Convention Weekend, November 2022

philcon_logoNext Friday starts my last scheduled sf convention on the calendar year (though I’m always open to more, if you’ve got any to suggest). This time, it will be, once again, Philcon (at the Doubletree by Hilton in Cherry Hill, New Jersey [that’s the same hotel it’s been at the past bunch of years, but under a new name]).

If you’re looking for me, I’ll be fairly easy to find. I’ll be at the Fantastic Books table in the dealers’ room Friday (4–7pm), Saturday (10am–6pm), and Sunday (10am–3pm). But I’m also scheduled to be on a bunch of programming. Note especially the first item:

Friday at 9pm in the Grand Ballroom: “The Eye of Argon: The Play” co-starring Keith R.A. DeCandido, Gregory Frost, Peter Prellwitz, Hildy Silverman, Michael A. Ventrella, and Jean Marie Ward. This will also be the official launch of the anthology The Eye of Argon and the Further Adventures of Grignr the Barbarian.

Saturday at 12n in Crystal 2: “Space Colonies ‘Rhyme’ with Space Westerns” with N.E. Lilly, Peter Prellwitz, Tom Purdom, and Kathryn Sullivan.

Saturday at 2pm: “Apocalypse How?!” with Eric Blair, Anton Kukal, Hildy Silverman, and Richard Stout.

Saturday at 3pm: “Flash Fiction Challenge!” with Storm Humbert and Anton Kukal.

Saturday at 8pm: “Foundations of Worldbuilding: Past Political Tensions and Turmoil” with Dee Carter, Storm Humbert, Michael A. Ventrella, and Simone Zelitch.

Sunday at 12n: “Meet the Editors!” with Neil Clarke, Margaret Riley, Ann Stolinsky, and Michael A. Ventrella.

I hope to see many of you there!

The Election of 2022 Was Against Things and People, Not For Them

I’m watching the election returns (and still watching them). One thing I keep hearing is surprise that the predicted “red wave” did not materialize. I think the fact that the pundits expected one is a result of poor polling.

Specifically, I think political polls are too cut-and-dried, too black-or-white, without enough shades of gray. But none of us are so one-dimensional. I answered one phone call this election season which was a poll, and I tried to give them my thoughts. But the poll wasn’t robust enough to properly record them. The first question was “which is the most important issue for you when you’re voting this November.” The problem is, I’m not a one-issue voter, and I’ve a hunch most of us aren’t. But every poll which focused on “the economy/inflation” as the one issue voters would find most important missed the nuances.

Certainly, the economy is one of the issues I considered. But it’s not the only one. I also considered crime, and health care, and national defense, and voters’ rights, and the intrusion of the nanny state, and the environment, and appointments to the federal judiciary, and… well, you get the point. I think about all the ways the government can affect my life (for good or ill), and then I consider the candidates, and I choose those who I think will do the most good and the least bad. Asking me which one issue matters, and then which candidate I’ll vote for to serve that issue, means you’re gathering data that doesn’t reflect reality.

Another failing I saw in this year’s polling was the focus on President Biden’s approval rating, which is indeed quite low. But the polls only considered that, historically, a president with a low approval rating saw the other party win most of the seats in Congress. They didn’t consider that we can think poorly of Joe Biden’s job performance, while at the same time not wanting the Trumpian party candidates to win election and lend any more credence to that grifter.

Unfortunately, that’s the pity of most of our recent elections: very few of us are voting for the candidates; we’re voting against their opponents. I’m going to write directly to both Governor Hochul and Attorney General James, to tell them that my votes for them were not part of any mandate they might consider their elections to be. Rather my votes were against their opponents (well, in the case of James, I do favor certain of her ongoing cases that I fear would have been dropped had her opponent won).

I think that may be the big story no one is telling about the current election cycle: not many of us are truly happy with any of our choices. We’re voting to preserve what we have and improve our lives despite our representatives, not through them.

Old-time Underground

800px-WP_Beach_Pneumatic_TransitWhich rabbit hole did I just get lost down? Well, it started with a reference to Alfred Ely Beach (1826-96) and his pneumatic subway line in New York City (1870-73). That lead to the song “Sub-Rosa Subway” (1976) by the group Klaatu. There was also a side trip to FDR’s secret train station under the Waldorf-Astoria, Track 61.

