Away to College

Today finds me in New Orleans, Louisiana, where I’m leaving my daughter to start her college career at Tulane University. It’s an exciting, bittersweet time and I find myself remembering when I went away to college thirty years ago. I grew up in Southern California and, like my daughter, wanted to experience some place different when I went to school. Of the schools I was accepted to, I decided on the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology in the small town of Socorro. One of its strong appeals was that the offices for the VLA radio telescope were on campus. Moving from a city sixty miles east of Los Angeles to a town of 8,000 people was a huge change. Here’s the view from my dorm room.

dorm-view

I remember the combination of nerves and excitement from my first day. I looked forward to meeting new people. I hoped I would do well in classes and that the classes would actually be engaging. I remember the uncertainty about meeting my roommate for the first time. It turns out we got along rather well. Our relationship was not without difficulties, but I’m pleased to say we’ve remained friends even over the distance of time and space. New Mexico Tech proved to be an extremely difficult school, but I graduated in four years and I even spent my senior year working at the VLA doing preliminary site survey work for the telescope that would become the ALMA Array.

While working on my physics degree at New Mexico Tech, I pursued my writing. I worked on short stories and even a Star Trek novel I hoped one day to sell to Pocket Books. When I realized that would be a challenge, I created a new universe for that story. That work laid the foundation for The Pirates of Sufiro and its sequels. After graduating, I stayed for graduate school. During that time, I found my first writer’s group.

Since college, I’ve been constantly employed either in the astronomy or writing fields. I feel like my time in college set me on a good path toward a sustainable career and I feel good about the education my daughter will receive at Tulane. I will miss my daughter terribly, but I’m also excited for the opportunities ahead of her.

Now some people may read this and think that since my daughter’s attending a private university like Tulane we must be very well off, indeed. In fact, my daughter is able to go through a combination of scholarships and grants. My choice of career has had many rewards, but a top-dollar income isn’t one of them. What’s more, I may have full time employment at an observatory, but writing is a significant part of my income.

I hope you’ll take a moment to browse my books page to see if there’s something you’d enjoy. Each title and cover will take you to a page with more info and buying links. Of course, not only will you be helping us out as our family goes through changes, you’ll be getting an exciting, thrill packed story in return.

Space Battleship Yamato

In 1978, I was still under the spell of Star Wars, the original Battlestar Galactica was on the air, and I was eagerly awaiting the first Star Trek movie. One day, TV station KTLA from Los Angeles showed a Japanese movie that held me spellbound. It was called Space Cruiser Yamato. It echoed many of the space operatic themes of those other shows, but upped the ante in many ways. Life on Earth had been bombed into near extinction by a race of malevolent aliens. To save it, a valiant crew embarked on an interstellar quest for help aboard the only spaceship available—a World War II warship converted into a star vessel with the help of alien technology. Many characters gave their lives to save others and there seemed a real chance Yamato would not succeed in its mission.

Yamato-Anime

This show was not the first anime I’d seen, but it was certainly the most dramatic and serious. I was hooked. A year later, I learned that the movie had been cut together from a TV series. The series debuted in the United States under the name Star Blazers. At first, I was disappointed. They changed the names of all the characters. They even changed the name of the ship. The Yamato was rechristened the Argo. It wasn’t until high school that I learned the names were changed for both the movie and the series by the American companies that dubbed them into English. A friend shared video tapes he’d purchased in Los Angeles’s Little Tokyo neighborhood. That’s how I first met Captain Okita, Susumu Kodai, and Yuki Mori in their original forms. I didn’t understand all the words, but my friend narrated the show and I fell even further under its spell. That’s when I learned the proper name of the series: Space Battleship Yamato

There’s no doubt the show had an influence on my writing. Suki from The Pirates of Sufiro was an homage to Yuki Mori, the Yamato’s radar operator and nurse. It seems pretty obvious when I present the names side by side like this, but when Pirates was released, most Americans knew Yuki as Nova Forrester. Likewise, Space Battleship Yamato first made me consider how big a disaster humanity could survive and what it would take to stand up to that threat. Following that path led me to Heirs of the New Earth. That novel also includes a nod to Yamato’s Chief Engineer Tokugawa in the form of Chief Engineer Kimura who finds a way to launch the grounded pirate ship Legacy.

space_battleship_yamato_movie

I was delighted to discover that Toho Studios made a live-action version of Space Battleship Yamato back in 2010. Two weeks ago, I received my copy of the Blu Ray disk. The new movie is amazingly faithful to the source material. They did swap the genders of some key characters, but that was fine. One of my problems with the original Space Battleship Yamato is that the cast had too few women. Another interesting, and sad, choice was the death of a major character. Even so, the theme of personal sacrifice was important in Yamato, so I see this in keeping with the spirit of the original.

