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Drummer Boy Plays Again

Rock and roll will never die, boys and girls... but rockers do.

Time to head over to Tor.com for the last great set from Joker Plague.

That's Stephen Leigh on story, and John Picacio on artwork. The title of the album is "The Atonement Tango."



You can find it -- for free -- at http://www.tor.com/2017/01/18/the-atonement-tango/

Boogie on down and give a listen!

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Hugo Time

It's that time again. Another year has ended, another worldcon is on the horizon (The Finnish Convention, this August, in Helsinki), and nominations are once again open for the Hugo Awards for the best science fiction and fantasy of 2016.

To nominate, you need to be a member of at least one of these three worldcons:
-- MidAmericon II, last year's Kansas City worldcon,
-- the current year's worldcon, in Helsinki,
-- the 2018 worldcon, ConJose II, in San Jose, California.

Unless you've got a time machine, it's too late to join MidAmericon II, but signing up for Helsinki and San Jose is easy enough... and the sooner you do it, the less you'll be spending, since the cost of membership rises as we get nearer to the con. You do NOT have to attend to be able to nominate. Supporting Memberships are also available, at a much lower rate.

To join the Helsinki con, go to:
http://www.worldcon.fi/

To join for San Jose, the address is:
http://www.worldcon76.org/

Join one, join the other, join both. Come if you can, but nominate even if you can't.

Once you've signed up, you will be sent your own personalized link to the nominations page, which will allow you to nominate the books, stories, movies, television shows, artists, fans, and editors whose work most wowed you this past year.

The Hugo Awards were first given in 1953, and remain our field's most prestigious, important, and meaningful awards. The list of Hugo winners is a Who's Who in science fiction and fantasy, and you can have a voice in determining which names are added to that distinguished roster besides those of Alfred Bester, Robert A. Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, Roger Zelazny, Ursula K. Le Guin, Jack Vance, Connie Willis, Samuel R. Delany, N.K. Jemisin, James Tiptree Jr, Harlan Ellison, Robert Silverberg, Gardner Dozois, Lois McMaster Bujold, Orson Scott Card, Poul Anderson, Frank Herbert, Anne Leckie, Anne McCaffery, and so many many more.

And yes, come to worldcon if you can. The best place to meet and hang with your favorite writers. Including me...

Playoffs, Round Two

So this past weekend was the divisional round of the NFL playoffs.

And, yes, being a football fan I watched them all, even though my Giants were eliminated last week (and the Jets never got within shouting distance).

There was good news and bad news for the people of Houston. The bad news was, Evil Little Bill and his Patriots dismissed the Texans rather soundly. (Not unexpected, sad to say. Not when you have Osweiler going up against Brady). The good news was, the Cowboys lost, thereby eliminating any chance of a Cowboys/ Patriots Superbowl, so right-minded fans no longer need to root for a giant asteroid to strike Houston. Now we can simply root for whoever is playing New England.

With neither of my teams involved, I had a lot less invested in this weekend's contests. The Saturday games were both pretty one-sided, so much so that I found myself multi-tasking and doing other stuff while watching. The Sunday games were better... especially the epic struggle between the Packers and the Cowboys. That one looked like a blowout too when the Pack went up 21-3, but somehow Dallas fought back, and tied the game at 28 and then again at 31. Looked like overtime, but they made the mistake of leaving thirty seconds for Aaron Rodgers. His sideline pass to set up the winning field goal was the thing of beauty, a throw and catch to rival Eli's superbowl tosses to Tyree and Manningham. And afterwards, in the wake of the Cowboy defeat, America got to see Jerry Jones making his I-am-sucking-on-sour-lemons face, last seen in 2007 when it was the Giants who sent the Boys home.

The Kansas City/ Pittsburgh game also came down to the last second, yet somehow was not nearly as exciting. The Steelers won without scoring a touchdown. That's not going to cut it next week against the Patriots and Evil Little Bill.

So... Pittsburgh at New England, Green Bay at Atlanta.

Should be fun.

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Another Precinct Heard From

Just signed contracts with TEAS Press for Azerbaijani editions of A Song of Ice and Fire. A first for me.

This marks the forty-seventh different language that Ice & Fire has been translated into. Not half bad. And moving in on the half-century mark.

Makes me wonder how many living languages we have on the planet at the moment. Not counting Klingon and Dothraki and other fictional tongues.

How It All Began

Curious about where the Wild Cards series came from, lo these thirty years ago?

