Interview: Scott Rhine, Author of the Military SF Novel Void Contract

Folks, please give a warm welcome to author Scott Rhine. We chat about what authors we’d want by our sides in difficult times or in a classroom, first book, and plenty more. Enjoy!

1) If you could be an extra on a TV show or movie, what would it be and what would you be doing?

The Lost Room. My character would give out the items to people who ask me for handouts on the street.

2) If you could give any literary villain a happy ending who would you chose?

Jaime in Game of Thrones. I would have had him realize that Brienne could rock his world.

3) What has been your worst or most difficult job? How does it compare to writing?

Carrying a beeper for software customer support and having workers in India page me when they had any questions at all. It gave me an ulcer. Writing may have ups and downs, but creating relieves stress.

4) You are stuck in space in dire straights. Which science fiction authors would you want with you?

Allen Steele, hard sci-fi expert who has written a lot on space.
Carl Sagan, because he knows a little about everything science and math.
Robert Heinlein because I think he actually worked with radar in WWII.

5) If you were asked to create the syllabus for a college class in SFF literature, what books would be on there as required reading? As passing discussion?

NF
Strunk and White’s “Elements of Style”
Stephen King’s “On Writing”
Campbell’s “The Power of Myth”

SHORTS/HISTORY
Arthur C Clarke’s “Tales from the White Hart”
Asimov’s “I Robot”
Card “Ender’s Game” the short story.
Gibson “Burning Chrome”

FIC
Zelazny’s “Lord of Light” for incorporating myth.
Kress’s “Beggars in Spain” for taking a simple idea to the furthest extent.
Vinge’s “A Fire on the Deep”
Niven/Pournelle “Mote in God’s Eye”
Haldeman “There is No Darkness”
Williams “Voice of the Whirlwind”
Stephenson “Snow Crash”

mention:
Heinlein “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress”
Vonnegut’s “Slaughterhouse 5”
Simmon’s “Endymion”
Brinn “Startide Rising”
Vance “Languages of Pao”

6) Care to share an awkward fangirl/fanboy moment, either one where someone was gushing over your work…..or one where you were gushing over another author’s work?

I correspond about once a year with LE Modesitt. I’m a huge fan. When I told him that I modeled the Batman feel of my latest novel “Quantum Zero Sentinel” after his “Flash/Archform” world, he asked me to send him a copy of the paperback.

It’s an awesome world.

7) What is a recurring or the most memorable geeky argument or debate you have taken part in?

The best strategy for getting experience points in Pokemon Go. My kids both backed me against my wife, who values each monster she has nurtured and doesn’t want to trade any.

8a) Side characters can make or break a story. What side characters have you enjoyed in other works?

Guildenstern and Rosencrantz
The dagger in Brust’s Jhereg series

8b) What side characters in your own work have caught more attention than you expected?

In “Foundation for the Lost”, Eoin goes on a front-lawn Santa hunt with a baseball bat and a pack of Guinness. I end up reading that scene when I visit the local library for events. Elves who hate Santa strike people as funny.

In “Empress of Dreams”, one of mothers of a contestant is the ultimate dirty-tricks mistress. You just have to love Lady Evershade because she is so committed and scares the tar out of the heroes. Though she is a pure product of her culture, and the ideal aristocrat’s wife.

9) What is the first book you remember reading on your own?

The Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak

10) You have to run an obstacle course. Who do you invite along (living or dead, real or fictional)?

Ang from Last Airbender. If I could make it funny, he’d help me win.

About Author Scott Rhine:

Scott Rhine wanted to find a job that combined his love of reading with math problem solving, so he studied both short stories and computer languages. As a techno-gypsy, he worked on optimizing some of the fastest and largest supercomputers in the world. A couple of degrees, patents, and children later, at forty-eight, he still didn’t know what he wanted to be when he grew up. When his third publication, “Doors to Eternity,” hit #16 on the Amazon epic fantasy list, he decided to become a full-time author. Since then, each book of his “Jezebel’s Ladder” series hit the high-tech science fiction top 100. His new medical thriller, “the K2 Virus,” is his highest rated novel with the first 12 reviews ranking it five stars.

Humor is a part of every story he writes because people are funny, even when they don’t think so. In the real world, something always goes wrong and people have flaws. If you can’t laugh at yourself, someone is probably doing it for you. Strong female characters also play a major role in his stories because he’s married to a beautiful PhD who can edit, break boards, and use a chainsaw.

Website | Facebook

Synopsis of Void Contract:

Max Culp escaped his low-tech home world by serving in the marines as a medic. Unable to adapt to civilian life as a medical intern, he joined Special Forces to track down the Phib war criminals who caused his recurring nightmares. By the time the final Phib is captured, Max has become an urban legend among the aliens. He isn’t sure how to apply those skills to a new life until someone kidnaps his last surviving friend.

Audible ~ Amazon

Guest Post: Bubonicon 47 – Tea Time! by David Lee Summers

David Lee Summers with his daughter Verity at the their publishers table.
David Lee Summers with his daughter Verity at the their publishers table.

Folks, it is my great pleasure to have author and publisher David Lee Summers back on the blog. I was unable to attend New Mexico’s once-a-year scifi convention this year and asked (perhaps ‘begged’ is a better term) David to let me life vicariously through him. He was kind enough to offer up this guest post about Bubonicon 47.

Tea Time!

Who Can It Be Now: Characters With Flaws panel. From left to right: Ben Bova, David Lee Summers, S.M. Stirling (scratching his head at whatever Davids saying), Walter Jon Williams, and Caroline Spector.
Who Can It Be Now: Characters With Flaws panel. From left to right: Ben Bova, David Lee Summers, S.M. Stirling (scratching his head at whatever David’s saying), Walter Jon Williams, and Caroline Spector.

