The Spawn of Orion

Awhile back, Wildside sold Orion UK the rights to publish ebook editions of twenty-four (at least) of my books.

The Misenchanted SwordOrion’s ebooks appeared a couple of weeks ago, under the Gateway imprint, and I finally got around to checking ’em out to see what they did.

Um.

Relics of WarFirst off, they have two titles wrong — they call Relics of War The Relics of War, which is not the title, and have transformed The Cyborg and the Sorcerers into The Cyborg and the Sorceress.

Second, they have published twenty-one titles, but for reasons I do not understand they have not included Taking Flight, The Blood of A Dragon, The Wizard and the War Machine, or The Nightmare People. (I suppose it’s possible The Nightmare People wasn’t included in the deal.)

The Cyborg and the SorcerersThird, they call Mind Candy, a collection of essays, “science fiction.” I didn’t expect them to publish it at all, since it’s all about American pop culture.

Mind CandyAnd fourth, they have put a dragon on every single cover except the two “science fiction” titles, The Cyborg and the “Sorceress” and Mind Candy. No cover is even remotely connected to the actual contents of the book. Some of them are very pretty, but still.

Sheesh.

Of course, it’s nice to have them available to European readers, no matter what they look like.

Strong Signals

Jack and Miracle GirlEvery so often I find a book or series that I really like that nobody else seems to have ever heard of. Here’s one example: Blake Michael Nelson’s “Signalverse” superhero novels.

These aren’t great literature, but they’re fun. I really enjoy them. They’re straightforward superhero adventure, of a sort that’s rather scarce in comic books these days, written in straightforward prose.

There are four so far:

The Adventures of Jack and Miracle Girl: Volume One

The Adventures of Jack and Miracle Girl: Volume Two
Jack and Miracle Girl Vol. 2
Orchid

Disreputable Persons

(The links are to the paperbacks, but there are also Kindle ebooks of all of them.)

OrchidThese stories all take place in Signal City, a city that’s home to dozens of superheroes and supervillains. Prose superhero stories (which aren’t all that numerous to begin with, though they’re multiplying now) are often either grim ‘n’ gritty or silly parody; these are neither. They’re light adventure, with a little humor, a little romance, some suspense, etc. They’re not trying to deconstruct anything, they’re not terribly long or complex, but I find them a really good way to brighten an afternoon.
Disreputable Persons
Check ’em out.

Going About My Business

I had a sudden rash of other business this past week or two that kept me from doing much on Stone Unturned or Tom Derringer. I had to read, sign, and deliver three contracts: from Wildside for The Lawrence Watt-Evans Fantasy Megapack, from a Canadian publisher for an original short story called “The Prisoner of Shalott,” and from a Chinese publisher to translate and reprint “The Last Bastion.”

I had to deliver not just the stories and introduction for The Lawrence Watt-Evans Fantasy Megapack, but the copyright information and first-publication data for all twenty-four stories.

An editor in New York expressed interest in seeing an SF novel proposal, so I wrote up a proper outline for Earthright, revised the first four chapters, and sent the whole thing to my agent to read and pass along. I doubt anything will come of it.

I remembered I promised a story to an anthology with a June 1st deadline, so I dug out the story I plan to send them — or rather, the first ten pages of a story, as I haven’t written the rest. I’d lost track of the file after WordPerfect crashed a couple of times; it wasn’t lost or damaged, I just forgot until yesterday that it was one I should re-open. I’ve only added a single sentence to that ten pages.

I also started looking for somewhere to donate my papers; we’re trying to reduce how much stuff we’ll be putting in storage after we sell this house, and there are a dozen file boxes in the attic.

Lots of writing business. Not that much writing.

Megapack, Assemble!

The contracts are signed, so I can now safely brag about the upcoming Lawrence Watt-Evans Fantasy Megapack that Wildside will be publishing. It’s a 99-cent e-book (though a trade paperback version is also possible) collecting two dozen of my old short fantasy stories, intended to lure readers in to buy lots of my other Wildside books.

