Constitution Day

1515423973Today is Constitution Day, the 232nd anniversary of the day that the delegates to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia signed the Constitution, setting the guidelines for our still-current form of government.

In honor of this seldom-recognized holiday, Gray Rabbit Publications is thrilled to announce the publication of Michael A. Ventrella’s new book, How to Argue the Constitution with a Conservative (lavishly illustrated by Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist Darrin Bell).

The Constitution is the supreme law of the United States. It established our national government and fundamental laws, and guaranteed basic rights for the citizens. When it was written, it acted like a colossal merger, uniting a group of states with different interests, laws, and cultures. It superseded our first national government, the Articles of Confederation, under which the states acted together only for specific purposes, but more often disagreed. The Constitution united the whole, setting the stage for a country of freedom and cooperation. Beginning with the words “We the People…”, the Constitution provided the world with a new way of thinking about people.

Building on that foundation, Michael Ventrella helps a modern audience understand what the Constitution is (and what it isn’t), and shows us how it can relate to our daily lives. With Darrin Bell’s timely illustrations, the book offers both an honest and a snarky view of political debate in the modern world. If you’re going to discuss a topic, it helps to know what you’re talking about first.

For more on the Constitution, check out the United States Constitution Center, which is marking the day with special events and free admission.

Gray Rabbit Publications actually published the book two weeks ago, but today it is widely available, ready for reading. See this page.

I’d pick it

1617209449Publisher’s Pick is once again offering a book published by Fantastic Books at a fantastic discount. This week (and this week, only), it’s Lou Antonelli’s collection The Clock Struck None. Analog called the collection “28 little gems,” while Amazing Stories said it is “logical, believable, and thoroughly enjoyable.” And this week only (until next Tuesday), you can grab an electronic copy for the low, low price of $2.99.

From airships lost between universes, to golems winning the fight against racism, Lou Antonelli explains the many ways the world might have been, with: technology-suppressing magic, ancient civilizations, nuclear holocausts, the North American inland sea, and more. You’ll find Antonelli’s version of Brigadoon, and of the sinking of the Titanic and the Carpathia. You’ll visit alternate realities that have been hiding Neanderthals, and pick up the lost photos of what might have been. With cameo appearances by O. Henry, Robert E. Howard, and Rod Serling.

Also available this week are two classics: Jack Williamson’s The Ultimate Earth, and Leigh Brackett’s Eric John Stark: Outlaw of Mars. Get ’em while they’re hot, at Publisher’s Pick!

Convention Weekend

…because, you know, I don’t travel nearly enough. (ha)

This coming weekend, it’s back to Albany for Albacon: an intimate science fiction convention.

As usual, I’ll be at the Fantastic Books table in the dealers’ room for a bunch of hours (we’re scheduled to be open Friday from 4 to 7pm, Saturday from 11am to 6pm, and Sunday from 11am to 2pm). I’m also scheduled to appear on three panels:

Friday at 3pm (part of their pre-convention Writers’ Workshop): “How much worldbuilding is enough?” with Jim Cambias, Debra Doyle, Elektra Hammond, and Ryk Spoor.

Saturday, 8pm: “Why does bad science lead to good stories?” with Tom Easton, Carl Frederick, Elaine Isaak, and Movie Mike Oshan.

Sunday, 11am: “Asimov Centennial” with Wendy S. Delmater, Tom Easton, Carl Frederick, Vaughne Hansen, Herb Kauderer, and Barry B. Longyear.

I hope to see a lot of you there!

Galleys, ho!

galleys04sep2019Two boxes of galleys have just arrived here at the palatial offices of Fantastic Books. We’ve got The Double Bounty by Brian Koscienski & Chris Pisano, and Across the Universe, edited by Michael A. Ventrella & Randee Dawn.

We’re shipping out review copies to our list today (so if you’re on the list, and don’t get yours in a week or so, let us know). And if you think you should be on that list, but aren’t, let us know. We also have electronic versions available.

Three days at home? Too much.

I got home from the Albany RG on Monday, and went to bed really early (it was an exhaustingly good weekend), slept until noon Tuesday, and I’ve been working my fingers to the bone ever since. But now, I’ve been home long enough, so tomorrow at 8:30am, I fly out of JFK to DFW for the American Mensa Committee quarterly meeting (that’s Mensa’s board of directors, for my non-Mensa friends). I’ll be in Arlington (in meetings) Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, but my flight back here leaves Sunday at 5pm. So, anyone in the Arlington area have something interesting to do Sunday morning to early afternoon? Last time I went to that meeting, I spent the Sunday in Dallas at the Sixth Floor Museum (the JFK assassination site), so that one’s done. What’s next?

#mensa

Faithless No More

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals just ruled that faithless electors can’t be punished. For more details, see this article.

To my mind, what this ruling says is that the Electoral College should operate the way it was designed to operate, and that state laws and regulations later adopted to punish faithless electors are wrong. In other words, the Electoral College is charged with electing the best President, rather than blindly following the vote of the people (actually, the Constitution doesn’t mention a popular vote).

I’m enough of a democrat to fret over the E.C. ignoring my vote, and yet I live in New York City, where my vote is completely meaningless anyway.

Actually, most of the discussion I’ve heard of the E.C. in recent years has been grumbling about the E.C. following its rules, and thus electing presidents who did not win the nation-wide popular vote. Those discussions usually come to the conclusion that either we need to make still more rules so the E.C. is not operating as it was designed, but rather carrying out some other plan; or that the E.C. should be disbanded. But if it did go back to the original plan, most of those grumbling the loudest would probably be satisfied. And I think this ruling heads in that direction. (I don’t think the Founders put much trust in the unadulterated will of the people, so they created the E.C. to temper that will with electors who could decide the people have voted for the wrong person.)

