Asimov’s likes Up The Rainbow

casper rainbow thumbnailThe January/February 2018 issue of Analog Science Fiction and Fact includes Don Sakers’ review of Up the Rainbow: The Complete Short Fiction of Susan Casper (which Fantastic Books published last summer). Don says, in part, “It’s entirely possible that you’re not familiar with the work of Susan Casper.… Still, if you ran across one of her tales, you weren’t likely to forget it. She specialized in quick little stories about very ordinary people confronted by distinctly odd situations, or looking at familiar situations from an odd angle.… This isn’t a book to read in one sitting. Rather, take your time. There’s a lot of variety here.… [Casper] wrote witty and informative reports of her travels… [the book includes] seven of these reports, which provide a delightful glimpse into the world of this fascinating woman.”

Arisia weekend

transparent_full_logoWelcome to the new year. With the changing of the calendar to January, comes the new crop of science fiction conventions, and the first for me, Arisia, is just over a week away (January 12-15, at the Westin Boston Waterfront Hotel, in Boston, Massachusetts).

My schedule is a bit thin this year, only two panels, but if you’re at the convention and looking for me, you can find me at:

Friday, 10pm, Marina 2 “SF that Escaped the Genre” with Julie C. Day, Lisa Evans, Mark W. Richards, and Meredith Schwartz

Sunday, 7pm, Alcott “Ask an Editor: Five Minute Critiques” with Genevieve Iseult Eldedge, Tanya Gold, Alex Shvartsman, and Hildy Silverman

And, of course, I’ll be at the Fantastic Books table in the dealers’ room (it looks like I’ll have the same space as last year). We’ll be open 5-9pm Friday, 10am-7pm Saturday and Sunday, and 10am-2:30pm Monday.

Hope to see a bunch of you there!

A Shared Presidential Death Day

Today is a somber Presidential anniversary, one fraught with connections focusing on Harry Truman.

Harry Truman’s death is doubly remarkable among the Presidents. He is one of two Presidents who died on the same date, and he is one of the two Presidents who died closest in time to each other (excepting John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, who died on the same day).

When Harry Truman died on December 26, 1972, he was 88 years 232 days old (at the time, he was number three on the list of longest-lived Presidents, but he was since been knocked down to seventh), and had been a retired President for just under twenty years.

Born in Missouri in 1884, Truman worked a variety of clerical and farming jobs before enlisting in the Army and serving in the artillery during World War I. After the war, he took night classes at the Kansas City Law School while serving as a county judge (it was more of an administrative position than judicial), but he dropped out after losing a campaign for re-election (he is the last President to have not earned a college degree). In 1934, he was elected to the US Senate, and in 1944, he was elected the 34th Vice President of the United States (the only man to be a President’s third Vice President). He served in that post a scant 82 days, before Franklin Roosevelt died in office and Truman became the 33rd President.

During Truman’s Presidency, the 22nd Amendment was adopted, limiting Presidents to two terms, but specifically exempting Truman. However, he chose not to run again in 1952, and retired when Dwight Eisenhower took office.

The nation had just finished mourning Truman’s death when, on January 22, 1973, Lyndon Johnson died, four years and two days after leaving office. Johnson (born in Texas in 1908) represented Texas in the House (1937-49). Like Truman before him, Johnson also served in the military (in his case, the Navy during World War II, while he was a sitting Representative [his wife managed the office for him, serving constituent needs]) and the Senate (1949-61) before being elected Vice President with a President who would later die in office. And like Truman, Johnson went on to win election to his own term as President.

On December 26, 2006—the 34th anniversary of Harry Truman’s death—Gerald Ford died, at the age of 93 years 164 days. Ford was the longest-lived President (born in Nebraska in 1913, he’d eclipsed Ronald Reagan’s record 44 days before his death). Ford lost that record to George H.W. Bush on November 25, 2017. Like Truman and Johnson before him, Ford succeeded to the Presidency while serving as Vice President. Unlike Truman and Johnson (indeed, unlike any other President) Ford became President when his predecessor, Richard Nixon, resigned in August 1974. Unlike Truman and Johnson, Ford did not win his own term as President. And unlike any other earlier Vice President, Ford had come to that office by means of a mid-term appointment (per the dictates of the 25th Amendment, following Spiro Agnew’s resignation). Ford, too, had served in the Navy during World War II. He was elected to the House of Representatives in 1948, and served there until Nixon tapped him to be Vice President.

