Category Archives: fandom

The Sculpted Ship, by K. M. O’Brien

My brother Kevin just finished his science fiction novel and put it up on Amazon on Saturday. It’s listed under Steampunk (because the manners and mores of the local galactic empire tend that way, and they’re major features of the plot) and Galactic Empire (because there is one). I copy-edited it and I’m proud of it, but he got most of the ideas that improved it. (He’s the kind of guy who tends not to follow your ideas, but likes to bounce his ideas off yours until he gets something he likes. He has good instincts.)

He’s got a blurb, but let me tell you about the book.

Cover of The Sculpted Ship by K. M. O'Brien

The Sculpted Ship is a small business development story. Anailu Xindar finds the perfect starship of her dreams, and plans to put it to work for her new cargo hauling business. But at the cheap price she got it, you know it has to be a fixer-upper. Finding the parts is going to be a problem. But this time, it’s the intrigue, traps, and very-bad-things kind of problem.

(Yes, Kevin is the kind of computer geek who also has car and truck projects in the backyard.)

Even before the parts problem kicks in, it turns out that having a unique ship gives you unique opportunities to make money — but only if you train yourself to take advantage of them. And in Anailu’s society, it means learning how to mix with the rich, make bets with other captains, and buy fancy duds. From a fashion designer. Who likes frou-frou. Anailu likes to plan ahead, but she never planned on this!

This book stands alone, but Kevin is writing a second Anailu novel right now. In fact, he wants to have a whole series. He’s got some great worldbuilding ideas, and he also has a good sense of storytelling and humor. I also think you will like Anailu and her friends; I sure do.

The Sculpted Ship is only $3.99 $2.99, as of November 26. So check out the sample pages and see if you like it!

PS. I don’t have Kevin’s Amazon affiliate link at the moment, and I’m not one. So feel free to search out The Sculpted Ship from the affiliate of your choice. He’s going to have it up on Barnes and Noble and Kobo, too, but right now it’s just on Amazon.

PPS. I hope everybody has a happy Thanksgiving. I spent most of the morning still resting from last night, because things have been crazy at the store all the last few weeks. And tomorrow morning is Black Friday. I’m certainly getting hours!


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The 2016 Worldcon and Hugo Awards

Not much to say about it, other than that the Worldcon committee has dug themselves deeper. New depths of intolerance. New depths of bad conrunning. Obviously they don’t want anybody to attend.

1. The bright spot of the convention was the Preliminary Business Meeting, where oldschool fans and Worldcon administrators indignantly voted down the proposal that Worldcon committees should be able to add any and all of their own Hugo nominations to the ballot. Such an eventuality would not just be a corrupt use of power; it would also mean that every committee member would be continually pestered by crazy people wanting to be nominated. So it wasn’t just a matter of ethics; it was about concom survival instinct!

2. Mary Robinette Kowal, a longtime conventiongoer and allegedly professional editor/author, openly served Scotch at her book signing, in a hotel public area. This was against the convention rules, as well as being a violation of the hotel’s contract with the convention and the local liquor licensing laws. Despite endangering the convention and breaking both the contract and the law, Mary Robinette Kowal was only given a gentle explanation of her wrongdoing and suspended from the convention until midnight.

This is the sort of behavior that usually gets one tossed out on one’s ear, and uninvited from all other conventions who hear about it. No con committee wants to pay penalties to the hotel or get fined by the state/city/county. But she says she was punished the same as anybody else, even though they didn’t even take her badge away temporarily and have her pick it up at Ops the next day or after midnight. Yeah. So very punished.

It is always true that fans should check local laws before assuming that their customs from home will be okay. Usually one reminds first-time congoers of this fact.

3. Dave Truesdale, a longtime conventiongoer and panelist, as well as a professional editor, moderated a panel on short fiction. He was thrown out of the convention on his ear without explanation. Later he was told that it had been because his words during the panel “made people uncomfortable.” You can listen to the audio of the panel here. Not exactly controversial fare or a particularly exciting panel. Opening statements are pretty darned common from both moderators and panelists, and I’ve heard a lot longer ones. So I’m not exactly sure where these horribly shocked people attend cons.

4. The Hugo Awards continued their new tradition of hideous behavior by No-Awarding any category where it looked like a non-SJW might win. Previously to the last couple years, No Award was only given in categories where there was really no candidate that was worth any support, or where nobody bothered to vote. The awards ceremony also included more ritual shaming of unpersons, including the new tradition of harassment “skits.”

