Monthly Archives: November 2010

John Steakley, RIP

Oh, hell. John Steakley, the author of Armor and other excellent science fiction, has just passed away.

He and I never met, but I was a fan of his through Armor, which was given to me as a Christmas present by a friend of mine back when I was a teenager. The friend knew I liked science fiction but not being a science fiction reader himself sort of just grabbed the first book whose cover caught his eye. At the time, if I recall correctly, the cover of Armor featured a man in a mechanized battle suit about to bludgeon an alien with a hefty-looking rifle. A lurid cover, to be sure, but what was inside the cover was in fact right up my alley at the time.

Then a couple of years ago I picked up the phone and it was Steakley on the other end; he had just read Old Man’s War and he just felt like calling to talk to me about it. I was pleasantly surprised and befuddled, the way you get when someone whose work you’ve admired and whom you don’t expect to know you even exist suddenly pops up and does indeed knows you exist, and likes your stuff. We had a pleasant conversation, and he mentioned he’d try to get over to ArmadilloCon, which I was was going to be at later in that year. I told him I looked forward to meeting him there.

As it turns out he didn’t go to that con, and now I’m left wishing he had managed to make it out, so I could have shaken his hand and told him in person how much I enjoyed his work. One phone call seems too little all of a sudden.

Agent to the Stars Mass Market Paperback Out Today

Just in time for Hanukkah! (Yes, really; for those of you not in the know, Hanukkah starts on December 2nd this year.)  Today Agent to the Stars heads to the stores in the easy-to-love, easy-to-carry mass market paperback size, with a list price of just $7.99. And I think I adore this particular version of the cover (by artist Pascal Blanchet) most of all.

Remember also that if you call up Jay & Mary’s Book Center, my local book store, and order it from them, I’ll go there in the next few days and sign it for you, along with any other books of mine you might be wanting to purchase. This is great for gifts, whether for others or for yourself. Because learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all. At least that’s what I’ve heard. And I believe everything I’m told in pop songs.

Otherwise, it’s now available in your local book stores and of course on your favorite online book retailers as well.

(For those of you sharp-shooting ebook prices and noticing that the electronic version currently costs more than the paperback version; dude, give it a couple of days before you start kvetching, these things may take time to propagate into the system.)

Another Chance at a Fuzzy Nation ARC

Hey folks: Wanted a chance at that Fuzzy Nation ARC I offered up but forgot to enter in time? Or have a suspicion that your explanation as to why you deserve that ARC will not make the final round of consideration? Well, you’re in luck: Tor.com is also giving away some Fuzzy Nation ARCs, and they’re not even going to make you jump through all the hoops I did. Here are all the details. Go, enter, and good luck.

Meta Cat is Meta

Alternately, Pensive Cat is Pensive, squared.

Here’s a closer look at the picture in the Photoshop window, if that’s something you need for your day. Yes, fan club members. I’m looking at you.

Update, 4:05pm: Recursive Cat is recursively recursive!

Update, 5:30pm: Zeus wrecks the recursion by a) not being Ghlaghghee, b) looking entirely in the other direction, c) being in black and white. Oh, Zeus. If only you knew what trouble you cause.

A Bitter November

Me (going into the kitchen and finding someone going through the fridge): Who’s there?

Strange Yet Oddly Familiar Person: It’s me, you idiot.

Me (peering to get a better look): … November? Is that you? What are you doing here?

November: Eating some of your leftovers. (Holds up Tupperware) Mind if I finish off your cranberry sauce?

Me: No, that’s fine. What I meant to say is that I thought you had already left.

November: What’s the date?

Me: Uh… November 29.

November: Right. I still have today and tomorrow, you know.

Me: I suppose you do.

November: Damn right I do. I have thirty days. Every year. It’s not like I’m February. (Sits, sullenly, to eat his leftovers.)

Me: I know. It’s just that after Thanksgiving, it feels like November should be over, you know?

November (bitterly): You think I don’t know that? You think I don’t know that as soon as people wrap foil over the turkey pickings and shove them in the ice box, they start looking at me like I missed some sort of important social clue? They start looking at the closet my jacket is in and then down at their wrists as if to say, whoa, look at the time.

Me: I’m sure they don’t mean anything by it.

November: And nobody actually wears wristwatches anymore! They all get their time from their cell phones. That’s what makes it extra demeaning.

Me: I don’t think everyone wants you out the door on Thursday evening. There’s Black Friday, after all.

November (rolls eyes): Oh, right. The “traditional start of holiday retail.” Holiday retail, dude. “Holiday” is just code, you know. For December.

Me: Code?

November: Friggin’ December, man. He was always pushy, you know. Always so entitled. Mr. “Oh, I have two major religious holidays every year.” Yeah, well, you know what? This year, I had Diwali. Okay? That’s a festival of lights, too. A billion people celebrate it. And that’s just the Hindus! I’m not even counting the Jains or the Sihks!

Me: I think that those cranberrys might have fermented on you.

