Friday, March 22, 2013


Someone named Allyson Young posted a nice review of my novel UNIVERSAL MAINTENANCE at Smashwords.  Thanks, Ms. Young.  It's nice to know someone out there is reading my work and enjoying it. 

To answer your question:  no, I'm far from independently wealthy.  But Smashwords makes it so difficult to get into their Premium Catalog now that a great many of my books had fallen out after I'd uploaded new versions, either of the text or the cover, and it just aggravated me, so I made them all free. 

However, now I've gone back and put prices of $4.95 on most of them ($5.95 for TALES OF THE NEBULA, it contains a lot of my best work and is a big thick book, for an ebook), because, well, apparently SOMEBODY likes my work. 

Also, Amazon recently reduced the price of my novel TIME WATCH because it was priced for nothing at another site.  This aggravated me, as they did it without my permission.  So that's another reason to put price stickers back on my books. 

I don't expect that anyone will actually BUY them now, but, whatever. 

But, sincerely... thank you, Ms. Young .  I truly appreciate the review.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Rejection and what comes after

Dear D.A:

Thank you very much for letting me see "Clowns." We regret that we cannot make use of it at this time.

All submissions will be examined as promptly as possible, and if suitable, will be paid for on acceptance.

Many manuscripts are rejected because of fundamental faults.  Check these things:
—Since Analog is a science fiction magazine, we consider only science fiction stories—that is, stories in which some aspect of realistic science or technology plays an integral part.  We do not publish fantasy or stories in which the science is only peripheral.
—Science fiction readers are problem solvers!  Stories with downbeat endings, in which the characters have no hope of solving their problems, are strongly disliked by Analog readers.  In a good SF story, the characters strive to solve their problems—and even if they fail in the end, they go down fighting, not whimpering.
—Good fiction demands strong, believable characters who face powerful, intriguing problems.  Without these, there is no story, no matter how fascinating the ideas or scientific background may be.
—Some plot ideas have been so overworked that it’s virtually impossible to wring a fresh story from them.  These include “scientific” retellings of biblical tales, time travelers who unwittingly change their world when traveling into the past, UFO stories, and stories in which the “alien” world turns out to be Earth.
—Write about what you know.  Analog writers should be able to do sufficient research to get their facts straight, and they should be keen enough observers of people to write realistically about them.
—Please don’t ask for individual criticism.  With hundreds of submissions per month, it is physically impossible to answer them all personally.  Many writing errors are quite subtle, and extremely difficult to define clearly in a sentence or two.


267 Broadway, 4th floor
New York, NY 10007

* * * *

Okay.  I originally posted this rejection note, which I got yesterday for a short story I submitted early in October with the understanding I'd hear something about it in five weeks, on my other FB account.  The one with my real name on it.

Of course, I also posted my honest and unedited response to it, which, the world being what it is, would accomplish nothing but get me in trouble.  Honesty is a virtue rather like intelligence; everybody says they respect it, but in fact, most people despise it.

Over here, though, well, let's try this again:

First, it's possible the short story I submitted might suck.  I cannot objectively judge my own writing.  Whether it sucks or not, though, I can objectively judge my writing in comparison to the writing quality of other short stories published by various venues that have rejected my writing, and by that comparison, I will say this:  this short story is as good as most of what Analog publishes.  It's better than a lot of it.  And had this exact same short story been submitted by Stephen King or George R.R. Martin, I'm sure it would have received a very different response, along with a nice fat check.

But it is what it is.  That's just how any business goes, and I'm not feeling particularly pissy about that at the moment.  However, there are a couple of things in this boilerplate rejection note that do... well... IRK me, just a tiny bit.

First?  Well, let's start  here:

"—Science fiction readers are problem solvers!  Stories with downbeat endings, in which the characters have no hope of solving their problems, are strongly disliked by Analog readers.  In a good SF story, the characters strive to solve their problems—and even if they fail in the end, they go down fighting, not whimpering."

