Category Archives: Rush

Posts related to Rush, which are common enough they deserve their own category.

Rob’s Update: The Works of Gifted Hands

Week 38 of 2020

Greetings all

This was a solid week, but not my most productive. I had to fight through my usual case of fall allergies, so I haven’t slept well all week. Also, since I was traveling back from Tennessee, I lost a day.

Still, I’m over 80% done with this round of editing on None Call Me Mother. All that’s left is the final section. Admittedly, this is a huge section, with a final battle scene worthy of a trilogy, I think, but I intend to send it back to my editor next Friday at the latest.

I’ll be turning my focus more and more on the new fantasy anthology. Stories in that need to be done by 30 November, so if you’re still interested in submitting a story, please make sure it’s by that date. Also, pay attention to the submission parameters.

The next long-form I’ll finish is The Ravening of Sorrows. I had some great discussions with Mark Wandrey about fitting it properly into the 4HU, and will do more with both Chris Kennedy and Kevin Ikenberry soon. I am excited about some of the pathways they’ve suggested for the Foresters, the Stalkers to the Stars, and Rick Blaine.

Speaking of the 4HU, I had some great news. The Feeding of Sorrows will be available on audiobook on 13 October. You’ll be able to find it on Audible and on Amazon at: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07T3B8BGB. Perfect timing, as I’m sure listening to it will help me keep the flow and voice of The Feeding of Wolves.

Have a great week everyone.

What I’m Listening To

The climactic crescendo of 2112 from Live at the Hammersmith Odeon in 1978. That’ll get your blood pumping.

Quote of the Week

Every once in a while, I’ll watch the Beethoven’s 9th flash mob video from Italy. It’s brilliant. You can watch it here if you’d like, and if you haven’t watched it before, I heartily suggest it. That moment when the chorus comes in and it explodes from something fantastic to incredibly majestic is possibly my single favorite musical moment.

Beethoven also said a number of great quotes. For me, this is one that I try to put into my writing.

“Don’t only practice your art, but force your way into its secrets; art deserves that, for it and knowledge can raise man to the Divine.”
– Ludwig von Beethoven.

News and Works in Progress

  • The Ravening of Wolves (29,837)
  • CB (8,418)
  • AOOE (1,030)
  • Cynewulf (8,642)
  • Gato (2,312)

Recent Blog Posts and Wiki Additions

  • Nothing this week.

Upcoming Events

  • Nothing, but maybe something in February. Such a strange time.

New Releases

Ian Malone has another out in his Mako-verse. It’s called Detron City Vice and it’s heavy on the action. While it’s set in a universe with three other books, this is a stand-alone story. You can find it on Amazon here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08J6K3HBT/.

Today’s Weight: 360.6

Updated Word Count: 238,747

Shijuren Wiki: 77 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
The Phases of Mars
Short Stories

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

Rob’s Updates: More Than a Thought

Week 37 of 2020

Greetings all

Today is Neil Peart’s birthday. 2020 has been an awful year for everyone, and I’m not trying to minimize anything for anyone else, but for me, the loss of Neil has been the hardest thing to accept.

It is unlikely at best that I would have ever met him. I doubt he would have ever read any of my stuff. In truth, I am not appreciably less likely to have a personal interaction with him now than in December.

But I miss having him in this world.

Anyway, I’m wearing my 40th Anniversary of A Farewell to Kings shirt today. I’m doing it as much for Neil as for the small convention I’m at. As you probably all know, I wear Rush shirts when I’m at cons, in part so people will know it’s me, and in part so other Rush fans will talk to me. I’ve had a couple of such conversations today and it helps.

I’m over halfway through editing None Call Me Mother. I apparently added more fluff to this first draft than I usually do, as I’ve already deleted nearly 13k from the story. I’m quite pleased with the result, though, as it’s a lot sharper and faster. I think, in retrospect, I knew the problem existed but it wasn’t entirely clear until I finished the full draft and had my editor confirm it.

Now, though, it’s rocking along and I think you’ll love it.

Next week, I’ll also be editing for the Corner Scribbler’s release, than I wrote the introduction for. It’ll be call Dragons and Dribbles and I’ll let you all know the release date when I know.

I have also made some progress on The Ravening of Wolves, my next 4HU novel. This has been more along the lines of a few sentences here and there and some plotting and planning. Again, I’m pleased where it’s going.

For now, I better get back to talking about my books.

What I’m Listening To

Various Rush songs have been playing in my head all day, though I’m not in a place to listen to songs. The one that comes to mind right now is “Lessons.”

Quote of the Week

“Sweet memories Flashing very quickly by
Reminding me Giving me a reason why
I know that My goal is more than a thought
I’ll be there When I teach what I’ve been taught

You know we’ve told you before
But you didn’t hear us then
So you still question why
You didn’t listen again

Sweet memories I never thought it would be like this
Reminding me Just how close I came to missing
I know that This is the way for me to go
You’ll be there When you know what I know”
– “Lessons” by Rush

News and Works in Progress

  • The Ravening of Wolves (29,837)
  • CB (8,418)
  • Cynewulf (8,642)
  • Gato (2,312)

Upcoming Events

  • Nothing at the moment.

