Mag Review: Galaxy (April, 1963)

Frankly, this was probably my least favorite issue I’ve read so far. I didn’t care for any of the stories except one, none of the ads were fun, and nothing else appealed to me. Hence, I’m just going to give you a cursory review. I’ve got things to write in None Call Me Mother instead of drearily going over these stories.

Table of Contents: http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/pl.cgi?58435

Galaxy (4/63) Cover
Galaxy (4/63) Cover

The cover story is The Visitor at the Zoo by Damon Knight. You know Knight at least because of To Serve Man, a fantastic short story from 1950. Visitor was not his best effort. The cause of the conflict is never adequately explained, it ran too long, and the twist at the end was predictable.

Worse, I can’t root for the main character. He’s a moderately intelligent alien in a zoo who has his brain somehow transplanted into the mind of a passing journalist. We are meant to root for him because he’s got a chance to get out of the zoo where he had been trapped. I empathized with that aspect, but the journalist was simply an innocent tourist, who lost everything. There’s little in the story of sympathy for him, and in the end, the creature chooses not to exchange positions and return to the way it was.

I can both reject the legitimacy of the zoo and at the same time despise the selfishness of the main character. And I do. I said this wasn’t Knight’s best effort. I sure hope it was his worst, because I really disliked it.

On the Fourth Planet by J.F. Bone was the only story to be reprinted often. It was about an alien struggling for life in a desolate world with the remnants of his people. It’s a hard life, and the law doesn’t allow for much leniency. Unfortunately for this alien, he runs into an object that hasn’t been there before. It fills him with food and hope. It also returns to him the cellular memory of his people, suggesting a way they can grow out of their barbarism. As you can probably guess by the title, it’s a NASA rocket that has landed on Mars.

The best story of the lot, by far. However, it’s not a great one, just a good solid story that in a better issue would have seemed like a nice supporting piece. Here, it was drug down by the awful cover story.

I suspect I’ll really like the June 1963 issue, if I every run into it. It has stories by Clifford D. Simak, Gordon R. Dickson, Keith Laumer, and John Jakes. This issue, however, was not my cup of tea.

Next week I’ll review the Imaginative Tales from September, 1955. It has a story by Mack Reynolds and an interesting thing I wish more magazines had done.

Next Week’s Issue: http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/pl.cgi?183245


If you have any comments or would like to request I keep my eyes open for a specific issue or month, feel free to comment here or send an email to me at: rob@robhowell.org.

If you want to see previous reviews, the Mag Review category is here: http://robhowell.org/blog/?cat=432.

Have a great day.

Rob Howell

Rob’s Update: O It’s Tommy This, an’ Tommy That

Week 44 of 2019

Greetings all

From a writing standpoint this was a 2 steps forward, 1 step backward kind of week. I went through a significant chunk of None Call Me Mother and cleaned it up.

I also did some plotting and figured out yet one more piece of the puzzle to get all the actors in the final scene.  I expect to see a huge step next week.

I’ve also started an editing project that I’ll talk more about in December.

We’re working on the house, as I often do in November. We got rid of carpet in our great room and have been laying bamboo flooring. The carpet was original, 1983 vintage, and it had seen more than a few battles.

Going to try and knock out a few more words tonight, so I hope everyone has a good weekend.

Current Playlist Song

Instead of music, I worked on this while watching Chris and Sheellah showing old pictures on their weekly CKP Facetime session. If you’re a fan of the Four Horsemen Universe, the Fallen World, or anything put out by Chris Kennedy Publishing, it’s a great way to interact with them.

Quote of the Week

This week’s quote comes from Kipling in honor of Veteran’s Day. Here’s the whole poem: https://www.poetryloverspage.com/poets/kipling/tommy.html.

O it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy, go away”;
But it’s “Thank you, Mister Atkins”, when the band begins to play,
The band begins to play, my boys, the band begins to play,
O it’s “Thank you, Mister Atkins”, when the band begins to play.
Rudyard Kipling, Tommy

News and Works in Progress

  • None Call Me Mother (63,637)
  • CB (8,418)
  • AFS (8,088)

Recent Blog Posts and Wiki Additions

Upcoming Events

Spotlight

This week’s spotlight is on J.F. Holmes and his new shared world, JTF 13. You can find his interview here: http://robhowell.org/blog/?p=1814 and JTF 13: Origins at: https://www.amazon.com/ORIGINS-Joint-Task-Force-Anthology-ebook/dp/B07YR4QR18/

Today’s Weight: 394.4

Updated Word Count: 187,467

Shijuren Wiki: 874 entries

Let me know if you have any suggestions on the website, this email, or cool story ideas at rob@robhowell.org. Especially let me know of suggestions you have for the Spotlight section.

Have a great week, everyone.

Rob Howell

Currently Available Works
Shijuren
Four Horsemen Universe
Short Stories

If you think you received this email incorrectly or wish to be unsubscribed, please send an email to shijuren-owner@robhowell.org

Interview: J.F. Holmes

Greetings all

This week’s interview is with J.F. Holmes. He is a really talented military science fiction author and editor. He’s just released the first of a large shared project called JTF 13. I’m really looking forward to seeing how that universe evolves. I especially love its tagline: “They hold the line… between heaven and hell.

Interview: J.F. Holmes

Rob Howell’s Interview Questions

Irregular Scout Team One: Missions
Irregular Scout Team One: Missions

What is your quest?

My quest is to tell the story. I have a boundless imagination, fueled by Tolkien and Asimov, and there are dozens of stories running through my head at any time. Show me an object and I will, on the spot, make up a story about it. So I guess you can say that I need to get it all out.

What is your favorite color?

1968 Ford Green, as painted on a Mustang. I like to tell a story by character interaction and character action. I hate information dumps; I’d rather know by what a person does or says.

What is the average flying speed of an unladen paint brush?

Well, one thing I’ve learned is to follow the Soviet Army doctrine. Reward success, starve failure. If I write a book that maybe I loved but didn’t do well in the market place, then I doubt I’ll ever do a follow up.

Valkyrie Rebellion
Valkyrie Rebellion

What are the powers of your personal Holy Hand Grenade?

Small unit interaction and combat. Both of which are about the people involved in them, nothing else. How do they feel? What emotions are driving their actions? When people ask me about Irregular Scout Team One, I tell them that it’s not about the post apocalyptic world, it’s about the Team.

Lightning Round

  • Favorite Muppet? Kermit. Deep down he’s a smart ass.
  • Your Wrestler Name? Couch Potato
  • And Signature Wrestling Move? Intellectual bafflement. (Rob’s Note: “From the top rope!!!”)
  • Favorite Weird Color? 1968 Ford Green
  • How Will You Conquer the World? I already have, by bringing the world down to my size.
  • What Cartoon Character Are You? Bugs Bunny.
  • Best Present You’ve Ever Received? My Executive Vice President of Happiness for my company, AKA my significant other, Karen. And my two sons, who are good, decent men.
  • What Do You Secretly Plot? Novels. Many Novels.
  • Favorite Sports Team? NY Yankees. Since I was small kid growing up in Long Island.
  • Cake or Pie? Cake.
  • Lime or Lemon? Chocolate
  • Favorite Chip Dip?  Buffalo Ranch
  • Favorite Musical Performer We’ve Never Heard Of? Count Hans Von Haffenpepper, who invented the electric glockenspiel in 1734. A man way ahead of his time.
  • Whisky or Whiskey? I gave up drinking at aged 21 when I realized it made me do really stupid stuff.
  • Favorite Superhero? Superman
  • Favorite Weird Color? 1968 Ford Green
  • Steak Temperature? Well.
  • Favorite 1970s TV show? Battlestar Galactica
  • Best Thing From the 80s? EVERYTHING. You children do not know what the awesomeness of the 1980’s was. And Madonna.
  • Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall? Thanks, now that song is stuck in my head. (Rob’s Note: You’re welcome)
  • Favorite Pet?  My neighbor’s dog.
  • Best Game Ever? D & D, Axis & Allies, Red Storm Rising, TACOPS
  • Coffee or Tea? Tea
  • Sci-Fi or Fantasy? Sci-Fi
  • Brought to you by the letter ___? Q, because Q invents all kinds of cool stuff
JTF 13: Origins
JTF 13: Origins

What question(s) would you like to ask me? 

What is best in life?

Rob’s Answer: To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentations of their women!

Second best: Being paid to write stories in the tradition of Robert E. Howard, J.R.R. Tolkien, Robert Heinlein, and so many others. 

Tell me again where we can find your stuff? 

