A couple of Mensa updates

It occurs to me that I haven’t provided an update recently. Last weekend, while I was at Glimmerdark (a convention in New Jersey), I got word that I’ll be speaking at Central New Jersey Mensa’s Snowball Regional Gathering on Saturday, March 4th. My topic will be “Any President but Donald Trump,” because I realized I haven’t spoken on the Presidents at Snowball in about eight years. And no, this will not be a partisan talk bashing any particular President(s). The write-up is: “When writing The Presidential Book of Lists, Ian Randal Strock calculated the “average President” and the extremes. But the election of Donald Trump apparently broke the mold… or did it? While it’s true that President Trump is very far from the average set out by his 43 predecessors, in many respects he may not be as unique as you might think. This look at how Donald Trump compares to other 43 men we’ve called President will be non-partisan, but that doesn’t mean you won’t see the Presidents in a new light, or have some of your preconceived notions confirmed.”

The farther-reaching news is that the petitioning season has ended, and since I had no opponents, I have been declared the winner of this year’s American Mensa election, and will be the next Regional Vice Chairman for Region 1. For those not in the know, I describe the position as a cross between governor and a Cabinet member (in a parliamentary form of government). Region 1 includes all of New England, New York State except for Western New York, and Northern New Jersey. There are ten Regions in American Mensa, and all of those RVCs plus the five national officers constitute the American Mensa Committee (board of directors); we take office July 1st for a two-year term. Thanks, everyone, for your support.

Larry Smith, bookseller

I’m seeing from several sources, so I’m taking it as true that Larry Smith died today. Larry is the man behind Larry Smith Bookseller, the specialty sf shop who’s fixed location was every science fiction convention on the East Coast of the United States. Larry and his wife, Sally Kobee, have been running the business for a quarter of a century, and they’ve been a fixture for all of us who attend sf cons. They have been great friends to me and great assistance to my business. And though Larry presented a crotchety, curmudgeonly face to the world, he was much more than that, and I will miss him. And these are my very public condolences to Sally and to Ralph. I’ll share more with them privately.

I’m scheduled to run out the door for a weekend of limited online connectivity in a few minutes, but I’ll post more if/when I hear it, or check pretty much any other sf person on the web for more news.

Arisia this weekend

transparent_full_logoThis weekend is Arisia, one of my favorite conventions of the year, and I hope some (many) of you will be there with me. My schedule, for those who are looking for me (and really, I’m not that hard to find):

Friday at 10pm in the Alcott room: “How To Use Real Science In Your SciFantasy Story” with Deborah Kaminski, Timothy Goyette, Nalin Ratnayake, and Stephen R Wilk.

Saturday at 11:30am in the Faneuil room: “Self-Publishing 101: Become an Authorpreneur” with Anna Erishkigal, Kate Kaynak, Mike Luoma, and Ursula Vernon.

1515400522Saturday at 10:00pm in the Alcott room (again): “Pitch Mania! A Competition For Your Story” – a chance for authors to present their stories (or at least, pitches for their stories) to several editors at once. With Dianna Sanchez, Inanna Arthen, Genevieve Iseult Eldredge, and Hildy Silverman.

Monday at 11:30am in the Hale room: “Just the Facts: Abundance!” with Mark L Amidon, Amy Chused, James Meickle, and Richard Moore.

Beyond those four panels, I’ll be spending most of my waking hours at the Fantastic Books table in the dealers’ room (5-9pm Friday, 10am-7pm Saturday and Sunday, and 10am-2:30pm Monday).

And the big event this weekend: the launch party for Daniel M. Kimmel’s new novel, Time On My Hands, at the Fantastic Books table in the dealers’ room on Sunday from 5 to 6 pm. We’ll have sweet things and a raffle and books! Hope to see you there.

Presidents Who Won Election While Losing the Electoral Votes of Their Home States

Congress is scheduled to count the electoral votes for the election of 2016 today, and then officially announce the winner of the election (assumed to be Donald Trump), who will take office on January 20th. Since today is the day electoral votes truly count, I offer the following:

Presidents Who Won Election While Losing the Electoral Votes of Their Home States

The election of 2016 was the 58th quadrennial election of a President of the United States. In those 58 elections, it is a rarity for someone to win the election while losing the electoral votes of his home state.

1844: James Polk defeated Henry Clay, 170-105. Clay won the votes of his home state of Kentucky and Polk’s home state of Tennessee.