I’ve seen some on-line comments which suggest that the movie borrowed heavily from J.J. Abrams’s Star Trek and Ron Moore’s re-imagined Battlestar Galactica. There’s probably some truth to that, but close as the movie is to its source material, it seems just as fair to suggest those productions borrowed from Yamato in the first place. Among other things, I gather George Lucas was strongly influenced by the space dogfights of Space Battleship Yamato and R2-D2 bears more than a passing resemblance to Yamato’s robot, Analyzer. After all, Space Battleship Yamato first aired in 1974, a full three years before Star Wars.

I recently discovered that the first season of Space Battleship Yamato has been remade. The new version is called Space Battleship Yamato 2199. Information and a 13-minute trailer are available at starblazers.com. Unfortunately, it looks like each disk of the seven-disk limited edition set is retailing for $35 to $45 depending on vendor and format. That price is a little steep for my writer and astronomer income. I hope they’ll eventually release a mass-market edition at a lower price or release it to one of the streaming services so more of us can enjoy it. Even so, I’m delighted to see that after 40 years, Yamato is still traversing the heavens on its quest to save Earth.

Monsoon Season

It’s monsoon season here in the southwest, and fortunately this year we’re getting much needed rain both at home in Las Cruces and at Kitt Peak National Observatory. During monsoon season, the clouds typically roll in around four or five o’clock in the afternoon, then rain. Sometimes they disburse and sometimes linger into the morning hours. Either way, the warm temperatures and cloudy skies make it tempting to spend a lot of time where it’s dry, enjoying the air conditioning and reading a good book. One place I like to discover good books is at science fiction conventions and I spent last weekend at Bubonicon in Albuquerque.

Bubonicon Dealer's Table

The photo shows me at the Hadrosaur Productions table in the dealer’s room. In addition to dealing, I was on several panels. Two that were closely related to my steampunk writing were “Sci-Fi and Southwestern Fiction” moderated by Walter Jon Williams and “The Weird Weird West” moderated by John Maddox Roberts. One highlight of the first panel was discovering that Laura J. Mixon had family connected to the Roswell Incident. As it turns out, my undergraduate advisor, an atmospheric physicist named C.B. Moore claimed to be responsible for the Roswell Incident, saying it was a nuclear sensing balloon that got away from him. Both panels touched on Tombstone, Arizona along with the technology that has long been present in the Southwest. For example, Nikola Tesla had his lab in Colorado Springs. What’s more, railroads and mining companies brought a lot of technology into the southwest.

During the convention, I had the opportunity to read from my novels Lightning Wolves and Dragon’s Fall: Rise of the Scarlet Order. Speaking of which, if you’re looking for something to read as summer wanes into fall, I’m giving away a copy of Dragon’s Fall over at The Scarlet Order Web Journal, but you need to hurry if you’d like to enter. I stop taking entries on the afternoon of Sunday, August 10. By the way, this lovely graphic for Dragon’s Fall was created by Sharlene Martin Moore. If you’re an author and would like her to create one for you, visit http://graphicsbysharlene.wix.com/graphicsbysharlene.

Dragons Fall Card 2

As for my own reading, I’m wrapping up the submission period for Tales of the Talisman Magazine. We’ll be closing to all submissions at midnight Mountain Daylight Time on August 15. Please note, I have a short list full of outstanding stories. Thanks to those who have submitted. If you haven’t heard back from me yet, I’m hoping to have answers to you by the end of August.

Why 1001 Nights Isn’t Your Best Multicultural Steampunk Reference

This week, I welcome two special guests to the web journal. They are Day Al-Mohamed and Danielle Ackley-McPhail, authors of Baba Ali and the Clockwork Djinn published by Dark Quest Books. Here’s a look at the cover and the back cover text:

    BabaAliandtheClockworkDjinn_lg

    Come, Best Beloved, and sit you by my feet. I shall tell you a tale such as sister Scheherazade could have scarce imagined. A tale of wonders, of deeds both great and grievous, of courage that defies description, and above all, Child of Adam, I shall tell you a tale of love.

