Convention Weekend: Arisia 2020

transparent_full_logoFirst science fiction convention of the year is this weekend, in Boston. I hope you can join me at Arisia.

As usual, I’ll be spending a lot of time at the Fantastic Books table in the Dealers’ Room. We’ll be open from 5 to 9 pm on Friday, 10 am to 7 pm on Saturday and Sunday, and 10 am to 2:30 pm on Monday.

My programming schedule includes four panels:

Saturday at 7 pm in the Douglas room: “Isaac Asimov: Celebrating 100 Years” with Michael A. Burstein, Bhadrika Love, and Joseph Ross

Saturday at 8:30 pm in the Independence room: “Hope is not a business plan” with Griffin Ess, Kristin Janz, LB Lee, and A. Szabla

Sunday at 2:30 pm in the Stone room: “Writing in Brief” with Laurence Raphael Brothers, Timothy Goyette, and A.L. Kaplan

Sunday at 7 pm in the Marina 1 room: “Kink Your Fandom” with Max Impakt, Abigail Keenan, and Hannah Prum

I’ll be looking for someone to watch the table during my Sunday afternoon panel, if you’re available.

And a warning: Arisia is apparently trying to make the same mistake Mensa made at the Annual Gathering a few years ago: no printed schedules will be available. So do make note of these panels if you want to see me. Hope to see you there!

Talking about Isaac

On January 23, 2020, I’ll be Greater New York Mensa’s monthly speaker in Manhattan. My talk, “A Centennial of Asimov,” is free and open to the public (though they do request you reserve at this link, just for a head count). At NomadWorks Annex, 1204 Broadway, 2nd floor, 7 to 9 pm.

I gave a similar talk at Chicago Area Mensa’s HalloweeM Regional Gathering the first weekend in November, and at American Mensa’s Annual Gathering last July. I’ll also be on a panel talking about Isaac at Arisia in Boston, the weekend before this talk (more details on my schedule there in a few days). Also, though I wasn’t one of the panelists, I was at the Asimov Centennial Celebration on Saturday.

The write-up for the January 23 event:

Isaac Asimov’s business card read “natural resource,” and he was. Author or editor of nearly 500 books, polymath, and science fictional icon, he was also a member of Mensa. January 2, 2020, is the centennial of his birth. Ian Randal Strock worked with Isaac for the last three years of his life, and got to know him very well. Come hear tales of who he was, what he meant to science fiction, and what legacy he leaves. After the talk, please join us for continued conversation and socializing at O’Reilly’s Pub (54 West 31st Street), right near the venue.

Imminent Radio Appearance

wolflogoA bit of last-minute planning, and I’ll be appearing on Hour of the Wolf, the two-hour speculative fiction radio program that airs on WBAI and simulcasts on Facebook and other places. “When?” you ask? Really soon. Really, really soon! I’ll be on this week. The program airs Wednesday night/Thursday morning (so 1 A.M. to 3 A.M. Thursday morning December 12, so stay up late on Wednesday the 11th) on 99.1 FM in New York City.

The program is hosted, as always, by Jim Freund. Sharing the radio waves with me will be Randee Dawn, and we’ll be discussing the brand new Fantastic Books anthology Across the Universe.

Edited two days later to add: the archived recording of the program is available for you to listen to, at Or, if you have a Facebook account, you can watch the program as captured by Jim Freund’s cell phone camera here:

Happy Thanksgiving, now with BOOKS

I’m in Massachusetts with my family for Thanksgiving (and desserts!). Hope yours is as wonderful.

I’ve also received the first shipment of Across the Universe, copies of which will be going in the mail to Kickstarter backers when I get back to New York.

And two reminders: Tuesday, December 3, starting at 6:30: the NYRSF Readings Series features Across the Universe, with me, editors Michael A. Ventrella and Randee Dawn, and authors  Matthew J. Amati, Charles Barouch, Keith R.A. DeCandido, Sally Weiner Grotta, Carol Gyzander, and Gordon Linzner in attendance, reading from their stories and available to sign copies of the book (there will be cake, too!). At the Brooklyn Commons Cafe, 388 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn, NY. For more details, see

The following night, Wednesday, December 4, The Storehouse (69 West 23rd Street, Manhattan, New York) hosts their regular weekly night of trivia (questions start at 7:00). I’ve been attending on the first Wednesday of the month with Greater New York Mensa for a couple of years now, but this coming Wednesday, there will be a special event honoring the launch of the book. For more details on the place, see their web site ( For more details on the book part of things, you’ll have to join us!


