Category Archives: Aesc & Thorn Publishing

Posts related to Aesc & Thorn Publishing and various aspects of Rob’s professional life.

Rob’s Update: A Small Unregarded Yellow Sun

Week 47 of 2019

Greetings all

It’s been a pretty good week here in Rob-land. I should have anticipated, by the way, that I probably wouldn’t do a mag review or an interview this week because of the holiday. I’ll do some next week.

However, I caught up on a number of small projects. I’ll expand on that in January. I also sent off another short story. This too I’ll talk about more in January.

I also started a bit of whimsy that I will tell you about when it’s ready.

With all that was going on, I didn’t really look at None Call Me Mother much. I plan on writing a goodly amount over the weekend and all next week.

Of course, though, I spent a lot of time this week getting ready for Thanksgiving. We finished the great room and I spent a goodly amount of time putting books back into place.

Yesterday was, in general, a great day. Thanksgiving included the sweetie, her daughter, my mom, and a couple of friends. We ate a goodly amount.

Today was a lot of recovery and mostly lazing about. Still, I hope to get some writing in tonight.

What I’m Listening To

More college football. This time it’s South Florida v. Central Florida. Yes, I like football, even when I don’t care about the two teams in question.

Quote of the Week

I’m feeling silly, so you get something from Douglas Adams.

“Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the western spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun. Orbiting this at a distance of roughly ninety-two million miles is an utterly insignificant little blue green planet whose ape-descended life forms are so amazingly primitive that they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea.”
― Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

News and Works in Progress

  • None Call Me Mother (76,951)
  • CB (8,418)
  • SK (706)

Recent Blog Posts and Wiki Additions

I didn’t do anything this week, but I’ll get back into it all next week.

Upcoming Events

Spotlight

This week’s spotlight is on that amazing prime rib I made yesterday and the even tastier mashed potatoes. Nom.

Today’s Weight: 394.4

Updated Word Count: 205,217

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

Rob’s Update: Fitzalan to Arundel

Week 46 of 2019

Greetings all

I’m a day late on this blog post but I thought that might happen. We had plans last night and I was not able to get the update done before we left.

What did we do? Well, I’m glad you asked. After our first date, I invited my sweetie to go see Colin Mochrie and Brad Sherwood live. They basically do a longer form version of Whose Line is it Anyway, which allows them to do some improved versions of some games and also some other games that are just too long to do in the TV format.

Colin and Brad with my Sweetie
Colin and Brad with my Sweetie

Unfortunately, my sweetie wasn’t able to join me. It was really a shame because I had even gotten the meet & greet tickets. They shook our hands, exchanged a few words, and took a picture. After they took my picture, I explained that my sweetie couldn’t come and I asked if they would take this picture.

Immediately after the show, I texted my sweetie that picture. This was a moment of truth. If she laughed a lot, there was a definite chance for us to last. If she didn’t, well, better to know then.

She laughed. A lot. Still does.

So last night Colin and Brad were in town and we finally got to have our second date. Sadly, there weren’t meet and greet tickets, probably because they’re in Naperville, IL tonight. However, we had a wonderful time. They are really good at this and they have a brilliant way of keeping threads winding through the show. If you have a chance, you should go at least once. The truth is, you can go every night since every show is different.

That was a great conclusion to a good week here. I made a lot of progress with None Call Me Mother. I’m aiming to get a draft to the editor by the end of the year. If I keep going like I am that’ll happen. I worry about the holidays distracting me, but it doesn’t look like we’re going on any long trips.

With the help of my editor Kellie Hultgren, I figured out a problem that’s been nagging at me on a short story. It’s a subtle thing, as the story has a bunch of good elements, but I forgot the Rule of Three. The conclusion seemed tacked on, when in fact I aimed for it all along. That’s an easy fix and I should have that story to the editor by Thanksgiving.

Speaking of short stories, my story Here Must We Hold will come out on 13 December as part of Trouble In the Wind. This is the third of the Phases of Mars military alternate history anthologies and focuses on land combat. I don’t know if James Young and Chris Kennedy will do more, but I’ve had a blast writing these and hope to do more. The first two, Far Better to Dare and In Dark’ning Storms could quite easily be the basis for many more stories. I couldn’t quite get a land story that worked for me, but there are more sea and air stories waiting to happen.

Today, we started putting finishing touches on the floor in the great room. All that’s left is some touch up on the quarter-round, putting in the thresholds, and putting back the outlet covers. Since the bookcases all got moved, we’re also cleaning and oiling the wood-paneled walls. Tomorrow we’ll start putting bookcases back in.

An exciting week as we get closer to things getting done.

