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

posted in: personal news 1

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.

Neptune Crossing Completes the Set!

Neptune Crossing - paperback

With this brand-new print edition of Neptune Crossing, the complete set of The Chaos Chronicles (to date) is available in matched format and design. The previous edition was in a 6×9 inch trim size, while for the rest of the series, I chose 5.5×8.5 inch trim. I chose the smaller size because it feels better to hold in the hand (according to my crack test team), is easier to slip into a bag or backpack, and (I felt) looks a little more professional.

Choosing a trim size is a trade-off, because the cost of printing is based on the number of pages, not on the size of the pages. So a smaller trim size means more pages, and therefore higher cost to print, and naturally, higher sticker price. But the difference was only a dollar or two per book, and I decided it was worth it.

But that’s not the only change. The interior is completely reset, using a font called Merriweather for the main text, which I first used with The Reefs of Time. I find it attractive and readable, and also fairly compact, which helps to minimize the page count in my long tales.

On top of that, my crack cover designer, Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff, redid the titles and byline with a beveled look suggestive of embossed designs, used by most publishers on books they really want to sell. And I’ll admit it! I really want the books to sell! (But you knew that, right?)

Anyway, I’m pleased, and I hope you are, too. I’ve been noodling over the question of how I might sell autographed complete sets online, which I would like to do. (Without the administrative headache of sales tax across different states, etc.) Anyone out there have a good idea?

Neptune Crossing in paperback: Amazon | Barnes&Noble

 

Patching Concrete: My Favorite Thing!

Not. My basement wall is happier now, but I’m tired. It all started years ago with parts of our basement being a little on the damp side, which we’d been ignoring because there was so much stuff in our basement, we couldn’t even see the dampish parts.

That changed when Allysen’s mom had to move to a place with a higher level of care than us, and we faced emptying the first floor apartment of our two-family house, so our daughter Lexi and her husband Connor could move in for a while. Where was all that furniture, art, books, etc., going to go? Down to the basement, where else? In a way, it’s Allysen’s mom’s fault, for having high standards in art and furniture pieces acquired in a lifetime spent living around the world. Pieces valuable not for their dollar value, but for the cultural meaning and the artistry of craftsmen from Latin America, Southeast Asia, and elsewhere. Stuff you want to keep or at least find a good home for.

Cue the demolition squad, to get rid of our accumulated crap, and even some good things we just didn’t need anymore. We had an amazing giveaway assortment in front of our house for the last week, and a lot of items found new homes. Those that didn’t left the hard way—ceerrrunch!—in the trash truck. Some good electrical appliances left that way, sadly, thanks to the vandal who came along and cut off the cords on everything we put out that had a cord. Why?

Time for more shelves! Ever more shelves! But wait—what about those water-stained cracks where the floor meets the foundation? And the crumbling mortar? And—oh look, we’re having unusual torrents of rain this evening—and is that water running into the corner? Yikes!

Cue the chisel, Quikrete, and trowel. Follow up with sore knees, aching back, and giant blister on big toe from crouching for hours in bad shoes. Finish with an adjustment to the downspout outside, in hopes of redirecting the next big downpour.

I’m starting to feel as if I’m putting myself in the running to be Heinlein’s “competent man.” Not on purpose!

Now, about those shelves….

Mercury and Venus Dance in the Evening Sky

posted in: astronomy 1

Remember when Venus was a planet of lush jungles and radiant oceans, and Mercury was a tidally locked world of extremes, its dayside treacherous with molten-metal pools and its nightside a frigid locker of exotic ices? And who knew what sorts of intelligent lifeforms existed to pose a communications challenge?

Such were the imagined worlds during the Golden Era of science fiction, the stories written in the 40s and 50s and early 60s, the stories I imprinted on as an avid young reader. Those visions may have been shattered by the real worlds discovered by space probes of the late Twentieth Century. But my mind was full of those images over the last couple of evenings as I peered through my binoculars at Venus and Mercury—seemingly close enough to reach out and tango—in the western twilight sky.

Oh, to have those Golden-era worlds back. The possibilities!

I tried to take a picture with my phone camera, but it was hopeless. Here are two NASA images, Mercury on the left and Venus on the right (not to scale). These are the worlds I saw, though the vision I saw was quite different!

Mercury and Venus - NASA galleries

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