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What I read in 2013

In terms of quantity, I had kind of a lousy year in 2013: I only finished 11 books, and five of those (marked with asterisks below) were re-reads.

The list:

On the other hand: Quality. I really enjoyed all of them, and my six first-time reads were a nice mix of popcorn fun, mind-bending, gut-punching, and thought-provoking.

January 4, 2014 Posted by | Books, geek, science fiction | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Jim C. Hines & Codex Born

I finally had a chance to read Jim C. Hines’ second “Magic ex Libris” book, Codex Born, and I wrote a review for GeekDad.

I’ve been a fan of Jim’s since meeting him at Penguicon in 2009, and have had fun interviewing him about his Princess series and the origins of Magic ex Libris, and was really excited when he won the Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer in 2012.

So, I have to admit, when Codex Born arrived in the mail, and I saw the cover, I thought, <understatement>”Hm. This is kind of cool.”</understatement>:

cbcover

That front cover quote is from my GeekDad review of Libriomancer(And it still holds true, by the way: Hines has got some big, amazing ideas unfolding in this series, and the premise is just a ton of fun.) I don’t know who handles this sort of thing at DAW Books, but I heartily approve of their taste in blurbage.

Now, seriously: If you’re a science fiction/fantasy book geek, and you’re not reading “Magic ex Libris,” you’re missing out.

September 17, 2013 Posted by | Books, geek, science fiction | , , | Leave a comment

Collect All 21! – Five Years Old Today

Five years ago today, I released the first edition of Collect All 21! Memoirs of a Star Wars Geek into the wild.

The first batch of pre-orders and sales that summer and fall of 2008 were mostly to family, friends, and the supportive Star Wars fans of the Ohio Star Wars Collectors Club and the vintage forums at Rebelscum.com. They really jump-started this whole thing with their responses to my 2007 online series of Star Wars recollections.

In early 2009, right around the time my last full-time newsroom job was eliminated and I found myself out of work, Rob Wainfur posted one of the earliest completely-neutral-party reviews of Collect All 21!  on his  Retro Finds site, which was a more-than-welcome bit of nice news, and especially neat because Rob’s from Wales.

Around the same time, Adam, my Collect All 21! editor, launched Deus Ex Comica, and suddenly I was like, “Hey: want a cool, professional cover and a foreword, too!” And that’s where Kirk Demarais and David Morgan-Mar came in, generously contributing their talents to the revised version of Collect All 21!, providing me with some amazing front cover art and a kick-ass introduction.

Working with a great digital publishing team, I expanded the book for a Kindle edition in July 2011, adding some new personal material as well as interviews and my magazine-length feature on Lorne Peterson.

Some of the other neat stuff that’s happened along the way:

