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Today turned out better than it started

That’s the headline I thought of, but I should begin with yesterday morning, when my building maintenance people told me I needed to move my car from the rear lot to the front lot so they could resurface the rear one. (I didn’t see the notice on the front door ahead of time since I don’t go outside much these days.) When I got down there, I was the only person, resident or building staff, who was wearing a mask.

And my car wouldn’t start.

I hadn’t driven in a while, so the battery had run down. So I had to get a jump start from several people not wearing masks, not caring who they breathed on. At least they had their own cables so I didn’t have to interact too closely with them. Still, things like this that would once have been routine are scary these days, especially because so many people don’t seem to get that they aren’t routine anymore.

So anyway, that brief, sudden bout of anxiety ruined my mood for the whole day, not only because of the mask thing but because I needed to get groceries either yesterday or today and wasn’t sure my car would start when I needed it. Plus, while I finally got a new novel advance check last week, thereby easing a lot of my financial anxiety, I was waiting for a portion of it to complete the transfer to my other bank so I could put some more money on my credit card before grocery day. And though yesterday was the expected completion date of the transfer, it didn’t complete.

So this morning I was still kind of uneasy about things — especially when I went out to test my car and it again wouldn’t start. The automatic door lock worked, and the wipers worked when I tried them, so I knew the battery was still viable, just drained. The few minutes I ran it while moving my car yesterday weren’t enough. And I still needed groceries. I might need to spend the extra 10-12 bucks to get them delivered. More than that, I had a tax appointment I’d need to drive out to next week, or so I thought (see below).

Tired of my dependence on jumpstarts, I decided to look on Amazon for one of those portable charger units you can use to jump your own battery. Now that I finally have some money, it seemed worth the investment. I found what seemed like a good and inexpensive one, at a discount and the last one in stock, so I snapped it up — but the delivery date was the end of the month, so it wouldn’t help with any car trips before then.

Meanwhile, I tried watching last week’s Agents of SHIELD on the ABC website, since without a cable provider I have to wait 8 days to see an episode. But it was glitchy. The first act or so had the audio description turned on with no way to turn it off (the second week in a row it’s done that). Then it restarted from the top without it, so I had to jump forward to where it left off. But not long after that, my laptop shut down! Sometimes streaming sites work it too hard and it shuts down to protect itself from overheating. And these days I routinely keep a cool pack from the freezer on top of it when I watch videos, just in case (at least from sites that I don’t know are free of that problem). Either the pack wasn’t cold enough or the thing was just running too hot in spite of it. I rebooted and tried again, but it still seemed like my laptop was running pretty hot, so I gave up rather than risk it. So that was pretty frustrating.

Anyway, a while later, I decided to walk to the nearest mailbox to mail a check, so I could try to clear my head with some exercise. But I gave my car another try, just to see if maybe it had recovered a bit more charge. No luck. But this time, another tenant came out (masked, yay) and I asked her for a jumpstart. Neither of us was very experienced at it, but we managed to get my car started. (She had an electric car with the battery in the trunk and an engine I couldn’t even hear when it was running.) So I drove to the post office, dropped the check in the drive-through mailbox, and then just motored around the neighborhood for a while, since a Facebook friend told me last night that a half-hour drive every so often would keep the battery charged. Still, I could only hope there wasn’t some defect draining the battery and that I’d be able to go pick up groceries after all.

So things were still feeling kind of iffy. On top of all that, I needed to call my tax preparers and ask about the appointment I have scheduled for next week. (I hate to say I’ve benefited from the pandemic, but I’d never have been able to pay my taxes on time if not for the 3-month postponement.) Since the main offices were closed for the summer, I would’ve had to drive a very long way to get to the place, and that would’ve been just to drop off my documents so they could prepare things without me present. And I didn’t know if my car would even work. So I called to ask if there was an online alternative, and the guy told me how to sign up for their website. So that was one step of that problem solved.

Also, my bank transfer finally went through, so I was able to take care of the credit card and also pay some bills, as well as order groceries for later pickup. So things were starting to fall into place. When the time came to pick up groceries, my car did start — and this time, the clerk who brought them out was wearing her mask properly, unlike last time. And though my phone had trouble logging into the website you’re supposed to contact on arrival — which last time meant my order wasn’t logged in properly and I had to go back hours later and figure out how to complete it on my phone so that my card would be charged and I wouldn’t be an inadvertent grocery thief — this time they seem to have improved their process and the order went through properly after all. (However, they were out of sandwich turkey and I forgot to order cheese slices, so I’m not going to be able to have my usual turkey sandwiches for a week or two.)

