Worldcon and a Story

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.


Worldcon Hangover

Worldcon was a blast, which means my brain is mush right now.  I’m going to have to postpone my recap until after my fantasy football draft this weekend (yeah, I know, brain mush part two).  Hello to all the new friends I made at Worldcon.  Check back next week for my thoughts on the Retro Hugos, con events and late night activities vaguely remembered.

Voting the Retro Hugos

Retro HugoIn the November, December and January editions of Scide Splitters, I reviewed humorous stories eligible for the 1941 Retro Hugo short categories (novella, novelette & short story).  I followed this up with a list of “25 Stories Worth Reading Before Making Retro Hugo Nominations” (the list included humor and non-humor stories).  Now that we are into the final phase of voting (the deadline for casting ballots is July 31st), here are my thoughts on the official nominees as I work on filling out my ballot.

First, let me throw out a few statistics.  10 of my 25 “Worth Reading” were humor.  Only two of those made the final ballot.  However, 11 of the final 15 nominees were on my list of 25 recommended reads.  So, on the whole, I would say the nominees are a fairly worthy bunch.  I’m just a little disappointed (though not surprised) that more humor didn’t make the cut.

Novellas – Heinlein vs. de Camp & Pratt.  The only nominee not to make my recommended list was Heinlein’s “Magic, Inc.” so it should be no shock that it ends up at the bottom of my ballot.  I was a little surprised not to see “Darker Than You Think” by Jack Williamson make it.  The reason it did not is largely due to some people mistakenly promoting it as a novelette.  So it was initially announced as a novelette finalist before award administrators realized it was ineligible due to length.

The hard decision for me here is picking between “The Roaring Trumpet” and “If This Goes On…”  I call it a tie, but since I can only give one the top spot, I defer to the old axiom, “When in doubt, laugh.” “The Roaring Trumpet” marked the beginning of the Incomplete Enchanter series.  It is filled with adventure, Norse gods and laughs.  What more could you want?

  1. “The Roaring Trumpet” by L. Sprague de Camp and Fletcher Pratt
  2. “If This Goes On…” by Robert A. Heinlein
  3. “The Mathematics of Magic” by L. Sprague de Camp and Fletcher Pratt
  4. “Coventry” by Robert A. Heinlein
  5. “Magic, Inc.” by Robert A. Heinlein

My nominations that failed to make the cut: “Darker Than You Think” by Jack Williamson & “The Indigestible Triton” by L. Ron Hubbard

Novelettes – All five finalists were on my recommended list, though my favorite (“The Hardwood Pile” by L. Sprague de Camp) failed to garner a nomination.  I knew it was a long shot given the worthy competition.

My top four here are all close together.  But ultimately, 1940 was Heinlein’s year, and it is possible that he could sweep all three short Retro categories.  It was his breakout year as a writer.  He was the Guest of Honor at the 1941 WorldCon in Denver.  He was born in Missouri and later lived in Colorado.  All the stars seem to be in alignment.  And while I more-or-less coin tossed him into second place in the novella category, I won’t do that here.

“Vault of the Beast” is the replacement for “Darker Than You Think” and while it is a solid story and created quite a buzz at the time of publication, it finishes a distant fifth.  “Farewell to the Master” is the classic that became the movie The Day the Earth Stood Still.  Damn good, but just short of Heinlein’s narrative powers.  “It!” is exceptionally well written, but I am not much of a horror fan.  If this were the Retro Stokers, I would have to give it the nod.

  1. “Blowups Happen” by Robert A. Heinlein
  2. “The Roads Must Roll” by Robert A. Heinlein
  3. “Farewell to the Master” by Harry Bates
  4. “It!” by Theodore Sturgeon
  5. “Vault of the Beast” by A. E. Van Vogt

My nominations that failed to make the cut: “The Hardwood Pile” by L. Sprague de Camp & “The Voyage That Lasted 600 Years” by Don Wilcox.

Short Stories – The class of this group, at least for me, is “Requiem.”  Maybe younger generations don’t get it, but this story perfectly expressed the yearning for space that I grew up with and that I continue to carry to this day.

“Strange Playfellow,” or “Robbie” as it was later renamed, was the first of Asimov’s robot stories, and a very good one at that.  In many other years, this would be my first choice.  Of the two Brackett stories, “The Stellar Legion” is by far the best.  “Martian Quest” is comparatively amateurish.  Borges’ “Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius” is good but uneventful.