I don’t know when it’ll be available; that’s up to Wildside, which tends to operate on a “When we get around to it” basis. Could be days, could be months.

Someone on Twitter asked about the table of contents, so here are the twenty-four stories that will be included:

“The Temple of Life”
“Mehitabel Goodwin”
“Heart of Stone”
“The Final Challenge”
“Beth’s Unicorn”
“The Bride of Bigfoot”
“Keeping Up Appearances”
“Dropping Hints”
“The Bogle in the Basement”
“The Man for the Job”
“Chaperone”
“Out of the Woods”
“Ghost Stories”
“The Frog Wizard”
“Horsing Around”
“Spirit Dump”
“Arms and the Woman”
“Mittens and Hotfoot” (originally published as by Walter Vance Awsten)
“Just Perfect”
“Trixie”
“In Re: Nephelegeretes”
“In for A Pound”
“Something to Grin About”
“Best Present Ever!”

Oops.

So I’m reading a mystery novel, and the heroes are talking to the medical examiner about what she’s learned from the as-yet-unidentified murder victim.

The ME gives a quick rundown of the useless information she’s gathered so far, including the detail that the deceased “flossed conscientiously.”

I did not fling the book across the room, but I winced. You see, the reason they hadn’t yet identified the body was that the head was missing. I’d like to know how you can tell someone flossed regularly from looking at her headless corpse.

I can’t believe nobody caught that. What was the copy editor thinking?

Lookin’ Good

Warning:  Moderately technical post about coding webpages.

One thing about relocating my website — it forced me to actually look at it all.  (There was some code I had to change on Every. Single. Page, because SFF Net and my new host handle certain things differently, and I had a little ad for SFF Net at the foot of almost every page.)

There are 446 HTML pages on watt-evans.com; I didn’t get a count for ethshar.com or misenchantedpress.com, but there are lots there, too.  (Don’t bother trying to find and read all 446; some are just redirects from URLs I don’t use anymore.)

I had been through all of it a couple of years ago, updating everything, filling in placeholders, and making sure it was all mobile-friendly, but a lot of that was pretty rushed, just making sure everything worked and all the text was there.  I was nominally using HTML 5.0 and CSS 3.0, hand-coding everything (except blogs, guestbook, etc.).

Well, this time through I noticed that it wasn’t actually all HTML 5/CSS 3 compliant.  I hadn’t bothered to learn all the differences between HTML 4.1 and HTML 5.0, and I never really learned CSS properly in the first place, just sort of picked it up as I went along.  (When I started The Misenchanted Page I think the standard was HTML 1.1, and CSS hadn’t been invented yet.)  A couple of people pointed out glitches and infelicities to me when the relocated stuff all went live (my thanks to them!), and when I fixed those I read up on the new standards.

They’re different.  A lot of my favorite old tricks don’t work right under them.  I’m still using tags that either aren’t allowed under HTML 5, or don’t work the same as they used to.

So I need to go through everything again and fix it, though it’s all minor stuff, nothing urgent, and most browsers will handle the old stuff just fine.

So far I’ve fixed a couple of pages — and I think they look better with the corrected code.  Here’s an example.  And the new standards provide greater control (which was sort of the point).

So now I can distract myself from actually writing stuff even more, by tinkering with webpages all over again!

 

Meet the New Blog, Same as the Old Blog

Okay, then — I appear to have successfully relocated this blog to my new webhost’s server.

For those who haven’t seen it before, this is (as it says above) my general-purpose blog.  It’s just been moved to a new host because the old one, SFF Net, is shutting down next month.  I’m also losing my newsgroup in that shut-down, so I’ll be using this place as a partial replacement.  Discussions that I would previously have put in my newsgroup may now wind up here (or on Facebook or LiveJournal).  I will also be copying some old stuff from the newsgroup here, as my whimsy takes me.

About the name:  “The mind control lasers lied to me!” was my then-teenaged daughter’s response to me correcting some minor misapprehension she had; I thought it was a lovely phrase, and shamelessly stole it.

So, welcome!  Pull up a chair!  Make a comment!

