Short Time Until Short Fiction

     We’re less than two weeks out from Dragon*Con 2013 and LoneStarCon 3 (the 2013 World Science Fiction Convention), so I thought I’d collect the information on my fiction releases taking place near (and after) those conventions.


Five by Five 2: No Surrender

(August 15, 2013)

5x5_2_cover

     I teased the cover of this anthology in my last blog post. From WordFire Press, edited by Kevin J. Anderson, this is the second volume in the Five by Five military SF series. Once again, Kevin has assembled fiction by five military SF writers, and once again I’m cheerfully participating.

     My story in this volume is called “Coffee Black Sea.” It’s a follow-up to “Big Plush,” which appeared in the first Five by Five, and it’s nearly half again as long. In this story, some of the Dollgangers decide that their revolution, their species, will not survive if they don’t make it into space… but other ‘gangers, not to mention most of the humans on Chiron, are determined to stop them.

Where to Buy the Book

     Things are developing so fast on the Five by Five 2 front that the book does not even have an Amazon listing yet. You’ll be able to find it on Amazon in both trade paperback and e-book edition soon, and I know of two sales sources now or soon to be available for it:

  • E-Book Edition via Baen Ebooks
  • If coming to Dragon*Con, please visit the WordFire Press booth (tables 202 and 203 in the dealers’ room, which is in the Mercantile Mart this year); they’ll have copies of the trade paperback.

     Plus, should you happen to be at Dragon*Con, you can find me (catch me in Hanover Hall A-B during the breaks between my writing seminars, or in Marriott Marquis A706 before or after my Star Wars panels) if you’d like to chat about all this short fiction or pick up a copy of my Plotting book.


Shadows of the New Sun: Stories In Honor of Gene Wolfe

(August 27, 2013)

ShadowsCover

     I talked about this volume in an earlier blog post. Coming from Tor Books, edited by J.E. Mooney and Bill Fawcett, it’s a collection of short fiction written in tribute to and appreciation of one of the master SF&F writers of our age, Gene Wolfe.

     My story in it is a novelette titled “Epistoleros” — a fantasy-western set in an alternate-universe 1891 Texas.

Where to Buy the Book


Rayguns Over Texas

(August 30, 2013)

RaygunsCverFinal

     I talked about this volume in an earlier blog post, too. This is the souvenir anthology accompanying the 2013 World Science Fiction Convention, which is taking place Labor Day Weekend in San Antonio, TX. The book is edited by Richard Klaw (“Rick” to people who know gorillas in speculative fiction) and is being published by the Fandom Association of Central Texas (FACT), a regional SF&F fandom and con-running group (in addition to the occasional WorldCon, NASFiC, World Fantasy Con, WesterCon, and BoucherCon, they annually run the respected ArmadilloCon, a literary SF&F gathering that takes place in Austin, TX).

     Rayguns Over Texas is a collection of science fiction stories by Texan writers — some native-born (such as myself) and some adopted (such as Michael Moorcock). My story, “Defenders of Beeman County,” is a whimsical tale, except for all the blood, brain matter, burned flesh, and piss.

     Starting a little over three weeks before the launch of the convention and release date of the book, Rick Klaw has been previewing stories, one per day, on his blog. Give the blog a look for a taste of what you’ll be seeing in the anthology.

Where to Buy the Book

  • Indications are that it will be available from Amazon.com once the World Science Fiction Convention is over.


Time Traveled Tales

(Late 2013)

TTT_400x600

     I’ve talked about this book in several blog posts going back to last year. To summarize, it’s a collection of stories, many of them time-travel oriented, originally published in a very limited edition that accompanied the Origins Game Fair 2012 convention. This new edition has a new cover, the addition of several new stories, and an interior illustration for each story.

     I’ll have two stories in the collection. The first, “Replay Value,” is about the luckless courtship of a lovely young lady by an increasingly desperate young man… and the unexpected way it eventually pays off. The second, new for this release of the anthology, is “Collide-o-Scope,” and features a time traveler using the technology for his own purposes… and discovering some things he probably wishes he hadn’t learned.

Where to Buy the Book

     Details have not been set yet — at least not to the degree where I can provide links — but if the A Hero By Any Other Name anthologyis a precedent, Time Traveled Tales will be available in multiple formats from the web site of the publisher, Silence In the Library Publishing.


Near Future and Recent Past

     I have a couple more pieces of short fiction that have been placed or requested, but it’s too early to provide precise details about those projects. So I’ll provide inexact details.

     Time Traveled Tales was funded by a Kickstarter initiative that was quite successful, and one of the stretch goals that was met will result in the publication of a Volume II. I’ll have a story in that volume.

     I’ve also recently completed a horror story for a theme anthology. This project is in the early formative stages, however, so it would be a disservice to you and to its organizers to say more at this time.

     Short fiction work that has already appeared in 2013 includes:


That’s All For Now

     I hope those of you who pick up these stories enjoy them, and I hope to see many of you at Dragon*Con and other upcoming events.



PlottingWriters! Having trouble with your plots?

 

My new book, Plotting: A Novelist’s Workout Guide, may have the answers you need. Itself the length of a robust novel, it describes the craft of plotting novel-length fiction from initial concept to finished outline. It also includes numerous writing exercises and Blood Kin, a complete novel plot described from starting concept to pitch outline.

Plotting: A Novelist’s Workout Guide is available in e-book form from:

 

ArcherRat Publishing

Amazon

Apple’s iBookStore


Guest Post: Janine K. Spendlove on Mentoring

     A bit of a departure this time around: A few weeks back, I wrote a guest post on the blog of fantasy writer Janine K. Spendlove, and she has returned the favor below.

 

StellarCon 2004

 

     I first met Janine in 2004 at StellarCon, an SF&F convention run annually in Greensboro and High Point, NC. She came by my autographing dressed as a Jedi, mentioned that she had enjoyed my X-Wing books, and mentioned that she was a military pilot.

