Tag Archives: Isaac Asimov

Mag Review: Imagination (October, 1950)

Greetings all

After a tumultuous October, it’s time to get back into the normal groove.

This week I’ll review Imagination, Vol. 1, No. 1 from October, 1950. Yes, that’s right, it’s the first issue of this magazine. I’m actually curious how it might differ from a regular issue, so let’s dive into it.

Imagination (October, 1950)
Imagination (October, 1950)

Table of Contents: http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/pl.cgi?58906

Inside the front and back covers is a neat blurb and pictures about the new “scientifilm” Rocketship X-M. It’s a very 1950s sort of film, especially in how it looks at Mars, but it looks interesting.

We start reading with a rather large Editor’s column with one part by Forrest J. Ackerman and the rest by the regular editor, Raymond A. Palmer.

Most of you probably recognize Ackerman, but maybe not Palmer. However, Palmer was a foundational piece of SF magazines. He helped start one of the first fanzines and as editor for Amazing Stories bought Isaac Asimov’s first professional story. Imagination was his baby, for all intents and purposes.

In general, the editorial promises what Imagination would be. It is not terribly remarkable as it states that it will provide a freshtake on the SF magazine. However, based on what I see in the editorial and his biography, I think Palmer would have loved to be at the 20Booksto50K conference this week. He seemed to really enjoy bringing in new authors.

The first story in the issue is Chester S. Geier’s The Soul Stealers. It’s a workmanlike story, in my opinion. It suffers, I think, from a little too much plotting, in that I struggle at some of the transitions. A certain thing has to happen, so it happens, but I was not convinced by the events in the story that the thing was going to happen. It’s got action and mystery, but it didn’t quite mesh for me. It’s technically good, but left me wanting a harder fight for the protagonist.

Immediately after is a small space-filler that discusses the amazing impact of trucking and heavy earth-movers on American society. This is the most striking line: “All this is a harbinger of the future. Instead of concentration in cities as has been happening all over the world for the last few centuries, it is possible for a civilization to spread itself out all over the country and still produce as effectively as if it were in one spot” (p. 39). This is coming to pass, but Palmer could have had little idea of the internet. Still, it’s a prescient thought.

The next story is Wind in Her Hair by Kris Neville. I confess that when I see the name Neville I *always* think first about a shield bearing the device gules, a saltire argent, with 50 troops attached from the game Kingmaker. Sorry, not sorry.

Anyway, this Neville is a Missourian I have not ever heard of before. The reason why is SF was too limiting for him and after publishing a number of stories, he went to do other things that interested him. Namely, epoxy resins.

After reading this, I really wish he hadn’t shifted to epoxy resins. Wind in Her Hair is one of those “what happens on generational ships” kind of stories. How will our society evolve, and that sort of thing. This is a great example of the subgenre, because, in the end, it’s not really human society that’s evolved, but our physiology.

A screwed up environmental system meant the people on that ship now cannot breathe Earth air or live on Earth at all. The only way they find out is by actually returning to Earth. They’re excited about coming home, dreaming dreams of a future outside the ship, only to have their dreams crushed. Fantastic story.

Rog Phillips is next with One for the Robot – Two for the Same … Phillips, actually Roger Phillips Graham, is vaguely familiar to me, but I cannot recall reading anything by him. I’ll look for him in the future, though. His writing career is a tad tragic, and it’s a shame, because he looks to be a very good writer.

This story is about a scientist who tries to figure out how to transfer a human’s brain to a new, robotic body to make himself immortal. He figures out the secret, but in so doing he discovers something that essentially destroys him. He loses his reputation and becomes an alcoholic.

Another scientist replicates his work and tracks him down. He wants to know what it is that the main character discovered that destroyed him. He wants to try it himself, but doesn’t want to make the same mistake.

The main character’s first name is January. It’s a cool hint at the answer. The procedure doesn’t transfer the brain, it copies it. There is now a second one of himself, one facing back to what he has done, and the other facing to an immortal, robotic future. I’m not sure what I’d do in that situation, either. Very good story that kept me wondering until the end. It is only afterwards I really understood his first name.