 

Star Trek’s 50th Anniversary

Since many people are discussing their early memories of “Star Trek” on the 50th anniversary of its premiere, here are some of mine:

I was twelve. The old saying “The Golden Age of science fiction is twelve” does have some truth to it. My parents both loved SF, so we were all gathered in front of the TV to see this new show. I had loved “Twilight Zone” and “The Outer Limits,” but this was different — it wasn’t an anthology, but an ongoing series.

I remember thinking the design of the Enterprise was weird and didn’t make sense. But other than that, I loved the show. The costumes were not the usual “futuristic” stuff I’d seen elsewhere, but did look futuristic in their own way. Spock was seriously cool, even though I thought humanoid aliens were ridiculously unlikely. (His half-human parentage wasn’t mentioned in the premiere episode, so far as I remember; I would have balked even more at that.) The transporter was nifty. Phasers were beyond nifty. Kirk was charming and smart and generally a solid hero.

I knew that a lot of the science and technology was nonsense, but I didn’t care — the show’s creators had at least tried, rather than going for pure fantasy like so much alleged SF. I was old enough to understand that they were limited in what they could do. And we had heroes, and action, and monsters, and pretty women in short skirts (I had already hit puberty), and most importantly, it wasn’t condescending. It didn’t go in with the presumption that science fiction adventure was all junk aimed at kids, or that the audience didn’t know any science whatsoever.

I knew it wasn’t up to the standards of the best written SF, but it was still better than anything else I’d seen on TV or in the movies. (I hadn’t seen “Forbidden Planet” or a few other classics yet.)

I loved it. My mother did, too, and most of my siblings. Dad appreciated the effort, but thought it fell short in too many ways.

As the series continued, there were good episodes and bad — I found “Let This Be Your Last Battlefield” horrendously preachy, and “The Way to Eden” patronizing and stupid, and the less said about “Spock’s Brain” the better — but watching it was still usually a highlight of my week. I was disappointed when it was cancelled; I had hoped that it might recover from the weak third season and get better. I wasn’t heartbroken, though, because the novelty had worn off and the average quality really had slumped in the third season.

The real disappointment was the long wait before we got any more SF on TV that was even remotely as good.

Productivity

I feel odd right now. I’ve been very, very productive lately, more so than pretty much any time in the last twenty years.

So far in 2016 I’ve written 565 pages, on five different novels and a short story. (I may have written other short stuff as well, but I don’t have records of anything else.) That’s good for me, and happened despite a trip to China and many other distractions. The last few weeks have been particularly good — something like half that total got written in the last sixty days. And I think that’s partly because of where I am on all my most current projects.

I’ve always sped up after a certain point in whatever novel I’m working on — exactly what point, and sped up how much, will vary, but it always happens. I get to a stage where everything important is worked out in my head and it’s mostly just typing it out. I wrote the final third of Nightside City in five days, which was my previous record.

(This only refers to first drafts. Rewriting is a whole different thing.)

Sometimes there would be enough momentum in that rush to finish a novel that I would then surge rapidly through the opening chapters of a new novel.

Well, what happened this time is that after doing little writing for months because I was too damn busy with other stuff, when I got back to it I had three novels near their respective tipping points at the same time. I hit my stride on Tom Derringer in the Tunnels of Terror and rolled directly into Tom Derringer and the Steam-Powered Saurians, and when that started to slow I hit the tipping point in Stone Unturned, and I think I’m about at the tipping point for Bravo Foxtrot, as well. (Have I ever made it explicit that Bravo Foxtrot is the protagonist’s name but not necessarily the title? Because that’s the case.)

Three novels at once hit the “hurry through” stage. That’s never happened before, and it feels strange.

Anyway, I’ve been in “finish the novel” mode for the last month and a half, but I still have around three or four hundred pages to go on two different novels, so I don’t know whether I can sustain it for the entire run.