1916: Sitting President Woodrow Wilson re-elected over Charles Evans Hughes, 277-254. Wilson lost his home state of New Jersey and Hughes’s home state of New York (both of which he’d won four years earlier).

1968: Former Vice President Richard Nixon defeats sitting Vice President Hubert Humphrey and George Wallace: Nixon, 301; Humphrey, 191; Wallace, 46. Nixon was a Californian, but had been living in New York since 1962. Nixon won California, but Humphrey won New York.

2016: Donald Trump defeats Hillary Clinton, 304-227. Both lived in New York at the time of the election, but only Trump was born in the state. Clinton won New York and her birth state of Illinois; Trump won Arkansas, where Clinton had been living when her husband was elected President in 1992.

Other Presidents Who Lost the Electoral Votes of Their Home States

1840: Martin Van Buren lost his bid for re-election to William Henry Harrison, 234-60. Van Buren lost his home state of New York, which he’d won four years earlier. In 1848, Van Buren ran again, receiving no electoral votes to Zachary Taylor’s 163 and Lewis Cass’s 127. New York voted for Taylor.

1856: Former President Millard Fillmore won 8 electoral votes, coming in third, behind James Buchanan (174 electoral votes) and John C. Fremont (114). Fillmore won the votes of Maryland, but lost his home state of New York (which voted for Fremont).

1888: Sitting President Grover Cleveland lost his bid for re-election to Benjamin Harrison, 233-168. Cleveland lost his home state of New York, which he’d won four years earlier.

1892: Sitting President Benjamin Harrison lost his bid for re-election to former President Grover Cleveland, 277-145 (with 22 electoral votes going to James B. Weaver). Harrison lost his home state of Indiana, which he’d won four years earlier. Cleveland also won back New York.

1912: Woodrow Wilson defeated sitting President William Howard Taft and former President Theodore Roosevelt (Wilson, 435; Roosevelt, 88; Taft, 8). Wilson won his home state of New Jersey, Roosevelt’s home state of New York, and Taft’s home state of Ohio.

The year in books: a reader’s perspective

When taking notes out of this year’s calendar to put them into next year’s calendar, I got to thinking about the books I read this year. I list them in my pocket calendar when I finish them, as a reminder to me.

There weren’t that many this year… until I took into account the many books I edited, proofread, and otherwise read in my publishing career (for many of those, see the lists at FantasticBooks.biz). But reading a book for work isn’t really the same as the books I chose to read in my copious (ha!) free tie. So what else did I read this year?

Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen by Lois McMaster Bujold – the latest installment in the Vorkosigan saga. It didn’t thrill me as much as the previous volumes, but I still enjoyed it.

The Essential Lenny Bruce edited by John Cohen – a paperback collection of his routines and acts; as much as I knew his name, I don’t think I’d ever actually heard/read his work before.

Write It When I’m Gone by Thomas M. DeFrank – a series of interviews the author did with Gerald Ford after he’d retired from the Presidency. Some interesting stuff.

Arkwright by Allen Steele – science fiction. A very good science fiction novel. Made me feel nostalgia for a time I never knew, and people I only knew much later in their lives. But it also made me feel both sad and hopeful for our distant future. Highly recommended.

Upstairs at the White House by J.B. West – former Chief Usher of the White House writes about his interactions with the First Ladies and Presidential families he served, from the Roosevelts to the Nixons.

Updraft by Fran Wilde – science fiction. Lovely imagery.

Altered States of the Union edited by Glenn Hauman – alternate history anthology. My story is the first in the book, but the others are worth reading, too.

The Accidental Superpower by Peter Zeihan – Fascinating look at how the countries of the world came to be, from a geographer’s point of view, which lead (in his thesis) inevitably to the rise of the United States. He then considers the near future of the world, basing a lot of the change to come on the eventual decrepitude and death of the Bretton Woods agreement. Fascinating theorizing for the political scientist and the science fiction writer in me. Highly recommended.

Through Five Administrations by Col. William H. Crook – he was one of Abraham Lincoln’s body guards, and wound up working in the White House for fifty years. These are his reminiscences of his interactions with the Presidents and their families through the Chester Arthur administration. Similar concept to Upstairs at the White House (see above). After reading it, I decided it needed a new edition, and published it under the Gray Rabbit Publications imprint.

General Ike: A Personal Reminiscence by John S.D. Eisenhower – President Eisenhower’s son tells stories of how Ike became the person he was, through his relations with several generals and heads of state before and during World War II.