I enjoy attending science fiction conventions because they are a wonderful opportunity to connect with fellow readers and writers.  One of my longtime favorite conventions is Bubonicon in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  There are an amazing group of writers who live in or near Albuquerque and regularly attend Bubonicon including Walter Jon Williams, Jane Lindskold, S.M. Stirling, P.G. Nagle, and George R.R. Martin.  These writers, working with an outstanding convention committee, present a great set of panels and readings along with a diverse dealer’s room, art show, and gaming room.  What’s more, the convention has a great name, given when Egypt placed travel restrictions on New Mexico because Bubonic Plague had been reported in the mountains east of Albuquerque.  For most of the last two decades, Bubonicon has also been the convention closest to my home in Southern New Mexico.  That honor was only recently supplanted by Las Cruces Comic Con.

Red or Green panel.  From left to right: Dr. Catherine S. Plesko, Dr. Larry Crumpler, Christine MacKenzie, David Lee Summers, Loretta Hall, and Zachary Gallegos.
Red or Green panel. From left to right: Dr. Catherine S. Plesko, Dr. Larry Crumpler, Christine MacKenzie, David Lee Summers, Loretta Hall, and Zachary Gallegos.

The theme of Bubonicon 47 was “Women of Wonder” and featured an all-woman lineup of special guests.  The guests of honor were Tamora Pierce and Catherynne M. Valente.  The guest artist was Ruth Sanderson.  The toastmaster was Mary Robinette Kowal (in her own words, she’s a toastmaster because she’s nobody’s mistress!).  I was especially pleased to meet Ms. Kowal who, like me, had a story in the anthology of near-future stories 2020 Visions edited by Rick Novy.  Another special thing about that anthology is that it also features Bubonicon’s 2016 Guest of Honor, David Gerrold.  The convention schedule included such theme-related panels as “The Inescapable Romance Subplot: Passing the Bechdel Test?”, “Curse of the Strong Female: Pitfalls and Cliches”, and “Writing Different Genders: Your Point of View.”

Mary Robinette Kowal, right foreground. Photo credit James L. Moore and Jane Lindskold.
Mary Robinette Kowal, right foreground. Photo credit James L. Moore and Jane Lindskold.

Panels weren’t limited to the theme.  I participated in such panels as “Whither Ghost? Dancing With the Definitely Dead?” where we discussed ghost stories and stories with ghosts.  Of particular interest we talked about how ghost stories can take a science fiction twist when you imagine humans uploading their consciousness into a computer, becoming a “ghost in the machine.”  I also participated in a science panel called “Red or Green: NM as Mars Analog” in which we looked at how sites in New Mexico can be quite similar to sites on Mars, to the extent that they can be used to test Martian rovers or be used as test beds for humans traveling to Mars.  I moderated the panel, “It’s Alive: Scientists in Science Fiction” in which writers and scientists discussed how science and fiction have influenced each other.  Our conclusion was that although there is a societal perception of a “mad scientist” trope and a certain distrust of science in the media, science fiction writers generally respect scientists and the work they do.

David Lee Summers  Hillary Estell serving tea. Photo credit James L. Moore and Jane Lindskold.
David Lee Summers Hillary Estell serving tea. Photo credit James L. Moore and Jane Lindskold.

One of the highlights of Bubonicon for me is the Sunday Afternoon Author’s Tea.  The tea, which is unique as far as I know to Bubonicon, was conceived as a way for the authors to say thank you to the fans who attend the convention.  Seating is limited, simply due to limited space.  Because of that, there are sign-up sheets for the three sessions, but there is no charge.  Although there is no requirement to dress up for the tea, authors donate prizes and those who are judged to wear the best hat and glove combinations get to pick from the donated prizes.  Those fans who attend have the opportunity to sample four teas donated by the St. James Tea Room in Albuquerque.  This year’s choices included Lady Londonberry, a traditional black tea with a hint of strawberry flavoring, Black Pearl, a black tea scented with vanilla, Hesperides Golden Delight, a green tea scented with golden apples, and Daybreak in Martinique, a Rooibos scented with lemon myrtle and French lavender.  The authors also provide a range of sweet and savory snacks that range from smoked salmon and sausage balls to blueberry scones and lemon muffins.

SummersOwlDanceWhen not speaking on panels, giving a reading, or pouring tea for fans, I hung out at the table for my company, Hadrosaur Productions, in the dealer’s room.  This year, the dealer’s room was full of vendors selling books, comics, toys, and jewelry.  I found a snazzy steampunkish pocket watch to replace one I broke earlier this year along with several wonderful books.  The danger of hanging out in the dealer’s room is that my cash and I have a tendency to part company much too fast.  That said, I do like spending time there because it gives me a chance to interact with readers and writers, which of course, is the whole reason I’m there.

Places to Find David Lee Summers

Hadrosaur Productions

Tales of the Talisman

David Lee Summers: Wrong Turn on the Information Superhighway

David Lee Summers’ Web Journal

Goodreads

Amazon

Facebook

Twitter

You can also delve into David’s mine by reading his past interviews here on Dab of Darkness: 

David as an Author

David as a Publisher

SummersOwlDanceBook Blurb for Owl Dance:

Owl Dance is a Weird Western steampunk novel. The year is 1876. Sheriff Ramon Morales of Socorro, New Mexico, meets a beguiling woman named Fatemeh Karimi, who is looking to make a new start after escaping the oppression of her homeland. When an ancient life form called Legion comes to Earth, they are pulled into a series of events that will change the history of the world as we know it. In their journeys, Ramon and Fatemeh encounter mad inventors, dangerous outlaws and pirates. Their resources are Ramon’s fast draw and Fatemeh’s uncanny ability to communicate with owls. The question is, will that be enough to save them when airships from Czarist Russia invade the United States?

SummersLightningWolvesBook Blurb for Lightning Wolves:

It’s 1877 and Russians forces occupy the Pacific Northwest. They are advancing into California. New weapons have proven ineffective or dangerously unstable. The one man who can help has disappeared into Apache Country, hunting ghosts. A healer and a former sheriff lead a band into the heart of the invasion to determine what makes the Russian forces so unstoppable while a young inventor attempts to unleash the power of the lightning wolves.