Next is a couple of short essays. One discusses how brains work much the same as a TV or telephone does. The second essay talks about the brand new instrument, the encephalograph, and how it can help us understand sanity and why people murder other people. I wonder what we think of as cutting edge will seem so quaint to people in 2090.

We move on to the next story, Look to the Stars, by Willard Hawkins. Hawkins is another author I can’t remember having read before.

I’m a sucker for anyone who writes a mythology to start the story from whence that mythology derives. I like piecing the clues together, and this has all of that.

A crazy scientist creates a spaceship. Eight others come to him, not really by choice. By seeming accident, they get on the ship and it activates, sending them to the stars. But the ship has been encased in a special form of clay that holds anything with a spark of like in stasis, and takes them, along with all of the creatures and plants it has captured to a far distant world. These then repopulate the planet. The mythology is that of the eight’s descendants.

Part of the fun is the fact that seven of the eight are criminals and awful people. But the last line is, “All were gods, stupendous beings of high courage and noble aims…” (p. 149). It’s a good story. It drags a bit, and could have been smoothed, but it is still a fun read.

The last story is Inheritance by Edward W. Ludwig. This is actually his first published story of 25 or so.  It’s a solid story and creepy. A dog and her puppy run down into a cave and gets lost and her master chases them into the tunnel. They get lost for several days. During that time a chemical attacks kills everyone else on earth, but never reaches them.

He is initially terrified of being the only person left alive and contemplates suicide, but decides to have a last meal. He enjoys the best steak he can find, cigars he could never have afforded, and good scotch. He decides to enjoy these good things for a bit. Then he remembers there’s so much left to see on earth, and he decides to go visit them. There may not be people, but he’s got his dog and her puppy and he loves them more than people anyway.

After this story is a personal ad section. These include:

  • Have you seen flying disks or believes invisible beings walk the earth?
  • Selling a collection of SF/F books 3 for $1.
  • The Universal Musketeers , an unofficial fanclub around Newport News, VA, is looking for new members.
  • An F.J. Ackerman at 236 1/2 N. New Hampshire in Hollywood seeks certain magazines and books

Last is the letters to the editor page. First off is one by Chet Geier, yes the first author in this issue, thanking Palmer for the opportunities he has given him. There’s also a similar letter by Rog Phillips. My favorite letter is the one announcing all the things happening at Norwescon 1950. I wonder when this issue of Imagination was actually released, because Norwescon was actually on Labor Day, 1950 and this was the October, 1950 issue.

Anyway, though I didn’t really know any of authors coming into this issue, I really liked it. There’s no earth-shatteringly amazing story in here, but they’re all at least solid. Altogether, it’s an auspicious beginning and I look forward to future issues.

Next Week’s Issue: Fantastic Universe (December, 1957)


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

Interview: Dr. Robert E. Hampson

This guy is brilliant. He’s a neuroscientist working on how humans remember stuff and he’s a science fiction writer as well. He’s also a very nice guy and fun to chat with. If you can, sit down with him. You’ll learn something, I guarantee it.

Interview: Dr. Robert E. Hampson
Dr. Robert E. Hampson
Dr. Robert E. Hampson

What is your quest?

My quest is to entertain and inform.  An online friend once remarked that I teach as naturally as I breathe.  I’m a scientist, so much of my nonfiction writing is basically: “How do I break this down so that the average reader can understand (with maybe some recourse to Google)?”  Sometimes while writing nonfiction I hit on something that I think would make a good plot point for fiction.  I grew up reading Asimov, Heinlein, Clarke, so I want to write stories that take people on adventures in a future that has a certain hope for spreading mankind to the stars.

Then again, one of my strongest influences was James P. Hogan, so I also lean toward having sympathetic scientist/engineer characters and include the human side: love, laughter, longing and loss.

In person at conventions, I definitely like to entertain, and often I find myself in the position where my main contribution is to be the comic relief.  Strangely, that doesn’t make it into my fiction very often.  “Headspace and Timing” in Tales from the Lyon’s Den is the rare exception, and I hope folks like it. (Rob’s Note: This was released on 25 September as the first of a new set of Four Horsemen anthologies. You should buy it. You should especially buy the second one, Luck is Not a Factor, because I have a story in it 😀 )

What is your favorite color?