And there’s also the “start a new project” aspect. That’s a real thing for me. Now that the part of my brain that builds the underlying story is finished with Stone Unturned and Bravo Foxtrot, it’s looking for something new to do, and it’s hopping from one idea to the next, sometimes developing unfinished old projects, sometimes coming up with new ones, and it’s distracting. Right now it really, really wants me to start work on an untitled novel about two sisters where one has a magical talent but it’s the other one who has a magical destiny, but I know if I do that I’ll lose my momentum on Stone and Bravo.

(At least I pried it off Tom Derringer and the Steam-Powered Saurians and Tom Derringer and the Electric Empire for now. Yes, I want to write those, but I want to get other stuff done first, and I know those aren’t really ready for serious focus yet. And that two-sisters story is going to be so cool when I have time to work on it. And I’ve also been involuntarily working out more of The Dragon’s Price and The Siege of Vair. I was even thinking about One Hundred Suns the other day, and that’s been largely abandoned since the 1980s.)

What I’m worried about is burning out, or getting distracted. I don’t think I can keep this up forever. There was a stretch of really high productivity in the early 1990s (half of which wasn’t obvious because it was by Nathan Archer), but it didn’t last. This one probably won’t, either.

My Son’s Five-Part Wedding: Part Five: The American Finale

Julian and Cathy got married in China in October 2015 and April 2016, but Julian wanted Cathy to have a chance to meet all her new American family and Julian’s American friends, and obviously not all of them were going to China for the ceremonies. (In the end, two of Julie’s siblings and a few of Julian’s friends made it.) Obviously, there would have to be an American reception as well as all the stuff in China.

As it happens, the McKenna side of the family holds reunions sometimes. They talk about it a lot more than they do it, but reunions do happen occasionally. Usually Julie winds up doing most of the organizing.

In 2015 there had been discussion going on in e-mail for months about when and where the next reunion would be, with various ideas tossed out, none of them generating all that much enthusiasm. Finally, when it looked as if it would drag on forever without a reunion actually happening, Julie just announced that unless someone came up with a better plan right now, she was going to charter a sailboat on Chesapeake Bay in late June, 2016. That seemed like a good time — school would be out, and there were some birthdays in the family around then, and, you know, reasons.

No one came up with a better plan.

Julian knew about this, so he suggested having the wedding dinner the night before — everyone on his mother’s side would already be gathering for the family reunion, so they wouldn’t need to make a second trip.

That sounded good, so we agreed, and planning began.

I probably should have been more involved in the planning than I was, but I mostly left it to Julie, since the reunion was her idea and her family. It didn’t occur to me immediately that we would also be inviting my family, though of course we did.

It seemed like a good idea to find a Chinese restaurant for the event, for various reasons, so we settled on New Fortune, in Gaithersburg, MD, a large restaurant that does lots of weddings and that we knew made good food.

Unfortunately, they had already booked a huge Chinese wedding in the main hall for that night, but they could fit us in their secondary hall, which seats fifty at five tables of ten. In an emergency they could squeeze in a sixth table, for a total of sixty.

That meant we needed to settle on a guest list of fifty or sixty, so we set to work on that. Julian’s sixteen aunts and uncles gave us a starting point, and there were his twelve cousins, two of whom are married…

Not all of those wanted to attend. A couple of uncles by marriage declined immediately, as did about half the cousins, leaving more room for Julian’s friends, and family friends, and a couple of Cathy’s friends who were in America.

We wound up with a list of fifty-eight names, but some people begged off, and a couple were added. One of Julie’s brothers decided to skip the whole thing rather than find someone to tend his dogs — or at least that was his excuse, which ignored the fact that his wife and daughters could look after the dogs. A couple of siblings tried unsuccessfully to talk him around.

And then there was the Chinese side of the family. We had not initially thought anyone would be coming from China except Cathy, but then we learned that her parents and at least one uncle and maybe an aunt or two were interested. In the event, they waited too long to apply for visas — there’s a backlog at the U.S. consulates. Cathy’s parents managed to jump the queue, but the other relatives were left out.

The final (or so we thought) list came out to exactly fifty people. That lasted about a day and a half; then one of Julie’s sisters who had said she would come, and who had arranged to share a hotel room, got cold feet about traveling and backed out, leaving her would-be roommate in the lurch — especially since that sister had supposedly been going to make the travel arrangements, but hadn’t, so that her roommate had to book a flight at the last minute.