5. Fortunately, Dragoncon and Comicon are now the real world science fiction conventions, and Dragoncon’s new Dragon Awards look like they will really reflect the tastes of all of fandom. So it doesn’t really matter, except as a sort of morbid observation of the death throes of a dying con. But it is a shame.

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Tolkien’s New Christmas Carol!

It was announced yesterday that a “new” Tolkien poem had been discovered – or rather, a Tolkien poem published in 1936 in the Annual for Our Lady’s School in Abingdon, Oxfordshire, England. (Tolkien actually published two poems in the Annual, but one of them was “The Shadow Man,” a shorter version of his poem “The Shadow Bride,” which already appears in the Tom Bombadil poem collection.)

The new poem is simply named “Noel.” It seems to be a Christmas carol.

A Tolkien scholar saw a note about the poems in Tolkien’s papers, tracked down the vague reference to the school, and attempted to get copies of the magazine. The school principal (a Tolkien fan, luckily) looked diligently but without success. However, they ended up finding the old magazines while looking for something else, and sure enough, there was “Professor J.R.R. Tolkien” listed in the Table of Contents for the 1936 one!

The two poems briefly appeared on the Our Lady’s Abingdon website (as is the school’s right, as publisher of the magazine!), but have now been taken down again. (One suspects there is a deal in the works for some cash for the school.)

However, Tolkien fandom saved copies first! So check it out!



You can see a bit of Chesterton influence, I think, but it’s still all Tolkien.

The remarkable thing here is that, rather than all of Earth listening to the angels singing, all of Heaven is listening to Mary’s lullaby. Meanwhile, rather than just the bells of Earth ringing in praise, the bells of Heaven are leading this praise.

(Insert psalm reference to “they have no tongues” and compare to bells, and to stars of a non-angelic kind since Biblical “star” references are often talking about angels.)

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Attachment Vs. Love

Today is Christmas, one of the two great feasts celebrating the Incarnation of Our Lord Jesus Christ. (The other is the Feast of the Annunciation, when He first became man, as a fertilized egg in the womb of the Blessed Virgin.)

One of the great revelations of God to the Children of Israel was that He not only was willing to look after them as their god, but to perform a covenant ceremony with them that made them part of the same clan. Throughout Israel’s history, He did not just act like their king; as Isaiah daringly sang, He acted like their father.

Isaiah 63:16 –

“But You are our father,
though Abraham does not know us
or Israel [Jacob] acknowledge us;
You, Lord, are our father,
“our redeemer” is Your name from of old.”

Ki ‘attah ‘abinu
ki ‘Abraham lo yeda’anu
we-Yisra’el lo wekiranu
‘attah YHWH ‘abinu
go’alenu me’owlam semeka

(Isaiah rhymes a lot. I feel that this should be made clearer to us English speakers.)

Isaiah 64:7-8 –

For You have hidden Your face from us
and have dissolved us
because of our iniquities.
Still, O Lord, our Father
are You; we are
the clay; still You are our potter;
we are all the work of Your hand.

ki histarta paneka mimmennu
beyad ‘awonenu
we-‘attah YHWH ’abinu
’attah; ‘anahnu
ha-ḥomer we-’attah yo-serenu
uma‘aseh ya-deka kullanu.

The next step was to have God join our clan and take up our lives, and even die and rise for us. He did not turn away from us or hide His face; He dug in deeper and was even stubborner than His people.

Which brings me to the other subject of this post.

One of the great problems with Star Wars is that it doesn’t adequately explain (through action!) the difference between love and attachment, and the difference between the Western and the Chinese/Japanese/Indian ideas of attachment.

The Eastern view is that all love and all involvement in the world is attachment, and therefore the thing to do is to avoid suffering by going off in the mountains, there to never see anyone or do anything ever again. (Bodhisattvas are putting themselves through a lot of crap by deigning to help suffering mankind instead of just dissolving away in nirvana, like a sensible enlightened being.) This led to all the “anger is of the Dark Side” and “Jedi can’t love” silliness.

The Western view is that you go off into the mountains in order to get to know God better and love Him more. Attachment is idolatry of people and things and goals; whereas love values them appropriately, and in their proper relationship to God (Who created them). Celibacy is a tool for focusing on God, and for practicing for life in Heaven where there’s no marriage or sex (but unimaginable intimacy of heart and soul with Christ, and with the rest of His Body). You get less attached, but much more involved and in love.