And where can we find you?

So far only Libertycon this year.

Do you have a creator biography?

J.F. Holmes is a retired Army Senior Noncommissioned Officer, having served for 22 years in both the Regular Army and Army National Guard. During that time, he served as everything from an artillery section leader to a member of a Division level planning staff, with tours in Cuba and Iraq, as well as responding to the terrorists attacks in NYC on 9-11.

From 2010 to 2014 he wrote the immensely popular military cartoon strip, “Power Point Ranger”, poking fun at military life in the tradition of Beetle Bailey and Willy & Joe.

His books range from Military Sci-Fi to Space Opera to Detective to Fantasy, with a lot in between, and in 2017 two are finalists for the prestigious Dragon Awards. As of August 2017, Mr. Holmes has eighteen books and two novellas published.

In 2018, he launched Cannon Publishing, www.cannonpublishing.us specializing in anthologies and works from up and coming authors.

Final question for you: What should I have asked but did not? 

You should have asked if I had any any idea what I was getting into? My answer: No.


Thanks to John for taking the time to answer my questions.

If you have any suggestions or comments about this interview format, let me know so I can keep tweaking it.

Also, thanks to you for reading. If you’re interested in any of the other interviews I’ve done, you can find them all here: http://robhowell.org/blog/?cat=326. If you are a creator, especially an independent creator, and you want to be spotlighted in a future interview, email me at rob@robhowell.org.

Finally, if you want to join my mailing list, where I’ll announce every interview, as well as what’s going on in my life, go to www.robhowell.org and fill out the form (Name and Email Address) or drop me an email and I’ll add you.

Have a great day.

Rob Howell

Mag Review: Astounding (December, 1945)

In my best Harry Carey voice: “Holy Cow!”

This is what a 10 out of 10 issue is like. Incredible issue for a variety of reasons. The stories were great, the ads were fun and interesting, and the science essay was, well, astounding.

Table of Contents: http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/title.cgi?136693

Astounding (12/45)
Astounding (12/45)

Inside the front cover of this issue are a couple of ads, one of which has the tag line of “Making Your Wishes Come True” (1). The text begins with: “One wish has been fulfilled. Won by 3.5 years of deadly struggle.” It’s an ad to continue buying victory bonds.

If I needed a reminder when this issue was published, I got it right here. It’s the December, 1945 issue, and that matters during the rest of this issue.

The first article is the John W. Campbell’s editor column called Atoms Won’t Do Everything. This column talked about the possibilities of atomic power other than the bomb, at the point of writing this essay merely 3-4 previous. It’s got some surprising technical details, such as how to arrange the pile with either heavy water or graphite. The information is readily available now, but in 1945? I was surprised.

The next story, again only 3-4 months after the bombs were dropped, was a story by Lewis Padgett called Beggars In Velvet. Padgett is, as some of you probably already know, is the pseudonym used by Henry Kuttner and C.L. Moore for their collaborations.

Beggars in Velvet is one of 6 Baldy stories about a mutation to humanity after a nuclear war. In it, a portion of humanity has mutated to have telepathic powers.

The war has splintered the remainder of humanity into a series of city-states who actively work to keep themselves separated. The concept of gathering together in large polities seems like something that caused the big war, though they regularly trade among themselves. There are also tribes called Hedgehounds, who have taken this concept of decentralization and become nomads. Add to this societal change a portion of the population that has telepathic powers and you’re guaranteed to have trouble.

The Baldies, the ones with telepathic powers, are split into two factions. One is trying to coexist and prevent any sort of pogrom. The other, the paranoids, are trying to promote a war where they can eliminate the lesser version of humanity.

This world-building has great potential for stories, and Kuttner and Moore don’t waste it. The main hero, Burkhalter, fights against Barbara Pell, a paranoid, to prevent everything from going to hell in their city-state of Sequoia. Also, the Mutes, the ruling class of the non-paranoid Baldies, are working alongside to keep the lid on the kettle.

Burkhalter is a good man and hates everything that the paranoids stand for. Desperately, he continues the fight, doing all he can to stop Barbara and her allies. However, despite their best efforts, the paranoids succeed in starting a nightmare that might end up sweeping the world in fire and terror.

In the end, with some desperate measures employed by, Hobson, the Mute leading the battle and successful long-laid plans to get the Hedgehounds on their side, the Baldies defeat the paranoids. The Hedgehounds are the ones with bows and arrows staring down the city folk on the cover, by the way.

However, the story isn’t over. You see, Burkhalter may hate and loathe what the paranoids think, but yet he still falls in love with Barbara. He doesn’t know it for much of the story, but the Mutes recognize this in his emotions. Someone who can empathize enough with a paranoid to fall in love with one must then be a latent paranoid. He is what he hates.

But he’s only a latent paranoid. If he has constant help, that transition could be avoided. That’s when we find out *all* of the Mutes are latent paranoids and they are in constant contact with each other, helping each one not to stray.

Man, what a good ending. The story lacked some zing because it’s not an uncommon type of “not-our-kind” conflicts, but the ending gives so much ooomph to the decisions of the Mutes  and of Burkhalter. This is a character I want to see again. I’ll look for him in the later Baldy stories, because this is good stuff.

Next is the story Orders by Malcolm Jameson. In this story, the war across the Solar System is over. The ships are getting mothballed. Those needing repair or maintenance lack parts and money to pay for labor. Yet again, I mention how this story was published in December of 1945, but he himself died on 16 April, 1945. He is anticipating the end of the war, but I suspect he is remembering the end of World War One as well.

The treaty that ends the war has all the idealistic hopes and lack of reality built in to the Treaty of Versailles. Side note, Jameson was a naval officer and 28 or so in 1919. I don’t know if he was still in the Navy, but he certainly had some interest in the Treaty. Anyway, the treaty in this story outlaws war and in fact, outlaws any kind of threatening behavior. A ship captain couldn’t, for example, threaten any kind of force to comply a criminal to go to jail.

And that’s exactly the story here. A criminal is in the asteroids. The Terran government is asking for him to be extradited, but the government, such as it is, of the asteroids merely laugh at them. The diplomat who added the relevant clauses in the treaty drops the problem on Bullard’s lap, hoping the war hero can at least take the blame.

It’s a Retief-like problem. A bureaucrat with no idea how things actually work outside of his theoretical construct has no idea how to fix a problem when someone refuses to work within that construct. Knowing he can’t possibly be at fault, he dumps the problem, and therefore the blame, on someone else. He tells Bullard to get the criminal or else, but absolutely forbids him to use any hint of violent behavior or threats. No guns allowed. No weapons at all.

And yet, Bullard manages to pull it off.

How? Well, he sends his most capable officer with an unarmed ship and sealed orders. The officer goes to the asteroids and asks for the criminal. They say no. He goes back to the ship and waits. He’s been told to wait four hours, then open and execute the sealed orders. What’s in the orders nobody knows.

Just before the deadline, the criminal is delivered to the officer. The reputation of Bullard and the impending opening of the orders is enough to convince the other government to send the criminal over.

When the officer returns and the criminal is put away, he asks Bullard about the orders. He opens them and hands them to the officer. His orders, after waiting for four hours, were to “Return to Base” (59).

One of the joys of reading these magazines is stumbling upon something I should have read years ago but never stumbled across before. This is one of those. Orders is a story about John Bullard, in fact the last of them written. It was found among his papers after his death. This is early mil-SF and I am definitely getting the e-book collection of these stories.

At the end of this story is a Gillette ad. Gillette razors, after all, have “The swellest low-priced blade it town” (59).

The next story is a treasure. It’s part II of The Mule from Isaac Asimov. Yes, this is The Mule that’s a part of the Foundation series. I’m not going to explain the story here, because if you haven’t read the entire Foundation series, you should.

What’s exciting to me is that I have now seen the first published version. I didn’t notice any difference from the version I first read it, the 1966 Avon printing, but I suspect there might be. If there are, they’re formatting/typo changes, as it’s the same story.

As much of a treasure as it is to find the first printing of a Foundation story, the science essay immediately following is perhaps even greater. It’s a series including technical details of the creation of the atomic. It includes photos from the Trinity detonation from 16 July, 1945 and some photos from Hiroshima.

As for particular details, it covered just about everything it could that wasn’t classified. I again feel obligated to mention this was published in December of 1945, or about four years before the Soviets have their first successful detonation.

From a historiographical perspective, this is something someone researching the early atomic era would probably find riveting. I sure did. It’s also interesting to realize that this might very well have been the first time some of these details had been published. I don’t know that for sure, but it’s certainly a reminder of the speed of information dispersal then and now.