There are two other dates on the calendar that commemorate the deaths of more than one President. March 8: Millard Fillmore (1850-53) died in 1874. William Howard Taft (1909-13) died in 1930.

July 4: John Adams (1797-1801) and Thomas Jefferson (1801-09) died within hours of each other in 1826 (the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence). James Monroe (1817-25) died in 1831.


Ian Randal Strock ( is the author of The Presidential Book of Lists (Random House, 2008), Ranking the First Ladies (Carrel Books, 2016), and Ranking the Vice Presidents (Carrel Books, 2016). He earned his degree in Political Science from Boston University.


#harrytruman #geraldford #lyndonjohnson #lbj #president

Pocono Writers’ Conference

I mentioned this several months ago, when it became official. Now, with just over a month to register, I hear there are just a few spots open to attend the 5th Pocono Writers’ Conference. I and four other writing professionals will be leading an all-day series of lectures and workshops for up-and-coming writers in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, on Saturday, January 20th. If you’re interested in registering, see this page. Hope to see some of you there!


Edward S. Pell (1950-2017)

Ed Pell died December 4, 2017, after a long illness. Born in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1950, he was a good friend and a big part of Greater New York Mensa (GNYM).

When I met Ed, he was the editor of Kitchen & Bath Business, a trade magazine, while I was the assistant editor of Analog and Asimov’s science fiction magazines. We both had aspirations for seeing our own writing published, and put together the GNYM Writers’ SIG. As part of the SIG, we met regularly for several years with a circle of writers that grew to a dozen or more, encouraged each other in our writing, and organized two readings as monthly GNYM speaker events. I wrote science fiction short stories, and eventually did sell several. Ed wrote mostly comic screenplays (two of which were eventually optioned) and won a national screenplay writing award. Long after the group disbanded, we both published our first books (mine were non-fiction books of presidential history, Ed’s were children’s books).

Ed had a love of the obscure and arcane, and founded GNYM’s Colley Cibber SIG (named after the forgotten British Poet Laureate), which may have been one of the first general interest drinking SIGs (it met regularly in pubs and taverns in New York City). That love of obscurity is also why his dinosaur story that I remember featured diplodocus, rather than a dinosaur most people have heard of.

When I became President of GNYM, Bruce Kent took over editing duties on Mphasis, and Ed took over as impresario of our monthly speaker meetings, growing the event into the must-attend of our regular calendar. After Bruce was appointed American Mensa’s Publications Officer, Ed and Merrill Loechner took over the reins of Mphasis (with Bruce’s regular assistance). As editor, Ed ghost-wrote the comic column “Ask Miss Information,” and brought the comic quotient of the newsletter to new lows with the never-ending puns on my name to headline my president’s column.

In 1994, when the Mensa Annual Gathering was in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Ed organized the GNYM Party Bus to the AG. I’ll always remember his review of the trip, which included a “champagne with all the connotations of the word ‘bus.’”

Outside of Mensa, Ed continued his career in the kitchen and bath industry. After twenty years with the publisher of KBB magazine, he moved into a freelance marketing and communications role, and then served for several years as the Manager of Market Research for the National Kitchen & Bath Association.

Ed was a big part of GNYM, but after he met Diana, he became a much happier person. That’s why, though I was sorry he moved out of Brooklyn, I was very happy for him. He and Diana moved to New Jersey after their wedding, and I saw them less frequently after that, but their happiness made up for the lack of Ed around here.

I’m very sorry I hadn’t seen or spoken with Ed recently, but I did often think of him. And I mentioned his innovations and efforts a couple of times during the AMC meeting which took place in the days before his death.

