Sneak Peek

Super sneak peek of the cover of the next Connor Rix SF thriller, the third book in the series. Coming soon!




Whoa! Instapundit linked to my novel Rules of Force today. Thanks, Glenn! If you followed that link to Amazon and then found your way to my website and blog, welcome! This blog is where I mostly ruminate on science-fiction, fantasy and related subjects, while a lot of my automotive material is at Rules of Force is the first in the series of Connor Rix SF thrillers, followed by Levers of Power. The third book in the series is well underway, which I hope to finish shortly.

If I may be so bold, allow me to direct your attention to my series of posts on the Incredible Hulk’s troubled 50th anniversary celebration. I’m sure everyone can relate.

Update: ROF is up to No. 22 in the science-fiction series category in the Kindle store. Thanks, Instapundit readers!

Robert Silverberg: When the Blue Shift Comes

Robert Silverberg is one of my favorite authors. He’s one of the few writers whose work I actively collect—I’ve got crumbling, decades-old paperbacks, 1st edition hardcovers, book club editions (which were often the only hardback versions ever made of some of his works) and trade paperbacks.

As a reader, I’ve loved the range of his stories, from tales set billions of years in the future to convincing SF tales set in contemporary times. As a writer, I’ve admired his style and his skill, and his ability to write in so many genres, under so many pen names, for so many decades. He makes it seem so effortless, and his best works, such as Dying Inside, haunt your thoughts long after you’ve finished the book.

ARC for Robert Silverberg’s “When the Blue Shift Comes.”

But for all my Silverberg collecting, I’d never secured  an Advanced Reading Copy until recently (An ARC is an early edition sent to reviewers prior to regular publication.) I picked up this copy of When the Blue Shift Comes at ArmadilloCon in Austin this summer, and not only is it a unique addition to my collection, but it represents a new concept in fiction publishing.

When the Blue Shift Comes is part of The Stellar Guild Series by Phoenix Pick, in which famous authors are teamed up with up-and-coming writers. Sometimes the well-known writer selects a protege with whom to collaborate, sometimes the publisher suggests a candidate, but you end up with a tale begun by the famous author and completed by the newcomer. Besides Silverberg, some of the other authors in the series include Larry Niven, Harry Turtledove and Mercedes Lackey, so the publisher has some heavy-hitters lined up.

When the Blue Shift Comes is Silverberg without restraints, a tale set in a distant future where humans hop between galaxies as easily as we drive to the next town. How far in the future? Well, it’s the Year 777 of Cycle 888 of the 1111th Encompassment of the Ninth Mandala which, if you check your calendar, is pretty far out there. Earth is populated by immortals, at least until a universe-threatening anomaly is discovered and sets the story in motion. Silverberg wrote the first half of this novella and then handed it off to Alvaro Zinos-Amaro, who did a fine job completing the story. It could not have been an easy task—Silverberg employed a very unique voice, almost as if a flighty angel were telling the tale, but Zinos-Amaro picks it up seamlessly. In addition, Silverberg set a very large stage that must have been a mind-bending challenge to finish. Hey, how would you like to have to take a half-finished tale that moves us to the brink of the very end of the universe itself, and bring it to completion? Nicely done, Alvaro.

When the Blue Shift Comes will be released in November in trade paperback and e-book. 

Long-Lost Paperbacks, No. 2

John Jakes is a name anyone who ever walked through a bookstore in the 1970s and ’80s will recognize. He became famous (and rich) for his North and South civil war trilogy, and the Kent Family Chronicles, a series of historical fiction novels set during the American Revolution and published in the years before and after the Bicentennial in 1976.

But long before he became a New York Times bestseller, he was a prolific writer in multiple genres, including science fiction and fantasy.

One example is this paperback edition of Witch of the Dark Gate, which hails from 1972. I bought this book new at a shopping mall bookstore, as I recall. I’d never heard of Jakes at that point and, I’ll admit, I bought the book in large part because of the Frank Frazetta cover. Even then I was a Frazetta fan, thanks to his work on the Conan the Barbarian books that were being reissued at that time. Can a cover alone make a sale? It sure made me plunk down my 95 cents for this one. Lesson learned. 

