Remembering My Mom, Carol Vertlieb, on the Anniversary of Her Passing

Carol, Erwin, Steve and Charles Vertlieb

By Steve Vertlieb: It was at approximately 3:30 in the morning, on February 1, 2012, that my bedroom telephone rang. It was the nursing home, The Abramson Center For Jewish Life, calling to tell me that my beloved mom Carol Vertlieb has passed away. She was one hundred years old. Had she lived just another four months, she would have turned one hundred and one. That morning’s early telephone call had not been unexpected. They had told me hours earlier that she wasn’t expect to last the night. Still, when the telephone rang, I began crying and gasping for breath … wanting to hold on just a moment longer … before receiving the inevitable news.

I’d spent the afternoon and evening with her, sitting by her bedside and holding her hand. She’d drifted in and out of a coma, and I continually told her that I loved her. She was a fighter. She so wanted to reach one hundred years. On June 2, 2011, my little brother Erwin, and an assortment of remaining nieces and nephews, joined us at The Springhouse Tavern to celebrate her milestone. She was the queen of the ball, alive … alert … enthusiastic, and heartily entertaining her coterie of well wishers and admirers.

Steve, Erwin and Carol Vertlieb

She’d fought depression and grief when my father, Charles Vertlieb, died of a sudden heart attack in July 1987, whilst she was away handling their finances at the bank. She returned home only to find a vacant apartment. They told her that “Charley was gone.” She didn’t understand what they were telling her, and then the realization hit her. He had done everything for her, and now he was gone. After half a century with her cherished husband and life mate, she was alone.

With courage and the will to go on, she picked herself up by her boot straps and began to learn everything financially related that she need to know in order to continue living and surviving as a strong single woman. She moved into an assisted living facility, and remained fiercely independent. My mom was shy and deeply sensitive. She always sensed when any of the other widows had attitudes of superiority, and acted like they were somehow better than her. I comforted her during numerous such moments when she lowered her gaze and began to sob, believing that somehow she wasn’t good enough.

I told her “Mommy, you’re better than they are. Look at what you’ve accomplished on your own.” She had a deeply seeded inferiority complex, inherited from her own immigrant mother, never feeling that she was good enough … and yet, she had more heart and soul than I any woman that I’ve ever known. Her father was a Cantor, traveling throughout the United States and Canada to earn a living wherever he could. Times were difficult, and her family struggled to keep their heads above water.

It was during one such sojourn in Canada that she was born.

Mom in schul.

She loved to laugh, and was telling jokes right up until the end. She felt eternally youthful, and always wanted to be around younger people. They adored her, and marveled at her strength and enthusiasm. While in the nursing home, she’d complain to me that her neighbors seemed lethargic and old. I said “Mom, you’re nearly one hundred years of age. You’re older than many of your friends here.” “Yes,” she said, “but I want to live.” And live, she did.

Slipping in and out of consciousness on her final day of life, I sat by her bedside and faithfully held onto her hand. She awoke briefly, and turned her sweet head toward me. Her eyes brightened, and she smiled at me one last time. She said “I love you, Son.” I said “I love you too, Mommy.” Those were the last words we ever spoke to one another. She left us several hours later. As I remember her this morning, I think of her with deep love, respect, and everlasting admiration. She’s cooking for my dad now in Heaven and, on Fridays, she’s likely lighting the Sabbath candles.

I miss you, Mommy … and I love you.

Your loving son,

Steve

Emails From Lake Woe-Is-Me — Fit the Sixty-Third

[Introduction: Melanie Stormm continues her humorous series of posts about the misdirected emails she’s been getting. Stormm is a multiracial writer who writes fiction, poetry, and audio theatre. Her novella, Last Poet of Wyrld’s End is available through Candlemark & Gleam. She is currently the editor at the SPECk, a monthly publication on speculative poetry by the SFPA. Find her in her virtual home at coldwildeyes.com. Wipe your feet before entering.]

SHIPWRECKED!

Hello All! Melanie here.

Last week I managed to come down with the flu. I was worried that I’d missed Writer X’s emails from her writing retreat, but it turns out she was tied up with her own trouble.

Without further ado…


Subject: Everything’s FINE

Dear Gladys,

Since we were boarded by pirates a week ago, I’m sure you’re dying to know how my Writing Retreat is going. I’m happy to report that, short of that brief spout of radio silence, everything is in good working order.

It’s too bad what happened to the Memoirists. I think I hear their conch now sounding from the other side of the island. Yep. That’s their conch.

And that long, inhuman wail that has made the island’s tropical bird population go silent is probably their doing, too.

Notice, Gladys, that I haven’t asked you about how Free Sample Week went. I rest safe in the knowledge that you have received ALL my emails and, when I failed to appear in town last week, you collected abundant free samples and stored them in my fridge for my consumption when I return home from this Writing Retreat. Can you also check on Tryxy, please? I don’t want him to worry. 

What was I saying? Right! Everything is fine. Earlier today, many of the Hoity Toities were rescued from Strange Island by their agents. I’ve never seen an agent, Gladys, they have quite a wingspan!!!!

It makes sense that agents would have such enormous wings. After all, how else would they manage to ascend to the lofty towers of the world’s most well known fantasy and science fiction publishers with unsigned manuscripts clutched in their talons? Evolution is fascinating.

The Hoity Toities informed us that they will send more agents after the rest of us who are stranded on this island and no one took that news better than Tod Boadkins. This Writing Retreat has worked out splendidly for him. What with us misplacing the city of Boston and then being boarded by pirates, no one has noticed that he hasn’t delivered any lectures on the Paths to Publishing.

He’s also excited that the Hoity Toities are sending us agents. He’s been up at the top of a palm tree for the last three hours practicing his book pitch.

This is the perfect time to get you caught up on all the notes about our trip for the Blog.

…Oh wait, I think that’s one of the Memoirists scurrying on their belly toward me in the jungle brush. Hang on, Gladys, I have to go pick up my Memoirist Beating Rock.

Darn it!!!! I managed to scare off that rabid Memoirist but I lost a perfectly good rock in the process!!!!

You have to stay on your toes with those ones, and I won’t let just anybody guard my forty pounds of emergency chocolate. We have to make that chocolate last at least another few hours until the agents return!!!!

Let’s see, where did I leave off? Right. We were boarded by Publishing Pirates who tried to sell us shady publishing packages while bribing us with top tier tailgating treats. Some of the Rest of Us-es succumbed to the siren call of pirate publishers and we haven’t seen or heard from them since.

The Selfies were ALMOST completely immune to the lure of Dream Fulfilling Publishing Packages. Almost. Nearly all of them are used to the hard work and hustle of writing, editing, publishing, and promoting their own fiction and were turned off by the pirate’s demand for their life savings for the guarantee of 100,000 book sales in a non-existent eastern European country.

Unfortunately, SOME of the Selfies were inspired by the piracy itself and left our Writing Retreat to join the ranks of the pirates. Some of them were so inspired, they were already penning their own ebooks like Sell 100,000 Copies of Your Book NOW! before they were even fitted for their buccaneer boots and tricorn hats!!!!

