Sunday, April 22, 2012

Catch a rising meme ... it's Zombie Reagan time, apparently

Over on Twitter, just a couple days before I finished RAISE THE GIPPER! and put it up, the phrases "Zombie Reagan" and "Reagan Zombie" and the hashtag #zombieReagan underwent a population explosion -- from virtually none with just a few occasional flareups through April 16, to hundreds last Friday and thousands now.

  Now, I wish I could claim credit for that, but there are two bits of harsh reality that say it's just a significant coincidence:
1) The historical bit: nobody but me and a dozen friends or so had any idea I was working a novel with a zombie Ronald Reagan in it,
2) the statistical semiotic bit: a quick map of the people following the discussions shows that they're in a large number of small, non-interacting networks.

For the record, I got the idea from people who wanted it propagated on 21 Feb, accepted the deal on 25 Feb, and began work on 3 March.  Apparently it's just time for Ronald Reagan to return from the grave, no matter how rancid the resurrection, as a continuing joke about the obvious fact that the 'pubs really want Reagan back.  Genres and themes in jokes do tend to cluster, both in traditional/oral and modern/internet communication, and my rather largish joke in the form of a 71,000 word ebook has happened to arrive in the middle of a cluster of similar stuff.

This leads to a slightly awkward but basically good situation. I've just opened the strawberry ice cream store right when everyone is talking about strawberry ice cream, which makes me look like a fly by night exploitive strawberry ice cream dealer, i.e. an opportunist.  On the other hand, whatever may be done to my image for purity, there's no denying this is an opportunity. 

So at the link above, you can find my announcement; read the free sample here.  And as of this morning  it's available on Amazon.You may all now, to the tune of "Howdy Doody time" if you are an old enough geezer or geezette, begin singing "It's Zombie Reagan time ..." ... get him before he rots! (any further).  Your friends are all talking about zombie Reagan and you can be the life of the party.

Beating an empty suit with a suit full of dead meat: Reagan comedy in a Romney era

One of the first readers to read Raise the Gipper! all the way through has come in with a question: did I wish someone other than Romney was going to be inevitable, because he's such a bland target?

Well, yes and no.

See, Romney to me seems a lot like Hubert Humphrey, Al Gore, and various other super-sincere careerist figures: there's not even a void inside the suit.  The role has eaten the person completely.  (Part of why I like the metaphor of an empty brainpan full of bugs in other parts of the book).   And in  a real sense I think the 'pubs couldn't have nominated anyone who would make the book more possible.  The base is deeply turned off by someone whose appeal boils down to "Dull-minded people who are not paying attention will find him acceptable."  It's like Top 40 pop or network TV were at one time; it's about not losing an audience, not about exciting one.  So he's the guy who makes the whole thing plausible, the Charlie Brown/Rodney Dangerfield Omega Candidate.

There'd have been more to shoot at with a nutcase Alpha like Santorum or Bachmann or Perry.  And desperately loserish crazies like Gingrich and Paul are so perfectly Betas – the natural butt of jokes – that I had to eliminate Gingrich after one long scene lest he take over the book.  So, Romney's not the target he could have been – but he's a pretty peg to hang the comedy on.  Kind of like the way Charles Schultz put Charlie Brown through the wringer of being "wishy-washy" and having a "failure face" and all that, but ultimately Snoopy, Lucy, and Linus carried the act. 

Friday, April 20, 2012

The Secret Project Revealed At Last

Where I've actually been for the last few weeks: besides trying to maintain my ordinary life (and not always succeeding), I've been writing like crazy on:

 And what exactly, I hear you cry, is RAISE THE GIPPER! Well, the short answer is, it's a short  and I hope funny political novel.  There used to be tons of these and a few of them would  hit bestseller lists every year -- Mr. Adam, The Mouse that Roared, Feast of Freedom, And To My Nephew Albert I Leave the Island What I Won Off Fatty Hagan in a Poker Game, Our Gang, Rally Round the Flag Boys!, and Dark Horse were just a few of my personal favorites.  It was a great genre but traditional publishing had a hard time with it because topical humor ages so quickly, and because the more-than-a-year traditional cycle meant every joke was stale and dead before it could sting.