First, I'm a science fiction reader, and,  yes, I'm a problem solver when I need to be, but so are pretty much all humans, so, y'know, big deal.  It's hardly a defining characteristic.  Now, the editor of Analog is certainly in a better position than I am to state what 'Analog readers' like and/or dislike... but despite that, I flatly do not believe the statement 'stories with downbeat endings, in which the characters have no hope of solving their problems, are strongly disliked by Analog readers'.  For one thing, this would mean Analog readers are all a bunch of whiney little pissy pants crybabies, and I doubt that's true.  For another, it would mean that there is no Analog reader anywhere on this planet that enjoyed ON THE BEACH or 1984 or  "It's a GOOD Life" or "The Cold Equations" or anything H.P. Lovecraft has ever written or who watches and admires THE WALKING DEAD.  All of these are examples of works of fiction that are downbeat, in which the characters have no  hope of solving their problems, and in the case of the literary works, they are all enormously popular classics of the genre, and in the case of THE WALKING DEAD, it's like the most popular TV show since THE FUGITIVE.

Science fiction readers are imaginative, tough minded sons and daughters of bitches.  Any paragraph which defines them categorically as the sort of people who only like stories with happy endings is not only stupid, it's bad writing... the kind that any self respecting magazine editor should reject out of hand.   And when that paragraph is part of a rejection letter purporting to (pompously and condescendingly) explain just why a rejected submission might have been rejected... wow.   I mean... WOW.

Second:  If indeed the reason why the person who sent me this rejection note can't offer me individual feedback is that "Many writing errors are quite subtle, and extremely difficult to define clearly in a sentence or two", then he or she has no business editing a church newsletter, much less Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact Magazine, a long standing flagship in the SF magazine field.  Because another way of putting that is "I can't tell you why I don't like your story, because I don't really know, and if I knew, well, I can't really articulate it".  And that's not somebody who should ever have the authority to accept or reject another writer's work, because, frankly, that's not someone who knows how to write.

The short story I submitted is indeed a downbeat story.  It's a tale of an Earth that has been conquered by aliens, and what life under alien rule is like.  Now, the editor who sent me this note would have me believe that such a story is only acceptable to Analog's readership if it features doughty protagonists named Chip and Biff and Cathy who invent some sort of infra-wave projector in their basements that causes all the alien overlords to suddenly EXPLODE!!!  In my short story, the aliens are frightening and horrible and inexplicable; they can't be fought or even resisted, it's impossible to even comprehend them, and apparently, they're eating people and will keep eating people until there aren't any people left to eat.  My story is about what it's like living in a world like that... how people behave when they, essentially, have no hope.  It's a downer, but it's competently written and, I believe, emotionally and intellectually effective.

And, again... submitted under a more famous byline, I'm sure it would have received a very different response.

Whatever the case, I didn't really expect the story would be accepted.  I hoped, and where there's hope, there is, inevitably, disappointment.  I wish the publishing game wasn't as hopelessly rigged as it is these days against unknown newcomers; failing that, I wish I knew someone who worked for a publisher, or was better at kissing ass than I obviously am.

But, as I've noted, it is what it is.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Dark Knight Retards

So, Facebook suggested I friend someone.  And, in a moment of weakness, I did it.

So this guy posts about how much he likes Frank Miller's DARK KNIGHT RETURNS and BATMAN: YEAR ONE, stating that really, the only thing he didn't like about both books was how he felt Miller 'demeaned' the character of Selina Kyle by making her into a hooker.  Everything else about the stories was hunky dory, sez this fella.  But Selina Kyle as a sex worker?  Nope.  Rubbed him the wrong way.  Seemed kind of degrading for the character.

I posted a long reply stating that degrading and demeaning established characters is what Miller does, and that in my own view, Selena Kyle got off lightly... in fact, unless we presume that a woman being retconned into a prostitute who takes no shit from her male clients and who can punch the living shit out of her pimp any time she wants is somehow 'demeaning', then I'd say that Miller really didn't do Selina Kyle much harm after all.