I like to take something from my education and professional work and weave it into the story.  Again, I tend to have sciency-type characters, although I’ve also shamelessly borrowed from friends’ careers as well.  For “Unto the Last, Stand Fast” in The Good, the Bad and the Merc I was heavily influenced by “The Last Stand” by Sabaton.  I’ve also written stories that draw heavily from dreams.  My stories for John Ringo’s Black Tide Rising series were influenced by some things I remember from free-association musing and dreaming after reading John’s stories.

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

I think any writer has this – there’s something we think is funny, or cute, or an essential reference – and the reader doesn’t get it.  One of the problems with having lots of ideas, writing them down, even writing the stories (but not selling them) is that I create a character.  I *like* the character.  The character has adventures.  In my mind, I know all of these things, so when I write something else in that universe or with that character, I incorporate the known background.  Unfortunately, if the other stories never see the light of day, the reader has no idea why the fact that “Mr. Davis” was a Boy Scout camp counselor should mean anything.

I’ve had an anthology editor tell me I’m just not ready for prime time… after I’d already sold 4 stories to anthologies.  Granted, I haven’t sold to big name magazines (Analog, etc) yet, and I definitely known that I have much to learn.  But it’s certainly amusing to contemplate that 10 stories sold (by now) is “not ready.”

Rob Hampson playing the trumpet.
Rob Hampson playing the trumpet.

What are the powers of your personal Holy Hand Grenade?

My proudest production is a story that was submitted to the US Army’s Training and Doctrine Command’s (TRADOC) Mad Science Writing contest.  My story “To Serve and Serve Again” is one of my favorites.  It has a bit of history, though – I wrote the story “They Also Serve” about a cardiovascular surgeon dealing with his own version of PTSD having to patch up soldiers and send them back to war.  It was for Tom Kratman’s Riding the Red Horse and he wanted a sequel that would continue the story. (Alien invasion, and a treatment the doc developed was key to allowing human soldiers to survive).  TAS was around 10k words, TSaSA told the tale of a combat medic, since one of my best friends served two combat tours as a medic – and it came in at almost 15k… I actually figure I could probably write 3-4 more stories in that setting and compile into a book if I ever get the time.

…And then the sequel anthology fell through.  The TRADOC contest wanted stories of no more than 5k words.  The problem from my perspective was that TSaSA was just right for the contest (and I was right – it was a finalist) so I had to cut it.  So I trimmed some of the explicit character development and left scenes that would allow the reader to fill in the gap.  I had to cut what I thought was important backstory, but it had to go.  The final product was lean but read well.  I was proud of it, and obviously the jurists liked it – it was in the finalist compilation of the best 25 stories submitted.

Interestingly enough, someone did an analysis of how the stories submitted to the contest were a pretty close match to the Department of Defense’s advanced research solicitations.  It seems that a keyword search of the “research wanted” announcements by DoD was a pretty close match to a keyword search of the stories submitted.  The article singled out one particular story to illustrate a fictional “portable medical record” that was nearly identical to a DoD solicitation for a “portable medical record” … and that story was mine.  So, yeah, I’m particularly proud of that one.   Military SF, ripped from the pages of actual research… kinda.  .