So stuff was pretty much working out now, and I was feeling better. But the best news came just a little while ago. My new novel outline was approved, so now it won’t be long before I get the second part of the advance. I’m finally pulling away from the brink after all these frustrating months, and hopefully it’s for good this time, if certain other things continue to work out.

Hmm… you know, I wrote this post to celebrate how relieved I was feeling that so much stuff worked out well after the rough start to the day. But writing about how I felt before has made me tense again. Well, it will pass. Things are starting to look up for me now, and hopefully that will continue.

Incidentally, one thing I’ve been enjoying these past few days is DC Universe’s Harley Quinn. I’ve avoided the show because I heard it was really violent and crude, but I’ve seen glowing reviews of its character work and plotlines, so I finally decided to give it a try. It definitely is far more gory than I care for, and I avert my eyes a lot, but otherwise it’s a damn impressive show, with mostly effective humor and fantastic, nuanced character work. There have been some very funny moments, but also some incredibly poignant, moving, and dramatically powerful moments. It’s the first time I’ve liked Kaley Cuoco in anything; she’s surprisingly good as Harley. (But the last thing I saw her in was the original Charmed, which was 14 years ago, so long that they’ve already rebooted it.) Lake Bell is fantastic as the best version of Poison Ivy I’ve ever seen. And Diedrich Bader is easily the best Batman voice actor not named “Kevin.” Remember how rattled I felt yesterday? I spent much of the day bingeing this show, and it was very comforting. (I’m only up to episode 8 of season 2 as of this writing, so no spoilers in the comments, please.)

So that’s where I’ve been. My personal sources of anxiety are finally working out for the better, so now I just have to worry about the ongoing collapse of civilization going on outside. Still, it did seem that a somewhat higher percentage of people were wearing masks today than the last time I went out for groceries. More people may finally be catching on. I just hope my building’s staff figures it out soon.

the other cool thing at Balticon: eSpec launch party!

Reblogging from Keith DeCandido…

KRAD's Inaccurate Guide to Life

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I forgot to mention one thing I did at Virtual Balticon 54: the eSpec Books launch party! One of the highlights of Balticon these last years has been the launch parties run by Danielle Ackley-McPhail, and every since she, her husband Mike McPhail, and Between Books owner Greg Schauer formed eSpec in 2015, it’s been an eSpec launch party specifically.

This year, the launch was virtual, and since part of any launch party is the ability to buy books, eSpec set up a “virtual launch” section on their online bookstore.

The launched books included:

  • To Hell and Regroup by David Sherman & Keith R.A. DeCandido (that’s me!)
  • The Literary Handyman: Build-a-Book Workshop by Danielle Ackley-McPhail
  • Arachne’s Crime by Christopher L. Bennett
  • In a Flash 2020 by Christopher J. Burke
  • Stellar Science Fiction by Jeff Young
  • Death’s Embrace by Michelle D. Sonnier
  • new editions of Danielle Ackley-McPhail’s Eternal Cycle

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Categories: Uncategorized

Picking up a new skill (and groceries)

Last time I went grocery shopping, I was concerned at how many people in the store — staff included — were unmasked, and how little concern there was for distancing in the aisles. So this time, I finally gave in and registered at the grocery store’s website so I could order groceries online and arrange a drive-in pickup (which usually has a fee attached but is now offered for free given the pandemic).

I found the website surprisingly convenient; I entered my shopper’s card number when I registered, and as a result, when I started shopping, I was shown a list of the specific items I’d bought previously, already in the store’s computer system. So it was easy to pick out my standard items rather than having to search for them. That was very handy and a real timesaver.

The pickup was straightforward enough. I got a text ahead of time telling me what number to call when I got there, so once I arrived, I just had to tap the number in the text and it connected me right to them. (There were signs in the parking spaces saying what number to call as well, but the text made it simpler.) Then I just had to wait a few minutes for them to come out, pop the trunk, and there we were.

The downside is that they had to substitute a few items due to supply shortages. A couple of the substitutions were harmless, but they gave me my antacid pills in the wrong dosage (though I can just take two at a time to make it up), and in place of my favorite vegetarian Italian sausage (the Tofurky brand, which has sun-dried tomato and basil and is very spicy), they substituted vegetarian kielbasa, which I don’t know if I’ll like. I knew I shouldn’t have gambled on that one, since they didn’t always have the Italian in stock even before all this. I wish the system were set up so we could specify or decline an alternate beforehand rather than gambling on their judgment.