All your question... well, okay, some of your questions... are answered in the latest video from Tor Books, cut together from the hours of interviews they taped at last summer's Kansas City worldcon, during the launch party for HIGH STAKES.



This is the third in the series. You can find the first two on the new Wild Cards website.

There will be more.

(Please restrict your questions and comments to Wild Cards).

((Signed copies of HIGH STAKES and many other Wild Cards books are available from the Jean Cocteau Cinema bookshop)).

Greed Is Not Good

The news just broke that the San Diego Chargers will be relocating to Los Angeles next season.

San Diego has loyally supported the team since the old AFL days in the early 60s. Win or lose, the fans loved their Bolts.

LA has never supported any football team unless it was winning, and preferably winning big. Once LA had two teams, and that was great when they won; when they hit down years, as all teams do, the Raiders and Rams were both abandoned. That's why they left town twenty years ago, both in the same year. Last year the Rams came back... but they lost, and before season's end, they were playing before tens of thousands of empty seats.

I'd say the same fate awaits the Chargers, except I read that they will be playing in a small 30,000 seat venue for a couple years until the new Rams stadium (where they will be a tenant, like the Jets in old Giants Stadium) is complete. That's smart, I suppose. Nothing else about the move is.

It's all about greed. And despite what you may have heard Gordon Gekko say, greed is NOT good. (Too many people seem to lose sight of the fact that he was the VILLAIN of that film).

I am a fan of the Giants and Jets, both of whom have great loyal fan bases and seem likely to remain where they are for decades to come... but I know what it is to have your heart torn out when a greedy owner moves your team away. When I was a child, I was a Dodgers fan... the Brooklyn Dodgers, thank you very much, the Boys of Summer, one of baseball's great iconic franchises, playing in one of baseball's great iconic ballparks, Ebbets Field. The Dodgers were the heart and soul of Brooklyn; never has a city loved a team so much, or had so much of its identity bound up with them. The city that was Brooklyn died when the Dodgers departed; the gentrified borough that remains is just a bedroom community for Manhattan. (Okay, they still have fantastic pizza, gotta give 'em that).

The Dodger fans (and the fans of the baseball Giants, similarly bereft) eventually got the Mets, which helped some... especially in '69 and '86... but the pain is still there, down deep, when we think back on it. Ebbets Field was old and run-down and small, yeah, but it was wonderful in the same way that Fenway Park and Wrigley Field are wonderful. Those ballparks have become legendary and historic, cherished by the people of Boston and Chicago respectively, and I don't think anyone would dare to tear them down now. The same thing would have happened to Ebbets Field if only it had lasted a few more years and managed to survive the fad for building hideous concrete multi-purpose stadiums that dominated the 60s. (And indeed that is exactly what has happened in the Wild Cards universe, an alternate world where Walter O'Malley contracted the wild card virus before he could move the team. He turned into a pile of slime, but it was days before anyone noticed the difference).

Maybe because of my early childhood trauma at losing the Dodgers, I have never liked the various relocations that have plagued both football and baseball over the decades. The ONLY cases where I think it is warranted are those where a city stops supporting its team or teams... as happened in LA with the Raiders and the Rams. But the rest? Bob Irsay slinking out of Baltimore in the dead of night with the Colts? Despicable. Al Davis abandoning Oakland, spending a decade in LA, then moving back? Offensive. Art Modell moving the Browns from Cleveland? Shame, shame.

Cleveland did get a new Browns team, so at least they got to keep the name and tradition (though the original Browns, now the Ravens, are a perennial contender who won a SuperBowl after the move, while the expansion Browns have pretty much sucked since they were reborn, so it was hardly a fair swap). The good fans of Baltimore did not even get that. The 'Colts' name and colors should have stayed when Irsay left. Let the Indianapolis team start fresh with a new name and uni, as the Ravens did. It would be splendid if the NFL would rule that Spanos can move his team, but the name 'Chargers' and the lightning bolt and the powder blues should all remain with San Diego, for however long it takes for them to get an expansion team. The relocated team can be the LA Earthquakes, since I think their tenure in Lalaland is going to be pretty shaky. If what I read is true, neither the city nor the Rams want them there.

Green Bay has the right idea. The Packers are owned by the people of Green Bay. Would that were true in more cities. If I were only a billionaire (not even close, sorry), I'd buy an NFL franchise and leave it to the city upon my death... except, alas, I am told that NFL rules no longer allow that. So there will never be another Green Bay, and the billionaire owners will continue to move their teams around the country in search of ever newer, bigger, glitzier stadiums paid for by the fans and taxpayers, stadiums that can generate hundreds of millions in profits instead of merely tens of millions.

