Orycon 2019

(Author Chelsea Nolen, my wife Shelley, and Clayton J. Callahan)

This weekend was the 41st celebration of Orycon, Portland Oregon’s premier science fiction convention. Oh sure, we have not one but two Comicons every year (Rose City and Wizard World), but those are huge commercial events. Orycon is different.

It’s a smaller, more intimate affair where fans can connect with other fans without having to stand in line all day for autographs or other such nonsense. In this way, it’s a more authentic fan experience than the overhyped Comicons will ever be. For instance, the great CJ Cherith (Left) was in attendance this year and it took no autograph fee of hours-long wait in line for me to speak to her (much like the last time I saw her at Rivercon in 1985, and yes, I’m that old).

Costumes are also welcome at Orycon. And although Comicon has a lot more participants in that department, one can still strut one’s stuff in the halls of the Red Lion Hotell just as well as at the Portland Convention Center.

Now, to be fair, I do go to both conventions and enjoy them. But as in all things people are allowed their preferences–and I prefer Orycon.

By Clayton J. Callahan

The Long Way Makes For a Good Story

So, I just finished reading Becky Chambers’ novel, The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet. This is apparently Chambers’ first novel and I am impressed. As my fans know, I’m not one for “the new stuff.” Most of my SciFi reading is decades old and delving into a 2011 book is a bit “novel” for me. My reason? Simple, most new science fiction is dystopian crap with poor characterization and pointless storylines. That’s one reason I became a writer, in fact, to tell stories with rich characters and hopeful endings. In Chambers, however, I’ve found a happy exception to the doom and gloom and it’s nice quite refreshing.

First off, I must be honest and say that this is not a riveting space adventure and the plot moves slowly. The story involves a tramp space ship that has been contracted for a job on a distant world and most of the novel concerns their travel to said planet. Sure, when they get there things happen, but the action is over before you know it and the resolution is hardly the heroic stuff of Flash Gordon–but to be honest, I didn’t care.

The characters really pop and the interactions between the crewmates of the ship are the chief source of the fun. It’s an interspecies crew, made of radically different beings with very different cultures. In truth, this book is about how those different characters get along far more than it’s about the mission of the spaceship. And that’s just fine by me because Chambers makes the journey worth it.

So, if you’re like me, a diehard fan of the old who’s looking for something new, I recommend The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet.

By Clayton J. Callahan

 

H. Beam Piper’s Federation

The short story is perhaps a dying art in science fiction. Once, it was the number one venue for new authors to cut their teeth on. Giants like Heinline, Asimov, and Clark all got their start writing fiction for some of the many short story mags of the mid 20th century. In those earlier times, commuters would hit up the magazine stand at their local bus stop or train station for a copy of Weird Tales, Science Fiction Analog, or Galaxy magazine so they could pass the time with a quick yard during the ride home. It was a lucrative business, and many a novel that would go on to win Hugo Awards had its genesis as a pulp story.

H. Beam Piper was no exception of course. Now, I freely admit that Piper is one of my influences. Despite his occasional militarism and misogyny, I appreciate his craftsmanship and storytelling. He created a fully formed and believable future, warts and all, and I cut my teeth as a reader on his Little Fuzzy books when I was but a lad. Sadly, his career was cut short by his suicide in 1964, bringing his story to a rather abrupt conclusion.

However, he had friends and one of them, a guy named Jerry Pournelle, took the pains to collect his short stories and bind them together into one volume. The title of this posthumous pice is Federation, and I must say it’s one of my absolute favorite books of all time.

The stories all take place in Piper’s future interstellar federation, and it’s the same universe that Pappy Jack and the Space Vikings inhabit. Pournelle has taken pains to organize Piper’s stories chronologically so we can see the future unfolding through snippets and venues. My personal favorite has to be Piper’s Graveyard of Dreams, wherein a young man returns from college to a junkyard planet that was once the hub of an interstellar war. Now, possing advanced scientific knowledge, he hasn’t the heart to tell his father’s friends that their dreams of finding a lost military supercomputer are not going to come true and thus their world will forever be in the economic doldrums of the galaxy…unless he can spin a lie of gossamer that will take them to the stars!

If your a fan of Piper’s and haven’t read this amazing book yet, it is still available on Amazon. If your not a fan of pipers, however, the book is still available on Amazon so what are you waiting for?

Happy reading.

