Wednesday, February 19, 2020

The Dragons are Coming!

DragonCon is one of the largest SFF cons in the world. Every year, Atlanta turns into Nerdygras during Labor day weekend.

This should be the fifth annual Dragon Award. If I recall correctly.

They give out awards for nearly everything. They don't have short stories, but nearly everything else.

The categories are

  • Best Science Fiction Novel
  • Best Fantasy Novel (Including Paranormal)
  • Best Young Adult/Middle Grade Novel
  • Best Military Science Fiction or Fantasy Novel
  • Best Alternate History Novel
  • Best Media Tie-In Novel
  • Best Horror Novel
  • Best Comic Book (the series)
  • Best Graphic Novel
  • Best Science Fiction or Fantasy TV Series, TV or Internet
  • Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Movie
  • Best Science Fiction or Fantasy PC / Console Game
  • Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Mobile Game
  • Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Board Game
  • Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Miniatures / Collectible Card / Role-Playing Game

If you don't know what the Dragon awards are, you do now.


If you're new here, I used to start the year proposing nominations for the Dragons. 

If you're a long time reader -- No, I haven't made up a list of what's eligible this year. Because no one wanted to play last year.

Then, in my social media feeds, people complained about there being a lot of "mediocre nominations" and saying "maybe we should have had discussions about it."

That's pretty much the point I started throwing furniture.

To nominate in the Dragon Awards, go to and register to vote. IT IS COMPLETELY FREE.

BUT KEEP IN MIND, the eligibility window is from July 1 of last year to the end of June THIS year. 

Right now, my only suggestion this year is for best horror. Specifically, Deus Vult, book #6 of Saint Tommy NYPD

Okay, Jon Mollison's Overlook was freaking AWESOME. Best Science Fiction. No question.

Robert Kroese or Gemini Warrior for Best Fantasy? I don't know. That one's a coin toss.

Best Military Science Fiction will probably go to Chris Ruocchio. But military and military SFF will have to wait until I read Nos Jondi's work.

So, if you're not entirely certain what you'd nominate, or if you want to see what's going to come out before July, you can hold off.

However, I do recommend going to and at least registering.  Then you can put Deus Vult in best horror, and come back later to fill in the blanks of anything you think of later.

Monday, February 17, 2020

Friday, February 7, 2020

Luna Anthology: The Hyland Resolution by Justin Tarquin

I mus admit to quite enjoying The Hyland resolution.

Here, the description.

It works better if you read it in the voice of Rod Serling. But then, so do most things.

Charles Hyland is a harmless mathematics professor on an academic junket. When his fellow faculty are caught in the crossfire of an interplanetary war, their only hope is that Charles can extricate himself from the labyrinth of his own mind.

I got the germ of the idea that became the story “The Hyland Resolution” about four years ago next month. I remember because I know what sparked it: it was the episode “For The Girl Who Has Everything” of SUPERGIRL, in which our heroine was attacked by a Kryptonian critter called a Black Mercy (because the Kryptonians used it as a humane method of execution). The Black Mercy’s venom or whatever induces a coma filled with dreams that fulfill the victim’s deepest desires, before ultimately killing him—unless he somehow rejects the happy fantasy.

I only watched the first five or ten minutes, because by the end of its first season I had had my fill of this series and was only tuning in occasionally for long enough to see if the basic idea seemed interesting. Sometime if I only see the beginning of a story, I can abstract out the basic problem that drives the plot and think of a completely different way to present and handle it that might make a good original story. (Perry Mason seems to inspire me that way sometimes.)

I’m probably not the only one who does this: this particular episode’s idea has been around the block many times. I see in Wikipedia that the Supergirl writers cribbed it from a Superman comic (“For The Man Who Has Everything”: even thriftily reusing 83% of the title), and my brother tells me there was an episode of BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER on the same idea. 

Declan Finn, our worthy LUNA editor, pointed me to an episode of BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES (a very good series I’d never watched till then) where Bruce Wayne is trapped in a dream in which he had never become Batman, because his parents had never been killed. How far back does this plot concept go, I wonder? Does it trace back to the scene where Odysseus loses some crewmen to the Lotus Eaters?