HowellSummersKeplersDozenBook Blurb for A Kepler’s Dozen: 13 Stories About Distant Worlds That Really Exist

A Kepler’s Dozen presents thirteen action-packed, mysterious, and humorous stories all based on real planets discovered by the NASA Kepler mission. Edited by and contributing stories are David Lee Summers, editor of Tales of the Talisman Magazine, and Steve B. Howell, project scientist for the Kepler mission. Whether on a prison colony, in a fast escape from the authorities, or encircling a binary star, these exoplanet stories will amuse, frighten, and intrigue you while you share fantasy adventures among Kepler’s real-life planets.

SummersSpaceHorrorsBook Blurb for Space Horrors:

Space Horrors is the fourth anthology of the Full-Throttle Space Tales series. Edited by David Lee Summers, Space Horrors contains blood-chilling tales of vampires and ghouls in space, by established and rising-star authors. Terrifying tales contained in this volume: “Poetic Justice” by Alastair Mayer: Space hibernation does strange things to a man. “Listening” by Anna Paradox: It’s Halloween on the run to Mars. What could go wrong? “The Walking Man” by Glynn Barrass: A giant robot on Mars is in the hands of mutineers. “Natural Selection” by Simon Bleaken: The Zoological Institute warned Rebecca not to go study the bugs. “Oh Why Can’t I” by C.J. Henderson: The Earth Alliance Ship Roosevelt is pitted against a world swallowing creature. “Last Man Standing” by Danielle Ackley-McPhail: Mining can be hard work, depending on who – or what – is doing the mining. “Anemia” by David Lee Summers: Vampires prefer the eternal night of space, it seems. “Chosen One” by Dana Bell: A particularly unnerving game of cat and…something. “Sleepers” by Selina Rosen: Sometimes the nightmare you wake from is not as bad as the one you wake up to. “Divining Everest” by Patrick Thomas: When the vampires call for help, you know it’s bad. “Into the Abyss” by Dayton Ward: Ghosts haunting the depths of space. “Salvage” by David B. Riley: Insurance investigator Sarah Meadows is on a ghost ship and in trouble. “The Golem” by Judith Herman: A friend in need is a deadly reckoning. “In the Absence of Light” by Sarah A. Hoyt: Have you heard of the drifters? “A Touch of Frost” by Gene Mederos: Space is a hostile environment – except for zombies, of course. “Wake of the White Death” by Lee Clark Zumpe: Who will rescue the rescuers? “Plan 9 in Outer Space” by Ernest and Emily Hogan: Making bad space horror more horrible ain’t easy.

SummersDragon'sFallBook Blurb for Dragon’s Fall: Rise of the Scarlet Order:

Three vampyrs. Three lives. Three intertwining stories.

Bearing the guilt of destroying the holiest of books, after becoming a vampyr, the Dragon, Lord Desmond searches the world for lost knowledge, but instead, discovers truth in love.

Born a slave in Ancient Greece, Alexandra craves freedom above all else, until a vampyr sets her free, but then, she must pay the highest price of all … her human soul.

An assassin who lives in the shadows, Roquelaure is cloaked even from himself, until he discovers the power of friendship and loyalty.

Three vampyrs, traveling the world by moonlight—one woman and two men who forge a bond made in love and blood. Together they form a band of mercenaries called the Scarlet Order, and recruit others who are like them. Their mission is to protect kings and emperors against marauders, invaders, and rogue vampyrs—and their ultimate nemesis, Vlad the Impaler.

Bubonicon 2014: Sunday

David Lee Summers at Bubonicon 2014
David Lee Summers at Bubonicon 2014

On Sunday, the panels and author readings didn’t get started until 10AM, but the Con Suite was open at 8AM. They had donuts, and not just any donuts, but donuts with bacon. Yep, you read that right. You could have a chocolate frosted donut that also had a strip of crispy bacon in it. (I think I heard one of the Con volunteers say the donuts came from Rebel Donut shop). I almost snagged one, but I feared that I wouldn’t like it and then who would I share it with? If my man was at the Con with me, I would just grab one for him, eat half of it, and then tell him how good the second half was. Instead, I stuck with the cheese, crackers, bagels, chips, bottled water, and a regular donut. The Con Suite also had a sizable spread of fruits, but there was a lot of chopped melon, and unfortunately, I am very allergic to melon.

I went to David Lee Summer‘s reading first thing. He read the first chapter from his latest book, Lightning Wolves, which is a steampunky desert Southwest alternative historical fiction that is quite fun and inventive. Then he read an interlude from his vampire novel, Dragon’s Fall. This book appeals to me because of the historical fiction aspect and his reading of the interlude only peaked my curiosity. And I asked my moonlight question. Growing up, I never really paid attention to vampires. But then vampires became a little more popular in the 1980s with The Lost Boys, and then with Interview with a Vampire. And that is when I started to wonder why most vampires weren’t reactive to moonlight, since it is simply reflected sunlight. Summers had a great answer for this in that it really depends on how the author has set up their vampires – is there a scientific basis for this existence (virus, blood defect, etc.) or are they magic based? From there, you can build logical reasons to how vampires do or don’t react to moonlight.

