Clayton J. Callahan- Author

I am Clayton Callahan. I write novels I design games. I hang out. I do nerdy things at science fiction conventions, and I’ve worked in a lot of jobs that required me to wear uniforms and carry guns.

As I am a college educated suburbanite, of course, I have a blog. This is a place to share what I find intriguing, stimulating and cool in the world of science fiction, gaming and things related to that stuff.

I hope you find what thrills you here.

 

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I am Don Quixote…No Kidding

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Today, I finally found out who I am. This is who I have always been and will always be until I die. This is not who I wish to be. It’s deeper than wishing. It’s solid fact, unchangeable as the sun at its zenith. I am Don Quixote.
Don’t believe me? You don’t have to.
Now, in my youth, I was part of the Society for Creative Anachronism, a medieval re-enactment club that celebrated chivalry and honor above all else. I was part of that world for a long time and even met my wife in it. In that society, we would say to one another that we were “in service to the dream,” and we meant it. It was to be an apprenticeship of sorts and although I haven’t been to a tournament in over a decade, the lessons I learned back then still can be read deep within my constitution.
Like me, the fictional Spanish Lord was steeped in the ancient lore of heroes whose courage and tenacity in the face of adversity was charged with pure intent and noble purpose. And like me, Don Quixote was never a proper knight. No king or queen of any kingdom ever touched his shoulders with a sword save the principality that was mapped within his own heart.
Once Don Quixote discovered who he truly was, he embarked on a great quest to right the wrongs of the world and do all the good he could for the very sake of doing good by itself. And in this quest, Don Quixote failed. He encountered no real dragons or giants, but famously attacked windmills in his delusions. He was laughed at and misunderstood by many along his journey, and he did not accomplish much in the way of the world.
And I also have also failed in many of my lifelong quests.
However, Don Quixote succeeded beyond the limits of even his shining vision. He changed not the outer material world but the inner soul of the world itself. The light of his sincere folly has thus shined since 1602 as an example and inspiration to us all. He showed us that people can be more than the limits of their worldly power and aspire to a greatness that no one can truly achieve. Not bad for a fictional character, eh?
I am the correctional officer who dreams of being a successful novelist. I am the local political activist with a laptop who toils to shake the foundations of unchecked privilege in a corrupt and jaded nation. I am the father who wades into the sea and orders to waves to stop splashing upon his children. I am the cancer patient who tells the disease it will not have me without a fight. And I am the husband who never has nor ever will give up on his wife.
And still, I have failed many times in this material realm and expect to fail again.
Will I be remembered as Don Q has been? No. Once those who know me are gone I expect no legacy. Which makes my struggles all the nobler and all the less notable simultaneously. Should I care for such enduring recognition from posterity? Not one whit. For I am the man from La Mancha, and I am not the first nor the last of my kind.
The fight is noble as long as the purpose is noble and the warrior never gives up. Failure is often inevitable, but failure is also completely irrelevant to a Quixote! Success is measured not in the winning but in the striving. And the striving serves as a beacon to others to seek what is worthy and good within the human soul.
I am Don Quixote, but I am not the only one. And I salute all my fellow knights who brandish their broadswords, scimitars, katanas, and pocket knives in the cause of right all around this wicked world.
Clayton J. Callahan

Social Justice Warriors Are Not Ruining Science Fiction!

So hear’s the thing… I am frequently running into fans of science fiction who are half my age and proport to be more knowledgeable about the genre than I, and what’s more, they can explain to me exactly why it’s all going straight to hell.

To cut to the chase of their rather lengthy arguments, they claim that social justice warriors (SJWs) are destroying all that’s good in science fiction. Now, I’ve never met someone who calls themselves an SJW and have only heard it used as an insulting term. But whoever these SJW may, or may not, be the complaint is that science fiction will never recover from their vandalism of the genre. Which leaves me with just one question, WHAT ARE THEY SMOKING?