     I’m the world’s most awkward man, and that awkwardness doesn’t extend only to physical actions — or it does, if you count my inserting my foot in my mouth. I asked, “Air Force or Navy?”

     She managed not to glare, and with remarkable restraint, let me know that she was a Marine.

     Oops. My uncle John Binford, aka Butch, a career Marine, if he were still with us, would never have let me live that down.

     Later, Janine and her husband Ron, the two of them then part of the Requiem of the Outcast podcast crew, assisted with my interview for RotO, and over subsequent StellarCons and Dragon*Cons, then socially, we got to know one another better — to become friends and, when Janine and Ron both turned serious attention to writing, as colleagues as well.

     Janine’s one of the most socially adept SF&F fans/pros I know, and her perspectives on how people interact are always worth listening to, and here she has written about one very important sort of interaction.

 

 

 

     A while back I asked Aaron if he would be interested in doing a guest post on my blog & vice versa. To my delight, he agreed and came up with a fantastic blog post which is up here: http://www.ailionora.com/2013/05/08/guest-blog-post-aaron-allston-the-importance-of-peer-review/.

     Then came the hard part – I had to come up with something to write for his blog. No pressure, right? I’ve written dozens of guest blog posts in the past for both friends and acquaintances, so why should this be any different? But the truth is, it was different. Every single idea I came up with I tossed aside as “lame” or “stupid” or “overdone.” Then when I finally settled on a blog post I did want to do (using writing as therapy) I found I was completely blocked/hated every single word of it and ended up scrapping it.

     I couldn’t figure out why this was so hard. This went on for weeks, until it hit me a few days ago… along with being my friend, Aaron has been one of my mentors throughout my writing journey.

     I think that perhaps my biggest block has been my fear that I would write something for Aaron’s blog that would not live up to his expectations.

     So, how about I stop being afraid, and write a little something? As it happens I think a good topic is that of mentoring.

     Merriam-Webster’s defines a mentor as a trusted counselor, guide, tutor, or coach.

     As I look back on my two chosen professions, that of a writer and a United States Marine, I have come to realize that I would not be where I am now if not for the mentorship of individuals in both professions. True, I have worked my butt off to get where I am, but to say I did it “on my own” would be such a bold-faced lie, it’s laughable. All along the way I’ve had people senior to me in both rank and experience guiding me, giving me advice, and taking me under their wing.

     Every mentor has been different, but each has contributed to my “success” in his or her own way. Some have taken an active role in guiding & shaping my career path according to what my long term goals are, others have helped me figure out what exactly my goals were. Still others have just sat and listened to me talk myself through a problem, and have offered advice when asked. And others have made key introductions and/or opened doors/opportunities for me.

     A mentor can be life changing for you.

     I remember when I was in Iraq on my 2nd deployment. I was about a year out from finishing up my obligation with the Marine Corps and I’d decided years previously that I would get out when my time was done. Not because I didn’t like the Marine Corps (I love being a Marine!), but because my family and I had other goals in our lives at the time, and it did not seem like remaining in the Marine Corps long term would enable us to meet those goals.

     One afternoon in Iraq I found myself in a conversation with a couple of very senior Marine officers. They asked me about my goals/plans for the future in the Corps. Given that I was planning to get out, I told them as much. They asked me for my reasons why, and after I explained my reasons to them & they realized that I wasn’t necessarily eager to leave the Corps, just that I had specific goals I was trying to meet, they asked what it would take to keep me in for another tour.

     One thing led to another, and now here I am, 5 years later, with 13 years in the Corps, planning to do a full 20 years, and my other goals also being met. This was all because two gentlemen, with way more important things to worry about than the career of one lone captain, took the time to mentor me, open a few doors, and follow up with me afterwards.

     Another case was a few years after I finished writing my first novel, War of the Seasons, Book One: The Human, and was trying to figure out how to get it published. I’d already had a couple short stories published in an anthology, but I’d been specifically sought out for those, and didn’t have to go through the standard submission process to get them published. So essentially, I was clueless: “I wrote this novel… now what?”

     I reached out to a few of my author friends to seek their advice, and imagine my surprise when more than one of them suggested I go the self-published route.

     I was stunned ‐ wasn’t self-publishing essentially only for people who can’t get traditionally published? Did they not think my writing was good enough for a traditional publisher?

     It turned out it wasn’t that it all, and had more to do with the changing face of publishing (and really, the whole self-publishing vs. traditional publishing thing could be an entire series of posts in and of themselves, so I’ll just leave it at that).

     So, with the mentoring and encouragement from my fellow writers (Aaron being one of them), I self-published my first novel, War of the Seasons, Book One: The Human. One of my mentors then promptly invited me to be a Writer Guest at a convention he helps put on every year, which in turn opened the door to other conventions/appearances, etc. — something I never could have done without his assistance given the bias against self-published authors (though it’s gotten better, that bias is still extensive).

     Since then I’ve started my own indie press alongside two of my best friends and fellow writers, Bryan Young and Maggie Allen, Silence in the Library Publishing, LLC, and have had a hand in not just publishing my own works, but that of others as well. It’s been a thrilling, scary, and exciting time in my life, that’s for sure.

     Each example of mentoring here was, as I said, life changing, though each one happened quite differently. In the first, the mentor decided to take an active interest in my career and reached out to me. In turn, I was not afraid to speak my mind, and accept the offered assistance. In the second example I actively sought out a mentor, and wasn’t afraid of the answer/advice given by them.

     My point being that many people complain “But I don’t have a mentor! That’s not fair!” You can’t just wait for someone to point a finger at you and say “I choose you! Prepare to be mentored.” You need to actively engage with people, and seek out mentors as well as working to mentor others.

     Because no one does anything alone. No one. Even if you don’t have anyone living actively helping you, you are still basing your work on the back of something else others have done or your life experiences that others have shared in/affected.