I recall liking the story, although I think I somehow missed the part about this being a sequel, and was slightly frustrated that I hadn’t read the first book in the series before this one. Whatever its merits, it didn’t make me seek out other Jakes books. But I do recall performing a classic double-take years later when I first saw his mainstream historical novels piled high at the front of the bookstore on the best-seller display. I wonder what all those North and South fans would have thought of this?

John Jakes is certainly not forgotten, but many of his earlier science fiction and fantasy works have drifted into obscurity. I look forward to giving this one the second chance it deserves, even if it is 40 years later.

Summer Newsletter

As per usual, I’m writing in a number of different directions this summer. I’ve always got a novel under construction, and I’ve got some automotive work floating about as well. Here’s the late-summer snapshot:

For you Connor Rix fans, the third novel in the series is underway. It’s still in the early going, but I’ll be pushing hard for a fall release. I’ve already acquired an extra-cool cover, which I’ll tease you with at a later date. At the end of Levers of Power, did you wonder what the story was behind the Transcendent Modified humans? You’ll find out in this SF thriller. Plus: The return of Angie 6!

Earlier this summer I started a novel in the contemporary fantasy genre. I got about 9,000 words into it and am really pleased with how it is unfolding. I set it aside to get the third Connor Rix title underway, but I really can’t wait to finish this one. It’s a shadow-world kind of thing, set in the American Southwest.

On the automotive side, I’ve got an article on track-prepping your car in the August Team Shelby newsletter. I’d supply a link, but the newsletter is a benefit for paid members of the club, so it’s behind a firewall. If you’d like to see learn more about Team Shelby and get your hands on the newsletter, go here. I’ve also been given an assignment for the Shelby Annual that will be in print at the end of the year.

I’ve got a drive report on the Lotus Evora IPS coming out soon in I’ll update with a link as soon as it goes live. (Update! Here’s the Lotus story.)

Other than that? Staying in the shade, grilling assorted meats, quaffing the occasional ale. But I better get back to the keyboard if I want to have a fall newsletter full of new book releases and fun article links. Some cool stuff is brewing if I can pull it all off!

Incredible Hulk’s Talk Radio Program, Episode 3

In celebration of the Incredible Hulk’s 50th anniversary, we’re providing transcripts from the Hulk’s 2 a.m. satellite radio talk show. Your host begs forgiveness for certain, uh, crudities found therein. Hey, he’s only the messenger. Previous episodes are here and here.

Hulk: Stupid producer, shut up. How many times does Hulk have to tell you not to rush Hulk when he is on phone with bookie? What? Yes, Hulk knows it is time to start radio show. Hulk can tell time. Big hand is on stupid number, and little hand is on even stupider number.

So now Hulk talks to puny humans. Listen, because Hulk knows what you want to hear. But let me talk first to stupid younger humans who don’t know anything. Ok. Hulk came to life during gamma bomb explosion 50 years ago. That was a pretty big deal. So now everyone wants to throw Hulk a party. You know what Hulk wants for 50 year party? To be left ALONE. Hulk hates parties. Hulk hates parties even more than he hates Banner. Hulk hates parties even more than Thor hates trip to barbershop.

Ha! Hulk made joke!

But no one listens to Hulk.

Iron Man flies overhead one day and asks Hulk to show up for special party. Hulk of course says no. “Hulk can’t afford to go to fancy parties,” Hulk says. “Hulk only paid union scale for part in Avengers movie, unlike some heroes Hulk could name.”

Then they send Dr. Strange, and Hulk tells magic weirdo to go pull rabbit out of hat. “Does Hulk look like he wants to stand in corner with watered-down margarita and listen to Spider Man’s jokes? Go away.”

Then they use dirty trick. They send Valkyrie and She Hulk to talk Hulk into attending party. Everyone knows Hulk has thing for Valkyrie, even if she doesn’t return Hulk’s calls. She always says  “Cell coverage in Asgard is accursed, my friend. The Rock Trolls of Nornheim cast evil spells, and outages ravage the network.”