I don’t know how the SUPERGIRL writers handled it, though my guess would be that it involved a lot of emoting and sharing of feelings. But as I thought about it myself, I realized two things: first, that I did have an original idea how a person could be snapped out of such a fantasy; and second, that my protagonist would be a mathematician. To say more would be to give spoilers. I drafted a very short piece, set on Earth, about a math professor named Charles Hyland. But my first draft seemed to be lacking vitality; I shelved it without even giving it a title and went on with other things for awhile.

With Luna, I remembered my draft and returned to it.

It needed fleshing out, and the themes of the anthology provided direction for how I could proceed. Dreams, check. Madness, well, check. Loneliness and despair? What if my mathematician, Charles N. Hyland (the N is for Norbert, but that never comes up in the story), is a man of many troubles, who uses mathematics as an escape for thinking of things that upset him? The Moon … I moved my setting to a university on the Moon in the early days of its colonization, a university in a Lunar city, established by Christians from Central and South America, fleeing the religious persecution of the increasingly secularized governments on Earth, named El Redentor: Spanish for “The Redeemer”. (None of this comes up in the story, either.) The ubiquitous AI that Hyland consults sometimes, like an advanced web search application, I named Thoth, after the Egyptian god of wisdom, records, and the Moon; and I put in a couple other faint allusions (or Easter eggs) of moony lore.

As for the theme of despair, I pulled in an idea I have about the coming century of colonization of the Solar System, that I think SF writers have short-changed … namely, war. For some reason, as far as I know, everyone seems to imagine that the opening up of vast stretches of new real estate on the Moon and elsewhere will all be handled in as peaceful and orderly a fashion as a session of Congress devoted to voting themselves a raise. On the contrary, to me it seems natural that some spots on the Moon and elsewhere are going to be particularly desirable, and the colonizers will inevitably come into conflict over them and turn to their various governments on Earth to defend their interests. The Moon may be a pretty violent place for its first few decades … plenty of conflict for stories, and excuse for despair.

So how would my absent-minded Professor Hyland deal with wartime emergencies? He’d go through the motions while striving to keep his mind on his mathematics. That could give me a nice opening scene, developing his character in the midst of some intense action. At least for me, the opening scene is good for a chuckle.

By the way, for those who enjoy number puzzles (I can never understand why there aren’t more of us), the story contains one or two, understated and in no way essential to enjoying the story, but solvable. Nothing fancy—rather like figuring out why Spock said there were 1,771,561 tribbles in the grain bin that emptied out over Captain Kirk.

Declan and Jagi liked “The Hyland Resolution”, and then we had a long wait as the production of Superversive Press’s Planetary Anthology series slowed down to a halt, and ultimately the publishing enterprise that had produced a lot of good reading closed its doors. 

But Tuscany Bay Books picked up the project and has issued Pluto and Luna with a new look. “The Hyland Resolution” is one of 22 stories in this 600+ page volume. I’ve enjoyed the ones I’ve read so far.


Justin M. Tarquin has lived about fifteen forty-thirds of his life (so far) in the Chicago area, and remembers going to John Paul II’s Mass in Grant Park just a few weeks after he moved there. From this you can work out his age to within a month if you feel so inclined. By day he tries to pay the mortgage by making spreadsheets and databases yield up their secrets, and in the evening he cooks dinner for his family. His enchiladas, though perhaps not worth dying for, would surely be worth a light maiming: say, two or three hit points. If he has a few minutes free when no one is looking, he is probably having entirely too much fun with some number puzzle; but if he gets a few hours, he will be found reading or writing science fiction and fantasy in the basement. His goal as a writer is to make readers feel the way he does when he watches How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966), at the part where the Grinch’s heart grows three sizes bigger.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Steve Johnson on "The Doom that Came to Necropolis", for Luna

This is one of those intros that just lent itself to Rod Serling.

Don't believe me?


Necropolis is a small town, complete with small town values and small town myths. Unbeknownst to them, their doom is about to arrive, riding a motorcycle, clad in a leather jacket and armed with the weapons of science. His mission is simple, but about to trigger a war that can only be waged in … the Lunar zone.
See what I mean?

