Author Archive

Tangent Online reviews “Kora is Life”

The first review of my Clarkesworld novelette “Kora is Life” comes from Victoria Silverwolf at Tangent Online: “This novella holds the reader’s attention from start to finish. The flying scenes are exciting, but the narrator’s struggles with alien culture and the company promoting the engine are equally compelling. The narrative style is clear and vivid, reminding me a bit of Roger Zelazny.”

Toys of a Forgotten Generation

I’m a member of Generation Jones — the not-quite-a-generation that fell into the crack between the Boomers and GenX — and furthermore I was never quite the same as those other boys. So some of my most beloved toys are a bit on the obscure side. Here’s a post about some of them.

I’ll start with what’s probably the least obscure of the lot, Major Matt Mason. “America’s Astronaut in Space” was made by Mattel beginning in 1966. I had just about all of the Matt Mason figures and toys, including the rare Captain Lazer (who, at 12″ tall, had plainly been originally intended for a different toy line). My mother gave them all to my cousins while I was away at summer camp one year and I’m still bitter about it.

Major Matt Mason

Zeroids were made by Ideal and came out in 1967. There were four of them, and not only did they have motorized rubber tank treads, they had arms that could be pulled back to throw things and interchangeable hands that gripped. Each one came in a box that also served as an accessory. They shared a snap-in electric motor with Ideal’s Motorific cars, which I also loved.

Zeroid

The Strange Change Machine came out from Mattel in 1967. This electrically heated toy came with these little compressed blocks of memory plastic, the approximate size and shape of butter pats, which when heated turned into monsters. The monsters could be re-heated and squished back into blocks using the crank-operated crusher.

Strange Change Machine

The AstroScope from Ohio Art (1970) included a light and two spinning mirrors, whose speed and direction could be controlled with the levers and knobs to project a variety of Lissajous figures on the screen. It was probably the loudest toy I owned, due to the two high-speed motors.

AstroScope

Super City from Ideal (1967) was a building set that consisted of square and rectangular frames, narrow columns, and corner blocks, all in white plastic, and a variety of panels (transparent, translucent, brick, and metal, plus pyramids and domes) that could snap into the frames. It had a rather limited aesthetic but was great for snapping together quite large structures quickly.

Super City

Finally, perhaps the most obscure of all, Mold Master from Kenner (1963) was a toy for making other toys! You would put pellets of plastic — or perhaps they were wax — into the upper chamber of this electric toy, where they would be melted into a liquid, which you would then squish down into a collection of injection molds. Once cooled — or perhaps sooner, if you were impatient and had a high tolerance for pain — you could remove the parts from the mold, snap them off the sprue, and assemble them into cars, trucks, and other machines. Then you could break them up and melt them again!

Moldm Master

61/’61

I just noticed a mildly interesting numeric thing: I was born in ’61 and I turned 61 this year. This is a thing that only happens once in a lifetime, and for some folks never. The later in the century you were born, the less likely it is that you will live to see this event. For every year that passes the date of the event advances two years (all my fellow ’61s are turning 61 this year, but the ’60s turned 60 two years ago and the ’62s turn 62 in two years) and the event occurs only in even-numbered years. As I said, mildly interesting.

Research rabbit hole

The evidence shows that I enjoy research more than the actual writing. Today’s writing session is an instructive example.

My story takes place in 1911, and at the beginning of my writing session today I set up the situation where my main characters have to track down Nikola Tesla. But how would they look up his address?

A Google search for “New York telephone directory 1911” led me to the NYPL’s online copy of Trow’s general directory of the boroughs of Manhattan and Bronx, city of New York, whose 1911 edition was 3790 pages long. On page 2300 or thereabouts I found this listing:

Tesla Electro-Therapeutic Co 111 Bway #901
— Nikola elec eng 202 Metropolitan tower in The Waldof-Astoria
— Ozone Co 111 Bway #901

No visible phone number, though there is a smudge after “The Waldorf-Astoria” which might possibly be a two-digit number. But my characters’ cheap hotel would not likely have this monster phone directory (which was printed in multiple volumes, likely at least 8). So maybe they would have to go to the library to look it up?