The staffers who came out to deliver groceries to me, and before that to the person ahead of me, were all masked (as was I on general principles, even though I stayed in my car), but one of the people in the earlier group had his mask pulled down, defeating the purpose. I like to think that most people would be more diligent about mask use if they understood that it was to protect others more than themselves. There’s obviously a contingent of selfish people who don’t care about the risk to others as long as they aren’t inconvenienced, but I know they’re very much in the minority, despite what certain politicians claim. Also, based on what I’ve seen, I think more people need to be reminded that masks are not a substitute for social distancing and the rest, but a supplement to them. Parachutists wear crash helmets, but that doesn’t mean wearing a helmet means they get to skip the parachute.

Anyway, aside from those drawbacks, I appreciated the convenience of shopping this way. There were some things they didn’t have available for pickup, so I’ll probably have to brave the store again at some point, but it will be nice to be able to order through the website again in the future, at least as long as the pickup fee is waived. I do feel a bit guilty about making the grocery staff do the work for me, but at the same time, I’m not exposing them to the risk of my presence in the store, which is probably more important under the circumstances (I’m unlikely to have been exposed, but you never know).

Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT – CHRISTOPHER L. BENNETT

Here’s a new interview with me to tie in with the upcoming release of ARACHNE’S CRIME and ARACHNE’S EXILE.

eSpec Books

eSpec Books interviews best-selling science fiction author Christopher L. Bennett, author of Arachne’s Crime (currently funding onKickstarter), Only Superhuman, Among the Wild Cybers, and a wide array of media tie-in novels.

eS: Hi, Christopher. Thank you for joining us today. Arachne’s Crime has some pretty detailed tech. How much of the tech is extrapolation and how much is technobabble? Please tell us something about the science of your universe.

CB: I’ve always striven to make the science in the Arachne/Troubleshooter Universe (as I’ve finally settled on calling it) as authentic as I can. I allow for a little poetic license with things like faster-than-light travel, but I ground them in real theory with a minimum of fudging. The novelette that Arachne’s Crime is expanded from — “Aggravated Vehicular Genocide,” my first professional sale back in 1998 — was a concept that came out of the…

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Categories: Uncategorized

I have braved the realm of groceries

I’ve been trying to make it as long as possible without going to the grocery store, and fortunately I stockpiled a fair amount of stuff before the lockdown began and on my previous trip just over 3 weeks ago. It’s not just because of COVID-19 concerns, but also money — I’m still waiting on my stimulus check and on a new writing contract, and my bank accounts are quite threadbare at the moment. I thought I still had a few more days before I’d have to go, but this morning I discovered that the downside of trying to ration my milk usage and make a gallon last as long as possible is that, well, milk doesn’t last indefinitely. I had to dump out maybe two cereal bowls’ worth of spoiled milk this morning, and though I could maybe have managed one more day (I had two frozen waffles left), I decided I might as well go ahead and make the trip today.

It took some psyching out, though. I reminded myself that I was probably at more risk of exposure on my trips last month before the lockdown. By now, weeks of social distancing have probably reduced the presence of the virus, the grocery staff has presumably gotten lots of practice at maintaining sanitary conditions, and I’d be wearing a mask and rubber gloves. And the city health department’s map shows only a handful of cases in my part of the city, so I’m probably in a relatively low-risk area anyway. I probably take a bigger risk whenever I drive to Shore Leave or to visit family. Still, I was very nervous the whole time, since novel risks always seem scarier than the risks we’ve learned to take for granted.

Speaking of which, I was surprised by how many of the grocery staffers weren’t wearing masks. The cashiers were — mine was so bundled up I could only see her eyes — but the shelvers generally weren’t, and neither they nor many of the patrons were worrying much about keeping six feet apart. I took some roundabout routes to avoid people who didn’t seem as concerned with avoidance as I was. And this was despite the parking lot being relatively empty. You’d think with so few people, it’d be easier to avoid them.