Clayton J. Callahan

What’s New

Well, it’s been a while since I checked in so I figured I’d let everybody know what’s up. Right now I’m about 80% done with a project called Star Runners. It’s an anthology of short stories that spun off of my other science fiction works. Fans of Tales of The Screaming Eagle will get to find out how Ms. Coleen took the barracks that Kilroy and Burt left on Tarkan and turned it into the best damn bar in the galaxy. Also, questions like, “how did the Yang-He become a ghost ship,” and “How did Jack Galloway come to lose the Sundancer to the Public Protectors on Isis” will be answered.

Even if you haven’t read The Adventures of Crazy Liddy or Crazy Lucky a Space Romance, these stories should amaze and entertain. I hope to have this book available on Amazon by the end of February 2019.

Here’s a sample:

To Reach The Unreachable Star

 

Although taken for granted today, it is worth reflecting upon the miraculous speed at which Earth’s various nations recovered from the Doom War. In the space of a single generation, survivors came together and organized themselves into thriving communities and soon reclaimed much of what was lost.

Of particular note is the amazing speed at which North America jumped from a collection of subsistence farming villages to a spacefaring nation-state in a mere hundred years.

Excerpt from Gordon’s History of The Spacelanes

 ***

All the indicator lights read green.

Naomi took in a deep breath and closed her eyes. After fifteen months in the bunker, this was it. Air quality: acceptable, temperature: seventy-eight degrees Fahrenheit, radiation level: safe. She looked down and to her right to see little Benjamin chewing on his finger like he always did when he got fidgety.  Fifteen months is a long time for anybody, but to a six-year-old, it was an eternity, and the bunker’s confinement probably felt as safe as the womb to him.

The stuffy bunker had been home, school, and playground to him. “Mom, do we have to go outside?” He asked.

She nodded, and the child went back to chewing his finger. They had been lucky. The only house she could afford when they moved to the area was an old two story that dated back to the 1950s and included a bomb shelter. When things got bad in the news, Naomi cleared out the raccoon nests and stocked up on canned food and other supplies. It proved to be a good move, but the bunker would not sustain them forever.

And besides, she longed for sunshine.

But Naomi also understood how her son felt; she’d been the same way twenty odd years ago when her family left Uganda for the States. She was only twelve at the time, and everything was new and scary to her then. Now, she’d been an American so long that going back to Uganda was simply unimaginable. Just like she couldn’t imagine what waited for her beyond the sealed airlock door.

Partly to buck up the boy’s courage and partly to buck up her own, she said, “It’s all right, Benjamin. We’re going to do this together, okay?”

The child nodded nervously, and she hit the release lever. With a hiss and a rush of air the door parted and the sun shown down upon her face for the first time since the bombs fell. For a moment, she just stood there, still as a statue, basking in the sunlight. Looking down, she saw Benjamin shielding his eyes from the glare but did not recoil from the light. She always knew her son was brave.

Together, mother and son took their first, hesitant, steps into the new world. It was not, however, an improved world by any stretch. The shattered remains of Atlanta, Georgia stretched out far as the eye could see, and her heart sank. The once gleaming towers of the Buckhead skyline now blackened and bent by atomic fire glowered at them in the distance. Closer to hand; their once pleasant suburban neighborhood now consisted of concrete foundations overgrown with Kudzu. Naomi marveled at how fast that wily weed had recovered from the apocalypse. Twisted pipes reached up for the sky like the arms of penitent men at the foot of some unforgiving deity. And the towers of man’s communications arrays? All were half melted and resembled hunchbacked giants lumbering for the grave. Even if anyone could hear them, calling for help was not an option.

The mother sighed. “Well, it’s more or less what I expected.” She reached for Benjamin’s hand. “Let’s take a walk, sweetie.”

Feet following the path of a broken sidewalk, they took in the fresh, unfiltered air and watched the birds flitter about. Benjamin’s eyes were wide, his face wearing the expression he wore when she took him to the zoo two years ago.

Naomi’s feelings warred within her. She wasn’t sure whether she should be happy or sad. The elation of finally being free of the bunker battled with the depression that arose upon seeing her world ruined by short-sighted and stupid men. Men, whose imaginations looked no farther ahead than the next election cycle, and whose stewardship of the world was eclipsed by the next quarter’s profits. Why people followed such-stuffed shirts always puzzled her. But they did, perhaps because believing the golden promises of blowhards was preferable to them at election time than facing the hard truths of a world in crisis. And now, there were no profits, no elections, and no hopes—just the current crisis of simple human survival as faced by the cavemen of millennia ago.

