Bruce Kent (1951-2019)

Bruce, Ed, and Ian, at Ed’s apartment in Brooklyn, 1995.

Bruce Kent died on July 4, 2019. Amy texted me to let me know on Saturday, while I was at American Mensa’s Annual Gathering, which was entirely appropriate.

Bruce was one of my best friends in Mensa. We met in 1990, and for more than a year, he visited my house at least once a week: for Greater New York Mensa’s Writers’ SIG, for our bi-monthly poker games, our monthly board meetings, occasional random parties… And when we weren’t getting together at home, it would be at the monthly speaker meetings, or the meetings of the Colley Cibber SIG at bars in Manhattan (organized by Ed Pell), and other events. Originally, we bonded over our publishing careers, but that was just the ice-breaker.

At the time, I was the editor of GNYM’s monthly newsletter, Mphasis. In 1992, I took office as President of GNYM, and Bruce succeeded me as editor, leading the newsletter in new directions. In 1994, during the Annual Gathering in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Bruce was appointed to the American Mensa Committee—the national board of directors—as Publications Officer, and Ed Pell succeeded him as the editor of Mphasis. But Bruce didn’t disappear from our local group; he remained part of the editorial triumvirate with Ed and Merrill Loechner.

About that time, Bruce met Amy, a Mensan friend of mine from the Boston area. It was only in retrospect that I realized Bruce wasn’t a very happy person. But from the time he met Amy, he was completely changed, much happier. So it wasn’t too much of a surprise when they announced their engagement, and then got married. Ed and I stood up with Bruce at their wedding.

Soon after the wedding, Bruce and Amy moved to Pittsburgh, and our relationship faded. Our contacts became infrequent, but later, thanks to Facebook, I was at least able to keep up with their lives. And though our contacts became more infrequent and tenuous, I was glad for him: every photo I saw, everything I read about him, showed that he was happy, very happy. So when I got Amy’s text Saturday morning that he was gone, my first thoughts were of great loss: the loss of Bruce, and the loss of the relationship we once had. But then I thought of how happy his life with Amy—and their daughter, Bridget—had made him, so I didn’t begrudge him one minute of our lost friendship. I was happy that he had been so happy.

But now he’s gone. Learning of his death turned the AG from a time of unrelenting excitement and exhaustion into a day of introspection and heavy thoughts. I spent that day thinking about Bruce, and soon those thoughts turned also to Ed (who died a year and a half ago). I remembered the photo of the three of us smiling in matching T-shirts, and the happiness that that photo shows me. And yet Bruce’s happiness (and Ed’s) both increased dramatically when they married (Amy and Diana) and moved out of New York City. So my thoughts turned to loss and gain: I’d lost the closeness I had with them both, but they each gained the happiness their lives deserved. So I’ll try to remember them as they were at the end: with the women they loved, and happy.

Memento Mori is Publishers Pick

1617200662There’s another great, and really inexpensive, Fantastic Books title available from Publishers Pick. For this week only, you can get an ebook version of Shariann Lewitt’s Memento Mori, which The New York Review of Science Fiction called “an insightful work of sf,” Booklist called “one of the most original portrayals of artificial intelligence since Arthur C. Clarke’s duplicitous HAL,” and Absolute Magnitude called “truly marvelous.”

Memento Mori is set on the colony world of Reis, which was once a prosperous, glittering center of manufacture and trade. But now, in the grip of planet-wide plague, Reis has been quarantined—cut off from the rest of the galaxy. Only electronic communication can cross the barrier.

No one knew where the plague came from. No one knows how it is spread. And no one knows who will live or die. Which leaves one big question: What do you do in the meantime, while you’re waiting to find out?

Time is killing them, but the handful of disaffected artists who hang at Club Metz are past masters at killing time. Society is falling apart; the A.I. that runs everything is acting weirder every day—but they’ll find ways to survive, or at least prevail.

You can get your copy at the low, low price of only $2.99 for one week only, at Also available this week are Catherine Wells’ novel Mother Grimm, and the funny sf anthology Unidentified Funny Objects.