Charger fans, I feel for you.

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Bundling the Wild Cards

Haven't tried Wild Cards yet?

Well, here's your chance.

Tor Books is doing a special ebook bundle of the first five volumes of Wild Cards. (Including the new editions of volumes one and four, with five additional stories).



The whole bundle is available for only $39.99, starting today, from
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01N4FQ1X1
or
http://us.macmillan.com/books/9780765397188

Here's your chance to find out who Gregg Hartmann is, meet Dr. Tachyon and the Four Aces, ride with Jetboy on his last flight, go into action with the Great and Powerful Turtle, hang with Fortunato and hunt with Yeoman. Can't beat that.

Once you've read the first five books, of course, you'll be reaching for volume six, ACE IN THE HOLE. We've got good news on that front as well. Tor will be releasing the long-awaited reissue on February 28, in trade paperback. With another stunning cover from Michael Komarck.



Fly high, aces!

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Doom, Despair, Defeat

So far, the new year is off to a terrific start. Not.

Yesterday mostly sucked.

All the playoff games sucked, actually. The four wild card teams all lost, the four home teams all won, and every game ended in a rout. Most of them were over long before the fourth quarter rolled around. Of course, for me personally the worst of them was the last, when the Green Bay Packers routed my Giants. That one was actually a game for the first three quarters. The Giants defense came out loaded for bear, and stuffed the Packers and their bad man for most of the first half... but the Giants offense could not seem to take advantage, which (sadly) has been true most of the season. The running game, which had shown signs of life last week against the Skins, lay down and died again, and the passing game was erratic at best, with both Odell Beckham Junior and Sterling Shepard both dropping sure touchdown passes. OBJ dropped a number of other passes as well. Not his finest hour. In fact, it may well have been the worst game I have ever seen him play. Eli was pretty sharp for the most part, but when the receivers keep dropping balls delivered right into their hands, that does not count for much.

The result was that a quarter and a half of total Giant dominance yielded only two field goals and a paltry 6-0 lead. I knew that would not hold up (you cannot stop a qb as talented as Rodgers forever), and of course it didn't. The Packers took the lead for good late in the second quarter with a solid drive that made it 7-6, and then tacked on another touchdown with an insane hail mary pass just as time was running out, to take a 14-6 lead into the half.

The Giants defense did have one more great stop left in them, turning back the Packers on a 3rd and 1 and then a 4th and 1 at midfield, then taking the ball and scoring their only TD of the game on a beautiful long pass from Eli to Tavaris King, who actually caught the ball and made it 14-13. That was the high water mark, however. After that, Rodgers could not be stopped. Big Blue's D was plainly winded by then, and the offense gave them no help at all with a series of 3-and-outs and punts. Bad punts, too. For whatever reason, the Packer punter had a much better day, so much so that the Giants seemed to lose twenty yards of field position with every exchange. In the second half, Eli was repeatedly starting from inside his ten, Rodgers from midfield.

So: season over, Big Blue is done, the Packers go on. Here's hoping they crush the Cowboys. And yes, it's true, Aaron Rodgers is a baaaaaaaaaddddd man.

All in all, a pretty good season for the Giants. But I never really believed this was their year. The defense started slow but ended as one of the best in the league, but the offense never came alive. Next year, maybe, Big Blue can make another run, but first we need to (1) improve the offensive line, and (2) get ourselves a running game. A great young tight end would help as well. Will Tye is okay, but Mark Bavaro he's not. He's not even Jeremy Shockey.

All the teams I cared about having been eliminated, I am now rooting for Whoever Plays the Cowboys and Whoever Plays the Patriots. And if we wind up with a Cowboy/ Patriot SuperBowl, I will be rooting for A Giant Asteroid Strikes Houston.

Of course, the weekend was not all about football. Last night we also had the Golden Globes. Where Lena Headey lost, and GAME OF THRONES lost, and WESTWORLD and its two amazing actresses lost as well. Pfui. That was disappointing, but not unexpected. The Hollywood Foreign Press Association surprised me this year by nominating three genre shows -- GOT, WESTWORLD, and STRANGER THINGS -- for Best Drama, but in the end they reverted to form and passed over all of them in favor of the safe choice, the 'prestige' historical drama THE CROWN. (Which I did enjoy, mind you, even though I went away thinking that while it may have been good to be the king in the Middle Ages, it really sucked to be the queen in the 1950s). So: no Globes for us.

The highlight of the Globes -- and the day -- was Meryl Streep's speech.