Of course, the problem with only going to the store every three weeks or so is that you have to get a lot when you’re there — which, combined with not being able to use my cloth bags anymore, meant I had to pack quite a few plastic bags in the trunk, and needed three trips to get them all in. Plus there are still shortages (oh, good grief, I just realized I forgot to restock on refried beans — I knew I’d forget something), and I’ve had to settle for some substitutions here and there. For one thing, they didn’t have any single rolls of paper towels, only 6-packs — which I guess is good for the long run, since it means I won’t need more for quite a while. But it meant spending more right now, when I can barely afford it. (I’ll just leave my Patreon and Kickstarter links here…)

The hard part was getting unpacked, since I put the bags on the kitchen floor rather than the countertops, so I had to do a lot of crouching and standing up — which is not a good idea when one is dehydrated after a grocery trip bundled up in a coat and mask. I got dizzy and had to take a break for apple juice, and then after washing my hands, showering, and changing clothes, I went ahead and had lunch to restore my energy (leftovers, so I didn’t have to handle any grocery packages right away).

So now I’m going to spend the next 12 days worrying every time I cough or feel low on energy, even though both are fairly commonplace for me.

For what it’s worth, I got a call last night from my aunt in the DC area, and she tells me that she and my uncles (her husband and brother) are all safely isolated and well in their retirement home, which has a few positive cases but according to her is the best-run one in the region, so that’s reassuring. I admit I’d been a little afraid to contact my elderly relatives in case there was bad news, so I’m glad she called me and let me know they’re doing okay. And the rest of my family members seem to be weathering things too.

These are strange times. I’m talking about a trip to the grocery store as a momentous adventure. I’d love to go back to it being mundane and unremarkable, and leave the adventures to the characters in my fiction.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

Home repairs when stuck at home

Over the past few days, my kitchen silverware drawer has twice come loose from its track when I pulled it open. I managed to reseat the wheel thingy in the track, but after the second time, I realized that it was a problem that would repeat if I didn’t figure out what was wrong with it. I tried examining the side wheels that it rolls over, at least by touch (the drawers are over a cabinet so I could get to them through it), but I couldn’t figure out what the issue was through that alone. But given the current circumstances, calling in the maintenance guy didn’t seem like a good idea unless it were a real emergency, so I figured I’d better solve it myself somehow.

Finally it occurred to me — I have a second drawer right next to it! I don’t use that drawer nearly as often, so I didn’t think of it at first. I realized it would show me what the drawer mechanism was supposed to look like so I could diagnose the problem. It took me a few moments, but finally I realized that the lower drawer edges, the ones that roll over the side wheels, had eroded almost completely away! Many years of constantly opening and closing the drawer, with the weight of my silverware pushing down on it, had worn the edges out pretty much completely. Which finally explains why I kept having to blow sawdust off the lid of the peanut butter jar. I figured the sawdust was just from the general age and wear of the cabinet, but it was specifically created by my heavy use of the heavy drawer.

Anyway, this clearly wasn’t a problem I could fix; I’d need to replace the drawer altogether. But again it struck me — I have two drawers! I just had to remove their contents and swap them left to right. I don’t use the other drawer nearly as often, and its contents are far less heavy, so the erosion would be less of a problem there. I also put some tape over the worn parts to stop any further sawdust from falling, since that drawer is now over my spaghetti pot. Come to think of it, I should probably put tape on the other drawer as well, now that it’s going to be subject to the same abrasion that eroded the first one, but I’m too tired right now.

I’m just glad this was a problem I was able to solve by myself using the resources on hand. This would be a bad time for anything more serious to go wrong.

Categories: Uncategorized

A thought about our current predicament

Thinking about the coronavirus and the way we’re practically shutting down the whole of society for it, I realized something:

It’s commendable that we as a society are so willing to disrupt our entire lives and endure hardship in order to protect our most vulnerable members. Most of us could probably weather the disease, but we’re not willing to sacrifice the old and weak for the convenience of the majority. It’s not even a question. So maybe there’s more hope for us as a civilization than it’s often seemed these past few years.

Categories: Uncategorized

Full muddled jacket

December 14, 2019 3 comments

Just had a surreal and slightly embarrassing experience. I attended one of my infrequent social gatherings today, an early Christmas party for a local SF fan/writer community, and I hung my winter coat in the closet with the rest. When the time came for me to head home, I searched through the coats in the closet three times and couldn’t find my coat! I asked if there was somewhere else it might have been moved, but there wasn’t, and the hostess was just about to call the one couple who’d left before me to see if they’d taken my coat by mistake… when finally I recognized my sunglasses case in the pocket of what seemed to be an unfamiliar coat. I checked all its other pockets and recognized all their contents exactly where they should be… but I didn’t recognize the coat itself, even though it was definitely mine!