What I’m Listening To

I made a slight change here. Many times of late it’s been something other than a song on my playlist so I’m changing the title to match reality.

Anyway, right now, I’m listening to my usual on fall Saturday sort of thing, a college football game. Right now it’s SMU v. Navy. I love watching Navy play. In fact, I love watching every triple option team play. There’s a gorgeous ballet in that offense. It’s limited and only works now because so few run it, but it’s so fun when executed well. It’s perfect for the service academies because it relies on discipline and execution more than athleticism.

Quote of the Week

Today is the birthday of William Fitzalan, 9th earl of Arundel. Who? A player in the War of the Roses, and a name I’m intimately familiar with because of the game Kingmaker. If you’ve played the game, this quote will be quite familiar.

“Piracy: Fitzalan to Arundal, Beaufort to Corfe
Killed: Cromwell, Graystoke
4-1 Victory”
– Kingmaker Card

News and Works in Progress

  • None Call Me Mother (76,951)
  • CB (8,418)
  • AFS (8,163)

Recent Blog Posts and Wiki Additions

Upcoming Events

Spotlight

This week’s spotlight is on William Joseph Roberts, who just released a new book called fLUX Runners. You can find the interview here: http://robhowell.org/blog/?p=1845 and the book at: https://www.amazon.com/fLUX-Runners-William-Joseph-Roberts-ebook/dp/B081M3XKBV/.

Today’s Weight: 394.4

Updated Word Count: 196,635

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: William Joseph Roberts

This week I’m interviewing William Joseph Roberts. Many of you haven’t heard of him until now, but I suspect you will. He’s a real go-getter and I’m looking forward to seeing his entry into a sooper-sekrit project we’re working on.

Interview: William Joseph Roberts
William Joseph Roberts
William Joseph Roberts

What is your quest?

In the end, I strive to create works that are fun, memorable and that evoke a physical or emotional reaction. Nothing beats watching someone read a rough scene and start to gag from what they are reading, then ask where the rest of it is.

fLUX Runners Cover
fLUX Runners Cover

What is your favorite color?

I’ve always liked finding Easter eggs hidden away in a story or game or show. Like the tardis or finding a sperm whale and bowl of petunias in the wasteland in Fallout 1.

What is the average flying speed of an unladen paintbrush?

DISTRACTIONS!  Which really goes back to those evil little demons at the back of our minds telling us that we can’t. So, we snack, we watch a show, we do dishes, or in my case we create a podcast and go down the distraction rabbit hole from hell.  But in the end, everything that I learned while doing the podcast, like networking has paid off in the end.

What are the powers of your personal Holy Hand Grenade?

Research and multitasking. But only if I am able to reign in my brain squirrels and keep them from going down too many internet rabbit holes.

Betty Details
Betty Details

Lightning Round

  • Favorite Muppet? Animal (Rob’s Note: Shocking!)
  • Your Wrestler Name?  Billy Joe Bob (Rob’s Note: Also Shocking!)
  • And Signature Wrestling Move?  Der…. Flying clothes line
  • Favorite Weird Color? Radioactive green
  • How Will You Conquer the World? By cloning myself, if the wife will agree to let me do it.
  • What Cartoon Character Are You? Tasmanian Devil
  • Best Present You’ve Ever Received? Pictures of my kids and grandkids
  • What Do You Secretly Plot? To build a self sufficient underground community
  • Favorite Sports Team?  I have no idea. I’m usually doing something else.
  • Cake or Pie? Strawberry Rhubarb Pie
  • Lime or Lemon? Lime
  • Favorite Chip Dip?  The wife’s black bean dip (Rob’s Note: This could be brought to conventions, you know)
  • Favorite Cereal? Coco Pebbles
  • Favorite Musical Performer We’ve Never Heard Of? Heidivolk Damn good Viking metal
  • Whisky or Whiskey? Neither, Scotch!
  • Favorite Superhero? Lobo
  • Steak Temperature? Hu? Wipe it’s nasty ass, lop off the horns and put it on a plate.
  • Favorite 1970s TV show? Battlestar Galactica
  • Best Thing From the 80s? Starflight
  • Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall? Fall
  • Favorite Pet? Do kids count?  If not, then the puppers
  • Best Game Ever? Starflight
  • Coffee or Tea? Coffee
  • Sci-Fi or Fantasy? Both
  • Brought to you by the letter: P
Veronica Details
Veronica Details

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

What is your preferred weapon of choice when roaming the lands.

Rob’s Answer: Probably a spear. It’s the one weapon I got pretty good at in the SCA and it’s useful in a variety of ways. Also, as a Fyrdman of Calontir, it’s got a special meaning for me.