     So unless you were born on an island alone, and grew up alone, and never met/interacted with another individual, then you have either actively or inactively been mentored by someone, and in turn have mentored someone else.

     I have tried to “pay it forward” as it were, by actively engaging with both young Marines and fellow writers, giving them advice when asked (and sometimes when not asked) regarding their career path/professional development, looking over manuscripts when I have the time, and providing encouragement/support.

     Because here’s the thing, you never stop learning, you never stop teaching, and while mentors don’t know everything, they sure know a lot. Learn from them, listen to them, and in turn pass on what you learn. It’s like the old aviation saying goes, “Learn from the mistakes of others. You won’t live long enough to make all of them yourself.

 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

 

 


Lastly, need a copy of Janine’s books? You can buy them here.


 

Janine K. Spendlove-1

     Janine K. Spendlove is a
KC-130 pilot in the United States Marine Corps. Her bestselling first novel,
War of the Seasons, Book One: The Human,
was published in June 2011 and her next novel, War of the
Seasons, Book Two: The Half-blood
, was released in June
2012. She’s also had several short stories published in various anthologies. A
graduate from Brigham Young University in 1999 with a BA in History Teaching,
she is an avid runner, enjoys knitting, playing Beatles tunes on her guitar, and
spending time with her family. She resides with her husband and daughter in
Washington, DC. She is currently at work on her next novel. Find out more at
target="_blank">WarOfTheSeasons.com.

 

 

     Aaron here again, with a kind of advisory note. Janine didn’t stress the fact, but it will be important with many writers, that she built her relationships with her mentors and those she is mentoring over time — across years, in many cases, involving an investment of her effort and a genuine appreciation for the people she was dealing with. Translated into plain English, she didn’t e-mail a writer she’d never met to ask, “Will you be my mentor?” or “Will you evaluate my manuscript?”

     When asked such a thing by a stranger, however well-meaning that aspiring writer might be, most writers will have to say “No.” (Some will experience honest regret that they don’t have time to help.) In my case, I’ve tried to answer people who e-mail me a reasonable-length list of questions about writing, but acative mentoring only happens with people with whom I’ve built up a relationship across years. I suspect most writers follow the same pattern.

     So, if you’re looking for mentoring, you should engage. Become a familiar face at conventions or other gatherings where pro and aspiring writers mix. And do so in anticipation of enjoying the atmosphere and culture, not just because you’re on the prowl for a teacher.

 

— Aaron Allston

 

Conspiracy of Silence… in the Library

     In my last blog post, I mentioned a short story I couldn’t talk about yet appearing in an anthology I couldn’t talk about yet. Well, now I can, and about the other anthology I couldn’t talk about yet, and about the Kickstarter project I couldn’t talk about yet. Well, now you’ll have a hard time shutting me up.

Introducing Silence in the Library

     Silence in the Library Publishing is a small press. It’s been around for a couple of years, and like many small presses in the modern era, has chiefly published the work of company partners and their favorite writers. Fiction released under the Silence in the Library logo in the past has included Janine K. Spendlove’s War of the Seasons fantasy series and Bryan Young’s time-travelers-Nazis-and-dinosaurs romp Operation: Montauk.

     At the Origins Game Fair, which took place last weekend, Silence in the Library debuted a new book and announced a Kickstarter initiative that will fund another. Both projects had been pretty much under cover up to that point, and I’m pleased to be able to talk about them now. Because I’m in both of them.

Kickstarter: Time Traveled Tales

     I mentioned Time Traveled Tales (in a different incarnation) last year. The Origins Game Fair now publishes an annual souvenir fiction anthollogy, released at the convention and featuring fiction by that year’s writer guests. The anthology is printed in a very limited collector’s edition and sold chiefly at the convention. Time Traveled Tales — the limited edition — was the anthology of the 2012 convention.

     Now it’s time for a general release of the anthology, and it’s here that Silence in the Library Publishing has stepped up to the plate. During the Origins Game Fair Silence in the Library announced a Kickstarter initative to fund a public edition of Time Traveled Tales, transforming it from a hard-to-find collectors’ edition to a slick publicly-available edition.

     Here’s the cover:

TTT

     And here’s the table of contents:

Replay Value Aaron Allston 3
Last Man on Earth Maxwell Alexander Drake 13
Slug Janine K. Spendlove 27
Adventure of the Ghost Watch Michael A. Stackpole 37
The Old Gods C.S. Marks 51
For Every Time, A Season Donald J. Bingle 59
Know Your Nemesis Kelly Swails 69
My Faire Lady Jean Rabe 85
The Tinker’s Music Box Jennifer Brozek 95
Under a Thin Veneer Daniel Myers 109
Deep Salvage Bryan Young 119
Impression Tracy Chowdhury 135
Prologue Gregory A. Wilson 147
Fair Game Dylan Birtolo 163
Merchant Market R. T. Kaelin 175
In the Time of Dragons Steven Saus 197
Among the Stars Sarah Hans 207
Parting the Clouds Bradley P. Beaulieu 215
Protection Timothy Zahn 237

     Star Wars fans will notice some familiar names there: Timothy Zahn, Michael A. Stackpole, and I all have stories in the collection.

     My story, “Replay Value,” involves a romantic candlelight dinner, violins, a ring, and — what else was it? Oh, yeah. Satan.

     Please give the book’s Kickstarter page a look. You can find it at www.kickstarter.com/projects/103879051/time-traveled-tales-a-speculative-fiction-antholog.

Debuting: A Hero By Any Other Name

     I mentioned above and in my last blog post that the official Origins Game Fair souvenir anthology for this year was called Heroes!. I have a story in it, “Green Room,” superhero fiction — following the theme of this year’s convention — set in the universe of Strike Force, a superhero RPG setting that was the basis of a Hero Games RPG supplement released in 1988. In “Green Room,” two elderly supers, life-long enemies, sit around in recliners bitching at one another… but there’s a lot more to the story than that.