Alec Guinness was a Catholic, and he played Obi-Wan as an old Western monk who had doubted and gotten weary, but who began to flame up more and more with an inner glow of joy. He threw in a few Oriental bits of flavor, but overall he didn’t present the Asian type of “old master” and monk. Not at all. Star Wars was in large part about finding friends (even if you weren’t friendly at first) and sticking with them, not about dropping all your healthy loves and friendships in favor of nirvana.

Similarly, the Eastern Buddhist idea is that all emotions and thoughts are ultimately destructive and illusory, including the happy ones. The Western idea is that emotions and thoughts shouldn’t become idols and that you shouldn’t chase experiences like a drug; but that ultimately, God wants us to have joy. In His life on earth, Jesus was not ashamed to be angry or to be sad. Emotions are not a failing. He created them for us, to be helpful and beautiful (in moderation).

So without spoiling anybody… it’s pretty clear from the new movie that Star Wars continues to confuse those two things. I hope that the next movie will challenge that confusion. I think it would make a very satisfying story, actually.

Merry Christmas, everybody! Love your families and friends, in the name of Love Himself. Do not fear the suffering that comes with loving others, because Love will make it your glory in the end. Do not give up because it is hard. Dig in deeper.


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We Need More Sad Puppies Memes

Apparently some people have totally missed the point of the Sad Puppies campaign. So we need more memes.

Here’s one I just made from a photo I had lying around.


As usual with Internet memes, not my puppies and not my photo.

Another meme:



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Award-Winning Monster

1. It was revealed the other day that Marion Zimmer Bradley was not just an enabler of Walter Breen, her second husband the pedophile, but that she was a pedophile herself. She apparently raped children of both sexes, as did her husband. Her daughter also revealed that Bradley occasionally beat her up, partially drowned her, choked her, etc., as well as raping her and her brothers, foster-children, child visitors, etc. So basically a cozy little Berkeley house full of rape and torture. Since a fair number of Bradley’s friends were in and out of the house at all hours, one can doubt that they all knew nothing about it, although there was also a lot of drug use, which was awfully convenient. Here’s what was known when Breen was finally sent to prison, from the case records.

But both Breen and Bradley are dead, and only one of them died in prison; and frankly, that’s lucky for them because they should have been strung up. There aren’t that many husband and wife rape teams out there, but it does happen every so often. Still, this is a case for the true crime books. An extremely creepy case.

2. This week, there was placed on the Internet the sf-history-famous but never-before-available 1963 letter explaining why some of Berkeley fandom wanted Bradley’s husband out of local fandom, before she even married him (and brought her twelve-year-old son along as a handy victim). It revealed that heck yeah, there was plenty known against Breen in 1963, and certainly enough to call the cops on him. Furthermore, it revealed that among a wide variety of well-known fans of the day who were sent the letter, none of them called the cops, although they did sign off on the agreement to ban Breen from a big convention. Other signatories from across the country may or may not have known the extent of what was known against him. I knew a couple of them in their later years, and I hope to hell they didn’t know it all, because it sucks away a lot of my respect for them if they did.

As a gutpunch, I knew (as an acquaintance) at least one of the people who received the original letter. He is dead now, which is a good thing, because what kind of freaking spineless child-sacrificing moron DOESN’T CALL THE COPS!??

Fandom has not served its children well. There is no way to make this crap up to the victims, except perhaps by ceasing to obscure the matter.

3. My mom says there was a story about this on the national news this morning, during one of the morning shows, but apparently the story is invisible to search engines. Google News only shows news stories about it in Italian. Somebody must have one heck of a lawyer.

4. The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley is routinely assigned in classes. Do not do this.

5. A few of the authors who were published in Bradley anthologies have recently announced that they have donated the amount of their earnings to charities that aid victims of child rape. This seems like a good idea.

Janni Lee Simner

(Tiny aside:

(For years, there’s been a story going around about “a fan” who sued Bradley, or who cruelly dared to negotiate with Bradley, when Bradley wanted to use big chunks of the fan’s invented fanfic backstory for a new Darkover novel. It turns out that “a fan” was Jean Lamb, who was already a published fiction and non-fiction writer at the time, and who just asked her agent to iron out some clear terms. (It was Bradley who freaked out. As you would expect from a violent pedophile, she had pretty serious control issues, and this was apparently well-known among people who knew her personally.) So basically, Bradley told a lot of self-serving lies even in business matters, and a lot of her fans were willing to go along with her view of things, even in business matters.)

6. Sales of Bradley books do not benefit any of the Bradley children. All royalties go to a trust which benefits Elisabeth Waters, who was Bradley’s live-in secretary/other. She knew a great deal about all this crap, judging by her deposition. So yeah, probably best not to fund her.