New Releases

This week’s spotlight is on William Allen Webb’s High Mountain Hunters, a new entry in the 4HU. You can find it here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08HQWWCNB/.

Today’s Weight: 3640

Updated Word Count: 238,017

Shijuren Wiki: 77 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
The Phases of Mars
Short Stories

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

Rob’s Ramblings: ChattaCon and Stuff

Greetings all

This week is ChattaCon. It’s one of my favorite cons because Lani Brooks always gives me plenty to do. This year is no different.

Here’s my schedule:

  • Friday at 5pm (Vision A Ballroom): Martin Koszta Using History Panel (This might be the last time for a while. I’ve done it quite a few times, so I’ll stop suggesting it until I miss doing it.)
  • Friday at 8pm (Vision B Ballroom): Iron-Storyteller. This looks like a lot of fun and I wonder if we may end up wanting to run long because we’ll come up with so much stuff. However…
  • Friday at 9pm (Wisdom Boardroom: Beyond G-Rating. How much violence and sex should we include in fantasy and SF.
  • Saturday at 1pm (Vision A Ballroom): Blurring the Lines. We’ll discuss how to interweave real events in spec fiction.
  • Saturday at 4pm (Ballroom Hall): I believe this will be my author signing period. Yes, I’ll have books with me.
  • Sunday at 10am (Vision A Ballroom): Culture, Mythology, and Spirituality. Studying how cultures help fill out speculative fiction and RPGs.
  • There is also a game creation panels that I might attend, given the Shijuren RPG. It’s Principles of RPG Design run at 3pm in Vision C.

It’s going to be a great time. I love it that she keeps me hopping.

One thing that might be weird is this will be the first con I attend after Neil’s passing. His death is still reverberating among Rush fans and I’m not the only one not really over it.

I always wear Rush T-shirts at con. There are always a bunch of Rush fans at SF/F cons, of course, and I’ve always enjoyed interacting with them.

This time will be different and I’m not sure how it’ll go.

Anyway, on to other things.

Congratulations to the Chiefs and the 49ers for reaching the Super Bowl. I’m in a hard place here as a Cowboys fan living in the KC area. On the one hand, it’s the 49ers, and I never like it when they win. On the other, it’s one of the stepdaughter’s teams and if the Chiefs win, KC fans are going to be insufferable until they next get knocked out of the playoffs. And that couldn’t be any earlier than December 2020.

I guess I’ll root for the Chiefs. Andy Reid is a guy to admire, and I’d be really happy for him to win a Super Bowl with a team other than the Eagles. Yes, I’m petty. But the Eagles fans deserve all that and more.

Anyway, we’ll have a Super Bowl party here. I generally have had one. Last year was the exception because of moving about. Hopefully, the stepdaughter can have the night off from work, but if not, we’ll make a mini version of her and sit her right in front of the TV.

Also exciting is the result of the Dragon 9/Crew Dragon test. It looks like we’re almost to the point of crewed missions for that platform.

I’ve long believed, and circumstances are proving me right, than private industry would be the real path to space. NASA has certain uses, but commercial ventures can do things NASA can’t, and do them at a much faster rate.

I would really like to see humanity have a solid and stable presence in space before I pass along the mortal coil. Dragon could make that happen.

Well, enough of all that. Back to writing in None Call Me Mother. Making progress.

Rob’s Ramblings: 40 Seconds to LOS

There are times and places we all remember. Where the impact is so powerful that we are irrevocably changed.

Friday afternoon, I had one of those moments. I was standing in the checkout line at Wal-Mart idly flipping through Twitter while I waited. That’s where and when I found out Neil Peart had passed away.

I’ve tried to write this post ever since then. I’ve failed. What you’re reading isn’t correct. It doesn’t hold all that I need it to. I don’t know how to make it better, though I’m sure things will come to me.

However, I need to say something now, even if it’s not quite right.

****

I can’t remember a single earthshaking moment when Neil Peart became a shaping factor in my life, but I can credit the person who made it happen: Ted Shellhamer. We’d connected over sports and other shared things, but that year he got excited about a new record by Rush.

Moving Pictures had Tom Sawyer, which everyone remembers and which we loved too, but there was so much more. However, it was when Ted gave me stuff from A Farewell to Kings, Hemispheres, and Permanent Waves that I really started to love Rush almost as much as he did.

The title track to Hemispheres, with its blend of science fiction and Greek mythology combined with intricately woven lyrics that wrapped back around themselves blew me away. Natural Science did the same thing. And like so many others Closer to the Heart got to me.

It seeped into me, teaching me slowly and thoroughly. It doesn’t matter how many times I’ve listened to a Rush album, I always seem to learn something new. It is comforting to know I still have lessons to learn from Neil even though he’s gone.

I bought all the cassettes. Exit… Stage Left was my favorite because I got to hear Tom Sawyer and the Trees and The Spirit of the Radio all on one tape! Plus 9 other great songs. What could be better?