Beach’s pneumatic subway was just a demonstration model, which ran one block under Broadway, from Warren Street to Murray Street. For 25 cents, riders could take the trip forward and then back. Beach’s plan was eventually to stretch the line all the way up to Central Park, but political difficulties followed by financial difficulties killed the project in its infancy.

“Sub-Rosa Subway” tells the whole story of Beach’s attempt in a soft-rock format. A nice tune, a good song.

Track 61 was something I’d known about, a rail yard which was built as part of Grand Central Terminal (the big train station in Manhattan: I worked across the street from the main building the first three years I was at Asimov’s and Analog). Since Park Avenue and the buildings lining it north of Grand Central are all actually elevated, built over the many tracks that make up Grand Central, the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel just happened to be built over Track 61. There’s a small platform there, and an elevator traveling from the tracks into the hotel. It was used by (among others), President Franklin Roosevelt during World War II, as an unobtrusive way to leave his train and get to the streets of New York City.

Click the links up in the first paragraph to read a bit more. Fascinating history.

A new book that, I guess, doesn’t embarrass me

Untitled-41212I’ve been going through gyrations over this one. At first, it was just a joke, I didn’t think we’d do much with it. Then I accepted it as just another book, but not one I was going to push. Then I was a bit embarrassed. But today, the copies arrived from the printer, and I went through it, and now I’m thinking I’m pretty proud of this one. It looks good, and does what it says it’s going to.

So instead of shunning the book (as perhaps the original tale should have been): I’m excited to trumpet from the balconies that Fantastic Books is publishing The Eye of Argon and the Further Adventures of Grignr the Barbarian! Official publication date is November 18, during Philcon, at which we will be performing the original story as a stage play.

And who is we? We’re the troupe that has been reading and performing the story at conventions throughout the northeast for several years. Ringmaster Michael A. Ventrella and wrangled seven other authors (plus the foreword, and wonderful new art by Monica Marier) into producing sequels, prequels, and oy-vey-quels to Jim Theis’ original “The Eye of Argon.”

Make sure to get your copy quickly, before we come to our sense and try to suppress the book!

Table of contents:

Foreword: The Eye of Argon and Associated Earnest Musings by Jody Lynn Nye

Introduction: We Can All Be Grignr; or: How to Appreciate Very Bad Writing by Michael A. Ventrella

Publisher’s Apology by Ian Randal Strock

The Eye of Argon by Jim Theis

Annotation by Ian Randal Strock

The Further Adventures of Grignr the Barbarian:
The Return of the Eye of Argon by Hildy Silverman
The Rat’s Tail by Keith R.A. DeCandido
Grignr and the Drignr by Peter Prellwitz
Grignr in the Land of Er-Urz by Ian Randal Strock
God Quest by Genevieve Iseult Eldredge
Grignr’s Swift Sword of Vengeance by Daniel M. Kimmel
Ouanna’s Rock by Jean Marie Ward
Grignr and the Tomb of Really Bad Evil by Michael A. Ventrella

About the Authors

Not one book, but two!

Basic RGBI’m back from Europe: it was fascinating and tiring and productive and long in a short period of time. Still haven’t had time to go through the 1,517 photos I took in Montenegro and Vienna, but I’ll get to it soon.

jfc1aInstead, since I’ve been home, I’ve been hard at work catching up on missed deadlines. But one thing I didn’t miss was the Fantastic Books Kickstarter campaign for the anthology Jewish Futures. Somehow, without me ever expecting it, the campaign has surpassed its ultimate stretch goal, meaning that, instead of just one book, we’ll be producing two. We haven’t discussed what the title of the second volume will be, whether it will just be number 2, or if we’ll pick a completely different title. But whatever we call it, everyone who has backed the campaign (at the $5 level or more) will also be receiving a copy of that second book when it’s available (sometime after the first, which is still on schedule for July 2023 publication). And with 46 hours left to go in the campaign, there’s still time to tell people that, at whatever pledge level, you’re now getting two books for the price of one!

I’m just amazed at the number of people who have backed the campaign, who thought as highly of the project as we do. Thank you, all!

Convention-plus-plus fornight

Yep, this weekend I’m back on the road for another science fiction convention. This time, it’s Capclave, in Rockville, Maryland. If you’re looking for me at the convention (as usual), look for me in the dealers’ room at the Fantastic Books table. The dealers’ room is scheduled to be open from 3 to 6pm on Friday, 10am to 6pm on Saturday, and 10am to 2pm on Sunday.

