My name is Steven Howell Wilson, and I do a lot of different things…

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I’ve written fan fiction and published fanzines. I’ve assumed the role of custodian for my friends who created a fanzine called Contact. I founded a convention called Farpoint, which has run for over two decades. I’ve been a comic book writer for DC Comics (Star Trek and Warlord) and a comic reviewer. I run Prometheus Radio Theatre, and we put out a (mostly) weekly podcast. I’m publisher for Firebringer Press, and a contributor to Crazy 8 Press. Finally, in the mundane world, I’m a recovering librarian, an IT Director and a consultant.And yes, I do all this because I’m allergic to work. I figure as long as I look busy, I won’t have to perform actual labor. It’s worked for nearly half a century so far…

Road Trip! (And a couple of short reviews)

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Note: Photo may not reflect actual vehicle used on indicated trip.

Would you believe I have three blog posts written, and yet, here I sit on a Tuesday evening with not one post ready to go? I have roughed out three very different essays: a review, a rant and a business / leadership reflection. Having done so, I didn’t sweat last night. Normally, on Monday nights, I finish (or start and finish) my blog while Christian has his Taekwondo class. 2,000 words in an hour. Not hard. And I can spend 20 minutes editing on Tuesday. Last night I thought I was ahead of the game.

Tonight, I looked at my three “roughed out” blogs. Put the emphasis on “rough.” None of these were ready to edit! What was I thinking? Of course, I was thinking about twelve other things–work deadlines, the story I was editing, personal business that needed to be dealt with in the wake of a whirlwind trip to my family home in the mountains…

So, no thought-provoking, infuriating, insightful or useful information is likely to come out of me this week. But here’s this. I mentioned a whirlwind trip. My family and I had been promising relatives that we’d come visit the old hometown for the better part of a year. You may recall that I returned to Burnsville and Pensacola last Christmas. I have a lot of relatives there. My dad was one of six children, and I have 19 first cousins. Many of them live in Yancey County, NC. I have two aunts and one uncle there, and one remaining great aunt. (My dear Aunt Frances is the last surviving sibling of my Grandmother Clara, whom I never met. There were eleven kids in that family, some younger than my parents. They were born between 1900 and 1930. Frances was born in 1922.)

It was a good trip, though I’ve decided that, from now on, all trips to Yancey County will be bordered by two travel days on the front and two on the back. I don’t feel like flying there, but it’s a longer drive than I care to make in one day anymore. I’ve also decided that I want to go a lot more often. We have a beautiful house there on 70 acres. Why would I go there less than once a year? And pass up the chance to see my relatives, who are an amazing bunch of people?

But I mentioned the drive. What do four family members who are essentially all adults now do when stuck in a car together for eight to ten hours? You can only talk so much. You should only talk so much, lest you get on each others’ nerves and stop talking altogether. Long drives used to be fine. I’d pick something for us to listen to, and we’d have a great time. Then God… or Steve Jobs, I guess it was… created the iPod and the iPad, and suddenly no one wanted to listen to the same stuff as anyone else. Listen? Our devices can watch TV and films via streaming whilst travelling I-81. Why would we listen? Well, except me, of course. I was driving. So no watching for me. It interferes with my naps.

It kinda hurts my feelings a little, that everyone listens to / watches their own thing in the car now. We don’t laugh together the way we used to. (Remember Basil Fawlty saying to his wife Sybil, “Remember when we were young, dear? We used to laugh quite a lot then.” Sybil responds, “Yes, but never at the same time.” I believe Basil said, “Yes, that should have been a clue.” It’s important to laugh at the same time, when you’re a family. Else you might end up running a hotel in Torquay.)

So this trip, I was determined to break the pattern of headphone listening. It wasn’t gonna be easy. I like stuff like history and philosophy. I can listen to Nathaniel Hawthorne and not plow the Jeep into a billboard to make the pain stop. Renee can listen to more than one Sookie Stackhouse novel in a year. Ethan’s more partial to the works of Douglas Adams and Christian… Christian is determined to watch every episode of Arrow… no matter how much it hurts.

We’re a diverse audience. But I was determined, as I said. I had Audible credits piling up. There had to be something…

There was. There were two somethings, in fact. So, if you happen to be the four members of the Wilson family… or any geeky, diverse group of pseudo-intellectuals who grew up on (not all at the same time) Star Trek, Monty Python, John Hughes films and 80s music, aaaaannd you’re looking for something for a road trip, consider these:

ChooseYourOwnChoose Your Own Autobiography by Neil Patrick Harris

NPH warns you right up front that this is a self-serving celebrity biography, but with a twist: It’s inspired by the Choose Your Own Adventure novels of Neil’s childhood. It’s a clever little premise, and it’s amusing to hear all the ways Neil envisions that he might meet his own tragic death. It’s also touching, enlightening and inspiring to hear how this still-young man journeyed from the boy who loved the soundtrack of Annie, to the mega-star who hosts the Tony and Emmy Awards and hangs out (literally, in the case of the nude beach story) with Elton John.