The world was dead, and she wept for it.

Naturally, she didn’t intend to. After all, Benjamin was watching. “What’s wrong, mom?” the child asked.

“Nothing, I’m fine,” she lied through her tears.

Benjamin squeezed her hand and then moved in front of her to block her stride. “Mom, what’s wrong?”

She could never successfully lie to her son, and she knew it. The kid was unnaturally bright for his age and approached life in a very measured and rational way. He’d spent the last fifteen months taking apart and putting back together every tool and device in the bunker, determined to discover what principals made them work. He read books two and three grade levels above his age group. And he knew how his mom worked, inside and out.

Benjamin was an extremely smart boy.

“This is…was the monorail stop where I used to wait for the number fifty to take me to work at the Hartsfield Space Center. You remember? I used to wear a blue uniform to work every day?”

“Yes, you were a nurse with the flight surgeon’s office. I remember you liked Dr. Bill a lot. He was your boss.”

“That’s right, Sweetie. He came here from Texas after they succeeded from the US. He helped transfer the NASA clinic from Huston to Atlanta when our spaceport was just starting up. Anyway,” she sighed, “it looks like I won’t have to worry about missing the monorail again. Funny, I used to hate getting out of my nice warm bed and rushing off to work. Now, I’m sad I’ll never do that again.”

Benjamin looked at the twisted metal and burned over concrete that had once been a transit stop. “You could go to work again. It will just be different.”

She fought back her anger, the child didn’t mean to be insensitive, and she knew it. But hard reality left her little room for parental finesse. “Honey, look around. There’s not going to be any work at the Space Center ever again.” She shook her head. “I just hope the colony on Mars survived. They may have enough infrastructure up there to carry on without support from Earth. But we’re not going to be sending any more ships into space. And all the sleeper ships are going to be arriving at distant stars soon. But when they wake up from cryo, their transmissions home will fall on deaf ears. There will be nobody to answer the phone if the phones are all dead, right?”

Benjamin sat down on the stairs that lead up to the monorail station. He chewed his finger, and his eyebrows scrunched together. Naomi knew he was concentrating but had no idea about what. This was a problem well beyond any six-year-old child and certainly beyond a grown woman of thirty-five. The stars be dammed, she had more immediate problems to deal with. Back in the bunker they still had enough food and such for a few more months, but by winter she’d need a new source of sustenance for herself and her boy.

She cast her eyes about, hoping to find something that would aid in their survival. In the distance, she saw a dozen or so wooden shacks. Structures like those would never have survived the blast that leveled Atlanta. Therefore, she reasoned, they must be new. Obviously, somebody else had survived the Doom War and that somebody or somebodies could probably use a nurse. It’d be a long walk, but she and Benjamin might make it to the shacks by nightfall. Looking closer, Naomi saw a man step out of one of those shacks. He looked in their direction and waved, and she dared to feel hope in her heart.

“Mom, we can do it. We can go to space and tell them we’re still here and everything’s will be all right.”

“What?” Naomi couldn’t help but laugh. “Child, see those shacks over there?”

“Yes,” Benjamin replied. Then he looked where his mother was pointing and said, “What about them?”

“Those shacks might have people who can help us. See the man waving now? But it’s a long way off. It will take maybe a couple of hours to walk there. Mars and the star colonies are a lot farther off than that, child; millions and millions of miles away. We can’t get there, Benjamin.” She let a smirk cross her lips. “It’s much too far for anybody to walk.”

Then Benjamin smiled. “Then we’ll just have to run.”

 

The End

 

How Cool Was That? Babylon 5

 

Back in the early 90’s, I was a full-time university student, father of two, part-time pizza delivery boy, and US Navy Reservist. Needless to say, I had very little time for TV.

My wife, however, was a little more fortunate. She was a night nurse for a home health service and was able to have a TV on as she caught up on the office’s paperwork. One morning, she came home to tell me all about this new show I’d never heard of called Babylon 5.

Now, I’ve ALWAYS been a science fiction fan (I was born during the premiere of Star Trek’s Friday’s Child in 1967), and I immediately started pumping her for information. She described the show as almost British in style, very unlike Star Trek, with great characters in a well-defined universe. Since we didn’t actually have a TV of our own back then, I had to wait until a night I could bring her lunch to work for her in order to watch the show.