But enter the brave new world of self-publishing to ebook. The group of people who wanted me to do this book proposed it to me in the last week of February.  I started writing on March 1.  I was delayed a bit last week because the possibility of a deadlocked convention is pretty much dead with Santorum out (and I also needed to give him a somewhat different role since he'd dropped), so I had to put three days into rewrites (luckily the reality: the Republicans think it's their year but they can't come up with a candidate they like -- has remained constant, and it was possible to build instead around the potential for the Mitt Mutiny).

But in any case, here we are.  All grown up and shipped out, ready for you to buy and giggle madly at.  Now available at Barnes and Noble, and Amazon, and at my bookstore site on e-Junkie in both mobi (for the Amazon Kindle) and epub (for iPad, Nook, and pretty much everything else), at $4.99 in all locations.

Since I've had a few readers who became very confused in trying to buy my short stories through e-Junkie, here's how it works: you go to the page on e-Junkie and click to order it. They ask for some information that includes your email.  They email you the download link (check your spam trap if you don't see it) and you click on the link in the email.  It's one more step than Amazon or B&N, but you might want to use e-junkie for one of three reasons, if any of them are important to you:
1) I do get a bit more of the money
2) intended typefaces and layout seem to come through better
3) buying from e-junkie puts you on my mailing list for my irregular newsletter, which features some special offers for collectors now and then, some upcoming books news, and at least one essay that doesn't appear anywhere else, usually focused on my published work.  (but you can always just email me and ask to be put on it, anyway).

On the other hand I'll be thoroughly delighted if you buy it anywhere.

For those of you unfamiliar with the genre of "short political satire", here's the crash course: 

the novels are really short  -- RAISE THE GIPPER! is just 71,000 words.  That's because taking too long about a joke is what your Uncle Jack does when he corners you at a party and you can't get away, and you realize, oh, my, god, he's going to tell the Cooshmaker joke again.  

they are highly partisan; you can't tell political jokes neutrally.  In my case I aim most of the fire at the 'pubs, though a couple of times where there was a big ripe Democratic target, I wheeled to attack my own flank. 

Like classic comedies going back to Menander or earlier, there's a love story in there -- in my case something between a Tea Partier and an Occupier -- which provides a thin plot to stick a bunch of absurd incidents into.

And finally, there's THE PREMISE.  The classics of the genre had a single sentence premise:

Mr. Adam: A nuclear experiment sterilizes every man on Earth ... except one terribly shy geologist who has never talked to a woman other than his mother, who happened to be two miles down in a lead mine.

The Mouse That Roared: The smallest nation in the world tries to declare war on the United States in order to get reconstruction money, but accidentally wins and acquires a weapon so powerful that they ever-after run the world.

Feast of Freedom: In a bit of confusion, as the very last British colony is being decolonized, and has reverted to traditional cannibalism, the Vice President of the United States is mistaken for a gift. 

Dark Horse: a major political party's candidate dies with 30 days to go till the election; trying to use the hopeless race as a backdoor way to develop a candidate for a governorship, they nominate the chair of the New Jersey Turnpike Committee -- but suddenly it looks like he'll win.

So, what's the premise of RAISE THE GIPPER! ....?

The Mitt Mutiny that the righties are already muttering about, i.e. delegates defecting to nominate someone else, has one big problem: they can't agree on a candidate.  But there is one candidate they could agree on .... if only he weren't so, well, dead.  But what if he could become undead? Couldn't you persuade the Supremes that that pesky 22nd Amendment really should only apply to terms served when you were alive?

Anyway, there you have it.  Mobi or epub, two great flavors ... cheap and fast and funny .... and maybe a chance to revive a genre that I used to love the hell out of.

As sanity returns to my life, there will be more here at the blog, too.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

A post because I really shouldn't miss posting on a day when a book is released, and besides I have some crow to eat.


So, first of all Losers in Space is now out there and available for purchase at Amazon, B&N, and any old indie bookstore you can find via Indiebound. 

