault or the directors’, but why do they feel the need to do these storytelling teams feel the need to do it at all? Are they so unsure of their own abilities that they think the audience will turn the channel if there isn’t a boom in the first five minutes? I’m not watching for the crashes, I’m watching for the story. And if they can tell an engrossing story, the explosion can come at the 34-minute mark—or the final scene, or not at all—and I still won’t care. In tonight’s episode, it wasn’t even a “here’s the boom, now we’re going to show you where it came from,” because the cause did not flow naturally from the building story, and had nothing to do with the “one week earlier” we watched after we saw the explosion. Thus, when the explosion came the second time, we were still surprised by it, as were the characters. Indeed, the explosion had nothing to do with the main story line, which ended with that explosion, so they could tell a completely different story for the final third of the program.

I also see this laziness cropping up in printed fiction (short stories and novels), with a prologue giving a taste of some “action,” followed by the introduction and beginning of the story, with the action piece showing up much later in the story.

I may be the only one, but I’m an editor, so I’m making my opinion known: if you have to give us a taste of the explosion that actually shows up half way through your story, you’re doing something wrong. Isaac Asimov gave the writing advice “start as late in the story as you can.” He didn’t mean “and then tell the whole story as a flashback.”

#writing #storytelling #madamsecretary

True Review review of Fantasy for the Throne

1515423301Andy Andrews’ online review publication True Review has a short but sweet review of Fantasy for the Throne (edited by Judith K. Dial & Tom Easton) in its current issue, #104. The review says, in part, “These are great, quick reads for waiting at the airport, in the bathroom, or wherever.” And specifically mentions stories by Lillian Csernica, Marianne J. Dyson, Michael Haynes, Sarah Micklem, Steven H Silver, and John Walters.

Mensa’s third visit to Ask Me Another

40310644_1968739973165318_6812985245869015040_oTonight was the third of the five episodes of Ask Me Another that American Mensa is sponsoring, so I was there again, handing out freebies and information. Tonight was the biggest of the three we’ve attended: nearly 400 people packed the Bell House’s theatre to the gills, and Mensa was properly represented by me, Tanya Thomas, Sara London, John Christopher Hall, Anton Spivack, Greg Draves, Michele Rizack, my parents, and two of Sara’s friends. A good show, good response from the audience, a good time. Host Ophira Eisenberg and musical host Jonathan Coulton were really on their game tonight. A lot of material that won’t (probably can’t) make it to the actual program (the thrill of being in the studio audience, hearing everything that will wind up on the editing room floor), but they were funny and interesting. I was, however, surprised by how many people left immediately after the interview, with special guest comedian Nick Kroll, rather than stay for the end of the show.

The show usually tapes on Mondays, but for some reason, had to do a Wednesday this week. Since it’s the first Monday of the month, that meant I had to miss GNYM’s monthly trivia night at The Storehouse in Manhattan. But I got a report from David Tee, who was at trivia. I literally laughed out loud when I read his message. He texted to tell me we’d won, and I asked if it had been a good crowd of Mensans. He replied, “No. We won with four people. The amazing thing is no one there was on Jeopardy, wrote books, has their own wikipedia page, gave a TED talk, graduated from an Ivy League college, etc.”

(No photo tonight: the room was way too crowded.)

Mensa sponsors NPR program (again)

40310644_1968739973165318_6812985245869015040_o

Tonight they taped the second episode of NPR’s Ask Me Another sponsored by American Mensa. Again, Mensa was represented at the taping with a table, information, giveaways, and members. This time, it was me, Alex Filiakov, Christopher Hall, and Noel Strock, with several other members in attendance for the show.

Like last week (which you’ll be able to hear as a podcast download this Friday, or airing on NPR stations this weekend), I gave some brief introductory remarks, and then we all got to enjoy the show (which you’ll be able to download next Friday, October 5). This time, musical guest Jill Sobule started off with a song from her new album, Nostalgia Kills. The show was once again, a mixture of comedy, fun trivia, tough trivia, and some serious commentary. The interview portion was with actor/writer/comedian Tom Arnold.

After the show, NPR’s photographer took a nice group shot of the Mensan crowd. And then we realized we didn’t have the hosts in the photo, but the photographer was gone. So instead, we got this less-than-great photo on my cell phone. In the photo, left to right, we have: Musical Host Jonathan Coulton, Christopher Hall, me, Patrizia Calvio, Host Ophira Eisenberg, Leon Feingold, Al T., Noel Strock, and Alex Filiakov. In front, left to right, are: Carren Strock, Musical Guest Jill Sobule, and Jeffrey Collins-Harper.

askmeanythingmensansandhosts

Capclave Convention Weekend

capclave_wordYep, I’ll be back on the road this coming weekend, for another science fiction convention. This weekend, I’m heading south, to the Washington Science Fiction Association’s Capclave (this year, in Rockville, Maryland). As usual, I’ll be tethered to the Fantastic Books table in the dealers’ room (currently scheduled to be open Friday from 3 to 6pm, Saturday from 10am to 6pm, and Sunday from 10am to 2pm). Remember, also, that this weekend is the continuing launch of Fantasy for the Throne, edited by Judith K. Dial & Tom Easton (we debuted the book at Albacon, but a book this big deserves a two-convention launch).

1515423301I’ll also be on a lot of programming items. Panels you’ll be able to see me on include:

Friday at 6pm in Eisenhower: “Small Press Publishing” with Danielle Ackley-McPhail, David Stokes, and Sean Wallace

Friday at 7pm in Monroe: “Biggest Mistakes Made by New Writers” with David Bartell, Wendy S. Delmater, and Michael A. Ventrella

Friday at 10pm in Eisenhower: “Gardner Dozois Memorial Panel” with Wendy S. Delmater, Scott Edelman, and Darrell Schweitzer

Friday at 11pm in Eisenhower: “Hot NOT to Get Published, a/k/a Late Night Tales from the Slush Pile” with Neil Clarke, Wendy S. Delmater, Bjorn Hasseler, Michael A. Ventrella, and Sean Wallace

Saturday at 2pm in Truman: “Ask Me Anything – Editor Edition” with Scott H. Andrews, Bjorn Hasseler, Mike McPhail, Bernie Mojzes, and Alex Shvartsman

Saturday at 4pm in Eisenhower: “To Self Publish or Not to Self Publish” with T. Eric Bakutis, Jonathan Brazee, Shahid Mahmud, Joan Wendland, and Kenesha Williams

Saturday at 10:30pm in Monroe: “Eye of Argon” with Hildy Silverman, Michael A. Ventrella, and a cast of dozens

Sunday at 11am in Truman: “Small Press Publishing 2019” with Daniell Ackley-McPhail, Neil Clarke, Sean Wallace, and Steven H. Wilson

Yep, I’ll be busy! And yep, they seem to have front-loaded the convention for me. But they’re all interesting subjects, so it looks to be a great weekend! Hope to see many of you there.