The next story is Trouble Times Two by George O. Smith. It’s about a schizophrenic with two useful personalities. One is an engineer. One is a theoretical physicist. When each is in control, they leave challenges for the other, which makes them both incredibly productive.  The physicist keeps pushing boundaries and the engineer keeps making useful, profitable stuff. They also play each other a mean game of chess.

The problem is each wants to the only personality. Both despise the limitations of the other perspective. And yet, their collaboration is too profitable. The conclusion is a little open-ended, but unless the physicist can solve a series of practical issues in 24 hours, they lose their shirt, and the physicist will have to come closer to the engineer.

A tricky, intricate story with a lot of fascinating SF theories.

Side note here. Smith was a regular contributor to Astounding and worked often with Campbell until 1949. That’s when Campbell’s wife Doña left him to go off with Smith.

Anyway, moving along I have to mention an ad. It’s for Doc Savage Retires, on the newsstand. I’d really like to see Doc Savage brought back, as he’s always been one of my favorite characters. A few pages later, by the way, is an ad for the Shadow.

Next is Brass Tacks, the letter to the editor section. I often find these letters filled with fascinating nuggets and this one is especially powerful. These letters are all generally about the explosions of the atomic bombs. One reader talks about seeing the headlines from Hiroshima. Ironically, he says, “I look forward to Astounding for the first really informative article on this new secret weapon” (170). Well, this was that issue for that.

Another fascinating topic was the idea of recording video onto records. It’s an interesting think to contemplate in this day of essentially unlimited hard drive space how one could record and save things from TV. The writer suggests it might be possible to buy movies on disks and that these might replace using film. Campbell dismisses the idea of using records as they simply can’t spin fast enough, but this writer was before his time.

Finally, there’s a short commentary in Brass Tacks by Theodore Sturgeon. It’s a discussion of all the hassles people who read and write science fiction got at the time. Why? Why read it? Why write it? “Who writes this crap?” And then it concludes with the bomb on Hiroshima. Sturgeon then lists many things SF authors are dreaming up, concluding with, “But the man with the open eyes does not hear that. His looking at himself, on the other side of death. He knows – he learned on August 6, 1945, that he alone is big enough to kill himself, or to live forever” (178).

This battered copy, with fresh new cat scratches where Wynnifred demanded treats is going in my own personal special collection. Every other issue I review will be judged by the December, 1945 issue of Astounding.

Next Week’s Issue: http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/pl.cgi?58435

I’ll start with the Galaxy of April, 1963.It’s edited by Frederik Pohl and includes an essay by Willy Ley.

See you then.


If you have any comments or would like to request I keep my eyes open for a specific issue or month, feel free to comment here or send an email to me at: rob@robhowell.org.

If you want to see previous reviews, the Mag Review category is here: http://robhowell.org/blog/?cat=432.

Have a great day.

Rob Howell

Rob’s Update: Beneath, Between, and Behind

Week 43 of 2019

Greetings all

I hope everyone had a happy Halloween. The proto-incipient stepdaughter and I celebrated it in our entryway. She dressed up as Harley Quinn and handed out candy. I set up the laptop so we could watch the 49ers play the Cardinals. The 49ers are one of her teams, by the way, so we were going to watch the game somewhere, and this way we reward the hardy travelers on a chilly night.

Speaking of sports, congratulations to the Washington Nationals for winning the World Series. One thing I love about baseball is that it doesn’t always make sense. The home field disadvantage was something we’ll probably never see again. The home team losing every game? Crazy.

Probably happen again next year just because the whimsies of the baseball Furies like toying with us.

It’s been a pretty good week here. I sent off the final copy of  my contribution for the third Phases of War anthology. Unlike Far Better to Dare and In Dark’ning Storms, this story is set in Anglo-Saxon England.

Then, after that, I got about 4000 words written in None Call Me Mother. I realized at one point that I had unconsciously done something exactly in the way I wanted, but didn’t know I wanted. I’ll explain this in more detail once the book is released, but serendipity raised its lovely head.

Side note: Serendipity is one of my favorite words. Serendipitously, it is smooth and mellifluous. As is mellifluous, by the way.

Another side note: Playing with words is one great part of writing. I get to look up etymologies, play with sounds, and hunt for just the right connotation. I may not always succeed, but I love the chase.

Current Playlist Song

As usual, since over half of my writing playlist are Rush songs, this week I’m listening to Beneath, Between, and Behind from their first album.

Quote of the Week

To follow up on the weirdness of this year’s World Series, here’s a perfect quote by Thomas Boswell.

“More than any other American sport, baseball creates the magnetic, addictive illusion that it can almost be understood.”
Thomas Boswell

News and Works in Progress

  • None Call Me Mother (approx. 62,047)
  • CB (8,418)
  • AFS (8,088)

Recent Blog Posts and Wiki Additions

Upcoming Events

Spotlight

This week’s spotlight is on Rich Weyand. This guy just keeps plugging away. He recently completed the second trilogy in his Empire series. You can find the interview here: http://robhowell.org/blog/?p=1797. Also, you can find his Amazon page at: https://www.amazon.com/Richard-F-Weyand/e/B00MC5VJW4.

Today’s Weight: 391.6

Updated Word Count: 183,849

Shijuren Wiki: 874 entries

Let me know if you have any suggestions on the website, this email, or cool story ideas at rob@robhowell.org. Especially let me know of suggestions you have for the Spotlight section.

Have a great week, everyone.

Rob Howell

Currently Available Works
Shijuren
Four Horsemen Universe
Short Stories

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Interview: Rich Weyand

Greetings all

Today’s interview is with Rich Weyand, a smart guy I’ve enjoyed meeting at LibertyCons past. He just finished his Empire double-trilogy and he’s justifiably proud of them.

Interview: Rich Weyand

What is your quest?

Rich Weyand
Rich Weyand

I want to write books people can’t put down, that read easily, with characters that engage them, that they can open up on a rainy Saturday morning, read in one sitting, and then feel uplifted and happy and go out to dinner. Books that make you think but don’t give you a headache, that surprise you with their twists but aren’t contrived, that make you wish you lived in that world and were friends with that character. Books that reaffirm old-fashioned notions of love, honor, duty, and loyalty, and how they play out in one’s life.

What is your favorite color?

Emotion is the big one. Not gut-wrenching stuff, but where you can laugh and cry and love along with the characters in the book. Where you can see things through their eyes and experience what they’re experiencing. This can be hard to do as a third-person omniscient writer. I’m not inside their heads in the narrative. So I need to include scenes where characters open up to their familiars, and try to express where they’re at in their head. It can be as simple as a tear running down someone’s cheek, or as complex as five pages of dialogue. The big thing with emotion is to make your characters human.

What is the average flying speed of an unladen paint brush?

It took me a while before I could pace a book properly. I don’t do filler, and my books move through the plot pretty fast. And I’m a pantser — I never know where the book is going or how it’s going to get there. That makes it hard to know where you are in the story and how much of it there is to tell. So my initial novels are all over the place with regard to length. Anywhere from 45,000 to 95,000 words. (I don’t write those 150,000-word things. That’s two books to me.) The six Empire books all came out at 80,000 words, give or take a couple thousand. That’s a skill you learn with practice.

What are the powers of your personal Holy Hand Grenade?

I think the biggest is to build a plot on the fly. As I say, I’m a pantser, and so I don’t plot things out in advance. I could never come up with a plot as twisty as the Empire books in advance. At one point in Empire: Commander, I just thought, “What if these two secondary characters ran into each other at this point, and one recognized the other?” That led to a whole series of ramifications I could never have set out in advance, and affected the overall story in a major way. How do you plan that in advance? Others may ask, How do you have that happen without planning it out in advance? Don’t know. I just write the part of the story I see right in front of me and follow it wherever it goes.

Lightning Round

  • Cake or Pie? Pie
  • Lime or Lemon? Key Lime Pie
  • Favorite Chip Dip? Onion
  • Favorite Cereal? Honey Bunches of Oats with raisins on it
  • Favorite Musical Performer We’ve Never Heard Of? B. B. Blunder
  • Favorite 1970s TV show? Early SNL.
  • Best Thing From the 80s? Front-wheel-drive sedans. Driving live-axle rear-wheel-drive cars in snow is not fun.
  • Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall? Fall. It’s pretty, and not too hot or cold.
  • Favorite Pet?  Spooker. A cat that was THE cat, the quintessential cat.
  • Best Game Ever? Risk played on two boards. Like alternate universes, with transfer points.
  • Coffee or Tea? Coffee. More specifically, four-shot latte.
  • Sci-Fi or Fantasy? MIL SF

What question(s) would you like to ask me?