But what no one saw coming—except maybe for me because you know that I’m clairvoyant—was the pirates’ effect on the MEMOIRISTS. I’m pretty sure the Memoirists wouldn’t be on the other side of the island beating their drums and lighting things on fire with stolen glasses, blowing their godforsaken conch in search of some mythical beast, and TRYING TO STEAL MY CHOCOLATE if it weren’t for the piratess.

There goes another one!!! Hang on, Gladys. This one’s a big one.

I would be in much lower spirits if it weren’t that I know their are agents coming to rescue us ANY MINUTE NOW.

Where was I?

So the pirates were the LEAST interested in the Memoirists. They prefer to sell piracy publishing packages to genre writers who can “write to market” and produce a series. The packages simply weren’t priced to make sense for a memoir about someone’s—and I quote “crappy little life” and, apparently, memoirs don’t sell well in non-existent eastern European countries, non-existent West African countries, or even in the non-existent states of the Unite\d States.

I beg to differ with the “crappy little life” comment. What with that ghost leak we had a couple weeks ago, I know quite a few undead who would be thrilled to get their hands on a “crappy little life”!!!!!!! The pirate who said this now has a broken toe.

As you know, Gladys, nothing breaks a writer’s brain like learning that no one wants to read their story. Combine that trauma with the stress of us misplacing the city of Boston and the Memoirists were really doomed from the start.

By the time I thwarted the pirate’s tailgate party with that secret move I told you about the other week (made much easier after having already broken one of their toes) and what with the captain having walked the plank, when we hit that storm and became shipwrecked on Strange Island, the Memoirist had already reverted to a feral state.

Thats when my boyfriend, award-nominated fantasy writer Tod Boadkins explained to me that all writers actually live in a state that is very close to—but not quite feral and that usually feral conditions aren’t observed in writers until they’re about two-thirds of their way through a novel. Or when a publisher has sent their finished manuscript back to them and asks them to turn on “track changes” for information on their next steps.

Wait Gladys!!! I think that’s the agents!!!! I think I see the shadows of their glorious wings passing over the makeshift miserable little shanties we’ve cobbled together. You should see these agents, Gladys!!! They are magical and rare beasts.

They have jeweled, multifaceted eyes capable of evaluating your manuscript for mysterious and arcane qualities only they are aware of. They possess extremely refined and highly sensitive senses—so sensitive that they can be driven off by A SINGLE IMPERFECT WORD in your query letter.

You have to approach them carefully and perform a special dance known as a soft-shoe shuffle and always keep your hands where they can see them.

Nope.

That wasn’t the agents. From the size of the storm clouds gathering like bunched fists off the coastline, that was the monsoon blowing clouds in and the stooping tree shadows waving over the miserable little shanties.

Hang on. I think I see another good rock for beating memoirists with and just in time, too. I smell one approaching, licking its chops either at the size of my chocolate pile, or the tenderness of my chocolate-filled thighs.

When will those agents get here???? They’re taking forever!!!! I’m not sure how much longer I can hold out. That last Memoirist grunted at me when I walloped it with that rock and fled back to the others, whining and holding its head. I’m pretty sure he means to get back up.

What have I told you so far? Tailgate party. Check. Lost Boston. Check. Chocolate. Check. Feral Writers. Check. Broken toe. Check. Shipwrecked.

Right! We became shipwrecked on Strange Island. Maybe becoming shipwrecked would break the spirits of any other passengers on a glorified booze cruise through the New England coast line in the middle of winter, but WE ARE WRITERS Gladys, and that means we have read a LOT of books and done enough obscure research on things like survival and broken bones and how fast you die from drinking ocean water that we can bore any party-goer to tears telling them how to land on a no-fly list with book research alone.

The first thing we set down to do is to try and figure out what book we were in in order to prioritize the necessary survival skills and predict the next plot twist. Of course, the more literary writers among us prickled that we were skipping over characterization and theme, but we found a way to bring them on board and after much deliberation, we collectively decided that we’re OBVIOUSLY in

GLADYS!!!!!! The agents are coming!!!!! The agents are coming!!!!! We’re going to be published!!!!! We’re going to be RICH!!!!!

We’re going to be saved!!!! I can hear their angelic calls and see their magnificent wings gliding through the cloud cover. I can spy their messenger bags hanging upon their sides and their skinny mocha frappacinos clasped in their divine talons.

Please let Tryxy know that we’re on our way back home!!!! This has been the most productive writing retreat I’ve ever been on!!!! I’m coming home with an agent!!!!!! I’m going to be FAMOUS BY DECEMBER!!!!!

…Oh wait.

The agents have clarified that they’re currently only accepting QUERIES for Rescue and will let us know of their decision in three to six months.

xox,

X

SIGH.

SUPPOSE THIS

MEANS I HAVE

TO GO RESCUE

X AND TOD.

WOULDN”T

BE SO BAD IF

IT WEREN’T

THAT THEY’RE

NOT EVEN

IN OUR

UNIVERSE

ANYMORE.

BETTER PUT

ON MY

BUCCANEER

BOOTS AND

HEAD OUT.  

The First Time

By Steve Vertlieb: It has been stated, and rather wisely, I think, that when you experience it for “the first time,” it remains a life defining interlude that one takes with them forever. No matter its quality or length, or even the frequency with which it did or didn’t re-occur, it shall ever be the start of a coming-of-age journey that, for better or for worse, began a new, fondly remembered chapter that somehow altered the very course of your life. For me, that moment occurred in 1981 when I was just thirty-five years old, and I was presented with my first writing award. Wait … What did YOU think that I was talking about??????

Anyway, I traveled to Baltimore, Maryland where my then publisher and friend, George Stover, accompanied me to a genre related convention, and I was presented with a trophy for “Best Writer of the Year” by the “Maryland Association of Fan Clubs” for my provocative, quasi-Freudian essay in Cinemacabre Magazine regarding the symbolism and meaning behind Ridley Scott’s horror masterpiece, Alien.

As I recall, a vast variety of categories and recipients populated the ceremony, including “Best Actor” in a televised daytime drama (“Soap Opera”), for which the grateful thespian offered a deeply emotional acceptance speech during which he profusely volunteered his gratitude for most of his early theatrical opportunities to virtually everyone in the dinner ballroom.

Consequently, not wishing to be outdone by this consummate CBS Television professional, I devised a similarly tear stained speech in which I shared my own heartfelt gratitude for this singular honor, and said “From the bottom of my heart, I just want to say that … this was the worst chicken dinner that I’ve ever had in my life.”

The ballroom erupted into laughter, but I can still remember the angry glares coming from the kitchen staff as I exited the stage, and returned to my table. Here, then, is that very special first literary award that I ever received as “Best Writer of the Year, 1981,” from the “M.A.F.C.”

From Vienna, Jonathan Carroll Offers a NY(?)RSF Reading

By Mark L.  Blackman: In an unprecedented bit of scheduling, on Sunday, January 22nd (Happy Lunar New Year!), 1 pm  in Brooklyn, 7 pm in Vienna, the New York Review of Science Fiction Reading Series presented a virtual reading by and interview with magical realism author Jonathan Carroll. The one-hour event was curated by executive producer Jim Freund, with Amy Goldschlager conducting the interview and Barbara Krasnoff serving as “audience wrangler.”