Julie invited a friend from work to fill that now-empty fiftieth seat, and she agreed, but then she had to back out the day before the event, so the final total was forty-nine.

I should also mention that one of Julie’s other sisters (she has three) arranged a room block at a local hotel, which sounds simple enough, but proved to be amazingly difficult. You’d think a hotel would have this down, but one stupid little thing after another went wrong — lost paperwork, buggy website, poor communications. It did eventually happen, and I don’t think Eileen got stuck with any extra charges, but it was far more trouble than we expected.

Anyway, the arrangements were made, and people started arriving a week or so before the event and trickled in right up to the last minute. We put Julian, Cathy, and her parents, and our daughter Kiri, up at our house, while everyone else coming any distance wound up at hotels — not all at the hotel we’d booked the block at, thanks to some of those hassles I mentioned, but mostly there.

I rented a van to make it easier to haul people around, and used it to pick up Julian, Cathy, and her parents from the airport. They arrived on time on Wednesday; their luggage (with their wedding clothes in it) showed up at 3:00 a.m. Friday morning.

Some old friends came all the way from Tennessee, which surprised the heck out of us.

All four of my surviving siblings came; I think this may have been the first time this century than all five of us were together. And where the original idea had been a McKenna family reunion, only five out of the seven siblings attended.

The night before the main dinner we had a small informal buffet dinner at the house, which my siblings all attended; I think that came to about a dozen people in all, noshing on sandwiches from a supermarket deli.

And finally, the day came. Julie went up to the restaurant early to make sure everything was ready, and several carloads of us arrived at the appointed time. A couple of people made a wrong turn going into the restaurant and wound up at the other wedding briefly, but figured it out.

I am very glad we didn’t need the sixth table; the room was pretty crowded with five. Julie had arranged things intelligently; everyone who spoke Chinese, plus Julian, sat at the central table. One corner table was Evanses, one was McKennas, and two were friends, roughly sorted by who knew whom.

Once everyone was there they started serving — ten courses. Most of it was absolutely delicious. There was a chicken course I didn’t care for, but hey, tastes vary.The head table

One hitch was that it turns out two of my siblings don’t much care for seafood; if I’d ever known that I had completely forgotten, though thinking about it we never ate much seafood growing up, despite living in New England. Since this was in Maryland and the cook was from coastal China, there was a lot of seafood involved, which left their choices a bit limited. I regret that. But hey, I liked the crab soup and the crab-filled shrimp balls and the whole boiled fish, and so did most of the other guests.

Julian and Cathy circulated among the guests, a few very brief speeches and toasts were made, and in general it was a pretty typical wedding dinner.

Eventually the food stopped coming, and people stopped eating and began drifting away. We thanked everyone for coming, settled the bill, and went home.

That still left the family reunion; the following day several carloads drove out to Annapolis. Some of us toured the Naval Academy; others just poked around the shops; and in time we all wound up at the docks and boarded the Windward II for an hour-long sail on Chesapeake Bay. I think we’d booked space for twenty-four, but only twenty-two actually made it onto the boat — almost all family, but a couple of Cathy’s friends, and a couple of ours.

Various guests were invited to take the wheel for awhile. Cathy’s mother was one of them, despite not being able to understand any of the English instructions; gestures proved sufficient. Cathy told us later that that was her mother’s favorite part of the trip.Julian at the tiller

And after the sailing we headed across town to Mike’s Crab House, where we had an hour-long wait to be seated but eventually wound up fitting all of us at two adjoining tables.

And that was the end of the official event. It took a couple of days before everyone was gone; Cathy, Julian, and her parents did some touristy stuff in Washington and Harper’s Ferry before moving on to New York. (Hey, you don’t fly all the way from China and then head right back; they were in the U.S. for two weeks in all.)

At last, though, it was all over except eating the leftovers. Julian and Cathy were quite thoroughly married, and on their way back to Hangzhou.

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