  • In spring 2009, I got an incredibly kind and supportive email from George Krstic, another Northeast Ohio first-generation Star Wars fan who grew up to write neat stuff like MTV’s DowntownMegas XLR, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, and Motorcity. We’ve hung out a few times since, and recorded a few Star Wars nostalgia podcasts,  and it’s always a blast. (George also introduced me to Josh Ling, who’s also a first-generation Rust Belt kid that came of age addicted to Kenner toys, and, I think it’s also fair to say, deals with the same old-school v. new-era Star Wars internal conflicts that twist so many of us in geek knots.)
  • Jenny Williams and Curtis Silver both said really nice things about Collect All 21! on the GeekMom and GeekDad blogs, respectively.
  • At PAX East in 2010, thanks to the GeekDad crew, I met Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks author Ethan Gilsdorf, who bought a copy of the book on the spot while we were all hanging out, and later provided me with a superlative blurb.
  • CNN interviewed me for a 30th anniversary story about The Empire Strikes Back.
  • Sharing Star Wars memories became kind of a thing: My friend Jonathan Liu sent me an advance copy of Tony Pacitti‘s My Best Friend is a Wookiee (2010), and I wound up meeting Tony at Star Wars Celebration V to exchange books and stories. A couple years later, in 2012, Gib van Ert released A Long Time Ago: Growing Up With And Out Of Star Wars, which I read and enjoyed on the way to Star Wars Celebration VI. And, of course, earlier this year, Fanboys director Kyle Newman (who also encouraged me regarding Collect All 21! in 2010) put together The Return of Return of the Jedi.
  • Geek A Week artist Len Peralta and I recorded a Star Wars and 1980s conversation/podcast.
  • I got invited as a guest to a couple JediCon WV events, which were tons of fun, and got my name on a spectacular poster by Kenner toy photographer Kim Simmons.
  • Hugo Award-winning author and good guy Jim C. Hines read Collect All 21! and blogged about it.
  • Then there was that time in 2012 when the fantastic Renita Jablonski called me and said, “So, we were thinking of doing a piece on the 35th anniversary of Star Wars, and I said ‘I know a guy,'” and we talked on the phone, and then BOOM! I’m driving to work a day or two later, and right there in the middle of National Public Radio’s “Morning Edition” is me. (And five years before that, when Renita was at WKSU, she produced a piece I wrote about not remembering the first time I saw Star Wars, which, again, is pretty much where all this started.)
  • Topless Robot put Collect All 21! on its list of The 10 Greatest Non-Fiction Star Wars Books, which includes the line, “Celebrate the love, yub yub.” Yes!
  • Somehow my book caught the attention of filmmaker Brian Stillman, who visited our house a couple summers back and interviewed me for Plastic Galaxy: The Story of Star Wars Toyswhich should be coming out later this summer.

Crunching some numbers from Lulu and Amazon to figure out about how many copies of Collect All 21! are out there – counting print and electronic versions – I come up with a number somewhere close to 2,500. (I’m always looking to make that number bigger, of course, but hey – that’s not a bad run for a completely independent, word-of-mouth effort.)

I will never be able to say thanks enough for all the encouragement and support from my friends and family and everyone who’s ever bought, borrowed, read, or shared Collect All 21! among fellow Star Wars fans and 1980s-era nostalgia loons (which I can say since I’m one of them).

The Force Will Be With You. Always.

July 2, 2013 Posted by | 1970s, 1980s, Books, Film, geek, Ohio, science fiction, writing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Jim C. Hines: Libriomancer interview and book review

Libriomancer by Jim C. Hines

Image: DAW Books

I interviewed Hugo Award-nominated author and friendly guy Jim C. Hines about his new book, Libriomancer, over at GeekDad. I also posted my thoughts on the book there, too. You want bullet points? Fine.

 

 

August 10, 2012 Posted by | Books, geek, writing | , , , | 2 Comments

Two nice reviews of Collect All 21!

A couple weeks back, Goblin Quest and Princess Series author and nice guy Jim C. Hines posted a brief review of Collect All 21! on his blog, which included this bit:

I suspect Booth and I are roughly the same age, and his stories stirred some nostalgic memories as I read. I found myself thinking back to the original Star Wars Luke Skywalker figure I owned, with the yellow lightsaber that promptly lost its skinny tip. Then when Empire came out, Luke came with a detachable lightsaber and a gun instead of the lightsaber that slid up into his arm, and that was THE MOST AWESOME THING IN THE WORLD!

As I’ve said before, knowing that I’ve helped someone dredge up a few memories of the glory days of Kenner That Was is a very cool feeling, as is, you know, getting a kind word from an author whose work you really enjoy. It’s right up there with Bespin Luke’s yellow lightsaber, and less likely to get lost under the basement stairs.

I also just found this YouTube book review video from user micahc6v8 – he starts talking about Collect All 21! around the 5:02 mark -

I’m guessing that he read the expanded electronic edition, since he doesn’t show a physical copy of the book, and he notes the $2.99 price. At any rate, he also says some positive things about my little Star Wars nostalgia trip, noting in particular that he identified with the book despite being of a different generation, which, again, is nice to hear.