Carroll, who has lived in the Austrian capital since 1974, is the author of the novels The Lord of Laughs, Outside the Dog Museum (which was honored with the British Fantasy Award), Voice of Our Shadow, Uh-Oh City, A Child Across the Sky, Bones of the Moon, and, most recently, Mr. Breakfast; his short fiction notably includes “Friend’s Best Man,” a recipient of the World Fantasy Award. One critic characterized his books as both “melancholy and joyous.”

He read from the beginning of Mr. Breakfast. The protagonist, artist James Graham Patterson (so not the mystery/thriller author), having failed as a comedian, decides to drive cross-country, but is diverted by a tattoo parlor in North Carolina. Carroll too took a chance and made a decision at a crossroad. He spent two years in Hollywood writing screenplays (his father was a successful screenwriter) before deciding that he was more interested in writing books, and returned to Vienna.

In “a lot of” his books, there are everyday shifts in reality that awaken his characters, noted Goldschlager; does he believe that there is a secret underlying reality? Carroll professed to be “an agnostic on that,” but didn’t dismiss others’ experiences. A Child Across the Sky is a Faust story, about temptation; we all wonder about making different choices in life.

An audience member wondered about the writing community in Vienna. There likely is one, but not in English. It’s a whole different culture; people are more private, less open and friendly than Americans, so he is “isolated a bit.”

Carroll’s artistic impulse is evident in his work. When he wrote Outside the Dog Museum, he was interested in architecture and spoke to several architects. He explained why he gives dog characters strange names: dogs are individuals and deserve individual names, “not Spot or Bowser.” A dog’s name – and, of course, security questions often use one’s first dog’s name – “opens up an abracadabra;” the most mundane thing can lead to the most magical thing. He cited the French word “sillage,” in which a fragrance as when someone passes through a room sticks with us. There are connections that we make with others and that others make with us of which we’re unaware. He related a story in which a line from one of his books that he regarded as rather “banal” was significant enough to a couple that they engraved it on their wedding rings.  (He was touched, but mystified.)

He has written short stories, novels and novellas. He referred to short fiction as “a 100-yard dash” and a novel as “a marathon,” and decides the length of the work based on saying what he wants. His novels tend to be 250-300 pages, though, taken as a whole, related novels like the Answered Prayers sextet add up. He has worked with different editors and there are at times minor differences in editions, even between British and American editions. Also, whereas some writers (like John Irving) know exactly where a book is going, he doesn’t always know what will happen next. He likened it to opening the door and a big Doberman jumps past him. (Yes, dogs got quite a few mentions.)

In reply to another query, he reported that Covid hadn’t really affected his writing or his schedule as he takes time off after completing a story (and reads), and, as it happened, Mr. Breakfast was sent off just before Covid hit. Goldschlager concluded the afternoon’s or evening’s (depending) event by urging the audience to buy a copy of Mr. Breakfast.

Emails From Lake Woe-Is-Me — Fit the Sixty-Second

[Introduction: Melanie Stormm continues her humorous series of posts about the misdirected emails she’s been getting. Stormm is a multiracial writer who writes fiction, poetry, and audio theatre. Her novella, Last Poet of Wyrld’s End is available through Candlemark & Gleam. She is currently the editor at the SPECk, a monthly publication on speculative poetry by the SFPA. Find her in her virtual home at coldwildeyes.com. Wipe your feet before entering.]

PIRATES!!! Pt. 2

Hello, All. Melanie here!

In case you missed last week, Writer X and Tod Boadkins decided to give the New Hampshire Writer’s Retreat another whirl. The retreat takes place in January. On a boat. That travels up and down the New England coast line for a week.

Or, as in the case of last year’s retreat, two weeks. But a malignant undersea Lovecraftian society were to blame for the extension.

I didn’t know they did winter cruises in New England. I’m sure it’s a lovely, scenic time to be sitting on a boat trying to write.

Here’s a link to last week’s fit for your convenience.

Without further ado…


Subject: Still No Doom in Sight!!!!!

Dear Gladys,

By now you should be set up to camp for the week outside Mr. Morgan’s Food Emporium and Things Nicely Priced. Maybe you think that I’m being too dramatic about asking you to camp out a week in advance for Free Samples Week, but you can’t be too careful.

Cradensburg residents take savings seriously!!!! They will try to cut you in line!!!!

I decided to give you a run down of a few additional things you’ll need. These will see you through the rest of the week in terms of personal defense!!!

Bob and Barbara Elfwitz throw the best tailgate parties and are your singlemost top threat!!! How do you think they’re so successful at such splendid tailgates, Gladys????

EVERY YEAR THEY CORNER THE COUPONS FOR SWEDISH MEATBALLS at Free Samples Week!!!! Every winter, Bob cashes in those coupons, clears out Mr. Morgan’s stock, and sculpts a tower of delectable jam-glazed meats in the shape of Tom Brady.

NOT THIS YEAR!!!!!

Now, Bob is pretty much a pacifist, but he’ll still try to con you out of your spot by chucking a molotov cocktail through your car window.

Once you run to put out the flames of your smoldering car, he will scoot into first place and then they win!!!!! Whatever you do, LET YOUR CAR INCINERATE INTO A CHARRED WRECKAGE!!!! Show them what you’re made of, Gladys!!!!

But once you stare down Bob, you’ll have Barbara to face. Barbara is a much more serious foe. Do not underestimate her.

When you look into her warm brown eyes, you are staring into the eyes of a woman who has twelve continual years of excellent tailgate parties, each one outdoing the last.

Oh yes, Bob serves the swedish meatballs, Gladys, but BARBARA serves the Jalapeno poppers, the chicken nachos, the lemon-dill-beer dip, the macaroni salad, the hot mexican corn, the coca cola chicken wings, the buffalo chicken fingers, a seven-layer dip, and the ham and cheese sliders with the little slices of pickle pinned to the tops with a festive toothpick.

And she won’t accept a lick o’help from ANYONE, lest the GLORY BE SHARED!!!!! They throw the only tailgate party I know of that strictly forbids anyone from bringing a dish to pass!!!!

Gladys, I don’t have any other way of preparing you for this, but Barbara will use her very teeth to get past you to the coupons. She will bite off your ear if she has to. Have you noticed that Josh Nichols-Buttercop has stopped going out of the house without a beanie covering his ears???? He was in front of the Elfwitzs in the Free Samples Week of ’14. Those were dark times, Gladys.

Don’t you worry, though!!!! I have outsmarted her before!!!!! The sure-fire way to beat the Elfwitz’s to the Swedish meatballs is to

sent from my iPhone


Subject: Re: Still No Doom in Sight!!!!!

Dear Gladys,

I’m writing you from the Grand Marsh Hotel in Innsmouth, Massachusetts and our power keeps going out.

Anyhoo, I need to get you caught up on our retreat notes, so be sure to do EVERYTHING I SAID PRECISELY the way I SAID IT and I’m sure you’ll be just fine with the Elfwitz’s.