Why do you write?

Rob’s Answer: Sort of like the French Foreign Legion, it’s write or die. That’s a bit melodramatic, but at the time I started writing I was coming off a failed marriage, couldn’t find a job because I was too educated, and literally spent day after day doing nothing productive. It’s a good thing to not work one day a week. It’s an awful thing to not do anything productive for weeks on end.

Finishing A Lake Most Deep was huge for me. It’s raw and I made a bunch of errors, but I had finished a novel. I had accomplished something. 

I’m proud of what I’ve written, and I really like what I’m writing at the moment. If I never publish anything more, I’ll still have six novels and a number of short stories to my credit. I even have fans not related to me. Five years ago, I didn’t always get out of bed.

I’m not the hardest worker out there, certainly not compared to my parents. However, I *have* to work consistently, I have to contribute, or bad things happen. At the most basic level, I keep writing because if I don’t, I’ll go far too gently into the dark night.

Tell me again where we can find your stuff? 

And where can we find you?

I attend LibertyCon every year. Otherwise I’m not much of a crowds person.

Do you have a creator biography?

Rich Weyand is a computer consultant and digital forensic analyst. He was born in Illinois and lived there almost 60 years before he and his wife engineered an escape to the hills of southern Indiana in 2011. His undergraduate and graduate education is in Physics, and he’s never really recovered. He is currently heading up the launch of a computer software start-up.

Final question for you: What should I have asked but did not? 

You should have asked me how fast I write. And how I write so fast so consistently.  

I write about 15,000 words a week when I am in writing mode. That’s 2500 words a day, usually six days a week. I don’t take a specific day off every week, I just end up getting stuck doing something else about one day a week. Some people think that’s fast, but when I can see the story in front of me, I want to get it down. If I have to stop before I hit a stare-out-the-window point, I’ll write the first paragraph of the next scene before I stop so I have a live thread to pick up on.

You should have also asked me what’s my process.

I don’t do multiple drafts and I don’t do rewrites. I do a first draft, and my alpha readers read it as I go, in installments of about 8000 words at a time. Then I check through it for some known writing issues — ‘all of’ should generally be ‘all’, about a third of ‘that’s can be deleted, most ‘very’s in the narrative (though not in dialog) should be deleted, etc. Then I read the book, and fix any awkward sentences. Then it goes to beta readers. I fix anything the alpha readers and beta readers point out as a problem understanding or typoes, or whatever. Then I publish it. No editor other than me.


Thanks to Rich for taking the time to answer my questions.

If you have any suggestions or comments about this interview format, let me know so I can keep tweaking it.

Also, thanks to you for reading. If you’re interested in any of the other interviews I’ve done, you can find them all here: http://robhowell.org/blog/?cat=326. If you are a creator, especially an independent creator, and you want to be spotlighted in a future interview, email me at rob@robhowell.org.

Finally, if you want to join my mailing list, where I’ll announce every interview, as well as what’s going on in my life, go to www.robhowell.org and fill out the form (Name and Email Address) or drop me an email and I’ll add you.

Have a great day.

Rob Howell

Mag Review: Fantastic Universe (July, 1957)

Greetings all

I have to say, I’m really enjoying the new schedule so far. Doing the magazine reviews on Thursday or so meant I was reading the mags in the middle of the week, which is my most productive writing time. Now, they’re a weekend reading treat and writing the review is a nice Monday warmup for my writing.

Anyway, this week I’m reading the Fantastic Universe from July, 1957.  This is another cover I wouldn’t mind seeing made into a poster. In general, I love the art in these mags, even though I know it’s usually not transcendent or legendary. It is, however, vibrant. I’m still the guy who was at the Hermitage in St. Petersburg ignoring a da Vinci because there was a table showing a seascape mosaic of lapis, malachite, and other semi-precious stones. Incredibly beautiful.

 

Fantastic Universe (July/57)
Fantastic Universe (July/57)

Table of Contents: http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/pl.cgi?89841

 

Anyway, enough about my weird tastes in visual media, let’s get right to August Derleth’s Seal of the Damned. After all, Cthulhu isn’t going to wake himself up.

Derleth was a prolific writer in general. I didn’t realize until I looked at his Wikipedia entry just how much he’d written. I suspect I’ll have to track down some of his other things now. Anyway, he was a friend and correspondent of HP Lovecraft and continued the Cthulhu stories, despite some criticism from other correspondents of Lovecraft. If you’re a fan, you already know all that, but have you seen the picture of HP Lovecraft when he was about 9?

HP Lovecraft (circa 1900)
HP Lovecraft (circa 1900)

If you’re a fan, then you’ve also probably seen Seal of the Damned under the title Seal of R’lyeh. The story centers around Marius Phillips, who has always felt the call of the sea, despite his parents, who never let him go east of Ohio.

Then his eccentric uncle Sylvan died, leaving all he had to Marius. This included property in Innsmouth, Massachusetts on the coast of the sea. He finds that his uncle had “interesting” tastes in art and literature. He also finds that his family has been long connected to the Marshes, whose remaining member is the oddly attractive Ada.

He offers her a job as a housekeeper, which she accepts with a bit too much enthusiasm. He discovers her searching the house for something. Rather than confronting her, he too searches for the something, which turns out to be his uncle’s papers, journals, and notes, including “In his house at R’lyeh, dead Cthulhu waits dreaming.” It also includes interesting details about an aquatic race. Humans, but ones who can live underwater and build cities like R’lyeh.

The call of the sea that Marius has felt all his life is all the more greater now that he’s at his uncle’s house. His uncle’s notes talk about investigating the sea all around the house, and when he discovers the secret passage his uncle took to reach the ocean he has no choice to explore.

He gets diving equipment and starts exploring, but he’s pulled by that desire to go to the sea far past its oxygen endurance. Just when he’s about to die, Ada swims up without any gear, rips off his helmet, and he discovers that they are descended from the aquatic race.

Now the pull shifts. He now wants to find the hidden city R’lyeh, as does Ada. According to his uncle’s notes, it’s near Ponape, and the two travel there. In the end, they find the lost city and are not seen above the ocean ever again.

I liked this story quite a bit, but it could have been improved. The high-quality building of tension in the early portion of the story sort of faded away into exposition at the end. Once he is saved from drowning, which was 20 pages leading up to that crisis, there are 3-4 pages of them spending weeks in Ponape and eventually disappearing. The story would have been stronger if it ended right after the crisis, leaving him wondering about what to do next, and not so casually glossing over the entire adventure to find the city.

Next is a really good story by Alan E. Nourse called The Native Soil. Side note, I can easily tell what others think about a story simply by looking at it’s ISFDB entry. Good stories are often reprinted, as was the case for both The Seal of the Damned and The Native Soil.

The Native Soil uses one of those iconic SF pulp tropes. Iconic planet promises something of great value. Humans try to get that something, but for some reason, they’re not as successful as they ought to be. Troubleshooter is brought in, eventually identifies the problem and comes up with an elegant solution.

I love this trope, so I liked this story. We discover the surface of Venus is essentially mud, often many feet deep. There’s a type of that mud, however, that has an antibiotic especially useful for new medicines because it’s not creating resistant strains of diseases.

However, the pharmaceutical company trying to get that particular mud is finding it extremely difficult. There’s no way to do it all without the help of the Venusians, but they seem incredibly stupid. No matter how well things are described to them, they keep making mistakes that destroy equipment and halt production. They’re nice, happy, and try to be helpful, but they just aren’t smart enough.

That’s when the troubleshooter is brought in. At first, he keeps getting caught in the cycle of trying something and having it fail because the Venusians just can’t do their part. However, he also keeps remembering the intelligence test applied to the alien species soon after first contact. This test says they’re plenty intelligent enough, despite appearances.

He realizes they’re intelligent enough to sabotage their harvesting process. The special mud is, essentially, their food source. They eat antibiotics. His elegant solution is to trade penicillin, which isn’t as valuable as a medicine but still easily produced on Earth, for this mud, which the Venusians would harvest themselves to exchange.

I like elegant solutions of that sort.

The next story is The Machine by Robert Sheckley. This is a typical Sheckley story in that it has a good twist at the end, one somehow driven by the foibles of man.

The protagonist, Otto, a valued machinist for years, the kind of stolid employee that at the time would be expected to stay at a company all his life, comes in one day and quits. Not only does he quit, he tells the bosses exactly what he thinks of them, spits on the floor and leaves.