I’ll also be on programming. Check out:

“Grammar Wars and Pedantry” on Saturday at 1pm in Washington Theater. With K. Ceres Wright, Mary G. Thompson, Morgan Hazelwood, and Sarah Avery. If arguments over the serial comma, split infinitives, or the evolving definition of “literally” gets you riled up, then this is a conversation for you. Panelists discuss their favorite pedantic hills to die on and whether language is evolving too quickly or too slowly for their liking.

“In Defense of the Standalone Novel” on Saturday at 2:30pm in Washington Theater. With A.C. Wise, Craig Laurance Gidney, Irene Gallo, Natalie Luhrs, and Ursula Vernon. In a sea of book series, the standalone novel can be a breath of fresh air. What are the virtues of the standalone novel and what makes for a good one? Might there be a resurgence of the standalone novel in the near future?

As much as I love going to sf conventions, that seems almost a distraction to me at the moment. That’s because there’s a much bigger trip coming very soon.

A few days ago, the Chairman of American Mensa resigned. I’ve been serving the organization as Secretary since last summer, and continue in that position. But I’ve also been an alternate for our national representatives. With the resignation, I move up from alternate to one of the national representatives. And in a bit of calendrical synchrony, the next annual international board of directors meeting (which I’ll be attending in my new role) is October 6–9 in Budva, Montenegro. So I’ve spent this week in a frantic planning for my first international trip this millennium, and my first ever trip out of North America.

I’m pretty much booked from departure here to the end of the meeting and my departure from Montenegro. But on my way home, I’ve got a lay-over in Vienna, Austria. I’m scheduled to land there on Monday, October 10, at 4:20pm. My flight home from Vienna is scheduled to depart on Tuesday, October 11, at 4:30pm. So (other than extra hours in the airport coming and going), I’m going to have most of a day in Vienna (well, other than probably sleeping a few hours at night). Do I know anyone there, or anyone who has been there, who has wonderful suggestions for what to do in those few hours so I can really get a feel for having been there?

In Montenegro, the host group has planned a tour or two, so I’ll get at least a little flavor of the country outside the meeting hotel, but in Vienna, I’m on my own. I’m very excited, and a little trepidatious. Looking for suggestions.

Jewish Futures guidelines

jfc1a Jewish Futures — the anthology Fantastic Books is currently Kickstarting — reached its funding goal in a scant four days. The campaign runs until October 20, but has already unlocked several stretch goals, and as I write this, it’s only $30 from another bit of awesomeness for all backers. $500 beyond that adds two new stories to the book, and opens up another submission slot for all those wonderful authors we didn’t know should be writing for us.

And that’s the point of this post: the writers’ guidelines for Jewish Futures are now available at http://fantasticbooks.biz/fantasticbooks/sf/jewishfutures.html . If you’ve always wanted to appear in a Fantastic Books anthology, now is your chance! Read the guidelines, start writing, and remember to pay attention to the “don’t send before” and “don’t send after” dates.

The cover concept art is by Eli Portman, who’ll be creating the cover for the anthology.

Communal Support

Boy am I bad at this stretch-goals thing. We set them to encourage people to keep contributing to Kickstarter campaigns, even after the initial funding goal has been met. Well, we managed to blow right by the first stretch goal for Jewish Futures before I even said anything about it. That means everyone who is backing the campaign at the $5 level or more will be getting a free story from SM Rosenberg. And now we’re closing in on the second stretch goal: at $7,000, we add more stories to the book, which means more awesome reading for all you readers, and more submission slots for all you authors who we didn’t realize ahead of time we desperately need to have in the book (as I’m writing this, we’re a scant $253 shy of that goal). Remember, even though we reached the initial $6,000 goal to guarantee existence of the book, the campaign continues for the full 30 days, ending October 20.

And while I’m talking about Kickstarter and you awesome people who helped us spread the word, I should also talk about two other campaigns. We joined forces with eSpec Books and IAMTW to cross-promote each other’s campaigns (eSpec is publishing three novels, and has already reached its funding goal; IAMTW is publishing a fascinating-looking anthology that should appeal to those of you who loved our recent Three Time Travelers anthology, but it hasn’t yet reached its funding goal). Assuming all three fund, anyone who supports all three, and adds on the $1 Communal Support add-on, gets a special package of electronic reading. Check out all three, and help our fellow publishers publish too!

communalsupport