     Well, at the same time Heroes! was released, Silence in the Library, with the blessing of GAMA (the organizers behind the Origins Game Fair), released their own superhero fiction anthology, A Hero By Any Other Name. The anthology — I’ll refer to it henceforth as AHBAON (if you want a mnemonic, think “Ah, bacon!” minus the letter “c”) features fewer stories than Heroes!, but most of them are longer; mine, for instance, is a novellette nearly three times the length of my contribution to Heroes!.

     Here’s the cover:

AHBAON

     Longtime readers of my gaming work may recognize the style in which this cover is rendered. In fact, the cover is by my friend Denis Loubet, the cover illustrator of Strike Force, The Savage Empire, Man to Man, and many, many other game releases.

     And here’s the table of contents for AHBAOH:

Retreads Aaron Allston 3
Stupendous Sparkle Janine K. Spendlove 63
The Kid Maxwell Alexander Drake 77
Changing the Game Bryan Young 87
A Marvelous New World Maggie Allen 101
All-Star R. T. Kaelin 115
Hero Today, Gone Tomorrow Ron Garner 139
Mortar’s Ovation Jean Rabe 163
Need to Know Michael A. Stackpole 193

     My story in AHBAON, “Retreads,” involves three former supers doing rescue work on one of Earth’s many colony worlds, confronting an environmental disaster, a mysterious enemy, and the demons of their own pasts. (Inner demons. Not literal demons. This is an important distinction to make in a superhero environment.) Like “Green Room,” it’s set in the Strike Force universe.

     Once the dust from the Origins Game Fair settles a bit, AHBAON will be available for sale from the Silence in the Library web site in trade paperback edition. In the near future, it will be available in e-book edition as well.

Forward

     So I encourage you to give the Time Traveled Tales Kickstarter initative a look and decide whether it’s something you’d like to participate in. I hope you do.

     Incidentally, Silence in the Library author Janine K. Spendlove will be visiting here — the next time this blog is updated, it will be with a guest post by Janine on a subject every aspiring writer should consider. So please check back here in a few days.

     All for now. Thanks for stopping by.

 

PlottingWriters! Having trouble with your plots?
     My new book, Plotting: A Novelist’s Workout Guide, may have the answers you need. Itself the length of a robust novel, it describes the craft of plotting novel-length fiction from initial concept to finished outline. It also includes numerous writing exercises and Blood Kin, a complete novel plot described from starting concept to pitch outline.
     Plotting: A Novelist’s Workout Guide is available in e-book form from:

Input and Output

     I haven’t blogged in quite a while. It’s been a tumultuous several months. So I’ll use this post to catch up a bit.

The Hairy Eyeball

     My biggest news is that I recently had cataract surgery, and it’s making a tremendous difference.

     To recap: In late 2006, I had surgery on both eyes to arrest the progress of diabetic retanopathy in my left eye and glaucoma in my right. In early 2009, I had my heart attack, followed by emergency bypass surgery, followed by a brief coma. When I woke up from the coma, vision in my left eye had decreased substantially and vision in my right eye was all but gone. Because of neurological evidence resulting from the coma, the medics told me the worsened vision was the result of neurological damage — nothing to be done.

     That was my status quo for a couple of years. Then the vision in my left eye began to deteriorate, little by little, at intervals, which was disheartening and inconvenient.

     In August of last year, my general physician heard all this and decided to look further into it, literally. Though not an opthamologist, he gave my left eye a good looking at. And he told me, “You have a cataract so dense I can’t see your retina.”

     It took me a while, but I had surgery on May 29. They removed the bad old lens and put in a good artificial one made of silicon. As I was being driven home from surgery, I could read speed limit signs, which I hadn’t been able to make out in years. At my first follow-up appointment, the next day, my uncorrected vision was tested at 20/70, when before it had been so bad it couldn’t be measured.

     In subsequent days, I was able to reduce the magnification of my on-screen Magnifier accessory from 5x to 3x, and I may be able to reduce it further. I’ve been able to read (with over-the-counter reading glasses) printed material if the font face was slightly larger than usual, to make out the small text beneath the icons on my smartphone, and to read e-books on my internet tablet. I’ve been finding things I’ve lost in my house across the last few year… My writing productivity is up, and at my next follow-up appointment, my uncorrected vision was tested at somewhere between 20/60 and 20/50.

     I can once again fully enjoy So You Think You Can Dance, Dancing With the Stars, and bitmaps of Salma Hayek. Yep, life is good.

     Plus, I came away from that last follow-up appointment with a 23-minute video of my surgery, a useful tool should I need to gross out my friends.

     So that’s “input.” I also wanted to talk about output — what I’ve been writing during the last year or so and where people can find it. I’ll do that below after some other news.

Origins Game Fair

     From June 12-16 I’ll be in Columbus, OH for the annual Origins Game Fair, and I’ll have a lot to do.

     Michael A. Stackpole, Timothy Zahn, and I will again be teaching the “Inner Circle” series of writers’ seminars, with, as ever, new seminars mixed in with ones we’ve presented before. Take a look at my appearance schedule page for more details.

     I’ll have a table in the Library portion of the Exhibit Hall (Booth 252) — the place where all writers hang out when not hosting their panels and seminars in the Library program. I’ll have several items for sale there, including trade paperbacks of Time-Traveled Tales and Five by Five, the Plotting: A Novelist’s Workout Guide book on CD and on USB key drives, and a new product I’ll be debuting. Plus, I’ll talk with readers, sign autographs, and harrass my fellow authors.

     I’ll have short fiction debuting at the con, as I’ll explain later in this blog post.

     I’ll also hang out with friends in the industry and friends in Club Jade, many of whom will be attending the convention.

     So — I’m going to have plenty to do.

Five by Five (Trade Paperback)

     I’ve blogged about Five by Five before. This is a collection of military SF novellas by five writers (Michael J. Stackpole, Kevin J. Anderson, Loren L. Colean, B.V. Larson, and myself) released in e-book form last October.

