Tag Archives: Sci-Fi

WorldCon Controversy 2015 – Historical Perspective

The current Worldcon kerfuffle may seem to some like a recent phenomenon based on the flaming currents of social media. However, such controversy has existed throughout the history of fandom. In fact, going back to the the very first Worldcon convention, prevalent members of science fiction were excluded based on their political beliefs. Sound familiar?

So with a desire to gain a better historical perspective, I called David Bischoff. I write science fiction with Dave, and he’s really the man to speak with regarding the history of SF&F fandom. Not only does Dave have a 40 year (and counting) history writing genre fiction, but he has extensive experience going to SF cons long past and getting into a heated debate or two…er, hundred.

The following is a transcript of our discussion: Enjoy!

Saul – What’s your thoughts on the Worldcon controversy involving Vox Day and the Sad Puppies?

David Bischoff – Well I just heard about all this hullabaloo when my esteemed colleague Jerry Oltion started posting notices on our local writer’s group page. I’m still puzzled about this whole thing about Sad Puppies and Rabid Puppies, I didn’t know it was about Libertarianism. I just thought it was about people looking to push their own sad self published books. I don’t really know how a political philosophy pertains. Frankly as far as that goes, this seems to more the kind of thing that L. Ron Hubbard’s creeps do. But then Ron was an SF fan and writer who lived in a slan shack in the early 40s, so the tradition goes way back.

Saul – Is this really on par with Hubbard?

David – What I know is this. Why are people taking this so seriously? I think it’s a hoot and great publicity for SF and Worldcon. — Vox Day is a genius!

Saul – (Laughter)

David – He’s done what John W. Campbell used to do which is have fun being a Devil’s Advocate and poking sharp sticks of pseudo-reason at the dopey heart bleeding liberals.

Saul – I don’t know, it seems to be more than just having fun. Anyway, where do you place yourself on the scales of reason?

David – Me? I’m a rational and perfect Super-Liberal who has voted Democrat all his life, but actually would prefer to hang with conservatives who are lots more fun. Did you hear about the gorgeous Wonder Twins and their books? Now I’d collaborate with them in a heartbeat. Oops! Maybe I better read one of these gems first.

Saul – Do you think Libertarian SF is making a strong comeback?

David – How the hell am I supposed to know? I don’t see sales figures. I do know that some of the looniest people I ever met were Libertarians. I went to the 1981 Denver Worldcon which was just winding down a Libertarian Conference and lots of the nutters were staying on to the Worldcon. I remember all these weird people talking intensely to each other about their various personal theories. The talk of the early Worldcon was how one Libertarian had gotten so overexcited in a discussion or argument that he’d keeled over with a heart attack and died on the spot.

Saul – Sheesh, that’s horrible.

David – Frankly, I think that science fiction people INVENTED Libertarianism. Prominent amongst these was Robert A. Heinlein, who actually had a strong medical excuse.

Saul – Now that’s interesting. Did you know Heinlein? What was your impression of him?

Well I met him all the time in SF. Personally I was lucky enough to not only meet him in personally not long before he died, but to witness him in remarkable action at an SF con in the mid 70s when he was guest of honor.

Saul – How did that go?

David – His stint at the Worldcon was wild. First, he had this blood drive. Awesome. On the other hand, did the blood bankers really want blood so filled with booze and drugs? Then he demanded that if you wanted a book signed by him, you needed to show proof you’d given at least a pint of blood that weekend.

Saul – Sounds pretty driven for a good cause.

David – And that was just the beginning. His Guest of Honor speech was in a special auditorium to accomadate the masses who wanted to hear him. He walked on stage to a standing ovation. He set an alarm clock and put it on the podium. “I have a half hour to talk, and that’s all I’ll take. When the alarm rings, the talk is over.”

He proceeded to ramble on about wonky political stuff, often incoherently, for the full 39 minutes.

Saul – Then what happened?

David – People started booing.

Saul – Really?

David – I for one was happy the speech was only a half hour. Now mind you, I’m a big fan of everything the man wrote before TIME ENOUGH FOR LOVE. I once had an argument about this with Charles N. Brown, the remarkable founder of LOCUS, but I know people who agree with me. Nonetheless, I still read and reread his earlier stuff and it was and still is great. The man was not only a modern visionary, he wrote like a dream and really could draw a reader into a book. Just recently I reread THE DOOR INTO SUMMER . Hey. Any books up for the Hugo this year as good as DOOR INTO SUMMER. Rabid Poopies? Sad Poopies? Hey that’s the title of your next book Vox Day.

THE DOOR INTO DUMBER

Saul – (Laughter.)

