A Little Something for the Fanbots

A good sized portion of my visitors here are bots from China and elsewhere, or at least it seems that way to me. And how do I repay them for the loyalty they show this site on a daily basis? By starving them for content. Ungrateful cur that I am, I haven’t posted an update here in over a year. All kidding aside, I do apologize for the lack of updates. Although outnumbered by bots and unfortunates misdirected here by search engines, some of you actually want to know what is going on and when you can read more of my stories.

I’ve spent much of the past year trying to write a novel, a battle royal between my inner demons and angels for control over the direction of the book. At times, it has felt like a battle for the direction of my soul. All the while, I’ve been distracted with one (and often two) eyes on the insanity of the world outside my window.

Actually, I don’t have any windows in my writing office, which happens to be an old fallout shelter in the basement. Yet the world gets in anyway. The fallout shelter offers me as much shielding as it would have to occupants during the cold war, which is to say none. Colorado Springs is bordered by military installations to the north, south, east and west. Residents needn’t have worried about fallout; they were not going to survive that long.

But I digress. I owe you an update. The novel is still in progress. I hope to have it in the hands of beta readers at the beginning of the year. Currently unpublished short stories continue to look for homes. Convention appearances have all been cancelled due to COVID (including COSine which will not return until 2022), and I am not inclined to participate in online digital conventions. There you have it.


As previously mentioned, I am dedicating a large portion of this year to writing a novel.  I was having trouble with just how dark my story had become and was trying to figure out what to do about it.  But somehow I had gotten lost in self-importance.  I was thinking about how this book might influence people; make them aware of the insanity pummeling our civilization.  I was thinking that perhaps my novel might help change the course of the insanity.

Then I looked in a dark place – doubt.  I asked myself if that was realistic.  Why did I think this book would make any difference?  There are plenty of important books that people have read and yet they still go on behaving badly.  It was similar to the realization I had when I resigned my council seat and dropped out of politics (long ago).

For a few seconds I stood at the edge of the abyss, thinking about how depressing this thought was and where it might take me.  Why write at all? I asked.

Then, SMACK, it occurred to me that I had forgotten my purpose, the reason why I write.  It was comically stupid for me to get so lost when my purpose was clearly stated at the top of my own website: “Writer of humorous science fiction – Because laughter is pain relief for the soul.”

I write to help people laugh.  To help them live through the madness.  Not to delude myself into thinking that I can stop the madness.

And then what I needed to do for the novel became clear.

Excuse my momentary euphoria.

Convention Updates:  Since I neglect posting updates, both as a habit and now with the excuse of playing hermit novelist this year, here are some updates.

I will be attending the Jack Williamson Lectureship in Portales, NM, April 4-5.  This will be my first trip to the Lectureship.  I am told it has an intimate atmosphere.  If I don’t procrastinate too long, I might report back on my experience.

Speaking of procrastinated reports. Cosine 2019 (SF convention held each January in Colorado Springs) was wonderful, as always.  Unfortunately, this was the last Cosine.  Some of the volunteers are no longer able to continue.  My thanks to them for all their hard work over the years.  Cosine has always been special, but this time there was something palpable in the air.  Something extra.  Like the parting of old friends, or the last night of a long-running play in which we were all actors.  My hope is that new volunteers are able to step in and bring Cosine back at some point.

A sConnies gift of the gabnowstorm north of the city led many panelists and attendees on arduous, white-knuckled drives over Monument Pass.  For a personal account of that journey, you can read “Over the River and Through the Snowstorm: Going to a January Science Fiction Convention” a Facebook post by Connie Willis.

Daves motormouthMy first panel on Friday was scheduled to have six panelists, but the snow delayed four, leaving Connie and I to discuss the topic of time travel.  Fortunately, there were no moments of awkward silence since both of us have the gift of the gab, or more accurately, Connie has the gift, and I am more of a motormouth.  The second picture shows Connie wondering when I will shut up. (photos courtesy of Morland Gonsoulin)

On Saturday, the roads were clear and I was on four lively panels.  During the first, “Writing for the Video Game Generation,” I had the role of the older person who doesn’t play many video games and has a hard time relating.  The second panel discussed “Classic SF as Proto-Steampunk Literature.”  We SF fans and writers really know how to stretch genre definitions.  During the third panel, we pondered the question “Is Elon Musk “The Man Who Sold the Moon”?”  Many of us are hoping so.  The last panel, “Revisiting the Drake Equation,” proved enlightening and featured our science guest, the astronomer/writer Mike Brotherton.  Cosine’s Guest of Honor was the talented, Hugo-nominated, author Carrie Vaughn.  Small world.  Carrie and I used to work together at a bookstore back in the 1990s.

So, good-bye to Cosine, my favorite convention for spending time with old and new friends.

