May 2006

Editorial Notices Books Received

Editorial: I Un-Changed My Name

Publisher's Note: The personal views of the publisher, expressed here, do not necessarily mirror those of other contributors to this magazine. This is always strictly my own personal rant.

Mars the Divine Clocktower Books has released the first of a new series of SF novels—Mars the Divine by John T. Cullen (Time Train Series) Fictionwise. Find more information at the developing website. Please note that I'm tossing out all pen names, including Terry Sunbord.

Adventures With W (as in WWW) and other keys Ten years ago, last month, I was an unpublished author sitting in my cubicle at a company…

—juicy digression—

…run by a bunch of jack-in-the-boxes. I don't mean the fast food place; these people couldn't have gotten half-cooked french fries right, much less software, and they mostly ended up in jail or in hiding.

—juicy stuff edited out—

I won't mention names, except to say that this circus involved a remarkable cast of characters—at least two crooked San Diego Congressmen (one serving eight years in the Federal can for being the biggest bribe-taker in U.S. Congressional history), a slew of religious extremists, a corporate org chart designed by Dilbert's evil boss…did I mention that my predecessor back two was literally carried away in chains by the Sheriff's deputies as a con artist with warrants out on him?…and an assortment of other colorful harlequins that wouldn't be believable if one wrote the story as fiction. Only truth can be this strange; but that is a story for another day, and not the topic of today's agenda…

—end digression—

…anyhow, there I was, typing away at some turgid technical fiction, when in walks a bearded young Goth named Brian Callahan wearing a long black coat, sunglasses, and a slightly puzzled or stoned expression. Or I could describe his expression as bemused. Not a corporate animal, this Brian. We'd made nodding chatter in the halls, and now he asked me: "Do you know any good places to submit my short stories?" I had closed that door in my life years earlier, and was tempted to be dismissive (not about BC, but the idea of wasting years and postage and sweat sending stuff by mail to places that keep it for a year or more, then either reject it or publish it to their vast audience of 100 subscribers. Before that sort of reply came out, I remembered what the Chairman of the English Department at a Grand And Self-Important & Vastly Over-Stuffy University (GASIVOSU) had told me many years earlier when I was a similarly fresh-treaded tire at the outset of life's long, ribbon-like highway: "Gather a circle of like-minded souls and publish your work together, and if successful, it will be received by an ever-growing audience." The source of that paraphrase gets paid to talk about poetry, not write it. I think in my best year as a poet I earned $3.00. I haven't published much poetry in the intervening decades, for practical reasons.

I gave Callahan, who was plodding off with drooping shoulders, the equivalent of a "hey, kid, come back here" as a vision flashed on the drive-in screen behind my forehead. "You're technically savvy. How would you feel about starting a magazine on the, what's it called, World Wide Web?" Who even uses that term any more? Before the Dot Com Bubble was seen as the Dot Con Babble and burst, people spoke with wide and glistening eyes of the WWW. Now W is a term equivalent to Satan and the anti-Christ—eyes are still wide, and they glisten, but with tears instead of wonder. But I digress again. Back on topic.

Out With Pseudonyms …So I plunged into the business of publishing stuff online. The short of it is that I was discovered by a New York publisher (Byron Preiss) who approached me, rather than the other way around, and he published two of my books before he was unfortunately killed in a car accident. So I lost a friend and the world lost an innovative soul, and my books went out of print. However, I'm a lot more savvy after a decade of such ups and downs, and I will be back in the bookstores within a year or two. Honest. I know it. I'll write about my further adventures as they happen. It's not a pie in the sky thing. It's a matter of growing a business that's been paying me small but steady for years, and making it several sizes bigger so I don't have to drive a limousine part time anymore, no matter how I love San Diego and the Hotel Del Coronado.