“Necropolis” came about when I was working on prose styles, which should more honestly be called slavishly copying E.E. “Doc” Smith. His Lensmen are super-competent, with more options and resources than your average superhero, so they don’t spend a lot of time tracking down purse snatchers. I needed an enemy, and who’s better than Cthulhu?

This led to “what would a story in which a Lensman went up against Cthulhu sound like?” Both Lovecraft and Smith used complex sentences with many dependent clauses, a wide vocabulary, and even similar simile-stacking compound-comparison stupendously starkly adjectivial exaggerations! So I was able to work out a pretty dead-on combination of their styles.

That was more important to me, actually, then who was in it or what happened! Bruce Glassco, a fellow Clarionite who created the game “Betrayal at the House on the Hill”, suggested a typically hapless Lovecraft protagonist to play up the contrast, and boy did that help. Most of the story is Monk-and-Ham, Remo-and-Chuin bickering and banter, until the plot literally kicks in the door and makes them stop.

I’m still in love with the idea, by the way. I recently debuted the first chapter of a novella pitting a Doc Savage imitation against a very close copy of Cthulhu, without quite giving copyright lawyers any reason to salivate in anticipation.  Now the clear-eyed hero has a coterie of friends to help him, and a significantly bigger threat to deal with. If it works, expect a whole series of Space Men vs. the Great Old Ones stories, each bigger, more over-the-top, and more fun than the last. It would be nice to have a pulp formula like Doc Savage did, to keep the series going forever, but the big question for me in any series concept is “can you top this?”


Steven G. Johnson has reported on crimes, butchered pineapple, reviewed comic books and now teaches high school. A book-a-day man from way back, he can quote passages of Starship Troopers and the Lensman series from memory, which would be terribly useful if they were given equal weight in the curriculum to Shakespeare. That would be the only advantage of giving them equal weight to Shakespeare: the increase of Steven G. Johnson's educational usefulness. He has told convention audiences that the important things remain important, no matter what century or fictive universe: love, death, fear, power, loyalty, friendship, war and family. The crunchy bits like zombie biker sorcery from Mars are wonderfully tasty, but they are not the meal. He thinks the scariest two-word phrase in the language is "Aztec dentist" and is not at all sure he would like hearing an even scarier one. Steve and his wife, historical author Virginia C. Johnson, reside in Fredericksburg, Virginia in an old house with a tower, with their son, Benedict von Graf, their loyal dog Max, and a stable of cats. The dog is also stable. 

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

LA Behm on Another Fine day in the Corps, in the Luna Anthology

As I've done for the past few days, I've been posting from the various and sundry people who contributed to the Luna anthology. 

Another Fine Day in the Corps was originally scheduled for the Dark half of the anthology.

And no, I didn't put it there for the swear words. 

Sigh. Another "shoulda woulda coulda" from Luna

Had I thought about it more, I would have gone back and put back some of the swearing. Oops.

The short version of the story is simple.

Some days, you get the bear.

Some days, the bear is packing mortar rounds.

Another Fine Day in the Corps,
or where did it come from?
L.A. Behm II

A question I get asked a lot (as do most of the other authors I talk with) is where do you get the ideas for your stories.  This one I'm blaming on a creative writing course, the video game X-Com 2 and really bad late night TV.

So, twenty mumble odd years ago, I took a creative writing class in college, more as a lark than anything else.  One of the things that the professor posited to the class as a whole was that you, as an author, could start a story in any manner you wanted.  Of course, there was someone who disagreed.  They specifically said 'Oh, but surely you can't start a story with profanity'.  The professor grinned and looked at me.  As a non-traditional student – twenty eight and working on my second degree – I was the go to guy when the professor wanted the opinion or a statement from someone who was old enough to drink.  I pointed out that I'd read stories that started with everything but the queen mother of swear words -as Ralphie in A Christmas Story puts it - and I had a few thoughts about starting a story with that one.  Needless to say, that got me a very huffy response.  