I’ll tell you what could be better: Signals followed by Grace Under Pressure followed by Hold Your Fire followed by Presto and so on. Best yet are the three albums of Rush 2.0, Vapor Trails, Snakes and Arrows, and Clockwork Angels.

19 studio albums all told. 19 different styles. 19 different kinds of awesome. 19 wonderful collections we are lucky to have.

****

It’s hard to describe how awesome it was to me that this music was so incredibly powerful and talked about things that fascinated me. On the one hand I could bang my head to it as much as anything else out there, but on the other hand it always made me think. Not just about mythology and science fiction, but poetry and history and philosophy and all sorts of things that I kept getting told were so utterly uncool yet I still desperately craved.

And still do, for that matter, even more than ever.

School was an awful place for me, as it was for so many. I had some good and great teachers. I had some not.

One administrator dealt fairly with me, Roel Quintanilla. He was it.  Other than that, I was fair game to all the other students because they knew I was the one who’d get in trouble, even if I wasn’t the source of the problem. I was bigger than many, frustrated, angry, and too damn intelligent to fit in those round holes they tried to fit me into. I will never forgive Katie McHenry, by the way, for explicitly telling me it was OK for girls to punch me. That it was my fault for saying anything that prompted them to punch me.  It’s been nearly 40 years for some of these things, yet I am still shaking in rage at the things she and other administrators let happen to me.

I never snapped, though. Not completely, at least. I did go off a few times, which at least had the benefit of making other students a bit wary about me.

I didn’t snap because I have great parents.

I also had Neil’s lyrics telling me that it was OK to be different.

The easy song to point to is Subdivisions of course, with its line “conform or be cast out.” But Witch Hunt was there too, showing me I was merely the target of humanity’s mob mentality. The Trees told me that I could conform, but only if I wished to give up way too much. 2112 told me that those damned administrators didn’t really know anything.

I could be different and yet the magic of life could still be within my grasp!

****

My life hasn’t really gone to plan. I was a good IT pro, and in some ways I regret leaving that line of work. It’s certainly easier than writing and it pays better.  But I’ve always struggled within that round hole of a 40-hour work week.

I thought at one time that academia would be the place for me. I didn’t have the rigid schedule chafing at me year after year and I could push my brain into ever cooler things.

But the academic world is worse than high school ever was. “Conform or be cast out” isn’t just a society thing there, it’s the professional motto.

I’m so glad I didn’t get my Ph.D. I’m proud of my research and what would have been my dissertation. I’m pleased with the skills I learned. I clearly enjoyed the publish or perish part of it all. I am pleased that my academic career mined out the useful parts of that world while I remained Rob.

In 2012, the week my second wife left me and right about when I realized I’d also broken up with academia, Rush released Clockwork Angels.

It’s a tour-de-force album. It has all the energy and passion of Moving Pictures, 2112, and Permanent Waves, but with all the skill and growth of their entire career. It’s the best album ever made. Not just by Rush, but ever.

Thank goodness for that album.

Kate had seemed like a miracle to me. Beautiful and smart and many wonderful things, but we didn’t fit as much as we thought. We had a great wedding (I entered that day to Rush’s Malignant Narcissism), but the marriage… well… we had the best wedding ever.

The chorus of The Wreckers on Clockwork Angels is:

All I know is that sometimes you have to be wary
Of a miracle too good to be true
All I know is that sometimes the truth is contrary
Everything in life you thought you knew
All I know is that sometimes you have to be wary
Because sometimes the target is you

And there it was, Rush saving me again. She was too good to be true, and that just happens. What’s important is where we go from here.

So I did what Neil had done. I hit the road. In my case, it wasn’t a motorcycle or a bike, it was the idiotic whimsy of walking the Offa’s Dyke trail in Wales. I packed up my phantoms, I shouldered my invisible load, and I haunted a wilderness road. I was a Ghost Walker.

I’m proud to be Kate’s friend now and I’m so glad we met. I listen to Malignant Narcissism happily remembering the joys of our time together and the lessons I’ve learned. The same is true of Holly, my first wife (Vapor Trails was there after she and I split, by the way). I never married Maerwynn, again because I screwed up, but I can’t imagine her not being in my life.

Headlong Flight on Clockwork Angels says what I feel about my marriages, my other sweeties along the way like Maerwynn, and all the other things which didn’t turn out like I expected:

All the treasures, the gold and glory
It didn’t always feel that way
I don’t regret it – I’ll never forget it
I wouldn’t trade tomorrow for today

Some days were dark
I wish that I could live it all again
Some nights were bright
I wish that I could live it all again

****

I wasn’t really salvaged after breaking up with Kate and academia until mom pushed me into writing, but it felt like a squarish hole when she suggested it. I’ve grown since then and I realized some time ago that’s partly because Neil’s lyrics made me think about writing all along.

My one regret of my writing career is that I started at 46. I wish I’d at least started writing on the side when Neil was first making me think about weaving words in intricate and lovely patterns.

