Why Write a Book About a Space Bar

Callahan's Place

Remember high school? Yea, I know, most of us try to forget. Back then homeroom was typically that least eventful part of the educational day. But I was lucky. My homeroom was also the classroom for the schools’ Science Fiction Lit. teacher. I sat in the back…right next to his bookshelf, and from there I heard a book literally call my name:Callahan’s Crosstime Saloon by Spider Robinson. Now, when your last name happens to be Callahan and you love science fiction YOU WILL read that book.

Callahan'sCallahan’s is a saloon “somewhere in Long Island” that is patronized by alien cyborgs, vampires, talking dogs, hippie musicians, and time travelers. The first book is basically a collection of short stories that originally appeared in Analog Magazine. They’re pretty good stories too. Spider Robinson has a wry sense of humor and a great insight into human nature. He wrote several sequels such as Time Travelers Strictly Cash, and Callahan’ Lady which were popular from the late 1970s to late 1980s. I read them all. I read them all twice.

Another roundAfter I ran out of Callahan’s books I started looking around for other science fiction bar tales, but sadly, few were to be found. While in Singapore in 1989 (a port of call, I was in the US Navy) I found a book called Another Round At The Spaceport Bar which turned out be an anthology of short stories by such authors as Robert A. Heinlein. It was good…but not good enough. The stories had no connection to one another as they did in Spider Robinson’s work.

Years went by, and in the back of my mind, I was still looking for a book that hadn’t been written yet. Something with a lot of humor, camaraderie and a smattering of space adventure. But nobody seemed to be writing that kind of stuff anymore. Then I started thinking about all the times I’d gotten a little tipsy in “con-suites.” You know, those hospitality rooms that can be found on the upper floor of a hotel that’s hosting a science fiction convention? Yea, con-suites, where you meet SF fans from all over the country and can have a great chat about which is better, Star Trek or Star Wars and the like. Folks are often in costume at a con, dressed as some space adventurer or another, and I got to thinking what if they really WERE space adventurers having drinks and swapping stories?

That’s when The Screaming Eagle started to take shape in my mind. A bar on a distant planet where space adventurers of all stripes come to have a brew and tell tales.

My hat’s off to Spider Robinson and all the good science fiction writers who inspired me along the way. And thanks to all my readers, an author is nothing without an audience.

The Death Of The Old Guard and the Birth Of The New

 perihelion_science_fiction_sweatshirt

The science fiction short story is an ancient and honorable art form. Many of the great SF authors of antiquity got their start practicing the craft and found their niche in the pages of Astounding, Galaxy and Analog. My first encounters with these magazines were as a high school student waiting for homeroom to finally be over. I read some great stuff like Astounding, Galaxy and Analog; like Ender’s Game by Orion Scott Card (yes a short story before it was a book, and before he became such a homophoic nutjob) and The Cold Cash War by Robert Lyn Asprin (also later made into a book). These great stories inspired my understanding of SF and made there way into my gaming in subtle and obvious ways. Unfortunately, the SF short story magazine is dead.
Galaxy went under in the 1980s and Astounding changed it’s name, and it’s focus, when it became Analog. Analog still exists as a print magazine but…it’s BORING! Seriously, the print magazines of today are simply no fun to read. The stories focus on high-minded technologic what-ifs to the detriment of a good tale. No elements of humor, of adventure are allowed to cross the page and the characters are as interesting as American cheese on white bread.
The good news is that there is a new place for the SF short story in the new millennium. Online publications like Lightspeed, Apex and Perihelion have stepped into the gap, and are publishing some very good stuff. I laughed out loud when I read To Dance With The Girls Of Ios Five by Ted Blasche in this months edition of Perihelion. For those who love a good SF tale as much as a good SF game, I highly recommend you check them out.