But Hulk has liked Valkyrie ever since he first met her long time ago. She smashed through a window ready to fight Hulk, shouting some gibberish Hulk not understand. But she’s pretty, and if Hulk not understand her, he not have to listen to her. Hulk likes not listening.

Hulk sez: “Hulk not understand Valkyrie’s bizarre foreign language, but Hulk thinks she’s pretty anyway.”

And as for She Hulk, she is supposed to be Hulk’s cousin, but Hulk still not clear on that family connection. Just because we were both created by gamma radiation doesn’t make us relatives. Hulk thinks she says that just so Hulk won’t put moves on her.

But sending two pretty super hero girls makes Hulk temporarily stupid and easy to trick.

First, Valkyrie appeals to Hulk’s brain.

“Verily, Hulk, wouldst thou have the world forget thy mighty exploits? Shall all your smashing go unremarked? Let us celebrate your many triumphs.”

Valkyrie makes good point. Hulk does not want people to forget his smashing.

Then She Hulk takes her turn, appealing to Hulk’s stomach.

“Oh, c’mon, you big lug. There’ll be cake. And beans, Hulk. Beans.”

Hulk likes beans, even if beans don’t like Hulk. Ha ha! Hulk makes another joke!

What could Hulk do? Two pretty girl heroes trick Hulk into going to party. So Hulk goes back to cave, puts on clean purple pants and follows girls. They take Hulk to Tony Stark private jet, and we fly to party.

It’s in ballroom 3 at a Marriott Courtyard outside Bakersfield.

Hey, don’t go crazy or anything, mister billionaire Tony Stark.

What? Ok, stupid producer says is time for commercials. Stay through break and then Hulk will finish talking about party.

< Commercial break: Promo for Amazing Spider Man movie>

< Commercial break: Promo for Dark Knight Rises movie>

Hulk: Oh, funny. Very funny. Does advertising department laugh when they cash checks?

Ok, puny human listeners, Hulk was talking about his big 50 year party disaster.

Hulk knows there will be trouble as soon as he walks through door. First, event is catered by Taco Bell, so there will be big crowd around food table. Do you know how many tacos the Thing can eat in one bite? Or the Rhino? May as well just back delivery truck up to mouth.

Second, Reed Richards, Mr. Fantastic, is already drunk. Mr. Fantastic is supposed to be some sort of genius, but when he gets drunk he does stupid stuff like stretch his hand 30 feet to other side of room and pinches girl’s butts. Usually Hulk gets blamed.

Hulk sez: “The Leader is a poor party guest. He calls everyone ‘brainless buffoon.’ Leader is a wedgie magnet.”

So Hulk looks around room to see who else is invited and then slaps forehead. Hulk can’t believe they invited The Leader. Do you know Leader? He weighs about 120 pounds and has a giant gross head full of too much brains. Everybody hates him. He calls everyone “brainless buffoon” and then stamps little foot demanding world domination.

So there Leader is, standing at bathroom door, pounding on it and shouting “Brainless buffoon! Finish your vile eliminations so that more enlightened types may pass water!”

So door opens and out walks The Abomination.

Here is some truth for you, puny human listeners. Abomination is not called Abomination just because he is uglier than a bucketful of buttholes. He was named Abomination by the first person who followed him into bathroom after his gamma ray accident. So Hulk not recommend being next in line for toilet when Abomination is feasting on Taco Bell burritos.

Even superheroes stampede from open door when Abomination has been Abominating

Hulk sez: “Would you be next in line for bathroom after this man? Hulk thought not.”

the bathroom. But Leader is puny and weak and slow, and Abomination grabs him easily and gives him a wedgie, which Hulk admits is pretty funny. But Leader starts shrieking like baby girl and blasting mental bolts around room. Leader’s mental bolts are like laser beams that shoot out of his forehead. It sounds cooler than it really is.

Anyway, mental bolts confuse everyone, and heroes stumble around crashing into each other. Fighting breaks out right away. Captain America is fighting Cyclops, The Wasp is fighting Mr. Fantastic, the Absorbing Man is fighting Hawkeye and The Punisher is shooting his gun at everyone.