On the other hand, Miller did take a heroic protagonist (Batman) who, at one time, had been depicted as being one of the most intelligent, compassionate, and altruistic human beings in the world, and turned him into an emotionally damaged, borderline psychotic, fetishistically sadistic facebreaker with all the intellectual capacity of a radish.   He transformed Superman into a narcissistic government yes-man, Green Arrow into a raving lunatic, and the remainder of DC's superheroic pantheon into cowards who retreated from the world at exactly the moment when it needed them most.

To my mind, Selena Kyle's transformation from a bored jet set thrillseeking kleptomaniac divorcee to a sex worker who was selling sex because that's what she wanted to do, who could in no way, shape, or form, be regarded as any sort of victim, who was doing exactly what she wanted to do until she discovered something she wanted to do more, and who upon making that discovery, punched out her pimp and proceeded to move on to the next thing, which was not only extremely difficult and dangerous but which she also excelled at... that's only 'degrading' or 'demeaning' if you're the sort of reflexive, unthinking person who automatically presumes that a woman having a sex life of her choosing is, by definition, fallen and somehow objectionable.

Selina Kyle got off lightly.  Yeah, she went from 'respectable' to 'slut/bitch', to use the particularly twisted and biased terms of the Patriarchy, but she remained competent, sane, intelligent, capable, strong, and, given that she refused to abandon young Holly when she left their mutual pimp for greener pastures, compassionate.  Bruce Wayne, on the other hand, lost three quarters of his IQ score, 90% of his areas of expertise, nearly every bit of compassion he ever possessed for anyone except, apparently, a random black street thief, an old homeless woman, and Jim Gordon's infant son... and every last bit of his sanity.  Superman and Green Arrow were similarly de-heroized and stupefied.  Again... that's what Miller DOES.  It's ALL he does.

When I pointed this out to this fellow, his response was, essentially, two fold:

(a) he didn't think Selena being a sex worker was demeaning, he thought prostitution should be legal and hookers were great and... um...  well... something else, but, anyway, in DARK KNIGHT RETURNS Miller made her old and fat!  Yeah!  So there!


(b)  he hadn't intended his post to be any kind of forum on Frank Miller's abilities as a writer.

Which, as I understand it, is essentially saying "Hey, I was just saying how much I like Frank Miller's writing on DARK KNIGHT RETURNS and BATMAN: YEAR ONE.  I didn't invite anyone to DISAGREE with me or anything!"

Well, I shan't disagree with him again.  Friending him was a mistake, but it's a mistake I have rectified.


Got my driver's license today.  Took me long enough, right?

Saturday, March 09, 2013


Occasionally I am asked, what is your favorite novel? Your favorite SF novel? Your favorite fantasy novel? Your favorite mystery novel? What is your favorite comic book?

People never differentiate on the 'comic book' question. There are as many different genres of comic books as there are anything else, but, to be fair, I generally only read superhero comics.

However, as it happens, one o...f the few non superhero comics I've ever read is, in fact, my favorite, or, at least, the BEST comic I've ever read: Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell's FROM HELL.

If I had to pick a favorite supehero comic, it would be hard. Maybe CAPTAIN MARVEL #38. Or FLASH #123. Or GIANT SIZE AVENGERS #2. Or HULK #168. Or SUPERBOY #195, which featured the awesome Legion of Superheroes back up story "One Shot Hero". Or possibly even Alan Moore's fantastic two part "Whatever Happened To The Man of Tomorrow?"

As to favorite novels:

Science fiction - LORD OF LIGHT by Roger Zelazny. But Heinlein's CITIZEN OF THE GALAXY would be a really close second.

Fantasy - probably DEATH OF THE NECROMANCER by Martha Wells. Or something by Barbara Hambly.