Let’s blame traffic on those who’ve been purposely causing it.

I just read the article “Car traffic in Manhattan moving at slowest pace in decades: report” in the New York Daily News, after hearing it reported on WINS radio. I admit to some confusion because the fifth paragraph reads “While traffic is moving slower, the report also shows that fewer vehicles are entering Manhattan’s central business district,” the eighth says “More cars in city may also have something to do with the slower speeds — DOT data shows that the number of cars registered across the five boroughs has increased by 8.8% since 2010.” A seeming contradiction.

But my main point is that DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg’s attempt to make us think that congestion pricing will solve the problems. The article tells us that “the average speed of vehicles in the borough below 60th St. was a paltry 7 mph last year,” which was “23% slower than cars moved throughout the area in 2010.” But it fails to tell us how many miles of travel-lanes we’ve lost during that time.

Mayor de Blasio, and Mayor Bloomberg before him, have urged a purposeful, relentless campaign to make driving more difficult. Under their direction, we’ve lost travel lanes to the “pedestrian malls” on what used to be Broadway. We’ve lost travel lanes to the new lane of parking in the middle of many streets, away from the curb. In Brooklyn, what used to be one of our main thoroughfares, Kings Highway, was cut from two lanes in each direction to one simply by painting the outer lanes red and labeling them “bus only”.

Yes, the number of vehicles may be up, but even if that number had decreased, travel speeds would be down because there is less roadway per car available. All, apparently, part of the campaign to make us think “congestion pricing” is necessary. But how necessary would it be if they hadn’t set out to cause increased congestion in the first place?

#congestionpricing #NYC #traffic

Interface with Publishers Pick

1604599375Publishers Pick has once again picked a Fantastic Books book for its weekly special. This week, it’s Shariann Lewitt’s Interface Masque that is available, for just a few days, at the low, low price of $2.99 for an electronic copy.

Interface Masque is a hard sf novel. In the ancient and future city of Venice, poised above the drifting tides of her canals, is House Sept-Fortune: a guild specializing in the making and breaking of data systems. Cecilie is a senior apprentice in Sept-Fortune, on the brink of her adult career. It is time for Cecilie’s last test, the one that will prove her mastery of her profession and end her apprenticeship. But she has not anticipated the nature of the test that will be required of her.

Frightened and furious, Cecilie plunges into a very secret, very private, very dangerous quest to discover the nature of her world, behind its disguises… and to discover as well who runs the world. The truth is elusive but she knows it’s out there, in the flow of the datastream and in the equally unfathomable eddies and currents of Venice’s masked intrigues. And all interfaces are masks that cover the underlying system… but masks are hidden faces.

No matter. Truth is something Cecilie desperately needs. And she will pursue it in the face of all peril and strangeness, breaking through from one set of appearances to another… and another… to find what lies beyond.

Click on over to Publishers Pick to pick up your copy. And while you’re there, also check out this week’s other specials, INCI by Mike Resnick and Tina Gower, and the comedy-sf anthology Unidentified Funny Objects #2.

How Science Fiction Shapes Our Reality

In July, I attended San Diego Comic-Con for the first time, because I was part of a panel sponsored by American Mensa entitled “How Science Fiction Shapes Our Reality.” Most of the panel was recorded (up to the point when we started taking questions from the audience), and is now available for your viewing pleasure at this link.

For those who are interested, I mentioned the following publications and authors:

Nature Magazine
Fantastic Books
Release the Virgins edited by Michael A. Ventrella
Jar Jar Binks Must Die by Daniel M. Kimmel
Arkady and Boris Strugatsky
Yevgeny Zamyatin
Gregory Benford
Geoffrey A. Landis
Catherine Asaro
“Deadline” by Cleve Cartmill (March 1944 issue of Astounding Science Fiction)
John W. Campbell, Jr.
“Beggars in Spain” by Nancy Kress (April 1991 issue of Asimov’s Science Fiction, later expanded into a novel)
Robert Heinlein

Welcome to the jacked-in future we were promised

Yesterday, I spent six hours in the car with the nephew and the niece (aged 14 and 11; returning them to their parents). It was a very quiet ride (well, except for my music playing on the car radio, the nephew’s music playing in his earbuds, and the niece’s videos playing hers, and her occasional laughter). And I have to credit myself: my music was the last to turn on, they were plugged in before we’d pulled away from the curb. (I waited, in case they were interested in interacting with me while I drove.)

I mused on the situation, thinking back to the early days of cyberpunk, when we assumed people would jack in to the internet and completely tune out the real world. The kids weren’t on the internet (or maybe they were; I couldn’t see their screens, since I was driving), but I realized we have actually arrived in that future: jacked in, interacting with people whose bodies are distant (or simply spending time in their own heads, their own worlds, and not interacting at all), and having almost no connection with the people physically near them.

And then, today, I read an article on how school is different today than it was in the past. One of the screens of the click-bait article was that kids are much more comfortable texting, tweeting, instant messaging, whatever-social-media-ing with each other than talking, even when sitting right next to each other. (Although—counterpoint: the niece is in another room in the house with a friend right now. The only tech they’re using is a video gaming console they’re both playing, but they are definitely talking to each other in meatspace.)

No judgment; just an observation that we really have arrived in a science fictionally predicted future. Not precisely what we expected, but pretty darn close. Echoes of that Comic-Con panel I was on two weeks ago.