Happy Pi-Day … See You at Pi-Con! ‘Distilled Wisdom’ Debuts

Long time since my last post. Sorry, real life got in the way.

I’m now a full-time, self-employed, entrepreneurial, 1099 magnet, so I’ve had to take care of business. I found a way of blending journalism with consulting, and squeezing 40 professional-rate hours a week out of it, but I do have to stay on top of things to keep the cash flowing.

But now that I’ve got things stabilized on career front, I can make time for my writerly pursuits. One odd confluence is that I’m now working out of a client’s office which is six blocks from KGB Bar, home of the Fantastic Fiction readings — and only a block and a half away from the Grand Sichuan restaurant to which the crowd adjourns afterwards. (Not much farther away from The Strand, which is dangerous.)

Anyway, I’m getting back to actual writing. Time to finish Augie, then get started on the next thing. My train reading these days is Paul Witcover’s The Emperor of All Things, which I highly recommend to my steampunky friends (it takes place about a hundred years before The Difference Engine, but what’s speculative fiction if it doesn’t push a little?), and there’s a phrase that’s oft-repeated in the last half of the book. This phrase — which I think Paul borrowed from William T. Vollmann — pried open a creative crevice in my head and I feel a story wriggling out. More on this some other time.

The news I was saving for Pi Day is that I’ll be a program participant at Pi-Con, July 31-August 2 near Hartford, Conn. Looking forward to hanging with GOH Tanya Huff, whose Torin Kerr could kick Honor Harrington’s ass halfway across the galaxy. Don’t know what panels I’ll be on yet, so watch this space. I’ll also be reading — and who knows what else? — at Jennifer Jesia’s relaxicon, this coming weekend (i.e., Lunacon weekend), March 20-21, at the Homewood Suites Long Island-Melville (which is actually in Plainview). The readings will be from Mighty Mighty and Pitch Ribbons.

Another update: I’m following through with my threat to vlog my notes on panel discussions I attend as an audience member. This series of short vids, In which I’ll be discussing the craft of genre literature while imbibing top-shelf spirits, is titled, “Distilled Wisdom”. I just posted the first: the Arisia 2015 panel, “So You Think You Can Write a Fight Scene” modded by Keith R.A. DeCandido and comprising Genevieve Iseult Eldredge, Catt Kingsgrave, James MacDonald, Mark Millman and Resa Nelson. It’s here on the Streaming Media page.

That’s it for now. See you this weekend here on Long Island, over the summer at Pi-Con, or who-knows-where-else!

Arisia: My favorite con keeps getting even better

The upside to the recent convention cancellations here in New York is that I’m free to honestly name my favorite fan convention. It’s Arisia. And I can say that loud and proud without worrying I’m the only Red Sox fan in a Yankees bar.

I really look forward to MLK weekend every year. I’ve been adopted by a tribe of 4,000 people with whom I’m totally at home. The guy you see at the Westin wearing my face (and my dad’s hair) is the legit me. It’s like all I do 361 days a year is roll-play, then I spend four days being myself. Considering the whole concept of Arisia is roll-playing, I understand just how fucked up that sounds, but I don’t care. I love the people I met at Arisia. I love reuniting with others on the East Coast con “circuit” with whom I’ll be hanging out at another hotel bar in another city in another month. I love the costumes. I love the cult movies. I love going to the dealers’ room and buying a book by an author who I know I’ll soon run into and be able to get his or her signature (I’ve recently retired the lipstick bit after acquiring an enviable collection). I love finding craft-made cufflinks or watches or bill clips which I can purchase for roughly the same price as corporate stooges pay for theirs at Men’s Wearhouse. But most of all, I love the panels.

I missed Arisia last year. Without going too deep into my tales of woe, I had a shitty year and a half, financially and otherwise, but mainly financially. That truest version of me who shows up at Arisia is an epicure and bon vivant, one who celebrates both vice and virtue as essential elements of living fully. That kind of free-spiritedness is an expensive hobby, and I just couldn’t keep up appearances. I might have been able to attend Arisia 2014, but I wouldn’t have actually been there.

