Renovations

At Kitt Peak, where I work, the 4-meter telescope is getting a new coat of paint. Also, I now have my first wave of galleys for The Astronomer’s Crypt. 4-meter-painting My editor has made a few new changes—some for the better, some I’m revising further. In all, it’s a time for renovation and renewal.

In the spirit of renovation, renewal, and hoping to make things better, I’ve been thinking about my blogs. In case you don’t know, I have two of them. On Saturday, I blog at davidleesummers.wordpress.com about steampunk, science fiction and writing. I’ve been blogging here on Mondays about horror, vampires, and writing. The lines between the topics often blur, partly because horror and vampires sneak into my steampunk from time to time, while science fiction sneaks into my horror, and so forth.

It seems to me that having two blogs is splitting my energies and my audience. Now, I’m the first to admit that not everyone who likes my steampunk will also like my vampires. Not everyone who dreams of traveling to the planet Sufiro wants to imagine the horrible nightmares I have in store in The Astronomer’s Crypt. Despite that, the lessons I learn from writing and my observations likely have a common audience.

So, my plan is to try an experiment. Starting next week, all my blog posts will be posted at davidleesummers.wordpress.com. I’ll continue on my current schedule with more steampunk and science fiction on Saturdays and more horror and paranormal fiction on Mondays.

Thanks to all those who have followed this site since I started it in 2009. If you don’t already, I encourage you to come over to my other site and follow me there, so you won’t miss a thing. Of course, another way to keep up on all my latest news is to subscribe to my newsletter. I haven’t been sending updates as often as I’d like simply because I’ve been working on several projects all at once. Not only am I working on The Astronomer’s Crypt, but I’m working on two science fiction anthologies and some new short fiction, all of which I’ll be sharing about as it comes out both on the blog and in the newsletter.

These are exciting times! Thanks for joining me on this journey!

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LepreCon 42

LepreCon Science Fiction Convention is Arizona’s Annual Sci-Fi & Fantasy Convention with an art emphasis. “Life, the Universe & Everything” is the theme for LepreCon 42 to be held June 23 – 26th, 2016 at the Park Terrace Suites in Phoenix, Arizona. The guests of honor include Jennie Breeden, creator of the webcomic The Devil’s Panties and D.C. Fontana, who wrote for Star Trek, Babylon 5, and Bonanza. For more information about the convention visit the LepreCon Website. Below, is where you can find me at the convention.

LepreCon42-banner

Thursday, June 23

    9:00-10:00pm. What Is Steampunk? Suite C. Steampunk is often referred to as the “greatest era that never was.” Our panel discussion will open the door to what Steampunk is for those new to the genre. On the panel with me are Ben Woerner and Johnna Buttrick.

Friday, June 24

    1:30-2:00pm. Autographing. Suite E. You’ll find me happy to sign your wares. I’ll have a selection of my books available to purchase.

    5:00-6:00pm. Future of Steampunk Literature. Suite E. A brief look at the history of Steampunk literature and where the future might lead us. On the panel with me is Scott Wilke.

Saturday, June 25

    11:00am-Noon. Responding to Reviews. Suite C. Learn how creators can best respond to the good, bad, and funny reviews they receive online. On the panel with me are Ben Woerner, Elizabeth Leggett, KellyAnn Bonnell, Shanna Germain, and Jennie Breeden.

Sunday, June 26

    9:30-10:30am. Surveying the Universe. Suite E. Kitt Peak’s mission is evolving. A new large spectrographic instrument is being deployed on the Mayall 4-meter and a new Doppler Spectrometer is being deployed on the WIYN 3.5-meter. What are these instruments and what do we expect to learn? What’s different about this science than the astronomy that’s been done at Kitt Peak in previous years.

    Noon-1:00 pm. Steampunk Before It Was Steampunk. Suite C. A discussion of film, TV and books that had steampunk elements before the term “steampunk” was coined. On the panel with me are Michael Flanders and Hal Astell.

In addition to these events, there’s a masquerade, a terrific art show, demos and gaming. If you’re in Phoenix, Arizona this coming weekend, I hope you’ll come in out of the heat and join us at LepreCon!

Monitoring the Skies

My editor wrote this past week to let me know she’s back at work on The Astronomer’s Crypt, my tale of what happens when frightening humans, supernatural creatures, and astronomers collide at an observatory during a terrifying storm that knocks out all the power. I’ve spoken a bit about ghost sightings at the observatory, but sometimes we deal with things even more frightening than ghosts. This last week, I spent a night working a team from the University of Arizona’s Spacewatch program, who came up to the Kitt Peak 4-meter to look for Near-Earth Objects or NEOs. Tame as that name is, NEOs are basically those objects that could collide with the Earth, ending life as we know it. Here’s the team at work in the control room.

Asteroid Hunters

The folks in the image are Bob McMillan and Jim Scotti. We were working on a full-moon night, which really isn’t optimal, but because we had a large telescope with good image resolution, we could look objects when other telescopes might not. This allows Bob and Jim to calculate more precise orbits than if they only observed closer to new moon.