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Awards, and Betraying SF’s Inner Reader

“This is YOUR magazine. Only by knowing what kind of stories you like can we continue to please you. Fill out this coupon or copy it on a sheet of paper and mail it to AMAZING STORIES, 53 Park Place, New York City.”

— Readers’ Vote of Preference ballot, Amazing Stories, Vol. 1 No. 7, October 1926

From the letter column “Discussions,” Amazing Stories, Vol. 1 No. 10, January 1927:

“Some time ago I read one of your issues and was greatly surprised to find such reading matter as is published in your magazine. Mr. Jules Verne’s story was one of the best. He is a very promising writer. You also have several other good stories in the October issue.”

— E. H., Indianapolis, Ind.
[Verne had been dead for many years, so the editor printed this as inadvertently funny but suppressed the reader name.]

“”I have always been an avid reader of pseudo-scientific stories, or, as you term them, scientifiction — a very good descriptive word, by the way, — and I have waited for years for something like this to appear.

“One gets loaded up on the western tales, and silly twaddle, as typified by the “sex” magazines; and a magazine such as AMAZING STORIES, with the unique, the bizarre — is a relief.

“I have, however, a fault to find with AMAZING STORIES. I can’t understand why you reprint any of the Verne stories. I have, for one, never liked them. They are dry, and to my mind, poorly written.

“The “Hackensaw” stories were ordinary, as were the “Fosdick” tales. I didn’t care for them, personally, nor for Poe’s stories.

“”The Moon Hoax” was — rotten! It does not belong in your magazine, if you intend to live up to “Scientifiction.”

“Stories by England, Wells, Serviss, by writers who can, and do, combine scientific facts and well-written fiction into an interesting and gripping tale, are what I want, and it is, I understand, your aim to give us that. If you do this, there is no reason why circulation will not increase to warrant the issue twice a month….”

— Harry V. Spurling, Elgin, Ill.

“….many of your authors are very amateurish in the use of words, and short on facts, as in the case of Mr. Windsor in “Station X.” … If my criticism seems harsh, forgive it on the grounds that I am interested in the welfare of AMAZING STORIES, and hope to see them truly great, and not in the class of cheap fiction.”

— Prof. Jack E. Edwards, San Francisco, Calif.

The whole reason sf has awards is that the sf magazines used to encourage reader comment and criticism on their choice of stories. The simple voting coupon quickly was overtaken by letter columns full of “letters of comment” including addresses, which then became fandom’s first method of finding friends who shared an interest in “scientifiction.” Many magazines (and later, fanzines) pooled the votes for the year and announced which stories were the year’s or the issue’s reader favorites. All the sf awards grew out of this.

The criteria for these awards were all about reader interest and enjoyment, not about the names on the masthead, or their sex and ethnicity.

From the letter column “Discussions,” Amazing Stories, Vol. 8, No. 12, April 1934:

“I have just finished reading “The Second Deluge” published in your last Quarterly issue of your superb magazine, and I can’t refrain myself from instantly writing to you, before I read the whole magazine.

“This story, to my liking, is the best I ever read of fiction in either English or Spanish languages. I would like to get acquainted with more of Prof. Garrett P. Serviss’ productions…

“The Second Deluge” is worth the money I paid for it fifty times over, and the entertainment I had from its reading is unequaled, although I had to stay up late at nights, unwilling to discontinue….”

— Rafael Villegas, P. O. Box 1419, San Jose, Costa Rica, C. A.

“I must tell you that I find Discussions so very interesting that it is the first thing I turn to when reading the magazine. It is almost like a story, showing us, who can read between the lines, the psychology of the people who write therein.

“…No matter how absorbing planetary stories may be, they do get boring when there are too many. Thus, it is not asking too much to give us psychology readers “a break” and print more stories like the “Pellucid Horror,” “Master of Dreams,” and the “Lost Language.”

— Miss Rea Ash, 1001 East 167th Street, New York City, N. Y.

“….As for the stories, well I’m not throwing any bricks because almost all of the stories you have published so far, have been in my estimation excellent, each in its own way. Although the kinds which I prefer above all are the ones dealing with time-space traveling, the past or future and about the different planets of the universe.

“And now, Mr. Editor, I’d like a word or two with some of our readers. I wish many of your who throw bricks so lavishly at some poor author would stop to think that even though he can’t please everybody, after all he is only human, and a flower or two and some words of encouragement would do far more good than a ton of bricks….”

— Miss E. M. C. Poppe, Box 727, W. Brownsville, Pa.

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