Finally fixed my short story page!

Image by Tumisu from Pixabay

Greetings, all! This is a very short entry just to let you know that if you’ve looked at the blog’s listing of my short stories, and got frustrated because the links were wrong, or the images overlapped, or it was just plain ugly — sorry!

I’ve now spend several days reworking the page — adding photos, fixing the links, and adding others. So if you want to read some of my available short stories, or (maybe) buy the anthologies / magazines they appear in, you can! Just go to the “Published Short Stories” in the link on top of this site, and things should work! (And please let me know if they don’t…)

Capclave online convention

Capclave dodo

While I don’t normally attend a lot of conventions, one that Jim and I have gone to faithfully for the last few years is Capclave, which takes place around this time in the Washington DC area. We like it because it’s a nice-sized, intimate con where we can hang out with lots of friends (including some close friends in the area with whom we love to spend time with).

Like most events, Capclave is not happening in person this year. It’s an especial pity because this year they were going to feature Guests of Honor from previous Capclaves, which I was looking forward to. However, there will be a virtual version October 17-18, and I will be participating, both as a panelist and as a reader. So if you’d like to zoom out (instead of hang out, I guess) with me, here is my schedule for that weekend. I’d love to see you.

Saturday 4:30 pm: Centennial Superstars (Ends at: 5:25 pm)
Participants:Walter H. HuntBarbara Krasnoff (M), Ian Randal Strock
Bradbury, Asimov & Sturgeon were all born 100 years ago. How did they impact the genre of speculative fiction, either directly or indirectly? Are they still readable today, or outdated? Which of their works still deserve to be remembered? What can today’s readers and writers learn from them?
Saturday 7:30 pm: Kaffeeklatsch (Ends at: 8:25 pm)
A small-group discussion on anything of interest. Limited spaces, advanced sign-up required.
Saturday 10:30 pm: I Hate Myself for Loving You (Ends at: 11:25 pm)
Participants:Day Al-MohamedJim FreundBarbara Krasnoff (M)
Guilty pleasures and secret fandoms. Why are we ashamed to admit we like something if we truly enjoy it? Considering how we feel when non-fans mock us for reading/watching “that Trek Wars stuff” why do we do it to ourselves? Is there a status hierarchy among fans and who is at the bottom and the top?
Sunday 11:00 am: Author Reading (Ends at: 11:25 am)
I haven’t picked a short story to read yet…

New story: “Dead Time on Hart Island”

Space & Time

My story “Dead Time on Hart Island,” which has just been published in Space & Time Magazine, is not based on any real events. But it is based on a real place.

Hart Island, for those who may be unfamiliar with it, is the “Potter’s Field” of New York City. It’s the place where the poor, the forgotten, and the misplaced have been buried since the late 19th century. For years, the island was under the administration of the Department of Corrections and the coffins placed in mass graves dug and filled in by inmates.

For most of that time, the family and friends of those who were buried on Hart Island were forbidden to visit by the Department of Corrections. Until a photographer named Melinda Hunt, who first visited the island in 1991 to record “a hidden American landscape,” made it her mission to obtain the records of those buried there (many of which were destroyed by a fire in 1977) and to enable their friends and relatives to visit.

Photo: Erlend Bjørtvedt (CC-BY-SA)

Using volunteer attorneys and the Freedom of Information Act, the Hart island Project eventually loosened the secrecy around the island. On the Hart Island Project website, you can now search out the stories of many of the AIDS victims buried there, and add any information you may have. You can also search a database of records beginning with 1980 to find out if anyone you know was interred there. The island also became much more accessible to the public, and in December 2019, a bill was signed that transferred control of Hart Island to the Parks Department.

For now, of course, ferry service to the island has been discontinued. The only people visiting Hart Island these days are the private contractors who have been hired to bury the dead — including some of the nearly 24,000 people in NYC who have died as a result of the coronavirus. And, perhaps, a few ghosts.

Confronting the wall

Image by Mabel Amber from Pixabay

It’s often difficult in hard times not to just put your head under the covers and refuse to come out. And these days, it feels as if the reasons to despair are piling up, like one brick after another, building an unsteady but increasingly taller wall.

There are the public bricks. Trump’s election: a brick. Trump’s past Supreme Court assignments: two bricks. COVID-19: a boulder-sized brick. The normalization of racism, anti-Semitism, anti-LBGTQ, and other anti-human philosophies: several bricks. And now, the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg: yet another brick. And those are just a few; please forgive me if I’ve left out any bricks that affect you personally. I’m sure they’re there, somewhere in that ugly wall.

And then there are the personal, private bricks, which I won’t enumerate here.

So what do you do? There are currently hundreds (probably thousands) of online exhortations to not give up, not despair, call your senators, give money, gather and demonstrate, vote. Do. And this is the philosophy that I was raised up in, and which I usually attempt to follow, at least as much as I can: Do.

