Rob’s Update: More Cowbell

Week 36 of 2018

I’m at Brewbaker’s watching the Mississippi State game. Sure, the people in Kansas are calling it the Kansas State game, but my parents both went to MSU and both of my dad’s parents taught there.

So. More Cowbell!!!

Actually, tomorrow is one of my national holidays, the real opening day of the NFL season. A buddy of mine who is a Carolina fan and I will probably find a place to give each other hell while the Cowboys and Panthers play. I’m so ready for this year.

One quick programming note before I get into the work I’ve done this week. I’ve decided that I will move my update back to Friday and I’ll start doing my interviews on Monday. Right now, I’ve got my three regular blog  entries back-to-back-to-back. Yes, I’m still late this week, but I think it will work better spreading that out.

Anyway, it was a week of getting small things done for me, mostly around the house. I’m in that stage where I’m fighting to corral a bunch of ideas in The Feeding of Sorrows, which often means I procrasticlean. Since we’re still not completely unpacked, I have plenty to do. I made progress on all of the major remaining unpacking areas.

I also did a bunch of writing, but it’s all in the way of a scene here and random tossing words at the page. In books where I have a number of different threads, like Brief Is My Flame, I’m discovering that I tend to write each thread separately and then fit it all together. I’m only up to about 15,000 or so, but momentum is building.

I also started another short story that another anthology has requested. I’d been struggling with the idea for a while but an idea popped into my head last night and I did a bunch of research this morning. I only wrote about 500 words so far, but the story is basically written in my head. I love it when that happens.

Current Playlist Song

The NFL films song is playing on an ad. I’m so ready for this season. Did I mention that?

Quote of the Week

Speaking of football, on this day 130 years ago, twelve teams played their first matches in the Football League. These teams included Accrington, Aston Villa, Blackburn Rovers, Bolton Wanderers, Burnley, Derby County, Everton, Notts County, Preston North End, Stoke City, West Bromwich Albion and Wolverhampton Wanderers.

The idea was the brainchild of William McGregor and today’s quote is from his letter to the managers of those teams.

“I beg to tender the following suggestion as a means of getting over the difficulty: that ten or twelve of the most prominent clubs in England combine to arrange home-and-away fixtures each season, the said fixtures to be arranged at a friendly conference about the same time as the International Conference.”
– William McGregor

One side note, the Football League was by no means the first professional league in England. The earliest we know of was a cricket league in the early 1600s. But that’s something for a different day.

News and Works in Progress

  • RTM (496)
  • The Feeding of Sorrows (approx. 15,000)
  • CB (8,418)
  • AFS (2,556)

Recent Blog Posts and Wiki Additions

Upcoming Events

Spotlight

This week’s spotlight was on Cameron S. Currie, a writer I met at Ad Astra a couple of years ago. You can find the interview here: http://robhowell.org/blog/?p=1370 and his web site is at http://cameronscurrie.ca/.

Today’s Weight: 383.2

Updated Word Count: 185,518

Shijuren Wiki: 874 entries

Four Horsemen Wiki: 394 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

Mag Review: Fantastic Universe (March, 1955)

Greetings all

Fantastic Universe (March, 1955)
Fantastic Universe (March, 1955)

This week I’m reading Fantastic Universe, Vol. 3, No. 2 (March, 1955).

Table of Contents: http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/pl.cgi?89712

Unlike last week, there’s not a single author in this one that I have much familiarity with. Even the ones I recognize like Jack Vance and Algis Budrys are authors I don’t know well.

Vance has the first story, Meet Miss Universe. At a grand expo, they invite a number of aliens to submit their candidate for the most attractive woman in all the universe. Now, with all these species having different ways to judge beauty, they also ask them to submit their qualifications. The winner gets whatever they want.

The winner is, to human eyes, the most loathsome. The twist is that it’s not really a story about the women, but rather a story about an employee getting back at a lazy boss. She falls in love with an employee who, despite hating them, dutifully smokes the boss’s favorite cigars. As her reward, she tries to take him back, but the employee manipulates the situation so she realizes the boss is the one with the heavenly smell.

Overall, a cute story, but not necessarily among the best.

Next is Just For Tonight by Russ Winterbotham. I’m disappointed I’ve never at least heard of him, either under his own name or as J. Harvey Bond, previously as he’s from Salina, Kansas, which is a place I’m very familiar with.

I’d also like to read more of his stuff. The story was story, but I enjoyed the twist. It’s about two explorers examining a new world and it starts with the hero getting shot out of nowhere. He responds by destroying the area where the trouble came from with his beam gun.

He and his partner then decide to return to the ship and declare the world hostile, but the world isn’t having any of that. It warps time and space, making them walk in a circle sending them backwards. The hero sees a figure breaking a branch, then realizes what has happened, but not in time to stop his spooked partner from shooting at the figure. Who, of course, blows them both away.

I didn’t catch the twist, in part because the story is so short and tight there’s hardly any time to wonder. There’s also a great line I’ve got to remember. After the initial shot, the hero says, “No trouble at all… Just a light workout with one of Caesar’s legions” (Fantastic Universe, Vol. 3, No. 2, p. 23).

Moving on we get to Thing by Ivan Janvier, actually a pen name of Algis Budrys. This story made me think of LibertyCon, because in the opening we see them disassembling the Statue of Liberty because it is too irradiated from what we discover later is a nuclear war. In that war, an ordinary man survives a bomb, but somehow the bomb seems to have made him hyperintelligent.

But, as might be guessed by the title, it’s actually a ‘Thing’ that provides the man with his superhuman abilities. The man in question actually doesn’t really enjoy the abilities and he wants to pass them on. The Thing also wants to move on, because he’s lived on Earth for a while and likes it here when no one’s tossing nukes around, so they agree to find someone new for the Thing to work with.

The twist is that the Thing moves not to one person, but to three, none of whom knows the others have it as well. To be honest, this is a great leadup to a novel, but we’re left wondering with this short story. Which, I must say, is what short stories should do.

Next is Action-Reaction by F.B. Bryning. He was an Australian who did more editing than writing. It’s too bad, because Action-Reaction is a good story. The short bio I saw of him mentioned he was good with hard SF, and it shows here. It’s set on a space station researching whether certain forms of life can survive space, allowing it to travel and then procreate.

That’s interesting enough, but the action here is two people have an accident and are loose from the space station. One is a normal resident of the station, the other a beautiful doctor sent up to operate on one of the others on the station. She asks for a spacewalk, and things happen. How do they survive? Basically the astronaut is prepared to sacrifice himself by throwing the doctor at the station. Fortunately, both survive because of the intelligence and quick thinking of the doctor.

Jack the Giant Killer by Bryce Walton is the next entry. He’s another author I’d never heard of. This is a creepy story about a world that has done everything it can to eliminate dreams and other “mushy” things. A person standing by themselves for over ten minutes can get picked up and have their brain wiped.

The main protagonist is nine, and struggling with memories of his mother telling him stories like Jack and the Beanstalk. However, he’s overcome that to become a Junior Investigator, and he is sent after the old man who ran the Omega Calculator which ran the society with perfect rationality and who had gotten dreamy.

He does all of this and manages to brain wipe the old scientist. Then, however, he succumbs to dreams of his mother, at which point a girl of seven traps him and wipes his brain. Overall a creepy story that’s pretty well written, but I didn’t enjoy the topic.