March 8, 2012 Posted by | 1970s, 1980s, Books, eighties, Film, geek, Ohio, science fiction | , , , | 1 Comment

2011 in (GeekDad) review

GeekDad reviewsI reviewed some awfully fun stuff this year for GeekDad – a dozen books and a couple TV shows, most of which are well worth checking out:

Gaming Fix: Jane McGonigal’s Reality is Broken

It’s A Craft Trap! The Star Wars Craft Book by Bonnie Burton

Fuzzy Reboot: John Scalzi’s Fuzzy Nation

Geek Fantasy Novel by E. Archer

Simon Pegg’s Nerd Do Well

The Transformers Vault: Treasures from Cybertron

The Snow Queen’s Shadow by Jim C. Hines

The Science Channel: Dark Matters

Timothy Zahn’s Star Wars: Heir to the Empire 20th Anniversary Edition

Mail-Order Mysteries: Real Stuff from Old Comic Book Ads by Kirk Demarais

Man in Black: Star Wars: The Complete Vader

Amazing Everything: The Art of Scott C.

Doctor Who: The sixth series DVD set

The Millennium Falcon Owner’s Workshop Manual

December 30, 2011 Posted by | Books, Fiction, geek, science fiction, Television, writing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

2010 in Books

When I went through my journal to log this year’s books, I learned I’d been a bit lazy and had completely failed to record five of this year’s reads. Fixed.

So, here’s what I read in 2010:

The Hunger Games and Catching Fire – Suzanne Collins. My first daughter-recommended science fiction reads. Proud parenting moment.

The God Engines – John Scalzi. Dark. Bizarre. Innards-tangling. Not for the faint of heart, and a real deviation from Scalzi’s usual writing paths. I liked it.

Sailing to Byzantium – Robert Silverberg. I’ve liked Silverberg since I read Revolt on Alpha C as a kid, and when Kelsey was little, we read Lost Race of Mars together. This collection’s much more for the grown-up science fiction fan, and his take on Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Sharer is fantastic.

Zoe’s Tale – John Scalzi (re-read)

Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows – J.K. Rowling (re-read)

The Gone-Away World – Nick Harkaway. The 100 Stories for Haiti anthology reminded me that I had been meaning to read this, and I loved it. Post-apocalyptic and mind-bendy and still human. Plus it has both Pirates AND Ninjas.

Math, Science and Unix Underpants – Bill Amend

Mainspring – Jay Lake

Cleveland’s Greatest Disasters – John Stark Bellamy II

The Sagan Diary - John Scalzi. Listened to this one on the drive back from Providence in March.

PvP Levels Up – Scott Kurtz. Bought from the man himself at PAX East, signed & Scratch Fury-ed.

Fantasy Freaks & Gaming Geeks – Ethan Gilsdorf. Couldn’t put this one down: gaming and nostalgia and adventures and explorations galore.

The City & The City – China Mieville. For me, this was 2010’s equivalent to last year’s Anathem by Neal Stephenson. It’s a mental workout to read, especially in the beginning, but absolutely worth the effort.

FoxTrot: The Works – Bill Amend

Wildly FoxTrot – Bill Amend

Quixote: A Novel – Bryan J.L. Glass. Adam introduced me to Bryan at the Pittsburgh Comicon in April. ‘Cause I’m a sucker for tilting at windmills and all.

Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition Player’s Handbook – Rob Heinsoo, Andy Collins, James Wyatt

The Specific Gravity of Grief – Jay Lake. Reviewed this one for GeekDad, though I would have read it regardless.

Goblin Quest – Jim C. Hines

Daemons Are Forever – Simon R. Green. This is the second book in a series – it was a freebie from the author’s lit agency – so I started a bit behind the curve, but it was so unlike just about anything I’ve read that I got hooked pretty quickly. And James Bond references tend to go over well with me.

Found – Margaret Peterson Haddix

Scenting the Dark and Other Stories – Mary Robinette Kowal. The only thing I didn’t like about this book? Too damned short. And I wish it could have included “Evil Robot Monkey”.

Red Hood’s Revenge – Jim C. Hines. The subject of another GeekDad review, and my favorite in his Princess series so far.

Locke & Key: Vol. I, Welcome to Lovecraft – Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez

My Best Friend Is A Wookiee – Tony Pacitti. A Star Wars memoir from a younger fan’s perspective, growing up when the originals could only be seen on TV or videotape, and coming of age in the prequel era.

Mockingjay – Suzanne Collins. The kick-ass conclusion to the Hunger Games trilogy. Reviewing it for GeekDad earned me some serious bonus parenting points because it meant my daughter had it waiting for her when she got home from school on release day.

Dreadnought – Cherie Priest

Clementine – Cherie Priest. Both of these are set in the world Priest created for Boneshaker, though neither is really a sequel in the strict sense. I like this universe.

The Odious Ogre – Norton Juster. With illustrations by Jules Feiffer, this reunited the Phantom Tollbooth words-and-pictures team for the first time in almost 50 years.

Oddball Ohio: A Guide to Some Really Strange Places – Jerome Pohlen

A Western Journal – Thomas Wolfe. Inspiring me to revisit my cross-country road trip in journal form.

Little Fuzzy – H. Beam Piper. A classic of which I had no knowledge until Scalzi announced his upcoming take on the book.

Brody’s Ghost, Book 1 – Mark Crilley

Armor – John Steakley. A different, brain-cramping (in a good way) angle on the space-trooper genre tale.

Silly Rhymes for Belligerent Children – Trace Beaulieu (Illustrated by Len Peralta)

Bloom County: The Complete Library Vol. 3 1984-1986 – Berkeley Breathed

Dungeons & Dragons Essentials – Dungeon Master’s Book – James Wyatt. As someone who only recently returned to D&D, I hadn’t really begun to think about taking on the DM’s role yet. This book, though, made for a great and encouraging read in that vein – thanks Kato and Wendy! – but I also got an awful lot out of it as a new player still kind of learning the finer points of the game mechanics and structure.

December 22, 2010 Posted by | Books, Fiction, geek, Ohio, science fiction, Travel | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Road reading

imageThis is the stack of books for the road trip , and if my copy of Geek Dad arrives before next Monday, I’ll add it to the pile. And I’ll probably throw my D&D Player’s Handbook on there, too.

I’ve already started Daemons Are Forever, which is my introduction to the Eddie Drood/Shaman Bond series, even though it’s the second book. Back in May, the guys at JABberwocky Literary Agency Tweeted that they had some Simon R. Green books to give away, so I offered to take a couple off their hands. Since a) two of my favorite recently-discovered authors work with this agency and b) I went through a serious James Bond phase when I was in high school, and c) um, free books, I figured these would be something I’d enjoy.

Goblin Quest is an overdue read, and Margaret Peterson Haddix’ Found comes at the recommendation of my daughter, who’s got a short but good track record in that department.

Yes, I’m deliberately keeping the reading light. I once made the mistake of deciding that a 30-hour bus trip from Orlando to Cleveland was a fine opportunity to read my first John Steinbeck novel, and I picked The Grapes of Wrath. And did I mention that this was a trip to visit my seriously ill Dad, during the dark times of the early 1990s? I mean, not that reading something like The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy would have improved my actual situation, but it probably wouldn’t have made the already-depressing bus ride even worse.

It’s also entirely possible that this stack will grow a bit during the trip, since a visit to Mysterious Galaxy is most definitely in order when we’re in San Diego. Speaking of which: They’ve sold some copies of Collect All 21, and there are still some signed editions available, and while it would be cool to go out there and see my book on their shelves, it would be even cooler not to see them there and perhaps even drop off a few more copies if, say, they’ve sold out. (San Diego Star Wars fans? A little help? You’re awesome.)

