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Family and Friends is my everyday journal. Captain's Log is where I pontificate on religion and politics.

Tuesday, July 07, 2020

TTT 070720

Today's Topic: The authors I've read the most.
It's quite a list.

Edgar Allan Poe
Isaac Asimov
Robert Heinlein
Harlan Ellison
James A. Michener
Harold Robbins
Mickey Spillane
Anne McCaffrey
Colleen McCullagh
Leigh Bardugo
Nora Roberts
Paula Paul
Irene Blea
Hank Bruce
Jonathan Miller
Tony Roberts
Barry Sadler
Joseph Badal
James Clavell
Tom Clancy
Berthold Gambrel
Tena Stetler
Poul Anderson

Just to name a few.

Thursday, July 02, 2020

Monday, June 29, 2020

WC 063020

Today's topic is the last place you traveled to and why.
Here's a spider at White Sands, NM.

We try to take a family trip every year. Three years ago it was a Christmas trip with my son to Tucson to visit his son (our grandson.) Two years ago was a trip to Oklahoma to visit my brother and family, then to Kansas to visit my wife's brother and family. 
Last year's trip was to Ruidoso, NM, White Sands National Park and the Very Large Array or VLA.
Wife and kids have lived in NM all their lives, and I've lived here most of my life and they had never been to Ruidoso. I went through it once while in college on the trip back from Silver City where we had a track meet. 
On the trip down we went through Carrizozo. Just before you get to the town there's a valley that is a frozen river of lava. It's called the Valley of Fire. It's quite a sight.

We've been to White Sands a number of times and it's a great place to visit. 

Here's a souvenir. It's raw gypsum in it's crystalline form. The rain and wind over time turn it into the white sand that comprises the dunes. 

It was our first time and I think only time to visit the VLA. Not much to speak of there. It's a large assortment of electronic dishes that acts as a space telescope with radio waves. There's a reason it's in the middle of nowhere. All three of the places are within a hundred mile radius.

We were planning on a trip to the Grand Canyon this year, but that's on hold for now.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

TTT 062218

Today's topic is books that are linked to specific memories/moments to your life.

One book is alone in my memory. It's not a great book, but it is funny in places. The memory is the context in which I heard it being read.
It was labor day 1961. My grandparents owned a cabin in Beulah, CO. It was a forty-five minute drive from Pueblo. We drove up on Friday night and planned on going to Lake Isabel on Saturday to fish and relax.
The cabin had two rooms. The front room was lined on the front wall and side wall with books. Most of them Reader's Digest Condensed books. There were also decades of National Geographic. At the back of the room was a sink and wood burning stove. The back room was the bedroom with a double bed. The back door led to an outhouse. The highway ran alongside the cabin and curved around in front of it. There was three acres of land and a small stream on the other side of the cabin.
Saturday morning Mom woke up and started to make a fire in the stove. She filled the cabin with smoke. Dad got up and wondered what she was doing and got the stove working properly. 
Mom told dad to look outside. There was seven inches of snow on the ground. We were not going fishing.
They hoped it was a flash storm and it would be melted off by noon. We brought plenty of food so we ate breakfast and Dad picked out a book that they would read aloud. My brother was eleven and I was nine. This was a time we both have never forgotten.
The book was Pioneer Go Home. It's about a family of hillbillies traveling on a new highway and they break down.
Somehow they got on the road before it was officially opened and when government officials come along insisted they leave. Pa is a stubborn man and doesn't like being pushed around and decides he's going to homestead the land where they've set up camp.
There were numerous funny parts in the book and I remember Mom having trouble reading a couple of places because she was laughing.
By noon the cabin ran out of wood for the stove and Dad went out to get more. He came back with some lumps of coal. In a couple of hours those were used up and we went home. Mom finished the book right about the time we pulled up to the house.
If it hadn't snowed and we went fishing, it would have been just one of many times we went to Lake Isabel. I would have never heard of the book.
Ten years later I was watching an Elvis movie on TV. Follow That Dream. Guess what, it was Pioneer Go Home, made into a movie. Somehow when Elvis goes into the bank and tries to get a loan, it wasn't as funny as in the book.

WC 062420

This week is the movie or book I go to for a pick me up.  

There are two movies I go to to destress. The first is The Fifth Element. Click here for a previous post describing why it is the greatest escape movie of all time.
Berthold Gambrel also posted a review of the movie.