Coming up next is The Big Jump by E.E Smith. Not him, but Evelyn E. Smith. She’s most known for the Miss Melville Mysteries, but she had quite a few credits to her name in SF. She was also a crossword puzzle, and I hope I find BAXBR/DAXBR, which involves Martian crossword puzzles.

This is an interesting story about the challenges of time travel. Like many others, it involves a time-traveling cop, but the results are much different than might be expected. The target’s name is Leinwand, and basically he manipulates the flow of time so that he and his family play with the cop and they end up in charge. A quirky story. Overall pretty good, but not great.

We have Brave New Strain by Lee Priestley. I didn’t know him before and I don’t know that I know anything now. I found a Lee Shore Priestley who was born in Iola, Kansas in 1904. As a side note, right next to Iola on US-54 is Gas, Kansas, which put on the back of their welcome signs “Now Passing Gas.” Fun as that fact might be, I have no clue if it’s the same guy. What I can say is that Priestley didn’t write much, with only eight published works from 1953 to 1959.

Anyway, this story is about creating a strain of algae that will grow fast enough in starships to help feed crews, but what it’s really about is the difference in men and women based upon the idea that men are logical and women are filled with intuition. It doesn’t take much logic or intuition to guess at the ending, which in this case is told by the female character. It is her intuition that develops a new strain. Really, a bland story, much like the thought of eating algae.

Next is The Sixth Season by Jacques Jean Ferrat, which is a pseudonym of Sam Merwin, Jr. I didn’t recognize either of his names, but he wrote the Amy Brewster mysteries which I dimly recall and will now have to check out some time.

I rather enjoyed this one, though it’s fairly straightforward. It’s about a Broadway play, “The Sixth Season,” which was condemned by reviewers but still getting sold out shows. One of the actresses, Maralyn, is trying to convince another, Lora, she should date a guy named Bobby, but she wants nothing to do with a long life in the theater.

Then, they have a visitor who is from the future. It turns out Lora and Bobby start a renaissance of the theater and end up getting married. It’s not terribly tricky, as the only twist is that Maralyn discovers she’s going to marry the guy that’s about to ask her out on their first date.

Now we have another entry by Algis Budrys, this time under his own name. As a side note, he would have another story the following month under a different pseudonym.

Assassin is another good story. Basically, an “organization” finds a way to allow someone’s soul to live after death in such a way as to kill other souls. That leaves bodies alone, but they become essentially mindless. The assassin they choose then kills all the world’s leaders at their behest.

The interesting twist is that the organization is trying to create a *peaceful* world. The assassin was aimed at those who are belligerent, which they then replaced with people who were in the organization.

But the assassin they chose was too much of an assassin. He did the job because he was good at it and didn’t have any moral scruples. In fact, he intimidates the leader of the organization into starting a new war because he “…likes the thought of people dying because of something I’ve done” (p. 101). Good twist. I think I’ll be looking for Budrys and his pseudonyms in other magazines.

They Are the Possessed by Irving E. Cox, Jr. is next. I’d seen his name in other magazines, but don’t recall if I’ve read anything by him. This story is convoluted and involves a symbiotic virus living inside humans shaping their reality.

In my reality I didn’t like this story much. It didn’t flow, though the idea is interesting. Maybe I’m not smart enough to get the complexities, but I was jarred out of the story by confusion a number of times. It’s a shame, because I think there’s a good kernel in there, but it was lost on me.

Next is Exiles of Tomorrow by Marion Zimmer Bradley. I’ve not read much of Bradley before, and it’s hard to separate out the story from what I understand of her life.

This story is about punishments in the future. Those who have committed crimes are not executed but sent back in time to an era where they fit it. It’s an interesting concept, and includes, again, the idea of time police. This time, the main character kills his target, who has learned enough that he threatens the entire fabric of time. A decent story, but hard for me to enjoy.

Last is James Blish. The only thing of his that I’ve read are the Star Trek novelizations, to be honest, so I was exited to find a story by him in this book called Translation.

Translation is about the frustrations of a Vegan archaeologist studying the lifeless planet Sol III. They find a few artifacts, but after the nuclear war killed everyone, there wasn’t much left. What’s interesting is that they discover one relic in particular that they cannot interpret. All it does it hammer at them with sound.

Fantastic Universe (March, 1955) Back Cover
Fantastic Universe (March, 1955) Back Cover

Thus the last surviving score of Beethoven’s Fifth is reviewed by a tone-deaf listener. Good ending, and I enjoyed the frustration of the archaeologist.

One of my favorite parts of reviewing these magazines has been looking at the ads. I suppose it’s funny to say, but this had a disappointingly small number of ads.

But it did have this gem. It’s hard to see the pictures, but they are from left to right: Dr. Wernher Von Braun, Dr. Heinz Haber, Dr. Joseph Kaplan, and Willy Ley. What a group!

Overall, I would say this was a solid issue. There weren’t any great stories, but none of them were awful, even if I couldn’t get into them.

Next week I’ll look at Analog from September, 1968 which includes a review of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? which I am looking forward to. Here’s the whole Table of Contents: http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/pl.cgi?56820.

See you next week.


If you have any comments, 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.

Interview: Cameron S. Currie

This week’s interview is with Cameron S. Currie, who I met at Ad Astra a couple of years ago. We were on a couple of panels, and did a reading together and that was a lot of fun, so here’s his interview.

Interview: Cameron S. Currie

What is your quest?

To seek the Grail? Seriously, though, I think the fabled ‘meaning of life’ is hidden in the Hero’s Journey… most of our big problems, and their solutions are represented there. I try to show that to people, preferably in a way they haven’t seen before, and I hope it hooks them into that. So yes, the Grail. Also, books are cool.

Cameron S. Currie
Cameron S. Currie

What is your favorite color?

Anything dark, preferably with humour (excuse the Canadian spelling) to throw it into sharp relief. I like my heroes deeply flawed, and my villains deeply villainous. There are very few bits in the real world that are 100% shiny and pretty, and anyway conflict is the basis of all that is interesting. Soooo… black. No, blue.

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

Editing is the nastiest trial to face, because you never get everything. There’s always some tiny error that slips through to the final, printed product. My advice here is that whenever you think you have nabbed every issue, put it all aside for a week or two and then DO IT AGAIN. It still won’t be enough, but it will be better.

What are the powers of your personal Holy Hand Grenade?

My HHG powers are probably creating interesting characters. Typically, I’ll go over each character’s dialogue and actions and ask myself if it sounds like the character in question. One character was particularly laconic, so I went over his dialogue and removed as many words as possible. Villains I tend to make worse with each pass until they disturb me (if they can’t disturb me, how can they do so to the reader?).