I’ve been blessed with wonderful parents. I’ve had a lot of wonderful other people in my life along the way, including Holly, Kate, and Maerwynn. I never met Neil and yet, outside of my parents and my significant others, I would hard pressed to name another single person who mattered most in my life than Neil.

I don’t know where I would have been had Rush not been there for me. Neil’s lyrics have always held back the worst of whatever depresses me. Often enough I haven’t enjoyed my thoughts about myself, but Neil convinced me I had to look at them as honestly as I could. I had to learn to keep on riding North and East and circling South and West. Or, as I say when talking about writing, keep on plugging away.

I’m here and better than ever and that would never have happened if Neil hadn’t made me think.

****

How does one pay that back? I never had a great answer.

I always hoped one day I’d run into Neil at a random restaurant on the road. I wouldn’t have talked to him, but I would have slid my card over to the waitress in a heartbeat and bought dinner for him and all his guests, whatever the price. Giving out food and drink is my way of saying thanks, as many who’ve camped near me at SCA events have probably figured out.

It was the best compromise I could dream of. In my dream I wouldn’t say a word to him. I wouldn’t enter within his Limelight, so to speak, but I’d have said thanks in the truest way I know how. Especially since any words that ever said to him would have bothered and embarrassed him. Simply buying his dinner or lunch would have bothered him more than I’m really comfortable with, in all actuality, but it was the only compromise I could think of.

****

I sit here in the best time of my Headlong Flight. I have the right person in my life. I am doing the thing I should have been doing all along. I’m happier with myself as a person than I have ever been.

I know dark days will come, but I also know Neil will be there helping me push through them. Bright nights will also come and Neil will be there helping my celebrate them.

I tried to write this without using too many of Neil’s lyrics. It’s hard because it’s those lyrics that mattered the most to me. It’s also hard because his language patterns flow into my hands when I’m writing. Believe me, I could have written this entire thing with powerful lyrics in every paragraph.

But I needed this to be at least partially from me. It’s what Neil would expect.

I’m going to conclude this with words from a Rush song which he didn’t write. These are words exchanged between Ground Control and the Columbia during the first space shuttle launch, which Rush immortalized in Countdown.

“Columbia, Houston, we have 40 seconds to LOS
you’re looking good burning over the hill, we will see you in Madrid.”

“And we enjoyed the music, Bob, thank you.”

“We enjoyed it, just wanted to share some with you.”

Neil shared his music and writing with us and now we’ve lost his signal. We enjoyed it, Neil, and we thank you.

I don’t know if there’s a Madrid over the hill, but if there is, I’m going to buy Neil that dinner.

Rob’s Update: Trouble in the Wind

Week 49 of 2019

Greetings all

Trouble in the Wind is live! Sixteen stories of ground warfare that might have been. My story is “Here Must We Hold” about the Battle of Maldon.

You can find an excerpt of my story here: http://robhowell.org/blog/?p=1899.

Trouble in the Wind
Trouble in the Wind

I’m quite pleased with the story. I’m honored to have been given the opportunity to contribute. I’m absolutely stoked I get to be in a book with David Weber, Kevin J. Anderson, and S.M. Stirling, among others.

I made some progress on None Call Me Mother. Much of it wasn’t in words written, but rather cleaning up. I’m at that stage where I need to go back through it all to firm up the earlier chapters, fill in some connections, and make sure I’m ready for the final chapters.

What I mostly did was write another short story. I’ll tell you all about it when it’s about to go out the door. I also made progress on another project. All in all, a good week, even if it doesn’t show up in the raw numbers.

I also spent a goodly amount of time cleaning house. This is Kris Kinder Weekend, which means I have a big sales event then host everyone after the event.

It’s one of my favorite weekends of the year, but I’ll be exhausted on Sunday. It’s a fair trade.

What I’m Listening To

La Villa Strangiato by Rush. Such a great song.

Quote of the Week

This week’s quote is the inspiration for my story’s title. Thanks to Rosalind Jehanne for granting me permission to use it.

Here must we hold     So hearken to my counsel
Felled is our lord     Slain by foemen on the field
Now we must honor     The oaths we made in mead-hall
Now we must shoulder     The burden of his shield
– Rosalind Jehanne

It’s one of my favorite songs. You can find the complete lyrics to her song here: http://www.calonsong.org/CalontirSongs/battleofmaldon.htm

News and Works in Progress

  • None Call Me Mother (86,645)
  • CB (8,418)
  • SK (6,874)

Recent Blog Posts and Wiki Additions

Upcoming Events

Spotlight

This week’s spotlight is on all of the great authors who participated in Trouble in the Wind. Again, you can find it here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B082K73QPD. I think you’ll enjoy it.

Today’s Weight: 396.4

Updated Word Count: 216,398

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
The Phases of Mars
Other Short Stories

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

Mag Review: If (June, 1957)

Greetings all

This week I’m reviewing the If (Volume 7, No. 4) from June, 1957. I guessed I was going to like this one, given that it has an Asimov and a Biggle, but if I had any doubt, the rocket rotorship Mars lander by Mel Hunter that’s on the cover with the diagram on the inside front cover.