From my old-fart fan point of view, science fiction has never been better. Don’t believe me? Just try to sit through the movie Zardoz or any episode of Space 1999, I dare you. Have you ever read any James Blish? Well, I sure don’t recommend him. I suffered through his novel All The Stars a Stage thirty-five years ago; and still, have scars on my eyelids from having to prop ’em up with toothpicks to get to the end. Often authors who were good at high concept were bad at storytelling and some of the better storytellers didn’t seem to have much to say (I’m talking to YOU Poul Anderson with your Flanery series).

Was there any good stuff back in the 1970s and 80s? Well of course, if you knew where to look. Star Wars naturally wasn’t hard to find, but Callahan’s Crosstime Saloon might be. Anything by Ray Bradbury could be depended on to sooth the geeky soul, and I highly recommend Phill Foglio’s Buck Godot comics. But finding that good stuff among piles of mediocrity could be a tedious task and one could grow weary. Why sometimes we’d just watch an episode of V so that we could pretend to be interested in a new SF TV show.

To Quote Billy Jole, “The good old days weren’t always good and tomorrow’s not as bad as it seems.”

Now, thanks to the internet we have access to all the good stuff from the past and can take our pick of some really good stuff being made today. The Marvel movies are generally very good, and DC gets it right every now and again. Some really good novels are available at the click of an icon (I recommend Redshirts by John Scalzi). And the writing, acting, and production values of today’s Dr. Who beat the tar out of much of the earlier stuff (although Tom Baker still rocked the part). So what are these fanboys complaining about when they moan about SJWs ruining science fiction?

In a word: diversity.

Star Trek Discovery featured–gasp–a black woman captain and the new Dr. Who has boobs. Star Wars is no longer comprised of a cast of a half dozen white guys and one solitary gal but instead has a black stormtrooper, women in leadership positions, a Hispanic pilot dude and an Asian female mechanic–oh the horror of it all.

Now, what I’ve got to say might sound weird, but I expect it’s fairly simple. Good science fiction depends on a good concept coupled with, a plot to carry it to completion, and good characters to lead you through the story. That’s it! If your concept allows you to explore strange new frontiers and entertain ideas imaginatively, you’ve got a good start. If your plot keeps the audience engaged and eager to see how it all ends, you’ve got a story to tell. And finally, if the characters are interesting, three-dimensional people who behave logically in accordance with their unique personalities, it doesn’t matter a tinker’s damn what gender of color they are!

I turned away from Star Trek Discovery because it had a bad concept, plot, and the character’s acted stupidly. It had nothing to do with the fact that Captian Yeoh was Asian because frankly, who cares?

True, once upon a time science fiction was a pasty white sausage festival, and why anybody considers that a good thing I have no idea. Today, we have more diverse characters and I think that’s good. But diversity alone doesn’t make it better or worse form a storytelling point of view. So why take pains to inclued the previously unincluded?

Well, for one reason it makes science fiction more appealing to a wider audience. And what’s wrong with that? Any art form that isn’t reaching out to new audiences is a dying art form and likely will go unmourned to the grave. Besides, new actors, writers, and directors of non-traditional genders and skin tones often bring new insights with them that enrich the genre as a whole. Thus new directions open up for every fan to explore, and I call that a good thing.

So no, I do not see SJWs ruining anything in science fiction. Good SF will always shine over bad, and I am happy that the good stuff is a lot easier to find these days. It’s best to judge the work on concept, plot, and characters, my friends. And don’t get wrapped around the axil about what ethnicity or gender the protagonist is. After all, do you know of any SF story where having a white male for a protagonist made up for crappy writing or bad acting?

I didn’t think so.

By Clayton J. Callahan

 

The Camp David / Battlestar Accords

So, it has just been brought to my attention that FORTY YEARS AGO this week Battlestar Galactica was first seen by television audiences. That’s right, it was on September 17, 1978, that the full 148-minute pilot premiered on the ABC network. It’s an event I remember well.

Because I was stoked!

If you’re wondering why forty years ago is in all caps above, the reason is simple. I was ten years old when the dang thing aired, and I have a hard time believing that so much time has gone by so fast. That’s right, I’m fifty…and that’s not old, right?