Lightning Round

  • Favorite Muppet? The guy with the boomerang fish. Lew, I believe. I always thought the fish should explode, though. In a perfect world…
  • Crunchy or Creamy? Crunchiness is next to godliness.
  • Favorite Sports Team? Errrrrrr… the Bad News Bears…?
  • Cake or Pie? PIE. But in general, I do not have much of a sweet-tooth.
  • Lime or Lemon? Lemon. Sour is good. When life hands you lemons…
  • Favorite Chip Dip?  Dill Pickle. Sour is good. My publishing imprint logo has three jars of dill pickles in it.
  • Wet or Dry? Any way I answered this question would come out more suggestive than I intended. MOIST.
  • Favorite Musical Performer We’ve Never Heard Of? Possibly Jackyl… the lead singer plays the chainsaw once or twice an album. Especially good in a live performance.
  • Whisky or Whiskey? Obviously Scotch, but I can never remember which is which. It’s wasted on me anyway.
  • Favorite Superhero? This merits more discussion than we have room for here. I tend to go for ‘realism’ over infinite power- more impressed with imaginative uses of minor powers, but there aren’t many common examples of that. It’s not the hero, it’s the way they’re portrayed. Sooo… Deadpool…?
  • Steak Temperature? Medium. I want to like rare, but was raised on well-done. This is as far as I’m willing to go.
  • Favorite 1970s TV show? Twilight Zone (I think they made these at that time… so many remakes and reboots… ugh. They were at least on in reruns).
  • Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall? In Canada, there is only Winter and Construction, and I am not a fan of snow.
  • Favorite Pet? I have two rescued cats with PTSD I inherited from my father. I don’t like them, they don’t really like me, but I clean up their puke and they don’t suffocate me in my sleep.
  • Best Game Ever? Video Game: The really old DOS version of Space Hulk you could get on 3.5 floppy. Super tense… scariest application of Genestealers I ever saw, and lots of boltguns.
  • Coffee or Tea? Coffee, except when… nope. No exceptions. Coffee is better, and when you run out of coffee, JUST FIND MORE.
  • Sci-Fi or Fantasy? Yes.

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

I dunno questions… I am kinda jealous of your education in history, I’m mostly self-taught, which leaves gaping smart-holes… The questions I probably should ask are somewhere in the smart-holes where I can’t articulate them. But I know the general grey area that I would come to you with if I got a question sorted out, you know, what with that edumacationism and stuff.

Rob’s Answer: Uh, I’m not educated enough to answer that properly 😀

Tell me again where we can find your stuff? 

  • My web site is at http://cameronscurrie.ca/ , where you can get all my stuff.
  • I’m posting e-books back on Amazon over the course of the autumn, so stay tuned for that!

And where can we find you?

I’m currently not scheduled for much, but you can always find me at Ad Astra in Toronto every year. I expand this whenever I can, but usually at the last minute. You can also find me on Facebook or Goodreads.

Do you have a creator biography?

Cameron S. Currie lurks in the deepest, darkest jungle of Ontario, where he spends time raising his two autistic children and publishing science fiction & fantasy books. His works include A Human Number, My Name’s Not ‘Girl’, and Depends on the Strength of the Yes. He has no real spare time, but when he gets some he plans to either overthrow the earth or make coffee.

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

You should have asked about my current WIPs, which would be A Map of the Inner Skull (the fourth book in my fantasy series) and The Starship Rumplestiltskin (which is taking way, way longer than I intended ‘cuz Sci-Fi research takes FOREVER). AMotIS will be out this spring, hopefully TSR will also be out sometime in 2019.

My fantasy series (currently untitled, but I’m thinking ‘The Book of the World’ for the second editions) is thrumming along pretty well. I’m very proud of them, they’re fairly genre-busting and full of awesome characters that show up in every book. I keep them coming out regularly enough that there’s no ‘Game of Thrones’ style multi-year gaps.

I have two volumes of Extremely Large Showcase (so far) which contain excerpts from each of my books, lots of short fiction, and art and are a great deal at $3 Canadian for 50+ pages of content.


Thanks to Cameron 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.

Thanks 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.

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

 

Rob’s Update: Three Times Out Of Ten

Week 35 of 2018

So, I thought I had posted this on Thursday, but I apparently got distracted. Sorry this is a few days late. Ted Williams’ birthday is actually the day I wrote this, 30 August, not today.

Anyway, it was a relaxing week here in Robland. I actually took a complete day off, the first one in longer than I remember. I didn’t intend to, but I apparently needed it.

I still got a goodly amount of work done this week, and am close to finishing one of the short stories I’ve been working at thanks to help from some of my Alpha Readers.

I also started on The Feeding of Sorrows. The bad news is that I thought I had more written of it from scraps here and there, but some of that total was duplicated and part was rendered invalid by some of what happened in A Sword for Striking, the short story that was accepted for the Lyon’s Den anthologies, but I’m still aiming to be done with it by the end of September. Going to be a long haul, but I think I can do it.

I’m starting to get a bunch of irons in the fire, writing-wise. I kind of like that. I have a bunch of stories bubbling to the top and I am excited to get them on the page.

Current Playlist Song

I’m listening to the song of my people, Dallas Cowboys football. Yeah, it’s still the preseason, and yeah, it’s mostly players who will never make the team, but we are only a week away from the season. I’m so ready.

Quote of the Week

Today is the birthday of the best hitter ever, Ted Williams. He’s a fascinating guy, in part because even though his career stats were amazing, he lost 4.5 years of his prime because he was flying fighters in World War II and Korea. In Korea, one of his wingmen was John Glenn. Glenn’s wife called Williams, “the most profane man she ever met.”

“Baseball is the only field of endeavor where a man can succeed three times out of ten and be considered a good performer.”

– Ted Williams

News and Works in Progress

  • The Feeding of Sorrows (7,395)
  • CB (8,418)
  • AFS (2,556)

Recent Blog Posts and Wiki Additions

Upcoming Events

Spotlight

This week’s spotlight was on Tom Tinney, biker and Dragon-nominated writer in like two thousand genres. You can find the interview here: http://robhowell.org/blog/?p=1336 and his Amazon page at: https://www.amazon.com/Tom-Tinney/e/B00EAWJWVM.

Today’s Weight: 381.2

Updated Word Count: 181,483

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

Mag Review: Astounding (April, 1941)

Greetings all

Astounding April, 1941
Astounding April, 1941

This week I’m going to review Astounding, Vol. XXVII, No. 2 (April, 1941). You can find its complete table of contents here: http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/pl.cgi?57379.

Unlike last week, where the Spaceway had few recognizable names, this issue is filled with them. John W. Campbell was the editor and if you ever wondered how much Campbell actually did, take a look at his full ISFDB page: http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/ea.cgi?14.  Wow. He starts this issue off with a short essay pointing out the importance of sea-water sources in the future.

Robert Heinlein, L. Sprague de Camp, and Isaac Asimov in 1944
Robert Heinlein, L. Sprague de Camp, and Isaac Asimov in 1944

Anyway, there will be a bunch you’ll recognize in this review, starting with the Feature Serial The Stolen Dormouse by L. Sprague de Camp. I probably don’t have to talk about him very much, as well-known as he is, but I do have to put up this picture from when he worked with Robert Heinlein, and Isaac Asimov researching for the Philadelphia Navy Yard in World War II. What an amazing picture, and reminiscent of J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and the Inklings, though I suspect these three did not have anywhere as comfortable as The Eagle and Child to chat about their writing. On the other hand, they probably got to at least watch the building of the USS New Jersey (BB-62) and the USS Wisconsin (BB-64).

Before even reading the story, though, I had my nose rubbed in one of my weaknesses: taglines. “The Stolen Dormouse: Part One of a new serial concerning a stolen semi-corpse – an engineer in suspended animation touches off a war in a later-day feudalism!” (Astounding, Vol. XXVII, No. 2, p. 9).

