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Archive for April, 2019

Almost there (book sale)

Sorry, I haven’t quite finished shipping out books yet, since I came down with a bug of some sort over the past couple of days. But I felt somewhat better today, and I now finally have all the remaining books packed up and addressed, ready to be driven to the post office tomorrow. I feel bad about it taking so long for me to fill the orders, but we’re almost there at last.

To the person who ordered one of everything, you’ll be getting the Trek books and the original books in separate packages, since I couldn’t find a box the right size to fit all of them. So don’t worry if you don’t get them all at once.

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First Kickstarter goal met — FOOTPRINTS IN THE STARS still needs funding!

As of 11 AM on April 23, the first anthology in the eSpec Books Kickstarter, Defending the Future: In Harm’s Way, is now funded.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/e-specbooks/defending-the-future-in-harms-way?ref=card

But we still have nearly $1100 to go in order to fund Footprints in the Stars, the anthology containing my Troubleshooter story “The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of.” Luckily, there are still 26 days to go. It only took 4 days to get to 100% — let’s see how long it takes to get to 238%.

Books starting to ship!

I’m pleased to report that, now that I have my bills paid up and my life starting to settle down, I’ve finally begun mailing out the books that you guys bought from me last month. Sorry it took so long, but I’m finally catching up. Today I sent out more than half the orders; what remains are my overseas orders and the order for the guy who bought one of everything. Those will take a bit more work to get done, but hopefully I’ll get those out within the next day or two.

The Kickstarter for my next anthology is open!

We’re at it again, folks! eSpec Books has just opened a new Kickstarter for three anthologies, including Footprints in the Stars, which features my new Troubleshooter story “The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of.”

The first anthology being fundraised for is In Harm’s Way, Volume 8 of editor Mike McPhail’s military-SF anthology series Defending the Future, which has a focus on rescue and recovery missions (an idea I think is pretty cool), and contains stories by Brenda Cooper, Bud Sparhawk, David Sherman, Edward J. McFadden, Robert E. Waters, Jeff Young, James Chambers, Lisanne Norman, Robert Greenberger, Aaron Rosenberg, Christopher M. Hiles, Eric Hardenbrook, and Danielle Ackley-McPhail.

Footprints in the StarsOnce that book is funded, the other two anthologies will be funded as stretch goals:

Footprints in the Stars: “A traditional science fiction collection with the theme of the discovery of evidence of other life in the universe and how those discoveries impact humanity. With stories by James Chambers, Robert Greenberger, Keith R.A. DeCandido, Aaron Rosenberg, Christopher L. Bennett, Dayton Ward, Russ Colchamiro, Vincent Collins, Bryan J. Glass, Gordon Linzner, Ian Randall Strock, and Danielle Ackley-McPhail.”

Devil Dancers is a single-author military-SF collection by Robert E. Waters, containing reprinted and original stories in the titular universe.

The fundraising goal for In Harm’s Way is $800. Once we reach $1900, then Footprints in the Stars will be funded, and Devil Dancers will be funded at $2800. As with last time, there are also bonus stories and other rewards for people who pledge certain amounts, which will all be spelled out at the Kickstarter page — just click on the widget up above. The Kickstarter will remain open until May 19, 2019.

I’m told that Footprints in the Stars is scheduled to make its debut at this year’s Shore Leave Convention in Baltimore from July 12-14, which I expect to be attending as usual. The eSpec folks are going to be there as well, and we’re going to have a panel and stuff.

So everybody start Kickstarting! Or… whatever.

Finally, my thoughts on CAPTAIN MARVEL (spoilers)

Since my advance check finally came last week, I finally got to see Captain Marvel yesterday (I still waited for the Tuesday discount). I wonder if it was just coincidence that the multiplex had Captain Marvel and Shazam! (based on the Fawcett/DC character I grew up knowing as Captain Marvel) running in adjacent theaters. I wonder if anyone’s gotten confused and asked for the wrong movie.