LJ likes Across the Universe

765c49a49cb8d51cc3809a0551be8e12_originalJumping on the bandwagon, Library Journal, too, likes Fantastic Books’ forthcoming anthology Across the Universe (edited by Michael A. Ventrella and Randee Dawn). In a starred review, LJ offers its verdict: “This anthology will be mostly of interest to Beatles fans, but even non-fans will find stories here that will move and surprise them.” The review specifically calls out stories by Patrick Barb, Charles Barouch, Pat Cadigan, and Lawrence Watt-Evans, and says “the absolute standout is ‘Through a Glass Onion’ by Christian H. Smith.”

Read the full review at this link.

PW likes Across the Universe

765c49a49cb8d51cc3809a0551be8e12_originalThe first review of Fantastic Books’ upcoming anthology — Across the Universe, edited by Michael A. Ventrella and Randee Dawn — is out. Publishers Weekly likes it!

The review reads, in part “Ranging from trippy fantasy to hard science fiction and zombie apocalypse mash-up, the stories in this anthology send the members of the Beatles on wild adventures through alternate timelines and universes.… Beatles aficionados and fantasy fans will enjoy this affectionate, speculative homage.”

The review specifically calls out stories by Allen M. Steele, ,Sally Wiener Grotta, Gregory Frost, and David M. Gerrold.

Read the full review at this link.

Convention Weekend: Philcon 2019

philcon_logoThis weekend is Philcon, another science fiction convention (and my last of the calendar year), in Cherry Hill, New Jersey.

As always, I’ll be at the Fantastic Books table in the dealers’ room for most of the weekend (scheduled to be open 4-7pm on Friday, 10am-6pm on Saturday, and 10am-3pm on Sunday).

I’ve also got two special events on my schedule (both on Saturday). At 5pm, there will be a special reading from the forthcoming Fantastic Books anthology Across the Universe, in Executive Suite 623. And then, at 9pm, we’ll be launching The Double Bounty by Brian Koscienski and Chris Pisano, in Executive Suite 823. Please make sure that, if you’re at Philcon, you join us for both.

Beyond those, there will be the usual flock of panels. Mine look to be:

Friday at 8pm in Plaza III: “Will My Publisher Expect Me To Go On Tour?” with Danielle Ackley-McPhail, Marc Histand, Anna Kashina, Jon McGoran, and David Walton.

Saturday at 1pm in Plaza III: “How to Establish Your Own Imprint” with Maria Arnt, Jeffrey A. Carver, Marc Histand, and Ann Stolinsky.

Saturday at 3pm in Plaza IV: “Building Your Own Anthology” with Keith R.A. DeCandido, Gordon Linzner, Darrell Schweitzer, and Jim Stratton.

Hope to see lots of you there!

A weekend in Chicago

I went to Chicago this past weekend for Chicago Area Mensa’s HalloweeM Regional Gathering. It was wonderful. Reminded me very much of the RGs I used to go to: one big hospitality suite, too much wonderful food, lots of great conversations and friends (brand new and long-term), interesting oddball events.

I was also on stage a few times: first, speaking on “A Centennial of Asimov.” Similar to the talk I gave at the Annual Gathering, except this time I wasn’t sharing the stage, and talked the whole hour. I had 80 or 100 people in the audience, and they reacted the ways I hoped at the appropriate times. The only one who left early was my sister, to set up the table of my books for sale.

My second talk was “Publishing and Getting Paid in the Era of DIY and Kickstarter.” A much smaller audience, but it was 9:30 Saturday morning. The audience seemed interested, and there were a lot of questions, so I guess that one went well, too. Later that day, I participated in the AMC round-table, talking about Mensa business.

As usual, I almost completely forgot I had a camera on my cell phone, so I didn’t take any pictures during those more-than-72-hours in the hotel. Besides, I was too busy having too much fun.