As I was saying, we have one day under our belt on our Writer’s retreat and there is still no doom in sight. There is an electrical outage, a strange wall of black storm clouds that have rolled into the harbor and enveloped the yacht, and some pirates on the horizon, but NO DOOM.

Absolutely nothing is going to make this retreat run longer than a week and put me at risk of missing those free samples!!!!

Sorry for keeping you waiting Gladys, I’m back. I had to throw myself beneath a hissing fiddle leaf fig because the Event Coordinator is out on the prowl looking for a thief and he’s wearing his shouty face. Someone mysteriously stole one of the Memoirists formal evening gowns last night and I’m still wearing it because I love the sequins and forgot to pack my pajamas.

The Event Coordinator has been in a rotten mood. He chewed out my boyfriend, award nominated fantasy writer Tod Boadkins for the lecture he did on publishing paths yesterday and says he expects “a lot more from him.” I’ll be ready to take notes when Tod Boadkins delivers that “lot more”, we both can’t wait to see what that will be!!!!

Sending you my notes for the BLOG next!!!!

xox,

X


Day Two on The Writing Boat

One hour delay on launch of the boat. A Memoirist had gone missing but someone found him on the roof of the Grand Marsh Hotel sharpening the talons of an ancient aquatic creature into spear heads. He says his name isn’t John anymore, that we now have to call him The Vessel and pour him glasses of cow’s blood, but this is fine because no one liked John and The Vessel is much more tolerable.

Skipped private writing session for the morning thanks to The Vessel.

The Hoity Toities hosted a panel on finding an agent. The biggest takeaway was that you should immediately inject your agent with an iridium tracking device to prevent your agent from getting lost in the first place. The Rest of Us-es took careful notes. The Selfies said they never have this problem.

Lunch was cancelled due to the captain sailing the yacht at 28 knots to outpace the brigantine and fleet of sloops that are coincidentally going in the same direction we are, no matter how many evasive maneuvers we take.

Fortunately, I brought forty pounds of emergency chocolate so I made do with a few nibbles of that. Imagine how hungry I would be if I had packed clothes instead of chocolate, Gladys!!!! Good thing I think ahead!!!!

I’m sure it’s fine.

Memoirist keeps eyeing me asking me where I got my jeans from. I said “down south.” By south I mean her suitcase in the hold.

Tod Boadkins is just glad he didn’t have to do another lecture on the path to publishing. I think he’s running out of different kinds of pavements to talk about.

Tells me not to write that. Says yesterday’s lecture was all part of a bigger plan. Sticks his nose in a corner and stares into the shadows while swaying catatonically.

Says he’s not catatonic. 

Another Memoirist created a kerfuffle when her black star agate necklace seemed to go missing but mysteriously returned to her neck just as the strange mist overtook our ship.

The Vessel says he is the chosen one and will let in the Ancient Jackal through the Eye that Devours the Worlds.

Way nicer than John.


Day Three on The Writing Boat

Dropped anchor for the night on the island that appeared in the middle of that mist. Took shelter in a desolate stone village that has every modern amenity but looks as though it was abandoned with cook pots still on stove and shovels stabbed into snow piles.

No footprints anywhere to indicate where the inhabitants may have gone.

Everyone’s surprised that all of the Memoirists are alive and cordial this far into the trip!

The sea is free of mist so its clear sailing back to Boston. Were supposed to stay there last night but there was only that island where Boston should have been so the captain says he’s just gonna loop around the island and Boston should reappear, no problem, so long as no one crosses their fingers.

Tod Boadkins has his fingers crossed. 

Tells me not to write that he’s crossing his fingers.

Tells me to erase that.

Says “Why do you keep writing down everything I tell you in confidence?”

Facepalms himself and says nevermind.

Hoity Toities host a morning panel on Getting An Agent. Agree that they probably should have started with this one. Give us a recipe for an arcane, agent-summoning spice.

At lunch, the Rest-of-Us-es make a commotion and say that maybe we should call for help. The captian says “why?” The Rest of Us-es point at the pirate ships with unfurled black flags that have encircled our boat. The flags have books with crossbones on them.

Tod Boadkins suddenly becomes light-hearted and happy, like he senses he won’t have to do another lecture.

Starts to open his mouth to tell me something, then shuts it.


Day Four on The Writing Boat The Dark Ship of Vanity

Were boarded by pirates yesterday so spent the rest of the night on the commandeered ship swabbing the decks and setting up chairs for the presentation.

Pirates have hoisted their black flag with book and crossbones on our yacht. They have asked how many of us are completely satisfied with our book sales.

The former captain raises his hand.

He is pushed overboard. 

They have informed us no one needs to die, but that everything will go well if everyone is published and headed for the bestsellers list by the end of the presentation. But if we aren’t, they’ll make us walk the plank. Everyone agrees this seems reasonable.

Pirates inform us that they help writers dreams come true. For a small fee of only a quarter of your life’s savings, they will partner with every writer here and publish their latest manuscript and guarantee over 100,000 book sales in a small, nonexistent Eastern European country.

Selfies push back on the pirates. Say there should be more markets. Pirates explain that they have an additional publishing package that they offer of 50,000 additional book sales in a small, nonexistent West African country.

Selfies push back on this too and ask if the pirates have any packages in the States. Pirates explain that they include that in the standard package. They send the book out to all fifty non-existent States.

Hoity Toities say something smells fishy about this.

Pirates say that’s just the fish tacos. Tell us that if we don’t care for the fish tacos, we’re welcome to try the jalapeno poppers, the chicken nachos, the lemon-dill-beer dip, the macaroni salad, the hot mexican corn, the coca cola chicken wings, the buffalo chicken fingers, a seven-layer dip, or the ham and cheese sliders with the little slices of pickle pinned to the tops with a festive toothpick.

sent from my iPhone

PASSED MY

FIRST TEST

OF THE

SEMESTER!

IT WAS ON

THE FIFTH

DIRECTION.

GOT EXTRA

CREDIT

ON THE

SECTION

ABOUT HOW

TO TRIGGER

THE FIFTH

DIRECTION

AND OPEN

A PORTAL.

EASY.

HOLD A

BLACK STAR

AGATE OVER

SALT WATER.

HOW WAS

YOUR WEEK?

Review: A Man Called Otto

By Steve Vertlieb: Saw A Man Called Otto last evening with Shelly. We laughed. We cried. We re-discovered the joys, meaning, and value of true humanity. Our world is suffering the dubious rewards of bitterness, suspicion, anger, and bigotry, and we are the worse for it. I was brought up in a time of relative innocence and the perception, at least, of goodness and integrity during the 1950’s when the value of a single human life seemed respected, and often revered … if only in my own youthful perspective.

Otto, as played by Tom Hanks, is a man consumed by bitterness, anger, and suspicion of his neighbors, finding annoyance in their slightest imperfection. His utter desolation, born of personal loneliness and tragedy, govern and dictate his reactions to human frailty … until he is urged into a corner brimming with genuine selflessness and affection. His transformation, not unlike that of Alistair Sim as Scrooge in the classic 1951 film version of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” is both inspiring and profoundly moving.