It looked like 2015 was going to be another miss but, just this past Thursday, I got the call I’d been waiting for since two Julys ago. Nothing I can formally announce at the moment, but it looks like I’ll very soon be back in the chips. Considering the timing of the call, there was very little thought involved in how and where I was going to celebrate.

I have some small regret that I wasn’t able to commit to attending Arisia 2015 until the day of, because I had to decline the invitation to return as a program participant. But no tears. For the first time, I was able to attend Arisia in a completely unstructured manner. I didn’t have any panel or reading commitments. I didn’t have the luxury of the green room to hide out in. I didn’t have to get anything delivered or copied or signed for. I could just hang out. And so I did.

And this turned out to be the most productive Arisia ever for me. I even sold a couple copies of Mighty Mighty, but that’s almost beside the point. There were no scheduling conflicts between the panels I was assigned and the ones I wanted to attend. There was no jealousy about “I know more about this-or-that than so-and-so — the nerve of putting him on that panel instead of me!” I didn’t have to speak at all. So I got to listen.

There were at least three or four standout panels I had the privilege of sitting in the back and listening to. And I do mean “standout”. There was nary a wasted microphone. The people on the panels were all deserving of the honor and delivered sage advice which I hoarded in my notebook.

Going forward, instead of vlogging con reports, I’ll be drilling down into specific panel topics in occasional (monthly?) video segments which will be called “Distilled Wisdom”. The first, coming soon, will be on writing fight scenes. Watch this space.

Meantime, I’m going to get back to work on short stories that I hope to get placed in upcoming anthos and start the serious grind on Augie. Playing in the background, at least one publisher is taking a long look at Pitch Ribbons. I’ll let you know as that develops.

Wow. I went on a lot longer than I intended to (or had time for). I don’t tend toward introspection so sorry I got lost in the unfamiliar territory. Hope to see you at Arisia 2016 at the very latest!

Down the Stream, Mightily Mightily

You probably didn’t notice this, but I finally broke down and spent the money to buy and use the AuctorLanxSatura.com domain name. It was all for your sake, reader, to save you the time and trouble of having to press “.wordpress” every time you wanted to read this space.

Bullshit.

WordPress had me by the balls. If I wanted to upload streaming media, I had to upgrade. Oh well, at least I’m not getting sucked further into the Googleverse like Blogger would have me do.

So, yeah, I did it to add audio files, which you can find on Auctor Lanx Satura’s new page. You’ll hear my own disembodied voice reading from and discussing my works. You’ll also hear kind souls telling you of my awesome prose stylings. For example, an extract from a review blog called DeFlip Side describes why Mighty Mighty was the best read of 2014.

This new page also allows space to stream video. Once I’m back at play vlogging from conventions, I’ll be sure to cross-post my images here as well as to my occasional YouTube channel.

This also positions me to post video of TV interviews, of which there is at least one likely to be upcoming. I’ll keep you posted.

In the meantime,

(Mighty Mighty on Amazon)

On jokes, and how to take them

You probably already know more about the Charlie Hebdo massacre than I do. This isn’t about that. The shooting spree is certainly the spark for what I have to say here but, aside from sharing in the grief of this senseless loss of life, it’s not exactly the point.

This is more directly a response to those people who say, “Yeah, ‘Je Suis Charlie’ is a great catch phrase but you, you left-leaning wise-asses, are in no position to state it. You’re not Charlie because, if you were, you’d have been speaking out against self-censorship for years. If it wasn’t a government or a religious order you feared, then you were tiptoeing through the minefield of political rectitude your own allies laid around you. Maybe you could cough up the courage to hurl your bile at “Repugnicans” or “Teabaggers,” but when it came time to call out overreaching leaders of feminist, gay rights, illegal alien, or umbrage-taking minority grievance merchants, you’re missing in action. You never had the balls to be Charlie, and now you must’ve rented them from somewhere to say you are.”

What can I say? Those voices are, like the allegorical broken clock, right at this particular second.