In retrospect, I realize that I’ve never really had to pay attention to what my winter coat looks like, beyond the fact that it’s heavier than my light jacket for cool weather. It’s just one of the two coats hanging there, and I just grab it and put it on. I usually leave both the light jacket and the winter coat hanging from the closet doorknob, so I usually only see the coat from the back when I’m not wearing it, plus it’s in a fairly dimly lit portion of my apartment. So I mainly know my coat from the inside, not the outside. I couldn’t even remember if it was dark blue or black when the others asked me. Plus I was seeing it from the front and side, quite brightly lit by the LED lights in my hosts’ hallway, which brought out the logos I usually don’t even notice, so it looked unfamiliar to me. Plus I was seeing it from the right side so I couldn’t see my sunglasses case in the left pocket. I think I usually hang my coat up facing the other way when I’m out somewhere. So I just couldn’t recognize my own item of clothing, not until the fourth time I looked.

Hmm… Maybe I should find some way to write my name on it?

Categories: Uncategorized

Q&A with Christopher L. Bennett

October 1, 2019 1 comment

Here’s my newest interview with The Astounding Analog Companion, in connection with my new Troubleshooter story “Conventional Powers” in the September/October 2019 ANALOG.

The Astounding Analog Companion

Christopher L. Bennett sold his first original story to Analog in 1998, and two decades later, we still get first-look at his tales before they’re expanded and published in future collections and anthologies. We’re lucky once again to offer you his latest, “Conventional Powers,” in the current issue [on sale now].


Analog Editors: What is the story behind this piece?

Christopher L. Bennet: “Conventional Powers” [on sale now in our current issue] is a loose followup to my first original novel, Only Superhuman (Tor, 2012). In this world, once commercial asteroid mining took off in the 2030s, it drove rapid advancement in space travel and colonization. Space dwellers embraced genetic and bionic modification in order to survive the radiation and harsh conditions, eventually experimenting with more radical “mods” to augment human abilities. The growing community of asteroid belt dwellers known as Striders embraced transhumanism as part…

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Happy 30th Anniversary, Alien Nation the TV series!

It’s the 30th anniversary of one of my favorite TV series, Kenneth Johnson’s ALIEN NATION, and my friend and fellow novelist Dayton Ward has written an excellent retrospective on it at his site. Check it out!

The Fog of Ward.

That was the scene in California’s Mojave Desert five years ago: our historic first view of the Newcomers’ ship. Theirs was a slave ship, carrying a quarter million beings bred to adapt and labor in any environment. But they’ve washed ashore on Earth, with no way to get back to where they came from, and in the last five years the Newcomers have become the latest addition to the population of Los Angeles.”

Cue funky opening music and credits.

AlienNation-01

Los Angeles, 1995: Aliens are everywhere.

After their very massive starship crashes on Earth, 250,000 genetically engineered aliens who call themselves “Tenctonese” find themselves forced to assimilate into a world very different from the one to which they’d been heading. The people already living here also find themselves dealing with the very harsh reality that not only is there life “out there,” but there’s actually quite a lot…

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COVER REVEAL – FOOTPRINTS IN THE STARS

Cover reveal!

eSpec Books

eSpec is proud to announce that this title has gone to press. Isn’t this a gorgeous cover by Mike McPhail of McP Digital Graphics? We certainly think so!

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To follow in the footsteps of those who have gone before, first we must find them.

Dreaded hope settles over mankind as we stare into the heavens, looking for a sign we are not alone. Fearing we will find it, puzzled when we don’t.

Among the stars or in our own backyard, lose yourself in the wonder of these tales as we humbly posit mankind’s reaction to the awesome certainty that ‘they’ are out there…or at least, they were…

Footprints in the Stars

With stories by Gordon Linzner, Ian Randal Strock, Robert Greenberger, Dayton Ward, Aaron Rosenberg, Danielle Ackley-McPhail, Jody Lynn Nye, Christopher L. Bennett, James Chambers, Keith R.A. DeCandido, Russ Colchamiro, Judi Fleming, and Bryan J.L. Glass

The following authors will…

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My week of superhero dreams

I’ve posted parts of this on the TrekBBS and Facebook, but since it adds up to a larger whole, I thought I’d consolidate it here. I’ve had two dreams in the past week of the sort where I’m both a viewer of and a character in a TV show/movie at the same time, and in both of them, I was a member of a superhero team.