San Diego Comic Con

And, in “happening later but I have to plan it NOW” news, I’m going to San Diego Comic Con! I’ve got a pass for the full show, and I’m booked on Thursday July 18 (for a super-secret can’t-tell-you-about-it-yet thing). The other days, I’m not scheduled.

I’m also looking to save some money, so I’m looking for someone (someones?) who is looking for a roommate (nope, no hotel reservation), and suggestions (beyond wearing comfortable shoes; thanks).

Fast responses appreciated; thanks!

Manhattanhenge Viewing Party

manhattanhenge-neil-degrasse-tyson-stonehenge-590x442Manhattan’s north-south roads are not oriented precisely north-south, nor do the east-west roads run exactly east-west. Actually, the entire arrangement is rotated 29 degrees clockwise of the true compass directions. As a result, the phenomenon Neil deGrasse Tyson has dubbed “Manhattanhenge” (when the setting sun sets at the end of the east-west streets, perfectly framed by the buildings) occurs at sunset about 24 days before and after the Summer Solstice (sunrise, on the east side, comes in December and January; much colder, and therefore much less popular). This year, the next occurrence will be July 12, at 8:20pm. Actually, the sunset occurs on the line on July 13, but on the 12th, the full sun will be visible down the street, while on the 13th, the half sun will be visible.

I’ve seen Manhattanhenge live a couple of times, but decided it’s time to share the experience. So, meet me in Bryant Park, near the northwest corner of the lawn, between 6:00 and 7:00 pm on July 12. Heck, bring a picnic dinner, and we’ll make an evening of it. About 7:45, we’ll mosey over toward Times Square, and join the crowds blocking traffic on 42nd Street starting about 8:00.

After communing with this intersection of stellar phenomenon and city planning, we’ll find some place to hang out for the evening: bring suggestions of a bar or restaurant.

For more information on Manhattanhenge:

An Asimov’s evening in Manhattan with Allen

06jun2019aI took a break from the current freelance job to travel into Manhattan (again; last night was GNYM trivia) for the Asimov’s Anthology Launch at the Barnes & Noble on Broadway at 82nd Street. Walking from the subway, I passed a brownstone with a truly remarkable covering of ivy (see the pictures of the root stalk and the wreathing effect).06jun2019b

Got to the store, listened to Asimov’s editor Sheila Williams and authors Sarah Pinkser and Allen Steele talk about science fiction (sorry my picture isn’t the best; it was only after I got home that I realized I ought to share pictures, and by then, there was no way to go back and get better shots).06jun2019d

Afterwards, I got to socialize with the magazine’s associate editor Emily Hockaday and author William Shunn, who I haven’t seen in way too long.

06jun2019eThen I walked Allen back to his hotel room, and we stopped off to get some snacks. Wouldn’t you know it? It takes a southerner to find out that Moon Pies are now available in New York City! Thanks for that, Allen.

06jun2019fAfter I dropped him off at the hotel, I walked across 79th Street toward a subway stop, and saw the pretty sunset sky down the street over New Jersey. So here are a few photos from the evening; now I really ought to get back to work.

#asimovs #allensteele #sheilawilliams #sarahpinsker #moonpie

Little Brother’s World latest Publishers Pick

1604599405Publishers Pick, the extra-special short-term discounted ebooks consortium of which Fantastic Books is a part, is once again offering a Fantastic Books title at a massive discount. This week (and this week only), it’s Little Brother’s World by T. Jackson King. For this week only, you can grab an electronic copy of the book for the low, low price of $1.99.

Little Brother’s World is one of the earliest titles Fantastic Books published. It earned rave reviews from Spider Robinson and Analog.

From Scavenger to Justice seeker, his courage shakes his world…

Little Brother had survived as an orphan on the colony planet Mother’s World by following two very firm rules in his scavenging through the Alor City trash dump: First, you grabbed anything edible before the valuables. Second, you never talked to the garbage. But then the Pube girl Sally talked to him—and he talked back, even though she was tied up “garbage” deposited in the dump.