Lightning Round

  • Favorite Muppet? The “Doctor Russ” muppet.  This one’s pretty obscure, but a long-time friend of mine worked with Sesame Street to develop educational videos for children of deployed and returning service members.  For Russell’s retirement from the Navy and DARPA, one of the Sesame Street producers showed a video featuring Elmo and Dr. Russ and presented him with the Dr. Russ muppet.
  • Crunchy or Creamy?  Crunchy.  More character
  • Favorite Sports Team? San Antonio Spurs.
  • Cake or Pie? Why not both?  (actually, Pecan Pie, but I can no longer eat it due to the high sugar content)
  • Lime or Lemon? Again, both.  Lymon.
  • Favorite Chip Dip?  French Onion
  • Wet or Dry? I’m a big guy who’s always sweating.  Definitely prefer dry.
  • Favorite Musical Performer We’ve Never Heard Of?  Not a performer, but I’m a fan of video game music.  The guys composing music for Halo, Mass Effect, Destiny, etc. are composing fantastic symphonic epics.
  •  Whisky or Whiskey? Shame on you!  There is no “e” in whisky.  Single malt. Neat.  Preferably old enough to pour itself another.
  • Favorite Superhero? DC:  The Flash, Marvel: Captain America
  • Steak Temperature? Medium rare, especially if it’s well-aged beef.  The longer the aging, the rarer I would cook it.
  • Favorite 1970s TV show? The Six Million Dollar Man… it influenced my career, so this is a no-brainer.

Tell me again where we can find your stuff?

And where can we find you?

  • June 1-3, Guest, ConCarolinas, Charlotte, NC
  • June 29-July 1,  Guest, LibertyCon, Chattanooga, TN.
  • July 13-15, Guest,  ConGregate, High Point, NC.
  • August 30-September 3, Guest, Dragon*Con, Atlanta, GA.

Thanks to Dr. Hampson 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 (May, 1941)

Greetings all

You have my apologies for not getting a chance to review a magazine last week. It will happen again next week as I’m on the road for most of the week.

This week, I’ll be reviewing the Astounding from May, 1941 (Vol. XXVII, No. 3). This is the first time I’ll be reviewing a magazine where I’ve read the issue immediately before or after. You can find my review for April, 1941 here: http://robhowell.org/blog/?p=1352.

Astounding May, 1941 Cover
Astounding May, 1941 Cover

Table of Contents: http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/pl.cgi?57588

This issue starts out with an editorial by John W. Campbell entitled History to Come. The opening line is a fun one to remember. “Fundamentally, science-fiction novels are “period pieces,” historical novels laid against a background of a history that hasn’t happened yet” (p. 5). I like that thought, especially since Campbell uses this editorial to discuss what that means. He focuses especially on the research involved and emphasizes that what an SF author should be doing is “mental research into possible future” (p. 5). He does this to set up Robert A. Heinlein’s “History of Tomorrow” timeline, which we’ll discuss in about 120 pages.

As I research this editorial and wallow in Campbell’s brilliance (and, of course, Heinlein’s), I discovered something very interesting. Alexei and Cory Panshin said in The World Beyond the Hill that this idea of world creation, which seems fairly obvious to me, changed science fiction. “Science fiction hadn’t been seen in these terms previously.  But the publication of Heinlein’s Future History chart would force a general alteration of perception of what science fiction was about and how it was made” (Alexei and Cory Panshin, Heinlein and the Golden Age (excerpt of The World Beyond the Hill), https://www.panshin.com/critics/Golden/goldenage3.html). I suggest you all read the whole article.

Baseball Yearbook Cover
Baseball Yearbook Cover

Then there’s an ad for the Street & Smith Baseball Yearbook of 1941. As a guy who got into sabermetric research in the late 80s, I think this is awesome. It’s the forerunner of Bill James and those who followed him.

That’s a young Bob Feller on the cover, by the way. He would play the summer of ’41, and do well, though not as well as in 1940. Then, of course, he loses 1942-44 and most of 1945 for the war, serving part of that as a Chief Petty Officer on the USS Alabama. I hadn’t actually caught that before, and it makes my time roaming around the Alabama a bunch of times as a kid even that more awesome.

These magazines are like traveling in time.

Anyway, I suppose we should actually turn to the fiction. The first story is Universe by Heinlein. Not surprisingly, given Campbell’s editorial, we see some of Heinlein’s most intricate world-building in this story.

The story is about a generational ship on its way to the stars. One fascinating little touch Heinlein used was the standard greeting, “Good eating.” With just that little bit, we learn a ton about the time and place. He’s so deft.

And the story is really good. What happens to humanity if they’re on a generational ship and many generations pass? What happens to their understanding of science? To their society?

