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.

New Fantastic Books anthology seeking submissions

Fantastic Books is still hard at work on Across the Universe, How to Argue the Constitution…, and all the other projects we’ve announced over the past few months, but now there’s another. Fantastic Books has just contracted with James D. MacDonald, Tom Easton, and Judith K. Dial for the third volume in the “…for the Thrones” series. The editors will be reading submissions soon for Horror for the Throne: One-Sitting Reads. For all the details, check out MacDonald’s blog post at .

Last minutes to grab Publishers Pick special

1604599197I’ve been on the road nearly all of the month of July, so I’m late letting you know that this week (which ends tonight), Allen Steele’s novel, A King of Infinite Space, is one of the three specials available from Publishers Pick. Get there fast if you want to download a copy of the classic novel set in Allen’s Near Space future.

As Alec, the narrator, says, “This is the story of the last day of my life, and everything that happened after that.” Ranging from a Lollapalooza concert of 1995 to the asteroid belt of 2099, this is the tale of a young man who dies, is reborn, and crosses the solar system in search of his lost love… and grows to be a better man, despite himself.

Science Fiction Weekly called the book, “an intelligent, sophisticated suspense novel with many surprises.” Absolute Magnitude said “his bodacious adventures provide good wheels for a thoughtful book.” And the Denver Post said “Alec’s story is fast, breezy, funny, and compelling as we follow his journey from spoiled brat to downtrodden slave to hero.”

A King of Infinite Space is available this week (today) only at one-third its usual cover price.

Also available are On The Train by Harry Turtledove and Rachel Turtledove, and Alex Shvartsman’s collection The Golem of Deneb Seven and Other Stories.

Facebook outage

Facebook has decided someone tried to log into my account, so they locked it, and I have to log in from a computer I’ve used before… but it’s in New York and I’m at San Diego Comic Con. So no pictures, no updates, no FB messages until Tuesday. Thanks for nothing, #Facebook

Two Weeks on the Road

I’m going out of town for the next fortnight, and won’t have access to my email (with only my cell phone, text messages and phone calls will be the easiest way to reach me, though I may be on Facebook occasionally).

I’m leaving in (gasp!) less than seven hours for the airport, heading to San Diego for my first visit to San Diego Comic Con! I’ll be on a panel, “How Science Fiction Shapes Our Reality,” on Thursday at 12:30 in Room 24ABC. The panel is sponsored by American Mensa, and moderated by LaRae Bakerink, the Chair of American Mensa. My co-panelists will include Doug Ecks, Nevin Millan, Dr. John Putman, and Dr. Jenny Rankin. Hope to see lots of you there!

After the panel, I will NOT have a dealers’ table, so I’ll just be wandering around, gaping in awe at the overwhelmingness of it all (or so I surmise).

I’ll fly home Monday, and then turn right around for a family trip of a few days.

Returning from that on Thursday, I’ll take a quick nap, load the car, and then drive to Pittsburgh for Confluence (that’s July 26-28), a science fiction convention that’s just a bit smaller than Comic Con.

At Confluence, I’ll be at the Fantastic Books table in the dealers’ room (open Friday 5 to 8pm, Saturday 10am to 6pm, and Sunday 10am to 3pm). I’ll also be on three panels (all in the Commonwealth West room):

Saturday at 4pm: “Return to the Solar System: Recent SF Set In Our Solar System” with Geoffrey Landis, Bill Keith, and Ken Chiacchia

Saturday at 7pm: “Space on TV: Discovery, The Orville, The Expanse, and More” with Tim Liebe, Hanne Madeleine Gates Paine, and Brandon Ketchum

Sunday at 10am: “Business of Publishing” with Brea Ludwigson

Hope to see lots of you there.

After Confluence, I’ll drive back to New York, unload the car, and fall into a stupor. Well, except I’m probably going to the Bryant Park movie that Monday evening, July 29. And now, I really ought to take a nap, because I have to leave the house at 5:30 in the morning for a 7:30 flight!

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: