Article Category Archives: Columns

Notes from The Buffer Zone: The Importance of Weather

 


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Hot Off Eric Flint’s Ring of Fire Press!

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas! Here’s the place to shop for the book lovers on your list. Eric Flint’s Ring of Fire Press has something for every reader! Here are a selection of titles, and by Christmas we will have even more, including TimeSpike:The Mysterious Mesa, by Garrett W. Vance; Ganny Knits a Spaceship, by David Gerrold; Big Stick, by Michael Ventrella; and WarSpell: The Merge, by Gorg Huff and Paula Goodlett.

 

1632 Universe Books

 

Monster Society

Written by: Eric S. Brown, Robert Waters, and Anna G. Carpenter

The year is 1635. The event known as the Ring of Fire is four years behind us, and yet, there are still strange occurances taking place.

Enter the Gesellschaft der Ungethüme, The Monster Society, a Live Action Role-Playing group (LARPers) who have sworn an oath to protect Grantville and its shadowy surrounds from ghouls and goblins, vampires and villians, and scary monsters that lurk in your attic, your mind, or beneath your bed. These intrepid down-timers team up with up-timer Natalie Clinter to keep the citizenry safe from the evils of the real world.

Fear not, desperate citizens . . . The Monster Society is on the case.

 

In Iver P. Cooper’s latest alternate history novel, a new contribution to Eric Flint’s 1632 Universe, the romance between Juan Cardona, an officer in Spain’s Manila garrison, and Huang Mingyu, a young, beautiful Chinese woman, is threatened when a Dutch-Japanese force launches a surprise attack on seventeenth century Manila. Manila falls and Juan is rescued by Huang Mingyu, who proves to have hidden talents and connections. It is then up to Juan to warn the incoming Manila galleon of the Dutch-Japanese threat before it blunders into Manila Bay, and to prove his worth to Mingyiu’s family—who have interests of their own in the region. . . .

Will true love prevail when Japan (the chrysanthemum), Spain (the cross), and China (the dragon) come into conflict?

 

The West Virginians from Grantville have met many historical personages since the small town was flung back in time and into a new universe. But the down-timers have, too. Cardinal Richelieu cannot decide whether he likes Charleton Heston or Tim Curry better as Cardinal Richelieu. So, when the King is murdered on the way to see his unborn son, and the cardinal is gravely wounded, who else would the cardinal’s friends call on but D’Artagnan and the Three Musketeers! The dynamic foursome is charged with saving the cardinal and getting him out of the reach of evil King Gaston. Even the cardinal’s robe gets its share of adventures!

Will D’Artagnan and his three friends win out and save the cardinal?

 

 

 

Science Fiction

 

Sasham Varan was a patriot, a true believer in the Reborn Empire. But after a secret project both gave him outlawed psionic powers and revealed that Prime Monitor Shagrath, head of the Monitor Corps and right hand of the Emperor, was a monster hiding behind a human face, Varan became a fugitive and the most-wanted man in the Empire. With the aid of the enigmatic trader The Eonwyl, reptilian psi-scientist Sooovickalassa, and the immense and far too dangerously cheerful astrophysicist Guvthor, Varan must discover the true nature of Shagrath and his invisible allies—and a way to fight them.

And back home, in the center of the Empire, Taelin Mel’Tasne—Varan’s closest friend—begins his own perilous quest to work his way to the center of Shagrath’s plans . . . without even understanding what he faces!

Varan will meet new allies, old enemies—and eventually must seek out a world that became nothing but legend and myth eighteen thousand years before, to find the answers he must have . . . before returning to face an even more terrifying danger!

 

From The Journals Of Candidia Smith-Foster:

“By now the reader is probably wondering who or what H. post hominem might be. Or (at very least) me. Viewed in that light, introductions are in order:

“Name: Candidia Maria Smith-Foster. Born 11 years ago to Smiths; orphaned six months later; adopted by Dr. and Mrs. Foster—‘Daddy’ and ‘Momma.’ Been known as ‘Candy’ since first breath.