Mars Rocket Rotorship
Mars Rocket Rotorship

Table of Contents: http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/pl.cgi?58771

This issue starts with the Editor’s Report by James L. Quinn. It’s a bunch of short, interesting things he’s found in the previous month. He had a good eye and in this day and age he would probably be a well-followed blogger.

In this case, much of what he included relates to this issue of If, including small biographies of a couple authors in the issue. I wish more editors had done this, actually, as it’s quite interesting to see what the editor thought at the moment, especially before I read the stories.

He also talked about the Industrial Bulletin, which was a small sheet of interesting, fact-filled information. 1957 Clickbait! I’m a sucker for that sort of thing, and now I’m putting A Scientific Sampler, which has the best predictions, facts, and notes in my Amazon wishlist.

And if you need help with math you can get the IBM 709. The stats are amazing. 42,000 additions or subtractions per second. Multiplication and division at 5,000 per second. 327,000 decimal digits can be stored in it’s magnetic core, and any word in the core can be found in 12 millionths of a second. And then the piece de resistance, “You can get a typical system for about $3,000,000, or rent one for $56,000 per month! (p. 3)”

If (June, 1957) Cover
If (June, 1957) Cover

So, I suppose I should actually talk about the stories in this issue. First is Pretty Quadroon by Charles Fontenay. It’s a fascinating story about a number of different timelines related to whether there’s a second Civil War. Basically, if Beauregard Courtney meets and loves Piquette, then there will be a second war of varying results. In one, the South wins, in another the North wins, in a third the Russians nuke New York and other cities. If he doesn’t meet her, the second war does not happen.

This story is both well-written and fascinating, given that it’s written by a Tennessee man during the beginning of integration in the south. Not only that, it has the backdrop of the Cold War and fears of nuclear war. The story is thoughtful, challenging, and yet smooth to read. It is no wonder it was republished in Jim Baen’s Universe of October, 2008.

Walter Tevis is next with Operation Gold Brick and wow, what a fascinating find! Tevis is the author of The Hustler and The Color of Money. His other novel that got turned into a movie was The Man Who Fell to Earth, which starred David Bowie.

The story is a fun one about the US Army trying to build a tunnel through the Appalachians for a monorail track. They have a converter which easily cuts through the stone and creates a perfect tunnel, but suddenly it stops, having hit on a large gold brick. They try a pick, otherwise known as a manual converter, but that doesn’t work.

Then the  Army tries a variety of increasingly absurd ideas. They convert the *entire* mountain, but all they manage to do is end up with a gold brick sitting in the air about four feet off the ground. A physicist comes in and says this is the point, the fulcrum point, of Earth’s orbit. Ultimately, with a super bomb, they manage to move it, which sends the Earth on an orbit which will fall into the sun.

As a side note, this is message fiction done right. The story is humorous, catchy, and the reader keeps wanting to know more. In some ways it is a short story version of Dr. Strangelove. This story makes me wonder if Peter George, who wrote Red Alert, the basis of Dr. Strangelove, had read it, because it has the same sort of humor and message.

Next is an essay by Robert S. Richardson entitled the Face of Mars. You might have read his science fiction under the name Philip Latham. This essay talks about telescope images he worked with when Mars approached very close to the Earth in 1956. Reading the science articles in these magazines is odd to me.

I am no scientist, though I’ve read quite a bit about various scientific topics (and more now that I’m a writer, shout-out to my monitors at the FBI and NSA). However, I am standing on the shoulders of giants. I know more about Mars than Richardson did, yet he was widely recognized as an expert. He even helped as a technical assistant for Destination Moon. It’s a weird thought that’s hard to avoid as he’s describing specific aspects of astronomy and it all seems fairly basic. Amazing what’s transpired in 62 years.

Aldo Giunta’s Jingle in the Jungle is the next story. I had never heard of Giunta before, and it’s no surprise. This is the only speculative fiction he ever published. He was a playwright and a cabinet maker, as you can see from the linked obituary.

This story is about a future where boxing is much like it was in the 1930s, especially with all the corruption and fixing, except with robots.

This was another great story. A trainer, Charlie Jingle, has been working with an old boxing robot, Tanker Bell, for fourteen years. It’s way out of date and they can hardly get any fights. Then they stumble into a fight and beat the contender robot made by the shiny, big fighting-robot corporation.

But it’s a fix. It’s all a fix. The goal is to build up an outsider and suggest it has a chance. Then the champ wins big and looks even better and better. But Charlie has another idea and he tricks the Tanker into thinking he hasn’t got a chance and gets the robot mad and tricky. Ultimately Tanker Bell wins, and it is only then that he realizes his trainer has tricked him and gotten him to fight better than his best. Rocky before Rocky and with robots.

Isaac Asimov is one of my favorite writers. The Foundation and Hari Seldon shaped a style of magic in my world of Shijuren. Elijah Bailey and R. Daneel Olivaw helped convince me hardboiled detectives can work in any time period. His entry in this issue shows why.

