Archive for November, 2015

My Photo Album

Posted: November 30, 2015 in My Photo Album
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Awkward photo suitsFlint and I worked hard at making our private detective agency a success. But we couldn’t cut out the mobilizin’ and socializin’ altogether, could we? The lovely ladies at the Cottontail Lounge might think we were neglecting them. Here, we’ve spotted something at the end of the bar, and we like what we see. Is it hot in here, baby, or is it YOU? Oooooh yeah.

philconGreat weekend! I spend most of it at PhilCon — the Philadelphia Science Fiction Conference. Actually held in Cherry Hill, N.J. But I guess PhilCon is too august a name to change lightly. This event has been going on in one form or another since 1936.

In the near future, I’m sure I’ll be blogging about different elements of it in greater detail. Geez, I got enough material there for a year’s worth of blog entries. And I got the contact info for a lot of people I intend to be interviewing here — after reviewing their works, in a lot of cases. So stay tuned.

Anyway, I was very impressed. Up to now, I haven’t really been big on conventions. As I’ve mentioned here many, many times, I love science fiction, horror and fantasy. And I certainly don’t want to put down the means by which anyone chooses to enjoy them. Hey, it’s a big tent. Glad everyone’s here.

Still, I’m just not into the obsessive parsing of specific TV shows and movies that seems to characterize a lot of fandom. And I had this image in my mind that the convention scene has a lot of that.

I was pleasantly surprised, though. PhilCon seemed to have a very pronounced emphasis on the literary side of science fiction, which I appreciated.

Hell, I walked through the door of the hotel and momentarily wondered if I was in the right place because the lobby wasn’t packed with people in outlandish costumes. The I looked to my right and saw Gardner Dozois — legendary writer and editor — hanging out at one of the hotel restaurant tables. The guy’s been one of my heroes since I was a kid. After suppressing a “SQUEEEE!” worthy of a 14-year-old girl who’s just spotted One Direction, I wandered over, told him I was a big fan, and asked if he could point me toward the convention.  Mr. Dozois, who proved to be every bit as cool as I could have hoped, did so.

So my convention experience started out good, and pretty much stayed there the entire weekend. I think I might end up attending more conventions.

Like I said, I plan to blog about it more. But I’m kind of tired and about to crash, so I’ll get to that later. Time to dream pleasant dreams stoked by the endorphin rush I’m still riding.

ZZZZZZZZ! What’s that, Mr. Dozois? You say you want to edit an anthology of my short stories with introductions by Joe R. Lansdale and Neil Gaiman? Why … I’m flattered. ZZZZZZZZZ!


cheesesteak 2“Naked Came the Cheesesteak.” Weird fetish site? No. At least … I hope not.

Actually, it’s a “serial novel” mystery, with each chapter written by a different Philadelphia-area writer. And it’s happening right now at Philadelphia Stories, where a new chapter is being released each month.

So how do nakedness and cheesesteaks tie in? Here’s a little bit of background.

Back in 1969, a bunch of journalists played a literary practical joke by releasing a deliberately bad book titled “Naked Came the Stranger,” in which each of them wrote a different chapter and released it under a pseudonym. Their intent was to show that any book could be a success, as long as it featured lots of sex. Turns out they were right. The book became a best-seller.

In 1996, a bunch of South Florida-area writers — including the legendary Carl Hiaasen and the beyond-legendary Elmore Leonard — did something similar by crafting a mystery/thriller parody in which a different author wrote each chapter. Unlike “Stranger,” this one wasn’t a hoax. But the title, “Naked Came the Manatee,” paid tribute to its literary forebear. Or, should I say … foreBARE?

Sorry. I kind of hate myself now. Anyway.

Some of the folks over at the wonderful Philadelphia Stories decided to do something similar with a bunch of Philadelphia-area writers.

I don’t want to talk about it too much. I’ll let co-editor Mitchell Sommers take care of that in the following interview.

But I will say this. I recently attended the launch party for “Naked Came the Cheesesteak,” at which a number of the authors gave readings from their contributions. I can tell you already that it’s very different from “Naked Came the Stranger,” which the writers intentionally made bad. Because “Cheesesteak” features some amazing writing.

The writers themselves, who didn’t see the chapters that came after their contributions, have no idea if it’s going to hold together as a story. But hold together or not, it will definitely be worth reading for the quality of the prose, if nothing else.

That’s why I wanted to feature it here. That, and the fact that it gives me an excuse to use the word “naked” a lot, which I figure will boost my Google search rankings.

By the way, the writers associated with the project are: Kelly Simmons, Nathaniel Popkin, Kelly McQuain, Warren Longmire, Don Lafferty, Tony Knighton, Merry Jones, Victoria Janssen, Shaun Haurin, Gregory Frost, Mary Anna Evans, Randall Brown and Diane Ayres.