With that bridge burning nicely, he returns home. He is ready to build the “wishing machine” designed by his partner. It’s a machine that will essentially convert any mass, including air, into whatever is asked for. A philosopher’s stone that provides anything, not just gold. The partner told him the day previously that his design was complete, so Otto quits his machinist job to build the machine.

However, the partner wasn’t actually ready for that step. There’s still something wrong, a basic flaw in the design. However, the partner assures Otto he’ll have it ready in a few more months.

Otto’s heard that before, though, and he’s grown impatient. He feels the partner isn’t ever going to say the design is right and, even worse, would want to show other scientists what he’s created. So Otto kills him and makes the machine off the completed blueprints.

After many months of work, selling all he had for food, parts, and tools, then selling the unneeded tools, he manages to make the machine. At the end, he’s exhausted and hungry, but it’s done.

His first request is humble, a loaf of bread. Butter would be nice, but the bread would be just fine. However, the machine puts out pieces of metal, including gold. It’s a nuisance, but with gold he can go get bread… until the machine stops him.

The basic flaw is that it’s what the machine wishes for that matter, not the operator. And the machine wishes to be his sole owner, and last we see, he’s reaching for Otto. As I said, good story. Otto gets what he deserves, and we’re left with some curiosity of the fate of humanity.

Immediately after is a microstory. I have no better idea what to call it that that. It fits in about 2-3 inches at the bottom of the page and is uncredited. It asks one question. If you’re a robot and you must not harm a human, what would you do if you knew you were about to be replaced? Asimov’s first robot story is published in 1939, so this question wasn’t new, but it’s starkly phrased. What would you do?

The next story is A Candle for Katie by Lila Borison. As far as I can tell, this is the only thing she ever published, which is too bad. I found a reference to her in an article by Sam Moskowitz. In it he talks about the first science fiction class ever taught, which started in March of 1954. Moskowitz kept track of his students, and says of her, “Lila Borison, a receptionist who had been reading science fiction for five years and had written for her college newspaper. She was more interested in straight fantasy.” (Sam Moskowitz. “The First College-Level Course in Science Fiction.” Science Fiction Studies 23, no. 3 (1996): 411-22. http://www.jstor.org/stable/4240549, 417).

A Candle for Katie tells of a harried mom who’s hosting the first birthday party for her daughter Katie. Among the gifts she receives is a candle, notched 21 times, with the instruction to light it each year on her birthday, stopping it at each notch.

A strange gift, perhaps, but I for one would find such a tradition a fun one. So, in the midst of the chaos created by a party that included more kids than expected, it comes time for the cake. The mom adds the candle, but Katie has had enough and it’s time for a nap. The mom takes care of that, then deals with a boy who had gotten a hold of a knife and cut himself, and other disasters.

With a sigh, she goes in to check on Katie and she finds a girl of about 5 or 6, but no sign of Katie. Then, the girl looks up and the mom recognizes her eyes. She had left the candle burning, and it was nearly to the fifth notch.

Cool and creepy, especially since Borison left it hanging right there. We are left to wonder about all the things of what happens next, especially since we never know who sends the candle. Excellent work. I do wish she’d kept writing.

I do also wish the next authors hadn’t kept writing. I’ll admit I glossed over the essay here, which is written by Alexander Mebane, Isabel L. Davis, and Ted Bloecher, the Civilian Saucer Intelligence. For 17 issues, they submitted a list of the various potential UFO sightings they could track down. I suspect I might have enjoyed these essays in 1957 as collections of quirky tidbits, but looking back over 60 years, these mostly bore me. Perfectly appropriate content for the magazine, but these essays didn’t age well.

John Healy, much like Lila Borison, only published the story in this issue. It’s called the Book of Goots, and while it’s not as strong as A Candle for Katie, it is a good story. It’s about a small-time hoodlum who comes across a book that purports to teach someone how to use magic. Not the simple prestidigitation of a showman, mind you, but real magic. Goots doesn’t figure he has much to lose, so he reads it.

About the only thing I know about Healy is in the small blurb ahead of that story, which says he was mind reader and mentalist. Obviously, this is a case of write what you know.

Anyway, Goots is your typical hood, but he’s making enough on the magic gig to essentially be straight. The cops don’t believe it, of course, and Detective O’Flahirty sends Abigail in undercover to find out just what racket Goots is working on.

He suggests she pose as his sister, whose husband has died, to get into one of Goots’s seances. He does this in part, because he’s in love with Abigail, and this makes her slightly closer to him.

But this backfires because Goots really can do magic, and the brother-in-law appears, naked of course, grumpy because he’s in the middle of quality time with an Egyptian girl named Cleo. He tells everyone there that Abigail isn’t his wife and to let me get back to what’s more important to him right now.

In the ensuing kerfluffle, Abigail and Goots eventually discover they’re in love with each other. In the end, they fly off on a flying carpet improvised from a hospital sheet. O’Flahirty, for his part, gets admitted into the asylum as he apparently thinks he’s a cop chasing after said flying carpet.

It’s a cute, whimsical story made all the more fun by Healy’s use of language. It’s filled with the sort of slang we imagine from a 40s-50s hood. It’s too bad this is the only Swami Goots story, because they had a lot of potential.

Backward Turn Backward by Dorothy H. Edgerly is next. She, too, didn’t write much, just two stories that I can find. These star Jeb Enders, a warlock living in Appalachia. His village is essentially all witches and warlocks, living on the mountains for centuries. Enders is a regular troublemaker, one who has been told by their council never to interfere with humans again, never to use his magic on the mountain again.

Now, the future has come in the form of a factory looking to build a plant in the valley beneath them. This would force the entire collection of witches and warlocks living on the mountains around it to move.

This proposal would greatly harm the mountain folk, but Enders can’t simply use magic to drive progress away. He begins by looking at the valley and starts asking why it is why it is. He starts going back in time and finds that it was a lake fed by a large waterfall. Now it’s a creek, with soggy land around it every spring, fed by a small waterfall. He hunts through time to discover that it used to be fed by a spring that got blocked by a boulder, turning the large waterfall into the small one and leaving the lake to go away.

With help to do the magic he isn’t allowed to do, he cleans the dirt around the boulder and then lifts it away from the spring. It begins to run as it did before, and soon the lake with return, meaning the factory has to be elsewhere.

It’s a good story and Jeb’s a fun character. It’s got a bit of Avatar in it, though, with stock factory boss bad guys. It’s definitely got that trope of nature being awesome and civilization being awful. However, while Avatar uses amazing visual effects to distract you from a wretched story, Edgerly writes a good story with a solid puzzle and challenge to overcome faced by characters you want to succeed.

We know the next author, though not by the name of Lee Correy. This was the pen name for G. Harry Stine and his Landing for Midge is the next story. A ship coming to earth has been hit by a microasteroid which has knocked out its landing radar. Not only will they have to have a manual landing, one of the passenger is Midge, a pregnant woman.

Stine was a rocket scientist and this clearly shows. He throws in appropriate technical jargon here and there, but more importantly, the main question to the this story is how free-fall would affect pregnancy and birth?

What a fascinating question to ask three months before Sputnik launched.

Anyway, at first, the landing control people at White Sands try to divert the ship to an orbit, there to await the transport of a new radar, allowing the computers to land the ship properly. Again, this is written before Sputnik launched, yet the bulk of the science in this story still feels right.

The manage to make it to land just before Midge, who is in labor, gives birth. They roll up to the landing spot where emergency personnel are waiting. They rush up to the ship.

First on, of course because of Midge, is the vet.

Cats, you see, are the only other terrestrial creature to take to free fall at all. In fact, many seem to love it. Ship crews definitely love having them along, and let Midge come along because she insisted.

She didn’t need any help, by the way. The vet finds her with three cute, healthy kittens, all born during the landing.

Yeah, I loved this story.

Voyage Beyond the Night by John Victor Peterson follows, and it is another of the short, sharp excellent stories in this issue. It starts with Ken Chapman cracking a tomb in the Great Pyramid.

Currently, Chapman’s reputation is ruined because he was supposedly the researcher for a best-selling historical novel on pharoahs that doesn’t get most of the facts correct. The book is written by Eric Stromberg, who is a reclusive genius much like Elon Musk.

When he opens the tomb he finds the second of Khufu’s soul ships. And something else. He rushes back to Stromberg hastily, asking if he’ll write a sequel. Stromberg says he will.