Nina and Ron Else — Nina is the person who used the phrase to describe me that named this blog — are holding a reading/signing/general purpose hanging out at Who Else? Books, here in Denver, which is lat 200 S Broadway (a couple blocks south of the Mayan Theatre) on Saturday the 14th of April, at 3 pm, and I'll be there, demonstrating that I can hold a book right side up and spell my name correctly.  Those of you in the Denver area should come on by; I'm planning to shave and wear a clean shirt!

Now, about that crow ....

Losers in Space is deliberately very, very hard SF, i.e. get-the-science-right stuff, mainly because I'm somewhat saddened by the way that "geek" has morphed from meaning "a socially clueless dork who thinks chemistry class is exciting" (i.e. a valuable person who will someday make us all better off, just by pursuing his/her passion for understanding the world) into meaning "a member of an alternative fashion/status clique who knows a shitload about Batman," (i.e. a hip consumer who may eventually also branch out into knowing a lot about Harry Potter or alternative rock, and whose existence will make the pop culture distributors slightly richer). 

So I did my damnedest to load it up with geek appeal, including creating the "Notes for the Interested," which are what I wished sci-fi books had when I was eleven—a quick, easy way to find the interesting infodumps and skip over all that adventure and relationship stuff.  (Or one might say, a quick way to read like a geek and not like the boys or girls of the publisher's imagination).

So I claimed in the introduction that I had done everything I could do to make the science as accurate as possible.

Well, I didn't quite do everything I could do.  (Now spitting out black feathers ...)

If you look at Note for the Interested #13, which begins on page 167, there's a whopper of an error in there.  Most of the initial stuff about how radio and microwave communication works is still right, so that's okay

But I screwed up massively with respect to the super-special amazing antenna that (spoiler not necessary to specify, go read the book).

Sub-millimeter waves (or terahertz, see the book for why those are the same thing) actually fall on the electromagnetic spectrum in the region between very short wave microwaves and very long wave infrared.  To use them for communication over interplanetary distances, therefore, the difficulties would be something like the difficulties of using microwaves and something like the difficulties of using light, and in both cases, that means you need a really big antenna or lens. 
An antenna is a conducting surface that works by letting the electromagnetic waves induce a current in it; a lens is a nonconductor that refracts the electromagnetic waves into a small, intense image.  Either way, the bigger the antenna (if the submillimeter wave communication is more like microwaves) or the bigger the lens (if the submillimeter wave communication is more like infrared light), the more signal you would get, and in fact, contra what the book says right there on page 172, it is indeed something you could knock together out of wire, or perhaps clear plastic.  So I made Susan and Glisters into Very Bad Geeks, and if Derlock were not an uninterested psychopath, he'd have been sneering in their faces.

The (wrong) detector (the feet are really chewy but not as dry as the feathers) I describe borrows various aspects of the x-ray telescope, cell phone towers, and some other things I researched.  If I had been working much further up the spectrum – at about the boundary between far-ultraviolet and very-soft-x-rays – it might have been plausible, because up at those super short wavelengths and high frequencies, electromagnetic radiation tends to behave more particley and less wavy, and the gadget I describe is a particle detector.

How'd I produce such a screw up?  I didn't run it by Howard Davidson soon enough to be able to revise the book when he said "Uh, whoa."  And so, alas, here I am, dining upon crow.  (That beak is crunchy). 

Which, I hope, will cause bejillions of young readers, encountering this, to aspire to read and write more hard sf, because of the pleasures of catching an old poop who doesn't know what he is talking about!  So if this tricks you further into the hard sf world ... well, great.  Thank Howard for it.  I'll be over here finishing off the crow.

My long silence will probably break in the next few days, as the Double Super Sekrit Projeckt is revealed; also, very soon, I'll be sending out my irregular newsletter (about 40% the usual writerly self promo and about 60% some essay that I don't publish anywhere else about my work, writing, that kind of thing), which is free if you drop a note to me at the email address over on the side and say you'd like to be added to the list.