Hulk is standing in middle of room and everyone around him is fighting. They flow around Hulk like water around rock, but no one notices Hulk. Hulk is the strongest one there is, but he has no one to fight! At his own party!

Hulk looks in corner and sees even Valkyrie and She Hulk are fighting each other! But it’s a very strange battle. They are locked together like both are trying to overcome each other with bear hugs. They are so mad at each other they are even fighting with their tongues! Hulk not know why, but he can’t take eyes off this fight. Puny girls. Hulk could teach them about proper smashing.


Ok, producer says Hulk has to call them “women” not “girls” or Hulk gets sent to another sensitivity training seminar. Why does world hate Hulk?

Oh, and worst part about party? Hulk not get cake.

ArmadilloCon 34

Fun weekend attending Austin’s ArmadilloCon. I waded deep into the Science-Fiction waters and came home with plenty of books, cards, bookmarks, posters and notes. It was also kind of a test run for future conventions, as my medium-term plan includes renting a table at some of these events to sell my Connor Rix titles and future SF/Fantasy offerings.

Naturally, books were my main focus and I spent a lot of time sitting in on author-oriented panels, and talking with authors selling their wares. And yes, my to-read stack just grew a few inches. I purchased a copy of Revenge from the very friendly Gabrielle Faust, and also bought an Advanced Reading Copy of a Robert Silverberg collaboration. Met John Rountree, another Austin writer, and I look forward to reading some of his short stories.

The panel discussions I selected were more fan-oriented on Saturday, and more business-oriented Sunday. One excellent panel was Book Covers: Today and Tomorrow, moderated by John Picacio, a 2012 Hugo award finalist. Authors are struggling to adapt to the changes in the publishing world, but so are illustrators and designers. If the primary display for most books is an online thumbnail-size image, where does that leave graphic artists? It’s like the whole album cover/CD case/MP3 progression all over again. Which would be a great shame if it turned out that way, especially after viewing Julie Dillon’s beautiful artwork. If I thought for a moment I could afford to commission her for a book cover, I would in an instant. I’ll build up to that.

Also interesting was the cool reception toward book trailers. I’ve seen some good ones, but several panelists made the point that: A) they usually cost too much for a low-margin item like a book, B) Watching a video and reading a book are two different experiences that don’t mix well, C) People like to imagine what the characters look like, and you can spoil that by portraying them in video. Good points. Any thoughts out there on the effectiveness of book trailers?

Another good panel was one on attracting and building your audience, moderated by Chloe Neill. Lots of good tips, and another reminder that I need to get those Connor Rix bookmarks on order. Could have distributed a bunch of them this weekend.

A highlight for me came when I wandered into a panel discussion on Alternate Histories.  One of the authors, Howard Waldrop, casually mentioned one of his old books, The Texas-Israeli War: 1999 from 1974. I almost fell out of my chair. I bought that when it was new off the spinning metal paperback rack at the local convenience store when I was in Jr. High. I can still see the cover in my mind’s eye. My friends and I loved it. I can’t believe I ever got rid of my copy. I had long since forgotten who wrote it, but now I have to catch up on all those Waldrop stories I missed over the years. First up: I MUST find a copy of Night of the Cooters.

Real-life Exoskeletons

In my books Rules of Force and Levers of Power, the character of Big Fella Jackson relies on an exoskeleton to overcome injuries he received in the Breakup War. I have some fun with it, imagining an advanced, seamlessly-integrated exoskeleton that gives him almost super human powers. That’s still a ways off, but we’re closer than a lot of people think. A company called Ekso Bionics has developed a working, functional exoskeleton for people in Big Fella’s situation. Check out the video below if you want to see it in action. And note, that’s not just a prototype, but an actual functioning exoskeleton available for sale. Onward and upward!

Amazing Stories relaunch

Amazing Stories, April 1926 issue. (Wikimedia Commons)

Ah, here’s some good news for science-fiction fans. The venerable magazine Amazing Stories is being relaunched as an e-zine, with possible print versions to follow. I was very glad to see that the first issue will have a column about working for the original magazine by Robert Silverberg, one of my favorite authors. I’m looking forward to getting my hands on this one.

Blog outpost for writer Steve Statham