    The night is for the telling of tales to which the morning may bear Truth. In the oldest of days and ages and times, there was, and there was not, a great evil that reached across the desert and beyond…

    In the Nejd there is nothing at all … except secrets. A band of thieves wish such secrets to remain hidden.

    In England, far from his desert home, Ali bin-Massoud serves as apprentice to the famed Charles Babbage. One night a mysterious box is delivered by a clockwork falcon and Ali’s world is never the same again. Heartache, danger, and thieves mark his journey as Ali is summoned home at the death of his father.

    It will take faith, knowledge, and yes, love to realize his destiny, and more than a little skill with steam-driven technology. Can he unravel the mystery of the puzzle box and the clockwork djinn before it is too late? An ancient legacy and Ali’s very life depend on it.

    Hear you the tale of Baba Ali and the Clockwork Djinn.

Without further ado, let me turn this over to Day who discusses Multicultural Steampunk and why 1001 Nights is not your best reference.


First, before I say anything, I want to give a shout out to Beyond Victoriana: A Multicultural Perspective on Steampunk. No, I don’t know Diana (other than via the ‘Net) but we share similar hopes for the future of our beloved Steampunk. It is a great place to explore the idea of what multicultural steampunk actually means and understand: 1. Why there is a need/desire for greater diversity in the genre, and 2. Why, because of the nature of the time period with its expansionist and colonialist (as well as racist and misogynist) underpinnings should be approached with respect, a healthy caution, and some good research.

Baba Ali and the Clockwork Djinn is loosely based on “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves” for some of the story plot points, and for some of the fairytale aesthetic in how it is written. However, we worked very hard to try and step away from the original tale. Why? Because, in truth, there is no “original” tale and what many of us have grown up with is a translation of a translation. And perhaps most damning of all, “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves” was a tale that was rewritten through a Victorian lens.

An article in Steampunk Magazine captures this really well with regard to characters. As an example of how easy it is to fall into using the Victorian stereotype rather than exploring cultures directly they highlight the “What Is Your Steampunk Style?” online quiz featured on steamfashion.

    “The results of this quiz emphasize how white, European Victorian types are playful, interesting, and exciting: the Aristocrat, the Scientist, the Officer, the Explorer. On the flip side, representations that do not conform to the Western-European aesthetic are not featured, and the reason why they are omitted is obvious. This is because while Eurocentric Victorian types in steampunk fiction are depicted as positive and enjoyable, non-European Victorian types live on as today’s damaging stereotypes: The Dragon Lady & China Doll/Geisha Girl, The Savage, The Deceptive Mystic, The Manservant, The Ursurer, The Indian Princess.”

To give an example that is more pertinent to “Baba Ali” let me reference one of my “Book Secrets” posts where I talk about the differences in translation.

    Gloss translation of Arabic: ‘When it was in the middle of the night he remembered something he had forgotten in his palace, so he returned and entered his palace finding his wife laying in her bed embracing one of the black slaves, and seeing this, the world became black in his face.’

    Richard Burton (arguably one of the most popular translations): ‘But when the night was half spent he bethought him that he had forgotten in his palace somewhat which he should have brought with him, so he returned privily and entered his apartments, where he found the Queen, his wife, asleep on his own carpet-bed, embracing with both arms a black cook of loathsome aspect and foul with kitchen grease and grime. When he saw this the world waxed black before his sight…’

In the former, the skin color is a description; in Burton’s translation, it burgeons into something completely different. The result was that in our search for realism in how races and genders related, what people wore, elements of their daily life, and even elements of how their stories were told, we had to find other sources – travelogues, arab folktale collections, old maps, and even a personal letter or two from expats living overseas at the time.

I don’t want to discourage anyone from writing multicultural steampunk, quite the opposite. We need more, lots more! :) I just don’t want writers to be lazy. It is important to be as detailed in research for specific cultures as it is for the historical time period. It is not dismissing or ignoring a culture, it is not stereotyping, and it is not eroticizing. It is doing your homework and looking for what is real and authentic.