It would change, undoubtedly. Our hero is someone who has grown from that society, raised by exiled muties, and learns the truth of their ship. His is now the job of tilting at the windmill of those generations’ evolution to get them, perhaps, finally, to Centaurus.

Oh, look. We move from Heinlein to Isaac Asimov. What a darn shame, having to read these two hacks. Such a bummer. Anyway, the story is another early Robot one starring Susan Calvin called Liar.

You’ve probably read this story as it was reprinted a bunch of times, but here’s a synopsis anyway. A brand new robot has the astounding ability to read minds, though how its positronic brain gained this talent is unknown and is completely not repeatable until they learn just how it happened.

RB-34, Herbie, is programmed with early versions of the Three Laws of Robotics, so this ability is a real problem for it. When it talks to people, it knows what they want, so telling them the truth might actually hurt them. So, it supplies the answer that the person talking to them wants.

Of course, this leads to conflict as Calvin desires the love of one of the other scientists and another character hopes to be the next director. After they realize Herbie is providing different answers to each person, they confront him. Now, Herbie is in an insoluble situation. No matter what he says, he will hurt at least one of the humans. In the end, he collapses in positronic insanity.

I love Asimov’s Robot stories because he’s so good at creating logic puzzles. Reading these stories in original form is incredibly fascinating because the laws of Robotics aren’t actually specified until 1942. In some ways, this is Asimov fumbling towards something amazing.

And yes, its a great story. Shocking, I know.

So we move to a story called Solution Unsatisfactory by Anson MacDonald. There’s a goodly amount to unpack in the author here, because that’s a pseudonym for Heinlein. Yes, he’s got two stories in this issue. What a fascinating time that was for science fiction.

And dates are really important when unpacking this story. This issue was released in May of 1941. The story is, essentially, about Mutually Assured Destruction. He’s asking the same questions that Truman would have to answer in 1945 and in the years following.

MAD was, and is, an unsatisfactory solution. Heinlein proposed another, that of a world-wide dictatorship which has a monopoly on the superweapon, but even he points out that will never work. Campbell has a follow-up to this story where he asks for any better suggestion. The request is almost pleading.

Moving on we get In Times to Come, the preview of the next issue. It promises a neat murder mystery, a “whodunit-to,” if you will, that helps deal with the challenge of writing a murder mystery in science fiction. The story is Ross Rocklyne’s Time Wants a Skeleton. I’m looking forward to reading that when I find that issue.

Also on that page is the scores from the ratings of the previous issue. Yeah, Heinlein might be good and really prolific at this time. The April issue also has one by him and one by him as Anson MacDonald. They were, by a large margin, the best-rated stories of that issue.

The next story is Eric Frank Russell’s Jay Score. This wasn’t a bad story, but I’ve had the twist before. It’s about a freighter that is blown off course by a micro-meteorite. It’s headed directly to the sun with broken rockets. They get the rockets going, but even so a slingshot around the sun will be difficult.

They only manage it because of Jay Score, the assistant pilot. He’s a larger than life figure. Six foot nine or so, laconic, immensely capable, and so good at chess that he’s actually able to be the Martians on occasion. He is, of course, a robot names J.20.

As I said, it’s a twist I’ve seen before and done better. It’s the kind of deus ex machina that bothers me. Surviving only because he’s a robot means that there’s no real heroism involved. Robots can be heros, just look at Asimov’s examples. But here we’re expecting to see a hero and instead we see something superhuman. It lessens the story for me.

Next is a cute little entry called Fish Story by Vic Phillips and Scott Roberts. Basically, it’s about a an old colonel telling tall tales in a bar. This particular story is about catching highly poisonous giant frog-like creatures on Venus. He succeeds by the use of creative chemistry.

As I said, it’s a cute piece of fluff, but highlights one of the few drawbacks of this exercise. I often wallow in the history of these stories, like I did in Solution Unsatisfactory. However, that’s a two-edged sword. So many of these are set on Venus or Mars as if they’re teeming with life, which we now know isn’t true. It’s a case of knowing too much sometimes.