Now, if we’re talking life in general, my favorite weapon is politeness and happiness. It’s sort of social judo, I guess. I smile and laugh and often get what I’m hoping for. And if I don’t, I’m at least pleased with how I acted. Of course, the down side is when I lose my temper and act like a jerk I’m that much more pissed at myself.

Betty Heavy Asteroid Miner
Betty Heavy Asteroid Miner

Tell me again where we can find your stuff? 

And where can we find you? (Events and cons you’re scheduled to attend)

  • Chattacon in January
  • AnachroCon in February
  • Fantasci in March
  • Metrotham in May
  • LibertyCon in June
Veronica Heavy Frigate
Veronica Heavy Frigate

Do you have a creator biography?

In a previous lifetime, William Joseph Roberts was an F-15 mechanic and Staff Sergeant in the United States Air Force. He has traveled the world and experienced many things in his few years. During this lifetime, he has been called a Jack of all trades, a Renaissance man and insane squirrel wrangler by his peers.

Since his enlistment ended, he has perused careers as an industrial and architectural designer, design engineer, and now, eclectic writer.

William Joseph Roberts currently resides in the quaint southern town of Chickamauga, Georgia with his loving wife, three freaky-smart nerd children, and small pack of fur babies.

Full blown bio at: https://williamjosephroberts.com/about/


Thanks to William 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: Imaginative Tales (September, 1955)

Greetings all

I’m looking forward to this week’s magazine review, unlike last week’s. This one is not filled with any classic stories and there’s no Asimov, Heinlein, or Clarke, but all the stories were solid and filled with action. There’s one exception. It isn’t a classic, but the last story should be.

Table of Contents: http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/pl.cgi?183245

Imaginative Tales (9/55) Cover
Imaginative Tales (9/55) Cover

I suspected I was going to enjoy this issue when I read the first words of the editorial by William L. Hamling. “An action story is more popular than any other type” (4). Previously, Imaginative Tales had focused on humorous stories, but they shifted their editorial focus starting in this one on action.

I like it, especially since it’s how I try to write.

By the way, Hamling had an interesting career. As an editor, he kept buying a poor artist’s fantasy cartoons. The cartoons weren’t very good and so Hamling never published them, but the artist needed the money. In 1953, the artist came to Hamling with a magazine idea. Hamling replied, “You can’t sell sex to the American public.” That artist was Hugh Hefner. Safe to say Hamling was wrong and Hefner stopped being poor.

Last week, I mentioned that this issue did something I wish they all did. It’s a simple Introducing the Author essay. Basically, they asked Dwight V. Swain to tell us about himself. It’s much like my weekly interviews, and I really enjoy getting to know the authors as people, especially ones I’m not terribly familiar with. In this case, it’s located inside the front and back covers, but I don’t really care where they would have placed it, given that inside the covers is such prime advertising territory, but I would have loved to have seen this sort of thing done routinely.

Swain’s story Terror Station is the cover story. I’d never read anything by him before, but I’ll remember the name. Terror Station is about a secret project in the desert. Stone, the project’s security officer, is returning to the facility when he sees a woman in the night running toward his car followed by some strange monster. He kills the monster, but the woman is dead. Guards from the lab rush up and immediately arrest him for killing her, much to his frustration.

Fury comes later when his expectations of the whole thing getting cleared up get squashed by everyone in the base thinking he’s guilty. None of these people, who were all friends and colleagues would give him any benefit of the doubt. To Stone it’s like they’re all filled with paranoia and fear which hadn’t been there when he left.

They send him to Reva, the psychologist, who happens to be one of Stone’s exes. She, at least, tries to help. In so doing, she discovers that he had once had encephalitis. In turn, he discovers why she’s there. The project wouldn’t have had a psychologist except she had her own work.

Stone discovers that her portion of the project is creating that fear and paranoia. He disables the device and all is back to normal, except they wonder at the source of the technology. Stone discovers that it comes from aliens who have landed near the base.

The manager of the project, MacDougal, it turns out, has been in league with these aliens. His project was going nowhere until they arrived, and he was afraid his career was about to crash and burn. He took bits of their technology to show his superiors that he was making progress while in turn helping the aliens.

What the aliens want is for us to capture all the krypton out of the air (about 1ppm) and give it to them as they use it for their technology. According to the story, though, what they want is for humanity to kill itself because krypton’s job is to keep our atmosphere intact. If we gave it to them, they could come back later to a dead planet, which to them would be a great joke.