Homo post hominem is new species, apparently immune to all ‘human’ disease, plus smarter, stronger, faster, etc., emerging to inherit Earth after H. sapiens eliminated selves in short, efficient bio-nuclear war. Am myself Homo post hominem. Rode out war in Daddy’s marvelous shelter, now engaged in walkabout, searching for fellow survivors. Of which reader must be one . . .

“Tomorrow morning, though not now. Tired. Disappointed. Perhaps just bad day: too long, too many expectations. Too much letdown.

“Never mind. Tomorrow is another day—Pollyanna lives!

The original Emergence novella, Volume I herein, and its sequel, Seeking, Volume II, were published in Analog Science Fiction and Fact magazine. Both earned Nebula Award nominations, Hugo Award nominations, as well as Philip K. Dick Award nominations for best new writer. In addition to those nominations (and coming in second in the final Hugo balloting in 1985), the Emergence novel won the Balticon’s Compton Crook Award for best first novel.

 

Alternate History

 

By Marella Sands

The Union ambassador is missing.

More than a hundred years after the McClellan-Davis Accords ended the Civil War, tensions are still high between the Union and the Confederacy. But recent trade agreements and personnel exchanges have made both sides hope that good relations can be restored. That is, until the Union ambassador vanishes one night from the embassy in Perdition.Two agents are sent to investigate his disappearance. Delilah Thorn, a video surveillance analyst with zero field experience, has no idea why she’s been sent on this operation, but her unshakeable faith in the Union convinces her that she must somehow have the right skills for the job. Her new partner, Dane Rook, is a seasoned veteran with a mysterious background—and a whole lot of skepticism about what their assignment entails.

They’ve barely crossed into the Confederacy when the whole mission goes to hell. Separated, trapped in a hostile nation with no weapons or supplies, they slowly learn a terrible secret about the government just across their own border. Their lives depend on separating friend from foe and discovering the limits of their own endurance. Can they figure out not only how to survive, but also how to become agents of change in a brutal society that the world has left behind?

 

The German-Japanese Axis rules the world with an iron hand. Levi Fischer, one of the last Jews in the Alaska Prefecture, works hard, keeps his head down, and hopes the Japanese overseers do not notice him. All is well until a fateful, snowy night when a dying Japanese manager bursts into the small wooden office where Levi is quietly doing his job. Levi is propelled into the center of a plot he would never willingly join.

Fans of the Phillip K. Dick novel The Man in the High Castle will enjoy this visit to a time and a place where a single misstep can cost a life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fantasy

 

BY ROBERT WATERS

Sonata Diamante is a thief and swordmaster. She serves her nefarious wizard uncle, Borshen Galo, doing his “dirty work” in the shadows of Cragsport. But when she stumbles upon a strange silver mask, her world shatters. Now, she’s on the run. With the aid of her bullmastiff companion, Fellfang, Sonata must discover the truth behind the mask’s origin.

Her journey south into the enemy province of Pontaboro will test her mettle, physically, spiritually, and mentally. Sonata must confront not only the evils wrought by the mask, but must face the truth of her own origin. Who is Sonata Diamante? And could she be even deadlier than The Masks of Mirada?

Only the gods know.

 

A new series by Eric Flint, Gorg Huff and Paula Goodlett! It’s January of 1372 and the space-time continuum has been breached by a great rift. Demons, imps, and spirits, evil and benign, spill into the universe from the netherworld.

In Paris, a series of grisly murders that couldn’t possibly be performed by a human, no matter how depraved, leads the Grand Chatelet and his men to try and raise a demon of their own to learn how to combat the creature that is terrorizing the city.

Unfortunately—or perhaps fortunately—the demon who is summoned brings with him a van from the Paris of the twenty-first century. The van contains a modern-day drama teacher, her son, and eight precocious high school students—along with all of their electronic devices.

Soon, their laptops, tablets and cell-phones become possessed by imps and spirits of the netherworld, some of whom are brilliant and all of whom are insatiably curious.