First, on Sunday night (or more like Monday morning, since I only remember the dreams that happen just before I wake up), I had a DC’s Legends of Tomorrow dream that was unusually semi-coherent as dreams go, and that I remember more of than usual. There’s a lot I don’t remember, but I was at some kind of meeting or rally (in a library, I believe) where the goddess who was the episode’s villain was controlling people’s minds, including the Legends, using a glowing blue wine. (This is in keeping with the turn toward fantasy and the supernatural that this time travel-centric show has taken over the past two seasons.) Since I don’t drink, I demurred and remained uncontrolled — and I think some half-awake rational part of my brain was puzzled that I was allowed to get away with that. I also wondered what happened to Zari Tomaz, since as a Muslim she’s presumably a non-drinker too. The episode/dream went on in some stream-of-consciousness way in the library stacks, with the Legends being freed somehow, or my dreaming brain just forgetting the mind-control aspect, but the mystery of where Zari was remained.

Then we left the library and went oudoors for the climax, a big confrontation with the deity (now male due to my forgetful unconscious mind) over the font of power which he was about to merge with or draw on or do something cataclysmic with. And when we rushed there to try to stop the god, we found that Zari was there ahead of us, singlehandedly defeating the god because she’d been investigating the legal records and had found that the god had gained his connection to the font of his power through a murder centuries ago, and revealing that fact aloud somehow nullified the god’s power and bound him, either because that was how the font of power worked or because the god was subject to the human legal system within my dream logic. So while the other Legends and I were flailing around trying to fight evil the superheroic way and wondering where the hell Zari was, she’d been methodically doing the research so she could solve the whole thing far more easily. Also, in my dream, Zari was a lawyer. Who knew?

The second dream was the night after I saw Avengers: Endgame, so two nights later, and it was a dream about Thanos (no spoilers, because it’s a dream, not the actual movie). In the dream, as in the movie, it was after he’d won the previous battle, but his goal in this version had apparently been merely to conquer Earth. So he was the ruler of Earth… and he was living in the attic of what, in the dream, was my house. Or at least a house I shared with some dream version of the Avengers. The world, my house — in a dream, the difference doesn’t matter. Either way, it’s where I keep all my stuff.

So anyway, there was a point where Thanos, Ruler of All, came down from the attic to sit on our couch and watch TV. (Right next to where I was sitting. The dude takes up a lot of couch space, folks.) But I and my fellow Avengers/roommates/whoever weren’t just taking this occupation of our living room and/or planet lying down. (Most of them were standing or sitting in armchairs, since there was no room left on the couch. Personal space, Thanos!) No, we were planning to show him some book in the hopes that it would convince him that we didn’t need his rule anymore and he could go home. Because of course, even in this alternate dream narrative, he still thought he was a benevolent tyrant, and we just needed to prove to him, using the book’s contents, that whatever goal he’d conquered us to bring about for our own good had been fulfilled already, so we didn’t need him anymore and he could just fly off back to his home planet in his helicopter. (No, the Thanos copter wasn’t actually in the dream, alas. I’m interpolating. But it would’ve fit right in.)

I don’t recall whether the book in question was fact or fiction. We may have been trying to con him into leaving in much the same way Reed Richards conned the Skrulls in FANTASTIC FOUR #2 by showing them pages from Marvel’s monster comics to convince them that Earth was too dangerous to conquer. But we didn’t get very far before the dream ended. So it didn’t have the satisfaction of being a complete (if barely coherent) story like the Legends dream was — more just a vignette (or a comedy sketch, though in the dream we took it all seriously).Who knows? If the dream had continued, maybe Black Widow would’ve turned up some obscure legal precedent requiring Thanos to cede his claim to the planet. But then, as far as I recall, Black Widow was not in the dream. Alas, indeed.

 

eSPEC BOOKS AFTER-HOLIDAYS SALE

Reblogging this. For a limited time, you can get AMONG THE WILD CYBERS and many of eSpec Books’ other publications in e-book form for just 99 cents!

eSpec Books

What a year. From both a personal and professional standpoint, 2018 has been a jagged series of highs and lows. We have hunkered down and pushed forward, and in these final days of the year we rest and regroup, gathering our energy for 2019.

There are a lot of great things we are working on, and things we hope to get going again, such as the eSpec monthly flash fiction contest and Danielle’s personal writing. 