You had me at “stolen semi-corpse.”

I really enjoyed the story, especially the way de Camp interwove 1940s business terminology with feudalism. As an SCA ceremonial geek, I found the passage where the hero, Horace Juniper-Hallett is elevated to the rank of businessman delightful. “I hereby present to you the gold-inlaid fountain pen and the brief case that are the insignia of your new status. Guard them with your life” (p. 12).

Getting to wallow in the history of science fiction and fantasy is one of the prime joys of this exercise, but The Stolen Dormouse highlights the greatest drawback. This is Part One of the story. I have no idea when, or even if, I’ll grab the volume with Part Two. At this point, the story ends with, “A snore answered her” (p. 32).

At least I have Reason by Isaac Asimov to console me. This story is a robot story, but before the Three Laws of Robotics, which were originally published in the story Runaround first publish in the Astounding of March, 1942. It involves a robot who refuses to believe that humans invented it or, in fact, that anything exists outside of its mile-diameter solar energy generation station, completely dismissing Gregory Donovan and Mike Powell’s protestations. Despite, QT’s religious obsession with the “Master,” the robot continues to perform his duties at a level far surpassing human abilities. In other words, even though his “reasoning” is based on false assumptions, he retains his ability to do the job so they leave him in place and in fact plan to program all future models in the same way.

What’s fun, of course, is that it’s clear that Asimov is working his way up to the Three Laws. In Runaround Donovan and Powell return, this time with the explicit use of the laws. But that’s another issue, which might be on the shelves behind. I don’t rightly now, though I will do September, 1941 one of these days, which includes Nightfall.

Anyway, next we move on to Theodore Sturgeon’s Microcosmic God.  I love this sentence, “He never opened his mouth without grabbing a stickful of question marks.” (p. 47). The character he’s talking about is a bio-chemist named Kidder who creates a microcosmic race called the Neoterics who are fantastically intelligent. Their life cycle is much faster than humans, meaning that problems that take scientists generations to solve are solved much quicker, as their generations are that much shorter.

Kidder is oblivious of power and money, except when that allows him to expand his laboratory. Of course, not everyone is oblivious and his banker finally decides to kill the golden goose. In the end, the Neoterics create an impenetrable shield for Kidder, another scientist named Johansen, and the Neoterics to live out their lives in peace.

It’s a fantastic story and is included in The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Volume One, 1929–1964. Let’s see, three stories in and we have a fun serial, a prequel to the Three Laws of Robotics, and one of the best short stories in science fiction history. Talk about the Golden Age of Science Fiction.

Next is Campbell’s column about what’s to come in the May, 1941 issue. The column talks about a story by Anson MacDonald called Solution Unsatisfactory. The story is about what happens if there’s a superweapon and what happens after that. In the story, all the solutions are unsatisfactory, but MacDonald goes through a number of them. “And MacDonald suggests that the weapon will come – and come in about three years. Personally, I’m most desperately afraid he’s absolutely correct. Now, remember this is April, 1941. Missed the prediction by a little more than a year, but is a fascinating question to someone who grew up during the Cold War.

Oh, and Anson MacDonald is one of Heinlein’s pseudonyms.

Anyway, we move on The Scrambler by Harry Walton. This story starts something like Moby Dick, in that a ship is trying to capture a living creature in space to help a man named Storm, who is searching for intelligent alien life. They succeed, though the captain is convinced it happened too easily. However, neither Storm nor the captain believe this could be the one until suddenly they find their personalities scrambled from man to man. They try to do roll call, but the personalities keep switching. Finally, they realize that Storm has actually had his personality switched with Comet the ship cat. The creature was testing the crew, and if they could realize Storm was in Comet’s body, learn from Storm that it was the creature’s doing while he was still a cat, they would all return to their rightful bodies.

So Storm has to endure the entire thing trying to get everyone to listen to him while as a cat. Oh, and it turns out that Comet had had a big night with a cat at the Martian fuel depot and was pregnant. A fun story, not a classic, but well worth reading.

Slacker’s Paradise by Malcolm Jameson is next. Another officer in the US Navy, he was forced out by cancer despite helping improve late World War II-era naval ordinance. He died in 1945 at the age of 53. It’s a damn shame, too, because Slacker’s Paradise is a great story.

Jameson uses his experience in the Navy and his knowledge of naval history to create something that would make a fantastic series of novels. This particular one draws on the surrender of the Austro-Hungarian battleships SMS Zrinyi and SMS Radetsky in 1918. The story is reminiscent of the Lieutenant Leary novels by David Drake. The only problem with Slacker’s Paradise is that it needs to be longer to draw out the tension.

Next is Not the First by A.E. van Vogt. In this story humans first break the light speed barrier, discovering that it shifts their perception of the universe they exist in. In so doing, it propels the ship at many thousands of times the speed of light. As it flies through the universe, their luck runs out and they find themselves sailing directly at a star so they try anything that comes to mind. In the end, they find a way to reverse time and send them back to where they were.

Right when the situation started with no change in the factors and for the “multi-billionth” time, the process begins again. Creepy. I like it.

Astronomer R.S. Richardson gives us our next article, Trepidation. While this is an excellent name for a short story, this is actually an article on trepidation in the astronomical sense.  I found this article confusing because the only theory of trepidation in an astronomical sense has been obsolete for centuries. This trepidation has to do with the speeding up and slowing down of astronomical bodies, as discovered by E.W. Brown. That led to questions of measuring time, including the difference between Universal Time and Terrestrial Time, and fluctuations of mass.

Back to fiction, we get Bird Walk by P. Schuyler Miller. This was an odd story to me. Basically, the birds of Venus include one that can tell when someone is lying, and the hero manipulates the thief of one of the, essentially, Crown Jewels of Venus into being within range.

But the story didn’t work for me. It could have, but I think it might have tried to do too much. The red herrings were too easy and the hints at strange powers by other Venusian animals not dealt with well enough. It could be a good story but much of what was in there was extraneous and the mystery too easily solved.

Next is another odd essay, The Homemade Gun of Jamrud by Willy Ley. It’s only one page about 2.75 inch hand-crafted gun made by a blacksmith in Jamrud. It was apparently more accurate than the official British Army ones. And that’s all there is to this.

Old Mr. Boston Apricot Nectar
Old Mr. Boston Apricot Nectar

The next short story is Mutineers by Karl van Rachen, which is actually a pseudonym of L. Ron Hubbard. This was a frustrating story for me, maybe because I was tired when I read it. It’s got a lot of moving parts and there’s too much exposition at the start. I got into it some when we got past the exposition into the action, but by that point I had lost my enthusiasm.

Doc Savage
Doc Savage

And it could have been a good story. Multiple mutinies and various different players are right up my alley. The hero wins by good tactics, awareness, and flat out bluffing. There’s a bit of a forced happy ending, which I hate, but it’s not awful. However, I just didn’t get into it.

Another possible reason are the great ads throughout this story. It’s at the end of the issue, so there are more ads and some are just wonderful from my perspective. Old Mr. Boston 70 proof Apricot Nectar as shown above from page 135? Maybe, but you might have me with the Wild Cherry version. There was also this Doc Savage ad on page 147.