Anyway, I do recall that day in unusual clarity. Star Wars had blown my mind that previous summer of 1977, and ever since I saw it, I was eating up all the Flash Gordon and Star Trek on TV I could watch. But here in this “Battlestar” thing was something new. Not an old serial from the 1930s or a show that had been in re-runs since the 1960s. But a new space show with all the bells and whistles my ten-year-old heart craved; robots, fighter ships, and blasters–oh my. The show had been hyped in Starlog Magazine and commercials for its premiere were all over the airwaves. I couldn’t wait to see it. What was the show even about? I had no fraggin idea, it was space and that was good enough for me.

On the night Battlestar Galactica went on the air, I had secured a big bowl of popcorn and my parent’s promise that I’d get to watch the whole thing. As it was scheduled, the two-hour-plus show was going to keep me up an hour past bedtime but that didn’t seem like a big deal. The epic show opened with some brief character introduction and then BOOM, the Twelve Colonies were completely destroyed in a cataclysmic Cylon on Human battle.

And then, ABC News broke in with; “We now interrupt this program…”

On that same night, September 17, 1978, after twelve days of secret negotiations, the leaders of Israel and Egypt had reached an agreement and signed the Camp David Peace Accords in the presence of American President Jimmy Carter. And they picked the middle of the most hyped show in my elementary school world as the perfect time to announce their treaty. In agony, I watched for an hour as Anwar El Sadat and Menachem Begin slowly signed a piece of paper and shook hands. Didn’t these people know the fate of the galaxy was at stake?

In my most mature ten-year-old whine, I complained to my parents but to no avail. For some reason, they seemed to think that peace between two actual countries was more important than a Cylon attack on a fictitious bunch of colonies. Nevertheless, mom and dad (and mostly dad) kept their promise, and when Battlestar Galactica returned to our TV screen, I was able to watch the show to its late-night end.

Of course, I wasn’t worth a fig in school the next day. My teacher found me sleeping at my desk, and when I honestly reported the reason I couldn’t stay awake a phone call was placed to my father. To this day I’m glad they called Dad…because Mom would have really lit into me. My father, however, merely took full responsibility for allowing his boy to stay up late; and swallowed the shame in the certain knowledge his son wasn’t destined for any sports hall of fame but would probably waste his life going to goofy conventions and publishing science fiction novels (now available on Amazon!).

So now, I’m fifty, and to be honest I’m quite happy that Israel and Egypt haven’t spilled each other’s blood in over forty years. In fact, I’d give the leaders of the Middle East the chance to interrupt The Orvil, the new lady Dr. Who, and one of my book signings if they would write a few more of those peace accords. But unfortunately, peacemaking presidents seem in very short supply these days.

Still, it’s worth reflecting on. Childhood fancy and grown-up priorities always race neck and neck in our lives. Now, I do not pretend to know which will come in first at the end of my race. But I intend to keep writing science fiction and working for peace in this world as long as I can.

By Clayton J. Callahan

PS: Jimmy, if you ever decide to run again, I’ll vote for you 🙂

H.G. Wells, The World’s First Gamer

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The man was truly a phenomenon. Born to be a nobody in working-class Britain (His mother’s great ambition was for him to became a draper) he instead went on to become a groundbreaking science fiction writer, advocate for free love (during the Victorian age no less), and the inventor of the entire gaming hobby as we know it today.

Do you play HaloWarhammer 40K? 15mm Napoleonic miniatures games? Dungeons and Dragons? Thank H.G!

Wells published the worlds first set or wargaming rules back in 1913. It had the rather exhaustive full title of; Little Wars: a game for boys from twelve years of age to one hundred and fifty and for that more intelligent sort of girl who likes boys’ games and books. It was a simple set of rules for the one to three-inch tin soldiers that were popular in the day. Rules covered simple infantry, calvary movement and for artillery, a spring-loaded toy cannon was used to knock down troops with wooden cannonballs.

What does this have to do with Halo, you ask? Or even with Dungeons and Dragons? After all, shooting tin toys with wooden cannon balls seems worlds removed from blazing away at Covenant aliens from a Warthog with a mini-gun…or dose it? Everything has a beginning, often crude but without beginnings, there would be no stories.