First, however, to kick off what we hope will be a year of amazing fiction for eSpec, our authors, and our fans, for the month of January we are having a sale on all our backlist ebooks at the ebook site of your choice. Because of the restrictions of when we can make price changes, the sale officially starts today, presuming the third-party vendors all make the updates in a timely manner. Below are links…

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Vote!

I have voted! The turnout at my polling place was as high as I’ve ever seen it, maybe more so. They’d even set up extra voting stations (chairs and privacy hoods) at a table since they didn’t have enough booths for everyone. It’s great to see — democracy, like vaccination, only works when most of the population participates. I profoundly hope that it works this time. Everyone, if you haven’t voted yet, then please find the time to do it. It’s not something you do just for yourself; it’s our responsibility to one another, to our entire community.

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FROM THE PUBLISHER – 2018 BESTSELLERS

Looks like AMONG THE WILD CYBERS is one of eSpec Books’ top print sellers for 2018 so far! Not bad, since it’s only been out for a couple of months.

eSpec Books

Just out of curiosity, we looked over our sales for the year and are delighted to share with you the following bestsellers to date for 2018. You can click on the image to check out the book.

eBook Best Sellers – from left to right

Proof-4-5-Clockwork

lg-book-wwwSister Paradox web

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Q&A with Christopher L. Bennett

Here’s a Q&A I did for ANALOG’s blog in conjunction with the release of “…And He Built a Crooked Hub” in the current issue.

The Astounding Analog Companion

The latest in Christopher L. Bennett’s Hub series is featured in our current issue [on sale now]. Below, he explains the origins of the series as well as the origins of his writing career and interest in science fiction.


Analog Editors: Is this piece part of a greater universe of stories?

Chrisopher L. Bennett: “. . . And He Built a Crooked Hub” is the fifth novelette in the Hub series of comedy SF stories, which have been appearing intermittently in Analog since 2010, and whose first three installments are collected in revised and expanded form in Hub Space: Tales from the Greater Galaxy, available from Mystique Press as an e-book or trade paperback. It’s also the middle of a loose trilogy of stories which began with “Hubpoint of No Return” in the May/June 2018 issue and will conclude with “Hub-stitute Creatures” in an upcoming issue.

AE:…

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Car followup

I got the call that my car was fixed about 45 minutes before the garage closed. I had to decide whether to walk there while it was still raining and thundering — and I was still under the weather — or wait to get it back until Monday. I don’t have any plans for it on the weekend, but I figured it was better to get it back just in case, so I braved the rain, which fortunately was letting up, the thunder off in the distance. Although I did almost get run over in a crosswalk by someone who didn’t understand the rules of right of way. Well, that’s an overstatement, but it was still unnerving.

The car is fixed okay, and the new light control lever is almost indistinguishable from the old one, except it sounds a bit different. The lights seem to work okay now. But I noticed something odd. When checking the rear-view mirror, I noticed that the fabric lining the top of the car’s interior — which apparently is called the headliner, an incongruous name for such an obscure and generally overlooked component — was sagging in the rear corners, blocking a bit of the top of the rear window. I could swear it wasn’t like that before, but the garage guy couldn’t figure out how it could’ve just happened. I don’t know, maybe it was like that before and I just didn’t notice because the mirror angle was too low or something. He suggested using a staple gun, which he didn’t have and neither do I. So I’m not sure what to do about it at the moment.

But at least I have a working car again, and I managed to make the shopping trip I wanted to make this morning, and I’m just now having dinner with some corn chips I bought there. So hopefully everything’s okay now. I know, don’t jinx it…

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More car woes

Even though I was feeling a little under the weather this morning, and even though we had actual rainy weather this morning, I decided to take a quick shopping trip during the lull in the rain, to visit a local store I haven’t been to in a while and need one or two things from now that I have some money again. Imagine my surprise when my car wouldn’t start. I just got a new battery a few weeks ago!! Luckily the building maintenance guys were right there, and they gave me a jump start and determined that the battery was still holding a charge; it had just been drained by something. I realized my headlights were reflecting off their truck, and when I tried to turn them off, nothing happened. Somehow, they were stuck in high-beam mode.

So I drove straight to the garage, and the guy there told me he had a lot of jobs and couldn’t get to me until Tuesday. I was just about resigned to driving back home and getting another jump start on Tuesday, but he decided to take a quick look at the problem, and in trying to force the lever on the steering column to turn off the lights, he managed to break the lever altogether. So now I had to leave it in the shop. (Is it even street legal to drive without working lights or turn signals? I guess I could’ve stuck my hand out the window and signalled turns manually the old-fashioned way.) But to his credit, the guy tried harder to find a solution and promised me he could get a new part delivered and installed by tonight.