Now it’s a race to see which pack of outsiders can create the most turmoil in the late Middle Ages—monstrous demons or precocious teenagers who soon have their own allies and followers among the ranks of demonkind.

 

 

And Many More! All Available on EricFlintsRingofFire.com, Baen.com, and Amazon.com!

 

Notes from The Buffer Zone: Old-Timers

I’ve become one of the old-timers. I had an inkling of that these past few years, after I was the guest of honor at MileHiCon and watched the younger writers mill around. I had another inkling when so many of my writer and editor friends passed away recently, and I realized that conventions would not be the same.

I wrote one of these columns about that. I knew that the world had shifted. It continued to shift as writer after writer died, as I watched on social media as people who never lost their tempers with fans got angry at insensitive remarks about the death of Harlan Ellison.

Harlan was difficult at best. He alienated almost everyone on purpose. But he was also warm and generous and highly influential in sf and in literature behind the scenes. And those he had been generous with, particularly those on the liberal side of the political spectrum, had to justify their friendship with him, because he was so difficult.

Harlan would not have been tolerated in this era. He could be an abusive bully. He could also be the best friend you’ve ever had. Complex and somewhat toxic people like Harlan can no longer trade on their good traits to get people to overlook their bad ones.

And that’s a good thing. We’re revamping the culture (except, apparently, in politics), and we don’t have to tolerate the difficult people any more.

But that’s not where we were. The world has changed and we’re living it.

When changes are gradual, the way these have been, they seem almost unnoticeable. Only specific events bring the extreme difference in the past into focus.

I hit one of those events a few weeks ago. Dean and I had lunch with a highly successful indie writer. The writer has made a good deal of money self-publishing, and he’s now branching out into the wider world, going to Worldcon and NINC and Frankfurt and a whole slew of conferences.

He’s a salesman by trade, so he works the room, and he worked us a bit. He needed to impress, only it didn’t work. Normally, when I encounter a salesman who is trying that hard, I ride with it. Or I walk away from it. Because my ex was a salesman, and those techniques don’t work on me.

In this instance, though, I didn’t want to ride or undercut. I just had a lot of life experience that this guy didn’t know about at all. For example, he told us—meaning to impress—that he had met George R.R. Martin. Dean said, “Oh, you met George. Nice guy, isn’t he?” And the poor writer said, “You know him?”

At that point, Dean realized the guy had been trying to impress, so Dean looked at me—that spousal help-me look. And there was nothing I could do. We were deep in the conversation.

I said, “We’ve known George as long as we’ve known each other.” And then Dean added, “I’ve actually known him longer.”

That happened over and over and over again. The poor guy trotted out his one and only discussion with Kevin J. Anderson. And Kev and I went to college together. The indie writer mentioned some screenwriters, most of whom we’ve known for years.

Fortunately this indie writer was a smart guy. He realized that he was not going to impress us by name-dropping, so we moved to a different side of the conversation.

But all that name-dropping, and the occasional stories that we ended up having to tell—stories we don’t normally tell—like the way we’d first met George or the way that we did business with some of the other names the indie writer dropped (before the guy was out of college)—made me realize that we’re the old-timers now.

I remember sitting with Algis Budrys in a suite in the U.N. Plaza Hotel across from the United Nations in New York. AJ was trying to figure out exactly where John Campbell’s office had been. Because it had been somewhere nearby. AJ never exactly settled on where it was in relation to where we were, and I didn’t really care. What I was stunned at was the way AJ made John Campbell seem real.

Because Campbell had been, to AJ. To me, Campbell was a bit of history.

The way AJ is now to the younger writers in the field.

As a young writer, I’d been a part of a lot of those conversations. Unlike the indie writer that Dean and I had spoken to, I at least knew the history of the writers I was talking to. It wasn’t a surprise to me that Jack Williamson had known Hugo Gernsback (considered the father of SF, and the man the Hugo is named for). After all, Jack had sold his first story to Gernsback in 1929.

Now, I’m astonished that I knew someone who had written for Gernsback because 1929 seems so long ago. Then, I just hung on the stories, listening and learning.

If I’m not careful, I’m the one who can get lost in the past. The thing is that past doesn’t seem that long ago to me. Yes, I met Dean (and George) in 1986, but that was just last week. I met Kevin in 1980, and that seems slightly longer ago because Kevin is a grandfather now. (Although to me, he’s still an occasionally obnoxious 18-year-old.)

Time seems to pass in two ways. It passes moment by moment, going forward. And then, concurrently, it remains stationary. Memories are actual moments lived, and remain as vivid as they were when they occurred.

I’ve never seen that accurately represented in time travel or historical fiction. It’s something I might need to think about. Hmmm.

Story ideas—while I’m ruminating on being an old fart.

Maybe I’m not as old as I think.

Or maybe I’m just a lot harder to impress the older I’m getting.

At least I understand the looks I used to get from the old-timers in my life. Because now I give those looks to some of the younger writers around me. I try not to, but every now and then, circumstances force me into it.

Like they did during that conversation.

Guess I have to get used to being older than dirt, because I don’t plan to go anywhere soon. Which means I’ll be accruing even more stories and getting to know even more people.

And becoming an even older old-timer—who has a lot more time in her.

****

Hot Off Eric Flint’s Ring of Fire Press!

In this edition of HOEFRoFP, the releases are starting to ramp up! The first is the reissue of David R. Palmer’s famous Emergence, which has been awaited greatly.  You can get it on Amazon, and soon on our website and from Baen eBooks. We are now working on Palmer’s Threshold which is scheduled for this fall.

This month we’re releasing Iver P. Cooper’s The Chrysanthemum, the Cross, and the Dragon. This 1632 Universe short novel takes place in the Philippines, Taiwan, and Southern China. It is a love story between Juan, a Spanish soldier, and Mingyu, the daughter of a Chinese pirate chieftain. Does the soldier get the girl?

We are pleased to announce that we have signed three well-known writers who will be providing us with great novels for you to read.

First, Ryk Spoor, who is well-known as a collaborator with Eric Flint, has given us the next two volumes in the Demons of the Past series. Demons of the Past: Revolution will be coming out in a month or so, followed by Demons of the Past: Retribution.

Next, Marella Sands, author of Pandora’s Mirror, Fortune’s Daughter, and Serpent and Storm,  gives us a wonderful alternate history of the United States, where George McClellan became president in 1864, and the country never really came back together. In the present day, the Union and the three fragments of the Confederacy are at each other’s throats. Perdition is a sure nominee for the Sidewise Award for Alternate History.

Last, but not least, Michael A. Ventrella gives us Big Stick, a rollicking steampunk alternate history starring Teddy Roosevelt, Harriet Tubman and Samuel “Mark Twain” Clemens. Who stole the Navy’s dirigible? Who is the Auntie? And what is the Big Stick? Hang around with us and you’ll find out.

Check out our website and our Facebook page for all the latest information!

****

Notes from The Buffer Zone: Fandom Changes

Notes from The Buffer Zone:

Fandom Changes

By

Kristine Kathryn Rusch

 

Because I live in downtown Las Vegas, I see the strangest things. Almost every window in my place overlooks different wedding chapels.

On the afternoon of May 4, I looked out one window and saw two stormtroopers loitering near the prettiest wedding chapel. I figured the stormtroopers were standing by the traffic light, waiting for it to change. It was, as the stormtrooper presence reminded me, May The Fourth (Star Wars Day: May The Fourth Be With You, for those of you late to the party.)

A bridal party came out of the chapel, men and women, all dressed in black. I didn’t see the bride or the groom, but that’s not unusual. Wedding parties often hang around outside while they’re waiting for the bride and groom to sign documents and do the indoor photo shoots.

The wedding party started talking to the stormtroopers, who moved with them toward the photo shoot part of the chapel grounds.

