CoNZealand: 78th World Science Fiction Convention

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ConZealand banner

Here we are, in beautiful New Zealand for worldcon! Except, of course, we’re not really, because coronavirus. We’re sitting in our dining room in front of our computers. Virtually, though, we are here! Havin’ a good time—especially when we can navigate the befuddlingly complicated login procedure to get where we’re going. (The price, I guess of running a con on multiple virtual platforms.) We’re learning a new app: Discord. We’re also learning to radically convert time-zones. New Zealand time is 16 hours ahead of us, which means that most of the time, they’re already in tomorrow, while we’re still in today.

Today (my time) was the second day of programming, and I have already been on two of the three panels that I’m participating in, via Zoom. The first was “Staying Closer to Home: Science Fiction in the Solar System,” which I know a little bit about. Just enough to get me into trouble. It was a good panel! The second was “Writers on Writing: The Plot’s the Thing,” which was about, um, plot and character and motivation and story structure, and all that good stuff. It, too, was a good panel! I’ve got one more—on Saturday, America-time—called “Ghosts in the Ships: Sentient Ships in SF and Fantasy.” I hope that one will be good, too. And I’d better do a little research on the subject before showtime.

Wish you could all be here in New Zealand with us! (If you’re sitting at home on your computer, you’re already halfway there.)

Terrorist Furball

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McDuff, Jack, BillboardMeet Billboard the cat, not to be confused with Bill the Cat (though I often do). Billboard belongs to my daughter and her husband, who moved into our downstairs apartment a few weeks ago. His name comes from the fact that he was found, abandoned, under a billboard in South Korea, by Connor many years ago.

Billboard recently met our dogs. In short order, he struck terror into the heart of McDuff (at the top of the steps), and left Jack puzzled as to why this new resident hissed at him and hurt his feelings. Connor says that Bill loves to pick fights he can’t win, with animals who have no interest in fighting. He’s a good guy, though, and we love him.

Why, You Double-Dealing Little . . .

Oh, sorry—talking to myself. Bad habit. But it seems I’ve talked my way into an actual Double Deal. Audiobook and ebook!

Audiobook cover art - Neptune CrossingThe audiobook of Neptune Crossing, narrated by Stefan Rudnicki (think God gargling boulders), is on sale right now in multiple outlets! It’s $4.99 at Chirp, Downpour, Apple ($3.99 at Apple), Google, and Kobo—limited time only! It’s a great recording, and I doubt you’ll ever see it again for a price this low. Do you want to miss this? Of course not.

For you ebook readers, my omnibus volume The Chaos Chronicles: Books 1-3 will be going for the slasher price of $1.99! This is an international Bookbub special, and the email announcement will go out on Saturday. But keep an eye on those prices, because the way the logistics works is, you have to drop the prices a few days early. So you never know.

Summer reading, folks! These prices are good through the end of Worldcon.

Farewell, Book View Café! Hello, Treehouse and Faery Cat Press!

A few months ago, I withdrew from the writers’ coop Book View Café, in the midst of internal turmoil in the coop. I did so with great regret, because BVC had been a home and community and source of support for me for a number of years. I was the voice of Customer Support at the BVC bookstore, and VP of the organization. I began many friendships and working relationships there. (Most of those continue.)

Without going into detail, it was the kind of unrest that often occurs in volunteer-run organizations, where a lot of the work falls on a few, and people get burned out and frustrated and walk away. Disagreements in how things should run proved intractable, and the result was about half the members leaving. Many good people remain at BVC! I wish them all the success in the world. Do continue to check out their books!

Some of us who left formed another, much more informal group called Treehouse Writers, more to maintain social and professional connection than anything else. We are not trying to create a different BVC. We have a blog at https://treehousewriters.com.