This issue’s entry is Does a Bee CareIf you click on the title links of most stories, you’ll find that the links almost always go to the bare ISFDB page. There’s rarely much on those pages, and I link to them as much to highlight the title as I do to give you places to find more information. In this case, though, the story is so powerful that it has its own Wikipedia page.

The story goes like this. An ovum was placed on Earth. The ovum grew to a creature that looked like it was human, though it was not. For 8,000 years it influenced civilization to help humanity achieve spaceflight. In the story, it has ensured that in one of the first rockets to the moon there’s space enough for it to fit inside. When the rocket reaches space the creature achieves full maturity. It is, finally, able to return to its home.

The twist is that while we see the creature manipulating things, Asimov guides us along the path of focusing on its point of view. Then at the end, asks if the bee cares what has happened to the flower after it has gotten the pollen. What a neat take on things.

Lloyd Biggle, Jr. is next with …On the Dotted Line. The story is about a car salesman getting transported to the year 2337. He’s a great salesman, but in 2337 salesmen are hypnotists, and all he’s got is psychology.

But that’s what he is, a salesman and he’s got to figure out how to make his way. Fortunately for him, after a couple of years the hypnotists are discovered and Congress passes laws outlawing hypnotism in sales. This is the salesman’s chance.

And he does pretty well, for a time. However, with his sales comes publicity, and after people have seen his pitch, they don’t buy and he loses his sales job. He’s a smart man and he succeeds in the field of space mining. He finally, however, figures out how to sell one more thing, essentially the moon Callisto, and retires, confident in his ability. At the end, though, the compulsion is still there, and he’s looking about for something else to sell.

It’s a good story, which doesn’t surprise me. Biggles had a neat way of looking at things, I’ve found, and this is an example. He made a *salesman* into a sympathetic figure.

Dan Galouye is another new writer to me. His story here is Shuffle Board. This is the first average story in this issue. Earth in a century or so will be filled with various radioactive waste. The main character is tasked with preventing the radioactivity from contaminating as much as possible. In the end, the increased radioactivity changes humanity so we’re not as susceptible to its affects.

I think this story didn’t catch me because it seemed a little obvious to me, but that’s in part because of my perspective in 2018 as opposed to 1957. I sort of expect humanity to adjust, if needed. More importantly, I felt the underlying causes see farfetched now. This is unfortunate, because the story is well-written. I’m definitely looking forward to reading more from Galouye, and maybe the twist at the end will surprise me.

As a side note. Dear Editor of any magazine, please avoid, “Continued on page X” for any story, especially for the last 3 paragraphs. Ah, well.

Anyway, the next story is called The Human Element by Leo Kelley. It’s a fun story that connected to me because our protagonist hearkens back to an earlier time. Unfortunately, in his era, living in the past would get you sent to the Psych center.

If (June, 1957) Science Quiz
If (June, 1957) Science Quiz

However, our hero has expressed his rebellion by putting on a clown suit and running onto stage in a modern day circus. The circus is nothing like we would think, and no one there had seen a clown before. He’s a hit, and the circus owners hire him. In many ways, this story is nothing but the cotton candy the hero reminisces about. But I am someone who lives in the past quite often, and I do wonder about today’s society.

Next is a fun little game, a science quiz. I’ve included the image. Have fun.

Then we have a series of science briefs. More little notes and tidbits from science. The most interesting one to me was the idea that we’d have nuclear-powered aircraft in the early 1960s.

Finally, we get to Hue and Cry, the letters to the editor. I always enjoy reading these, and this one had several focused on the idea of humanity and humanism as discussed in a previous If. Oddly, as I type this, I happen to be listening to the album Hemispheres by Rush. The title song is about humanity’s challenge to balance thought and emotion, which apparently the earlier If issue talked about. Odd timing, there.

But it’s an excuse to include this wonderful Rush quote:

“Let the truth of Love be lighted
Let the love of truth shine clear
Sensibility
Armed with sense and liberty
With the Heart and Mind united
In a single perfect sphere”
Cygnus X-1, Book 2: Hemispheres, Rush

Overall, this was one of the better magazines I’ve seen so far. It didn’t sell well, though, and is one of the shorter-lived SF mags of the time. It’s a shame, though, because I’m looking forward to reading more of them.

Next week I’ll be reviewing the most modern issue I’ve read so far, the Fantastic from March, 1974. This issue’s cover story is by Brian Aldiss and Fritz Lieber reviews some books. Good stuff to look forward to.

Have a great day, everyone.


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: Grey My Way

Week 27 of 2018

I’m in Indianapolis at the Lincoln Square Pancake House getting ready to load in for InConjunction. They have a take on biscuits and gravy involving jalapeno cornbread and queso. I had to try it.

Anyway, I’m slowly recovering from LibertyCon. What an amazing time. My detailed after-action report is here: http://robhowell.org/blog/?p=1224. LibertyCon is so good, that all 750 tickets for 2019 sold out in 6 hours yesterday. Actually, 5 hours, 52 minutes, and 20 seconds, but who’s counting.

I’ve got mine, don’t worry.