To make matters worse, Sally was not your everyday garbage person. She was a Breed, a person with a finely tailored genetic code whose geneflesh was very, very valuable on a world of rigid castes, hard choices, and little sympathy for those who questioned the rules. And keeping secret Sally’s genetic heritage took more than a robe with long sleeves to hide the GeneCode tattoo on her wrist.

For rather than be happy with a full belly and a warm place to sleep, Sally questioned the way of Mother’s World, and her questioning drew unwanted attention. Before Little Brother knew it, they were both on the run to escape the deadly attention of the Church of Flesh and the assassin of Sally’s parents.

Little Brother discovered that, in rescuing Sally, he had begun a quest to learn why he alone had been born without the GeneCode tattoo that set one’s status, job, and destiny. That quest would lead him to a truth that some on his world would kill to keep secret—and the lives of two young people count for nothing in the Game of Power. But Little Brother has a Talent stronger than hatred or power, a Talent linked to his birth without a GeneCode tattoo. It is a Talent that might help both of them survive.…

Also available this week at Publishers Pick are Sacrifice of Fools by Ian McDonald, and the double containing As Big as the Ritz by Gregory Benford and The Mars Girl by Joe Haldeman. Get ’em now!

Convention weekend (Baltimore, again)

b53_web_banner_1Friday starts my fourth weekend in a row on the road. This time, it’s a science fiction convention: Balticon, at the Renaissance Baltimore Harborplace Hotel in Baltimore, Maryland.

As usual, I’ll be leashed to the Fantastic Books table in the dealers’ room for a significant period of time (we’re scheduled to be open Friday from 2 to 7pm, Saturday and Sunday from 10am to 7pm, and Monday from 10am to 2pm). If you come looking for me, remember that the dealers’ room is actually split into two ballrooms (talk to the convention planning committee about that), and is hidden behind the much more obvious dealers’ room that they call something else, located in the atrium (to get to the actual dealers’ rooms, you have to walk through the they-call-it-something-else-but-it-looks-like-a-dealers’ room; again, talk to the convention planning committee).

I’m also on a bunch of panels, if you’re interested in the expertise side of things. Come see me:

Saturday, 2pm, room 6017: “Practice Your Pitch Workshop” with Joshua Bilmes

Saturday, 3pm, room 7209: “Ask Me Anything: Editors & Publishers” with Michael A. Ventrella, Joshua Bilmes, Scott H. Andrews, Alex Shvartsman, and Hildy Silverman

Saturday, 8pm, room 7029: “How to Self-Edit That Lousy First Draft” with Joshua Bilmes, Jay Smith, Karen Osborne, Scott Edelman, and JL Gribble

Sunday, 1pm, room 7029: “ET Phone God?” With John Robison, John Walker, Jay Smith, and Batya Wittenberg

Sunday, 3pm, Mount Washington room: “Effective Marketing for the Self-Published Author” with Alex Shvartsman, Philippa Ballantine, Ken Altabef, Kim Iverson Headlee, and J.P. Beaubien

Finally, I’ll be doing my best to get into the swimming pool early in the mornings to get a little swimming exercise. You’re welcome to join me, as long as you give me an opportunity to swim (and remember that, since I won’t be wearing my glasses in the pool, I may not recognize you).

Hope to see lots of you there!

Publishers Pick picks Fantastic anthology

1515423301Publishers Pick for this week is once again featuring a Fantastic Books book. This week, it’s the anthology Fantasy for the Throne, edited by Judith K. Dial and Tom Easton.

Analog called the book “a little gem,” and True Review said “these are great, quick reads,” when we published it last September. Now the ebook is available, for one week only, at the low low price of $2.99 (a 63% off the standard ebook price, and an 80% discount off the trade paperback price).

Want something to read while you sit down for just a few minutes on the bus or in a waiting room? Here’s just the thing—Forty authors, forty stories, mostly under 2,000 words, mostly reprints. Grouped according to their themes—death, fairy tales, love, magic, and myth. You’ll also find the usual suspects—dragons, ghosts, gods, the undead, weres, and witches.