Anyway, Captain Marvel is a pretty good movie. I like its structure — the way it introduces us to the character of “Vers” in the present after she’s lost her memory and then gradually has her discover her origins (a nice break from the usual origin-story format), and the way it integrates the flashbacks into her real-time POV as dreams or memory-probe findings, which is deft and economical. And it’s effective in the way it handles the Kree and the Skrulls, setting us up to believe we know who the good guys and bad guys are, only to turn it around in a surprising way. I honestly didn’t see that twist coming. Which is partly because I’m used to seeing Jude Law in more or less heroic roles and know Ben Mendelsohn mainly as Rogue One‘s villain, so the casting helped to fool me. Also because the Skrulls are usually villains in the comics, although the loss of their homeworld is a plot point there too. (Come to think of it, if the MCU Skrulls have been reduced to scattered refugees in the 1990s, that explains why they’re not a significant presence in the 21st-century MCU.)

It was also a surprise, and a pretty nice touch, to tie the origin of Carol’s powers into the Tesseract, and along the way to explain how it ended up in SHIELD’s possession (although that’s a bit of a retcon from what we’d previously been shown about Howard Stark recovering it from the ocean floor; apparently the new version, according to the MCU Wiki, is that Stark helped found Lawson’s Project PEGASUS, although I don’t recall that being stated outright in the movie). They also connected their version to the original comics origin (of Carol getting her powers from Mar-Vell, the original Marvel character to use the Captain Marvel name) in an unexpected way, assigning the name Mar-Vell to Annette Bening’s scientist character.

Speaking of the project, it was weird to have the alien characters talking about a “lightspeed engine” created by a backward civilization like humans as some revolutionary breakthrough when they were already routinely far surpassing the speed of light by making hyperspace jumps. I mean, sure, we learned that the search for the lightspeed engine was just a cover for the (distinct) things that the Skrulls and the Kree were respectively searching for, but it’s implausible that it would even work as a cover story, because it doesn’t sound like something new or important to an already FTL-capable civilization.

As for the Earthbound stuff, it was interesting to get a look at a younger, more relaxed Nick Fury. It was more than just digital de-aging; he was a lot more whimsical and playful back then, which was an interesting choice, though kind of revisionist (but then, the character’s been revisionist since the moment Samuel L. Jackson was cast in the role). It was good to see Phil Coulson too, but he didn’t really serve that much role in the story beyond the indulgence of having him there. Well, I guess his actions do help lay the groundwork for why Fury placed so much trust in him later on, but aside from that one moment in the stairwell, he didn’t really have that much to do that any generic exposition-spouting subordinate couldn’t have done.

I’m not sure the friendship between Carol and Maria Rambeau came through as strongly as it was meant to, since most of it was just glimpsed in flashbacks, and most of the present-day (well, 1990s present) Maria’s role in the film was dominated by exposition and action. But young Monica and her relationship with Carol rather stole the show, which is good because Monica’s presumably the one we’ll see again in the sequel, although she’ll no doubt be played by a different actress.

As far as actors go, I’d say the standout here was Ben Mendelsohn, who did a great job making Talos a complex and engaging character and working equally well when we thought he was the villain and when he turned out to be the nice guy in need of help. Jackson and Gregg did their usual good jobs with what they had to work with. Law was effective too, although Lee Pace was just as wasted as Ronan here as he was in Guardians of the Galaxy, and Djimon Hounsou only had a little more to do here than there. Gemma Chan was also sadly underutilized.

As for Brie Larson herself, she was reasonably effective, but I’m afraid I find her a little bland. Carol/Captain Marvel in the comics has been a breakout character, impressive in her strength of character, charisma, and heroism as well as her physical power. I haven’t read many comics she’s been in, but I’ve read a fair amount of Ms. Marvel and seen her through Kamala Khan’s admiring eyes, and I remember Jennifer Hale’s effectively strong performance as Carol in the animated The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. Animation and gaming fans know that Hale is a pretty hard act to follow, and I’m afraid I find Larson a little underwhelming in comparison. She’s not bad in any way, but her performance just doesn’t really grab me the way Scarlett Johansson, Hayley Atwell, Gal Gadot, and others have grabbed me. (Like just a couple of nights ago, I was watching Caity Lotz in a guest appearance on Arrow as Sara Lance/White Canary, and there was a moment where just her facial expression and a single line reading made me think “Damn, she’s a compelling performer.” I’ve never had such a moment with Brie Larson in anything I’ve seen her in.)