At that point Chapman leaves. He realized then he could never show Stromberg the item he’d found in the sealed tomb. It was a Stromberg Electronics Temporal Traveler, and Stromberg was headed to his death.

We get another pen name next: C. Bird. It’s actually Harlan Ellison and the story is Song of Death. Again, a short, sharp story, this one the cover story.

There is a planet where mermaids live. People would pay a pretty penny if someone could bring a mermaid from the planet back to Earth, but though many had tried, all of them had died. Like the Sirens of the Odyssey, the mermaids can sing a song that lures all to death.

However, this adventurer believes he can see. He’s tried many get-rich-quick schemes before, but he’s sure that this time, this time he’ll get al the money he’ll ever need.

Oddly, he’s right. He manages to land without dying, though the landing wasn’t pleasant. He manages to coax a mermaid close, stun her, fill a hold with water, and bring her back.

He’s tone-deaf and their song doesn’t affect him. Such a Harlan Ellison ending.

Lloyd Arthur Eshbach is next with The Fuzzies. Eshbach, as you may know, was a fairly important person in the early days of SF. He published his first story in 1929. In the 1930s, he was the editor of a couple of magazines, and then in he founded Fantasy PressThe list of authors and books published by it is impressive.  However, it went under in 1956, so about a year before this story at a time when he needed money.

Again, another good story. This one involves miners on Ganymede. There are crystals on Ganymede that the Fuzzies desperately want. The Fuzzies are telepathic little balls of fur who can work with humans. However, they can only work with likeable humans. No criminals, none who are violent, nothing like that. They leave humans who stop being likeable by committing suicide.

Which makes the hero, Herb, all the angrier. He and two others had filed conflicting claims on rights to some crystal fields. One had dropped out, saying he was satisfied. Herb and Swain, however, had ended up in a duel. The thing was, Herb realized in the middle of the duel that his gun had been emptied.

Now he was on the chase for Swain to give him what he had coming.

He finds Swain in his portable shelter with the help of his Fuzzy. Swain has no gun, Herb doesn’t feel right shooting him without a gun, so he tells Swain to fight. Swain tries, but immediately passes out. He had a broken leg and would like die without Herb’s help.

Which, of course, Herb does. He brings back Swain to Center City. Along the way, he discovers that Swain hadn’t been the one to remove the ammunition, but rather it had been the other guy in hopes of getting all of his disputed claim.

But Herb brings Swain to the hospital, then files his claim, one of the richest. He actually files a joint claim with both he and Swain. That’s when he finds out Swain had also filed a rich claim. Also joint. Also in both of their names.

The Fuzzies only stay with likeable men.

Finally we get to the last story, one I’ve been looking forward to. It’s Fiddler on Titan by Manly Wade Wellman. Wellman is of particular interest to me since he and his brother, Paul Wellman, were Wichita boys and good writers. Fellow Wichita State alums. Here’s an interesting blog post on Wellman by David Drake: http://david-drake.com/2010/manly-wade-wellman/. The two became friends in 1970.

In any case, the story was worth my anticipation. Fiddler on Titan is about the first expedition to Titan, Saturn’s “biggest and only habitable satellite” (120). Expedition A includes 14 men and women. They arrive to find out that one of them, Ham, has brought his family fiddle with him in contravention of the rules and ignoring the effects that its weight might have on the trip.

But they made it and find a plain with vegetation and a big lake. The set up as pioneers in sort of a Little House on the Prairie fashion awaiting Expedition B in something like 18 years. Fiddles and music were important to those pioneers, and even more so to these on Titan.

For Titan held alien life, intelligent life, in the form of amorphous blobs who could take just about any shape they wanted and create any tool they needed. Ham played his fiddle and realized that if he played songs that made him think of dancing, they’d dance, or leaving, they’d leave, or working, they’d work. The Titanians and these first humans became allies.

But space is not without dangers, especially human dangers, and a pirate band comes to call. They landed, watched Expedition A, and come to take over. They know that Ham playing the fiddle gets the Titanians to work, but they don’t quite know how. They tell Ham to play, which he does, but instead of a song he’d played before, he plays a war song. The Titanians connect to song and thought and shoot the pirates.

Man, how many good stories are in this issue. The only downer was the UFO essay, and that’s easily skipped over. This is a 9.5 and would have been a 10 with a good essay and one of my favorites.

It even has a fantastic ad on the back cover. It says “Take this Lunar Quiz and win a round-trip reservation to the Moon. Free!” It’s a fantastic ad for the Science Fiction book club.

Next Week’s Issue: http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/pl.cgi?57435

Thanks for readings. Next week I’ll review the Astounding from December, 1945.


If you have any comments or would like to request I keep my eyes open for a specific issue or month, feel free to comment here or send an email to me at: rob@robhowell.org.

If you want to see previous reviews, the Mag Review category is here: http://robhowell.org/blog/?cat=432.

Have a great day.

Rob Howell

Rob’s Update: The Greater Share of Honour

Week 43 of 2019

Greetings all

Been a good week here. I’ve a complete draft of a short story, which I’ll edit this weekend. I also scribbled down a bunch of notes about None Call Me Mother. It’s almost like plotting, but let’s not ruin my reputation.

The big news here is animal-related. This was the week for Fearghus, our rescue kitten from the summer. He is no longer able to be a dad. Hopefully, it will calm him down some. We love how playful he is, but sometimes he gets aggressive with the other kitties. We’ll see.

Wynnifred, our other younger cat, was also not feeling well. The vet we go to, Marketplace Animal Hospital, fit her in at the same time I brought in Fearghus. We figured it out, am giving her medicine, and we already see progress.

Then, Fearghus had a reaction to his new flea collar. It made him itch so much he rubbed several sections on his neck raw. Marketplace again moved things around and saw him last night. We think that’s under control too, but we’re keeping an eye on him this weekend, which is why we’re not going to be able to go to Autumn in Grimfells this weekend.

I just want to add that I’m really pleased with Marketplace, if you hadn’t realized. Glad that a close friend of mine referred me.

But that’s not the only animal adventure here. We have had raccoons invade our attic. We debated trying to trap them ourselves, but frankly, none of us wanted to crawl around the attic here, which is pretty rough and not terribly easy to climb up to. Especially for three people who don’t do heights. So, we got a company to come out. They’ve already gotten two raccoons. Who knows how many more came inside when the weather cooled. We’ll find out.

Anyway, that’s the adventure of the day. Now I’m off to throw a few thousand words at None Call Me Mother.

Current Playlist Song

Not a song this week. I’m listening to 105.3 the Fan from Dallas. They’re covering the Cowboys trade yesterday and a number of other Cowboys-related things. They interview Jerry Jones regularly, and he’s always interesting.

Quote of the Week

It’s the 25th of October. That’s St. Crispin’s Day. And that means it’s the 604th anniversary of the Battle of Agincourt.

So here’s the entire monologue from Henry V.

WESTMORLAND. O that we now had here
But one ten thousand of those men in England
That do no work to-day!

KING. What’s he that wishes so?
My cousin, Westmorland? No, my fair cousin;
If we are mark’d to die, we are enough
To do our country loss; and if to live,
The fewer men, the greater share of honour.
God’s will! I pray thee, wish not one man more.
By Jove, I am not covetous for gold,
Nor care I who doth feed upon my cost;
It yearns me not if men my garments wear;
Such outward things dwell not in my desires.
But if it be a sin to covet honour,
I am the most offending soul alive.
No, faith, my coz, wish not a man from England.
God’s peace! I would not lose so great an honour
As one man more methinks would share from me
For the best hope I have. O, do not wish one more!
Rather proclaim it, Westmorland, through my host,
That he which hath no stomach to this fight,
Let him depart; his passport shall be made,
And crowns for convoy put into his purse;
We would not die in that man’s company
That fears his fellowship to die with us.
This day is call’d the feast of Crispian.
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam’d,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say “To-morrow is Saint Crispian.”
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
And say “These wounds I had on Crispin’s day.”
Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
But he’ll remember, with advantages,
What feats he did that day. Then shall our names,
Familiar in his mouth as household words—
Harry the King, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester
Be in their flowing cups freshly rememb’red.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be rememberèd—
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.
– William Shakespeare, Henry V

News and Works in Progress

  • None Call Me Mother (58,007)
  • HMWH (7,480)
  • CB (8,418)
  • AFS (8,088)

Recent Blog Posts and Wiki Additions

Upcoming Events

Spotlight

This week’s spotlight is on Chaz Kemp. This was the first interview I hosted here. You can find it at: http://robhowell.org/blog/?p=976.