  1. “Requiem” by Robert A. Heinlein
  2. “Robbie” by Isaac Asimov
  3. “The Stellar Legion” by Leigh Brackett
  4. “Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius” by Jorge Luis Borges
  5. No Award
  6. “Martian Quest” by Leigh Brackett

My nominations that failed to make the cut: “Revolt of the Ants” by Milton Kaletsky & “Quietus” by Ross Rocklynne & “The Gods Gil Made” by Ross Rocklynne.

One more stat for you – 12 of 15 nominees in the short categories were edited by John W. Campbell.  Ergo Best Editor ‐ Short Form = John W. Campbell.

Happy Towel Day!

In the confluence of coincidental numbers, it has been 14 years since The Salmon of Doubt was published.  That means that I had been waiting 14 years to read it (I had this thing about saving the last Douglas Adams book for fear of having no more new Douglas Adams to read).  I had also waited 14 years from the publication of the second Dirk Gently book (The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul in 1998) to the publication of The Salmon of Doubt in 2002.  14 x 3 = 42.  And my next Scide Splitters review was due to appear on May 25th, a.k.a. Towel Day.  So I took the hint and reviewed The Salmon of Doubt for my May Scide Splitters.

But if that is not enough to stir Dirk Gently’s sense of the interconnectedness of all things, while I was writing my review yesterday, my water heater stopped working.  So what, you ask?  Well, three years ago, when I wrote my only other Towel Day post (so far) for Amazing Stories, my water heater broke, resulting in the following semi-true story, The Ghost of Towel Day Yet to Come: A True Story (sort of).

Believe or don’t believe, as you see fit, or get yourself an electric monk to believe for you.  As for me, I must go figure out why my cat is missing.  I suspect that either the cat was involved in a strange quantum event or maybe I don’t own a cat.  It is one of those, I am sure, and I should have this solved by the end of the day.

Happy Towel Day!

Northern Colorado Writers Workshop & April Scide Splitters

writingI am excited to announce that I have been accepted into the Northern Colorado Writers Workshop.  This is an ongoing writer’s group that I hope will help me hone my writing skills.  To quote Wikipedia, “The Northern Colorado Writers Workshop is an invitation-only, non-profit writing workshop founded in 1972 by Edward Bryant. The writing genres of its members include mainly science fiction, fantasy, horror, and mystery. Membership in the workshop is generally limited to professional and near-professional writers, and includes a number of Hugo, Nebula, Bram Stoker, International Horror Guild, and World Fantasy Award winners.

I shouldn’t drop names, but what the hell – also from Wikipedia, “…has produced a number of notable writers, including Steve Rasnic Tem, Melanie Tem, John Dunning, Wil McCarthy, Bruce Holland Rogers, Dan Simmons, and Connie Willis.”

Did I mention that I am excited!

And on the Scide Splitters front, this month I review Fredric Brown’s classic, Martians, Go Home.  Very funny stuff, but avoid the movie adaptation like the plague.

Retro Hugos & March Scide Splitters

Scide Splitters Mar 2016 Image 1bHugo and Retro Hugo nominations close tonight, so if you have been procrastinating your vote, time is running out.  If you need a reminder list of some fantastic short stories eligible for the Retro Hugos, check out this list.

March has another Scide Splitters (in case you are wondering how that works, I am on a four week schedule at Amazing Stories).  This time I look at Ben Bova’s The Starcrossed.  The story is loosely based on Bova’s real experience as technical advisor for The Starlost, a 1973 television show that demonstrated nearly all the pitfalls that can sink a promising SF television series.


Where Is William Tenn When We Need Him

Scide Splitters Mar 2016 Image 1William Tenn was perhaps science fiction’s best short form political satirist.  And although he is no longer with us, his stories can still be instructive today as we try to maintain our sanity during this political season.  Scide Splitters takes a look at “Brooklyn Project,” Tenn’s outstanding political satire highlighting the folly of disregarding civil liberties for the sake of security.