     There’s news about the anthology: WordFire Press recently (April) released a trade paperback edition, so you can have it in physical form as well as e-book formats. It’s available on Amazon.

“Green Room” in Heroes!

     Starting last year, the Origins Game Fair began publishing a souvenir fiction anthology to be sold at the convention. Last year, I contributed “Replay Value” to the first such anthology, Time-Traveled Tales.

     This year, the convention’s theme is superheroes, and I wrote an appropriate story, “Green Room,” for the collection Heroes! (The exclamation point is part of the book title.)

     “Green Room” is set in the universe of Strike Force, a superhero game campaign I created in 1981; Strike Force was the subject of a Champions game supplement in 1988. This story, set in 2013, involves two old enemies coming together for one last battle, with consequences neither of them expects.

     Heroes!, also featuring stories by Timothy Zahn, Michael A. Stackpole, Janine K. Spendlove, Bryan Young, and many others, debuts at the Origins Game Fair on June 12 — mere days away. The first, limited edition will only be sold at the convention and then subsequently by its contributing authors.

     Here’s the cover:

Heroes! Cover

The Story I Can’t Talk About in the Anthology I Can’t Talk About

     At about the same time Heroes! is released, I’ll have another short story in another anthology. But I can’t talk about the anthology yet. That’ll have to wait for next time.

“Epistoleros” in Shadows of the New Sun: Stories in Honor of Gene Wolfe

     The title of the anthology explains its purpose, but doesn’t describe the contents. The book presents short stories inspired by, using settings or characters from, or even featuring Gene Wolfe hiself. Contributing writers include David Brin, David Drake, Neil Gaiman, Joe Haldeman, Nancy Kress, Mike Resnick, Michael A. Stackpole, Michael Swanwick, Timothy Zahn, Gene Wolfe, and me, among others — 19 stories in all.

     Here’s the cover:

Shadows of the New Sun

     Publisher’s Weekly, in its June 3 issue (page 42), ran a review of Shadows of the New Sun — a starred review, which is kind of a big deal. The review mentions seven of the writers and their stories, myself included, and concludes, “These and many other top-notch writers have brought all their skills to bear on making this homage worthy of Wolfe’s prodigious talents, and it shows.”

     My novelette, “Epistoleros,” isn’t based in a Gene Wolfe universe, but it makes use of some Wolfean themes. In the story, which is set in an alternate-universe 1890s Texas, three men — an Illinois newsman, a young gunslinger, and a grizzled veteran of the Texas Rangers — look into the mysterious death of a friend and find themselves to be the targets of… well, you should read it for yourself.

     Shadows of the New Sun will be released in hardcover and e-book formats by Tor in late August.

“Defenders of Beeman County” in Rayguns Over Texas

     The World Science Fiction Convention being held this year in San Antonio, TX has its own souvenir fiction anthology, titled Rayguns Over Texas. It features stories by Texan SF writers, and I have a story in it — “Defenders of Beeman County.” The story features the strong family ties between a sheriff, his nephew/deputy, and his daughter, and it includes a nice killing spree, not to mention rayguns over Texas.

     It is being released by FACT, the Fandom Association of Central Texas, and its publication date is late August, 2013.

     The anthology’s editor, Richard Klaw, recently showed off its cover on his blog.

Rayguns Over Texas

“Coffee Black Sea” in Five by Five 2

     I’ve just turned in a new novella, “Coffee Black Sea,” intended for Five by Five 2, the first follow-up volume to Five by Five. (Yes, I said “first follow-up.” Response — both from readers and publishers — to the first anthology has been so strong that it has now become a series.)

     “Coffee Black Sea” continues the story of the Dollgangers from “Big Plush.” Bow, BeeBee, and others grapple with the question of ‘ganger survival on… and off… their world.

     There’s no information yet on when Five by Five 2 will be released.

Big Chart of Projects

     For the curious, the table below shows most of the projects I’ve completed since 2011 — the non-Star Wars projects, that is, the ones fewer people will have heard of. (Please consider looking up some of these projects. I’m in the process of building a writing career in addition to Star Wars work.)

     The chart shows a couple of projects I haven’t talked about yet, since I haven’t placed them with a publisher.


2011 PROJECTS TYPE FINISHED LENGTH APPEARING
“Big Plush” Novelette 2011/10/04 16,900 words Five by Five
“Collide-o-Scope” Novelette 2011/10/16 9,700 words
TOTAL 26,6000 words

2012 PROJECTS TYPE FINISHED LENGTH APPEARING
Growing Up Dead Novel 2012/03/12 142,600 words
“Epistoleros” Novelette 2012/05/30 16,500 words Shadows of the New Sun
“Green Room” Short Story 2012/09/28 4,800 words Heroes!
“Sun Stroke” Novelette 2012/09/29 12,500 words
“Defenders of Beeman County” Short Story 2012/10/02 5,600 words Rayguns Over Texas
TOTAL 182,000 words

2013 PROJECTS TYPE FINISHED LENGTH APPEARING
Plotting: A Novelist’s Workout Guide Nonfiction 2013/02/08 121,200 words E-book From ArcherRat Publishing
(The Story I Can’t Talk About) Novelette 2013/03/16 17,500 words
“Coffee Black Sea” Novella 2013/06/03 28,700 words Five by Five 2
TOTAL (SO FAR) 167,400 words

     Well, that’s all the news that’s fit to blog at the moment. I’ll have more in the not-too-distant future.

Short Fiction Coolness

Five by Five by Voice

     WordFire Press, publisher of Five by Five, the anthology in which my “Big Plush” novelette appears, has concluded a deal with Brilliance Audio, the audiobook producer, for an audio edition of Five by Five.
     This is a first for me — there have been audio versions of all my Star Wars books, but this is the first time any of my non-franchise fiction has been adapted to audio.
     I’ll post more details as they come in.