COSine 2019 and Beyond

cosinebanner2019I will be on the following panels at COSine 2019 in Colorado Springs this weekend (January 18-20):

Fri 3-4pm: Must Time Travel Change History?
Sat 10-11am: Writing for the video game generation
Sat noon-1pm: Swords and Rayguns: Classic SF as Proto-Steampunk Literature
Sat 2-3pm: Is Elon Musk “The Man Who Sold the Moon”?
Sat 4-5pm: Revisiting the Drake Equation

I will also be at the author reception/signing from 5:30-7:00pm Saturday evening.  And then at the annual writers gathering at Storybook Brewing Saturday night.

…and Beyond.  This could be the last COSine.  Rumor has it (actually not a rumor) that this is the end of the line for my favorite little SF convention.  There will be no COSine 2020, but I have hopes that COSine will rise again, as it did the last time this happened.

As for my 2019 plans, I’ll be working on a novel for the next six or seven months.  In the meantime, a short story or two may surface as the ones that are complete find homes.



Can It Get Any Worse?

If you are alive and able to ask that question, the answer is almost invariably yes.  Yes it can.  And so it has.

I am not fool enough to dismiss the good that has come my way in favor of only recognizing the misfortunes.  For instance, the birth of my first grandchild, a precious baby girl, is not to be overlooked.  But on the whole, 2018 brings to mind Robert Burns’ famous poem “To a Mouse.”  My best laid plans for the year have gone askew.

From the lens of last December, this year sparkled with all the potential that hope could imbue.  Even starting the year with the worst flu of my life did not diminish my expectations.  But here we are in October.  Events that I will not detail slowly drained the potential from the year.  Not nearly enough writing was accomplished, and even less publication (zero).  In August I was forced to cancel my plans to attend Worldcon 76.  And now, another convention that I had my heart set on, MileHiCon 50, may be slipping away due to the onset of shingles.

But, while 2018 has been something of a train wreck, don’t count me out.  I’m not.  Despair be damned.  I’ll be back at it as soon as I stop feeling like crap.

Flotsam of 2017

It has been over two months since I’ve posted anything here, so I suppose I ought to collect all the detritus that has been jostling about the shores of procrastination.  Call it a year end post, if you like, but mostly it is just an overdue post, filled with the things I should have told you during the preceding two months.

I will start with the recent news that my story “Spooky Action” made the Tangent Online 2017 Recommended Reading List.  It not only made the list, but received the list’s highest distinction as a three star recommendation.  I am the sort of writer who alternates between seeing my literary babies as adorable one day, and abominations that should be locked away in a closet the next.  So this sort of recognition helps.

Third Flatiron, publishers of the Cat’s Breakfast anthology, has produced a podcast of “Spooky Action” that you can listen to here.  You will also find a Q&A in which I discuss the genesis of the story, among other things.

“Toasterpocalypse” was published in November in Edward Bryant’s Sphere of Influence.  There appears to be two different print versions of this anthology available, 0974161977 & 0974161985.  I honestly don’t know the difference between the two other than that they are sometimes priced differently.  If you are looking to buy a copy, I suggest checking both to see which offers the better price at the time.  There is also a digital edition.

As for 2018, expect more frequent story announcements.  I have decided to dedicate myself to writing fiction this year.  This means that some other endeavors (like Scide Splitters & Retro Hugo reviews) will have to sit this one out.  It is high time I got serious about my writing and I hope the added focus will yield a very fruitful year.

Reading at MileHiCon

MileHiCon49I will be reading from my latest story, “Toasterpocalypse,” at MileHiCon 49 this Saturday night at 11pm (Oct. 28th).  Why so late?  To honor Ed Bryant’s propensity for conducting late night readings at MileHiCons of yore.  The story will be published in Edward Bryant’s Sphere Of Influence, due out in November.  The anthology is comprised of stories critiqued by Ed Bryant during his decades of running writer’s workshops.  Other authors appearing in the volume include: Connie Willis, Steve Rasnic Tem, Kevin J. Anderson, Bruce Holland Rogers, and more.  A portion of the proceeds will go to charity.  So, come on up to the 12th floor at 11pm Saturday night to meet the authors, listen to readings, and discuss the legacy of Ed Bryant.

Whom the Gods Would Make Mad They First Misspell

MakeMadBefore I Indulge your curiosity about the subject alluded to in the post title, I want to give you an update on some writing related goings-on.  One of my stories, “Toasterpocalypse,” will be coming out next month in an anthology tentatively titled Children of Edward Bryant.  If you don’t know anything about Ed, you can check out his Wikipedia page.  The publisher is trying to have the book ready ahead of schedule for MileHiCon 49 at the end of October (Ed had been Toast Master for MileHiCon more than a dozen times, in addition to being Guest of Honor twice).  Regardless of whether or not it will be ready, many of the authors involved will be doing readings from the anthology, myself included.

My summer hiatus from Amazing Stories is over.  Scide Splitters returns with a review of Unidentified Funny Objects 6.  In my estimation, this is the best volume in the series so far.

Now back to the heading subject, because the title no doubt has you on the edge of your seat.  It is a thrilling tale of bureaucracy and misspelling!  How can you resist?