About Faery Cat Press. One of my fellow Treehouse writers, Laura Anne Gilman, created Faery Cat Press as an umbrella group to pull in her own books and books of friends, partly as a way to purchase ISBN numbers at a group rate (they’re expensive, otherwise), but also to provide a more consolidated front where booksellers are concerned. For that reason, my newest releases now are listed (depending on where you look) as being from Faery Cat Press, or Starstream Publications in association with Faery Cat Press. But don’t go sending submissions to Faery Cat Press, because FCP lives in the aether, somewhere in the land of Faery! I can only go there in my head. For promotion and marketing purposes, I am and shall remain Starstream Publications.

 

Singin’ the Phone Queue Blues

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I have spent approximately half of my waking hours, for the last week, trying to get a brand new, but defective, clothes dryer replaced. It wouldn’t seem like it should be so hard. And yet…

Our downstairs apartment, recently vacated by Allysen’s mom and now inhabited by our daughter and her husband, needed a new dryer. We found just the right one at AJMadison.com, a compact GE Appliances model. It looks great! Just one problem: The drum smells like a skunk crawled inside and got hit by a car. The first (and only) test load of towels came out smelling like that same skunk. Not new plastic. Skunk. Angry skunk. Dead skunk.

When I contacted the dealer (after two hours in a phone queue), they stepped right up and said, “Hey, we’re really sorry! Let’s get you a new one, pronto.”

Hahahahaha! Of course they didn’t. No, they punted it to GE Appliances, who sent a tech. Who apparently didn’t have much of a sense of smell, because he said, “Smells like plastic to me.” And suggested I throw in some fragrance tablets to cover the smell.

Several long phone queues later…

Same technician came back. “Now I smell it!” he said. And made his own phone call (no queue for him), and got a replacement authorized. “You’ll hear from GE Consumer Relations [different from Customer Service] about getting a new dryer.”

Hahahahaha! Right. I called them and, after outlasting another phone queue was told, “Ah yes, your new dryer is authorized. Just one problem—we don’t have one in stock to send you.” But what about the dealer? Can’t you work with the dealer? They probably have some. “Sure,” says GE Appliances Consumer Relations, “we can do that. But we don’t see them in our system, so you need to call them and get their dealer account number, and call us back with it. Can do?” Yeah… sputter… right.

Phone queue…

A.J. Madison: “Yes, we have plenty of them in the warehouse, but we can’t send you one unless you call GE Appliances and ask them to email us an RMA. Then we’ll be right on it. Here’s our account number.”

Phone queue…

GE Appliances Consumer Relations: “Nothing in your case file here about an exchange. Who did you talk to, again?”

Consumer: “Aaaiieeeeee!”

GE Appliances Consumer Relations: “Please calm down, sir. We know just how you feel.” Do you? “Oh wait, I see here it says unrepairable. So, yes. We need you to reach out to the dealer and ask them to call our Customer Care department [not to be confused with Consumer Relations or Customer Service] to ask for an RMA. No, we can’t send the RMA. Only they can do that.”

Let’s cut this short, I cackle. I’ll call them myself.

Phone queue…

GE Appliances Customer Care: “We can’t talk to you. No no no. The dealer has to call us.”

#^^&#(! Phone queue…

A.J. Madison: “Oh very well, we can call them. But it’s 5:00 now, and everyone’s closed. We’ll call them first thing in the morning.”

And that’s where we stand. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from this, besides buy local, it’s that GE Appliances is not part of the General Electric company, aka G.E. No, the appliances division, name and all, was sold some years ago to the Haier group in China. Sort of like Craftsman and Sears. GE and GE Appliances are not the same. Know what you’re buying.

Yeah, right.

New Edition: Eternity’s End!

I’m pleased to let the world know that Eternity’s End is back in print—and by print, I mean treebook, paper! For this new edition, I have arranged for the use of the cover painting created by Stephen Youll for the original Tor hardcover and paperback. This time, it’s paired with great type design by Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff. It’s a big book, too—very hefty. I’m extremely pleased with the way this came out.

Eternity's End_print cover
Click image for a better look.

This cover design will very soon be applied to the ebook, as well.