David – Anyway, I got to meet him another time because a woman I was dating once and a while at the time knew him and his wife Virginia. I lived in Maryland at the time. Heinlein was a graduate of the Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland and was attending a reunion there. Heinlein invited my friend to a party and she took me along as a date. My friend and collaborator Charles Sheffield was also there, so I was relieved about that.

Saul – So what happened at the party?

David – It was a wonderful party. Heinlein was so gracious. I think I heard later that he’d had some kind of operation that improved his mental facilities. You know, when you look back you can see there are plenty of SF fans and authors who were low grade autistic. Not Robert Anton Heinlein.

When he came over to chat with my friend and I shook his hand, and I asked him how his reunion was. He said it was wonderful. We talked a little more and he called Charles over and also a Japanese rocket scientist from NASA who both Charles and I knew and who was one of the biggest Heinlein fans in the world. We talked a bit more and then Heinlein excused himself.

“Pardon me, I really should go and talk the the Admiral over there now. But before I go, in case I get too tired and have to go to bed — Dave. Could you do me a favor.”

“Sure!” I said.

I was ready to give blood.

Saul – Ha!

David – He winked at me. “Just a minute.” He went off into the bedroom of the suite. When he returned he had a copy of one of my books.

“Could you honor me by autographing this for me?”

And he even had a pen. I find tears in my eyes now even as I think about that. You know what? Robert A. Heinlein won some Hugos and he cherished them. I don’t think he needed any help in getting on the Hugo ballot, ever.

—- To be continued in my next post. Stay tuned. —-

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Favorable Book Reviews – Freedom Club

Freedom Club - KindleI’m very satisfied to report that Freedom Club continues to gain favorable reviews. Recently, I received a positive review from Eeclectic Breakfast who rated my book 4 stars on Amazon. A second four star review came from Adam-P-Reviews who also had a favorable opinion of my writing.

In addition, both Goodreads and Amazon have a continuously growing number of optimistic star ratings and comments. It’s a good sign, and gives me confidence that the years I spent writing this book are starting to pay off.

Take a look for yourself. If you find that the synopsis and reviews are to your liking, by all means, please take a read of Freedom Club.

New Post – Voodoo Robot Chili

For those who haven’t yet subscribed  to my new blog,  Voodoo Robot Chili (and you know who you are, but not necessarily in Heideggerian terms) please note that I’ve posted some new articles which you’re sure to love.

They’re witty, yet prophetic in the, “my god this beats the pants off a Magic 8-Ball” sort of way. Though, come to think of it, Magic 8-Balls don’t wear pants…

But who cares about that?

Trust me, I’m making fun of everyone from Dick Cheney, all the way up to Taylor Swift. Do you see the connection? I sure don’t. But that’s not the point. I’m just damn sure I’ve targeted everyone who’s scratched their butt at least once in their life. (Once again, you know who you/they are.)

So whoever (or whatever) you want to laugh at, don’t worry. And don’t get your  panties all bunched up into a pretzel. You’ll find a chuckle at  Voodoo Robot Chili.

Click on the link baby. You know you want to.

New Blog – Voodoo Robot Chili

Because I’m now working on my second novel, I’ve decided to start making posts in a new blog entitled, Voodoo Robot Chili. Some people feel it’s best to post from one single blog, and focus readers all in one spot. In the future I may do that. However, for aesthetic reasons, I feel there are benefits to dedicating a blog to one particular book. To begin, all the art and colors can be tuned to the new book’s aesthetics. More importantly, it’s easier to focus the posts in line with the genre of this particular book. In this case, military SF comedy.

Anyway, if you’ve enjoyed my writings in the past, I can only make a humble appeal to follow me on my next writing adventure. Please join me at Voodoo Robot Chili. I’ll make it worth the time.

Making an eBook: Working with Smashwords

To complement my Amazon version of Freedom Club, I’ve created a Smashwords version that is now on sale. The main reason I’ve done this to increase the number of channels my book can be sold through. Namely, I want Freedom Club to be sold not only on Smashwords, but also through Apple’s iBooks and Barns and Noble dot com. There are more channels available, but from my point of view, these three are the big ones I wish to cover at minimum.

Like Amazon, Smashwords makes the “basic” process simple. You make an account, fill out a few fields of metadata, and then upload your book and cover via a Microsoft DOC file. What could be easier? Well, the process is deceptively complex, primarily because Smashwords claims to require “minimal formatting” requirements to make the book available via all participating channels. Now you may ask what that means? It means that the converted file formats (converted by Smashwords themselves) must pass their internal testing engine called EpubCheck. I’m not going to explain what technical magic it takes to pass this test. If you want to know about that, just search the interenet. There, you’ll find boatloads of people pulling the hair out of their heads trying to figure out why errors occur, even when they follow the Smashwords guidelines precisely.