I’ll start with chastising myself. In 2005, I started work on what would be my first novel, Land That I Love, which was a thinly veiled critique of the hubris that led to the Iraq War. George W. Bush had just won a second term in the White House. (I hesitate to use the term “re-elected” which implies he was elected the first time.) It’s hard to believe now, but at that time, political humor at Bush’s expense was completely lacking in major media. You could chide him on his doofus image, but you couldn’t say anything against his policies because if you did you “were with the terrorists” or “hated our freedoms” or “didn’t support the troops”. It was all bullshit, but nobody wanted to be the first to call it. It took me a year to write LTIL, during which the Katrina response fuck-up and the now half-remembered Social Security reform gamble began the thaw. Even so, nobody would publish the book until W was out of office. I still have rejection letters from the Bush years telling me how little appetite agents and publishers had for political satire.

You’d have thought I’d learned my lesson about being more aggressive with the targets of my humor after that, but no. Whether I’m too nice a guy for this line of work or I’m just a pussy is a matter of interpretation, but I’ve demonstrated the point again as recently as last year.

There’s a speculative fiction author of great renown whom I have long respected professionally and who has on occasion provided me with valuable mentoring. Then he wrote a book which I thought really, really sucked. Now, it got great reviews and some real bigfoot novelists stood in line to blurb it. But I maintain to this day its literary quality is a mass delusion, an emperor’s-new-clothes beauty contest to see who can put the best shade of lipstick on this pig. Not to say this guy hasn’t written great stuff before and will again, but this was Book One of the What The Fuck Trilogy.

So I ping this guy offline and say that I wanted to lampoon it, a la what the Harvard Lampoon did to Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings. He said yes. I offered to let him see it before anyone else. He declined, stating that it wouldn’t be in the spirit of the exercise if he held any sway over the process. Then in a post to this blog, I mentioned the project, including this author’s name.

Within 20 minutes, he’s IM-ing me to take down the post, excoriating me for making public what he considered a private conversation (which was true, but there’s a difference between private and privileged, and at no point did he tell me the conversation was not to be shared), and demanding that I immediately stop work on the parody. Bear in mind, I don’t think I got more than one or two hits on this site by the time he ordered me to take the post down. I don’t know if he was using some kind of sophisticated sniffer software or if he’s really that troll-y about his name on the web. Doesn’t really matter.

So I ceased and desisted. I like to think it’s because I felt a little guilty about blindsiding him with the announcement, and I (still) consider him a friend and didn’t want to foment any further ill will. But at some point I have to ask, was it worth stopping a creative project? And the answer is no. I didn’t want to offend a friend, but maybe I was more concerned with pissing off someone who’s in a position to do my own career a serious setback or a serious boost. And that is the absolute wrong reason to put the brakes on. I’ll say this now: I don’t know if I’m going to go back to work on that project. I don’t want to do it out of spite any more than I want to not do it out of candy-assedness. It’s a matter of whether or not it’s worth the time and effort. The author of the work to be lambasted doesn’t get a vote. You do. If you want to know more about this project or you want to encourage me to go forward, you know how to get a hold of me. (And if you don’t know how, just leave a comment here.)

But these aren’t the only example’s of the speculative fiction community’s lack of humor. You might’ve seen the internet meme about honest state mottos. A well-regarded feminist author posted it to her Facebook page (the day after I posted it to mine). It includes such bon mots as “Idaho: We’re More Than Just Potatoes. OK, Maybe Not But the Potatoes Are Real Good.” And “Illinois: Where A Politician’s Term in Office and Prison Sentence Are Roughly the Same.” But one gentle soul chided our feminist scribe because, buried somewhere in those 50 jokes, was “Hawaii: Haka Tiki Mou Sha’ami Liki Toru (Death to Mainland Scum, But Leave Your Money).” This, it was purported, cast Pacific Islanders in an unfavorable light. And to this, the author apologized profusely.

Really? “Florida: A Wonderful Place to Enjoy Pain Pills and Die of Old Age. And Vice Versa” doesn’t have a taint of agism to it? “Arkansas: Literassy Ain’t Everything” doesn’t sound like privileged elitists pissing on those with lesser formal education? “Utah: Monogamy and Cheap Drinks … Who Needs ’em?!” doesn’t perpetuate an outdated stereotype of Mormons? And then there’s my favorite: “Kentucky: Five Million People; Fifteen Last Names” which is certainly less than accurate. But these stereotypes attack white, Christian people who are, apparently, free targets while the honor of Polynesians must be defended. Or something. Maybe somebody can volunteer a clearer explanation.