But Sunday afternoon, Jon and Karen Gruebele invited me to visit with them and eat lunch, and Jon took me on a great walking tour of Chicago. I’ve been to Chicago several times before, but other than the hotel and convention space, the only things I really saw were the planetarium and wandering the streets at like 2 in the morning. Being out and about while the sun was up was a wonderful way to end the weekend. And for that part of the trip, I remembered my camera.

Next weekend is Philcon. The next RG on my schedule is New Hampshire’s in February.

Stop taking away my punctuation!

I’m proofing galleys for an essay which is set to appear in a general interest magazine. I have a disagreement with the editor (which, ultimately, he will win, because he’s the editor and I’m just the writer). But in this case, I’m not sure he’s right.

My main point of contention (I’ve already ceded the point on abbreviating some of the months, and using digits for the number ten in a conversational piece) is the use (or his avoidance) of commas. I’m bringing them to you, the general editing/writing/reading public, for your opinions (not that anything is going to change).

The first sentence is an introduction to the piece. It reads “[the subject of this essay] was also an on-and-off member of [the organization] starting in 1962 and [the organization]’s Honorary Vice President from 1974 to 1989.” I contend that a comma after 1962 is appropriate, in part because there are way too many words in that sentence to not take a breath in the middle. He says “I’m unclear why there would be a comma here. You place commas after only full dates, and there’s no independent clause.”

The other sentence concerns my meeting the person being discussed. Describing our introduction, I wrote “We laughed and were friends for the next three years.” I want a comma after the word laughed, because we did not laugh for the next three years. He says “Two dependent clauses/compound predicate so no comma is needed.”

In response, I said:

I tend to punctuate based on more lyrical or poetic rules. Specifically, commas go where I pause for breath when reading aloud. So in the introductory paragraph, there is always a pause after “1962”. And that pause comes about because it’s two different thoughts.

In the other sentence, the comma belongs because we didn’t laugh for three years. We laughed, and then were friends for three years. I’ve elided the word “then,” but not the pause.

I understand the concept of a house style. In this case, however, I don’t like the way it looks, abbreviating some of the months’ names when writing out dates, but not others, and not when there’s no date number present. It’s not a choice I would make. Also, my house style is to spell out numbers up to twenty, and then use digits beyond that (although in dialogue and dialogue-ish situations, I’ll spell out as much as I can, because people speak words, not digits). But this isn’t my house, it’s yours. So I’m just urging, but I’ll knuckle under.

He responded:

I’m not convinced we should ignore correct punctuation and house style here.

We’re not employing some arbitrary rules. We’re applying accepted rules of English, which is what readers of the magazine expect. They don’t see a pause; they see an error then question why the magazine would make a mistake. Then they’ll write me about it, and I’ll reply, “No, it’s not an error; sure, technically, a comma doesn’t need to be there, but the author wanted you to pause.” Then they’ll reply, “Oh, OK, cool. I don’t really care about punctuation anyway.” Kidding, they won’t say that. That’s not to say writers can’t take occasional liberties with punctuation, only that we want to avoid placing exceptions in a way that it looks like we’re committing an error. Our readers don’t like errors.

Likewise, we’re not applying some personal house style of mine; we’re using AP Style, which should be pretty familiar to readers because that’s the style the magazine has used for longer than I’ve been editor, and it’s the style used by countless other periodicals.

Sorry, I don’t think we should make these changes.

Obviously, nothing I can say (and nothing you suggest) will change his mind to insert those “missing” commas. But I’m interested in the discussion. AP Style, to my thinking, is written mostly for news, and like computerized grammar-check programs, does an adequate job also for business writing. But for fiction, it is not—I contend—the be-all and end-all authority. And essays, to my mind, fall somewhere in between news and fiction. (Also, I was raised with the Chicago Manual of Style and Strunk & White, rather than AP.)

The death of punctuation, however, seems to me a problem against which to rail. Punctuation is not an annoyance, not a mistake. Punctuation is there to convey the author’s idea of those words on the page. We use words to communicate ideas, and we also use pauses to help clarify that communication (see, for example, the lacuna, and ignore those who only communicate via text message and tweet). Are commas dying? Are we comma-users fighting the last battle to retain our punctuation marks? Is this another point that my family will soon be calling an amusing quirk? Or can we pause, just long enough, to retain our critically important diacritical marks? (And yes, I know that’s a misuse of the word “diacritical”.)