Stone thwarts the aliens, figures out MacDougal’s part, and confronts him. MacDougal, however, has the drop on him and is about to kill him when Reva shoots him with Stone’s gun which she had picked up in an earlier fight. They then walk off, hand in hand.

A good, rip-roaring yarn, exactly like Hamling said he wanted.

Next is Coffin for Two by Winston K. Marks. Marks is another author I’d never read before, but I liked this story. A man returns from three years off Earth mining on Venus. Upon his return, he sees marked changes.

First, most people are walking around with a star on their forehead. Also, he finds his girl now making time with one of their friends. They get into a bit of a scuffle and his friend, who had never been much of an athlete, beats the heck out of the miner. Then the crew decides to go party to celebrate his return. On the way, the lead cab gets destroyed by a passing driver. His friends agree its too bad, because they would have enjoyed the party.

Too bad! The miner thinks two friends have just been killed and it’s “too bad?” It turns out that in the time he’s been gone, they’ve figured out a way to let people rest in a life support chamber (called coffins) and have their brain implant an automaton (called proxies) marked with a red star. His friends haven’t died, but they’ll take a bit of time to get another proxy.

At first, he is completely against the idea of getting his own proxy, but the friend who was now dating his old flame beats him up again. So he goes and gets fitted out. He hides the fact he’s using a proxy and confronts the old friend. Once the friend tries to kill him, he reveals he’s using a proxy and tells the friend to scram.

Now the old flame, who preferred the miner anyway, is waiting for an offer of marriage. However, he hesitates. He wanted to marry her three years ago, but how do proxies get married? Why, the share a coffin for two.

Following that is The Invisible Enemy by Jerry Sohl. Sohl is yet another write I hadn’t read before in this issue. This story is about a rescue attempt on another planet. The planet is a desert planet, out on the frontier, and the exploration vessel that came to it never left. Its crew vanished without a trace. A second ship came to look and the same thing happened to it.

Now comes a third ship. This one has a much larger crew and also includes a brand new computer with its own operator. Unfortunately, the commander of the ship despises the new equipment and scorn the operator as a mere civilian.

At first, his scorn is partially justified. The computer provides no answers, merely saying it has insufficient data. The crew starts exploring. And then they start disappearing, much like the crews of the previous ships. However, there’s nothing left behind. No shred of evidence.

Then, one of the crew is saved, briefly, from one of the attacks. He dies in the ship’s medical bay, raving of monsters. The commander insists that he give the boy a proper burial.

The computer now has sufficient data and says this is not advised. The tech goes to the commander and urges him not to follow through on the burial, but the commander ignores him and scorns the computer’s “advice.” He confines the tech to his quarters and continues with the burial.

However, the burial is a massacre. There are creatures swimming in the sand who are incredibly sensitive to the smell of blood. They scent the body and eat all the rest of the crew while the tech watches in horror. Then his horror is all the greater as he wonders if he can leave his quarters or is trapped here until he dies. Fortunately, the executive officer had believed him and left the door unlocked so he can flee the planet.

De-sert shark, do do, d-doo d-doo…

Henry Slesar’s The Brat is next. Really good story, with one of Slesar’s common twist endings. I become more and more a fan of Slesar with every story.

In this one, an alien is brought back to Earth for study. When the doctor examining alien died, the alien fled. They eventually found him in Nebraska, happily married with children.

Not everyone is happy about this, especially a hate group led by a man named Turesco. He is obsessed with finding all of these offspring before the alien, who can clearly interbreed with humans, corrupts our blood. They track down two, one who has mostly alien characteristics and a brat, who mostly looks human. They kill one and take one away.

However, the only way they can do this is with help from the government. A protector first class named Ward is assigned to the case and it is his suggestion that finally brings the two boys to bay. He does everything he can to save them, but Turesco and his men are just too much.

Then, at the least, we see that Ward also has those alien characteristics, albeit weaker. Turesco and his vision of “purity” is long past any hope of success.

What a great way to turn a crappy ending into a “villain gets his comeuppance” ending.

Last is Buck and the Space War by Mack Reynolds. I loved this story. When I saw it in the table of contents I immediately wondered if it was a Buck Rogers story, so I was excited to check it out. It’s not, but it might even be better.

It’s about a guy named Buck to whom the strangest things happen. If he goes fishing and doesn’t catch anything, it’s because a sea serpent swamp up the St. Johns River. That sort of thing.

Buck lives in Dupont, Florida, north of Orlando, south of Jacksonville. He’s a complete hick and he decides one day to go to Lake Dexter get him a mess of squirrels.

I’m going to stop here and say that Reynolds’ use of language in this story is fantastic. The story is light-hearted in many ways, and the specific words he chooses adds to the humor. Like “mess of squirrels.” Had Buck just wanted a few squirrels he could have stayed close to home, but he wanted a “mess.”