Mystery - I don't read much mystery. What I do read is mostly Travis McGee by John D. MacDonald and Spenser by Robert B. Parker. Overall the McGee series is better than the Spenser series, but if I had to pick a single favorite book, it would probably be LOOKING FOR RACHEL WALLACE by Robert B. Parker.

Although I am very fond of Robert L. Fish's THE MURDER LEAGUE, too.

Dear George R.R. Martin

A page that says "Done" which was posted on April 28, 2011 referring to the fifth book of a trilogy that is now projected to be seven books long can in no way any longer be referred to as an "update" regarding that seven book trilogy as a whole.

Get your head out of your ass and do some of the fucking work we have been paying you for, instead of simply spending our goddam money.



You know that I shouldn't

Growing up, like all kids, I listened to the music that the grown ups played in the house. Once my mom married her second husband, Bill, his rather lugubrious musical tastes -- Gordon Lightfoot, Leonard Cohen, Cat Stevens, John Fucking Denver, all those folksie male vocalists that so drearified the late 70s -- dominated my domestic musical landscape. We occasionally got a hit of something more upbeat (if brainless) when Bill was in one of his rare good moods and he'd throw some Olivia Newton-John or Abba into the old eight track, but for the most part, the Bill Era was all about the Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, Aye, Calypso, I Sing To Your Spirit, that goddam Peace Train, and Little Boxes on the motherfucking Hillside. Oh yes.

But prior to that, it had been pretty much my mother's musical tastes, which ran strongly - or weakly, whatever - to a sort of Greatest Girl Singers of the 60s vibe -- Twiggy, Dusty Springfield, Janis Joplin, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Carole King, Joanie Mitchell, Joan Baez, and the ever loving Mamas and the Papas.

Now, there's no knocking some of this -- Carole King's TAPESTRY may be the best set of tracks ever set into wax. And I can listen to "Midnight Train to Georgia" or "Me and Bobbie McGee" all day long.

And I've always been fond of the Mamas & the Papas. "California Dreamin'" has to be one of the greatest pop ditties ever recorded, and there's not too much else by them that I won't at least tap my foot along with when it comes on an oldies channel.

So imagine my surprise when I heard "I Saw Her Again" on the break room oldies station at work the other day, and for the first time in my life, heard the lyrics clearly and realized... wow. Despite how it sounds when you're not really listening, this is no upbeat love song:

I saw her again last night,

And you know that I shouldn't

Just string her along; it's just not right

If I couldn't I wouldn't.

But what can I do; I'm lonely too.

And it makes me feel so good to know

She'll never leave me.

I'm in way over my head;

Now she thinks that I love her (yeah, yeah)

Because that's what I said

Though I never think of her.

(No, no, never think of her)

But what can I do? I'm lonely too.

And it makes me feel so good to know

(And it makes me feel so good to know...)

She'll never leave me.

Every time I see that girl,

You know I wanna lay down and die.

But I really need that girl

Though I'm living a lie;

(Though I'm living a lie...)

It makes me wanna cry

I saw her again last night,

And you know that I shouldn't

Just string her along; it's just not right.

If I couldn't then I wouldn't,

But what can I do, I'm lonely too.

And it makes me feel so good to know

She'll never leave me.

(to know...know)

But what can I do? I'm lonely too.

Yeah, and it makes me feel so good to know

She'll never leave me.

Every time I see that girl,

You know I wanna lay down and die.

But I really need that girl

Though I'm living a lie

(Though I'm living a lie...)

It makes me wanna cry.

I saw her...

I saw her again last night.

And you know that I shouldn't (no, no)

Just string her along; it's just not right.

If I couldn't, I wouldn't;

I'm in way over my head (you say...)

Now she thinks that I love her (yeah, yeah)

Because that's what I said...

Whoa. That's some dark, DARK shit there. No wonder the guy who co-wrote it turned out to be fucking his own kid.