This can be slightly more difficult as many of the materials from that time period are written from the perspective of European nations but in the last few years there has been a significant rise in scholarship that gives us greater views into the world as it was versus how the West saw it. And in truth, isn’t that a much more interesting story?


Day Al-Mohamed

Day Al-Mohamed is author of the novel Baba Ali and the Clockwork Djinn: A Steampunk Faerie Tale, written with Danielle Ackley-McPhail. Day hosts the multi-author blog “Unleaded: Fuel for Writers”, and in addition to speculative fiction, she also writes comics and film scripts.

Her recent publications are available in “Daily Science Fiction,” Crossed Genres anthology Oomph – A Little Super Goes a Long Way, Sword & Laser, and GrayHaven Comics’ anti-bullying issue “You Are Not Alone.” The anthology, Trust & Treachery, for which she served as co-editor, was released May 1st and two more comics are due to be released this year, as well as several short stories. Her two film shorts were recently shown on local Virginia cable television, and two more are in pre-production. She is an active member of the Cat Vacuuming Society of Northern Virginia Writing Group, a member of Women in Film and Video, and a graduate of the VONA/Voices Writing Workshop.

When not working on fiction, Day is Senior Policy Advisor with the U.S. Department of Labor focusing on Youth. She has also worked as a lobbyist and political analyst on issues relating to Health care, Education, Employment, Disability, and International Development. She is a proud member of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, loves action movies, and drinks far too much tea. She lives in Washington, DC with her wife, N.R. Brown, in a house with too many swords, comic books, and political treatises.

She can be found online at DayAlMohamed.com and @DayAlMohamed


dmcphailhighres

Award-winning author Danielle Ackley-McPhail has worked both sides of the publishing industry for longer than she cares to admit. Currently, she is a project editor and promotions manager for Dark Quest Books.

Her published works include five urban fantasy novels, Yesterday’s Dreams, Tomorrow’s Memories, Today’s Promise, The Halfling’s Court: and The Redcaps’ Queen: A Bad-Ass Faerie Tale, and a young adult Steampunk novel, Baba Ali and the Clockwork Djinn, written with Day Al-Mohamed. She is also the author of the solo science fiction collection, A Legacy of Stars, the non-fiction writers’ guide, The Literary Handyman, and is the senior editor of the Bad-Ass Faeries anthology series, Dragon’s Lure, and In an Iron Cage. Her work is included in numerous other anthologies and collections.

She is a member of the Garden State Speculative Fiction Writers, the New Jersey Authors Network, and Broad Universe, a writer’s organization focusing on promoting the works of women authors in the speculative genres.

Danielle lives in New Jersey with husband and fellow writer, Mike McPhail, mother-in-law Teresa, and three extremely spoiled cats. She can be found on LiveJournal (damcphail, badassfaeries, darkquestbooks, lit_handyman), Facebook (Danielle Ackley-McPhail), and Twitter (DMcPhail). To learn more about her work, visit www.sidhenadaire.com, www.literaryhandyman.com, or www.badassfaeries.com.

Interview: David Lee Summers, Author of Lightning Wolves

David Lee Summers:

I’m interviewed this week on the Dab of Darkness Blog. I’m asked a bunch of fun questions ranging from which dead authors I’d invite to dinner to what fantastical beasts I would like to encounter.

Originally posted on Dab of Darkness:

SummersLightningWolvesFolks, please welcome David Lee Summers to the blog once again. He’s previously gifted me with a bit of his time in this other interview. Today we chat about fairy tales, Star Wars, Cherie Priest’s works, awkward fan moments, and question over the correct use of the term ‘parsec’. I had quite a bit of fun in reading through David’s answers and I expect you’ll be as entertained as I am.

Myths and beliefs that we would consider fiction or fantasy in modern literature once upon a time shaped history (think of all the hunts for unicorns & dragons). Do you see modern fantasy fiction affecting human cultures today and how?

