Jack & Rob’s Comical Commentary

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This is good news for the McCain Campaign…oops, I mean the Democrats.

If I can steal the hilarious mainstream press meme from the last election in which every turn of events was seen as a boost to the old Straight-Shooter right up until Election Night, let me say straight out that, although you’re going to hear all over the place how this is a major turning point, I think it’s a positive for the Good Guys no matter how the election itself turns out.

If Hoffman wins, that cements the GOP into nominating only the most conservative (read “Wingnut”) candidates lest the Great Tea Party Army strike again and likely means their least electable presidential candidate since…well, John McCain.

If Hoffman loses, that shows the folly of becoming part of the Great Tea Party Army and means the GOP will restrict its nomination of Wingnuts to mere 70 80% overall.

Either way, the cheers/tears from Wingnuttia ought to provide a good week’s work of amusement.



Big Brother is alive and well in Britain.

This story, just latest in many which reveal the nature of Britain’s “surveillance society” is the sort of thing that sends a chill down the spine of those of us who value personal liberty and privacy. And it’s the sort of thing that, once upon a time, you’d think would be a centerpiece of conservative arguments against creeping Big Brotherism in this country.  It’s the kind of issue that crosses political lines and can get people to pay attention to other things you have to say.

Sadly, though, what is now call conservatism in the U.S. consists of people who cheered on the Bush Administration for every step they took toward invading personal privacy of all Americans. Obstructionism is their new mantra and tea parties their new platform. At a time when a serious opposition party is desperately needed, the GOP has abdicated both responsibility and conscience.



An old friend revisited.

I was offered a free copy of the December issue of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction if I agreed to blog about it after I read it. There was a day when MF&SF was a regular monthly treat for me so that seemed like a win/win to me.

The magazine is bimonthly and costs $7 an issue ($5.83 if you subscribe) but a healthy enough package at 260 pages (including covers). This issue has the same sort of striking and colorful covers that I remember from decades ago mfsf and contains four novelettes, seven short stories, two book columns, a film column, an editorial and last page feature called “Curiosities,” certainly enough reading to warrant either price by current standards.

Back in the day, MF&SF was part of  a wide array of SF digests on the stands. In addition to it, I regularly read and often had subscriptions to Analog (Astounding), Galaxy, Asimov’s, Worlds of IF, Amazing, Fantastic and others I no longer remember—along with crime/mystery digests, Ellery Queen & Mike Shayne. The first  two crime mags, MF&SF, Analog and Asimov’s survive to this day, although I at least rarely see them on newsstands. Hell, I rarely see newsstands these days.

I always considered MF&SF the most literate and enticing of the crop and it was reading Harlan Ellison’s “The Deathbird” in the March 1973 issue which led me to pick up the telephone at midnight and call him in California, setting off a chain of events which led to my spending a wild night in Philadelphia in his company and an even wilder four-days following him around at a science fiction convention in NYC, all of which resulted in my first two sales to a national publication. I’ve told that story in whole or part many times and can be convinced to tell it again.

But back to the issue at hand.

I’ve read all the columns, all the stories and one of the novelettes. It makes no sense logically, but the novelette form has always put me off a bit and it will be a while before I get to the other three, I fear. It seems like a good idea, especially since I was very impressed with the tales I did read, to not wait for my report.

The novelette I read was “Inside Time” by Tim Sullivan, a story which put a really intriguing new twist on one of my favorite genres, time travel. The direction the story eventually went was rather easy to predict up front so in that sense it was unsatisfying, but I will be thinking about the idea of  “a knot inside of time” for a long while.

All the short stories were top-notch. Two of them, “Illusions of Tranquility” (Brendan DuBois) and “The Economy of Vacuum” (Sarah Thomas) are set on the moon” the first involved the people who live there in the future and the secrets they must hide from visitors from Earth; the second about a lone woman left alone there for more than 30 years after global war breaks out on Earth and what happens when new explorers finally arrive. Both were riveting and ultimately very sad.

“Bad Matter” (Alexandra Duncan) is also set off-planet, on a sub-orbital space station and yet another surprising secret for an Earth visitor; its use of “footnotes” from books published some 500 years for now adds to the fun. “Farewell to Atlantis” (Terry Bisson) is an amusing story about the last survives of that fabled city trying to fulfill their destiny in today’s world and builds to a laugh out loud final sentence.

“The Man Who Did Something About It” (Harvey Jacobs) is about a garage-mechanic who gets an opportunity to save the world and “The Blight Family Singers” (Kit Reed, its publication marking the 50th anniversary of her first appearance in these pages) is told from multiple points of view as the touring family of the title squabble their way into an unexpected ending to their final concert.