But the piece de resistance was this wonderful Harley-Davidson ad. “See the 1941 models with their airplane styling, zooming power, rugged dependability and important mechanical improvements” (p. 145).

The most common advertisements in this issue, by the way, were ads to train you as a radio operator.

Anyway, at the end of Mutineers was an interesting postscript that I assume was written by Hubbard, as it doesn’t have any other name attributed to it. It’s a very short essay entitled Two Plus Two Equals 100. Obviously, it explains the binomial number system and points out that it is useful for “electrical calculating machines.” (p. 154) As someone writing on a fairly up-to-date computer and looking at my cell phone, I enjoyed this quote: “The resultant machine is bulky, but simple and positive in action” (p. 154). You don’t say?

Now we’ve gotten down to Brass Tacks, the letter’s to the editor section of Astounding. Several of this issue’s letters discussed a new rating system put into place by Campbell. In these Slan by Van Vogt gets a lot of approval. There’s also an announcement for the formation of the Minneapolis Fantasy Society, whose monthly meetings were held at the home of Clifford D. Simak, its director.

Another laments that Campbell could not come to the Chicago SF Convention because, “I’d hoped to see you and Doc Smith exchange diverse comment as of yore – remember the days of your glorious feud over the alleged – who did win those battles? – chemical vagaries in ‘Skylark of Space'” (p. 159). That would have indeed been fun to watch.

Then there’s a section of letters relating to hard science. The first discussed some new, higher resolution images from Mars showing conclusively the canals. The next one starts, “From the results the R.A.F. have been obtaining with their electrical enemy-airplane detectors, it looks as though spaceships when, as and if, won’t have to worry about developing meteor-detecting devices” (p. 163-4). Then it goes on to explain in some detail how radar works and how it blunted the Luftwaffe’s attacks in the Battle of Britain. Nothing new to us, but fantastic to see it from someone to whom it was new.

Well, I think that’s it from this issue. Clearly since I’m only two issues in, it’s a little silly to say this was my favorite issue. I’m sure I’ll find others, like perhaps the Astounding with Nightfall when I get to it. However, this was a brilliant example of the SF magazine concept. Great stories, writers who would become legendary, good scientific discussions, and good artwork.

Speaking of which, I suppose I should talk more about the art, but I got too much into the stories. Maybe next time. Speaking of which, I grabbed Fantastic Universe Vol. 3, No. 2 from March 1955. It’s table of contents is here: http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/pl.cgi?89712.


If you have any comments, 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.

Interview: Tom Tinney

This week’s interview is with Tom Tinney. Tinney writes in a broad spectrum of genres and was a 2017 Dragon Award finalist for the Best Horror Novel with Blood of Invidia. You’ll see in the interview just how diverse that spectrum is.

Interview: Tom Tinney

What is your quest?

Tom Tinney Portrait
Tom Tinney Portrait

I have two goals. One is to achieve produce a body of work so exciting that my fan following lets me pursue writing full time. My writing is REALLY diverse. I like reading SciFi (Adventure, Space Opera, Cyberpunk, Dystopian, etc) and Fantasy (High and Urban). At the same time, I like writing in all of those sub-genres. Turns out I can switch writing-modes with relative ease.  In the long run, I probably won’t appeal to the genre purists, but I will appeal to others like me that have a variety of genres they like.

The second goal is to keep shepherding my son, and co-author Morgen Batten, along so that his writing career takes off. The purpose of our first book together is to produce enough royalties that He and I get to meet for the first time.

Blood of Invidia Cover
Blood of Invidia Cover

Never met my son? Nope. Not in person. He and I are proof it’s about genetics and not environment. He is me. Same attitude, quick mouth, and smart. He also likes fantasy and SciFi. He’d probably be a biker, like me, if he lived here in the U.S.A. Once we started talking (and texting) we found out about our mutual loves for the genres. Funny side story, and how Jim Butcher played in our relationship building.

Morgen and I were messaging about favorite authors. I tell him that Jim Butcher is excellent, and he needs to check him out.

A few weeks later, he messages me that he LOVES the Butcher books. I get excited and text back about Harry Dresden and Murphy and the urban fantasy angle.

He messages back “Who the hell is Harry? The kid’s name is Tavi and it’s like Roman times with elementals.”

“WTF? What are you reading? I said Jim Butcher. As in Dresden files.”

“I’m reading Jim Butcher. As in Alera Codex. Who’s Dresden?”

After some back and forth, I go buy “Furies of Calderon” and he buys “Storm Front”. We were both right.

He and I both read Feist, Tolkien, and now love Butcher. He talked me into reading Wheel of Time by Jordan. NOBODY gets to gripe about my info dumps after that. My Scifi Influences were Herbert, Asimov, Gibson, Williams, Drake, Niven, and Bradbury. Later on, I came into David Weber, John Ringo, Larry Correia and Nick Coles. All good. All influential.

Soldier 10.0 Cover
Soldier 10.0 Cover

What is your favorite color?

Dialogue. Once you can get that right, the rest just flows. I blow through flowery descriptions. I think authors get to caught up in them. Going for that “Literary award” with every word and sentence. I like a real conversation. One where I feel I am sitting between the characters while they converse. I like to be pulled in. That is how I write my conversations as well.

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

Self-Published marketing is the toughest thing to do. The writing comes naturally and has improved in a short time-frame. I can now make my own book covers and poster art in 3D modelling programs, so another talent found. The process of formatting and manipulating the technologies that allow me to produce a quality printed or epub book (Along with hiring professionals when I want more polish) is straight ahead, as well. But the marketing takes the most time and creates the largest stumbling blocks. It is also the costliest when a mistake or miscalculation is made. Following trends, or listening to “Gurus and money grabbers” Spew their nonsense has drained a LOT of indie pocketbooks while preying on their dreams. It takes awhile for us, but we learn to ask a LOT of questions and demand empirical evidence of the snake-oil salesmen’s results before we spend a dime.

Resprite Cover
Resprite Cover

What are the powers of your personal Holy Hand Grenade?

Brain worms. My talent and the bane of my existence. Once an idea gets planted, the back of my brain grinds on it, twists it, stretches it and flushes out the story possibilities. Then BAM…I start writing. I can scream along for days or weeks (Wrote my first 185,000 word novel in 6 weeks). I have learned NOT to edit while writing. Just freakin’ type. Let it flow. Go back later and tweak. Much later.

I have also learned to avoid conversations with people that start “You write? I have a story idea…” Nope.  My response, as I hold up my hand, “Gotta stop you. I’d suggest you take some time and really hit the keys. Write that bad boy yourself. If it’s a good idea, you should profit from it.”

I’m also really good with the 3D programs (I use Poser11) to create covers. To the point I made an animated book promo. It’s a brilliant release, watching a character you’ve written come to life in 3D, then posing, lighting and rendering a scene from a story or book. Technology in creative tools has come a long way.