Today’s Weight: 392.4

Updated Word Count: 170,244

Shijuren Wiki: 874 entries

Let me know if you have any suggestions on the website, this email, or cool story ideas at rob@robhowell.org. Especially let me know of suggestions you have for the Spotlight section.

Have a great week, everyone.

Rob Howell

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Interview – Chaz Kemp

Greetings all

I’m starting a new semi-regular thing. As you probably know, I do a Spotlight on some artist, author, or vendor each week in my updates. This will be an expanded version of that, where I’ll interview some great independent and up-and-coming creators. I’ll ask hard-hitting questions like “What is their favorite Muppet?”

In truth, while I’ll be phrasing this in a light-hearted way, it is my hope that these interviews will have provide a little insight in their creative process. Remember, there’s one true creative process, and it’s the one that helps you create, but that doesn’t mean one shouldn’t learn what works for others.

I’m lucky to start off with Chaz Kemp. I met Chaz as part of Pandora Celtica when they came to house for a house with Sooj Tucker. It was an amazing show, and all of them gave me a bunch of CDs. I’ve listened to those over and over, and some are on the playlist that helps me write.

However, Chaz is not only a drummer and a singer, but also an excellent artist often focusing on Steampunk themes, such as this one:

You can find his work at:

The Interview

What is your quest?

To continue creating a multi-cultural steampunk/fantasy world called Ashelon by using my own Art Nouveau styled illustrations.  We’re also including novellas and short stories written by my wife, Carolyn Kay and other authors to help flesh out that world.

I want my dream and passion for Ashelon to be something amazing that fans can really groove on.

What is your favorite color?

I love creating my art digitally by using a vector-based program called CorelDraw.  It’s like Adobe Illustrator but I find it more versatile.  Through years of honing my technique, I can make my pieces feel more natural and the colors more vibrant while still embracing the illustrative quality I love so much. 

I also enjoy the way that I can make changes to my art on the fly by switching out colors, body positioning and even the backgrounds without having to take hours or even days repainting things just to try something new.

What is the average flying speed of an unladen paint brush?

As a freelance artist, one of my biggest hurdles involved gaining respect.  I went out of my way to treat my clients with respect and kindness, but they didn’t always feel the need to reciprocate early in my career.

It took time to learn that I had the power to say ‘no’ when faced with the prospect of working with someone who wasn’t going to treat me well.  I could also say ‘no’ when a potential client didn’t want to adequately compensate me for the work I was to do for them.  As I won more awards and gained more of a reputation for doing good work, I ran into fewer problems.

Another challenge came with the frustration of trying to get in with big name companies like many of the New Age companies or table top RPG leaders. They just wouldn’t write back to me.

After talking with a few industry ‘insiders’ I discovered that most of those art directors don’t actually care about the artist or their art, all they really care about is whether they think the artist can make them money.  As an example, photo-realism is the hot style right now, so that’s all they’re interested in and those are the only artists they’re willing to hire. If I were a photo-realistic artist, all I’d ever be to them is a thing that made them money. So truthfully, getting rejected by them was actually them doing me a favor.

What are the powers of your personal Holy Hand Grenade?

I feel that while I am inspired by the Art Nouveau movement and by Alphonse Mucha in particular, I don’t directly copy him.  I take the style and make it my own.  I love that many people can see his inspiration in my work.

I’m also quite proud of the fact that several of my main characters are multi-cultural because there isn’t enough of that in the Steampunk genre.  In reality, the 1800s happened everywhere, not just in Victorian England. So why have art centered around one culture when I can explore the ideas of Steampunk in every culture? When you do that, the ideas are endless and ongoing. Not only that, but we get to have multiple cultures represented in a way that you don’t normally see them and that’s just too cool.

Lightning Round

  • Favorite Muppet?  Pepe the King Prawn – he’s quite hilarious.
  • Crunchy or Creamy?  Crunchy when it comes to peanut butter… Creamy when it comes to soup.
  • Favorite Sports Team?  Denver Nuggets all the way.
  • Cake or Pie?  Pie for sure… there are more varieties of pie and most of them are DELICIOUS!!
  • Lime or Lemon?  Lemon
  • Favorite Chip Dip?  Bean dip FTW
  • Wet or Dry?  Wet when it comes to drinks like Moscow Mules – Dry when it comes to computers and socks.
  • Favorite Musical Performer we’ve Never Heard Of? Mark King of Level 42 – he’s a good song writer and singer, but an AMAZING bass player.
  • Whisky or Whiskey?  Whiskaaaaaaaay!!
  • Steak Temperature?   Medium Well (ed. note: Sigh, it could be worse I suppose)
  • Favorite 1970s TV show?  Wonder Woman
  • Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall?  Summer – perfect beach weather.
  • Favorite Pet?  Our cats Sif and Naira.
  • Coffee or Tea?  Coffee hands down!
  • Sci-Fi or Fantasy?  Fantasy every time.  The closest I get to Sci-Fi is either cyber punk (Which is cool) or Steampunk (Which is awesome)

What question would you like to ask me?

The fact that you have SO much information about your world of Shijuren is amazing.  I’d love to develop that level of detail for my world of Ashelon!  How long did it take you to create your world and what inspired you to do it?  

My Answer: It’s not really something I do all at once. I just use whatever inspiration comes to mind. If I run across something interesting, I toss that in.

One of my most useful tools is Wikipedia’s random article button. I will literally sit in front of a football game or something like that and just click it. Every time I see something interesting, I cut and paste into a Notes document. Then, when I am looking for something, a town, a new character, inspiration for an event, whatever, I glance at that. The randomness helps keep me from doing the things I always fall back upon.

I have also had help from people like Adam Hale, who does all the maps for me. I gave him license to add geographic details and names, based on certain parameters, and that helps shape strategic and tactical choices by my characters.

I love worldbuilding. I do a little bit here, a little bit there, and then suddenly there’s a thing.

Tell me again where we can find your stuff?

Final question for you: What should I have asked but did not?

You should have asked, “What game are you currently grooving on?”  I would respond with Cards Against Humanity!!  We just had dinner at a friend’s house this past weekend where we played CaH and I laughed so hard, my face hurt the whole rest of the weekend.  So much fun!!

******

Speaking of fun, I enjoyed this quite a bit. I will start doing these on as many Tuesdays as I have one ready.

Thanks very much to Chaz for being the guinea pig and helping shape these questions. I know I’ll be seeing Chaz at ConQuest on Memorial Day. I suspect you’ll find us sharing a beverage at some point there.

If you are a creator, especially an independent creator, and you want to be spotlighted in a future interview, email me at rob@robhowell.org.

Also, if you want to join my mailing list, where I’ll announce every interview, as well as what’s going on in my life, go to www.robhowell.org and fill out the form (Name and Email Address) or drop me an email and I’ll add you.

Mag Review: Analog (July, 1962)

Greetings all. This week I’m reviewing the Analog of July 1962. The cover story in this is John Brunner’s Listen! The Stars! and I love the cover art designed for it. It includes a good essay by John W. Campbell and a work by James H. Schmitz.  Side note, I’ve already reviewed the issue immediately after this one. You can find that review here: http://robhowell.org/blog/?p=1579. This will be especially relevant since Mack Reynolds had a two-part story, with part one in this one and the second over there.

Analog (July, 1962)
Analog (July, 1962)

Table of Contents: http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/pl.cgi?56754

The first article in this episode is What’s Wrong With Science by John W. Campbell. This is a distressing article, as it details things that are currently wrong in the scientific process, which means those problems are at least nearly sixty years in the making. Basically, he says that scientists are hamstrung by the process, which forces them to come up with answers that often fit the existing models that most scientists accept. Given that new research often radically changes or even replaces existing models, this means that such new research isn’t even allowed to be tried, because if it succeeds, it means that all the previous investment was wrong. Now, it’s as if instead of religious reactionaries wanting to execute Galileo, established scientists would execute him.

Sadly, I fear that this problem is even worse now, given examples I have seen.

The cover story Listen! The Stars! by John Brunner was fantastic. We discover a gadget that lets us listen to electromagnetic energy from other stars. In general these noises are not intelligible but there’s enough of a hint of something more, like hearing alien languages, that people keep listening. They’re hoping that they can understand that half-heard word they’re so tantalizingly close to comprehending.

This causes a number of societal issues, because that hope acts much like a drug. Addicts and acolytes, thieves and thespians. Worse, however, are the unexplained disappearances that seemed to be caused by “stardropping,” or eavesdropping on stars.