The co-editors are Mitchell Sommers and Tori Bond.

So here are the questions that co-editor Mitchell Sommers graciously agreed to answer for me:

Q: Can you give us some background on how “Naked Came the Cheesesteak” happened, and your involvement with it?

A: The idea of a serial novel has been something I’ve thought about ever since reading the Dave Barry/Elmore Leonard creation “Naked Came the Manatee,” which was also a serial novel/ murder mystery set in Miami using South FL writers. It’s a crazy book (and totally worth reading). And when I finally had a forum to try something like this in Philly, I decided to try it. I’m fiction editor for “Philadelphia Stories,” and the two co-editors and founders, Christine Weiser and Carla Spataro, were totally on board. They may have thought I was nuts, but they were on board. I very quickly realized that I was not even going to come close to organizing this thing myself, and I asked Tori Bond, who is also with “Philadelphia Stories,” and who is a recent MFA graduate from Rosemont College, to become co-editor. She has an important quality I lack, that being anything involving even rudimentary organization skills. (Note to my law clients: Please ignore what I just said.)


Q: What were you hoping to accomplish with this?

A: Two things: First, I wanted to see what a bunch of writers, with different styles, writing in different genres, could do on a project like this. The story very quickly became a murder mystery–that format worked well with the concept, and it was a way of paying homage to Naked Came the Manatee. And it really did take on on a life and shape of its own. Getting several member of the Liars Club (Kelly SImmons, Merrey Deedee Jones, Gregory Frost and Don Lafferty) was a big help. We also had two poets (Warren Longmire and Kelly McQuain), which I thought added some interesting shape and texture to the project. But really, every writer brought something cool to the project.

Second, I wanted to bring attention to “Philadelphia Stories.” Our mission is fostering a community of writers in the Greater Philadelphia Area, and this fit perfectly. I wanted people to read us, to stick with us, to come to our readings and our yearly Push to Publish one day writers’ conference. And, hopefully, give us money. Our on-line auction is up right now.


Q: Do you think there’s any particular literary quality that tends to characterize work from the Philadelphia area?

A: I don’t think pretense is a quality you’re going to find in Philly writers. They, like the place, are a tough bunch, without a lot of fake sentimentality. Funny and poignancy exist pretty much side by side.


Q: Obviously, everyone involved is having some fun with this. But do you think it reveals anything about the storytelling process?

A: That it’s mysterious, lively, capable of taking inspiration from all kinds of places and if I knew more, I’d use it to finish my own novel.


Q: Can you tell us a little bit about Philadelphia Stories?

A: We’ve been around since 2004. That’s 11 years. We publish quarterly, featuring poetry, fiction, non-fiction and artwork. We are completely, totally free, and are distributed across the Delaware Valley, including every branch of the Philadelphia Library. We also publish PS Jr., twice a year, featuring the work of children up to 12th grade. And the aforementioned Push to Publish writers workshop, in which more and more agents (the magic word to a writer) show up every year. It’s a great magazine. I’m thrilled to be a part of it. Nobody else would have let me do this.

Hubble1This piece originally appeared in the quarterly newsletter for the Garden State Speculative Fiction Writers, which I edit. I thought it would be of benefit to the science fiction writers in our group. But I think horror writers could find plenty of material here. Bottom line — the existence of alien lifeforms in the universe is pretty much a statistical certainty. And they’re probably a lot more like something out of H.P. Lovecraft’s imagination that Gene Roddenberry’s. *Shudder* By the way, the eye-popping photos that accompany this are from the Hubble Telescope.


Unfathomable Distances, Unfriendly Locals

By Tom Joyce

Editor’s note: Ray Villard is news director for the Space Telescope Science Institute in Maryland, which operates the Hubble Space Telescope. He’s also the former associate editor of “Astronomy” magazine, an editorial contributor to Discovery Channel, and the author of numerous articles for magazines, encyclopedias and Internet blogs, and scripts for several syndicated science programs on public radio.

Ray Villard is a science fiction fan himself, so he understands why writers for page and screen sometimes do

what they do. Maybe they just need to tell an entertaining story. And it’s not like 1960s-era Star Trek had a multimillion dollar CGI budget at its disposal for rendering alien lifeforms.

Still, he can’t help but get irritated sometimes at science fiction in which the writers seem to have no familiarity whatsoever with the scientific phenomenon they’re ostensibly writing about. (more…)

My Photo Album

Posted: November 4, 2015 in My Photo Album

My old band. We recorded one single that got a little bit of local airplay, titled: “I’m the UPS Man (How Do You Like My Package?)” After that, we split over creative differences. The guy in the glasses is now a U.S. Supreme Court justice. True story.

Child's Play