Fast forward a few years (twenty one or so), and I'm sitting in the living room playing X-Com2, while my father in law watches some inane war movie on TV.  And by inane, I mean really, really horribly bad.  They were doing the kind of things that'd get you killed in other war movies, let alone real life.  That, along with the mission name I'd just been given in X-Com (Babylonian Sword) struck a chord with me and I sat there and wrote a 1000 word flash fiction story, called Operation Babylonian Sword.  Which, honestly sat on my computer, looking forlorn for a long time, until Declan put out a call for submissions for Luna.  

When the submission call went out, I dusted off the micro story, tweaked it a bit, and sent it in.  The rest, as they say, is a lot of hard work.  Edits were made.  Emails were sent.  More edits were made. Word choices were reconsidered – my characters tend to speak in expletives, in part because I spent way to much time around the USMC, and expletives are used there like most normal folks use 'uh'.  I toned them down . . . well, a bit.  

Enjoy the story!


L.A. Behm I: Born and raised in Texas, he's done a bit of everything - civilian contractor in Iraq, volunteer fireman, warehouseman, mortician's assistant, newspaper opinion columnist, tech support, logistics coordination, poet, and even driven a bus for a while. A two time graduate of Southwest Texas State University, he spends his days writing Sci-Fi and Fantasy, painting miniatures, and watching his cats perform parkour. 

Monday, February 3, 2020

Luna Anthology: Samaritan, by Karl Gallagher

When I was put in charge of the Luna anthology, my first choice was to approach people I knew and could rely on. On authors who I knew would come through.

Karl was easily one of my first choices. His Torchship Trilogy was a finalist for the 2018 Prometheus Award for Best Libertarian Science Fiction Novel... and it was nowhere near as squicky as Stranger in a Strange Land.

When bioengineered germs are floating on the wind, the only way for the Amish to avoid high technology is to move to the Moon. But even in that splendid desolation you can't help seeing the neighbors sometimes.

"Samaritan." Thomas' people settled on the Moon to avoid contamination from biotech and nanotech gadgets. But when a high-tech spacer crashes Thomas must risk exile from his home to save the stranger's life.

As our world experiments with new technology, it's hard to be in the control group. Peer pressure forces people to buy smartphones and join Facebook. GMO-phobes find their "pure" veggies are catching pollen from improved plants. When we have nanotech robots and artificial bacteria it'll be even harder to block unwanted tech.

So what's someone wanting the simple life to do? Move away. Far away.

To someplace where no breeze can carry the latest invention into your yard. Naturally there's no place on Earth like that--we only have the one atmosphere.

The true control group will have to live on the Moon, separated by vacuum from technology they don't trust. But who'd want to live without the latest and greatest toys? We already have them: the Amish, better known as "Old Order" communites, and Hutterite and other denominations who form isolated farming communities separate from modern society.

Would they be willing to move to the Moon? Certainly not all. But if that's the only way to prevent nanobots infiltrating their bloodstream, some would. They'd likely be subsidized by the kinds of billionaires who worry about AIs and other existential risks, and this wouldn't be an option until there are existing lunar settlements.

So in the year 2100 there may be a portion of the Moon "off limits" to current technology, inhabited by religious settlers using technology close to the Apollo era.

I originally conceived that idea for the GURPS Transhuman Space roleplaying setting. This is a game where where a dead person's mind copied into a robot is an almost boring character. I wanted to create a foil for the transhumanist weirdness flooding the setting, and a runaway Amish kid in space seemed just the ticket.

Some years later it came back to me as I was brainstorming a new story. Rather than make my viewpoint character a runaway I chose someone who wants to stay home and settle down. When he sees a "modern" injured after his spaceship crashes there's a dilemma--help the stranger or keep himself safe?


Karl K. Gallagher is a systems engineer, currently performing data analysis for a major aerospace company. In the past he calculated trajectories for a commercial launch rocket start-up, operated satellites as a US Air Force officer, and selected orbits for government and commercial satellites. Karl lives in Saginaw, TX with his family. His novels Torchship, Torchship Pilot, and Torchship Captain are available on Amazon and Audible.