November: Don’t patronize me, buddy. All I’m saying is December is not all that. I’ve got election day. I’ve got Veteran’s Day. I’ve got Thanksgiving. I’m the All-American month.

Me (as my cell phone buzzes): Hold on, I’m getting a text.

November: Who is it?

Me: It’s July. The text says, “I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if November was whining about something and was suddenly silenced BY AMERICA’S BIRTHDAY.”

November (holds up hands): You see? You see what I have to put up with?

(DOOR OPENS. DECEMBER bustles through, carrying packages)

December: Oh, man! You wouldn’t believe what kind of madness is out there in the stores these days. People are really getting into the holiday — Oh. November. Sorry, I didn’t see you there.

November: Of course you didn’t. God forbid you should acknowledge my existence, December.

December (to me): Did I come at a bad time?

Me: We’re having a bit of a moment, yes.

December: I can come back.

November: Yeah, in three days, you usurping bastard!

December: I’ll just go now.

(December leaves)

November: That’s right! Go! And take your crappy Christmas carols with you! (Breaks down weeping)

Me: Aw, come on, November. Don’t be like that.

November: I just want people to appreciate me, okay? For my entire stay. Is that too much to ask?

Me: No, I suppose it isn’t. I’m sorry, November. It was wrong of me.

November (sniffling): It’s all right. I know you weren’t trying to offend me. Anyway. I’ll just be going now. (Gets up)

Me: No, November. Sit down. Please. You can stay if you want.

November: Yeah? Really?

Me: Of course you can. You can even help me with some stuff around the house, if you want.

November (narrows eyes): You’re about to put up Christmas decorations, aren’t you.

Me (guiltily): Of course not.

Dear Rabid SEO-Mongering Jackasses

Just so you know, when I click on a link that takes me to your site to look at an article, and what I get is a full browser screen full of ads before you bring up any actual content, I do two things:

1. I assume you’re an asshole, because you’ve just wasted my time;

2. I put your site on a blacklist of useless sites that I will never, ever visit again.

Perhaps not entirely coincidentally, I’ve noted a strong correlation between SEO-optimized, ad-intensive sites, and really crappy content, probably because what’s been written takes a back seat to a desperate hope that I’ll click through a Google ad that’s ridiculously unrelated to the content at hand. Nearly inevitably the content is one of two things: a “Top [insert number here]” list which in fact has no critical evaluation at all but is just a slapped-together list of whatever the author could find in a five-minute Google session, or the dry heavings of some “social media strategist,” retching up some bit of wisdom that wasn’t particularly new the first time it hit the Web, back in the last millennium. These sites are the best argument there is for avoiding any sites on the Web other than Seth Godin’s and Cracked.com.

Anyway. If you are an SEO-obsessed jackass — and you know who you are — please pull your head out and have a site that’s meant to be read, rather than a site that unloads a shotgun blast of ads into a visitor’s face, followed by an article featuring bargain basement writing skills. If you are someone wandering the Web and you land on a site where you have to scroll to get to the content you came for, you probably don’t actually have to scroll. It’s not going to be worth your time. That site’s not there to engage your brain, just your eyeballs. Just back out and never go back.

Just Arrived, 11/26/10

For your Black Friday pleasure, a quick tour of titles what have come to my door:

* The Buntline Special, Mike Resnick (Pyr): Chicon 7’s Guest of Honor Mike Resnick is no stranger to trying out new subgenres of speculative fiction, so it shouldn’t be too surprising he’s exploring steampunk here, with this novel of an alternate 1880s America, featuring none other than Doc Holliday. And yes, you can expect other august personages of the US West to pop up as well. Out the first day of December.

* Steam-Powered: Lesbian Steampunk Stories, edited by JoSelle Vanderhooft (Torquere Press): Speaking of steampunk, here’s a collection of steampunk stories, featuring (as you might guess from the title) lesbian protagonists and characters. Authors include former Whatever guest blogger N.K. Jemisin, friends of Whatever Shira Lipkin and Rachel Manija Brown, Shweta Narayan and Amal El-Mohtar among many others. This one is currently scheduled for January 2011.

* The Wolf’s Hour, Robert McCammon (Subterranean Press): McCammon fans will be thrilled about this limited edition hardcover, which brings back into print McCammon’s celebrated 1989 dark fantasy/historical novel and adds a never-before-published novella “The Room at the Bottom of the Stairs” as an extra treat, plus illustrations by Vincent Chong (who does work on my own SubPress books). It’s out Tuesday and because it’s a limited edition, if you want it, you better move fast.

* Werewolf Smackdown, Mario Acevedo (Eos): The mass-market release of the latest installment of Acevedo’s paranormal series featuring Felix Gomez, undead private investigator. Out Tuesday.

* Rigor Amortis, edited by Jaym Gates and Erika Holt (Absolute XPress): This anthology of “flash fiction” zombie romance stories — yes, zombie romance — has my vote for the cleverest anthology title of the year. Out now.