The second movie is Friendly Persuasion. Click here  and here for two previous posts on how it's a movie I remember watching at a drive-in when I was eight years old and have enjoyed it all my life.
For an in-depth understanding of this marvelous movie, unfortunately only seen sporadically on AMC and Tuner Classic Movies. Click here

Friday, June 19, 2020

Thoughts from David Gerrold

This was posted today on my Facebook page. I decided what David Gerrold said was so important that I copied it and am posting it here. Very much a word to all bloggers and reviewers.

David Gerrold is the author of numerous books, movie screenplays and Teleplays. His most notable is Star Trek's The Trouble with Tribbles.

Back in the Cretaceous days of my misspent youth, I read the review columns in the magazines. In those days, reviewers included Theodore Sturgeon, James Blish, Thomas Easton, Damon Knight, and others who had proven their way around a short story, a novella, and even the occasional novel. So reading the review columns was not only an insight into whether or not a story worked, it was also an opportunity to discover insights about writing from actual writers.
Ahh, those were the days.
Fanzine reviewers were another realm entirely. Some were brilliant, some were methodical, and some were ... problematic. Let's leave it at that.
Today, we have the blogosphere, the commentariat, and the various special-interest sites that encourage comment threads ...
As I have said elsewhere, there are only three questions a reviewer needs to answer:
1) What was the author trying to do?
2) How well did he do it?
3) Was it worth doing in the first place?
That's it. Example: 1) In "Starship Troopers" Robert A. Heinlein demonstrates the obligation of the individual to the society in which he lives. If you benefit from that society, you have a corresponding responsibility to serve it. Heinlein uses an alien threat as the mechanism for a young man's journey through the military, but the meat of the story are the lessons he learns along the way. 2) Heinlein writes with military precision, moving the story forward at a machine-gun pace. He makes his points directly, without subtlety, but also without being obnoxious about them. It is one of his better-written tales. 3) Heinlein wrote this book as a reaction to what he saw as excessive liberal beliefs. This is his answer to the disarmament and peace movements. As unpopular as military fiction might be to those who dream of a world without war, Heinlein uses an alien war to make a point that is well-worth considering: What is the responsibility of the individual to the hive? What is the responsibility of the individual to the community? Worth reading.
Now, that's a review that touches all three points. And it provides enough information for the reader to decide whether or not they want to read the book.
A critic is different than a reviewer -- this is something some amateur reviewers miss, they think they are also critics.
The job of the critic is to analyze from a meta-position. Example:
Although some reviewers have pointed to "Starship Troopers" as a justification for Fascism, it isn't. It's an unsubtle glorification of the military. Because Heinlein writes so well, he makes war look fun--we do not see the shattered bodies of young men, we do not see the bloody amputations and the post-traumatic stress disorder, not in this book. Yes, there are deaths, but they are kept offstage. What is more disturbing, however, is that Heinlein has stacked the deck. (Again.) By putting his hero into a war against mindless alien insects, he justifies the extinction of that whole species. It's either them or us. There's no middle ground. It would be a lot harder to make the same point if the enemies were human beings — just like us.
Now, having prefaced the rest of this rant with some examples, here's the point I set out to make.
Too many amateur reviewers think they are critis. Worse than that, too many amateur reviewers seem to be operating with a fundamental disrespect for the subject at hand. Or, let me say it another way — too many amateur reviewers are operating from a presumed superiority to the author, as if every book put before them must be judged — not evaluated as a reading experience, but judged within the context of the reviewer's own specific cultural agenda, biases, perceptions, beliefs, prejudices, and political philosophy.
Now, let me dial that back a notch. It is not unfair for a black reviewer to discuss how an author has dealt with racial issues. It is not unfair for a person who is LGBTQ+ to analyze how an author has dealt with LGBTQ+ issues. It is not unfair for female reviewers to examine the implied misogyny in a work, nor is it unfair for disabled reviewers to discuss the various tropes in stories about disability. If one has a vested interest in how one's cultura identity is portrayed in popular entertainments, it's fair to point this out. It's also fair to indicate that. (Example: "As a gay man, I found The Boys In The Band a well-produced but depressing exercise, when it first came out and again on subsequent rewatchings.")
But just as it is important for the reviewer to treat the work with respect (or don't review it at all), it is equally important for the critic to discuss the ambition of the work without using it as a platform for the critic's agenda or for an ad hominem attack on the author. The responsible critic separates the author from the work, because criticism, constructive or otherwise, is always about the work.
This is not to say that Lovecraft, Rowling, Card, and others should be immune to public examination — but that's a different conversation than the discussion of the work. Those are two separate discussions and should not be confabulated — unless, of course, one is specifically examining how an author's personal views show up in the work, but my experience with that particular brand of literary analysis suggests that can be a foolish endeavor, especially when one cherry-picks the works to prove a philosophical point.
I've been fortunate enough to know a great many authors whose works informed my childhood and shaped my adolescence, and who were role models for great genre writing — I have learned to admire most, I have also learned to recognize the enormous chasm that exists between every author and what finally shows up on the printed page.
For instance, as much as I loved Theodore Sturgeon's lyrical writing, as much as I admired him as a brilliant mentor, as much as I sat in awe when he delivered his great speeches, "Ask The Next Question" and "I Won't Have It," as much as he is well-regarded as a literary giant — my personal experience with the man, Ted, was tainted by several of his less-admirable behaviors. (I am not alone in that.)
I could say a similar thing about Harlan Ellison. As much as I admired and loved him like the big brother I always wanted — over time, I learned to see how his personal passion informed his writing. He was magnificent, ground-breaking, remarkable, and one of the people who set the standard of excellence. I also learned to see how his personal passion animated him as a man, sometimes in admirable ways, and sometimes in ways that were ... problematic. (I am not alone in that.)
The job of the reviewer, the job of the critic, especially those who are primarily readers and have much less experience pushing, dragging, contriving, staggering a story from page one to page last — that job is to be a fair reporter. Where I do take issue with any reviewer or critic, especially the amaterus, is their implied authority to sit in judgment not only of the work, but of the author as well.
I admit, I have some bias in this.
If a reviewer/critic wants to point out where a story doesn't work, where I might have stumbled, I can learn something from that.
But if that same blogger also points out what a flawed human being I am — i already know that, you don't have to tell me, but when that essay is published online, the intention is no longer about examining the work in question, it's about impeaching the credibility of the author. It becomes a personal attack with the intention of hurting the author's reputation. (I believe that if an author wants to hurt their reputation, they can do it themselves — and I can name three living authors who have done enormous damage to their reputations by making assertions that are ignorant, malicious, and polarizing. There are probably many others.)
The job of the reviewer/critic is to take their enthusiasm for the genre and treat their subjects with respect, if not affection.
But as I said above, I'm biased. Your mileage may vary.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