Dan Cross is a member of the UN Special Agency tasked to discover threats to peace. Basically, they’re trying to prevent the US and Russia from tossing their nukes at each other. The stardropping craze has finally come to their attention and he’s delving through the possibilities.

However, he and his agency are too late. Others have actually comprehended the science within what they find stardropping, science based essentially Einstein’s spooky action at a distance idea. This leads to both teleportation and telekinesis.

In the end, those who have discovered the potential from stardropping have generally unified together across the world. When the crisis happens, they reveal themselves with the intent to start the very war that Cross is tasked to protect. However, with their use of teleportation and telekinesis, they are easily able to distribute the atoms and particles of all the nuclear warheads and biological/chemical agents into the vastnesses of interstellar space.

The hint is that this will free humanity from its parochial differences and chase the stars, which are now within reach from their teleportative abilities.

It’s idealistic message fiction, promising a utopia that seems impossible for humanity. However, it’s also a fantastic story, filled with action and suspense. It’s also got enough hard science that it seems plausible.

Next is their announcement of things to come in the next issue. I won’t relate it here, but instead give you that link to my review again: http://robhowell.org/blog/?p=1579.

Then comes a single page on a scientific discussion of laser development by GE. As is often the case reading these magazines, it’s fascinating to read these sort of discussions. They provide a snapshot, in this case, of the development of lasers 57 years ago. I suspect anyone actually in the field, would find it very interesting.

Next is Junior Achievement by William Lee. I can’t find  much about him. It is entirely possible that’s a pseudonym. One of his stories, A Message for Charity, was well-received. It has been republished a number of time and was turned into a Twilight Zone episode. However, very little else was published under this name.

Which is too bad. I rather enjoyed Junior Achievement, especially since at one time I was heavily involved in the organization. However, I didn’t have five geniuses to work with. In this case, they all come up with some new invention and the local science teacher, who is smart but not a genius, cannot quite keep up with them.

The only problem with this story is that it was more a narrative than a story. There wasn’t much of a buildup. No real crisis/climax. Instead, it went off at a rollicking pace of the kids involved making things happen and always succeeding. It was set in a town that had needed to be moved after some unexplained nuclear accident, so there’s some hint of genetic mutation, but not much, and that aspect only seems to be in the story to explain why the teacher is so poor. He has to pay two mortgages, one for the old house that’s in the fallout zone, and one for the new house. It’s an enjoyable story, but leaves you wanting more, like an ephemeral treat.

Now we get to James H. Schmitz, who I’ve grown to like much more because of the stories of his I’ve read doing these reviews. The story here is The Other Likeness, which is part of his series The Hub.

I was not disappointed. It starts with a scientist getting an alert. Then we discover he’s not just a scientist, but a member of a secret plot against humanity’s Federation involving 1200 people. These people are, in fact, aliens who were experts in genetics. They genetically raised these 1200 to be indistinguishable from humans. That would allow them to come into the Federation and create a bio-weapon that would devastate it, allowing their alien species to take over.

The scientist escapes with his three closest allies. At least, they think they escape. However, the Federation has set an elaborate trap for these 1200. They know them all because those 1200 have only 3 brain wave patterns, and are thus identified. Once captured, the 1200 are subjected to detailed scrutiny, most while they’re unconscious.

At this point, I was disappointed in the story. The initial start, with its evasion and capture, was really good, but immediately after that comes a disembodied voice explaining the plot. A series of exposition that would do Hercule Poirot proud, but in the context of a short story, takes too long.

But every once in a while, exposition can be the story, and this is the case here. Schmitz set us up to create espionage feel fighting the evil government bad guy, but the exposition reveals the truth at the very end.

The alien species was too successful. The beings it genetically created to be humans, were, in fact, human. None of the 1200 are actually going through with the bioweapon plan, instead doing something else that actually benefits humanity. The final line, which is spoken by the supposed government bad guy is fantastic: “You’ve regarded yourselves as human beings, and believed that your place among us. And we can only agree.”

It’s interesting how a really good writer can make something that shouldn’t work actually do so.

Next is an article that Dr. Robb Hampson should read, because I’ve no doubt he’d find it interesting. It’s Brain Waves and Though Patterns by Eric Holmes, MD. Holmes wrote a number of SF/F works, including the novel The Maze of Peril, but also contributed a number of essays on brain science.

This is one of his essays about understanding the brain. There’s a lot in here that I don’t know enough to appreciate. It does talk about some of the imagined possibilities, which are not dissimilar to ideas talked about today. It’s fascinating in it’s own right that 57 years ago people were talking about implanted electrodes to increase communication between brains, tracking health status, and so on. Basically, he’s talking about implants here which even then promised “unexpected marvels and possible horrors.”

I actually skipped the next story Border, Breed Nor Birth by Mack Reynolds. I tried to read it, but I have already read Part II of this story. Worse, I really didn’t like the way the story ends. Again, you can find that in the review here: http://robhowell.org/blog/?p=1579. It’s hard to connect with characters when you already know your not going to like the story, especially the ending. It was like watching a horror movie, knowing the kids are all going to do stupid stuff that makes it more likely the slasher’s going to get them. I don’t like watching them, either.

Anyway, I’m going to move on to the Analytical Library. I find this fascinating as it’s an attempt to objectively quantify what the readers want. It’s essentially much like a modern Amazon/Goodreads rating system. There’s also a bonus attached of an extra cent per word to the winning author, and that’s nothing to sneeze at.

What I learned in this version of the Analytical Library is that I really need to read the March, 1962 issue. Poul Anderson’s Epilogue beat Randall Garrett’s His Master’s Voice. I really like His Master’s Voice, so it’ll be fun to see the first version, but it’ll also be fun to read a story the readers thought was better.

And when I review that issue, I’ll talk about a number of interesting side notes involving Garrett and Anderson.

Anyway, next is The Rescuer by Arthur Porges. Porges was a prolific writer and a mathematician. i suspect my dad, who was a prolific reader and a mathematician, loved his stuff. I know I really liked this one. It’s very short, but also very powerful.

The story starts with a description of the greatest machine ever made, requiring multiple city blocks of space, fusion power, and computer power which might seem laughable now, but which was incredible then.

Then two scientists destroy it.

The story then turns to the preliminary hearing discussing the events that led to the destruction. In this, one of the scientists who destroyed the machine explained himself.

The machine was a time machine and one of the technicians involved in it commandeered the machine for his own purposes. However, he left a note, and the scientists, upon reading that note, decided that it was best to destroy the machine safely than allow the technician to succeed.

And this is where it gets thought-provoking. We’ve all wondered about changing the currents of time, but what if it changed so much more?

The technician is going back in time with a modern weapon and ammunition to prevent Jesus Christ’s crucifixion and execution. If Jesus had to die to save humans from their sins and that doesn’t happen, what next? Basically, it asks the question of all of us: Would you save Jesus of Nazareth? What would that do to all of history and to our souls? What a fascinating philosophical question and, as mentioned in the story, the kind of question we all have to answer for ourselves.

The last section, as usual in Analogs, is P. Schuyler Miller’s review section entitled The Reference Library. In this issue, he begins with a scathing discussion of the double-standard applied by publishing companies with respect to writers of SF and “literary” writers who happen to write an SF novel.

He nails something I talk about quite often at conventions. If you’re going to write in another genre you have to have read enough of the genre to understand the existing tropes and methods. In this case, the books in question didn’t get the hard science right, not even close to right. You also have to respect the genre, even if you’re writing a parody of it. Perhaps especially a parody, because if you despise it, your story comes out mean-spirited instead of humorous.

Anyway, Schuyler moves on to some more fun reviews. Imagine getting paid to review H. Beam Piper, Keith Laumer, Andre Norton, and a bunch of others. I’d take that job in a heartbeat.

I have to say, this was a darn good issue. It rises in my mind because I didn’t actually read through the Reynolds story, of course, but there’s quite a bit here I’m pleased to have read.

Next week, I’ll read the Fantastic Universe from July, 1957. It has works by August Derleth, Manly Wade Wellman, and Robert Sheckley. Wellman is a familiar name to me not simply because of his speculative fiction, by the way, which I’ll explain next week.

Next Week’s Issue: http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/pl.cgi?89841

Thanks for reading. I’m off to finish a short story for James L. Young.


If you have any comments or would like to request I keep my eyes open for a specific issue or month, feel free to comment here or send an email to me at: rob@robhowell.org.

If you want to see previous reviews, the Mag Review category is here: http://robhowell.org/blog/?cat=432.

Have a great day.

Rob Howell

Opinions and fiction of person misplaced in time.

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