* Back to the Moon, Travis S. Taylor and Les Johnson (Baen): The Chinese sent a manned mission to the moon and now it’s up to the US to go after them… as a rescue mission. Will the plucky Americans be able to save the day — and four hapless Chinese astronauts? This novel’s authors both have a work history with NASA, with Johnson the current Deputy Manager for the Advanced Concepts Office at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center. So chances are good that the science here will mostly check out. Out December 7.

* Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, Helen Simonson (Random House): The paperback version of the NYT Bestseller about the love of a widowed retired British military officer and a Pakistani widow from the nearby village. Will love bridge their cultural differences? I peeked at the end to find out. No, I won’t tell you. You’ll just have to find out yourself. This is out Tuesday.

Why I’m Totally Having Ham Today

Because turkeys are crazy, y’all.

If you’re in the US, happy Thanksgiving; this is traditionally where I’d list some of the things I’m thankful for but to be honest I’m thankful about so many things it would probably be easier just to list the things I’m not thankful for, and who wants to read that sort of depressing list on a holiday? No one.

If you’re not in the US, enjoy your Thursday (or, I guess, early Friday, depending on where you are), and I’ll catch up with you all tomorrow, because today I’m jamming several tens of thousands of calories down my throat and that will take up all of my time. Later.

Germany Gets Fuzzy

Over in Germany, Fuzzy Nation is undergoing a name change to Der Wilde Planet, which I think even those of you without facility for that language can guess means “the wild planet.” It’s actually not an inappropriate title for the book, all things considered. And of course, this being Germany, the cover of the book features a space ship shooting laser beams. One day I will write a novel called Space Ships and Laser Beams, just to see what Heyne, my German publisher will do with that cover. Then again, Germany is my largest market outside the US, so I’m content to let Heyne do what they want, cover-wise. They know more than me about their audience. Besides, I think this cover looks kind of spiffy.

Those of you in Germany who are wondering when you’ll get this book, it’ll be in September, 2011. Hang in there until then, folks.

We Pause This Blog For a Moment of Unmanly Squee

So, Audible just sent me copies of the audio versions of Agent to the Stars and The Android’s Dream, read by Wil Wheaton, which will be out on December 9. And naturally I had to stop everything I was doing and listen to Wil read the first chapter of The Android’s Dream. And here’s what I think:

ZOMFG you guys it is so totally excellent.

No. Seriously. No. I’m so not just saying that.

You have to imagine my hands waving excitedly here. Like fluttery birds.

All right. Manning up again.

In all seriousness, however: If you’re an audiobook fan, you have something to look forward to in two weeks.

And now I’m off to listen to a little of Agent to the Stars as well.

Please feel free to return to your normal programming.

Reminder About the Signed Books for the Holidays Thing

Hey! Remember that I’m signing books for your holiday gift-giving needs. Details here.

I figure I’d remind you before you all went crazy with the Black Friday retail madness, and also because I’m probably going in this weekend to sign the first batch of books. Anyway, books make a perfect holiday gift, and when you buy these signed books you’re also supporting my local book store, and that’s good for your karma. It really is, trust me.

A Science Fictional Thanksgiving Prayer

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving here in the US, and so for my FilmCritic.com column this week, I thought it appropriate to offer up a prayer, suitable for a Thanksgiving meal, offering up our humble gratitude for heath, happiness, good food, and the fact that we have yet to be invaded by alien armadas, among other topics of a science fictional nature. Go check it out, and if tomorrow, you are asked to lead the table in grace, you’ll know exactly what to say. You’re welcome.

(And no, I don’t know what Hannah and Her Sisters, pictured above, has to do with science fiction. Hey, it pictures a holiday meal. Just go with it, man.)

Hey! I’m Giving Away a Fuzzy Nation ARC!

Specifically, this Fuzzy Nation ARC, which as you can see is apparently eerily hovering above my couch. No, it’s not Photoshopped. I just turned off the gravity in the house for a minute. What? You don’t have gravity control in your house? Well, talk to your gravity provider about that, folks. I can’t do everything for you.

But back to the Fuzzy Nation ARC. You want it? Fine. Here’s all you have to do:

Tell me why you deserve this Fuzzy Nation ARC. And make it good, because I want to be entertained by your story of deservation. In fact, for the purposes of this contest, it’s more important that you entertain me than tell me the absolute truth.

I’m not saying you have to lie, mind you — if you’re so awesome in your day to day life that you can come up with a reason why you deserve this ARC without resorting to outright fabrication, why, that’s all to the good. But if you aren’t that awesome, well, go ahead and fudge a little. Or a lot. Yeah, better make it a lot.

Put your tale of deservedosity in the comment thread to this entry. You will have until 11:59pm (eastern) on Sunday, November 28, 2010 to do so. Enter only once (which another reason to make your tale a good one). After that, our panel of judges, consisting probably of me, my wife and one of the cats, will decide who walks off with the levitating Fuzzy Nation ARC (note: not guaranteed to levitate where you are). I’ll even sign it to you or to whomever you choose and then hand it off to my wife so it will actually get mailed in time for most seasonal holidays.

So: Your stories of total deserveosity! Give them to me! Now! Good luck.