25 Stories Worth Reading Before Making Retro Hugo Nominations

MidAmeriCon II has announced that nominations are now open for the Hugos and Retro Hugos. While I can’t help you much on the Hugos, I did spend the later portion of 2015 immersed in reading short fiction eligible for the 1941 Retro Hugos (stories first publishing in 1940). Part of my purpose was to identify all the humorous stories so that I could review them on my Scide Splitters blog at Amazing Stories Magazine. Those reviews can be found via the links below (be aware that they contain story summaries heavy with spoilers):

Scide Splitters: 1941 Retro Hugo Eligible Novellas

Scide Splitters: 1941 Retro Hugo Eligible Novelettes

Scide Splitters: 1941 Retro Hugo Eligible Short Stories

My other purpose was to get ready for casting my nomination ballot. After reading so many stories that I started Retro dreaming, I came up with a list of top contenders for my ballot. Granted, tastes will vary, and I would certainly like to hear other suggestions if you care to take the time to comment (I read hundreds of stories, but there are sure to be some gems that escaped my notice). These are in alpha order by category and the ones reviewed at Amazing Stories are marked (*humor):


“Coventry” by Robert A. Heinlein

“Darker Than You Think” by Jack Williamson [not to be confused with the expanded novel]

”If This Goes On…” by Robert A. Heinlein   [most versions you will find are of the expanded novel]

”The Indigestible Triton” by L. Ron Hubbard (*humor)

“The Mathematics of Magic” by L. Sprague de Camp and Fletcher Pratt (*humor) [the version in The Incomplete Enchanter is reasonably close to the original]

”The Roaring Trumpet” by L. Sprague de Camp and Fletcher Pratt (*humor) [the version in The Incomplete Enchanter is reasonably close to the original]


“All Is Illusion” by Henry Kuttner & C. L. Moore (*humor)

”Blowups Happen” by Robert A. Heinlein

“Butyl and the Breather” by Theodore Sturgeon (*humor)

“The Exhalted” by L. Sprague de Camp (*humor)

”Farewell to the Master” by Harry Bates

”The Hardwood Pile” by L. Sprague de Camp (*humor)

“It” by Theodore Sturgeon

“The Roads Must Roll” by Robert A. Heinlein

“Vault of the Beast” by A. E. van Vogt

“The Voyage That Lasted 600 Years” by Don Wilcox

Short Stories:

“Are You There?” by Mona Farnsworth (*humor)

“The Bleak Shore” by Fritz Leiber

“The Chaser” by John Collier

“The Gods Gil Made” by Ross Rocklynne (*humor)

“Quietus” by Ross Rocklynne

”Requiem” by Robert A. Heinlein

”Revolt of the Ants” by Milton Kaletsky (*humor) [can be read for free in the von Dimpleheimer anthologies mentioned below]

”Strange Playfellow” by Isaac Asimov [aka “Robbie,” though the version in I, Robot is modified]

“When It Was Moonlight” by Manly Wade Wellman

Some of these will be hard to find, but seven of them are in Asimov and Greenberg’s The Great Science Fiction Stories Volume 2, 1940 (included in the omnibus Isaac Asimov Presents The Golden Years of Science Fiction). All of the Heinlein (except the shorter version of ”If This Goes On…”) can be found The Past Through Tomorrow. And although only one of the above stories is included, you can read well over 100 eligible public domain stories in ebook anthologies assembled by a fan named von Dimpleheimer (you can download these through links at File770).

Nominations do not close until March 31st. But be aware that if you aren’t registered by Sunday (January 31st), you will not be able to make nominations. Please do recommend additional stories in the comments field.

Of Shoes and Ships and Sealing-Wax, of Cabbages and Cons

Last weekend I attended COSine, a cozy science fiction convention held annually in Colorado Springs.  The guest of honor was Jim Butcher, the affable author of the Dresden Files.  Other authors in attendance included Connie Willis, Wil McCarthy, John Stith, Sarah Hoyt, Cynthia Felice and dozens more.  COSine offers an intimate con experience with a variety of activities.  I availed myself of a dozen or so panels and even joined in on a bit of filking (those who know me well will know how much of a shock that is).

After the convention, it was time to make plans for the main event – Worldcon.  I made the mistake of booking my hotel three hours after bookings opened and missed out on the cheapest, or should I say most economical, rooms.  Maybe I will be able to find a roommate to share the cost.  In any case, I will be at MidAmeriCon II in Kansas City this August (that’s the Worldcon) and hope to meet some of the people whom I have only conversed with across the internet.

With my registration and hotel room for MidAmeriCon all set, the next step will be to make nominations for the Hugo and Retro Hugo Awards (to be handed out at the convention).    I will post more about the Hugos and Retro Hugos tomorrow.  If it is not obvious enough, this is a new website and I have a ways to go in setting it up (compounded by a learning curve in figuring out how all this works).