But I have to admit that, faced with all those bricks, there is a huge temptation to say: I’m done. I’m staying away from the news, I’m staying away from Twitter, I’m staying away from everything and everybody. I’ll sit on the couch and eat too much and watch old movies. The world can go screw itself.

Maybe I’ll do that, for at least one Sunday.

But after that, after taking a breath, I’m hoping I’ll be able to shake myself, and face what has to be faced. I’ll concentrate on my job, push ahead on my writing, handle family matters, and around the corners of those tasks, do what I can to pull at least one or two bricks out of that damned wall.

Short story sale to Space and Time

I’m really pleased to announce that my short story “Dead Time at Hart Island” will appear in the Autumn issue of Space and Time Magazine.

Hart Island is a real place. It’s a small isle off the coast of NYC where those who couldn’t afford funeral costs, or who were without friends and family, have been buried for decades. And for years, relatives who found out that their loved ones were buried there weren’t allowed to visit, because the island was administered by the Department of Corrections, and burials done by prisoners. Hart Island is due to be turned over to the Parks Department — mostly due to the work of the Hart Island Project — and had been opened up to a limited number of visitors before the pandemic hit.

I’ve been fascinated with Hart Island for years, and in fact am currently experimenting with a longer form — maybe even a novel! — that features it as a main plot point. In the meantime, I’ll let you know when the short story is available!

Upcoming reading for Galactic Philadelphia

It’s been a while since I paid appropriate attention to this blog — you’d think I’d have the time to write for it, considering how much time I’m spending at home, wouldn’t you? However, I thought that I should at least break my silence to promote a reading that I’ll be doing on Zoom this Tuesday, June 16th, at 7 pm for Galactic Philadelphia with well-known SF author David Mack.

Galactic Philadelphia is a relatively recent reading series organized by Lawrence M. Schoen and Sally Wiener Grotta, and which usually takes place at the Philadelphia Free Library. However, obviously due to current circumstances, the readings will instead be done via Zoom.

Here are the details. Feel free to come by and watch!

Zoom link:
https://us04web.zoom.us/j/79612843124?pwd=UzJEVGRYcXRmU3VXMEEwMkF5ZXVCUT09

Meeting ID: 796 1284 3124
Password: 373266
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Dial by your location
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Meeting ID: 796 1284 3124
Password: 373266
Find your local number: https://us04web.zoom.us/u/fcekkFikpA

 

Upcoming appearances

512px-Sappho_frescoAware that I haven’t been very active in my blog lately, I thought I’d start by just bringing anyone who was interested up on my latest activities. Namely, I’ve got three upcoming appearances if anyone would like to join me there:

On Tuesday, February 11th, I’m going to be part of an evening of horror readings by female writers from Horror Writers Association-NY Chapter, emceed by Carol Gyzander and James Chambers, in celebration of Women in Horror Month. The line-up of readers includes Randee Dawn, Amy Grech, Carol Gyzander, N.R. Lambert, K.E. Scheiner — and me! It’s happening at the KGB Bar, 85 East 4th St., NYC from 7-9 pm.

On Sunday, March 8th, from 2-3 pm, I will be leading a discussion of my book THE HISTORY OF SOUL 2065 with the Eastern Connecticut Hadassah Book Club. It will be happening at the East Lyme Public Library,  39 Society Road, Niantic, Conn. If you’d like to attend, you can register for the event here.

On Tuesday, June 16th, I’ll be reading at the Galactic Philadelphia reading series along with one other writer (I think I know who it is, but it hasn’t been announced yet, so I’m holding off until I know for sure). That will be happening at the Free Library of Philadelphia at 7 p.m.

Other news:

I’ve finished my website dedicated to the backstories of the tales in THE HISTORY OF SOUL 2065. It basically talks about what inspired each of the stories, who the characters are based on, and what historical events are depicted (and how true they are to the actual events). I’d welcome any feedback / questions / etc.

Right now, it looks as if I’ll be going to Capclave and Readercon. We don’t have any other cons on the agenda for now, but we’ll see if that changes over time.

That’s it for now!

 

 

“The Story Behind” entries have moved

The History of Soul 2065Just a short blog entry for anyone who happens to be following these: My explanations about how I came to write each of the stories in The History of Soul 2065 will no longer appear on this blog. Instead, I’ve created a new site where I’ve put descriptions, background, and perhaps a video or two for all (you saw that right: all) of the stories in the book.

If you’ve already read the book, you may enjoy knowing some of the personal and historical background of each story. If you haven’t read it yet, maybe this will make you want to? At any rate, you can find my new site at HistoryOfSoul2065.com.

Thanks for reading!