Underwood Defeats Trump

Well, looks like Frank Underwood would defeat Donald Trump in a landslide, based on the responses to my last post. Gregg Hartmann finished a distant third, and many comments ignored his candidacy entirely... which is mostly a result of name recognition, I think. Trump is, alas, real, and Underwood is featured in a hit television show. A character from a series of books just cannot compete, even when the series is as long-running and popular as Wild Cards has been.

Plainly, many of you need to read more Wild Cards. Get right on that, please! A new year is a great time for a new addiction! (And you can get signed copies from the Jean Cocteau bookshop).

One aside before I return to the subject of presidents. I was disappointed by how many of the comments chose to ignore my request to stay on topic and stay off real world politics. By now, of course, I am used to the people who will send comments about GAME OF THRONES and WINDS OF WINTER, no matter what the actual topic of the original post is, so that was no surprise. But when I say "no real world politics, please" and still get long screeds about Hilary with nary a mention of Underwood or Hartmann, that displays either a lack of reading comprehension or a certain fundamental discourtesy. If you want to play here, you need to play by my rules.

Getting back to presidents... one point raised by a number of comments got me curious. Several persons observed that Underwood was a murderer; that is, that he had actually killed people with his own hands. True enough. But that started me wondering -- how many actual American presidents and presidential candidates have done the same? How many of our presidents have been killers?

(Note that I say 'killer' and not 'murderer,' which is a somewhat different thing).

I am a history junkie, as many of you know, but as much history as I've read, I'm unsure of the answer to that question. There's only one president that I know for certain took a life himself, personally (as opposed to commanding troops in combat, or declaring war). That would be Andrew Jackson, who once killed a man in a duel. If we broaden the field to include vice-presidents and candidates, you also have Aaron Burr, who rather famously shot Alexander Hamilton.



Yet surely there must be others. Many of our presidents came from a military background. Grant, Washington, and Eisenhower were famous generals before reaching the presidency, and they were far from the only ones. William Henry Harrison and Zachary Taylor were also famous generals, and a lot of the presidents after the Civil War had served as generals in the Union army. There were also plenty of presidents who fought in one war or another in less exalted ranks. JFK and PT 109, for instance. Even Lincoln fought in the Black Hawk War in Illinois as a young man.

Serving in the ranks and commanding troops is not the same as killing with your own hands, however. Not having read all of their various memoirs or biographies, I have no idea whether Grant or Eisenhower or Washington or any of our other commanders in chief ever mentioned having shot someone in the face or stabbed them in the belly with a bayonet when they were still captains or corporals or whatever (generals don't usually actually gets their hands bloody, at least during the modern era) during their long military careers.

I know there are history wonks out there even more obsessive than me. Does anyone know? How many of our past presidents and presidential candidates were killers? We have Andrew Jackson and... anyone else?

(And please spare me comments like 'FDR was a killer because he brought us into WWII.' That is NOT the question on the table).

Once again: please stay on topic.

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Bad Presidents

Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.

But sometimes fiction can take truth and turn it up to eleven.

We all know how the recent presidential election turned out in the real world. Hilary Clinton won by three million votes, but Donald Trump is going to take office in a week and a half, thanks to the electoral college, James Comey, and some Russian hackers. I've seen a lot of Trump voters saying, yes, Trump was bad, but they thought Clinton was worse, so... lesser of two evils and all that. (FWIW, I don't think Hilary was evil, but even if we accept that premise, no way she was the lesser when up against the Pussygrabber-in-Chief).

I don't want to talk real world politics here, however. We've done a lot of that this past year, and we have four more years of it ahead of us.

Instead I want to expand the "choice of evils" template with a little thought experiment, and weigh Trump against some fictional presidents and presidential candidates.

So... if the recent presidential election had pitted Donald Trump against Francis Underwood (HOUSE OF CARDS) and Gregg Hartmann (WILD CARDS), who would you have voted for?



And if you don't know who Gregg Hartmann is... well, go check out our new Wild Cards website at http://www.wildcardsworld.com/ . Our plan is to keep the site fresh with blog posts every couple of weeks, and the first of those just went up: a rumination by Stephen Leigh on the long and storied career of Gregg Hartmann, aka Puppetman, whose saga lasted from the first volume of WILD CARDS all the way through volume fifteen.

Read it and enjoy, and post your choices here: Trump, Underwood, or Hartmann. With reasons.

NO off topic comments, please.

FWIW, Hartmann never did manage to achieve the White House in the Wild Cards universe. But Leo Barnett did, so I am not sure that's a total win...

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