I also feel the film was maybe a bit too humorous and light in the later portions. As a rule, I like most things that involve cats, but the business with Goose in the climactic portions of the film got a little too silly for me, and the explanation for how Fury lost his eye was a bit dumb.

Anyway, now I’m inevitably speculating about what role Carol will play in Avengers: Endgame. Since her powers come from the Tesseract/Space Stone, that kind of makes her a walking Infinity Stone, which is probably why she could be the key to beating Thanos. Too bad Fury never actually told the Avengers who it was they were named after and what she could do — it might’ve saved some trouble if they’d known to call her in sooner. (And if Goose had been there, he probably could’ve just swallowed the Infinity Gauntlet right off of Thanos’s arm.)

Oh, I almost forgot — the opening tribute to Stan Lee. That was beautiful. It brought tears to my eyes. “Thank you, Stan.”

Famine to feast

Well, it took a while for my relief at finally getting my advance check to override my tension of the past few weeks, but it kicked in after I went to bed last night — suddenly, my whole body finally relaxed, more fully than it has in quite a while, and it felt wonderful.

So anyway, you’re not going to believe this next bit. Late this morning, I checked online and confirmed that my deposit to my checking account had gone through, so I wrote a check to myself to deposit in my much-depleted savings account at my other bank, which has a branch within walking distance and which is open for part of the day on Saturday. So I filled out the deposit slip and headed out to the bank. When I was maybe half a block or so from home, I thought, “Hey, I think I heard the mail come earlier. There’s almost no chance my Analog check has come so soon, but maybe I should go back and check the mail juuuust in case.” I debated with myself for a bit, and if I’d been maybe 30 paces further along, I wouldn’t have bothered, but as it was, I decided to go back and make sure.

And when I opened my mailbox, I started laughing, since there was my Analog check.

It’s like they say — you wait an hour for the bus, and then three come along at once. It would’ve saved me a lot of anxiety if one of these two checks had come just a couple of weeks sooner. Still, at least they’re here now — and I’m grateful for my neurotic extra-cautiousness for once, since it saved me a second trip to the bank.

Anyway, after tearing up the first deposit slip, filling out a new one, and depositing both checks in my savings account, I just found myself going for a long walk on the university campus and thinking about… nothing in particular. I just enjoyed the way it felt to have a relaxed body and a clear mind for a little while, before getting back to priorities like finishing my taxes and working on my novel. It was really nice.

The dawn

I’m relieved to report that my advance check did finally come today, and I just got back from depositing it in the bank and restocking my depleted groceries. I’m not exactly celebrating, since a significant amount of it needs to go to paying bills right away, and I’m not yet sure when the next installment will come. And I’ve just been worried for so long that it’s hard to shake it off and really feel at ease. Still, I’m back from the brink, just in the nick of time. And I’m very grateful to my fans who made donations and book purchases — I wouldn’t have made it to this point without your help. Those of you who ordered books should begin seeing them in the mail fairly soon.

Another bit of good news — I finished doing my taxes this morning (did them myself since I couldn’t afford to pay my usual tax preparer this year), and I’m pleasantly surprised to see that the new tax laws this year benefit me, even though I’d gathered that they only helped the ultra-rich and hurt most everyone else. I was afraid I’d owe a lot, but I owe significantly less than last year, at least federally (haven’t done Ohio yet). So that won’t take too big a chunk out of my advance.

So now (or once I finish my taxes) I can get back to focusing on writing, and see a movie or two. But right now I think I just want to rest.