A Man Called Otto is the perfect screen vehicle for this sweetly eloquent actor. Just as his portrayal of Mister Rogers lit the screen with love, dignity, and respect for one another, his understanding of the frightening sadness consuming this otherwise gentle soul is both heartfelt and consummate. His deeply singular redemption, if you will, is as inspiring and beautiful as the aforementioned Alistair Sim in Scrooge, or Jimmy Stewart as George Bailey in Frank Capra’s It’s A Wonderful Life.

Joining Tom Hanks in his quietly sensitive, if grumpy, performance in the title role is a delightful, utterly joyous co-starring role by Mariana Treviño as “Marisol,” his deceptively quirky Mexican neighbor whose cherished humor and wisdom ultimately rescue his painfully expiring soul.

Truman Hanks, the son of the actor, is similarly outstanding as young “Otto,” a man torn apart by his own simplicity, and both emotional and physical awkwardness … until he meets the love of his life, as played sweetly by Rachel Keller as Sonya.

A Man Called Otto is the happiest, most genuinely heartwarming film that I’ve seen since Love Actually, overflowing with joy, humility, frailty, and a gentle sense of reflection and humanity sorely needed in these deeply troubled times of divisiveness, shattering our once cherished principles of tolerance, compassion, and respect for one another.

Directed by Marc Forster, with a screenplay by David Magee, based upon the novel and 2015 Swedish film A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman, A Man Called Otto is a sentimental journey to simpler times, and the overwhelmingly aching loss of civility and shared serenity. It is, in its own quiet way, a loving, tenderly affectionate, nearly spiritual prescription for simple kindness and humanity.

Yet Another Day at the Museum

By Rich Lynch: It shouldn’t come as a surprise, to anyone who knows me, for me to say that I like museums.  A lot.  Art museums, history museums, science museums, cultural museums, you name it.  They’re all good.  Nicki and I live in the D.C. area so we have a membership to the Smithsonian Institution.  If we lived in New York City, I know we’d be members of the Metropolitan Museum, the Brooklyn Museum, and the Museum of Modern Art.  And also one other place.

That would be the Museum of the Moving Image.  It’s located over in Queens, adjacent to the Kaufman Astoria Studios, and as far as I can tell it seems to be a mostly undiscovered gem.  It’s not huge as museums go, with just under 100,000 square feet of exhibit space (MoMA, by comparison, is more than seven times larger), but it makes very effective use of the room it has.  An example of this is MotMI’s core exhibition, “Behind the Screen”, which might be best described as an immersive stroll through the various stages of making movies, television shows, and online productions such as creating a soundtrack, lighting, model making, special effects, and editing.  There are small studios where visitors to the museum can try their hand at doing stuff like voice-overs, foley sound effects, and rudimentary stop-motion animation.

And in addition to all this, “Behind the Screen” is also a walk through history.  There are more than a thousand items from the museum’s permanent collection on display, things like film and television cameras from decades past, costumes, set design models, and even some media-tie in merchandise from long ago.  And going all the way back to the very beginning, there is even a viewing station that shows a short featurette about the French scientist and physiologist Étienne Jules Marey, who in the early 1890s created some of the very earliest moving image productions (it was called ‘chronophotography’ back then).  All in all, this exhibition is perhaps the best one in existence anywhere for introducing the layman to the historical background and overall creative processes of how moving image productions are made.

But that’s not what we came to MotMI to see.

Besides the core exhibition, the museum also has room for two additional special interest exhibitions.  One of them, “The Jim Henson Exhibition” (which I described in a previous essay back in 2020), has been so popular that it’s going to be there indefinitely.  That was most certainly worth another visit, with all its puppets, costumes, storyboards, and film/TV clips which guide you through the career of Jim Henson and explore his creative processes.  But we didn’t linger there.  Instead, we spent some quality time with Rick, Daryl, Carol, Maggie, Michonne, Negan, and other post-apocalyptic survivors in MotMI’s other special exhibition, “Living with The Walking Dead”.

Before I go any further I should mention that Nicki and I are big fans of The Walking Dead television show.  We’ve seen every episode of the original series and also all of the spin-off series.  And we’re not nearly the only ones – TWD at one point in its run was the third most-watched show on television in the U.S.A., behind only The Big Bang Theory and Sunday Night Football.  So it was a very pleasant surprise during our recent visit to The Big Apple when we discovered that MotMI (with the support of the AMC cable TV network which had aired the series) had organized a large retrospective about TWD which, according to the museum’s website, “addresses the origins, production, fandom, and impact” of the show.

There was far more to see than I had expected, and a lot of it takes you right down into the ‘guts’ of the show.  Very literally so – MotMI has posted a disclaimer on its website that reads: “Please note: this exhibition features material depicting graphic violence and other potentially disturbing images and is intended for mature audiences.”  Among the items on display are clothes covered with zombie blood and innards (make that seemingly covered, even though it sure looked real to me).  TWD is not shy about showing violence that occurs during the zombie apocalypse, and the exhibition was not shy about including depictions of it on video screens that were spread around the exhibition.  Some of the objects shown in those video clips were on display, one example being Negan’s barbed wire-wrapped baseball bat ‘Lucille’ which he had used in numerous acts of lethal brutality.  There was an explanatory placard for the prop: “The rubber bat on display is rigged with a cavity for a packet of fake blood, which explodes upon contact creating a vivid, gruesome effect.”  No surprise that the practical special effects for the show are high-end.

A wall of The Walking Dead comic books.

But there was far more to the exhibition than just blood splatter, and that included cinematic and other popular culture forerunners.  As stated by the museum’s website: “Living with The Walking Dead explores the cinematic and literary antecedents of the series.”  There were homages to other zombie movies including Night of the Living Dead, but what initially caught my attention was in the hallway leading into the exhibition – mounted on the wall was an array of every issue of Robert Kirkman’s TWD comic book series that the TV series was based on.  As for what individual episodes of TWD were based on, there were some illuminating displays on that as well.  Concept art, costumes galore, storyboards, animatronic zombie body parts, and annotated drafts of shooting scripts all provided an interconnected narrative on how the broad concept for an episode of the show becomes, in the end, a polished production, filled with painstaking detail, that advances the overall story arc.

Hey, I came away really impressed!  If I were an aspiring film student I’d consider the three exhibitions of MotMI as master classes that would help me begin a career.  As for me, I’ve always been fascinated by the movie-making process, so much so that I’m usually an avid viewer of any TV series or special which illuminates the creative process.  This was as much up-close-and-personal to such behind the scenes activity as I’ve ever been.  For anybody not already involved in the motion picture industry, this is surely the next best thing.


The last day for the “Living with the Walking Dead” exhibition is January 22nd.   If you’re a fan of the show and are in the NYC area, make plans to see it before it closes!

An Appreciation 

By James Bacon: A vocational institution doing service to fandom, consisting of blog posts occasionally random, always keen to ensure the stories veracity, seeking out the news with dogged tenacity. 