One of my favorite poetry collections isJean Hull Herman‘s Jerry Springer as Bulfinch or Mythology Modernized. Throughout her collection, Ms. Herman recounts stories of Greek myth and recounts similar episodes from the Jerry Springer Show

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Bubonicon 46

Bubonicon, Albuquerque, New Mexico’s premier science fiction convention is happening earlier than normal this year. It will be held from August 1-3 at the Albuquerque Marriott Uptown. The guests of honor are Jack Campbell, Cherie Priest, and Darla Hallmark. Stephen Gould will serve as toastmaster. You can find more details at bubonicon.com. When I’m not on a panel, I’ll likely be manning my table in the dealer’s room. On Sunday, I’ll be helping with the Author’s Tea. My panel schedule is as follows:

Friday, August 1

  • 4pm – Salon E – It’s All SF: Sci Fi & Southwestern Fiction. Why are so many Southwestern writers drawn to SF and Fantasy? Are there distinctly Southwestern themes that appear in their works? What is the tradition of Southwestern SF they draw upon (Williamson, Zelazny, Burroughs, etc)? In what ways are SF and Southwestern literature not only compatible but natural allies? Are many desert-themed SF stories just cowboy tales on other worlds? On the panel with me are Jeff Kennedy, T. Jackson King, Laura J. Mixon, and Walter Jon Williams.

Saturday, August 2

  • 4pm – Salon E – What Scares You Now? Are there changes in society over the years that are reflected in today’s Horror villains? Do the appearances of hero vampires or werewolves indicate a more tolerant society? Or are they just part of the natural evolution of the genre? Why are werewolves, vampires, witches and zombies still popular? Are there any new monsters about to take center stage? Also on the panel are Cherie Priest, Scott Phillips, Joan Saberhagen, and Craig A. Butler.

Sunday, August 3

  • 10am – Santa Fe – 55 Minutes With David Lee Summers. I’ll be reading from my novels Lightning Wolves and Dragon’s Fall: Rise of the Scarlet Order.
  • 12:30pm – Salon E – The Weird Weird West: SF With Six Guns. Blending gunslingers with other genres has been done from Stephen King’s Dark Tower (Gunslinger) series to some Steampunk to Firefly. What fascinates us about the Western, and why is it so much fun to mix it with something else? What works have succeeded? What is the secret to making a mix work? Also on the panel are Craig A. Butler, Josh Gentry, Walter Jon Williams, and John Maddox Roberts.
  • 3:30pm – Salon E – She’s My TARDIS Except She’s a Woman. The TARDIS, Serenity, the Enterprise, KITT, the Heart of Gold, the Millennium Falcon, Andromeda, Red Dwarf’s Holly, 2001’s HAL…the iconic vehicles of sci-fi can also be seen as characters and companions in their own right. Humans sometimes have a unique bond and a tendency toward personification with their modes of transportation: what happens when we do give them minds and voices of their own? Are we headed there in a future of self-driving cars? Should we fear Maximum Overdrive? On the panel with me are Claire Eddy, M.T. Reiten, Connie Willis, and Jack Campbell

I’ll close out today’s post with a reminder. The Smashwords sale on Sky Warrior Books titles ends in just a few days, on July 31. Hurry if you want to get either Owl Dance or Lightning Wolves at half off. Just remember to enter the code SSW50 on checkout.

Lightning Wolves

Owl Dance is available at:
http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/436532

Lightning Wolves is available at:
http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/455282

Kev’s Author Interviews Presents: David Lee Summers!

David Lee Summers:

Kevin Cooper interviewed me this week about Lightning Wolves and several other topics as well. It’s a video interview and takes about 20 minutes to watch. Hope you’ll take a look.

Originally posted on Kev's Blog:

Today, Kev’s Author Interviews presents to you well-established and experienced author, David Lee Summers. David and I have collaborated together to bring you a wonderful Video Interview. So grab a drink, (Jeez, grab some popcorn! Cookies! chocolates! Cake! Your Partner… well, maybe not your partner.) and enjoy what Dave has to offer. You’re in for quite a ride!

Those of you who enjoy what Dave has to share, please check out his links:

David Lee Summers’s Blog: 

http://davidleesummers.wordpress.com

David Lee Summers’s Book Links: 

http://www.davidleesummers.com/books.html

Owl Dance: 

http://www.davidleesummers.com/owl_dance.html 

Lightning Wolves

LightningWolves: 

http://www.davidleesummers.com/lightning_wolves.html

The SolarSea: 

http://www.davidleesummers.com/solar_sea.html

 

 

 

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