Five by Five Cover

August Personages

     In previous blog posts, I reported on two stories coming out in 2013: “Green Room” in the Origins Game Fair souvenir anthology (June) and “Defenders of Beeman County” in Rayguns Over Texas. I can now report a third story being placed.
     Shadows of the New Sun is an anthology in tribute to Gene Wolfe, a fabulous writer who is also the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America‘s newest Grand Master. Edited by J.E. Mooney and Bill Fawcett, to be published in August by Tom Doherty and Associates as a Tor Book in both hardcover and e-book formats, it includes short fiction in appreciation of Gene. It also includes work by Gene himself.
     Take a look at the contents list:

Story

Author

Foreword

J.E. Mooney

Frostfree

Gene Wolfe

A Lunar Labyrinth

Neil Gaiman

The Island of the Death Doctor

Joe Haldeman

A Touch of Rosemary

Timothy Zahn

Ashes

Steven Savile

Bedding

David Drake

… And Other Stories

Nancy Kress

The Island of Time

Jack Dann

The She-Wolf’s Hidden Grin

Michael Swanwick

Snowchild

Michael A. Stackpole

Tourist Trap

Mike Resnick and Barry Malzberg

Epistoleros

Aaron Allston

Rhubarb and Beets

Todd McCaffrey

Tales From Limbo, But I Digress

Judi Rohrig

In the Shadow of the Gate

William C. Dietz

Soldier of Mercy

Marc Aramini

The Dreams of the Sea

Jody Lynn Nye

The Logs

David Brin

Sea of Memory

Gene Wolfe

     (And, yes, with Timothy Zahn, Michael A. Stackpole, and myself contributing, the anthology does have a curious though unintentional Star Wars connection.)
     My story, “Epistoleros,” is a novelette set in an alternate-universe, late-19th-century Texas. Though not directly connected with any of Gene Wolfe’s settings, it explores themes that Gene has dealt with. Of course, what it took me about 16,000 words to accomplish, Gene could probably have managed in 3,000… but that’s just the way things are. <g>
     I first met Gene in the mid-1990s at a New Orleans Science Fiction and Fantasy Festival. He’s always been gracious both with fans and less-experienced colleagues. It’s a real pleasure to participate in a project with and in tribute to him.

More Upcoming Short Fiction

     I’ve been invited into five other upcoming anthologies, but since their publication dates and other details are not yet set, I won’t be making any announcements about those releases for a while.

January Rayguns Update

     Richard (Rick) Klaw, editor of Rayguns Over Texas, has posted a complete story list for the anthology, which I mention here in the spirit of self-promotion because Rayguns Over Texas is one of the anthologies I’ll be appearing in during 2013.
     The story list includes:

  • “Pet Rock” by Sanford Allen
  • “Defenders of Beeman County” by Aaron Allston
  • “TimeOut” by Neal Barret, Jr.
  • “Babylon Moon” by Matthew Bey
  • “Sovereign Wealth” by Chris N. Brown
  • “La Bamba Boulevard” by Bradley Denton
  • “The Atmosphere Man” by Nicky Drayden
  • “Operators Are Standing By” by Rhonda Eudaly
  • “Take a Left at the Cretaceous” by Mark Finn
  • “Grey Goo and You” by Derek Austin Johnson
  • “Rex” by Joe R. Lansdale
  • “Texas Died for Somebody’s Sins But Not Mine” by Stina Leicht
  • “Jump the Black” by Marshall Ryan Maresca
  • “An Afternoon’s Nap, or; Five Hundred Years Ahead” by Aurelia Hadley Mohl
  • “The Nostalgia Differential” by Michael Moorcock
  • “Novel Properties of Certain Complex Alkaloids” by Lawrence Person
  • “The Chambered Eye” by Jessica Reisman
  • “Avoiding the Cold War” by Josh Rountree
  • “The Art of Absence” by Don Webb

     Rick’s original blog post, which includes other details about the anthology’s publication, appears at http://www.revolutionsf.com/revblogs/geekcurmudgeon/2013/01/08/complete-fiction-contents-for-rayguns-over-texas/.

A Life In Forced Perspective

     I apologize for offering a downer post (and a long one) during the holiday season. Feel free to skip it if you want to concentrate on merrier thoughts. I promise, I understand.
     My father, Tom Allston, died on Christmas Eve, at 4:41 am Central Time, in Amarillo, TX. (I know the exact time because the hospice where he spent his last few days relayed that information to everyone concerned.) He had spent years struggling with ever-worsening effects of COPD, and eventually reached end-stage heart failure. My brother Stacy and I went up from Austin and saw him on December 19 and 20, in essence to say goodbye.
     So I’m dealing with the situation the way I know how — by writing about it. I don’t expect this post to be particularly well organized.

Bare-Bones Facts

     My father was born with the name Tommy Dale Allston a few months before the start of World War II. (He hated the name “Tommy” because of its diminutive aspect and legally changed his name to Tom Allston later. He was sufficiently concerned with me not experiencing a similar fate that he insisted I be given a name for which there was no diminutive form in Anglo culture, hence “Aaron.”)
     A little of his childhood was spent in Amarillo, the majority in nearby Pampa. He was the son of Oliver and Ruth Allston; Oliver worked at a Pampa car dealership for many years. Tom was the younger of two children; his older sister, Charlotte, is still with us.
     Over the years, Tom had a lot of different professions:

