Athena Scalzi

My New Phone and How I Got It

This past week, I swam in the ocean. Unfortunately, so did my phone.

My friends and I had the bright idea to buy some of those waterproof cellphone bags from the beach store so we wouldn’t have to leave our phones unattended on the shore. You put your phone in, seal it at the top, and your phone is totally protected from the water, not to mention the bag floats and has a lanyard attached to it, so it’s pretty difficult to lose your phone to the ocean.

Everything was peachy keen until I noticed that my bag was sinking for some reason. I pondered it for a moment before realizing that it could only mean one thing. There was water inside the bag. Sure enough, when I looked, the bag was over halfway filled with water, and my phone was totally and utterly fucked.

So I asked my friend to take me to the nearest Verizon store since it’s not a great idea to be on vacation without a phone, and got the iPhone 12 Pro Max. It is the biggest iPhone to date, and the newest. My friend is actually the one that convinced me to get it, since I wasn’t interested in an iPhone that didn’t have a home button. Not to mention the size of it seemed quite inconvenient (women’s clothes have tiny pockets as is, trying to fit a giant phone in one is no easy feat).

For comparison, here is an iPad mini VS my phone:

And just for shits and giggles I brought home my totally destroyed phone, and here it is next to my new one:

For years I have dreaded the no-home-button models of iPhones, and people that have those models always say “I don’t even miss it!” or “you get used to it”. And I never believed them. I was a purist when it came to the home button, there was no way I could stand not to have one. But here I stand corrected. Within hours of getting my new phone, I could honestly say I didn’t miss the home button at all. It doesn’t even occur to me that it’s not there. It’s hard for me to believe that I could adapt so quickly to not having one, when I’d been cringing for years at the thought of it missing.

As for the size, it’s practically like a damn tablet, but it’s actually awesome. Every time I hold someone else’s phone now, it blows my mind how small it is. How did I have something so tiny beforehand and not think it was small? The best part of it being so big is that web-comics look AMAZING. Without the home button, the entire screen is just display with no interruptions, so reading comics is a much improved experience. The only problem I’ve found when it comes to the size is one-handed swipe texting is a lot more difficult because it’s hard to reach the other side of the phone.

And the camera on this thing is amazing! I thought my previous phone, the iPhone SE (2020) had a nice camera, but this one has not one, not two, but three cameras. Every time I go to take a picture I’m shocked at how good the quality is.

Anyways, I’m just here to gush about how much I love my new phone, home-button-less and all.

What kind do you have? Do you like it? Let me know in the comments, and have a great day!


Big Idea

The Big Idea: Matthew Hughes

Good things always have to come to an end. Or do they? Author Matthew Hughes is determined not to let the good name of Jack Vance and his fantastical worlds end. Follow along in his Big Idea as he tells us about his newest novel under the Paladins of Vance series, Barbarians of the Beyond.


A few years ago, I visited a public library in a small town on Vancouver Island.  As I walked in, I saw a display of new arrivals.  One of them was a continuation of Robert B. Parker’s series about two laconic gunfighters roaming the Old West and hiring out as lawmen.

I had already read three or four of the series, which featured Parker’s brilliant minimalist character creation and his incomparable skills with dialogue.  I immediately snapped up the new book.

Cut to later in the day.  I’m sitting comfortably in the well-appointed house where I’m housesitting, the daily horse-tending chores finished (mostly involving shovel and hay).  I open up the Parker book and begin to read.  I’m several pages in when I experience the reading equivalent of taking a mouthful of a favorite beer and finding the taste is . . .  not right.  Flat.  Insipid.

I think, “Jeez, has Parker started to lose it?”

I close the book and it’s only then that I realize the large-type rendition of his name at the top of the front cover is followed by an apostrophe and an ess.

Down at the bottom is another name:  the guy who actually wrote the book.

Turns out Parker was dead, but his publisher, and presumably his estate, didn’t want to forego the revenue stream he had been generating for them for so many years.  So they hired a guy to take his characters and his situations and run with them.

A kind of stumbling, clumsy run, where Parker had loped like a carefree gazelle.

There’s a lot of that sort of thing happening in corporate publishing today, where a book is only a commodity produced to make money for the shareholders.

Well, that’s not what’s happening with the legacy of Jack Vance.

Jack’s son, John, has started up a small press with Koen Vyverman.  They began by publishing ebook and paperback editions of the complete Vance oeuvre, using the texts generated by hundreds of volunteers around the world for the Vance Integral Edition.

The reason:  because Jack Vance was a unique voice in science fiction and fantasy.  If you want my opinion, and that of many others, that unique voice was one of genius.  It also had a profound and lasting effect on scads of genre authors over the decades he was publishing.  The proof:  the statements by authors as diverse as George R.R. Martin, Neil Gaiman, Robert Silverberg, Dean Koontz, Terry Dowling, and (for what it’s worth) me, in the tribute anthology, Songs of the Dying Earth.

They read Vance when they were young, and he struck them and stuck to them.

Well, now that unique voice of genius is stilled forever.  But the legacy lives on, and recently it has taken a new path:  Spatterlight Press has created a publishing series called “Paladins of Vance.”  John Vance is licensing other authors to create new stories set in “Vance Space,” the universes that his father opened up:  the Dying Earth, the Oikumene and the Beyond, the Alastor Cluster.

As John told me, “We look upon ‘Paladins of Vance’ as an experiment, not so much to generate revenue but as a way to keep a light shining on dad’s legacy. It’s not easy to manage or predict outcomes, but we’ll see what happens, and keep our options open.”

So, the novels appearing in this series are not Frankensteinian reanimations of iconic Vance characters, no Kirth Gersen Rides Again or The Return of Adam Reith.  The chosen authors are licensed to set new stories, with new characters, in the universes Vance created.

Which is a wonderful idea, because those milieus of fantasy and space opera are far too good to be left to dwindle in SF’s rear view mirror.  And that ineffable mood that permeates so much of Jack Vance’s works, the world-weariness at the end of time, the clash of antiheroes and ingénues questing for revenge—that, too, deserves to endure.

I am proud to have authored one of these tributes to the unequaled imagination of Jack Vance.  Barbarians of the Beyond, now coming out from Spatterlight, tells the story of Morwen Sabine, the grown-up child of a couple who were stolen into slavery when the Demon Princes raided Mount Pleasant.

Escaped from bondage, Morwen makes her way across the Beyond, returning to the world Providence, with a plan that would end with her buying her parents’ freedom.  But Mount Pleasant has been repopulated, and things are not as simple as they seem.

I have done my best to do honor to the legacy of Jack Vance, who struck me at the age of thirteen and stuck with me ever after.

His son has graciously allowed me to play in his father’s sandbox.  I’ve built the best castle I could.

Barbarians of the Beyond: Amazon

Read an excerpt. Visit the author’s website. Follow him on Twitter.

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