The big result, from my perspective, is a slight change in priorities and focus. I’ve got two books currently planned, None Call Me Mother and The Feeding of Sorrows (working title for the Four Horsemen novel). However, I’m going to turn more focus on some short stories.

This weekend is InConjunction, which is a much different con. I’ll be involved in a variety of panels plus I’ll be selling in the author’s alley next to Jon Osborne, another writer in the 4HU. Then I get home as quickly as I can. I should be back to Olathe on Sunday night.

I’m ready. It’s been a crazy last two months, and I still have a month or so to go. It’s been productive, and I’m really happy with the direction everything is going, but I am so glad I don’t have anything huge scheduled for a while after Pennsic.

Anyway, the stories aren’t going to write themselves, so I better get back to work.

Current Playlist Song

Something too low to hear over the voices of other guests, but with the occasional country twang.

Quote of the Week

I heard this song on the drive yesterday, and as my birthday approaches, it seems more and more relevant.

My life is slipping away
I’m aging every day
But even when I’m grey
I’ll still be grey my way
– Rush, “I Think I’m Going Bald”

News and Works in Progress

  • CB (6560)
  • TAV (2,007)
  • AFS (2,681)

Recent Blog Posts and Wiki Additions

Upcoming Events

Spotlight

This week’s interview was with Rob Hobart, an amazing gamer and now a writer. You can find the interview here: http://robhowell.org/blog/?p=1229 and his Amazon page at: https://www.amazon.com/Sword-Amatsu-Empire-Moon-Book-ebook/dp/B07CWKP2LW/.

Today’s Weight: 386.8 (Last week)

Updated Word Count: 154,715 (Finally totaled up everything)

Shijuren Wiki: 874 entries

Four Horsemen Wiki: 376 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

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

Rob’s Update: Waving Towards the Clearing Sky

Week 8 of 2018

Greetings everyone, with a special shout out to all of those I added this week. Thanks for joining me here.

It was a busy week, highlighted by Planet Comicon. I had a great time, and it was my best year yet. You can find my full AAR at: http://robhowell.org/blog/?p=950.

One result from Planet Comicon is discovery of some more regional cons. You’ll see that I’ve added O Comic Con, an Omaha convention to my list. I’ve got several others I’m looking at in Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, Salina, and Hutchinson. Going to be a busy summer.

Sometimes the exhaustion of a busy con like Planet Comicon can help me think through things. I don’t have a solid number of words on Brief Is My Flame this week because I’m in the midst of switching something around. Basically, I had characters coming at something in one direction and that was fighting me. By flipping the direction, everything falls into place. The good news is that all the work I’ve done will go directly into None Call Me Mother.

I didn’t get a chance to do much writing on anything else. I did some work on the Wikis, but essentially this last week was about Planet Comicon and nothing else.

However, after I recover from a successful convention, I tend to get enthusiastic about where I am and what I’m doing. Sometimes writing is just a slog, but you gotta push through that. Not this week.

In fact, it’s time for me to get back to work.

Current Playlist Song: “Peaceable Kingdom” by Rush. Now Rush has effectively called it quits, but we thought that might be the case in the late 90s after a couple of tragedies made it so that Neil Peart didn’t want to play anymore. However, he came back and Rush gave us three brilliant albums: Vapor Trails, Snakes & Arrows, and Clockwork Angels. This one is from Vapor Trails.

Quote of the Week

Today is the birthday of Anthony Daniels. You might know him better as C-3PO. Here’s a quote from the man himself.

“I have a greater appreciation for kitchen appliances, having played one.” – Anthony Daniels

News and Works in Progress

  • TAV (1144)
  • AFS (2681)
  • Brief Is My Flame (?)

Recent Blog Posts and Wiki Additions

Upcoming Events

Spotlight

Today’s spotlight is on a just released novel in the Four Horsemen Universe, Assassin by Kacey Ezell and Marisa Wolf. You can find it here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B079YTRLFN/

Today’s Weight: 384.0

Updated Word Count: 14441

Shijuren Wiki: 738 entries

Four Horsemen Wiki: 159 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
Author of the Shijuren-series of novels

Currently Available Works

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

Random Music Thoughts

As I travel around, my mind contemplates a variety of things. Often, this helps my writing, and I will use the voice recorder on my phone.

One thing that’s become abundantly clear is that I’m getting my money’s worth from my subscription to Sirius XM. I got nearly all the NFL games I wanted to listen to last year, along with Rangers baseball and plenty of Premier League football. And the fantasy sports channel actually has some people who look at real numbers. Good stuff.

Of course, many of them are music. Most are rock, including several metal channels. In general, I’m listening to a broader range of music than ever before. The bad news is that my CD buying list is getting larger.

There is an oddball channel, oddball at least in terms of every other music channel. There’s a channel that plays 1930s and 40s big band stuff. Glen Miller, Glen Gray, Andrews Sisters, Duke Ellington, that sort of stuff.

And now what I desperately want is for Mike Portnoy to gather a bunch of musicians do an album of hard rock / metal covers of big band songs.