Of the unread novelettes, the first I am likely to try is “Hell of a Fix” (Matthew Hughes), because a quick glance at the first two pages indicate it at least begins with a summoned demon who must do the summoner’s bidding and I’m a sucker for that stuff. “Dragon’s Teeth” (Alex Irvine) is high fantasy and not really my cuppa. “I Needs Must Part, the Policeman Said” (Richard Bowes) is a complete mystery to me for now but it bears my kinda title.

There’s nothing quite as satisfying and losing one’s self in a big, complicated novel, but since I try my hand at short fiction myself on occasion, I have a real interest in and fondness for the form and….

Well, put it this way. I tore out the subscription form and it’s sitting here on my desk.

Sometimes it’s useful to get a reminder of how much you can miss  an old and treasured friend.



Life is hard, fiction is harder.

You will recall, undoubtedly (since I know that you few, you brave who frequent this obscure little corner of the internets hang on my every word), that I wrote about submitting stories the proposed Hint Fiction anthology way back in July.

Alas and alack, word came last evening that none of my stories were chosen.

Disappointing to be sure, but when I noticed that among several  familiar names who did make  the cut were  award-winning Irish crime novelist Ken Bruen, award-winning horror writer Peter Straub and National Book Award winner Joyce Carol Oates, I was able to bear up under it.

They received 2500 submissions overall  and accepted only 3% of them. That means there will be 125  stories in the book. That works out to 3125 words or less so this is either going to be a very slim volume or there’s a lot of filler material. Either way, I hope to see a copy when it is released, if only to say “hey, my story was better than that one” at least a couple of times.

For your entertainment, and because I said I would, here are the the three stories I submitted:

AFTER LIFE

Heaven was nothing like I expected. No angels, no pearly gates. Just lots of people I’d never seen before, so I knew it wasn’t hell.

THE GAME

The woman was beautiful, the sex fantastic. “Why me?” I asked afterwards.  She smiled. “Tag, you’re it,” she said and ran out of the room.

FINIS

The Last Man found the Last Woman, and joyously shouted “Adam and Eve!” She said nothing. That night, she crushed his skull with a rock.

And two more that I didn’t:

THE TOUR

The day the Americans came to our village, people came from miles around to curse them all, misshapen and rotting in their sealed radiation cages.

THE SECRET COUNCIL THAT RULES THE WORLD

A team from the Secret Council That Rules the World came for me in the dead of night. “We’ve got a problem.” They always did.

I kinda like trying to tell stories in a very limited amount of words, what is generally called Flash Fiction and usually involves stories somewhere between 100 and 500 words, and I plan to try my hand at some other such tales  which I  will post here unless (or after) I submit them to some print or online venue.

I also will try my hand at developing one or more of the above tales into a longer format. I mean, what is it that each one was  hinting at?

Along those lines, I am really, honestly, this–puts–me– on–the–record–and–I–can’t–back–out–now, going to participate in National Novel Writing Month in November. Anybody see the potential for a 70,000 word story anywhere above?



Why wingnuts rage against a world they cannot comprehend.

From a summary of  a  “White Paper”  by Peter Francene in the October 12 issue of Advertising AgeNew U.S. Census to Reveal Major Shift: No More Joe Consumer:

The 2010 Census is expected to find that 309 million people live in the United States. But one person will be missing: the average American.

“The concept of an ‘average American’ is gone, probably forever,” demographics expert Peter Francese writes in 2010 America, a new Ad Age white paper. “The average American has been replaced by a complex, multidimensional society that defies simplistic labeling.”

[…]

Selected findings of 2010 America:

“This census will show that no household type neatly describes even one-third of households,” Mr. Francese writes. “The iconic American family — married couple with children — will account for a mere 22% of households.”…

The most prevalent type of U.S. household? Married couple with no kids, followed closely by single-person households, according to Mr. Francese’s projections….

“One fact says it all,” Mr. Francese writes. “In the two largest states (California and Texas), as well as New Mexico and Hawaii, the nation’s traditional majority group — white non-Hispanics — is in the minority.” And in the nation’s 10 largest cities, he says, “no racial or ethnic category describes a majority of the population.”…

Consider these 2010 projections: 80% of people age 65-plus will be white non-Hispanics. But just 54% of children under age 18 will be white non-Hispanics. Mr. Francese observes: “White non-Hispanics will surely account for fewer than half of births by 2015.”

In 2010, Hispanics will be both the nation’s fastest-growing and largest minority (50 million people).

Fortunately, there are fine human beings like Michelle Bachmann out there urging her crazed constituency to refuse to cooperate with the Census.

Shut your eyes, clap your hands, click your heels and believe it is not so.

Yeah, that’ll work.