To make a long story short, I simply used Amy Gilbert Design to format my book for me. Amy is (as far as I’m concerned) a goddess of ePub formatting and has figured out not only how to pass the dreaded EpubCheck-a-monster, but makes the books look very good after Smashwords conversion is finished. This is no small feat, I assure you.

Having avoided most formatting issues, the more positive side of Smashwords was available to me. They have a fairly reasonable royalty sharing scheme, the breakdown of which can be seen in the image I included above. There may be those who feel the amount paid is not worth it, but as an aggregator (a company which collects royalties from other channels and pays you one check) I think Smashwords’ royalty scheme is acceptable. In the end, they save me from having to upload my book to various channels, and monitor everything on my own. For this service, I’m happy to pay.

In the end, Smashwords seems like a good choice. However, I will hold back my final recommendation until I gather more experience with them. It’s not like I expect bad things to happen. But I live by the credo: hope for the best, but expect the worst.

Will keep you all posted.

Freedom Club Showcased on AISFP

Shaun Farrell, who runs the Adventures in SciFi Publishing podcast, interviewed my editor David Bischoff last week.  The whole thing went very well, and David did an excellent job talking about his long career both as a writer and editor of SF, and his recent foray into indie publishing. As you may know, David started Hotspur Publishing, an independent company to publish his backlog that has accumulated over the years, along with new titles like Freedom Club, written by me.

I’m especially pleased that my book was mentioned as well during the podcast. It was really nice of Shaun to help promote the book, and I would urge everyone to listen to episode 154 of Adventures in SciFi Publishing and even comment on the the podcast web page if you can.

AISFP Rocks!

Selling My Book on Kindle – Becoming an Amazon Drone

I had an interesting experience getting people to buy my book on the Amazon Kindle. What I thought would be a fairly easy task, turned out to be an effort. Most were able to get the book on some device, but the entire process took (on average) 20 minutes. Why you ask? Because Kindle readers are not yet the norm, at least here in Australia. If they were, it would be a 1 minute job.

Without a real Kindle, I needed to step my readers through a more complex process because Amazon won’t sell Kindle books without a registered reader… somewhere.

To give you an idea of what occurred, let me me give you some bullet points of the questions I asked, followed by the response and follow up actions. This kind of stuff took place as I sold “each and every” copy of my book. Keep in mind, it’s a worst case scenario:

  • Will you please buy my book? – Sure.
  • Do you have a Kindle? – No. Let’s download a reader then.
  • Shall we get Kindle reader on your PC? -Sure. Download that small 25 meg file. Wait…wait…wait. Networks slow! It finally downloaded. Yay!
  •  Let’s install the PC Kindle reader. -Whoops, we can’t install the PC reader because: security protocol gets in the way, other technical problem.
  • Sigh! Well do you have an iPhone and or iPad? – Sure. Great, let’s try that.
  •  Use the App Store to get the Kindle app? – Sure. Oh, you don’t remember your password on the iTunes App Store. Fumble, call boyfriend/girlfriend/parent/husband/wife/child to get password. No one is picking up! Darn! Oh wait, they’re calling back now. Get password. Yay!
  • Let’s download that Kindle reader. -Sure. Oh, the connection is very slow. Wait….wait…wait. It downloaded! Thank goodness, that’s done. Yay!
  • Let’s register the Kindle app. -Whoops, you don’t remember your Amazon login? Request email to get password. Oh no, email is not working for some reason. What do we do now?
  •  Shall we make a new Amazon account? -Sure! Okay, let’s get that done. Click all over, insert name, address, credit card details. What? They don’t like that debit card? Fumble, get another card. Okay this one works: Great! That’s all done. Yay!
  • Let’s go back and download the Kindle reader on your iPhone then? -Sure. Whoops, connection on phone is not working. Wait…wait…wait. Finally, Kindle reader is download.  Yay!
  • Let’s register the Kindle reader. -Sure. What? My name and password are not valid? We just made a new account fer God’s sake! Try again. Try again. Try again. It worked! Yay.
  • Let’s buy my book now. -Sure. Whoops, can’t buy the book directly on the darn iPhone Kindle app. Let’s go back to the Amazon account on the PC and buy that book! Hit ONE touch to buy button. Click! Oh, log in again. Hmmm. Confirm card. Hmmm. Confirm address. Okay, that ONE touch click which turned into one login and 3 clicks is over. Yay!
  • Let’s see it on the Kindle reader. -Sure. Hit synch button. Wait…wait…wait. There it is!
  • Finally, a happy customer.
Okay, maybe this worst case scenario. But I think Amazon is quite lucky. If all indie authors are going around and doing this amount of work just to get their books out there, Amazon has done a great job turning authors into Amazon marketing agents.
I’m not saying I’m really a drone. I’m just saying…