H.G Wells got gaming started. He envisioned a structured game with models wherein players took on the imaginary rolls of war heroes and strove to outdo each other in fictitious combat. And whether you roll multisided dice or maneuver your thumbs over a game controller, you now know who’s your hobby’s daddy is; a dearly departed, science fiction genius and renaissance man named Herbert Goerge Wells.

And thanks, H.G, from all of us.

By Clayton J. Callahan

Rose City Comicon 2018

When I was a lad of say, sixteen years, science fiction conventions were these small affairs that took place in airport hotels and run down community centers. But oh my, how times have changed.

Today, I just spent the day at the Portland, Oregon Convention Center with about thirty-five to forty thousand of my fellow geeks.

No kidding, the line just to have your bag checked literally wrapped around the block–twice, and I pity anyone who didn’t pre-register. Still, I have to admit, despite the crowded hall, I had a great time.

Dressed in my very best Star Wars rebel trooper uniform, I spend a day with like-minded souls as we discussed costuming, comic books, and old science fiction TV shows. And for one who grew up in the time when geeks needed to hide their passions from an unfriendly world, a modern Comicon is truly an amazing experience.

If you’ve never been to a fan convention of any kind, I highly recommend you go. Comicons are huge affairs that are well advertised and you can easily find one in most major cities. However, for every huge event, there are dozens of smaller cons that deserve your attention too. Remember what Yoda said, “Size matters not.” Because big or small, cons are a great chance to let your hair down and be yourself among people who won’t judge you for preferring to watch Dr. Who over Monday Night Football.

By the way, dressing in costume is never a requirement at any con. If you enjoy that sort of thing (as I do), you can get as creative as you want. If, however, cosplay is not your thing, just dress in the way that makes you feel comfortable. I think you will find that your fellow conventioneers will accept you no matter your appearance, as long as you’re polite and extend that same courtesy to them.

So, to coin a spots wear slogan, just go out there and do it. Use this interweb thingy to find something in your area and simply show up. And while you’re there, attend a few panels, schmooze with fans, play a few role-playing games in the game room, or buy that specific comic book you’ve been looking for since you were twelve that some random merchant at the con just happens to have. In short, have yourself a good time.

Because let’s face it, we all need a chance to blow off steam and have some fun before we die, right?

By Clayton J. Callahan

 

 

Everything is Politics Now

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I recently posted this pic to a Diesel Punk fan page, and Holy Mother of Mayonaze did it get attention. A loud and spirited “discussion” quickly took place on the rightness or wrongness of punching Nazis.

Now, I will say right here and now that I concur with the assessment of Dr. Henry Jones Senior (You know, Indie’s dad) when he referred to the Nazis as “the slime of humanity.” The crimes committed by Hitler and his followers cannot be excused or forgotten. However, I will not say whether or not I think every skin-headed moron with a swastika tattoo should be punched on sight. Rather, I will let the people who know me imagine under what circumstances I would (and have) punched anyone.

What I will say is this:

The above pic has been around for a long time. I think I first saw it back in 2010 but it may be older. At the time I first saw it, nobody would have thought this picture had anything to do with current events. The Nazis had been consigned to the dustbin of history for so long that joking about punching one was in the same category as punching a Viking warrior or Roman Centurian. However, I am sad to say that no longer seems to be the case in America and that depresses me.

Folks, we Americans need to step up our game. The fact that Nazis are now a living breathing force in our politics can only be called a national disgrace. After all, we are the nation that led the Allied forces to defeat Hitler in the first place! In fact, I once proudly served with the US Army’s 101st Airborne Division, also known as the “Band of Brothers,” who recently had a TV series made about how we smashed Nazi Germany flat back in the day.

Today, I am a science fiction writer. As such, I am always imagining what the future will be like, and in none of my works will you find Nazis occupying that future. And the reason for that is quite simple to tell; Nazis only belong in America’s past, and the more distant the past the better.

By Clayton J. Callahan