How cute, I thought. They’re going to invite the stormtroopers into some of the photos.

Um, no. Wrong. The stormtroopers were the couple getting married that day. They were front and center in all of the photos, including the chapel’s specialty photo which includes tossed rose petals.

The stormtroopers never took off their helmets. I have no idea what gender they were, how old they were, or anything. Just two stormtroopers, celebrating their love for each other.

While that kind of strange thing is still unusual, what’s not unusual in this neighborhood is people in costume. The transit station isn’t far from here, and neither is the Fremont Street Experience, where a lot of costumed people roam the streets and get photographed (and make money doing so).

At least once a week, I see superheroes walking to work (yes, in costume). Just before I wrote this piece, I saw Wonder Woman and Captain America get off the bus and head to their day jobs.

Gotta say I love this town.

But those random visits reminded me how different the world is these days.

Right now, a major Star Trek convention is going on in Vegas. All of the stars of Discovery are at the event, along with many survivors of the original series and stars from the other series. I toyed with going, but I’m not up for it this year. (Still moving.)

That feeling—I could go, but I’m not going to go—reminded me of my teenage years, when my folks and I went to Milwaukee to go clothes shopping before school. One year, there was a Star Trek convention not too far from our hotel.

My folks were appalled that I wanted to go. Appalled and embarrassed. I was forbidden to go near that place. My folks never forced me to read what they wanted me to read, but television was another matter. If I was watching a Trek episode in syndication or Space:1999 (which I didn’t like much, but hey, it was sf) or any other fantastical show, my parents reserved the right to change the channel with impunity.

I didn’t even have friends to complain to about this, because most of them were shocked that I liked “that junk.” When I went to my first sf convention with my friend Kevin J. Anderson when we were both in college, I was shocked to speechlessness. These were my people. They loved the same things I did. They even dressed in costume! They didn’t mind showing their love.

Back then, TV stations would come to the freak show for video of the nerds having a nerd party.

Now the stations line up to get interviews with anyone who shows up at major conventions. My streaming service has a channel dedicated to Comic Con. People on the street are in costume, for God’s sake, and no one thinks anything of it.

Pure fandom itself, the kind that remains from the old days, is having trouble with the changes. This year’s Worldcon had an utterly horrible incident that resulted in terrible treatment for the Hugo award nominees in various categories. Saner minds had to step in and fix the mess, but the damage is done.

There’s a part of fandom that has become toxic, horribly terribly toxic.

I have trouble with that. Because fandom for me was a safe place, a place to find other people like me. The crap that some idiots are pulling is breaking my fannish heart.

I know, though, that some of this is backlash to changes. Some of it is “defense” against the mainstreaming of what had been an isolated little genre. I understand that—and still hate it all.

What I do love is that the entire culture has become fandom. I don’t need to go to Worldcon to have a fannish experience. I can walk down the street and see costumed superheroes. Stormtroopers are getting married just a few blocks from me.

I can talk to a random person at the grocery store about the ending of Avengers: Infinity War. Now, when people see me with an sf book in hand, they don’t treat me like there’s something wrong with me. They ask me if I like the book, and who wrote it, and should they pick up a copy.

I love these random fannish experiences. The change is a good one. I’m glad the culture has become more accepting of the genres I love.

Shortly after I arrived here, I participated in a superhero 5K run. I went because it was a no-pressure run, and I needed to see more of the city.

I can’t tell you how humbling it is to get passed by a three-feet tall Black Panther or a Batman pushing a jogging stroller or by a 12-year-old dressed as Princess Leia. Humbling and exciting at the same time.

I no longer have to go to a convention to experience geek culture. I live in it.

We all do.

****

Hot Off Eric Flint’s Ring of Fire Press!

 


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Notes from The Buffer Zone: Conventions in the Sky

 


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This Issue’s Cover- 78

 


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Thanks for opening a story or article on the Gazette!  Sadly, that's all you get as a preview of this one.  

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- The Grantville Gazette Staff