Resprite II Cover
Resprite II Cover

Lightning Round

  • Favorite Muppet? Animal. Come-on…he’s awesome.
  • Crunchy or Creamy? Crunchy
  • Favorite Sports Team? Was the Steelers, but being a Veteran, I gave up on NFL.
  • Cake or Pie? Cake. If Pie had frosting, then pie would pull ahead.
  • Lime or Lemon? Neither unless we are making some sort of goofy new organic battery.
  • Favorite Chip Dip?  Guacamole. Goes with any chip and meal.
  • Wet or Dry? Dry. I’m a desert rat at heart and I ride motorcycles, so DRY is always better.
  • Favorite Musical Performer We’ve Never Heard Of?  Allen Stone (https://youtu.be/2G29lvYkSjY)
  • Whisky or Whiskey? Whiskey.  ‘MERICA! Favorite drink is JD and Amaretto. Over Ice. A shot of each. No other fillers. NUM-NUM!
  • Favorite Superhero? Thor. Ever since I was a little kid. Silver-age comics guy. “Have at Theeee!”
  • Steak Temperature?  Medium Rare. Any more well done, you should just eat hamburgers and not embarrass yourself.
  • Favorite 1970s TV show? Tie. Night Rider and Battlestar.
  • Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall? Summer. Hotter the better.
  • Favorite Pet?  My Boston Terriers. All of them over time. The best Dogs EVER!
  • Best Game Ever? RPG: D&D. PC: X-Wing Fighter. Console: Assassin’s Creed.
  • Coffee or Tea? Coffee. And it it takes you more than three syllables to order it, you should be slapped.
  • Sci-Fi or Fantasy? FantaSci. Deal with it.

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

If they made Adult Underoos, would you wear Superhero, Star Wars, or Disney character?

Rob’s Answer: I don’t get to wear more than one? Then I wear Han Solo underwear every day. And before you ask, Han Shot First, dammit!!!

If I can wear a few others, I would go with Robin Hood, still my favorite Disney movie, though you might get me to wear Baloo from the Jungle Book occasionally.

As for Superheros, I really never read a ton of comic books growing up. My favorites of the current Marvel heroes are Groot and Rocket Raccoon. Deadpool is fun, too. I also have to say I really like how they did Captain America. Much stronger character than I remembered, but then I didn’t know much about him to begin with.

Threads Cover
Threads Cover

Tell me again where we can find your stuff?

And where can we find you?

Libertycon next year. Riding all over Wisconsin and Illinois on my bike. Online other than that.

Do you have a creator biography?

Who is Tom “PiR8” Tinney? He is the published author of numerous Science Fiction, Flash Fiction, FantaSci and Biker stories. Yes…a Biker-nerd.

His time in the service (USAF), and riding with two-wheeled ne’er-do-wells, has left enough skeletons in his closet to crush a small car. His political slant, biker attitude/lifestyle and previous experience editing a motorcycle magazine, along with homegrown writing skills, have led him to produce and contribute numerous novels, stories and articles into various genres (Science Fiction, FantaSci, Biker, Detective and technical).

Blood of Invidia With Authors
Blood of Invidia With Authors

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

Can Bikers be nerds? Yep. There are a bunch of us. Tattoos, brawls, drinking, and hitting the open road, followed by binge-watching  the Expanse, Lord of the Rings and Marvel Movies (Sorry, DC, you only make good animated movies). My “bucket list” has one line where I DM the largest game of D&D ever held at Sturgis. I kid you not.

Rob’s Note: I’d suggest a game that was less dungeon crawls and more cavalry and centaurs across the steppes 🙂


Thanks to Tom 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.

Thanks 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.

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

 

Rob’s Update: A Sword For Striking

Week 34 of 2018

Greetings all

It’s been a fun week for me. I have been settling into my new desk, which is awesome. I haven’t completely nested, but I love it. Many thanks to my friend Johan for building it for me.

I’ve also started a new weekly article on my blog called “Mag Review.” I have about 700 SF/F mags from the 30s to the 70s and each week I’ll read through one, reviewing each story and riffing off whatever strikes my fancy. The first one looked the Spaceway of June, 1954 and you can find it here: http://robhowell.org/blog/?p=1313.

I’m doing that exercise for a variety of reasons. I’ve had this collection for a while and only read a few of them. I’ve needed to fix that. Also, it’s good professional development, both as a writer and to spark ideas. Plus I know a lot of people who will enjoy reading these reviews. Like my interviews, I think it’s a win-win for everyone.

My big writing announcement is that my story A Sword for Striking was accepted for one of the new Four Horsemen Anthologies. I really appreciate Chris and Mark for giving me a part of their sandbox. Next week I’ll start working on The Feeding of Sorrows, which is the next chapter in the Foresters.

In terms of writing, I’ve been nagging at my short stories. I’ve also been plotting some others. I’ve not really done much with them in terms of different number of words, in fact I’m not changing the totals from last week, but I’ve been polishing and thinking, which is hard to quantify.

Projects and ideas are starting to flow like mad, actually. I spent today with a writing buddy brainstorming ideas.

So I think I better go write.

Current Playlist Song

“Piano Man” by Billy Joel is playing overhead at Brewbaker’s. I know that it’s overplayed in some ways, but I actually really love the way he captured the various personalities at a bar.

Quote of the Week

Oliver Hazard Perry died on this day in 1819. After the battle of Lake Erie he provided a brilliant and succinct after action report.

“We have met the enemy and they are ours; two ships, two brigs, one schooner and one sloop.”
– Oliver Hazard Perry

News and Works in Progress

  • CB (6,526)
  • AFS (2,681)

Recent Blog Posts and Wiki Additions

Upcoming Events

Spotlight

This week’s spotlight is on my friend Steve Kubien, who is a fantastic woodturner. You can find his interview at: http://robhowell.org/blog/?p=1306.

Today’s Weight: 388.4

Updated Word Count: 177, 026

Shijuren Wiki: 874 entries

Four Horsemen Wiki: 376 entries

Wiki updates will resume this week, so expect those latter numbers to change.

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

Mag Review: Spaceway June, 1954

Greetings all

SF/F Magazines
SF/F Magazines

I have a decent sized collection of science fiction and fantasy magazines from the late 30s to the 70s. It may not look like much from here, but there’s a second layer behind each of these stacks. There’s about 700 of them, all told. And since I tend to keep my eyes open for new caches, I’m sure there’ll be more sooner or later.

Anyway, I thought it would be fun to read one each week, picked basically at random, and then review it. Not only will I comment on the stories in each issue, but I’ll comment on ads and anything that catches my interest.

Oh, one other thing. There will be spoilers. I am writing these with the expectation that few of you will ever get a chance to read most of the stories and I don’t want to leave you hanging. If I get enough comments that suggest you want me to leave the spoilers out, I will, but for now, consider yourself warned.

Spaceway June, 1954 Front Cover
Spaceway June, 1954 Front Cover

The first magazine I grabbed was the June, 1954 issue of Spaceway (Volume 2, Number 1). Here is the table of contents and complete list of credits for this issue: http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/pl.cgi?203789.

Spaceway‘s entry in the Encyclopedia of Science Ficton is here: http://www.sf-encyclopedia.com/entry/spaceway. As you’ll see from this page, Spaceway was a minor magazine which held few works by big name authors. Still, there might be a treasure or two. Let’s find out.

It begins with a novelette, X of Mizar by Arthur J. Burks. Burks was an interesting guy who left the Marine Corps in 1928 to write full time. He returned to the USMC during World War II, rising to the rank of Lt. Colonel. In terms of his writing, he was prolific enough to earn the title of the Speed-King of Fiction by one reviewer.