Monday, March 04, 2013

Military intelligence

Cognitive dissonance.  Americans are masters of the art.  Holding two contradictory beliefs simultaneously because that's much much more comfortable than actually accepting that those two beliefs are contradictory... we've got that shit down.

Like "America is the greatest nation in the history of the world!  And we're always the good guys!"  Most of us really believe that.  We watch cop shows and the news and we even know a little of our country's history.  We know we all but annihilated the Native Americans.  We know we put our citizens of Japanese descent into concentration camps during World War II for no good reason at all.  We know we've treated all our minorities... racial, religious, gender-based, sexual... atrociously.  We know our police routinely torture confessions out of suspects.  We know all this... and still we're shocked when we hear about Abu Ghraib.  Or that we tortured people to get to bin Laden.  We're shocked.  Because we're Americans, and we're the good guys.

We can also easily believe that customer service is ominiscient and omnipotent... they know everything they need to know without us having to answer any questions, and they can just push a button or wave a magic wand and make our services work again, and all we need to do is call them up and complain.  We really believe that.  And yet, at the same time, we genuinely believe that we can talk to them like shit and treat them like garbage.  They're more knowledgeable than us, and more proficient than we are, and we'll sit on hold for twenty minutes waiting for them because we NEED them... yet they are inferior to us, and must kiss our asses at all times, or we'll report them to their supervisors.

Our God is a God of love, a God of infinite mercy, a God who sent his own son down to Earth to be tortured to death so that we can have an eternal afterlife of bliss in Heaven.   But he wiped out two cities for reasons Old Testament scholars are still arguing about (as if there are any good reasons for blowing up two entire cities full of people).  He wiped the entire surface of the Earth clean of all land dwelling life except for the creatures on one boat... again, for no good reason anyone can understand or explain.

He sent bears to rip some kids apart because they teased one of his prophets about being bald.

Even today, when supposedly he's mellowed out considerably, he apparently hates atheists and agnostics and liberals and Muslims and gays.  Especially gays.  God has a serious, serious problem with gays, we're told.  To the extent that sometimes I wonder if maybe God isn't keeping some pretty profound secrets from himself about his own sexuality.

And, of course, we can believe that our police should be paid more, our firefighters should be paid more, our teachers and our soldiers and our hard working heroic garbagemen should be paid more.  And we should have better schools and more tanks and more planes and our roads and bridges and railroads should be in better shape and why doesn't the government do something about all these annoying calls from telemarketers and all those people putting viruses on our computers?

And our taxes should be lower.  Much, much lower.

And our phones should never drop calls and our internet should be faster and our computers should never ever crash and our TVs should get more channels and our DVRs should record more shows and our electricity should never go out and we should always be able to find whatever we want at the grocery store.

And no matter where we work or what we do for a living, we want a raise every year and better benefits.  We want our deductibles and our co pays to go down.  We want dental.  We want vision.  We want our flexible spending accounts to cover over the counter medicine and laser eye surgery.

Yet our bills should never go up.  Our service providers should never charge us more for anything, the gas station should never raise its prices, and neither should the grocery store.

In fact, our expenses should go down. Our employers should pay us more to work less and everyone else should charge us less for the stuff we want.

Also, as Americans, we have a sacred right to fuck around with other people's countries if we want to.  We can overthrow their governments, we can embargo them, we can invade them and blow their shit up and steal their stuff and torture their citizens.  We can rock out with our cocks out, yes we can, bitchez!  But they may not respond.  They have to sit there and take it.  If they criticize us in their media, we will bomb their asses off.  If they organize resistance to our occupation, we will drone strike them into fucking rubble.  And if they come at us... if they dare to come across those big oceans and hit us right here on our home soil?  Fuck.  Then we will get MEDIEVAL on their asses.

Because we're the greatest nation in the history of the world and we're always the good guys.

I realize these are not original thoughts. I realize these points have been made many many times in the past by better writers with larger followings.

But, still, I had a little time while I was waiting for the laundry to finish up, so, whatever.