Mike bangs the keys in darkest night, inquisitive curiosity burning bright, asking the questions and probing for more, looking at the pieces strewn on the floor. 

There’s a determination to find out what’s going on, to have a look at where it’s a bit wrong, to seek out, to ask and even deploy, especially when someone has pressed self-destroy.  

The efforts are genuine, thoughtful and well meaning, despite horrified calls of ‘have you no feeling’, occasionally lowering down the shield, the softest fella taking notes on the battlefield; 

He honours the dead with learned respect, noting matters of gravity upon which we reflect; 

He cares for the welcome to be shown to all, and helps those who trip, stumble and fall; 

The good news flows constant but not propaganda, his editorial eye clinical of all memoranda, there’s caution and care of those with might, lest we fall into traps set by the right. 

The welcome to all is genuine and fair, Mike’s keen to promote those with flair, a love of prose and appreciation of art, he’s quite a nice fella and not a grumpy old fart. 

Emails From Lake Woe-Is-Me — Fit the Sixty-First

[Introduction: Melanie Stormm continues her humorous series of posts about the misdirected emails she’s been getting. Stormm is a multiracial writer who writes fiction, poetry, and audio theatre. Her novella, Last Poet of Wyrld’s End is available through Candlemark & Gleam. She is currently the editor at the SPECk, a monthly publication on speculative poetry by the SFPA. Find her in her virtual home at coldwildeyes.com. Wipe your feet before entering.]

PIRATES!!! PT. 1

Hello All, Melanie here!

I’ve never been on a writing retreat though I’ve considered it numerous times. I’ve even priced rates for a single room at a hotel or cabin in the White Mountains. I’ve visualized the sound of my fingers striking the keyboard in the deep quiet of wild New Hampshire.

And then I imagine my kids burning my house down while I’m away. My partner clinging to a piece of hard cheese as a security blanket while our life goes up in flames around his ears. My kids electing their guinea pigs as their gods.

Without further ado…


Subject: Mr. Morgan’s Week of Free Samples

Dear Gladys,

As my boyfriend—award-nominated fantasy writer Tod Boadkins and I set off for this year’s New Hampshire Writer’s Retreat, I used my clairvoyant abilities to scan the sky for clouds of doom. I noted the following cloud shapes in the sky:

A skull, a castanet, a penguin with a pimp hat, the grinning face of death, and a hanged man.

I was very happy to see that there was absolutely no doom indicated for our week long cruise in the scenic waters of the frozen New England coastline. As you know, last year’s trip got unexpectedly extended an additional week thanks to the Deep Ones and that Esoteric Lodge of Dagon cult.

I absolutely cannot take ANY delays this year. I am a very busy PUBLISHED writer and I need to write more short stories. I also need to be back in town for Free Samples Week at Mr. Morgans Food Emporium and Things Nicely Priced.

You know I live for those little plastic cups of clammy asparagus tips with half-congealed hollandaise sauce!!!! Not to mention the exclusive coupons!!!

Not only that, I received an email letting me know that I had not shown as much frugal activity last year as I did the year before.

As you know, Gladysm, if you go two years with insufficient occurances of haggling over a clearance item, filling up your trunk with free road-side stuff, or holding up a grocery line with four hundred coupons, your New Englander status gets revoked and you start to be able to pronounce the letter “r.” I refuse to flirt with that SHAME AND HUMILIATION!!!! In the words of Paul Revere, Give me kah keys or give me death!!!

Patrick Henry was a copycat.

Anyhoo, Tod Boadkins and I are nearly at the rendezvous point to meet the Event Coordinator and board the yacht in Portsmouth and it’s going to take us a while to unload the forty pink suitcases I’ve brought for this year’s event so I’ll have to cut this email short.

Here’s what I need from you, Gladys. Tryxy has started his first week of school and is very busy with homework. I need you to swing by my house, pick up my sleeping bag, my portable fire pit, my bluetooth speaker, and my camping futon. Then I need you to swing by Mr. Morgan’s and set up a camping spot by the front door with all of those things. Then I need you to camp there for the week to make sure NO ONE CUTS ME IN LINE for Free Samples Week!!!! Especially when YOU IS ME!!!!

Will keep you posted on our doom-free single-week cruise!!!!

xox,

X


Subject: First Blog Secretary Post

Dear Gladys,

To my eternal surprise, this year I have been elected to be the Blog Secretary for the Writing Boat. This is an immense honor and I have obviously been selected because of my publication history and incredible attention to dtail.

I’m quickly writing down my notes from our arrival as I remember them and sending them to you. You can give them to me when I’m back ashore and I will write them up in a blog post.

10:00 a.m. – Arrival. We were looking all over for the Event Coordinator. Tod Boadkins was sweating. He was nervous about being the presenter a second year in a row but says “my only saving grace is that I have my notes from last year.” He is going to do three seminars, one on character building, one on craft of writing, one on story structure. Asks me not to write that he is sweating or nervous.

10:05 a.m. – Found Event Coordinator. His thin hair is stiffly moussed, his round belly is slightly smaller than it was last year, his bow tie is purple, and his shoes are Italian. He still likes to use the words “God Almighty” a lot, and he still is shouty. As soon as he sees Tod Boadkins, his face lights up. As soon as he sees me, his face goes white as a sheet and he says “You again.”

Hold please.

10:14 a.m. Event Coordinator has banned me from the boat. Says that last year I passed myself off as Covid tester from the state health department and stole everyone’s clothes. I did know such thing, Gladys!!!!

Tod Boadkins gestures to my trolley of forty suitcases and says that obviously that won’t be a problem this year and besides, he needs me to take notes for the Blog. Event Coordinator squints at me, frowning for a long time then jabs his finger in my face and says “If you so much as steal a hanky, you’re OFF THE BOAT!!!!”

I tell him he must have me confused with somebody else.

10:17 a.m. Event COordinator and Tod Boadkins are discussing the seminar schedule. There will be less “private writing time” for this retreat because this year’s focus is on “The Paths of Publication” and last year’s writing schedule left too much time for “outright hedonism.” Tod Boadkins goes extremely pale and starts sweating again.

Tells me not to write down that he’s sweating.

Event Coordinator explains that this week’s schedule will be similar to the last with breakfast served on the dining deck followed by a session of private writing, a panel on some facet of publishing, followed by lunch. Then Tod Boadkins will do a seminar on paths to publication—Tod Boadkins interjects that he wasn’t expecting to talk about publication and that his specialty is on the craft of writing—but Event Coordinator says that won’t do. Tod Boadkins goes grayish-green and gives a high, tittering laugh.

Tells me not to write down that he has a high, tittering laugh.

Event Coordinator says that when Tod Boadkins’ seminar is finished, there will be a short mixer then we drop anchor in the evenings at different locations. Tonight we drop anchor in Innsmouth. Staying at the Grand Marsh Hotel again.

Other writers are arriving. It’s time to get on the boat, Gladys!!!! Will send more noats soon.

xox,

X


Subject: Forgot A Few Things!!!!

Dear Gladys,

After a few hang-ups in loading our luggage onto the writing boat, I’ve realized that my meticulous packing list has come up short. I have my footbath, my yoga mat, my Absolutely Necessary Library of Books, my toiletries including a facial sauna I forgot I ordered four years ago.