Well, as it happens, this scene takes place on May 16, 1911 (nailed down by a newspaper story about Tesla) and the NYPL’s current location (at 476 5th Ave, just a few blocks from their hotel) had its grand opening on May 23, 1911, so it’s not clear whether they would have found it open yet. Even if the new building was open, the directory might still be at one of the libraries it replaced, the Astor Library at 425 Lafayette Street (which closed to readers on April 15, 1911 and is now, as it happens, the Public Theatre) or the Lenox Library at Fifth Avenue between 70th (which was demolished in 1912; I haven’t found a specific closing date).

I really don’t want to send my characters running all over NYC — the Astor is about four miles south of their hotel, the Lenox about four miles north — in search of a phone directory, only to have them fail to find one. Or do I? “If your hero needs to get out of town fast, steal his car.” It’s also crunchy historical detail, which I for one find fascinating.

And how would they cover those distances? The Interborough Rapid Transit Company (subways and elevated trains) was up and running in 1911 and had a five cent fare (I think — fares were limited to five cents by the Dual Contracts which merged the IRT and BRT in 1913). I really do need to scan in the 1911 New York guidebook I found on eBay.

Or could the hotel’s telephone operator call Central and get the info from them? “Hello Central” was definitely a thing in 1911; “Hello Central, Give Me Heaven” was a popular Tin Pan Alley song first published in 1901. But would the telephone operator have given out that info? Maybe not Hello Central, but “Hello Information” definitely existed and might very well have been able to provide it.

The end result of all today’s researches: “Our first stop was at the front desk. The clerk there asked the hotel telephone operator. She vanished into a back room, then returned a few minutes later with a piece of paper on which were written two addresses: the Tesla Electro-Therapeutic Co at 111 Broadway, and Nikola Tesla, Electrical Engineer, at the Waldof-Astoria.”

Net 54 words for the day. Jeez. But I had fun!

David’s Index for 2021

Novel words written: 15,899
Short fiction words written: 15,175
Notes, outline, and synopsis words written: 165,870
Blog words written: 5,562
Total words written: 202,506
Novella words edited out: 11,656
Net words written: 190,850

New stories written: 2

Short fiction submissions sent: 8
Responses received: 6
Rejections: 4
Acceptances: 2
Other sales: 1 (reprint)
Awaiting response: 2

Short stories published: 5 (2 pro, 3 reprint)

Novel submissions: 11
Rejections: 8
Acceptances: 0
Awaiting response: 3

Collection submissions: 1
Rejections: 0
Acceptances: 0
Awaiting response: 1

Happy new year!

Before you take your 2022 Camry through a car wash…

If you, like me, have a brand new 2022 Toytota Camry Hybrid and would like to keep it clean and shiny, be aware that it has a Pre-Collision System that will FREAK THE F–K OUT at the onslaught of brushes, soap, and water that is an automatic car wash.

Here’s how you disable the Pre-Collision System on the 2022 Camry before going through a car wash:

  1. Press ⬇️ on steering wheel left side until “gear” icon is selected
  2. Press ➡️ to select “crash” icon
  3. Press and hold 🆗 to change settings
  4. With “PCS” selected, press 🆗 to turn it off

To turn PCS back on, repeat the above steps, or just turn the car off and on again.

Please note that this is likely true of many other newer cars with collision avoidance systems or automatic windshield wipers, though the procedure for disabling them will vary from car to car. See your car’s documentation for details.

Shapers of Worlds, Volume II now available

Shapers of Worlds Volume II, science fiction and fantasy stories by authors featured on The Worldshapers podcast, is now available! There are brand-new stories from Kelley Armstrong, Marie Brennan, Garth Nix, Candas Jane Dorsey, Jeremy Szal, Edward Willett, Bryan Thomas Schmidt, Lisa Foiles, Susan Forest, Matthew Hughes, Heli Kennedy, Helen Dale, Adria Laycraft, Edward Savio, Lisa Kessler, Ira Nayman, James Alan Gardner, and Tim Pratt, plus fiction by Jeffrey A. Carver, David D. Levine, Carrie Vaughn, Nancy Kress, Barbara Hambly, and S.M. Stirling. Get your copy in ebook or paper here: https://books2read.com/b/ShapersofWorlds2