Steven Gould & Walter Jon Williams at Bubonicon 2014
Steven Gould & Walter Jon Williams at Bubonicon 2014

Then it was off to the Co-Guests of Honor Presentation. Steven Gould was the Toastmaster, with Walter Jon Williams helping out. They started off with some trivia questions concerning lizards mating in space aimed at the audience and then moved on to quizzing the co-guests of honor, Cherie Priest and John Hemry. Once the silliness was concluded, important matters were discussed, like the Chad Mitchell Trio song featuring Lizzie Borden. Yeah, that little girl from the nursery rhyme who gave her parents 40 whacks was indeed a real historical person. Priest’s soon-to-be-out book, Maplecroft, features Lizzie fighting Cthulu monsters. Damn! That’s some creepy nursery rhyme turned mysteriously cool yet still creepy all at the same time.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7wlO-J0v9ZY

John Hemry was asked to talk about retiring from his navy career to become a writer and stay-at-home father. He spoke openly of his three children, all who are somewhere on the autism spectrum and each requiring some amount of special care. I have to admit that this little bit of a reveal on his personal life is why I want to give his books a try. The military SF genre is filled with books written by military/ex-military men and, to me, much of it is interchangeable, lacking distinction from author to author. But since Hemry has been a househusband and a father to challenged children, I expect he has more insight into the human condition than most writers in the military SF genre. With my fingers crossed, I will be plunging into some of his books soon.

John Maddox Roberts on the Secret History/Alternate History panel, Bubonicon 2014
John Maddox Roberts on the Secret History/Alternate History panel, Bubonicon 2014

The first panel of the day for me was The Weird Weird West: SF with Six-Guns, moderated by John Maddox Roberts. He was joined by Craig Butler, Josh Gentry of SnackReads, David Lee Summers, and Walter Jon Williams. This was a fun, fun panel that was part history lesson and part romp through all the weird westerns out there, in print and on screen. Sitting down to enjoy this panel, I instantly thought of Westworld. The discussion started with a bit of history about the Wild West (and how short lived that actually was) to the paranormal side of the Wild West (think ghost stories and native folk lore) and then to the various cultures that have homaged the Wild West – Spaghetti westerns, Samurai 7, and more. For your traipsing through the Weird West, check these out: Joe Landsdale, Jane Lindskold, Emma Bull, Ambrose Bierce, Red Harvest, The Good, the Bad, and the Weird, The Haunted Mesa, and Science Fiction Trails magazine.

Cherie Priest & John Hemry (AKA Jack Campbell), Bubonicon 2014
Cherie Priest & John Hemry (AKA Jack Campbell), Bubonicon 2014

After taking a break to check out the Bubonicon auction, I ended up enjoying the panel Cthulu Lives! Lovecraft’s Old Ones in Today’s Fiction. Moderator Cherie Priest was joined by Yvonne Coats, John J. Miller, Harry Morris, and John Maddox Roberts. The panel spent a lot of time on their love for H. P. Lovecraft and his influence on today’s writers and the entertainment world in general. From the bookish world, check out Caitlin Carrigan, Fritz Leiber, Molly Tanzer, Livia Llewellyn. From the big screen and TV, check out True Detective, Cast a Deadly Spell, Pacific Rim. Then folks got a little serious and discussed the darker side to Lovecraft: his racism and sexism. Miller and Priest had the most to say, and seemed to have studied not only Lovecraft’s works but also his personal life. Morris also pitched in here and there with anecdotes. Priest pointed out that you don’t find hate without fear, and Lovecraft had a great hate of women. Miller pointed out that Lovecraft came from a highly dysfunctional home. It was a very interesting discussion and I think Lovecraft’s biography would be a worthy read. Then Priest told her story of her large framed Lovecraftian poster above her bed, and the squirrel falling down behind the wall late at night as Cherie sat up reading.

Claire Eddy & Connie Willis on the She's My Tardis panel, Bubonicon 2014
Claire Eddy & Connie Willis on the She’s My Tardis panel, Bubonicon 2014

By this point I was fading fast and thinking about that 2 hour drive home. But there was one last panel, She’s My TARDIS, Except She’s a Woman, moderated by John Hemry. He was joined by Connie Willis, M. T. Reiten, David Lee Summers, and Claire Eddy. This started off as a discussion of ships or even planets that became a personality within the story, such as Firefly‘s Serenity, the ship from Farscape, even the planet Arrakis from Frank Herbert’s Dune. Willis recommended the movie Dark Star. And then someone asked the question of why ships are usually referred to as female, which lead to a deeper discussion of animism and the female psyche. Needless to say, the men kept digging themselves into a hole and it was terribly fun to watch. Indeed, I spent much of this last hour of the con laughing out loud (with everyone else, so it was the good kind of laughing out loud).

And there you have it folks. I’ll try to do one more post about the autographing session, the auction, the costume contest, and the art room. I didn’t get to explore the gaming room nor the vendors this year. And there was a late night charity auction Friday night. Really, I should just replicate myself for this event so that I can enjoy everything. Next year’s Bubonicon will be later in August, instead of the first weekend, so I only have a whole year to wait.

Bubonicon 2014: Saturday

ABQ Steampunk Society & Cherie Priest
ABQ Steampunk Society & Cherie Priest

The Saturday of Bubonicon is where the most stuff happens – lots of panels, plenty of readings by individual authors, the mass autographing session, and the costume contest. For this post, I decided to talk about the panels and in another post I will share my crappy photos of the costume contest and talk about all the cool art I saw in the art show room.

First, let me say the Con Suite was awesome. This is my first time partaking of it and I was impressed. The hotel house rules put the Con Suite up on the 16th floor and they have to cover the expensive items (i.e. the TV) and the floor with plastic – which kind of makes you feel like you are walking right into a kill room, except there is all this food and nerdy people having merry geeky conversations. There were simple breakfast burritos that you could dress up with salsa or cheese, plenty of fruit, bagels, various beverages, and all sorts of appropriate con food (minion cheese nips!). And donuts! It’s been months since I had a donut and I was just dreaming about them last week.