I have my thesaurus, my custom crocs, my vitamins and supplements, my toothbrush, toothpaste, and back up toothbrush and toothpaste. I have my wellingtons. I have my prophylactics and my lactose intolerance pills, an emergency first aid and snake bite kit, a tin of boot black—in pink—with a boot brush, and a clothes steamer.

I also have my travel iron, my writerly globe (it helps me write), my set of candles, three pairs of sunglasses in slightly differing shades of pink, my water bottle and back up water bootle, my dehumidifier, my emergency puzzles and tarot deck, my favorite bathroom spray, my campstove, 23 packets of writerly hot chocolate (the kind with cinnamon or cayenne or french vanilla), and rash cream in case we run into any poison oak while out at sea.

At the last minute I also grabbed my sweater Charles de-Linter that I bought when we went on that trip to Newford, my desalination tablets, my favorite curling irons, my pommade, my roadside flares, my back up battery packs, my box of Paris themed postcards, and forty pounds of emergency chocolate.

But I seem to have completely forgotten my clothes. I must have been distracted when I was busy checking our trip for DOOM. 

Please bring me some clothes GLadys!!! You have about 45 minutes to get here before we head off for Innsmouth!!!!! If you don’t get here, I’m going to be stuck borrowing clothes from people again and the Event Coordinator is already on to me!!!!

xox,

X

sent from my iPhone


Subject: Writing, the Gathering

Dear Gladys,

COntinuing my notes for the blog!!!! Keep track of these!!! Also, where are you with my clothes, we’re about to set sail!!!!

Day One on The Writing Boat

This year offers a very different set of writers. Which is good. Because last year most of the writers never made it home thanks to that murder mystery.

The writers have once again segmented into different groups on the dining deck.

  • There are five writers with hard cover copies of their books who all seem to recognize each other and pepper their conversation with the phrase “my agent said” or “the such-and-such award.” They’re looking at the other writers with a mixture of curiosity and alarm but keep a distance. Let’s call them The Hoity Toities.
  • I’m calling the fifteen writers who keep talking about KDP, self-publishing hacks, and “writing to market” the Selfies. They seem to congregate into three sub-tribes. Five who can’t tell their elbow from an astronaut, five who speak a dialect of Marketing-ese so only talk in three-letter acronyms and hurl free ebooks at every passer-by, and five who look extremely stinking rich.
  • Then there are the eleven writers who don’t seem to know where they belong. They look longingly at The Hoity-Toities but also curiously at the Selfies. Their auras are conspicuously free of Agents. I’m going to call them the Rest of Us.
  • Lastly, there are twenty-five people with long fancy scarves and the kind of jewelry made from bent up spoons or irregularly shaped semi-precious stones who keep interrupting each other to talk about THEIR memoir. I’m calling these the Memoirists. Where do these folks come from???
  • Noting that there are no Furries this year. That’s because Furries, unlike other writers, actually learn their lessons.

Ah well, this cruise will be doom-free so those Memoirists have nothing to worry about!!!! I’m sure they’ll be fine, Gladys!!!!

The sea is fine and clear and cold and gray. The dining deck is warm. People are supposed to be doing private writing. No one is but Tod Boadkins.

The Selfies are talking about rapid releasing long books in two volumes, getting on the Amazon bestseller’s list, and how 18.6 books will bring you $49,000 a year in royalties.

The Hoity Toities are trying to look like they’re writing, but really they’re each covertly listening to the Selfies and looking at each other, eyes like saucers as they question their publishing path.

The Rest of Us-es are also listening to the Selfies but are trying to mimick the Hoity Toities.

Tod Boadkins has the precise look of someone who is trying to magically pull a seminar about publishing out of his hindquarters.

Tells me not to write hindquarters.

The Memoirists have spotted a dark ship trailing us on the horizon. They point out that it looks like it’s dropped out of the 18th century.

The Event Coordinator tells them not to worry. “It’s probably just re-enactors on their way to Boston to re-enact the Boston Tea Party.”

One of the Memoirists says “On a Brigantine?” The other memoirists ask how he knew it was a Brigantine. First memoirist explains that he has a memory of his grandfather polishing a small brigantine in a bottle and that he once necked with his best friend under the brigantine and that he hadn’t been aware at the time that he was in love with a girl from Nantucket that he had spied on a beach one July while hunting lobsters…with a bucket. Everyone clasps their hands over their mouths and give a hushed “Ohhhhh, such imagery! Is that in your memoir?”

Lunch is pumpkin soup with filet de soul (not sure whose) followed by Tod Boadkins’ first seminar. He spends thirty minutes talking about how paths to publication are indeed paths and that there are many kinds of paths. Some are paved. Some are gravel. Some have solar lights. Some are man made. Some have mulch. Some are made by boy scouts. I’m sure he’s going somewhere with this.

Memoirists aren’t listening. They say that the Brigantine is gaining on us, followed by a fleet of sloops.

The Hoity Toities point out that the black flags flapping in the breeze all have books and crossbones.

The Rest of Us-es have nothing to contribute to the conversation until one of them says “You don’t think they are pirates and that they’re after us, do you?”

Everyone on the dining deck gives a high, tittering laugh.

We dock at Innsmouth soon. Gotta go Gladys, we’re having a formal dinner and I need to sneak into the hold and see if someone thought to pack me an evening gown!!!!! More notes soon!!!!

xox,

X

SO. MUCH.

HOMEWORK.

DID YOU KNOW

THEREARE FIVE

CARDINAL

DIRECTIONS,

NOT FOUR?

FIFTH DIRECTION’S

ASTROLOGICAL

SIGN IS

THE PEEPHOLE.

ITS PLANT,

THE GLOWING

JUNIPER. ITS

SEMI-PRECIOUS

STONE IS THE

BLACK STAR

AGATE. THE CITIES

OF SAN FRANCISCO,

NEW ORLEANS,

AND HIBBING

ALL HAVE

FIFTH DIRECTION

COORDINATES.

PLEASE KEEP

AN EYE ON

X FOR ME.

HAVE TO

STUDY MORE

FIFTH DIRECTION.

TEST NEXT

WEEK.

Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask #72

WORLDCON 80 – A PICTORIAL ESSAY 

By Chris M. Barkley and Juli Marr.

AUGUST 30, 2022 – TRAVEL DAY

My partner Juli and I set out on a beautiful morning for Chicago. One of our favorite sights is the immense Meadow Lake Wind Farm (which generates 801.25 megawatts of electricity) consisting of 301 turbines, just northwest of  Lafayette, Indiana. I have always been in awe of the size and scope of this modern marvel of engineering.

We arrived at dusk and were treated to the enchanting vista of Chicago at night by the river…

SEPTEMBER 1ST

Blues Brothers Cap

Since I was going to be dwelling in the hometown of the Blues Brothers, I thought it would be appropriate to be attired properly.