We move on to Subcruiser by Harry Walton. This is ripping yarn of a ship captain drugged by his executive officer so he can steal their subspace cruiser and take it to their enemies. The captain thinks the drugs are simply part of alcoholic fits brought on by depression from a previous battle.

In the end, he manages to defeat his XO and save his ship, and in the process regain the trust of his crew. Great story. To bad Walton didn’t write more.

Next we get to the monthly section called Brass Tacks. This one is special, though, as it publishes a chunk of Heinlein’s timeline, as mentioned in the opening editorial. The entire section can be found here: http://astoundingstoriesatwar.lmc.gatech.edu/files/original/5c982f03ae0d7bd88f8b8a0f636f3860.pdf.

Next is the conclusion of The Stolen Dormouse by L. Sprague de Camp. Here’s the link to my review of the Astounding of April, 1941 and Part I: http://robhowell.org/blog/?p=1352.

This story is a mashup of a number of different threads. A bit of Ivanhoe. A heaping helping of Romeo and Juliet. Some Purloined Letter. However, there are a ton of loose threads. The heroes survive and live happily ever after, so that’s fine, but I feel like the ending was rushed and condensed. De Camp almost built too much depth into this world, and I didn’t think all of it was explored enough.

If you go to the story’s Wikipedia page, it has a number of comments from a variety of different perspective and I think that’s part of my frustration. So much is going on, it’s written well, and it’s full of action, so it’s a good novella. It’d be a better better novel, though.

That’s it for this issue. It was another great issue, but it’s hard to go wrong with two Heinleins and an Asimov.

I’ll probably not have a chance to do a review next week, so I’ll plan on getting one out Halloween day. That being the case, I’ll review the Imagination of October, 1950. This is actually the first issue of this magazine. I’m curious what I’ll find in a debut.

Thanks very much and have a great day.

Next Week’s Issue: Imagination of October, 1950.


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

Interview: Jamie Ibson

Greetings all

I am continuing Four Horsetober with Jamie Ibson. Most of you will know him as the boss of 4HU – The Merc Guild Facebook group, but he’s also a writer and will be in Luck Is Not a Factor, the second Lyon’s Den Anthology in the Four Horsemen Universe. Take a look at another writer that Chris Kennedy has fostered.

Interview: Jamie Ibson
Jamie Ibson
Jamie Ibson

What is your quest?

I’m right at the beginning of what may eventually become a career, so getting published is my main story quest. I have a non-sci-fi story out with Supervisive, my 4HU story “The Human Inside”, and a story in next year’s Freehold anthology called “Cry Havoc” about the FMF leopard handlers.

Influences include all the usual Baeniacs, Mad Mike, The ILOH, Oh John Ringo No, David Weber, David Drake, books I found on my dad’s bookshelf like Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, Joe Haldeman, Spider Robinson, Gordon R Dickson, as well as the next generation of up-and-coming authors like Kacey Ezell, Jason Cordova, Chris Smith and Mike Massa. My horizons were broadly expanded when I discovered the Four Horsemen series at LibertyCon 30. They say if you want to write you need to read. I read a lot.

What is your favorite color?

I like stories that get you out of the normal human perspective. Some of my favorite 4HU stories are the ones where the aliens are front and center. (Kacey does alien Very Very Well) so in my leopard story, I have parts where the narrative shifts from 3rd person limited to 1st person present and the cat tells the story. My current project, I’m doing full-conversion cyborgs and I try to imagine how alien it would be to have your entire interaction with the world be done through artificial/constructed means.

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

I write too much dialogue and have to find ways to show action rather than rely on conversation.

I have a fantasy short meant to be an intro to a setting I put together but it has not been accepted yet for publication. The last response I got was that there was too much slang (I didn’t think I used hardly any slang), and that it tried to squish too much world into too short a story, which was the opposite of what I’d been told elsewhere. But I recall that one of my favorite Freehold stories, The Humans Call It Duty, was rejected multiple times before it was finally published, so maybe it’s just not the right time.

That, perhaps, is the biggest lesson I’ve learned in writing, is being patient. Things take time. (Rob’s Note: So true!)