The Spacewatch Program is part of a nationwide search trying to identify all objects in the solar system 140-meters or bigger. As it turns out, small asteroids present a hazard just because they’re numerous. Large asteroids are a hazard because of the amount of damage they can cause. 140-meters was determined as an intersection between these classes of asteroids. There’s no question a 140-meter asteroid would do damage. To give you an idea of how big that is, it’s about three times the size of the 17-story tall building we were sitting in:

4-meter

As it turns out, I have written a story about Spacewatch identifying an asteroid on a collision course with Earth. In this story set in the not-too-distant future, our heroes successfully destroy the asteroid, but there are unintended consequences. The story was featured in Wondrous Web Worlds, Volume 7, which you can find at Hadrosaur Productions or the Alban Lake Bookstore while you’re waiting for The Astronomer’s Crypt. I hope to have more news soon!

When Only the Moon Rages

In my craft or sullen art
Exercised in the still night
When only the moon rages
And the lovers lie abed
With all their griefs in their arms,
I labor by singing light

These are the opening lines of the poem “In my craft or sullen art” by Dylan Thomas. I’ve long thought they beautifully express what its like when a writer, and particularly a horror writer, is developing a story or a poem. I turned to these lines when I was looking for a title for a collection of short stories and poetry I published back in 2001.

When Only the Moon Rages is a collection by Wayne James. Moon_Rages There are stories about creatures of the night, people of the stars, and individuals who dare to live in those dark places few have the audacity to tread.

One story features Lieutenant Lawry, an ordinary soldier on an alien world who must fight to keep an unknown, violent creature from killing his men. In another story, Sergeant Frank Blacklin strives to keep children alive against insurmountable odds on a hostile planet. Turning his attention to Earth, Wayne James tells the story of Robert, a man who lives in a nightmarish United States gone mad, where the enemies of the State are so numerous, their bodies are pushed into a gaping trench.

Other stories are set in the present day. In one, a respectable businessman falls for a woman turned on by crime. In another, a lonely man deals with the odd neighbors down the street by buying an assault rifle. It’s clear to me Wayne James spent many hours honing his craft “when only the moon rages.” The result might be expressed in one of his own poems:

Metallic bones shoot music—
notes flash across the hypersphere,
dance between magenta nebulae.

Although the collection is fifteen years old now, I think there’s still a lot of relevance in Wayne’s writing. I hope you’ll join me on a journey to the land when only the moon rages. The collection is available at Amazon.com and Hadrosaur.com

A Vanishing Past

I’ve been working on a new short story that deals with a topic that’s at once close to my heart and more than a little frightening in a real-world sense. Set in the world of my Old Star/New Earth series, it tells a story of space pirate Captain Ellison Firebrandt and his father. Unfortunately, his father suffers from dementia. This part of the story is inspired by my mom who suffered the same thing. Despite my mom’s dealing with dementia, I never really realized that it wasn’t “just” brain chemistry but involved a physical alteration of the brain. This public domain image from Wikipedia provides a pretty dramatic illustration of the effects that can happen.

Alzheimer's_disease_brain_comparison

In the last years of my mom’s life, she lived in fear of forgetting who she was. Her short term memory became quite poor and she would forget whether or not she’d taken medications without assistance. Although she would remember events in her distant past with some clarity, I found that she started to forget events from my past, including many of the friends I’d had in high school and college. In a way, it felt as though my own past were being slowly erased, which I think was scary for both my mom and I.

One of the challenges of the anthology I’m writing for is that I have to show the person finding a path through the disorder. Unfortunately, no cures have been identified and there are few medications or therapies that can help, which makes finding a path out difficult. Fortunately, I’m writing science fiction, so I can imagine some hope in the future.

Writing science fiction, I do give the story a bit of an additional horror angle. The company Bradbury Firebrandt works for uses nanotechnology to keep him strong. He’s been an asteroid miner for so many years, he can do it even with the impairment of dementia and the company uses technology to keep him working, almost like an enslaved zombie. This is a future that I don’t want to see, but can imagine all too easily.

As for how our character saves himself, I’ll leave that as something you can read about if and when the story gets published—and I’ll be sure to share that news. What I will say is that I’m very thankful for the final years when I got to spend time with my mom and hear the stories of the early years of her marriage to my dad and spending time living with her cousin in post-World War II Los Angeles. My own past may have vanished somewhat from her life, but I still got to know her better and hopefully as I work through the story, I’ll be able to convey at least a few of the complex emotions that go with helping an older relative through the difficulties of dementia.

Halloween Treats!

Halloween is coming up and the Scarlet Order vampires would like to celebrate by giving away some treats! I have a stack of out-of-print—in some cases rare—books with copies of my stories. Read to the bottom of the post to find out how you can win one of these books.