Connie Willis on the Ten SF Worlds You Need to Visit panel, Bubonicon 2014
Connie Willis on the Ten SF Worlds You Need to Visit panel, Bubonicon 2014

Then off to my first panel of the day, Secret History versus Alternate History: Splitting Hairs. Since Ian Tregillis couldn’t make it this year (sniffle), Walter Jon Williams filled in as moderator. He was joined by Cherie Priest, John Hemry (AKA Jack Campbell), S. M. Stirling, & John Maddox Roberts. Williams quickly defined the terms ‘secret history’ and the grammatically correct ‘alternative history’ to the panel’s agreement. This panel was part history lesson and part discovery of other great authors of the genre that I need to hunt down and devour. Priest talked about how boiling water, two ladies (Clara Barton & Sally Thompkins), and their insistence to remain in charge birthed the organization we know today as the American Red Cross. There was also plenty of talk about dirigibles (real and fictional), submarines, and the what if photography came around a bit earlier (since all the tech was there but no one had put it together). Stirling highly recommended checking out the memoirs of Anne Lister, a mountaineer & traveler who died in the 1840s. Fredric Brown was also recommended, along with Anno Dracula by Kim Newman.

The ABQ Steampunk Society hosted a tea and chat with Cherie Priest that everyone was welcome to attend. The ladies of the ABQSS were all decked out in their outfits, complete with gadgets and personas. The tea was hot, the room chilly, the conversation excellent. Leah R, the ABQSS Event Organizer, was dressed as Briar Wilkes from Boneshaker (hooray!). Various steampunk touchstones in modern culture were discussed such as the tv series Jack of All Trades (which I need to Netflix!) and the robot Boilerplate (who has a tidy little faux history and website). Beyond Victoriana is a blog that focuses on steampunk, and especially on steampunk beyond the boundaries of England and English culture. I had quite a bit of fun browsing around on this site. Of course, Priest gave us a little history lesson (which is tied to one of her books) concerning Maria Boyd, a spy for the Confederacy in the Civil War. I forget exactly how Maria came up in conversation, but she had a fascinating life starting in her teens with plenty of marriages, internment camps, spying, affairs, etc.

Ernest Cline on the Pop! Culture Influences panel, Bubonicon 2014
Ernest Cline on the Pop! Culture Influences panel, Bubonicon 2014

Alas, the tea was drunk the hour was over and we all had to shove over for the next item on the schedule. I was off to Pop! Culture: Influences of Today’s Life, a panel moderated by Cherie Priest and which included Ernest Cline, Scott Phillips, Gabi Stevens, and Lauren Teffeau. Some of this panel I got, some I didn’t. I am a produce of the 1980s, but it was heavily influenced by country music and nothing but country music (unless I heard it in a movie). Don’t fret; I rectified this somewhat when I escaped to college and discovered all sorts of emo and alternative music. But there are still gaps in my 1980s cultural references as there were plenty of movies/music/tv that I wasn’t allowed to experience. Other parts of the panel, i totally got, like I can completely understand why someone (Cline) would want a DeLorean or two, and why they would trick them out with paraphernalia from Ghostbusters, Star wars, and KITT. There was plenty of talk about Star Trek, MST3K, and Atari to go along with it. Also, I learned an important Star Wars trivia – the gold dice hanging from the Millennium Falcon in the first movie were later stolen from the set and didn’t make a reappearance in the subsequent films.

Daniel Abraham moderating the Sidekicks & Minions panel, Bubonicon 2014
Daniel Abraham moderating the Sidekicks & Minions panel, Bubonicon 2014

The fun continued with Sidekick and Minion Cliches & Comic Relief, moderated by Daniel Abraham (who is half of the awesome writing team James S. A. Corey, the other half being Ty Franck). He was joined by John Hemry, Claire Eddy, S. M. Stirling, & Connie Willis. This panel started off with a rousing discussion of the definitions of sidekick, minion, and foil and then friendly banter about the differences, followed by examples – Pinky & the Brain, Harry, Ron & Hermione, Sherlock & Watson, Batman & Robin, Don Quixote & Sancho Panza. Who’s a foil (someone there to constantly screw up and create opportunities for our hero to look good)? Who is a minion (someone forced into assisting our evil empire builder)? Who is a sidekick (and there was tons of discussion on exactly what role the sidekick plays)? And here is another new-to-me author to add to my TBR pile – Sean Stewart. Then someone mentioned a podcast done in the style of old-time radio theater, The Thrilling Adventure Hour.  A few movies/tv shows, such as The Venture Bros. and Grabbers, were also mentioned.

Ten SF Worlds You Need to Visit Before You Die was moderated by Connie Willis, who was joined by Yvonne Coats, T. Jackson King, John Maddox Roberts, and Courtney Willis (Connie’s husband). If you think I blathered on before, well, there was tons of good stuff discussed on this panel, and I could go on and on – but this is already a really long post. So let me say the following books/authors were recommended by the panel: The Wood Wife, H. Beam Piper, Samuel R. Delany, Discworld, Barsoom, Andre Norton, Redshift Rendezvous, Robert Forward, Riverworld, Karen Anderson, Richard K. Morgan, James White, Earthsea, And Flatland. There, if that doesn’t keep you in reading for 6 months, I don’t know what will.

David Lee Summers at Bubonicon 2014
David Lee Summers at Bubonicon 2014

The last panel of the day was What Scares You Now? Horror Today which was moderated by Craig A. Butler. He was joined by Cherie Priest, Scott Phillips, David Lee Summers, & Joan Saberhagen. First, let me say that I was NOT stalking Cherie Priest on Saturday. It just so happens that she was in nearly all the panels I had an interest in. No, the stalking came the next day – just kidding. But we did get to share an elevator (and some morbid humor) with several other ladies. Second, half the panel started off introducing themselves and their fear of centipedes. Hence, there was a fair number of centipede jokes throughout the hour. There was plenty of discussion about vampires and zombies; Priest said an interesting thing that I will attempt to clearly paraphrase: the two are opposite sides to the same coin. One makes you unique, powerful, desirable, and autonomous while the other strips everything unique from you, makes you undesirable, and leaves you no longer in control of yourself. I am sure there is a senior psych paper in that somewhere. Saberhagen was difficult to scare, as she fears none of the made up monsters. She did have bits and pieces to add to psychological terrors, such as when your senses say something is in front of you or happening that your mind says can not be. And of course there were lots of recommendations of what is good in horror now: Salem’s Lot, Manhattan, The Day After, Kate Kerrigan, The Ape’s Wife & Other Stories, The Slenderman.