What are the powers of your personal Holy Hand Grenade? 

Somewhere along the way, a certain retired Navy SEAL declared that I was the Loremaster with regards to several of my favorite series and I’m rather honored to be called that. I think when writing in someone else’s universe it is vital to get the details and fiddly bits consistent. When I first talked to Mad Mike about what eventually became Cry Havoc, I made a point to review as much as I could on what Freehold had to say about the leopards and the handler program. Somewhere along the way I ended up writing a series bible for Mike which we’ve made available for everyone else writing in the anthology. I’ve been approached by others to give their universe a similar treatment so it can be opened up to a broader writing crowd, or I’ve been asked how I do what I do. (Notes, painstaking notes and multiple rereads!) So when I write in someone else’s universe, I try to keep a very clear idea on “What is canon” vs “Where can I expand” and ensure nothing I write conflicts with established lore. You only have to look at what happens to a series that becomes a show or movie to see whether it is accepted or rejected by fandom, based on how closely it remains true to the original. (I’m looking at you, Starship Troopers).

Lightning Round

  • Favorite Muppet? Pepe
  • Crunchy or Creamy? Crunchy
  • Favorite Sports Team? Olympic Hockey Team Canada. I pretty much ignore everything else. (Rob’s Note: This is where I get to make a gratuitous note about watching the 1980 Miracle on Ice on a 12-inch black-and-white TV)
  • Cake or Pie? Cookie dough ice cream cake
  • Lime or Lemon? Lemon
  • Favorite Chip Dip?  7 layer but no olives
  • Wet or Dry? Umm
  • Favorite Musical Performer We’ve Never Heard Of? If you’ve seen my 4HU music playlist you will have seen Leo Morrachiolli. Norwegian metal cover god. Sultans of Swing and Feel Good Inc are always good, and then there’s 230+ more tunes to pick from. Seriously, the dude’s a machine. (Rob’s Note: And he makes the most amazing facial expressions)
  • Whisky or Whiskey? Please.
  • Favorite Superhero? Canadian ones, obviously, that may not be as well known as the Avengers, like Wolverine and Deadpool, for example.
  • Steak Temperature? I’m going to be a heretic and admit I prefer burgers over steak. But if steak is what is being served, medium rare.
  • Favorite 1970s TV show? Heh, sweet, it counts. Dukes of Hazzard started in 1979 so… yep.
  • Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall? Spring
  • Favorite Pet? I love all my cats, past and present, but Naomi is our house panther who has declared me chief of staff.
  • Best Game Ever? Fantasy: The Witcher III. Sci Fi, Horizon Zero Dawn.
  • Coffee or Tea? Razzleberry Iced Tea.
  • Sci-Fi or Fantasy? Sci fi.

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

Best place to learn to write/code wikis?

Rob’s Answer: Honestly, they’re not difficult. The most difficult thing to learn is the CSS coding to set up the main stuff. Wiki coding is mostly set up to use toolbars, and there are plenty of references.

They are like much else, though in that they become easier and quicker with practice. It takes time to think about what the most effective way to organize it, like what categories you’ll have and such.

Two things I suggest, though. First, download Editpad Lite. It’s my favorite text editor and you need a good one. If you already have one you know well, stay with it, but if not, Editpad is great. Second, as you’re editing create yourself a set of snippets. My philosophy of wiki editing is that it is better if you can standardize as much as possible. Similar things should be displayed in similar fashion as it will help the reader. Unlike writing prose, where you want to vary your word choice, consistency is useful in this context. Snippets help.

Tell me again where we can find your stuff? 

  • My forthcoming 4HU story will be in Luck Is Not A Factor.
  • “Cry Havoc” due 2019 sometime.
  • Priorities via Superversive Press in To Be Men.

And where can we find you?

I’m north of the PNW so look for me at LibertyCon once a year (until I convince America to let me immigrate).

Do you have a creator biography?

Hey, I’m Jamie. Thanks for checking out my page. I’m Canadian, born and raised in Ontario and now on the left coast. Spent some time in the CF reserves and went on a peacekeeping mission when I finished highschool. Now I’m in law enforcement and write in my spare time. I’m married to the lovely Michelle, and we have cats.