(The photo below, from December 1995: Bruce Kent on the left, Ed Pell in the center, me on the right.)


Once again a fiction author

My story, “The Ant and the Grasshoppers,” is today’s featurelogo-overd story at Daily Science Fiction. Check it out at this link: .

It’s odd: whenever I’m writing non-fiction, I want to be writing fiction. And whenever I’m writing fiction, I want to be writing non-fiction. But there’s something much more satisfying about selling a piece of fiction than non-fiction. So here’s my latest: enjoy!

The frustration of pie

While I was eating dinner, I stumbled across a tv program called For the Love of Pie! and wound up watching it, because… well… I love pie.

I was a bit confused by so much focus on “savory” pies (meat pies; something with strawberries, rosemary, and vinegar; onions and stuff…) because to my mouth, pie means sweet!

But the program brought back to me how much I enjoy baking, and my eternal problem with pies: I can’t taste them as I’m baking them. Sure, I can taste the dough, and I can taste the filling before filling the pie. But once it’s come out of the oven, there’s no way to know if it’s good enough, other than to take a slice. And I can’t do that with a pie I’m going to give away or serve, because it’ll have a slice taken out of it. And baking a small one alongside it wouldn’t really help, because the smaller pan would have to cook for less time. Darn this frustration for not trusting my baking ability!

Oh, and the show is on the Cooking Channel, and they’re rebroadcasting at midnight (eastern) tonight.

Covention Weekend

This weekend, it’s Philcon—the last sf convention I have scheduled for the year—in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. As usual, I’ll be at the Fantastic Books table in the dealers’ room. My programming schedule is fairly light:

Saturday at 1pm in Plaza II: “Meet the Editors” with Ty Drago, Alex Shvarstman, Hildy Silverman, and Diane Weinstein

Saturday at 9pm in Plaza III: “You are Not the One” with James L. Cambias, Vikki Ciaffone, and Anthony Dobranski.

Sunday at 11am in Plaza III: “Professional Practices for Aspiring Authors” with Day Al-Mohamed, Sally Weiner Grotta, and Janny Wurts.

Hope to see some of you there!


Asimov’s likes Time On My Hands

1515400522The November/December 2017 issue of Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine includes Peter Heck’s review of Time On My Hands by Daniel M. Kimmel (which Fantastic Books published earlier this year). Peter says, in part, “Kimmel offers an engaging often humorous time-travel story that manages to hit most of the expected themes of the genre while retaining a fresh feeling.… Kimmel offers an engaging often humorous time-travel story that manages to hit most of the expected themes of the genre while retaining a fresh feeling. In addition to the plot, Kimmel mixes in some interesting speculations on the ethics of time travel—for example, the whole question of altering history by deliberately changing some action in the past, or the problem of meeting an earlier (or later) version of yourself during your travels. His solutions are original.… This one’s a fun read, with fresh takes on classic SF material.… You may not find Time on My Hands at a local bookseller, but you can order it directly from the publisher at or from most online booksellers. You won’t regret it.”

Convention weekend

Here comes another convention weekend! This time, it’s Boston Mensa‘s Wicked Good Regional Gathering, in Fitchburg, MA.

My pre-scheduled programming duties include:

Saturday, 10:45-11:45 am in the Gray Wolf Room, I’ll be giving a talk entitled “CSA Wins; Nixon Defeats Kennedy; Leonov First Man on Moon: Rewriting the World with Alternate History”.

Saturday, 1:30-2:30pm in the Foyer: I’ll be taking part in the mass Book Signings session.

Saturday, 2:45-3:45pm in the Red Wolf Room, I’ll be running the “RVC Meet and Greet” session, talking about Mensa business.

Other than those, I’ll be there for the whole weekend, and I’ve already got one one-on-one meeting scheduled with a concerned member. But it’s an RG, and it’s Boston Mensa, so I know I’ll be having a wonderful time! Hope to see all you Mensans there.