Part of this stems from Sam Nunn’s Evolution of Metal documentary where he looked at the roots of metal. One of the people he talked to was Bill Ward, drummer for Black Sabbath, who pointed out how the power of big band songs was taken by Black Sabbath and their successors. Look at “In the Mood,” for example, and think of its up-tempo beat. Now imagine metal guitars hammering that rhythm, maybe alongside trumpets, maybe not, but I hear something that could be really awesome.

Why Mike Portnoy? I can’t think of anyone who has collaborated with more hard rock and heavy metal musicians right now, plus he has a broad, jazzy, progressive rock background that could translate well.

Who are some of the others I’d like to see? Well, I’d love to hear Jonathan Davis and Maynard James Keenan. Bruce Dickinson would be awesome. And, of course, my favorite voice right now, Serj Tankian. I don’t like Lady Gaga’s music, but I don’t know too many with better voices. Put her with Lizzie Hale and one of the Nightwish singers and you could do some amazing Andrews Sisters number.

Oddly, I’d like Ty Tabor and Jerry Gaskill simply for their voices, despite the fact one’s a drummer and the other’s a guitarist, because King’s X has some of the best harmonies of any hard rock band ever.

On guitar, I want to hear what Zakk Wylde would do. Scott Ian, with his hip-hop metal collaborations, would add an interesting feel. Given Ward’s comments, I’d want Tony Iommi. Joe Satriani and John Petrucci would add a diverse feel, though I don’t know if Petrucci would be willing to work with Portnoy given their past. All these would be good, but the two I most want are Richie Blackmore, with his interest in translating medieval music to modern guitar, and Alex Lifeson. It’s not like Alex is working on any thing else right now.

Same would be said for Geddy Lee. He’d be my first choice. Gotta include Dug Pinnock, and the thought of Lee and Pinnock having a bass off just gives me chills. I also think Steve Harris would have a blast.

On drums, this might be the one project Neil Peart might join, if he got a chance to do some of Buddy Rich’s music. Mike would of course be the primary drummer, but I’d also want Bill Ward and I’d bet Ginger Baker would jump at the chance, assuming he can still play.

These are the names that come to mind quickly, but I’m sure there’s more.

As for songs, I’d want a mix of the big ones like “In the Mood,” but it’d be neat for them to pick some of their personal favorites.

So. Who do I know can tell Mike Portnoy to make this happen?

 

Rob’s Update: Toys for Tots

Week of 12-18 November

Greetings all

It’s been a good week. Lots of work on Eleonore’s portion of Brief Is My Flame, which is always fun for me. She’s one of my favorite characters. The only real problem with her is not having too many words about her. There’s no real way to write a full novel just about her in this sequence, but I easily could.

One of the threads I’ve added that was not part of I Am a Wondrous Thing is Geirr Stronghair in Svellheim. He and Eleonore will have some interesting times together.

On a different note, I may have found a replacement for Brewbaker’s. If you recall, Brewbaker’s in the Kansas City area was a bar that proved especially comfortable and productive. There’s a barbecue place in Council Bluffs that may prove just as productive a spot.

And if it doesn’t turn out quite as well, I’ll somehow survive eating the ribs and pulled pork. And the brisket. Oh, the sausage balls are tasty too. It’s not quite B&C Creations in Wichita level of barbecue, but I’ll make do.

Tomorrow, I will head to Calontir’s Toys for Tots Tournament. It’s a great event because of all the toys we gather. Always over a thousand. It’s definitely a cool thing to have Marines come into a medieval-themed court and accept the toys formally. For those readers not coming, which is most of you, I ask that consider finding a Marine and giving him a new, unopened, and unwrapped toy. It’s a good cause in my opinion.

Well, I should get back to writing another battle scene. Have a great Thanksgiving everyone.

Quote of the Week

One of the interesting things about writing is how much you have to honestly evaluate what you’re doing, and that’s hard. Imposter syndrome makes it hard to like what you’ve written sometimes, but at the same time each sentence is one of your babies. Don’t want to cut what is good, but nothing is good if you leave in the extra stuff.

Rush, of course, helps me when I’m fighting through some of this, so we get this week’s quote. I hear this song and then I remember to distance myself from myself when I look at what I’ve written. I should probably just put this song on repeat when I’m editing.

All puffed up with vanity
We see what we want to see
To the beautiful and the wise
The mirror always lies
– Rush, “War Paint”

News and Works in Progress

  • Brief Is My Flame, about 25k now
  • A short story about the meeting of Edward and Deor
  • A seeeekrit project that I’ll open up in December.

Upcoming Events

Spotlight

Today, The Good, the Bad, and the Merc, the third collection of short stories in the Four Horsemen Universe was released into the wild. You can find it on Amazon here: https://www.amazon.com/Good-Bad-Merc-Horsemen-Revelations-ebook/dp/B077H6H36M/

There’s a lot coming up in the Four Horsemen Universe and these three collections have a ton of background information and backstories. And, of course, my excellent story “Where Enemies Sit” in For a Few Credits More 😉

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
Author of the Shijuren-series of novels

Currently Available Works

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