Upon publication of Cat’s Breakfast, the Vonnegut tribute anthology with my story “Spooky Action,” I noticed that the Amazon.com page for the Kindle version had my name misspelled with an extra L, resulting in Killman, thereby preventing the listing from linking with my author page at Amazon.  A simple enough problem, or so one would think.  I contacted Amazon customer service to explain the situation.

They responded that the problem would be taken care of and that I should give the correction a day or two to manifest.  It did not.  I contacted them again and was told that the issue was being transferred to Author Central.  Now we are getting somewhere, I thought.  Surely with a name like Author Central, a misspelling would be a mere trifle.  They promptly informed me that there was nothing they could do about it.

Surprised by this unexpected result, I wrote back thinking that additional evidence might help my cause.  I explained that the trade paper listing for the same book had my name correctly spelled.  And if they cared for further proof of my claim, so as not to fall victim to whatever devious plot they feared that I might have planned, they could use the Look Inside feature to see that Kilman was indeed the spelling in all instances inside the book.

This attempt did at least yield a clue as to why they would not fix the mistake.  Only the publisher, they said, has the authorization to make such corrections.  It sounded sensible enough, though I wondered why it had taken them three responses to impart this wisdom.

I emailed Juli Rew, the editor/publisher, only to learn that she had already made multiple attempts at a correction resulting in no more success than I had.  From Juli I learned more about the nature of the quagmire that had ensnared my story and my name.

As a matter of policy, software limitations, or what-have-you, publishers are limited to ten contributing authors when they create a book listing at Amazon. Additional author listings can be achieved through contacting customer service, which Juli had done when the listing was created. But somewhere in that process, the extra L was entered, and there it remained. The reason Juli could not fix it was because she only had access to the first ten names. So the issue went round and round with customer service claiming to be powerless to do anything and repeatedly suggesting that the publisher make the fix.

Finally, I decided to write a long and detailed explanation of the nature of this bureaucratic black hole, so that the problem could be understood and escalated to someone of sufficient authority to remove one L from my name. I was not sure how high up Mount Olympus this would have to go to reach god-like powers necessary for correcting a spelling error, but I was sure such nearly omnipotent beings must exist.

I received a response from a demigod, or maybe it was a supervisor, who said that I had indeed identified the exact nature of this catch-22 and that it was clear that I was entirely correct. The extra L was no doubt in error—but I would have to contact the publisher and have her explain this all over again to customer service.

Remembering the words of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, I decided to retain my sanity and drop the matter.  Eventually, however, Juli managed, through persistence and perhaps some sacrifice of her mental stability, to succeed in getting the correction.  Thanks, Juli.

And Having Read . . .

Cats BreakfastI have been digesting the other twenty-nine stories in Cat’s Breakfast, one each day for the past month or so.  There was no point in rushing through them since I can’t review the anthology at Amazing Stories due to the obvious conflict of interest (I wrote the lead story in the collection).  Suffice to say that it is the sort of book that I would have featured as a Scide Splitter.

Had I reviewed Cat’s Breakfast, I would have pointed out how wonderful the first story is, thus causing the editor at Amazing to spit out his coffee and ban the article entirely.  My summation would have stated that the anthology is filled with dark satires befitting a tribute to Kurt Vonnegut, many of which elicit a good laugh.  I would have also mentioned that my favorite stories included Christopher Mark Rose’s “Emerging Grammars,” Gregg Chamberlain’s “The Pigeon Drop” and James Beamon’s “Command Decision.”  But I am not going to tell you any of those things because it would be inappropriate.


“Spooky Action” Published

No, I am Cats Breakfastnot writing horror.  This is quantum mechanics.  A physics professor accidentally contacts God while conducting experiments in quantum entanglement.  “Spooky Action” is the lead story in Cat’s Breakfast, the Kurt Vonnegut tribute anthology released yesterday by Third Flatiron Publishing.  It is available in digital format through Amazon, with the trade paper edition due out in the next few days.

I have not received my copy yet, so I can’t honestly vouch for the rest of the stories.  Never-the-less, I have high hopes for this anthology.  How often do you get a chance to read a professional-level selection of dark humor?  (Not often enough is the answer, in case you were unsure.)  And if there is one thing we need in our current social/political climate, it is a dose of satire.  So, bring on the gallows humor.

Another Story Sold

I sold another short story, this time to Third Flatiron Publishing for their forthcoming Kurt Vonnegut tribute anthology, Cat’s Breakfast.  It was also chosen as the lead for the book.  That honor comes with a podcasting of the story as part of the promotion for the anthology.  The book is scheduled to be released in June.

Regular readers of my Scide Splitters blog at Amazing Stories will have noticed that there was no April Scide Splitters.  This is because I am taking a hiatus until September.  My apologies for leaving you without humor reading recommendations for the summer, but other obligations take precedence.  If you can’t wait that long for your humor fix, post a request here in the comments or through the Contact form and I will recommend something (sans lengthy review).  If you include a short list of what you have enjoyed reading, I can better target my suggestions.  And of course, you could pick up a copy of Cat’s Breakfast if your tastes tend toward the dark, Vonnegutesque side.  I hear they have one hell of a lead story.