WC 061720

Today is my life in pictures. Here goes:

This is the day Mom brought me home from the hospital in Cherry Point NC. My brother is there too.

This is my brother and me in front of the Record Music Company, owned by my maternal grandparents in Pueblo, CO around 1960. Discount stores killed it.

This is me running the mile in high school.

My crowning achievement. State Champion in the mile 1972. 

Picture of me running for Wayland Baptist College, winning the mile, at this point I was  behind an Australian runner at the Texhoma Conference championship. 1974

My family in 1990.

Sign announcing my book signing in Cottonwood mall Easter weekend in 2007. My baby Optimus: Praetorian Guard there for all to see.

My family today with three grandchildren. It really grew.

Saturday, June 13, 2020

My Biggest Seller

Way back in 2011 when I discovered the joys of e-publishing on Smashwords and Amazon I wrote a short story about the Quiver Full movement. Those in the moral mafia who spurn birth control and try to have as many children as possible.
I posted it on Amazon and they require that the story be at least .99. 
Miriam is a young woman who's been home schooled and earned a degree online. Her brother needs her to get a job to help his household financially. He's not found her a husband and their family is growing adding to the quivers of the believers of children for God.
Helmut finds a woman with genius level mathematical skills at a job fair. His publishing company is trying to expand and he needs new blood to help it grown. With her skills he thinks he found a gold mine, but her Puritanical upbringing might not be suitable for the work environment. He knows it's going to be a race between whether he will corrupt her, or she will convert him. 
I include in it some R rated sexual material and it was listed as erotica since it isn't suited for school age.
For some strange reason Amazon priced the book at 0. or free. There were 500 downloads the first day, 722 the second day, 68 the third day and around 40 the fourth day. Only three copies paid. 
Over 1200 copies and I pocketed less than two bucks. I got one review, the reader was upset there wasn't any erotica in it. The sales stopped.
It is the most heavily downloaded of all my e-books. Wish that even at .35 per download went into my pocket. It reached the top 50 for erotic literature on Amazon. It's adult not porno. 
If you want to know the the "Think Tank" is you'll have to read the story.
This was before Kindle Direct Publishing and unlimited. It was also the golden age of more readers and fewer writers, not the case today.
I've edited it and revised it and re-released it. Bright shiny new cover, even.