For today's rant, I just want to say that among the important things I have learned are the value of Critical Mass and of Branding. The former is an old term, relating to quantum physics and the atom bomb, but it still resonates today (if one may make a pun on sound, as in kaboom or kablooey. Unsure of myself, naive in many ways, I launched a number of literary careers (those of John Argo, Terry Sunbord, even Ann Cymba, in addition to that of John T. Cullen). Purely by coincidence, I am republishing all my work under my own name (John T. Cullen) at the ten year mark of my presence online. It's a small thing in a way. The theory is that someone who liked your one book may actually come back and read your others, thus multiplying your sales base. Also, if you use one name and stick with it, that's good branding. Poor Ann Cymba and her lone literary work (a somewhat steamy and very intriguing historical thriller set in 1945 San Francisco). Now she's firmly in the bookshelf among the works of the former John Argo and Terry Sunbord. Thank God I didn't have time to invent more of these things. They become dead evolutionary ends that die and fall off like dead twigs. Now at least I can reveal that John Argo, which I made up on the spot sometime in 1996 as I launched my published career, was a reference to the ship of wonder ridden by Jason and the Argonauts. Rather obvious. Moreover, I actually planned to create a raft (ahem) of pen names taken from the constellation Argo in the Southern Hemisphere of the night sky. Cymba is Latin for boat. The point is, it's better to build one tall building than a row of little ones. And besides, using one name makes life simpler, and it restores something of one's soul. I feel much better being the author of Ann Cymba's Nob Hill and over a dozen other fine books that a lot of people have really (to my relief) enjoyed reading.

So Brian Callahan and I went on to have a wonderful dream and we worked hard to make things real. There were ups and downs. Soon, Al Sirois and John K. Muir and Dennis Latham and Shaun Farrell joined the parade, and perhaps other author-souls will fall in before that big DubyaDubyaDubya (groan) sets in the Western sky or bubbles away down into the water. Maybe we can have a convention and agree to outlaw the letter W as part of saving the earth and restoring goodness. All in all, it's been a remarkable ride with more in store, and I have my name back, and all those books I worked so hard to write. Sometimes, you do something and you just have a deep feeling of righteousness about it. This is one of those moments.

More in next month's rant. Thanks for stopping by, keep reading subversive and thoughtful literature like the best that SFFH has to offer, and have a great month!



Editor's Note: We welcome books and announcements. Please give us at last 3 months lead time so we can present your announcement in a timely fashion. We take no responsibility for the content, format, contributors' editorial opinions, or other characteristics of this information which we publish in community interest.

ComiCon International 2006 first update See CCI2006 for the latest cool info.



American Theocracy by Kevin Phillips (Current Events/Nonfiction, Viking Penguin, New York, 2006 ). Few thinkers so profoundly capture the cataclysmic changes bruising the world in this new stage of globalism. Phillips is an old-time conservative graced with critical and clear thinking skills unlike the muddled, avaricious, and mean-spirited emotionalism of that breed of wolverine known as neo-cons. Phillips' writings about the perils of democracy, the Bush dynasty, the persistence of ignorance and corruption, and other topics have been on the mark many times over the past several decades. He is one of the few political writers who think large and in the perspective of centuries. He describes the triple whammy of big oil, big religion, and big debt that is working a tired USA over in a back alley with foreign powers leering over the fence at a job they might consider well done. In my own recent studies of the Roman Republic and its fall into Empire, I have seen these themes too closely replayed for comfort. For a long time, polls of the American citizenry have consistently revealed a sense of growing but undefinable unease about our country's direction. Make that the direction of our civilization. Students of history often ask "Why didn't the [plug in what you will: Romans, British, French, Austro-Hungarians, etc] see it coming?" The answer is, of course, that the fish does not see the water he swims in. We are fish, swimming in a changing lake. The question remains: Is the lake dying, or being remade? According to the vast underbelly of deluded fundamentalists, the alleged "End Times" are near and we might as well party hearty because nothing matters any more. According to these neo-Christian jihadists (they are fish who cannot see themselves in the waters of their own brainwashing) are going to be supping with 72 virgins while the rest of us (the intelligent, the educated, the critical thinkers) are going into a hell presided over by Joe McCarthy, Richard Nixon, and the anti-Christ himself, George W. Bush. This is my rant on Phillips' book. Not to put words in his mouth, because Phillips is great and doesn't need propping up. Read the book—you'll be glad you did. Like St. Augustine over in Hippo (Africa) writers and observers like Paul Krugman, Kevin Phillips, and Tom Friedman must be bemused by the distant pillar of smoke rising from the modern American Rome. Does that rising smoke signal our destruction at the hands of external enemies (9/11), or our self-destruction at the hands of internal enemies (neo-Christian, racist, and ultra-nationalist fanatics at Oklahoma City)?