Pocono Writers’ Conference

I mentioned this several months ago, when it became official. Now, with just over a month to register, I hear there are just a few spots open to attend the 5th Pocono Writers’ Conference. I and four other writing professionals will be leading an all-day series of lectures and workshops for up-and-coming writers in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, on Saturday, January 20th. If you’re interested in registering, see this page. Hope to see some of you there!


Edward S. Pell (1950-2017)

Ed Pell died December 4, 2017, after a long illness. Born in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1950, he was a good friend and a big part of Greater New York Mensa (GNYM).

When I met Ed, he was the editor of Kitchen & Bath Business, a trade magazine, while I was the assistant editor of Analog and Asimov’s science fiction magazines. We both had aspirations for seeing our own writing published, and put together the GNYM Writers’ SIG. As part of the SIG, we met regularly for several years with a circle of writers that grew to a dozen or more, encouraged each other in our writing, and organized two readings as monthly GNYM speaker events. I wrote science fiction short stories, and eventually did sell several. Ed wrote mostly comic screenplays (two of which were eventually optioned) and won a national screenplay writing award. Long after the group disbanded, we both published our first books (mine were non-fiction books of presidential history, Ed’s were children’s books).

Ed had a love of the obscure and arcane, and founded GNYM’s Colley Cibber SIG (named after the forgotten British Poet Laureate), which may have been one of the first general interest drinking SIGs (it met regularly in pubs and taverns in New York City). That love of obscurity is also why his dinosaur story that I remember featured diplodocus, rather than a dinosaur most people have heard of.

When I became President of GNYM, Bruce Kent took over editing duties on Mphasis, and Ed took over as impresario of our monthly speaker meetings, growing the event into the must-attend of our regular calendar. After Bruce was appointed American Mensa’s Publications Officer, Ed and Merrill Loechner took over the reins of Mphasis (with Bruce’s regular assistance). As editor, Ed ghost-wrote the comic column “Ask Miss Information,” and brought the comic quotient of the newsletter to new lows with the never-ending puns on my name to headline my president’s column.

In 1994, when the Mensa Annual Gathering was in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Ed organized the GNYM Party Bus to the AG. I’ll always remember his review of the trip, which included a “champagne with all the connotations of the word ‘bus.’”

Outside of Mensa, Ed continued his career in the kitchen and bath industry. After twenty years with the publisher of KBB magazine, he moved into a freelance marketing and communications role, and then served for several years as the Manager of Market Research for the National Kitchen & Bath Association.

Ed was a big part of GNYM, but after he met Diana, he became a much happier person. That’s why, though I was sorry he moved out of Brooklyn, I was very happy for him. He and Diana moved to New Jersey after their wedding, and I saw them less frequently after that, but their happiness made up for the lack of Ed around here.

I’m very sorry I hadn’t seen or spoken with Ed recently, but I did often think of him. And I mentioned his innovations and efforts a couple of times during the AMC meeting which took place in the days before his death.

(The photo below, from December 1995: Bruce Kent on the left, Ed Pell in the center, me on the right.)


Once again a fiction author

My story, “The Ant and the Grasshoppers,” is today’s featurelogo-overd story at Daily Science Fiction. Check it out at this link: http://dailysciencefiction.com/science-fiction/time-travel/ian-randal-strock/the-ant-and-the-grasshoppers .

It’s odd: whenever I’m writing non-fiction, I want to be writing fiction. And whenever I’m writing fiction, I want to be writing non-fiction. But there’s something much more satisfying about selling a piece of fiction than non-fiction. So here’s my latest: enjoy!

The frustration of pie

While I was eating dinner, I stumbled across a tv program called For the Love of Pie! and wound up watching it, because… well… I love pie.

I was a bit confused by so much focus on “savory” pies (meat pies; something with strawberries, rosemary, and vinegar; onions and stuff…) because to my mouth, pie means sweet!

But the program brought back to me how much I enjoy baking, and my eternal problem with pies: I can’t taste them as I’m baking them. Sure, I can taste the dough, and I can taste the filling before filling the pie. But once it’s come out of the oven, there’s no way to know if it’s good enough, other than to take a slice. And I can’t do that with a pie I’m going to give away or serve, because it’ll have a slice taken out of it. And baking a small one alongside it wouldn’t really help, because the smaller pan would have to cook for less time. Darn this frustration for not trusting my baking ability!

Oh, and the show is on the Cooking Channel, and they’re rebroadcasting at midnight (eastern) tonight.

Covention Weekend

This weekend, it’s Philcon—the last sf convention I have scheduled for the year—in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. As usual, I’ll be at the Fantastic Books table in the dealers’ room. My programming schedule is fairly light:

Saturday at 1pm in Plaza II: “Meet the Editors” with Ty Drago, Alex Shvarstman, Hildy Silverman, and Diane Weinstein

Saturday at 9pm in Plaza III: “You are Not the One” with James L. Cambias, Vikki Ciaffone, and Anthony Dobranski.