And there we have most of Saturday. It really is a small convention, but that lets me ride the elevator with book celebrities and ask pesky questions at every panel (if I wanted to). And I get to know some of the regular con goers too. Plus several of the local authors bring their spouses and kids, so that is always cute to see.

Bubonicon 2014: Friday

Walter Jon Williams, T. Jackson King, and Laura Mixon
Walter Jon Williams, T. Jackson King, and Laura Mixon

It’s the start of my yearly holiday, Bubonicon, the scifi convention of Albuquerque, NM. I packed appropriately with books and a fun t-shirt for authors to sign at the big signing party on Saturday. I’m staying at the hotel where the convention is held, which makes it mighty convenient to pop in and out of panels and readings, zipping up to my room here and there for apples and sanity breaks.

This year, the 4pm panel kicked off the convention with local authors. It’s All SF: Sci-Fi & Southwestern Fiction, moderated by Walter Jon Williams, hosted a great discussion on how the desert southwest has been used as location in SFF. Williams was joined by fellow NM authors David Lee Summers, Jeffe Kennedy, T. Jackson King, and Laura Mixon (AKA M. J. Locke).

This panel ranged from the ecological and geographical diversity of the Southwest, to the cultural diversity of region. Of course, this went on to discuss frontier adventures in general and how what we learn from this region can be used to build frontier locations on fictional worlds. Two of the panelists have ties to the Roswell incident, which I found quite amusing. There was a nice discussion of the O.K. Corral and how modern movies make that the climax of the story, when in reality the O.K. Corral event was the beginning of Tombstone violence that went on for several months. Add in side notes about a Santa Fe version of the phantom of the opera and Japanese chili farmers, and you have a pretty amusing panel.

David Lee Summers, Jeffe Kennedy, & Walter Jon Williams
David Lee Summers, Jeffe Kennedy, & Walter Jon Williams

But then Walter Jon Williams had to bring up the (sadly) failed camel corp and the Ottoman trainer, Hadji Ali (AKA Hi Jolly), who was brought over with the camels to train US military personnel in camel riding. Apparently there is a monument to this man in Lake Havasu, AZ which is a pyramid with a camel at the pinnacle. Then Laura Mixon asked if anyone knew the song. No one volunteered, so she sang part of it for us, which was really quite awesome. Check out this LINK for the lyrics.

So, there we have scifi, history lesson, and musical entertainment all within the first panel of the Con.

Then I was off to tea, with two authors (David Lee Summers and Melinda Moore). We met at a nearby Starbucks, which is perfect for me as I love the scent of coffee but greatly prefer slurping down tea. We had a great chat, mostly about books, of course. And Melinda let me be a little book geek and have her sign my kindle.

ABQ Steampunk Society
ABQ Steampunk Society

Then back to Con in time for Steampunk 101: Queen Victoria Doesn’t Own It. This panel was hosted by ABQ Steampunk Society, and they were all dressed up. It was pretty cool to variety in their costumes (which I didn’t do a good job of photographing). Of course, plenty of steampunk literature was discussed – Scott Westerfeld, Cherie Priest, Jules Verne, K. W. Jeter, David Lee Summers, and plenty of others. Alternate history writers were pulled into the discussion (Harry Turtledove, Eric Flint). The aesthetics of steampunk were also discussed especially in relation to steampunk societies that have popped up around the world in places where there isn’t necessarily a body of literature int he native tongue to draw upon.

Bubonicon fun & swag
Bubonicon fun & swag

Then I was off to the dealer room to pick up a book I have been meaning to since the last Bubonicon – A Kepler’s Dozen. 99% of the time, I love living on the farm. But I do sometimes really miss being near a bookstore.

So, what do I have loaded on my kindle? Lightning Wolves by David Lee Summers. What audiobook do I have loaded on my laptop? The Coldest War by Ian Tregillis. I have so been looking forward to this event for months now and this kickoff doesn’t disappoint.

Bubonicon 2013: The Meat

Here we have Suzy Charnas, Daniel Abraham, Josh Gentry, David Lee Summers, and Joan Saberhagen.
Here we have Suzy Charnas, Daniel Abraham, Josh Gentry, David Lee Summers, and Joan Saberhagen.

Saturday of Bubonicon 2013 was an all day event, with the con suite opening at 9am. I opted to have tea in my hotel while messing around on the computer. 10AM brought about the first panel of the day: Short Fiction in the Era of Digital Publishing. Josh Gentry of SnackReads moderated this panel of Daniel Abraham (The Dragon’s Path), Suzy Charnas (The Holdfast Chronicles), Joan Saberhagen (manages the literary estate of Fred Saberhagen), and David Lee Summers (Owl Dance). This was a fascinating talk about how publishing has changed since ebooks came about, but also about how digital publishing has changed in the last few years and continues to change. Of special interest to this panel, was the subject of short fiction: how to sell it, should you sell it?, what format to provide it in, etc. Everyone agreed that ebooks were a great way to put an author’s backlist out there, but perhaps not the best way to become known as a new author (for a variety of reasons).

Walter Jon Williams reading a short story from a forth coming anthology.
Walter Jon Williams reading a short story from a forth coming anthology.

After that I bounced over to the 55 minutes with Walter Jon Williams. He was amazingly entertaining last year, doing the various voices for his characters in the short piece of fiction he read. I was hoping he would be just as charismatic again; he did not disappoint. His story, which will be published in a forthcoming anthology, was just a little longer than we had time for, but he paused in a good place. Of course this only added to my desire to pick up the anthology when it comes out. Let me just point out that I had a choice of listening to Brent Weeks for 55 minutes, or Walter Jon Williams. Sorry Brent, but I am sure you had plenty of fandom to glory in and my shy attention wouldn’t have added to it.