There are great memories in here of Doogie Howser MD, Dr. Horrible, How I Met Your Mother and Neil’s Broadway and touring career. There’s also very candid discussion of NPH’s coming to terms with his own sexuality, how he met the love of his life, and the ups and downs of fatherhood. The principle down being the 45 seconds his daughter, Harper, did not breathe immediately after being born. All was well, but it’s a horrible feeling that I’ve lived through myself. Perhaps most touching of all is his account of his 40th birthday, and the elaborate plans made by his partner, David. Almost brought tears to my eyes.

Some of the anecdotes are not quite, um, family friendly, a term which here means, “You may get a little uncomfortable listening to these stories with your parents / children in the car with you.” They were hilarious, though, as you’d expect. He reads the book himself, of course, and it’s specially adapted for audio.

That was the trip down. The trip back was…

AsYouWishAs You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride

by Cary Elwes, read by Cary Elwes, Rob Reiner, Joe Layden, Robin Wright, Christopher Guest, Chris Sarandon, Carol Kane, Norman Lear, Billy Crystal, Andy Scheinman and Wallace Shawn.

Cary Elwes describes how, as a twenty-three year-old rookie actor, he landed the part of a lifetime in the movie that Hollywood had long ago decided could never be made. In this memoir you should be prepared to fall hopelessly in love with Andre the Giant, and to realize that, if we had more Rob Reiners in this world, there might never be wars and we probably wouldn’t need psychotherapy.

Elwes tells a very happy tale, albeit with a few pitfalls and injuries along the way, about how William Goldman’s perfect fairy tale was brought to the screen. It’s funny, it’s touching, and it’s eye-opening in many ways. I was especially surprised to learn that Wallace Shawn, he who cried “inconceivable!” so often and is so well-remembered as the little Jewish Sicilian mob boss in the film, feels to this day that he was miscast in the part, and spent the entire four months of filming with the very real fear that today would be the day that Rob Reiner would fire him.

Fred Savage, William Goldman and Mandy Patinkin are also quoted in the book, but sadly did not read their passages.

These two audiobooks kept us entertained for most of 19 hours of driving, and I don’t believe any headphones were worn while they were playing.

It’s nice to find something you can all agree on. One might even say it’s inconceivable, or even legend–wait for it–!

Oh, right, that phrase is trademarked, isn’t it?

(Blog) Hopping Down the Author Trail

This week’s entry is Phil Giunta’s idea. Phil asked me to join in this Blog Hop, where I answer four questions and then nominate three other writers to do the same, and they’ll nominate three other writers, and so on, and so on…

I don’t normally do these “pyramid scheme” types of posts, as my friend Nobilis Reed calls them. But this is an opportunity to talk about my writing and to give some other authors some exposure. These are a few of my favorite things, so I’m in.

1. What am I working on?

Lots of things, always. I’m outlining a sixty-minute radio play for performance at Farpoint 2015. I’m kicking around ideas for a flash fiction piece (I don’t think I’ve ever written one, unless you count this. It’s 1470 words, so it’s probably too long.) I’m writing a 6,000-word short story, my third in as many months, and I’ve got a novel outline in development. I’ve also got a page of bullet points for potential projects, including some possible Appalachian romantic comedies and ghost stories. Science Fiction is starting to chafe. Continue reading

I F___ing HATE Political Memes!

I hate political memes. Hate them with a fiery passion. A person’s political philosophy is, or should be, too complex to fit into a few words crammed onto a photograph. If a person’s philosophy is not too complex to do so, then I would submit that they need to delay participating in civil society until they’ve learned a bit more about the world and how it works.

That said, I can think of two philosophies that fit in a meme that are valid: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” and “And ye harm none, do as ye will.”

I don’t see either of those being posted on Facebook, though.

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Please Re-cut This Film! An appeal for Atlas Shrugged: Who Is John Galt? (Part Two)

AtlasShruggedNote: If you haven’t seen the film, take my word for nothing in here. PLEASE see it and draw your own conclusions. It’s still running in 65 theaters around the country.

Continuing my review of Atlas Shrugged: Who Is John Galt, I wish to pause for a disclaimer and a shout-out. First, the disclaimer: I am speaking frankly about this film because I believe in the project. I respect the passion of the creative team behind it. I understand the obstacles they had to overcome to bring an overwhelmingly popular book to film under the eye of a film industry that largely holds its audience in contempt, and believes that this book is only popular because most of the reading public is too stupid to know what’s good for them. I admire their effort, and I hope it will ultimately pay off.

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No Blog This Week

The_ScreamI had one all planned, and partially written, but circumstances have conspired against me. I decided, on a whim, to spend the weekend trying to meet a very short deadline on an opportunity I’d just learned about. I met it, but I spent all of my free time Saturday, Sunday and Monday evening writing and editing.

On top of that, I had a system outage at work Saturday night, had to plan for a long-overdue meeting with my staff Monday morning, and then Monday learned that we’d be pulling an all-nighter this Wednesday, and spending every moment until then scrambling to be ready.

So, sorry… No blog this week. But I hope to start next week feeling accomplished.