But I wasn’t up to walking home in my condition, and it had started to rain again, and I’d forgotten my umbrella. Not to worry, though; the guy offered to arrange a ride for me, on the garage’s dime. So I’ve now taken my first ever Uber ride. There was an Uber driver just a minute or two away at the university, so I didn’t have to wait long at all. So that was handy, although it meant I had to skip my shopping trip. Hopefully I’ll be up to walking to the garage to pick the car up whenever they’re done with it.

I think there may have been a harbinger of this problem on my recent Shore Leave trip. On the way back, I was returning to my car at a rest stop when I noticed the high beams were on. It took me a while to remember how to turn them off, and when I determined it was by pulling the lever toward me, I figured I must’ve accidentally done so at some point. But maybe it happened spontaneously and was a warning sign of the problem. But because I’d had that problem before, I was extra-careful the last time I used the car to make sure the lights were off when I was done with it. But it looks like there’s a problem with the internal switch, so that didn’t make a difference after all.

It’s always the way, isn’t it? As soon as you get money, new expenses crop up. Well, I guess it’s better than having it happen before you get money.

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Smoothies solve everything

I just got back from a trip to the grocery store (on foot) and discovered that the bananas I bought had been packed right against the bottle of apple juice, so that both bananas on one side of the bunch (i.e. 2 out of 4) were crushed along one side. At first, I was afraid at least one of the bananas would be nearly a total loss, since I know how quickly a crushed part of a banana becomes rotten. But then I realized — it would still take time. So if I had at least the more badly crushed one right away, it would still be edible, if underripe for my tastes.

So I put it in a smoothie, along with other stuff I happened to have on hand — some canned tropical fruit chunks, honey, and some all-natural coffee creamer (since I’m out of yogurt — this was a necessities-only grocery trip). I guess the sweetness of all those ingredients helped cancel out the tartness of the underripe banana, since it’s not bad. Not one of the better smoothies I’ve had, but more edible than I expected. Maybe I’ll deal with the other damaged banana the same way later on, although it has less extensive damage.

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My good deed for the day (with help)

I was just out for a walk at the local park, processing some good news I received yesterday and the extent to which it will improve my current financial situation (markedly but not completely, and I can’t say anything more yet). On my way out of the park, I noticed something anomalous about a young, recently planted tree, maybe close to twice my height. It and several others had those cylindrical wire-mesh cages around the trunks, the sort of thing that I guess are there to keep the flimsy saplings from blowing over or being knocked over or whatever. But someone had apparently lifted the wire cage up around its branches, and it was stuck there. It was probably someone’s drunken prank, judging from the beer bottle lying by the base of the tree. After a moment’s thought, I decided I couldn’t leave the poor tree in that condition, so I tried to see if I could work the cage free of the branches and lower it back down without hurting any of the branches too much. It proved tricky, though, with too many places where it was hooked in. I noticed that there was a seam in the cage where one end was hooked to the other, and I realized that if I could undo the hooks, I could unwrap the cage and then re-wrap it around the base.

But the cage was just a bit too high on the tree for me to reach the top hook, and I’d need to start at the top for best results. So I was on the verge of giving up when I noticed a jogger, apparently a college student from the bookstore logo on his sweatshirt, and asked him to give me a hand. I explained the situation and suggested that we could work together to unhook the seam, but he was convinced it would be simpler just to lift the whole thing up and over. So we gave that a try (after he threw away the beer bottle), and it turned out we were underestimating the height of the tree, or overestimating our own. We’d just made matters worse, making the whole thing more top-heavy and more likely to topple the tree.

At this point, I remembered that I’d seen some loose chairs in another part of the park, evidently left there by some recent visitors. So I hurried over to get one while the jogger held the cage up. Once I got back, he stood on the chair (my balance isn’t great these days — I got dizzy just looking up while trying to free the cage) and eventually managed to lift and rotate the cage free of the branches, with a little gentle bending of the upper portion of the tree on my part. Then it was just a matter of unhooking the freed cage and wrapping it back around the trunk where it belonged. I thanked the jogger, we talked a bit about our respective past experiences with other people’s tree vandalism, and we went our separate ways.

So this was our good deed for the day: straightening up someone else’s mesh.

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