So: The books are set. Now, there’s this matter of clothes, food, Coca-Cola, Oreos, Lemonheads…



June 7, 2010 Posted by | Books, Fiction, geek, science fiction, Travel, writing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

In Which I’m Thankful – Yet Again – To Be A Geek Dad

Kelsey and I went to the bookstore this afternoon because I’d gotten a few Borders bucks someplace or other and had a 33% off coupon, too, and I’m looking to stack up a few good reads for a long trip later this month. For myself, I picked up Jim C. Hines’ Goblin Quest, and with the leftover bucks I let Kels pick out a book for herself.

I also went looking for GeekDad editor Ken Denmead’s book, and though I had to ask an associate to point me in the right direction, there it was, right here in North Canton, Ohio and looking spiffy:

I’ve mentioned before how much I enjoy writing for GeekDad, and being a part of that group of writers and editors, and though this book is absolutely Ken’s baby, it was still a tremendously neat thing to see it there, occupying physical space on a wooden shelf, and not just as a cover image on the computer screen or excerpted text or sample pages.

Now, the book was actually released about a month ago, so I’m late to the party on this one, and if there were any mentions of what follows on Twitter or the GeekDad contributors’ mailing list, well, I must have missed them. (May and June really have been hectic, I swear.) Because as I was showing Kelsey this book that “My GeekDad editor Ken” wrote, I flipped open to this:

Ken - you rock. Seriously.

Um, holycrapthoseareallmyawesomeGeekDadfriendsandZOMGthat’sme!!!

I was just bowled the eff over, right there in the Borders, trying to juggle the phone camera and hold my books and snap this shot before realizing, “Hey, dimwit – your kid’s right here: And she’s got hands and everything.”

Make no mistake: I make NO CLAIM on ANY credit for this book, and it’s amazingly cool of Ken to have included me in there just for the bits I contribute to GeekDad, and it makes me proud to play a small part among such excellent and admirable hobbits.

Go buy this book and support a stand-up, kick-ass GEEK DAD.

June 3, 2010 Posted by | Books, Current Affairs, geek, Ohio, Web/Tech, writing | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Solar Storms and Galaxies and Why GeekDad Rocks.

Photo: SolarStormwatch.com

Photo: SolarStormwatch.com

I have a post up at GeekDad this morning about the Solar Stormwatch project, and it took me back to the very first guest post I did for the site almost a year ago, “So, How Many Galaxies Have You Classified This Week?

When that post went up last April 4, Jenn and Kelsey and I were in Florida, staying with our good friend Jim. It had been about two weeks since I’d lost my job as a news reporter and blogger, and though I was working hard to make contacts and get freelance assignments, things were off to a slow start.

Having been a fan of GeekDad since Wired launched the site, I sent a note to editor Ken Denmead, who suggested I write something up. Since I had just found Galaxy Zoo a few days earlier, I made it my topic.

I remember sitting at Jim’s living room table using the laptop on a quiet morning – I don’t recall if Ken sent me a “Hey, your post is up” email or if I was just obsessively checking GeekDad to see if they’d used it – and there it was.

Quite the encouraging spark: It was the first time post-layoff that I saw my name attached to a piece published outside my former workplace, and it was on Wired. GeekDad accepted another guest post later that month, and I came on board as a full-fledged contributor in May, just in time for Penguicon 7.0.

It’s been a year of learning and building and often struggling with this stay-at-home writing career, and though GeekDad has played a small role financially, it has meant an awful lot to me: Though I’m not the most prolific writer there, I have a ridiculous amount of fun writing for GeekDad, and the group of contributors I have come to know online over the past year is just an amazing, enthusiastic, supportive bunch.

I’ve gotten to talk with people like Bonnie Burton and Jim C. Hines and Tim Kehoe and I mean, holy crap, this month I’m going to be on a PAX East GeekDad Panel, which aside from being awesome in itself, means I get to finally meet and thank a few of my fellow GeekDads in person.

They are a solar storm of fantastic.

March 5, 2010 Posted by | Current Affairs, geek, Science, science fiction, Travel, Web/Tech, Weblogs, writing | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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