Galaxy ‘s Edge Editor Lezli Robyn and myself by Juli Marr

One of the first people Juli and I met at Chicon 8 was Galaxy’s Edge Editor and Arc Manor Assistant Publisher Robyn Lezli, who was a large display of books and magazines with her benevolent (and generous) boss, Shahid Mahmud.

Journey Planet

On my way to the Press Office, Christopher Garcia threw a copy of Journey Planet (paperboy style) as we passed each other. Here is a photo of it in mid-flight…

One of the first things I unpacked for the Press Office was this item. When the staff assembled that first morning, I told them in NO UNCERTAIN TERMS that if they stepped out of line, I would not hesitate to blow the Illuminated Death Star Beach Ball up! Needless to say, it remained deflated during the duration of the convention.

SEPTEMBER 2

After several delays (and escapades) involving the United States Department of State and airline hijinks, Nigeria’s rising literary star (and double Hugo Finalist), Oghenechowe Donald Ekpeki finally arrived at Chicon 8. I greeted him at the Galaxy’s Edge table in the Dealer’s Room with two facemasks and an envelope with some valuable personal papers. Needless to say, everyone was overjoyed to see him…

Myself, Laura and Navia Moorman, photo by Juli Marr

Also on hand were my daughter, Laura, her husband Charlie (not pictured, unfortunately) and my granddaughter, Navia. They were here to witness my (possible) Hugo Award acceptance speech on Sunday. I may have felt the sting of disappointment by not winning but I was so incredibly happy they were all there.

 Chicago By Day…

Dan Berger, Juli Marr and Sushee Blat pondering

So here are my Press Office mates, Dan Berger, Juli Marr and Sooshe Blat Harkins, pondering where we should go for dinner along the Chicago Riverwalk. Rest assured, we did eat that evening…

Chicago After Dark…

SEPTEMBER 3RD

Day Three of Chicon 3, another beautiful morning.

The Chicon 8 Hugo Award

 On my way to the Press office, I made some time Saturday morning to stop by the Exhibit Hall and check out this year’s Hugo Award trophy. This magnificent award was handcrafted by the renowned Chicago artist and business entrepreneur Brian Keith Ellison of BKE Designs.

Chicon 8 Panelists

Ah, FINALLY, a photo from a Chicon 8 panel. Here are the panelists of “Movie Year in Review: A Curated Look at Genre Films (2021–2022)” moderated by yours truly.  From left to right are: Matthew S. Rotundo, Daryll Mansel, Joshua Bilmes and Deirdre Crimmins. We had fun. You should have been there.

Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki and Seanan Maguire

I was checking up on how Mr. Ekpeki was getting along in the Dealer’s Room when up ZOOMED fellow Hugo Award Finalist Seanan Maguire on her scooter. They both knew of a photo opportunity when they saw it…  

Regency John Hertz

It’s Saturday Night so you know it’s time for another magnificent appearance by fandom’s favorite, and most regal, Masquerade Judge, John Hertz!  

Masquerade Ensemble

And here is a wide shot of all the Chicon 8 Masquerade contestants. I apologize for it being out of focus; I BLAME the three apparitions lighting up in the middle of the photo. I don’t recall who they are but let’s face it, they lit up the joint that evening.

SEPTEMBER 4TH

Breakfast of Champions

It’s THE BIG DAY! And that calls for a BIG BREAKFAST, courtesy of the Chicon 8 Staff Lounge. I hadn’t had a bowl of Rice Chex in AGES. (As a kid, I used to inhale whole boxes in a single sitting. Ah, those were the days…). Anyway, kudos to everyone who helped kept us fed during the convention.   

Juli and I are very sneaky. We knew in advance that Sunday was Lezli Robyn’s birthday so we planned something a little special for her. The day before we left, we packed and wrapped her gift specially for her. We have both known for years that Lezli is a bit, uh, accident prone. After the fifth or sixth incident we started threatening to just roll her in bubble wrap, for her own safety and protection. Well at Chicon 8, we decided on this preemptive strike before disaster struck again. As you can see, a nice birthday card was placed on top of the package. And you can see Lezli’s reaction as she realized that bubble wrap was all that was left in the box. All for her. We were later informed by sources that she used the bubble wrap as a pillow (in an appropriate place, mind you) when she needed to nap. You’re welcome, Lezli, anytime. 

Catherynne Valente

After delivering Ms. Robyn’s gift, I stole a few minutes from my Press Office duties to have a novel by Catherynne M. Valente signed. We met before when she had a signing at Joseph Beth Booksellers in Cincinnati where I worked for many years. She remembered me and enthusiastically remarked that she had a great time and would love to return for a visit someday. I told her I would pass the word along.  

As the day wore on, the more nervous I became. Since there wasn’t much going on that afternoon, I turned my attention to writing a Hugo Award acceptance speech and a concession speech (which was published on File 770 that very evening). Everyone wished me luck but deep down, I knew that I was long shot to actually win. (And, as it turned out, I was right, finishing second in the nomination count and fifth overall in the vote standings.)

O. Donald Ekpeki and myself, photo by Juli Marr

At the Chicon 8 Hugo Award Reception, Mr. Ekpeki and I were recessed to the nines!

Hugo Award Fan Writer Finalists, photo by Juli Marr

Your 2022 Hugo Award Finalists in the Fan Writing Category; from left to right, Jason Sanford, myself, Paul Weimer and Bitter Karella. 

The Crowd gathers for the start of the Hugo Awards Ceremony.

My Date, My Love and My Partner, the lovely and vivacious Juli Marr.

My Fellow 2022 Hugo Award Finalist Steven H Silver and his partner, Elaine Silver. 

Chuck Serface

My Fellow 2022 Hugo Award Finalist Chuck Serface.

Our 2022 Hugo Award Ceremony Hosts, Annalee Newitz and Charlie Jane Anders.

Olav Rokne and Myself at the After Party, photo by Juli Marr

Two Hugo Losers commiserating, Olav Rokne and myself (being subtly photobombed by Vincent Docherty) at the Chengdu Hugo Reception.

Laura Moorman and myself, photo by Juli Marr

My daughter Laura and I at the Glasgow Bid Party.

My daughter Laura is seen here holding the 2022 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation – Long Form for Dune (Part 1). The award was offered for photos by Chicon 8 Advisor Dave McCarty, whom we thank profusely for the opportunity.

SEPTEMBER 5TH AND 6TH

John Hertz and Myself, photo by Juli Marr

And it’s all over but the shouting. Here John Hertz and I are watching the proceedings, counting down until the dead dog parties start… 

Myself, Jonathan P. Brazee and Maurizio Manzieri, photo by Juli Marr

After Closing Ceremonies, Juli and I met author Col.Jonathan P. Brazee and Hugo Award Finalist (Best Professional Artist) Maurizio Manzieri outside the hotel on their way to an early dinner.   

Berger, Berger and Blat-Harkins

As we wind down a day after Chicon 8 has officially ended, we shared a final meal with Dan Berger, Terry Berger and Sooshe Blat Harkins, who were a tremendous help in the Chicon 8 Press Office. 

Your humble correspondents

A final portrait from Chicago of your humble correspondents, myself and Juli Marr. Until next time, Goodbye and Good Luck…