X of Mizar is a creepy tale about a world that’s a living creature in itself. Not only that, it’s much more powerful than humanity. The closest analogy to me is Q from ST:TNG. Unfortunately, I didn’t care for this story. It started with all of the arrogance of Q, but there was little comeuppance. In fact, there was little in the way of conflict. It’s disappointing, because this story had a ton of potential, but was little more than a character’s internal monologue.

Next was The Green Earth Forever by Christopher Monig. Monig was actually a pen name used by Kendell Foster Crossen, who is best known for the Green Lama series. This particular story is a gloomy look at nuclear holocaust. Humanity is pushed to into a holocaust so great it destroys Earth by the species who has been watching us from flying saucers. It’s another disappointment, sadly, as it’s really just a series of events and then the Earth blows up.

That is followed by an essay on hypnotism by A.E. van Vogt. This is clearly part of the research he did while writing The Hypnotism Handbook. Much of this essay praises the research and work of Charles Edward Cooke, who was his co-author on the larger book. There’s an ad for the book later on in the magazine.

Spaceway June, 1954 Page 50 Advertisement
Spaceway June, 1954 Page 50 Advertisement

The essay wasn’t terribly interesting to me, but the ad for SFCon in 1954 at the end was fun.

Take a look at the registration price.

Anyway, the next story is The Human Thing To Do by Kinsley McWhorter, Jr. I know absolutely nothing about McWhorter. A Google search says he had a column in the Roanoke World News, and here’s a reprint of one in the Biloxi Daily Herald: https://newspaperarchive.com/biloxi-daily-herald-jun-09-1955-p-13/.

And it’s too bad he didn’t write more because this was a fun  story. The world has been invaded by a species of, essentially, dopplegangers called Galol. They take over people and no physical study can determine if someone is human or Galol. Once inside people, they serve as a Fifth Column. The solution, therefore, is to find what makes humans have a human personality. To McWhorter, the answer is our sense of humor.

I also love the conclusion.

“‘What beat Henley – what can beat all the Galol if we use it right – is a sense of humor. Laugh; it’s the human thing to do.’

George Morton smiled wearily.

Everyone was very careful to smile back.”
– Spaceway, Vol. 2, No. 1 (June, 1954), p. 65

Let’s see. Have a sense of humor or you get shot. Yeah, I’d be smiling too.

Melvin Sturgis wrote the next story, The Long Night. Again, I can find little about Sturgis, though I did find that he wrote a novel called The Unprotected Species. One of its reviewers said it was, “OK but not outstanding. Somewhat predictable.” To be honest, I felt the same about The Long Night, at least in terms of predictability. It’s a very short story (less than 3 pages) where radioactive smog covers Los Angeles after a nuclear war. Humans have to flee the smog, but rats survive, evolve, and then view the remains of LA in wonder at humanity’s stupidity. More of an info dump than a story.

Atlantis Hallam is the next listed author. What a name! Gotta be a pseudonym, right? That’s just too perfect for a science fiction writer. Well, it’s not entirely, as the author’s full name is Samuel Benoni Atlantis Hallam and he wrote Star Ship on Saddle Mountain.

His entry in Spaceway was a treasure called Martian Pete. It’s a very cute story where the spokesdog of Wooftie Biscuits flees after having an ‘accident’ on live TV. A crewman on a ship heading to Mars gathers him in and takes him to the Red Planet. Pete meets and, after woofing and snapping, befriends one of the local rooks. When Pete is discovered, he is sent back to Earth. The rook decides to stick with his buddy, meaning the crewman is going to be in trouble again, this time for carrying an unregistered animal from Mars to Earth. Fortunately, Colonel Willoughby, the sponsor of Wooftie Biscuits, has missed Pete and it’s a happy ending as he takes them all back. Pure fluff, but impossible not to enjoy.

Spaceway was Forrest J. Ackerman’s baby so it’s not a surprise to see an entry here. He reviews the movie Gog, third in the Office of Scientific Investigation (OSI) trilogy of movies by Ivan Tors, following The Magnetic Monster (1953) and Riders to the Stars (1954). Ackerman really loves the movie, and now I want to see it. Unfortunately, while Magnetic Monster and Gog are available on DVD, I haven’t found Riders to the Stars. Still, they look good.

Next is The Plague by Albert Hernhunter, whose name is actually Albert Hernhuter. As a guy who grew up loving the 1980s Robin of Sherwood series, I heartily approve of this subtle change.

However, the Plague is a story that has only one saving grace: it’s short with only 3 pages. Basically, it says that humanity tries to destroy another race with a bioweapon, only to find out the bioweapon saves that race from an already existing plague and to then have the plan backfire and destroy humanity. Not my cup of tea, and entirely predictable.

The second novelette is The Uncompromising People by Jim Harmon. Harmon, too, is an interesting guy, known at one time as Mr. Nostalgia. He was also a good writer. I rather enjoyed The Uncompromising People and it had seeds that might very well have influenced other writers.

The story is that Calvin Thomas Moss is a throwback to a sneakier time. He is a conman, a thief, and all-around scoundrel in a time when people have become more honest. That means that he is useful to those in power who need those skills, and once he got caught for a scheme, he was under their thumb.

Facing awful sorts of imprisonment, he ‘agrees’ to go to Vega to help discover why their number of registered voters is decreasing. This is odd because the Vegans, while similar to humans in size and shape, evolved from a rabbit analogue with all the same reproduction rates. Also, they are albinos who aren’t exposed to as much ultraviolet light.  Anyway, they believe that not registering to vote is a capital crime. It’s important because manipulating these votes allow the Galactic Federation of Earth to remain in power.

So he gets sent in a rocket that has a computer to help him along the way. And a nuclear warhead to make sure he actually goes to Vega and does his job.

What’s fascinating is that the computer is neurotic just like Marvin  the Paranoid Android. Here’s one quote: “‘Go on,’ said the brain. ‘Shut me off. Leave me lifeless, now that I’ve served my purpose, now that you’re through with me…'” (p. 95). I can even hear that in Alan Rickman’s voice from the last Hitchhiker’s movie. It’s so close it makes me wonder if Douglas Adams read this novelette.

But it’s not just that. The story has the same feel as Keith Laumer’s Retief stories. The only real difference is that Retief is never out of control of the situation and Moss is rarely in control until the climactic scene. Admittedly, that’s a big difference in storytelling, but it’s still got that same sly sense of humor and twist.

The answer, by the way, to the population dilemma is that the female Vegans have been impregnating themselves purposefully, meaning they only have daughters. Since only male Vegans are allowed to vote that means the number of voters is decreasing, while the population is expanding.

He tries to report back, but is halted by the paranoid rocket ship, which doesn’t believe that he knows the answer. While they argue, the Vegans catch up to him and are about to kill him, but he uses a Retief-esque trick. He convinces them that he has a secret hidden under his toupee, which requires a great deal of work including a special type of light to remove. He doesn’t have a toupee of course, but this gives him a chance to hit the albino Vegans with ultraviolet light, driving them away.

Then, just as expected, he gets his comeuppance. Just because he succeeded at this mission doesn’t mean he’s out of hot water with the powers that be. Nope, it means he’s more valuable. I don’t know if Harmon wrote other stories with Moss, but I do hope so. And, like Adams, I wonder if Laumer read this story.