Back in the big main room, George R. R. Martin and Tim Powers had an hour long discussion about dark fantasy: Whatever Happened to Dark Fantasy. While I have read some of George Martin’s works going back to the Wild Cards days in my highschool days, I have not yet had the pleasure of reading Tim Powers’s works. Even with that bit of ignorance, the talk was fascinating. Both authors seemed to shy away from such categories as ‘dark fantasy’ or ‘horror fantasy’. I have to agree with them; having recently explored some H. P. Lovecraft works, ostensibly horror, I found them to be fantasy with some dark elements. Martin and Powers are discussed the differences between fantastical horror and psychological horror (where nothing magical is involved).

Bubonicon2013PowersMartin
Time Powers & George R. R. Martin

After all that sitting, I needed a walk, and what better place to walk than the art show. Lots of cutsy kitten & some magical or SF element art was on display. Some made me laugh out loud with the fun of it. Of course there was the requisite armed and nearly nude women that permeate the SFF world (some of which I appreciated, others I found improbable even with suspended disbelief). This year also had pottery and I loved that there were a variety of mugs named for Tolkien characters. While I bid on a few items in the silent auction, I failed to win any. Perhaps next year.

David Lee Summers giving a reading.
David Lee Summers giving a reading.

At the dealer room, I swung by Hadrosaur Productions and said hi to David Lee Summers. While we chatted, author Mario Acevedo happened by and stopped to chat. Of course I had to mention that I recently read his book, The Nymphos of Rocky Flats, and from there we were off on conspiracy theories involving aliens and such. The dealers room had several more sellers than last year, which was nice to see. I wandered, looking for a corset to amuse my man with. Alas, I only found a few and nothing that struck my fancy. Perhaps next year.

I sat in on David Lee Summers‘s 25 minute reading. He entertained us with a short bit from his novella Revolution of Air and Rust, which is a steampunk or alternate history set in early 1900s near the beginning of WWI. Having recently finished the Leviathan series by Scott Westerfeld, I really enjoyed the short bit that Summers shared with us. I’ll be picking up my copy for reading in the winter (when I have much more time for eyeball reading versus audiobooks).

Diana Gabaldon & my shoulder (since I was making a stunned bunny face).
Diana Gabaldon & my shoulder (since I was making a stunned bunny face).

On a whim, I then attended a writing workshop hosted by Diana Gabaldon, How (And How Not) To Write Sex Scenes. I don’t write, other than bloggity stuff and government reports (which may or may not be fiction), but I had not attended anything with Diana Gabaldon yet and didn’t want to miss out. The room filled completely. While we had a few minutes before beginning, Diana Gabaldon invited folks to come up and take pictures with her. I couldn’t resist, but the lady I passed my camera off to looked at it dubiously and caught me making a distressed face that could be mistaken for gas. It was way cool of Gabaldon to make the offer to the room. This was one of the funnest hours of the entire con. We laughed often and loudly. The room was full of women and a few brave men. I read a few of her Outlander books way back in college and recently reread the first book, The Outlander, so I had a good idea of her sex scenes. She gave a lot of great advice that was highly entertaining to even those who don’t have an interest in writing.

Brent Weeks moderating a panel with Darynda Jones & Diana Gabaldon.
Brent Weeks moderating a panel with Darynda Jones & Diana Gabaldon.

The last panel of the evening for me was Assassins & Serial Killers in Fantasy moderated by Brent Weeks (The Night Angel trilogy rocks!). Diana Gabaldon, Darynda Jones (Charley Davidson series), John Maddox Roberts (well known for his SPQR series), and Melinda Snodgrass (who has done script writing for Star Trek: The Next Generation & other TV series) joined him. Once again, this was another great panel. Brent Weeks, well known for his assassin trilogy, was the perfect moderator, keeping the questions coming as the panel explored the various differences between serial killers and assassins. John Maddox Roberts pointed out that the traditional assassin, the hashashin, were folks who were called upon once in their life to take out one person, and then they were expected to die in the back blast of vengeance. The panel also explored the dark, disturbing attraction to serial killers whether in fiction or in the media.

John Maddox Roberts waiting for the panel to get started.
John Maddox Roberts waiting for the panel to get started.

After that was the mass autograph signing. I think I will do another post showing off the treasures I got signed as this post has grown a bit long. You can tell my enthusiasm though.

Melinda Snodgrass chatting as Brent Weeks looks on.
Melinda Snodgrass chatting as Brent Weeks looks on.

 

 

Bubonicon 2013: Great Start

Craig Butler, Joan Saberhagen, Ian Tregillis, Josh Gentry
Craig Butler, Joan Saberhagen, Ian Tregillis, Josh Gentry

Bubonicon is admittedly a very small SFF convention located in Albuquerque, NM. But this has it’s perks. While I was waiting to check into my room Friday, I was about 5 feet from George R. R. Martin, famous for his Wild Cards series and his series Song of Ice and Fire, as he chatted with friends and made lunch plans. A young man came up and asked for his photo and he was very cool about. Perhaps I should get out of my shy polite stalker mode and move to polite upfront fan?

One of the things I like so much about this small convention is how cool everyone is. It truly is a friendly atmosphere. I had 2 backpacks of books plus my clothes and a little icechest with fruit and yogurt. A guy from Final Sword Productions, one of the dealers selling fiction, RPGs, minatures, & other things, was very awesome to keep an eye on my stuff by the door while I parked the car. It’s stuff like that that truly makes the weekend incredible.

Upon checking into the con, I got my little swag bag with schedule and my little hospital grade wrist band. I missed the badges, but I understood that this was way cheaper and simpler for the staff. Still, the fact that it was completely shower safe didn’t quite make up for the fact that it was an irritating piece of plastic. Once checked in to the motel and the con, I had nearly 2 hours to kill until the first panel. I found the ice machine and explored the cable TV selections, neither of which we have at home on the farm. I was more impressed with the ice machine. Have commercials gotten incredibly shorter in the 10 years since we had satellite TV or is it just me?