Which brings me to the whole topic of ethnic humor.

I’m all in favor of it.

There is a line, of course. But it’s not a matter of good taste. There’s no reliable arbiter of that. A humorist just has to play it how he or she feels. The distinction is this: intent.

There’s nothing funny about hate. Just the other day, I reposted a photo illustrating an act of vandalism that, in itself, was harmless, but was nonetheless an apparent hate crime. I have absolutely no tolerance for that kind of intentional malice. But a day later, I reposted a link to a news story headlined “Why Women Shaving Their Faces Is Now a Thing” and added this comment: “Not judging. Know too many Italians.”

As any other New Yorker — especially those of Italian heritage — will tell you, that’s just busting balls. It’s what Italians, Irish, and Jews have been doing for a hundred years around here. We know each other well enough and long enough that nobody takes offense because nobody takes it seriously. We still eat in each others’ restaurants, drink in each others’ bars, and march in each others’ parades. We laugh at each other because we don’t mind laughing at ourselves. The Puerto Ricans have recently caught up to this too. Humor can build bridges as well as minefields.

Well, this turned into a rant, but not a pointless one, I hope. We need more humor, not less. And it needs to be a little bit dangerous.

Think of it as analogous to sports. They’re both all about aggression. Humor can be a way to get it out of our systems without devolving into full-scale conflict. But it only works if we accept the inherent risk. In sports, people get hurt physically. In humor, you could get your feelings hurt. So wear a fucking cup and take a joke.

90.1 FM and streaming

News from ‘Destinies’ broadcast: A reading, a discount, a podcast, and a bonus

I really enjoyed chatting with host Howard Margolin on Destinies: The Voice of Science Fiction this past Friday night. We didn’t get to all 58 questions he had for me in a 40-minute interview, but it was a thrill just seeing so many notes on a book I wrote. Somebody read Mighty Mighty! Somebody actually read it! (And, by Howard’s count, there are only four spelling mistakes and one factual error related to ophthalmology. Not bad.)

If you missed it, don’t worry. My sage comments have not been lost to posterity. Rather, they have just had all the uhhhs and ummms cut out. As of this writing, the podcast hasn’t been put up on the Web yet. But keep checking Capt. Phil Online, which hosts Destinies’ archives. It should be available within the next day or two.

Also, Howard and I went into overtime to record another 10 to 15 minutes of material we couldn’t cover in the November 15 segment. That recording will air sometime in the near future. I’ll keep you posted.

I started that live segment, though, with a couple pieces of breaking news.

First, I’ll be appearing at The Long Island Writer’s House in Huntington for the Mighty Mighty tour’s first Suffolk County stop, Thursday, December 4, at 7 p.m. More details are on the Appearances page, and Facebook friends and fans can expect an event invite.

Second, my frequent collaborator Ben Parris, who produced the comedy-horror flick Supernaturalz, is offering a special 50% discount on the novelization, which I co-wrote with him. Just follow this link to CreateSpace and check out using the code “7az4lned”.

Here’s hoping everyone has something to be thankful for this season!

‘Mighty Mighty’ Blowing Up!

It’s going to be a busy week here on Long Island!

You can go to the Appearances page for the details, but here are the bullet points:

In an hour, I’m going to Sip This in Valley Stream to read along with the amazing Diane Raetz from the talented stable of Padwolf Publishing writers. Fun starts at 8 tonight, Saturday, November 8.

Tuesday, I have a 6 p.m. solo reading at my hometown gathering spot for the weird and wonderful, The Witches Brew in West Hempstead.

Friday night, I’m rushing out to Stony Brook University’s WUSB 90.1-FM to be Howard Margolin’s guest live on Destinies: The Voice of Science Fiction at 11:30 p.m.

Meantime, I’m in discussion with other venues and I’ll fill you in as I finalize details. But I have a number of copies of Mighty Mighty in hand that I’d be happy to sign for you. Just drop by!