Thanks to Jamie Ibson 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: If (June, 1957)

Greetings all

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

Mars Rocket Rotorship
Mars Rocket Rotorship

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have a great day, everyone.


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

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

Have a great day.

Rob Howell

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: Kairoi

Week of 7-13 May

Greetings all

What’s a kairos? It’s a Greek word meaning a moment of indeterminate time where something significant happens. You can find more here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kairos.

So, what significant things happened this week? Well, I discovered the word kairos and its plural (kairoi). I had been casting around how best to explain the Lore Stream of Magic in my world. I originally started by using the word filament, and explaining the a clikurios (lore magician) manipulated and entwined filaments to serve their purpose.

However, I never liked that word. It never quite fit, plus it was too much like using “tendrils” to describe Love Magic. I want each type of magic in Shijuren to be different, not just in effects but processes.

Anyway, I love the word kairos. I had always envisioned Lore Magic essentially stacking butterfly effects in sequences that create a greater likelihood of a lore magician’s desired result. Tricky, subtle stuff. This type of magic was inspired by a combination of Hari Seldon from Asimov’s Foundation series and Gandalf from the Lord of the Rings. Gandalf, for example, rarely does obvious magic but always seems to be at *the* right place at *the* right time. Hari Seldon, of course, used psychohistory to manipulate outcomes over thousands of years.

Butterfly effects rely on moments, so a filament is simply not the right way to describe them. However, a kairoi sequence works perfect from my perspective. I know I probably use too many odd words, but magic is supposed to include all sorts of words like abracadabra. I just take mine from Greek, Old English, Russian, Hindi, or whatever seems interesting at the moment.

Kairos is just one of the many things I have added to the wiki (www.shijuren.org) over the past week. In fact, all the new people, places, and words used in Where Now the Rider are on the wiki. I have editing to do but it’s not out of the possibility that it goes live next week.

It’s the final steps in the process time.

But wait, there’s more. It’s been a very good week. I’ve started work on a project that I will discuss later, when it’s closer to being done. And there’s a couple of wiki posts where I talk about my writing philosophies.

This weekend I am looking forward to rejoining the Write Pack Radio podcast. We’ll be recording on Sunday and I’ll let everyone know when those episodes are going live. I’ll probably blog discussing that process on Monday.

Oh, and I’ve made progress on a couple of new events to attend. It’s amazing how much of the details here and there I get done when I stay home for a weekend.

Quote of the Week

I love the Foundation series, not simply because it serves a basis for my magic system, but as one of the most intriguing series ever in science fiction. I wish I could have met Asimov. I think he and I would have loved discussing my magic system.

  • “The psychohistoric trend of a planet-full of people contains a huge inertia. To be changed it must be met with something possessing a similar inertia. Either as many people must be concerned, or if the number of people be relatively small, enormous time for change must be allowed.”
    ― Isaac Asimov, Foundation

News and Works in Progress

  • Where Now the Rider in final editing stages
  • Brief Is My Flame in initial throw words at the page stage
  • A seeeeekrit project

Recent Blog Posts and Wiki Additions

Upcoming Events

Spotlight

This week’s spotlight is overdue. I had meant to point this one out much earlier. Dorothy Grant has spent a great deal of time helping her husband, Peter Grant, put out both military science fiction and westerns. In February, she published her first. Check it out at: https://www.amazon.com/Dorothy-Grant/e/B06VTKQKD5/ref=ntt_aut_sim_3_2.

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

Have a great week, everyone.

Rob Howell
Author of the Shijuren-series of novels

Currently Available Works
  • A Lake Most Deep (Edward, Book 1)
  • The Eyes of a Doll (Edward, Book 2)
  • Where Now the Rider (Edward, Book 3) Forthcoming 2017
  • I Am a Wondrous Thing (The Kreisens, Book 1)
  • Brief Is My Flame (The Kreisens, Book 2) Forthcoming 2017
  • None Call Me Mother (The Kreisens, Book 3) Forthcoming 2018

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