I 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.
Before 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.
I 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.
No, I am not 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.
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.
As some of you may know, my years as a homeschool teacher are coming to a close. My youngest daughter graduates at the end of May, and then… Well, then one of my other daughters gets married in June, so that will be busy, but then… Daylight? More time to write? Is it really possible to have more time available in my schedule?
I’ve gotten so used to having less and less time over the last few decades, it is hard to believe that such a thing is possible. I imagine that it might be like a prisoner scheduled for release after a twenty-five year sentence. There is something surreal about it. Not that I am trying to directly compare responsibilities as a father and teacher to being in prison. It is just that for decades I have, one by one, had to kill off most of my hobbies and personal interests. I fear that something will come along, laughing, “Ah, stupid boy, don’t you know that fate forbids such things. Enjoy the following unexpected screwing!”
Well, anyway, I can at least hope.
In the meantime, I have posted a couple of Scide Splitters since my last post here. The first was a combination appreciation and short story review for Ed Bryant: Scide Splitters: Bean Bag Cats & Bad German by Ed Bryant. The second, posted today, is a review of a humorous SF anthology: Scide Splitters: Little Green Men—Attack! – edited by Robin Wayne Bailey & Bryan Thomas Schmidt.
I promised to report on my Worldcon experience “next week” a month ago. Better late than never. But first, some writing news…
I sold a story titled “Time and Not Space” to Galaxy’s Edge Magazine. It will appear in the November issue. I will post a reminder and a link when the time comes. Scide Splitters columns continue with the latest being a review of Unidentified Funny Objects 5.
I’ve been wanting to go to a Worldcon for decades, but time and money have held me back until this year – that and not realizing what I have been missing. Prior to my experience at MidAmeriConII (that is the name of the 2016 Worldcon held in Kansas City last month), I was concerned that I would be disappointed for two reasons, hype and being an outsider.
The hype concern was due to my having built up decades of anticipation based on all the wonderful stories I have heard about Worldcons past. How could the real thing live up to the myth fostered in my mind? The other concern was based on my feeling like something of an alien to my own species. Yes, I understand that this is not an uncommon feeling among science fiction fans. We are outcasts. Even so, I suspected that the SF community would be yet another group where I would not fit in.
I was wrong on both counts. Worldcon lived up to the hype and I found many kindred spirits.
First, the people, because without them, there is no Worldcon. The majority of them were friendly and welcoming. Not that this is unique to SF fandom, but it is a prerequisite to friendship. Beyond that, I can’t easily explain why I connected so well with so many at the convention. It was more than just a common interest in science fiction. Sometimes people connect. It is a complex thing and I won’t try to analyze it here.
It may have helped that I smoke. Smokers are the outcasts of outcasts, forced to congregate out of necessity. It’s kind of like being stuck on an elevator together. Eventually you will talk to each other, and having nicotine to calm the internal fires, smokers tend to be a friendly bunch when getting their fix. There is something at Worldcon called BarCon. People congregate and get to know each other over drinks. I will call the smoker’s version AshtrayCon. I don’t know if the word, or something of similar meaning, exists in the lexicon of fandom, but it should. And when you put BarCon and AshtrayCon together, all the better.
As for other activities, WorldCon has so many appealing things going on at any given time, that you have to set priorities. I ended up trying to evenly divide my time between my various interests as a writer, a reader, a fan, and a lover of science. I partook in panels, presentations, kaffeeklatsches, literary beers, book signings, award ceremonies, and wandering the exhibit hall. But it was always the people that made these events worthwhile.