  • He was a musician, all-state in high school band. He played any number of instruments; I remember him with woodwinds, brass, keyboards, saxophone, and guitar. He did pick-up gigs with bands playing for Anita Bryant, Tennessee Ernie Ford, and other well-known performers. Toward the end of his life, until his physical condition made it impossible, he still fronted a jazz band in Amarillo.
  • He was a teacher. He taught high school band, chiefly, I believe, in the first few years after graduating college. More on that later.
  • He was an oil roughneck. I remember him doing oil field work in the mid-1970s, and am under the impression that he had worked the fields in earlier years as well.
  • He was a journalist, on staff at the San Angelo (TX) Standard Times in the early 1970s and perhaps earlier, then with the Amarillo Globe-News starting in the mid-1980s. Between those two stints, in the early 1980s, when doing other work in the Dallas area, he also served as a stringer for Dallas newspapers. He retired from the Globe-News a few years back.
  • He worked in advertising, in Dallas in the early 1980s. He found that to be unrewarding, even soul-killing work.
  • He was a photographer. Every house of his I visited had a darkroom.
  • On a non-professional basis, he was a motorcyclist and shady-tree mechanic.
  • He wrote. He had a strong interest in science fiction and fantasy beginning long before my birth. I have volumes of Edgar Rice Burroughs and H.G. Wells he gave me when I was a child. As far back as I can remember, he wrote SF&F as well as more mainstream work. During the 1970s, he sold short stories, articles, and columns to motorcycle-enthusiast magazines such as Bob Braverman’s Cycle Rider.

     Putting that into perspective, well, he was a really talented guy. As a child, I envied his skill set… though I eventually had reason to lose some of that envy, for reasons I’ll get to below.

Personal Life

     Tom was married twice.
     He met Rose Binford of Corsicana (TX) while attending North Texas State University, the college that eventually became the University of North Texas. They married, and I was born in 1960, when Tom and Rose were 21 and 19 respectively. My brother Stacy came along four years later. That marriage lasted until the mid-to-late 1960s and was formally ended around 1970. After their separation, my brother and I lived with our mother, in my case until I graduated high school and moved to Austin.
     His second marriage lasted from the early-to-mid 1980s. I was in Austin for those years, trying to get my career off the ground, and only met the lady in question on one visit. She had a daughter from a previous marriage; Tom adopted the daughter. That marriage, too, ended after a few years.
     At other times, Tom tended to live in a sort of college-roommate situation. During the summers Stacy and I visited him, he shared a succession of houses with a succession of musicians, journalists, and miscellaneous iconoclasts. I seem to have inherited that trait; it’s the same sort of living arrangement I’ve enjoyed (though with a consistent set of housemates) since the mid-1980s.
     In the mid-1980s, Tom moved from Dallas back to the Texas Panhandle to help his parents, who were getting on in years. He was there for his father’s death in the early 1990s and his mother’s death just a few years ago. He stayed in Amarillo afterward, up until the end of his life. After his retirement from the newspaper, he remained active with his jazz band and with a writing group, honing his writing skills.

Forced Perspective

     None of the above information really offers a sense of who and what Tom was, though. It’s merely a framework. He fits in there somewhere, but you have to look more closely to spot him.
     And as with every other human being, spotting him means observing him from only one specific angle at a time, from one limited perspective. It’s like parallax view — walking beside a high privacy fence, a gap of a fraction of an inch between each vertical slat, your brain trying to assemble a consistent image of what lies beyond. Inevitably that image will be incomplete.
     The first perspective I had of my father was that he was a multi-talented and busy guy. He was always doing interesting things — researching writing assignments for newspapers or magazines, playing gigs, witting up late at night in coffee shops bantering with waitresses and writing in his little notebook, cycling, developing pictures… After our parents separated, my brother and I only lived with him for a few weeks per year during summer vacation, but his lifestyle never seemed to change.
     As I got older, though, I saw him hop from profession to profession and I wondered whether that volatility might be doing harm to his personal life and to his long-term career interests. It seemed a very insecure way of life &mash; a succession of jobs, a succession of rental houses. Even as a young teenager, I wondered if that contributed to the fact that his relationships with women seemed to have short trajectories, to the fact that his careers never seemed to gain traction. I inherited some writing ability and inclinations from both sides of the family — my maternal grandparents were also journalists — and it seemed to me that it was kind of a relief for me to be able to focus on only one profession.
     Anyway, as with just about everyone, you learn more about Tom from the anecdotes that surrounded him than from a dry synopsis of dates and facts. Here are a few stories.

     

     Tom didn’t like guns. But it would be a mistake to think of him as a pacifist. He came from a rough-and-ready little Texas town and he didn’t like violent attackers, either. When I was very young, he kept a sawed-off pool cue loaded with lead shot in the headboard of his bed, a deterrent to robbers and home intruders. In later years, when I was visiting him during summer vacations, the pool cue had become a machete. Still later, he did acquire handguns to become proficient in their use and comfortable with them, but I’ll always remember the humorous dichotomy of my asking him why he had a machete in his headboard and him replying, “Because I don’t like guns.”

     

     Tom had an intense dislike of racism, based more on the lack of any logical or empirical-evidence basis for it than on any other factor, I believe.
     In college, he and other musician friends would connect with a black friend and go out to local restaurants, obliging those establishments to conform to the newly-enacted racial integration laws. My father and his friends, according to the stories, were harrassed, threatened, sometimes assaulted for these activities — but kept doing them.
     Which points to another Tom trait: When it came to issues of his personal lifestyle and beliefs, for better or worse, he simply wouldn’t compromise. He sometimes suffered for his choices, but he didn’t back away from them.

     

     When I was very young, Tom taught high school band.
     Understand, back in those days, the early 1960s, high school band courses in Texas were often taught as if they were team sports. A band was expected to win competitions with other bands. That, and supporting the school football program, were their only reasons for existence.
     For that reason, band students were often taught a limited number of pieces each year, taught to play them note-perfect and competition-worthy… similar in effect to teaching an actor to speak foreign-language dialogue phonetically. At the end of the project, those actors can’t speak the language; at the end of the school year, those band students could only play those few songs. They weren’t really musicians.
     Which isn’t the way my father was willing to teach. He went in to teach those kids to be musicians, and by all accounts, he did.
     But they didn’t win competitions as frequently, and at the end of a school year, my father’s contract would not be renewed by the school district. He’d move on to another school, and eventually to another profession.
     Again, no compromise.