Just remember—one sitting, one read! Others are waiting!

Featuring stories by: E.C. Ambrose, Erik Bundy, Michael A. Burstein, Gregg Chamberlain, Ian Creasey, Lillian Csernica, Elaine Cunningham, Wendy S. Delmater, S.B. Divya, Sarina Dorie, Marianne J. Dyson, Christopher M. Easton, Julie Frost, Jude-Marie Green, Michael Haynes, Russell Hemmell, Liam Hogan, M.X. Kelly, Ahmed A. Khan, Daniel M. Kimmel, Geoffrey A. Landis, Amir Lane, Jim Lee, Gerri Leen, Edward M. Lerner, Bob Lock, Susan Murrie Macdonald, Sarah Micklem, Kurt Newton, Wendy Nikel, Stephen S. Power, Nicole Robb, Manuel Royal, Alex Shvartsman, Steven H Silver, Laurie Tom, Marie Vibbert, John Walters, Cynthia Ward, and Donna Glee Williams.

Also available this week at Publishers Pick are The Warlock in Spite of Himself by Christopher Stasheff, and Wishing on a Star by Jody Lynn Nye with Angelina Adams.

Galley Release: How to Argue the Constitution…

Galley Release: How to Argue the Constitution with a Conservative: A Liberal’s Humorous Guide to Demystifying the Laws of our Nation

1515423972With illustrations by Pulitzer-prize winning cartoonist Darrin Bell, criminal defense attorney and author Michael A. Ventrella helps Liberals better understand the Constitution to debunk Conservative conspiracy theories, misinterpretations… and outright lies.

Immigrants have no rights! The press is the enemy of the people! Unlimited guns are my birthright!

These are just a handful of arguments being shouted by vocal Conservatives in the age of Donald Trump… even though the Constitution of the United States—the very laws of our nation—says something quite different.

But if Liberals are going to counter these erroneous, angry, ill-informed positions with facts, they need to learn those laws themselves. And it’s amazing how many don’t know what they are.

To remedy this knowledge gap, criminal defense attorney, and unabashed Liberal Michael A. Ventrella has written How to Argue the Constitution with a Conservative, a humorous, satirical look at the very document that defines our country.

As a practicing attorney for 30 years, Ventrella hopes readers will come away with a far better understanding of the Constitution, and use this critical knowledge to debunk Conservative conspiracy theories, misinterpretations, and outright lies being used to undermine the fabric of our country. And to correct their own misunderstandings of the Constitution.

As Ventrella says, the book is “a sort of Constitution for Dummies with jokes and arguments to raise the level of conversation and debate, where we discuss the actual laws of our nation and how they are applied, rather than engage in more heated arguments based on rumor, emotion, and a distortion of the facts. I also want you to have fun.”

How to Argue… will include cover art and more than 40 illustrations by 2019 Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist Darrin Bell, creator of the syndicated comic strip Candorville.

Michael A. Ventrella’s other books include the forthcoming alternative Beatles anthology Across the Universe, which he is co-editing, Release the Virgins, which he edited for Fantastic Books in 2018, and Long Title: Looking for the Good Times; Examining the Monkees’ Songs, One by One.

Gray Rabbit Publications is honored to be publishing How to Argue the Constitution with a Conservative, hopefully adding to this important, reasoned discussion… with a light touch.

How to Argue the Constitution with a Conservative
by Michael A. Ventrella, illustrated by Darrin Bell
August 20, 2019
simultaneous case laminate hardcover and trade paperback publication
hardcover ISBN: 978-1-5154-2397-3. 164 pages, $24.99.
trade paperback ISBN: 978-1-5154-2377-5. 164 pages, $13.99.

Gray Rabbit is the non-fiction imprint of Gray Rabbit Publications, LLC, which also publishes speculative fiction under its Fantastic Books imprint. All Gray Rabbit and Fantastic Books titles are distributed via Ingram, and available through all online booksellers and by special order through physical bookstores. Review copies are available upon request.