Six-Guns-200x300

Six-Guns Straight from Hell is an anthology edited by David B. Riley and Laura Givens. This twisted collection of horror and dark fantasy tales set in the wild west will keep you turning the pages. You’ll find stories of vampires robbing banks, Chinese wizards, alchemists, ghosts and more. There are stories written by Carol Hightshoe, David Boop, Lee Clark Zumpe, Lyn McConchie, Nicole Givens Kurtz, Henrik Ramsager and more. My story in the collection is loosely tied to the Scarlet Order vampire books and tells how professors at the New Mexico School of Mines experimenting with electric lighting awoke the vampire Rudolfo from his sleep in the 1890s.

Space Horrors

Space Horrors. I edited this volume of seventeen tales guaranteed to send a shiver down your spine. You’ll meet cold and dispassionate aliens—some so large they’ll swallow your starship whole, others so small they’ll turn your blood to dust. The prospect of encountering undead creatures such as vampires and zombies on Earth is frightening enough. Imagine meeting them while trapped during an interstellar flight. You’ll join men and women as they dare to explore haunted spaceships. In the end, you may discover that the most frightening creatures we’ll encounter among the stars are humans themselves. This collection features stories by Ernest and Emily Hogan, Sarah A. Hoyt, Dayton Ward, Danielle Ackley-McPhail and a dozen more new and veteran writers. In my story, I imagine a small crew watching over a sleeper ship of colonists who notice a mysterious case of anemia developing among the passengers. Only one crewman realizes this might point to a supernatural stowaway.

Bat-Flight

Going back to 2001, Bat Flight South of Roswell is a rare find. This single-story chapbook published by Anxiety Publications contains the original short story that was finally adapted into the chapter “Incident South of Roswell” in the novel Vampires of the Scarlet Order. Christopher Garrett decides to take a few days of vacation at Carlsbad Caverns when he’s attacked by a vampire. If that weren’t enough he, along with the vampire, are abducted by aliens. The story was inspired by a visit to the UFO museum in Roswell where I noticed many similarities between stories of UFO abductions and vampire attacks. This version of the story is much different than the version that appears in the novel.

So now, for the giveaway! All you have to do to enter is leave me a comment telling me which of these three books you’d like if you win along with some way to contact you. If you would prefer not to leave contact information in comments, send a message to me at davidleesummers13[at]gmail[dot]com with your information, but you still need to comment below and let me know which book you’d like. If you do leave an email in the comments, please do so in the format I just gave.

Here’s the fun part. The more who enter, the more names I’ll draw. If I get twenty entries, I’ll draw for two prizes. If I get thirty entries, I’ll draw for all three! The person who is drawn will get the prize they requested in comments. The only exception will be if someone wins your choice before you, then I’ll write to give you the choice of those prizes remaining. Please share the contest with your friends, the more who play, the more fun it will be.

Of course, I’ll sign my stories in these books! I’ll draw names on Halloween weekend and contact winners by November 2. Good luck and Happy Halloween!

Strike Three

Science fiction arguably started with Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. It’s a cautionary tale about the dangers of humans attempting to create life. Victor Frankenstein fears and despises his creation and the creature comes to hate his creator. Of course the novel also has strong elements of horror which come through the creature’s fight for survival and his struggle against Frankenstein. As science fiction developed, it found an identity that often didn’t include the attribute of horror. However, one important place where horror and science fiction come together is in the post-apocalyptic novel.

Strike Three

This week, I had the pleasure of reading a new post-apocalyptic science fiction novel called Strike Three by Joy V. Smith. In the novel, a coalition of nation states unleash weapons of mass destruction against the world’s major powers. Those major powers, in turn, strike back with nuclear weapons. The result, is a literal scorched Earth. No plants or animals survive on the surface. Those areas that suffered nuclear attack are rendered uninhabitable for many years to come. Most of the United States is relatively lucky. Although the virus unleashed destroyed all plant matter, it died off relatively quickly after it had nothing more to feed on.

Those humans fortunate enough to seek shelter underground with sufficient supplies were able to survive the catastrophe. These folks are now charged with rebuilding a life above ground. They must plant trees, reintroduce animal life, and try to build a new society. In many ways, the novel is more concerned with the process of rebuilding than it is with the horror of destruction. However, the horror looms in the background as bodies are found in some cities and must be dealt with. Not everyone who survived is out to help others. In once case, the survivors must cope with a dangerous, but competent militia group.

One particularly fun aspect of this novel is that I was written in as a character. It’s a brief scene, but I get the honor of starting the science of astronomy in this brave new world.

One aspect I’ve often found interesting about post-apocalyptic novels is their intrinsic hopefulness. No matter how bad the disaster that befalls humankind, there are always those who fight and find a way to survive. Joy V. Smith’s Strike Three is a quick read that focuses on those positive aspects. If you want to check it out for yourself, you can find it at Smashwords and at Amazon.

I first met Joy when Hadrosaur Productions recorded her time travel story Sugar Time for audio. We’re in the process of preparing a new print edition of the Sugar Time stories. In the meantime, you can check out the original audio book at hadrosaur.com