Steampunk Charity Bazaar in Massachusetts this weekend

charitybazaarbannerIt occurs to me that I ought to “warn” my New England-based (and specifically Massachusettsian) friends that I’ll be up there this weekend. I’ll be at the Steampunk Charity Bazaar for Warmer Winters all day Saturday in Boxboro with a table full of books, and from what I’ve been reading, there will be other fascinating things to see and buy as well. Unlike a typical science fiction convention dealers’ room, books will not be the majority item on display, so a) there will be many more interesting things for you to look at, and b) my books will hopefully stand out from the crowd a bit more. In addition to the Fantastic Books line of books, I’ll also have a selection of books that I’ve written or contributed to as a writer. Hope to see some of you there!

Mensa election petition season

This one is for my fellow Mensans:

Welcome to round one of Mensa election season: the petitioning process. Since we have done away with the concept of a Nominating Committee, all potential candidates for AMC offices must get signatures on petitions in order to run. This year, I am one of those potential candidates. Many of you probably already know me from my many years of membership and activity in Region 1. In past years, I was President (LocSec) and Editor of Greater New York Mensa, I’ve chaired an RG, and served in many other roles requiring smaller time commitments. During the last few years, I’ve been working a little more quietly for the Region, first as Regional Ombudsman, and currently as Assistant RVC. Our current RVC, Lisa Maxwell, is now petitioning to run for Secretary, and I am petitioning to succeed her as RVC (Regional Vice Chairman). At this point, I’m asking for your support (if you’re a member in Region 1) by “signing” my petition at this link. After the deadline for petitions (February 1st), I’ll be urging you to renew your membership before the end of March, so that you can vote in the election, which starts in mid-April. Thanks for your consideration, and your support.

Future convention plans

I’m thinking of upcoming conventions and appearances. Thinking that there’s a real dearth at this time of year. After Philcon, a week and a half ago (which, as Philcons go, was average: a good time socially, a bad time commercially), I’ve got a one-day event in two weeks (The Steampunk Charity Bazaar in Boxborough, Massachusetts [see below for grumble on that town]). Then nothing until Arisia in mid-January in Boston (January 13-15). That’s followed by a gap of another month, before Gimmerdark (February 3-5 in Princeton, NJ), Boskone (February 17-19 in Boston, MA), Heliosphere (March 10-12 in Tarrytown, NY), Albacon (March 31-April 2 in Albany, NY), Lunacon (April 7-9 in Tarrytown, NY), and the Steampunk World’s Fair (May 5-7 in Piscataway, NJ). So I’m thinking of adding another one right in the middle, right in the same place: Dark Side of the Con, March 17-19, also in Piscataway, NJ.

With all of that work planned, I’ve also got Mensa events in Rhode Island in mid-January, and New Jersey at the beginning of March. But looking at this list, it tells me that I need to find conventions in other places: I’ve got three in eastern Massachusetts, two in Tarrytown, three in central New Jersey…

Oh, and that Boxborough grumble? We just found out that the town of Boxborough tries to charge a transient vendor license fee of $15. That’s in addition to requiring vendors to charge sales tax, and the money the vendors are paying to the convention/hotel for the space, and buying food in the town, and a hotel room in the town… This is the first time I’ve run into such naked financial opportunism on the backs of people doing business in the town and with town-based businesses. But since we were only told of the fee this weekend, and the show is in two weeks, we’ll be sucking it up and paying… this time. But I probably won’t be returning to Boxborough in the future.

Philcon weekend

This weekend, I’ll be in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, for the latest iteration of Philcon. As per usual, I’ll be spending the daylight hours tethered to the Fantastic Books table in the dealers’ room. But if you’ll be there, you’ll also be able to catch me on a few programming items: Friday at 11pm in Crystal Ballroom Two, it’s “Eye of Argon Interactive” with Michael A Ventrella, Peter Prellwitz, Hildy Silverman, and Bethlynne Prellwitz. Saturday at noon in Plaza Two is the panel “What To Do When Real Science Outpaces Your Current SF Project” with John Skylar, Phil Giunta, Mike McPhail, Jane Fancher, and David Walton. Saturday at 11pm in Crystal Ballroom Two (again) will be “Whose Line Is It, Anyway?” with Peter Prellwitz, Hildy Silverman, Tee Morris, and Michael A. Ventrella. Hope to see some of you there!