     

     Then there were father-and-son games. Fathers and sons go out in the yard and flip a football around, or work on a car engine together, or explore the mysteries of a charcoal grill. Right?
     Not us.
     “Hinky-pinky,” he’d say. “Durable plastic column.”
     Which sounds like gibberish, but it’s just shorthand for the start of a word game. “Hinky-pinky” means “What follows is a clue for two two-syllable rhyming words matching the clue.” Hink-pink would signify one-syllable words, hinkity-pinkity three-syllable words, and so on.
     So I’d furrow my brow, think about it, and say, “Nylon pylon.”
     “Right.”
     Which made it my turn. I’d say, “Hinky-pinky. Jamaican spaghetti.”
     “Rasta pasta.”
     “Right.”
     And so on. We played word games, logic games. Sometimes they weren’t games. Whenever I’d make an unsupported statement in conversation, such as parroting any of the innumerable dumbassed urban legends kids accumulate — “The guy who played Superman? He thought he was Superman, he put on a cape, and he jumped out a window. Killed himself.” — Tom wouod call on me to support it. I got good about arguing my points. I got better about not repeating urban legends, the opinions of ill-informed people, or the countless other forms of misinformation that suffuse our culture.
     At a certain point in a process like this, ordinary household conversation becomes banter, and stays that way for the rest of your life.

     

     And then there are some details that aren’t exactly stories, but contribute to a better understanding of who he was.

  • He hated the government — not the concept of government, but rather government waste, politician hypocricy and misinformation, and intrusiveness into individual rights. Still, on my last visit to see him, he told me that he was happy to have lived long enough to see the United States change to the point that it could elect a black man twice to the Presidency.
  • Though not precisely ambidextrous, he could write with his left hand just as well as with his right, but his left-hand writing was backwards. His handwriting was identical in the two directions, mirror images of each other.
  • My parents decided that my brother and I would call them Tom and Rose instead of Dad and Mom or any other equivalent. Throughout my childhood, people looked at me strangely because I addressed my parents by their given names.

Distance

     I didn’t see much of my father in the last twenty years or so of his life. He didn’t come down from the Panhandle. I didn’t go up from Central Texas.
     There was no emotional distance involved. We were always in touch, either by phone or, after it was introduced, e-mail. I always knew what he was up to, he always knew what I was up to. I always wanted to know what was next from Tom. But we somehow lacked the emotional need to see each other in person. When I did get up to see him last week, I was, in spite of warnings, startled to see an old man superimposed on the father I remembered. Oh, the Tom I knew was still there, emerging at regular intervals from beneath the mask of age and white hair, but the mask itself was unsettling.
     Was I close to him? I guess the answer is no. We weren’t really involved in one another’s daily lives. We didn’t turn to one another for emotional support. We were, I think, too much alike to be close at that level — we were close in temperament, outlooks, and emotional needs (or lack of them).
     And I know that this distance has made some people ask whether I really cared for my father.
     Did I love him? Hell, yes. Without question.
     Will I miss him? Again, yes.
     And I’m angry at the world for allowing there to be a world without him. The world needs more Tom Allstons. The world needs more people who color outside the lines, make us think, refuse to put up with bullcrap, and create.
     But Tom and I were, I have to admit, a bit reptilian in our family relationship. As soon as the hatchlings left the nest, it was time for everyone to turn attention to other things.
     Whenever we saw or spoke to each other after that, it was with great cheer and enjoyment, never any animosity, never any old grudges. But then we’d go our separate ways and time would pass. A few months. Three years. We’d run into each other or call each other, and it was as if the intervening time had been only a day. But time was indeed passing.
     Time ran out for Tom Allston, and now there’ll be nothing new from him, no news, no updates, no projects.

The Once and Future Tom

     Except… He left behind a large number of manuscripts. He was a good writer, though unwilling to compromise his creative instincts to make his work more commercial. But times have changed, and it may be that the new era of digital publishing will allow me to get his work out in front of people.
     Perhaps more people will come to know his name. Maybe there will be a “What’s next?” after all. Perhaps people will ask me, as some did when my career was just starting, “You any relation to Tom Allston?”
     I’d like that.

     


Tom Allston
March 27, 1939
December 24, 2012

Postscript

     Tom didn’t like to have his picture taken. But I know I have a good one of him, from the early 1980s, around the house somewhere. With my eyes, it’ll be hell to find it, but when I do I’ll scan it and put it up.
     Also, I’m certain that, relying on the uncertain memories of a child and teen, and having received many stories about Tom second- and third-hand, I’ve gotten some facts wrong. So I’ll post one or more follow-up blog entries with more details as those details add up.
     Thanks for listening.

     

Runs Batted In

     The week leading up to Thanksgiving was a good one for me in terms of fiction — I placed two short stories.

“Defenders of Beeman County”
     The first one is called “Defenders of Beeman County.” It’s slightly eccentric SF with a modern West Texas setting.
     It’ll appear in Rayguns Over Texas. This is an anthology being produced by FACT, the Fandom Association of Central Texas, in conjunction with LoneStarCon 3, the 71st World Science Fiction Convention, which will take place in San Antonio on Labor Day weekend next year.
     Edited by Richard Klaw, the anthology features original SF by Texas authors.

“Green Room”
     The second story is called “Green Room.” It’s superhero fiction. For those of you who’ve been familiar with my work since my game-writing days, it’s set in the Strike Force universe.
     “Green Room” will appear in the souvenir anthology being produced by the 2013 Origins Game Fair. This anthology will be a follow-up to this year’s Time-Traveled Tales, and so will be published early next summer and sold chiefly at the convention. The anthology will be edited by Kelly Swails; its name has not yet been announced.
     “Green Room” is the first story I’ve written in which most of the narrative consists of two old men sitting in recliners arguing with one another. No, really.