I did the interior layout myself, using Vellum software, which I thought did a really snazzy job.

You can get it right now at Amazon and Barnes & Noble online. Soon, elsewhere.

Make America Smart Again!

That’s my Independence Day wish for 2020. Let’s restore sanity and civility to our great but struggling nation. Let’s wear masks and beat the virus before it beats us. Let’s root out racism. Let’s treat our friends like friends, and the Earth like it’s our home. Let’s stop cozying up to dictators and destroying families at our borders. Let’s end the national nightmare and Stop Being Stupid.

I wish I could distribute a million hats emblazoned with “Make America Smart Again.” And on the back it would say, “Make America Compassionate Again.”

In no particular order, here are just a few smart, compassionate Americans I wish were still with us:

Martin Luther King, Jr.
Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., activist
Sally Ride
Sally Ride, astronaut
Richard Feynman
Richard Feynman, scientist and thinker

Clarinetist Anthony McGill Takes Two Knees

Following the Boston Pops musicians-at-home tribute to COVID-19 first responders, I was blown away today by this solo performance at home by the New York Philharmonic’s principal clarinetist Anthony McGill, of “America the Beautiful”—beautifully and subtly re-tuned to convey Mr. McGill’s sorrow and anger at racial injustice. Watch and listen to it on a device with good sound; it’s worth it. McGill ends the piece with… well, I’ll let you watch and see.

McGill’s statement inspired this haunting and inspiring rendition of Sebelius’s Hymn from Finlandia, by music students and faculty from four different music schools, all taking two knees in protest of injustice.

The story appears on NPR’s Here and Now, with an interview by WBUR radio’s Robin Young. The interview is well worth a listen:

 

Zooming Through the Nebulas

Nebula Awards logo

I’ve been attending this year’s Nebula Conference this weekend—live, via Zoom. Were it not for the coronavirus, I would be attending it in Los Angeles. Instead, some hundreds of sf and fantasy writers are gathered from their homes all over the globe, attending interesting panels, chatting, attending a dance party hosted by John Scalzi, and—just a little while ago—watching on YouTube the awarding of the annual Nebula, Norton, and Bradbury Awards. It’s been surprisingly rewarding, and the technical folk of SFWA (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America), volunteers all, have done an amazing job of putting on a conference in virtual space! (I was surprised to see my own name in the credits at the end, as chair of rules committee. That’s true, but trust me, all the credit for running this show goes to others.)

Added bonus: We even gathered in the virtual grand ballroom to watch the hugely successful SpaceX Dragon launch, to thunderous applause. Panels continue tomorrow. Great conference, cheapest room rates ever.

Congratulations to all of the award-winners:

Novel
✬ A Song for a New Day, Sarah Pinsker (Berkley)

Novella
✬ This Is How You Lose the Time War, Amal El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone (Saga; Jo Fletcher)

Novelette
✬ Carpe Glitter, Cat Rambo (Meerkat)

Short Story
✬ “Give the Family My Love”, A.T. Greenblatt (Clarkesworld Magazine 2/19)

Ray Bradbury Nebula Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation
✬ Good Omens: “Hard Times”, Neil Gaiman (Amazon Studios/BBC Studios)

Andre Norton Nebula Award for Middle Grade and Young Adult Fiction
✬ Riverland, Fran Wilde (Amulet)

Best Game Writing
✬ The Outer Worlds, Leonard Boyarsky, Kate Dollarhyde, Paul Kirsch, Chris L’Etoile, Daniel McPhee, Carrie Patel, Nitai Poddar, Marc Soskin, Megan Starks (Obsidian Entertainment)

Additional awards and honors presented that evening included the SFWA Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award, presented to Lois McMaster Bujold, the Kate Wilhelm Solstice Award, presented to both John Picacio and David Gaughran, and the Kevin J. O’Donnell, Jr., Service to SFWA Award, presented to Julia Rios*.

*Before she became famous, Julia was one of our star students at the Ultimate SF Writing Workshop. Girl has gone places.

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