The Story Behind “An Awfully Big Adventure”

1024px-Women_Strike_for_Peace_NYWTS
Photo: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, NYWT&S Collection

Background info for “An Awfully Big Adventure,” one of the stories in The History of Soul 2065. Note: This is being presented a bit out of order because the story has just been posted on the Mythic Delirium website and can be read there for free. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

THE STORY IN BRIEF
A young boy finds that he need to call on his family and his own inner resources to fight a malicious demon.

HOW IT WAS WRITTEN
I was eight years old when the Cuban Missile Crisis occurred. I have a clear memory of sitting on the rug in our darkened living room, my parents on the couch behind me, and watching President Kennedy address the nation. I didn’t understand everything that was happening, but I understood enough to know that things were really serious. I asked my father if there was going to be a war, and he said, “I don’t know.”

This paragraph in the beginning of “An Awfully Big Adventure” describes pretty well how I felt, with five-year-old Ben standing in for the eight-year-old Barbara: “And with those words, the bottom dropped out of Ben’s world. A simple fact of his life had been that his father knew everything, could explain everything, and could make everything better.”

I’d always wanted to write a story based on that memory, and had made several unsuccessful starts. When I needed a story to fill out The History of Soul 2065, I was able (with Mythic Delirium publisher / editor Mike Allen’s able help) to finally bring it together.

NOTES ON THE PEOPLE
While the story’s origins lie in my memory of  watching President Kennedy’s address with my very American parents, Ben’s mother and father (whom I’ve named Gretl Held and Wilhelm/William Weissbaum) are loosely based on the parents of my partner Jim Freund, both of whom escaped from Hitler’s Germany.

Jim’s father, like Ben’s, was in the OSS (the organization that eventually became the CIA) during the war. I’ve been told that he spent time as an underground operative in Europe. Like many war vets of his generation, he didn’t talk about it much.

Jim’s mother, along with her brother, managed to avoid the concentration camps when they were smuggled out of Europe by a network of Catholic religious workers, eventually meeting their parents in Morocco. In my story, Ben’s mother was not so fortunate; her experiences more reflect those of a neighbor I grew up with who bore fading blue numbers on her arm.

Ben himself (as mentioned in the entry about “Hearts and Minds“) is based somewhat on a talented young man I worked with back in the 1980s named Mark. The child Ben, however, is completely fictional.

Ben’s Grandmama Sophia is, yes, the same Sophia we meet as a child in the first story in the book, “The Clearing in the Autumn.”

Carlos is someone we will meet more fully in another story. He is a mashup of two or three friends of mine.

NOTES ON THE HISTORY
The Cuban Missile Crisis may still be the closest we ever came to nuclear war (at least, the closest we know about). It was just lucky that the men in charge of the two opposing nations had the maturity and intelligence to pull away from the brink. I shudder to think of how a similar situation would have been handled by some of today’s leaders.

Azazel and Shemhazhai are, in legend, two fallen angels who went to live among the people of Earth. Azazel is usually portrayed as male, but I saw no reason why an angel couldn’t be female, both male and female, or neither.

Finally, the nightmare that Ben has is the same one that I had for weeks after that frightening night in front of the TV set. I haven’t had that nightmare since I was a child, but I still remember it.


Want to read The History of Soul 2065? Here are some links:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Powell’s | Google Play

More links, and direct purchase of ebooks, can be found at Mythic Delirium.


Some Award Recommendations

I’d feel selfish if I didn’t recommend some of the great books and stories I’ve read over the past year. I do want to apologize in advance to anyone who is not mentioned here; I have not kept the list of what I read that I promised myself I would (and I’ve done a lot of backreading of novels I’ve meant to get to last year and hadn’t), and as a result, there are probably lots of works that are missing. And because I haven’t had time to do all the reading I wanted to, there are also probably lots of stories and novels that I shoulda/coulda read that I haven’t. With any luck, I’ll do better next year.

I’ve put in the categorizations for the Nebulas, but these are general recommendations. In no particular order:

Norton Award

Sal and Gabi Break the Universe by Carlos Hernandez

Novels / Collections

…And Other Disasters by Malka Older

Desdemona and The Deep by C.S.E. Cooney

Snow White Learns Witchcraft by Theodora Goss

The City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders

Novella

Catfish Lullaby by AC Wise

Novelette

His Footsteps, Through Darkness and Light by Mimi Mondal (check out that great illustration as well)

Bird Thou Never Wert by James Morrow (SFWA members-only link)

The Blur in the Corner of Your Eye by Sarah Pinsker

Short stories

Sin Embargo 2019 by Sabrina Vourvoulias (another great illustration)

A Catalog of Storms by Fran Wilde

The Brightest Lights of Heaven by Maria Haskins

Crossing the Line by Lawrence M. Schoen (SFWA members-only link)

How the Trick is Done by A. C. Wise

The Angles by A.T. Sayre