Anyway, squirrel hunting involves sitting and waiting until squirrels come to the hunter. Buck, being Buck, never gets a chance at a squirrel. Instead a damaged spaceship crashes on one side of the clearing where he waited. A small alien pops out and runs to a depression. A second spaceship lands and another alien, also small, pops out and the two start firing at each other.

Buck’s had enough of this, especially since he was sort of in the middle anyway. He picks up one of the aliens and carries him over to the other. He sets them down and asks what’s going on. One is a Martian, the other a Venusian, and the two have been battling for millennia. He  tells them to stop with all this foolishness. He talks about treating people as you’d wish to be treated and overrides their protests about the other guy.

The two take notes and he sends them off back to Mars and Venus. There they take his words of wisdom, leaving him with the title of Holy One. The presumption at the end is that he ends the ancient war because the two take his backwoods common sense back to their planets as the root of a new religion.

It’s silly and impractical. There’s no way these events could actually end a war spanning thousands of years. But who cares? It’s a fun story and you really like Buck.

Again, this isn’t a great issue. There’s no Foundation story or anything like that. It is, however, exactly what Hamling aimed for. A magazine with lots of action, good stories that you want to find out what’s going on, and heroes you can root for.

Good stuff.

Next week I’ll review the Fantastic Universe from July, 1955. I’m excited because there’s stories by a number of good writers including Philip K. Dick and Murray Leinster. See you next week!

Next Week’s Issue: http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/pl.cgi?89716


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: Venturing to Carry

Week 45 of 2019

Greetings all

It’s been a good week here. I wrote over 8000 words overall, which is more than I’ve been able to crank out in a week in a while. I’m definitely regaining the rhythm I had in the spring.

The big chunk of writing was major progress in None Call Me Mother. I broke the 70k mark today, and I made progress in multiple threads. Some days it’s a fight to get words going on one thread, but today, the writing prompted me to make sure I filled in a blank in another, which led to another.

That’s always fun.

I also added 800 or so words to Here Must We Hold. This was my submission for Trouble in the Wind, the next entry in the Phases of Mars series of alternate military history. Unlike Far Better to Dare and In Dark’ning Storms, this story is set in Anglo-Saxon England. I am pleased to announce that it has been accepted and these new words were actually historical notes.

For a moment, writing those notes, I sort of felt like Bernard Cornwell. That was fun too.

Tonight it’s puttering around the house, watching the Blues play, and drinking Beer Barrel Bourbon. It’s actually one of my favorite bourbons and I’ve been frustrated because I couldn’t find it. Tonight, I was disappointed not to see it yet again. Then I started looking at all the choices, trying to figure out something to try.

Turns out they changed not just the label, but the bottle shape as well. I probably just didn’t see it… again and again. But I have some now, and guess what? Good bourbon is yet more fun.

Y’all have a good week.

Current Playlist Song

The dulcet tones of John Kelly, Bernie Federko, and Darren Pang calling the Blues game. It’s 2-2 in the 3rd at the moment.

Side note: I’ve been a fan of the Blues since, frankly, a terrifying moment in the Kiel Center in 1988 or so. I never really thought anything about them going into last year’s playoffs. A friend of mine who’s a big hockey fan said before they won their first series that he actually thought they had a real chance. I thought he was crazy. He might have been, but one Stanley Cup later, he’s my kind of crazy.

Quote of the Week

In 534 on this day, Justinian published his law code. It’s one of the great legal documents of history. Here’s the first section.

“The Emperor Justinian to the Senate of the City of Constantinople. Those things which seem to many former Emperors to require correction, but which none of them ventured to carry into effect, We have decided to accomplish at the present time with the assistance of Almighty God; and to diminish litigation by the revision of the multitude of constitutions which are contained in the Three Codes; namely, the Gregorian, the Hermogenian, and the Theodosian, as well as in those other Codes promulgated after them by Theodosius of Divine Memory, and by other Emperors, who succeeded him, in addition to those which We Ourselves have promulgated, and to combine them in a single Code, under Our auspicious name, in which compilation should be included not only the constitutions of the three above-mentioned Codes, but also such new ones as subsequently have been promulgated.”
– Justinian (Codex Justinianeus, Preface)

News and Works in Progress

  • None Call Me Mother (70,029)
  • CB (8,418)
  • AFS (8,088)

Recent Blog Posts and Wiki Additions

Upcoming Events

Spotlight

This week’s spotlight is once again 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: 392.4

Updated Word Count: 189,665

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

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

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