The next story is Pearls of Parida by Alma Hill. Hill was not terribly prolific, but she edited a number of fanzines. This is another story that’s short, only 7 pages or so, and in this case needed to be longer. It could have been interesting, but ends up as just a shoot-em-up battle scene.

The last story, One Out of Many, is by Mark Pines. This is the only bibliographic entry for him in the Speculative Fiction Database. The story is of an archaeological expedition to a desert planet. At the end we discover that these are some other species and they are examining earth, as shown by the discovery of a small metal disc that says “E Pluribus Unum.” This is another story that could be really good, but seems curtailed. Not enough tension. It has a Randall Garrett sort of idea, but not Garrett’s skill at tricking the reader.

Spaceway June, 1954 Back Interior
Spaceway June, 1954 Back Interior

That’s the last story, but not the last bit of fun. I always enjoy looking at the strange ads at the back of old magazines, and you can expect me to show them in most of these entries.

One interesting thing I learned came from looking at these addresses. Notice anything missing? For some reason I thought Zip Codes were in use prior to 1963, but that’s when they officially came into being. This is also when the two-letter state codes came into existence. You all probably knew all this long ago, but it was new to me.

Overall, this was not a great collection of stories. I would give it a 3 on a scale of 10. None of the stories had enough conflict or tension, though I enjoyed a few of them. I might raise it to 3.5 if I really love Gog and the Magnetic Monster.

Despite the fact that this will not be my favorite in my collection, I really enjoyed the exercise. I’ve been wanting to go through these for some time because I know there are all sorts of cool things in them. I also can already tell it will spur some fun ideas.

If you have any comments, feel free to comment here or send an email to me at: rob@robhowell.org.

 

Interview – Steve Kubien

This week’s interview is with a friend I met in the SCA. As you’ll see he’s a woodturner, taking chunks of wood and making beautiful things out of them.

He’s also a really generous guy. When he sees that someone’s lost a mug, or had a bad day, or whenever he thinks one of his cups will brighten someone’s day, he makes one and gives it to them.

Interview – Steve Kubien

What is your quest?

Steve Kubien
Steve Kubien

I am a woodturner. I use the patterns and textures of wood to make cremation urns and bowls (mostly). Each of these creations is as unique as person they are for or the circle of friends who use them daily.

What is your favorite color?

Favourite colours are blue and green, though they have little to do with my work (generally). As a turner, I try to create curves which are pleasing to the eye and feel good in the hands. The easier way to describe this in a concrete way is to look at an egg. Every tiny segment of the shell is a wonderful, perfect curve. Stand it on the narrow end and you have a classic vase. Use the lower half and you have a bowl that looks, feels and functions marvelously. I make parts of the curve of eggs.

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

Urn by Steve Kubien
Urn by Steve Kubien

Completing pieces is often difficult for me. From a technical stand point, the final stages of making an urn are the most risky (in terms of ruining a piece). Thus, I often get stuck in ruts where a number of pieces are almost complete, but not quite.

I am also not a fast worker. As an independent artist, that’s a big disadvantage.

What are the powers of your personal Holy Hand Grenade?

I am very good at finding a nice curve.

Green Urn by Steve Kubien
Green Urn by Steve Kubien

Lightning Round

  • Favorite Muppet?  On the 9th day, God created Kermit. He would have done it on the 8th but he was busy creating Led Zeppelin.
  • Crunchy or Creamy? Crunchy, but not so much to break teeth.
  • Favorite Sports Team? Whoever is playing against the Toronto Maple Lrafs
  • Cake or Pie?  Apple pie or death!
  • Favorite Chip Dip?  Helluva Good Dip, original
  • Wet or Dry?  Currently?
  • Favorite Musical Performer We’ve Never Heard Of?  Derek Trucks
  • Whisky or Whiskey?  Bourbon (Rob’s Note: My current favorite bourbon is the New Holland Beer Barrel Bourbon casked in the same casks as their Dragon’s Milk Imperial Stout. Not expensive, but delicious)
  • Favorite Superhero? Thor
  • Steak Temperature? Pass it through a warm room. (Rob’s Note: The internal temperature of a cow is 107 Fahrenheit. That’s about what my sweetie prefers as well 🙂 )
  • Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall? Fall
  • Best Game Ever? The Riddle Game
  • Coffee or Tea? Tea

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

Why do you do this?

Rob’s Answer: Well, some reasons are cynical and some less so. The cynical reason is that this gives free publicity to people I like while at the same time encouraging their fans, readers, and friends to visit my blog. Some of those will continue to read my stuff. I

I also like knowing a little more about my friends. Given how often people stay at my house, there’s a non-zero chance knowing how people like their steak or what kind of whisk(e)y they drink might be useful to know. Plus, who doesn’t want to know everyone’s favorite Muppet?

n short, it’s a win-win thing for all of us, and I like positive sum games. And it’s fun.

Tell me again where we can find your stuff?


Thanks to Steve Kubien 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.

Thanks 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.

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

 

RU: Best Damn Chicken In The State

Week 33 of 2018

The week after Pennsic is always one of recovery. Stuff has to be cleaned, maintained, and put back into its proper place. I have to recover as well.

All the while dealing with cats that missed us.

Right now, Thorn is laying on my left wrist, making it hard to reach the “T” key. But she’s a happy, purry kitty so I’m not moving her.

My mom is also visiting this week, so there was a hurried arranging and straightening up. Impetus for getting more things from the move into their proper place. We’ve still got lots to do, but the house is perfectly livable right now.

The sad news, of course, is the passing of Aretha Franklin. The Blues Brothers has been one of my favorite movies, and that’s how I remember her most, but every once in a while I’ll go down the YouTube rabbit hole following her. What a voice.

On the writing side, I’ve been fighting to get my brain in gear. I’ve thrown a few words on the page, but not yet gotten back into the groove I was in at Pennsic. It’s coming back though. I can tell it is when a number of different ideas start popping through my head.

I also have a new idea for my blog that I will unveil next Wednesday. I hope to make it a standard weekly post if I can keep up. It’ll help me be a better writer, probably give me a bunch of ideas, and be fun and interesting.

For now, I’m going to play around with a story idea.

Current Playlist Song

“Rasputin” by Turisas. It’s a silly song, but fun. And Turisas kicks it up several notches. They are a great Finnish folk metal band. I got to see them at the Riot Room here in KC, a tiny but fun venue. “Rasputin” live was really fun.

As a side note, if you haven’t noticed, I love folk metal. If you’ve found a cool folk metal band, let me know. I’m always looking for more.

Quote of the Week

“Don’t you “Don’t get riled, sugar” me!”
– Aretha Franklin as Mrs. Murphy, The Blues Brothers

News and Works in Progress

  • CB (6,526)
  • AFS (2,681)

Recent Blog Posts and Wiki Additions

Upcoming Events

Spotlight

This week’s spotlight was on the amazing Kacey Ezell. You can find her interview here: http://robhowell.org/blog/?p=1296 and you can find her at http://www.kaceyezell.net/.

Today’s Weight: 387.6

A note about my weight. I am essentially at the same weight I was when I started the year. With all the travel and upheaval in my life so far in 2018, I call this a win. Hopefully, I will drop into the 360s by the end of the year, but thus far I’ve maintained despite challenges.

Updated Word Count: 173,506

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

Opinions and fiction of person misplaced in time.