Sunday at 11am in Plaza III: “Professional Practices for Aspiring Authors” with Day Al-Mohamed, Sally Weiner Grotta, and Janny Wurts.

Hope to see some of you there!


Asimov’s likes Time On My Hands

1515400522The November/December 2017 issue of Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine includes Peter Heck’s review of Time On My Hands by Daniel M. Kimmel (which Fantastic Books published earlier this year). Peter says, in part, “Kimmel offers an engaging often humorous time-travel story that manages to hit most of the expected themes of the genre while retaining a fresh feeling.… Kimmel offers an engaging often humorous time-travel story that manages to hit most of the expected themes of the genre while retaining a fresh feeling. In addition to the plot, Kimmel mixes in some interesting speculations on the ethics of time travel—for example, the whole question of altering history by deliberately changing some action in the past, or the problem of meeting an earlier (or later) version of yourself during your travels. His solutions are original.… This one’s a fun read, with fresh takes on classic SF material.… You may not find Time on My Hands at a local bookseller, but you can order it directly from the publisher at www.FantasticBooks.biz or from most online booksellers. You won’t regret it.”

Convention weekend

Here comes another convention weekend! This time, it’s Boston Mensa‘s Wicked Good Regional Gathering, in Fitchburg, MA.

My pre-scheduled programming duties include:

Saturday, 10:45-11:45 am in the Gray Wolf Room, I’ll be giving a talk entitled “CSA Wins; Nixon Defeats Kennedy; Leonov First Man on Moon: Rewriting the World with Alternate History”.

Saturday, 1:30-2:30pm in the Foyer: I’ll be taking part in the mass Book Signings session.

Saturday, 2:45-3:45pm in the Red Wolf Room, I’ll be running the “RVC Meet and Greet” session, talking about Mensa business.

Other than those, I’ll be there for the whole weekend, and I’ve already got one one-on-one meeting scheduled with a concerned member. But it’s an RG, and it’s Boston Mensa, so I know I’ll be having a wonderful time! Hope to see all you Mensans there.

Presidential Data Point

41bushSorry I missed posting this one a week and a half ago: As of October 11, 2017, George H.W. Bush has surpassed Ronald Reagan as the second-longest-lived President. Born on June 12, 1924, Bush broke Reagan’s record of 93 years, 120 days (which was the longest any President had lived, until Gerald Ford broke his record in 2006). Bush is poised to become the longest-lived President on November 25, 2017 (currently, that record belongs to Gerald Ford: 93 years, 166 days).

Jimmy Carter—the longest-retired President—is 111 days younger than Bush.

#presidents #georgehwbush #geraldford #ronaldreagan #jimmycarter

“Always Say Yes”

The Melancholy of Lost Opportunities — brought about by going through and throwing out boxes of old letters and papers — has been firming up my new life philosophy:

Embarrassment lasts a moment; regret lasts a lifetime. So take chances, take opportunities; try it, you’ll like it. Still needs a catch phrase. The best I can come up with is “Always Say Yes,” but a lot of those missed opportunities are of the “should have asked,” rather than “should have answered ‘yes’” type.

Yoji Kondo (1933-2017)

strockkondoI’ve just found out that my friend Yoji Kondo died on Monday. We hadn’t seen him in a couple of years, but his wife, Ursula, is still a fixture at Balticon.

Yoji was born in Japan in 1933, emigrated to the US and earned his PhD at the University of Pennsylvania. He worked at several NASA centers as a project manager and in various other positions. He also taught at a number of universities. He took us on a wonderful private tour of the Goddard Space Flight Center when he was the Director of the NASA International Ultraviolet Explorer (IUE) satellite observatory.

He wrote science fiction as Eric Kotani, including a half-dozen novels (mostly co-authorships) and a bunch of short fiction. He also wrote non-fiction for science fictional publications, including SF Age and Analog. And I had the pleasure of publishing one of his pieces, “You Can See Forever from the Moon,” in the second issue of Artemis Magazine. Actually, that one piece has the distinction of having the greatest number of co-authors of anything I published in that magazine: he co-wrote the article with Ronald J. Oliversen, Wendell W. Mendell, Peter Chen, and Yervant Terzian.

In addition to his intellectual pursuits, he was a teacher of judo and aikido, with sixth-degree black belts in both.

He is survived by his wife, Ursula, their three daughters, and three grandchildren.

(The attached picture is a not-very-good shot of me accepting Stanley Schmidt’s Robert A. Heinlein Award from Yoji in 2012.)

SFWA obituary: http://www.sfwa.org/2017/10/memoriam-dr-yoji-kondo-k-eric-kotani/

Locus obituary: http://www.locusmag.com/News/2017/10/yoji-kondo-aka-eric-kotani-1933-2017/

Yoji’s isfdb bibliography: http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/ea.cgi?670

{Edited October 14th to add:} Link to his full obituary (read it; he was truly a fascinating man): https://obittree.com/obituary/us/maryland/glen-burnie/simplicity-cremation–funeral-services-thomas-allen-pa/yoji-kondo/3210082/