And, hey, if you’re coming to Baltimore Book Festival, stop by the SFWA tent at 4 PM this Friday and listen in on the panel I’m doing with fellow members of the Heinlein Facebook Forum on Robert A. Heinlein’s literary legacy.

Please Re-cut This Film! An appeal for Atlas Shrugged: Who Is John Galt? (Part One)

imageI don’t want to write this review, but, dammit, I feel obligated.

Actually, I feel torn. One the one hand, I supported this movie financially via Kickstarter. I think very well of the producers and creative team who have, thus far, brought us one excellent film and one pretty good one in this trilogy. Criticizing them in public feels a bit like airing dirty laundry, disloyalty to the cause. And yet… When I see something done poorly, by people who want to do a good job, and I know how it could be done better… I feel like I have to say something. Even though saying something seems to put me in the ranks of the many film critics who will say this movie is a desperate, laughable attempt to bring recognition to a set of lunatic fringe ideas, and that the poor quality of the film is just a testament to how unsound their thinking is.

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Review – Space: 1999 – To Everything That Was

space1999_classicI happened upon this volume almost by accident. I’ve always been a huge fan of Gerry and Sylvia Anderson’s 1975 – 1977 science fiction series, Space: 1999. I’ve got a bit of a chip on my shoulder about it, in fact, because the show seems to provoke resentment from most corners of Fandom. If you’re a fan over the age of about 35, you remember how it felt to like Star Trek or comic books, back before Fandom became just another cash cow for Hollywood? Before the Marvel Movies conquered the box office? Before The Big Bang Theory? (The show, not the actual theory. Note the italics. Punctuation is key.) Before geek was chic?

Yeah, it was a bad feeling to be a fan in those days. Everyone looked down on you, to include your peers, siblings, teachers, sometimes even your parents! Well, as bad as that felt for, say a Star Trek fan, it was worse for a Space: 1999 fan. Everyone looked down on us, including all other fans! To this day, I’m careful at cons and on panel discussions about mentioning my love of this series, because people actually groan in revulsion.

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Goodreads Giveaway – Somewhere in the Middle of Eternity

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Somewhere in the Middle of Eternity by Phil Giunta

Somewhere in the Middle of Eternity

by Phil Giunta

Giveaway ends September 24, 2014.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

I’m very proud of this little collection, which introduces five new authors and a new artist to the Firebringer stable. I hope everyone will enter to win a free copy, and, if you don’t win, will buy a paper or e-edition from Smashwords, Amazon, Barnes & Noble or the retailer of your choice!

The Globe Wernike Elastic Bookcase

IMG_0518Is writing about bookshelves a little too silly even for me? Well, sorry, but that’s what I got this week. It’s been a long, baaaaadddd week, with server crashes and badly delayed project deliverables and more than a few shouting matches. At such times, the most trivial things can grab our attention, amuse us, and lighten the load.

I’ve always liked barrister bookcases. The idea of keeping books under glass, like precious delicacies, appeals to me. They’re great for collectibles, too. If you like things like plastic action figures and Lego models (in which case, you’d love my house!) then you know what a chore it is to keep dust out of all the little nooks and crannies on them. Dust, I’m told by my action-figure-expert son, is deadly to plastic collectibles. It can actually soften and damage some plastics. (If you hate dust, you’d hate my house. 144 years’ worth of dead skin cells, old carpet fibers and dog and cat hair… plus some mouse skeletons in the walls. I’ve seen them.)

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Please help P.G. Holyfield!

1965850_1408294617.4618Today, Evo Terra’s words (below) are far more important than anything I could say:

I’m emailing with terrible news. One of our own — P.G. Holyfield — is quickly losing his battle with cholangiocarcinoma, a particularly vicious form of cancer diagnosed only two weeks ago. There are no treatment options. The doctors are giving him days to live.

There’s nothing to be done medically for Patrick (the “P” in “P.G.”,) but there are things that can be done for the three young children he leaves behind. Effective now and for the foreseeable future, 100% of all donations made to his serialized audiobook — Murder at Avedon Hill — will be transferred to a fund set up for them. In addition, audio inserts will run for all listeners of his book making them aware of the situation and asking for them to donate. Generously.

[Please] donate to http://www.gofundme.com/pgfund.

More details on Patricks cancer can be found at http://specficmedia.com/2014/08/17/pg-holyfield-announcement. Spread it far and wide. The campaign has already received attention from Boing Boing.

Tell someone close to you how much you love them and how important they are to you. And then do it again.

And remember — there are no treatment options for Patrick. What we do now, we do in his name for his family.

Evo Terra
Friend of P.G. Holyfield
President of Podiobooks.com (way less important than the first title)

All I can add is my hope that you’ll donate generously, as Evo requests, and also that you’ll check out the work of this talented, creative individual. May he live forever through the stories he has told us:

Murder at Avedon Hill

The Sovereign Era: Year One

Canary in a Coal Mine

P.G…. Thank you.

Thank you for sharing your gift of creativity, a gift of yourself.

Thank you for giving the world the gift of children who will carry forward a bit of your spirit, your strength and your values.

Thank you for being one of us.