S. M. Stirling & Walter Jon Williams
S. M. Stirling & Walter Jon Williams

Anyhoo, the first panel was moderated by Ian Tregillis (author of Bitter Seeds). Entitled Should I Be Paranoid: Who’s Looking At Me?, it was a ramble about government and big business info gathering and what they have done with it and what they could do with it. Tregillis was joined by Craig Butler (overseeing post-production on RotGut), Josh Gentry (Editorial Director of SnackReads), and Joan Saberhagen (manages the literary estate of Fred Saberhagen). As the first panel on a Friday afternoon, it was pretty well attended. Once the panel starting discussing some small town issuing hunting licenses for surveillance drones, things really livened up. Overall, it was an interesting discussion about how much information is already out there (think about those shopper reward cards at the grocery store), how much of that info is with big business, and how much is government, and how much we (as a society) really care. A fun panel with lots of tidbits that have been in the headlines recently (think Snowden).

Alan Beck, Susan Krinard, & Victor Milan
Alan Beck, Susan Krinard, & Victor Milan

Up next for me was the panel Mutant Madness: Extraordinary Genes Run Wild, hosted by Victor Milan (who I know from his Wild Cards contribution). He was joined by artist Alan F. Beck, Susan Krinard (author of the Stone God series), S. M. Stirling (author of The Change series), and Walter Jon Williams (who I know from Hardwired – one of the best cyberpunk novels ever written). Of course with a panel title like that, the Wild Card series came up. There was much discussion about what scientists have been able to do in real life (glow in the dark mice anyone?) and then the various mechanisms in literature for coming up with mutants. Susan Krinard brought up her love of Wolverine from Xmen – she wants to be Wolverine. Hell, I want to be Wolverine.

Diana Rowland (author of the White Trash Zombies series) was the Toastmistress this year and the 30 minute opening ceremonies was basically the big room full of everyone, with all the guests sprinkled through the room. Rowland read off their names and some little tidbit about them and we all clapped, unless they weren’t present and then we made up some excuse for them (like they were at the bar). It was cute, fun, and more low key than I expected.

Ty Franck & Daniel Abraham - on the move!
Ty Franck & Daniel Abraham – on the move!

Lastly, I went to the 55 minutes with Daniel Abraham (author of The Dragon’s Path) and Ty Franck (who write epic SF under the name James S. A. Corey). They were incredibly funny. Part of this might be due to the near constant sleep deprivation Ty Franck lives under, but in any case they had the room laughing when they weren’t reading a section from a story submitted to a forthcoming anthology. Shortly before the session got started, authors Sam Sykes (author of Tome of the Undergates, one of my man’s favorite books) and Brent Weeks – Night Angel Trilogy rocks! – (along with his beautiful wife and tiny baby) popped into the room and sat 2 rows behind me. It was a small room. I was among greatness and yet still breathing. It was awesome. This session was over far too soon, and then I took this really crappy photo. On the other hand, it portrays just how animated the two were.

The talk by George R. R. Martin was completely full and I was beat from my day. I drove down from the farm (just over 2 hours) and I was up early since I live on said farm. Across the parking lot was Buca di Beppo and I ordered carry out Italian for dinner – which was a perfect way to tuck in for the evening.

Prepping for Bubonicon 2013

This is Chupacabra & Waffles nesting in my books.
This is Chupacabra & Waffles nesting in my books.

That’s right. New Mexico has it’s own SFF convention and it’s coming up next weekend in Albuquerque. Bubonicon is the only con I will be able to jaunt off to this year, so I am making the most of it. I’ve already booked my hotel room and purchased my con ticket. My man has offered to watch the farm for the weekend (as I will be watching the farm while he is off at the Fire & EMS Symposium – you can see pics over HERE from last year). the con is a 2 hour trip one way from where we live, so my man may or may not make it down for part of Saturday.

Of course I stacked these books just so, just so for the cats.
Of course I stacked these books just so, just so for the cats.

As you can see from the pile of books (and cats) I have plenty to get signed and keep me entertained. Brent Weeks and Tim Powers are the guests of honor this year. I have read the Night Angel trilogy (how fast did I read those books?) by Weeks and picked up a book by Tim Powers to give a try (I’ve heard great things about his works). You can check out the full list of participants on the site. Several state and regional locals will be attending. Who am I excited to see, listen to, politely stalk, end up having to do some emergency elevator evacuation drill with? Well, DoD favorite David Lee Summers will be there (you can kind of see a pile of his book sunder Waffles kitty), Connie Willis (loved her book Blackout), George R. R. Martin (yes, I finally read the first 2 books in the series A Song of Ice & Fire), Diana Gabaldon (recently reread her book Outlander, and it was every bit as good as the first time almost 2 decades ago). I just finished The Dragon’s Path by Daniel Abraham two nights ago and am very excited to know he will be at the con. Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck wrote Leviathan Wakes under the pen name James S. A. Corey. I am just about halfway through Leviathan Wakes and loving that too. One of my man’s favorite writers, Walter Jon Williams, will be attending along with S. M. Stirling. Let’s see, who else…. Ian Tregillis, Sam Sykes, John Maddox Roberts and many more.

Cats. I will not be taking the cats.
Cats. I will not be taking the cats.

I attended one day last year (instead of the entire weekend) and saw a few costumes walking around. Since I have a room at the hotel hosting the con, I will be able to stay for the costume contest this year, hooray! There’s also tons of great panels and single author sessions scheduled. I plan to take my camera and my kindle – people like to sign kindles. I will probably take my knitting just in case there is a false fire alarm and we are all stuck in the parking lot. Speaking of the parking lot – right across it is Buca di Beppo, one of my favorite Italian restaurants. Yes, I will be eating good that weekend.