Frankly, I was intrigued right off the bat.

Bab 5 grabbed hold of my imagination and refused to let go. Sure, I still liked Star Trek and in some other post, I’ll wax philosophic about how good Voyager and Deep Space 9 were in the 1990s. But Babylon 5 struck me as unique. Here was a franchise unbeholden to any previous book or film, presenting a fresh canvas. The show was creating its own rules, it’s own life, as it came fresh off the screen without a debt to some forty-year-old fan base dragging it down.

How rare is that?

Let me ask this, do you like the new Star Wars movies or hate them? Is it because they’re too like the original trilogy, or because they’re too different? How about the spin-off films like Solo and Rouge One? Are they true to the vision of the original Star Wars or despicable abominations to be sent to Dante’s basement?

Having something fresh and original to offer means that a writer can take the story wherever it needs to go without fear of fan backlash. Frankly, I’m amazed that authors like Timothy Zahan seem to do their best work when writing in other people’s fictional universes. And although every author borrows inspiration, I must say a great deal of the fun in my writing in the Star Run Universe comes from the fact that I created it.

But Babylon 5 wasn’t just very original…it was also very, very good!

Good acting, good special effects (for the time), good music, and great writing by J. Michael Straczynski, resulted in a show that was sometimes frightening, sometimes hilarious, sometimes insightful, and never dull. The themes that Bab 5 played with were also quite relatable; loyalty, trust, morality, and the easy wrong vs hard right.

I was at Dragon Con in 1994 when Mr. Straczynski was asked by an audience member if he’d based his writing on the Balkan War that was raging at the time. He answered, “No, it’s based on human behavior, and that never changes.” And now almost thirty years later, I have to agree because, sadly, today’s news could just as easily inspire the international strife portrayed in that old show.

Now, the history of the Babylon 5 show is a bit of a jumble. Basically, Hollywood execs never quite got a handle on how to market something this good. Forced to jump from network to network and time-slot to time-slot, Bab 5 bravely soldiered on until all five seasons envisioned by Straczynski were completed. Afterward, two spin-off shows and a made for TV movie were produced, none of which, however, matched the quality of the original show.

If you’ve never seen Babylon 5, I highly recommend you do. Not as a piece of science fiction archeology, but as one of the greatest space shows ever put on the small screen. Its brash, its brave, it’s funny and it’s still very relevant.

Enjoy.

Clayton J. Callahan

 

D. Wallace Peach Simply Can Not Write a Bad Book

I’ve been a fan of this author for a long time. Her fantasy and science fiction display a beautiful use of the English language coupled with great storytelling.  For those not already in the know, I recommend you give The Bonewall a try. But beware, The Bonewall is as dark as it is compelling; a richly textured journey through a post-apocalyptic nightmare that nonetheless shines through with human goodness and hope.

However, for her latest work, “The Peach” has taken a completely different direction and man is it worth it!

She’s just written a children’s book! Frankly, I’m always excited when an author breaks new ground and challenges themselves with a different medium. This is why I’ve occasionally broken away from science fiction to do other genres, and I always find I’m a better writer when I come back. D. Wallace Peach has now done this and done it well with Grumpy Ann And The Monsters. It’s a cute introduction for the wee ones into the fascinating world of science fiction through a very personal and uplifting tale.

I found her poetry endearing and her artwork (which Peach did all herself) charming. If you have kids from about four to six years old in your orbit. I highly recommend you start them out right in science fiction with this little gem.

https://www.amazon.com/Grumpy-Ana-Grouchy-Monsters-Childrens/dp/1975723945/ref=sr_1_fkmr1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1514316075&sr=1-2-fkmr1&keywords=grumpy+ann+and+the+monsters

Haven’t Been To A Con, Yet? Go!

I just finished my Thanksgiving turkey, but a thing that’s left an equally filling aftertaste was the weekend before at Orycon 39. This year was my eighth, or maybe ninth Orycon. To be frank they all kind of blend together in one great fanish haze from time to time.

Again, this year I was honored to be a panelist (and grateful they forgave/forgot the whole “blasted out of my head” incident of three years back). I sat before various audiences discussing things ranging from Star Wars to Wonder Woman, and man did I get some challenging questions.

But panels be damned! I also went partying with my wife, drank more than a bit too much, played some great science fiction card games, and met a lot of truly great authors (I’m talking about you Susan R. Matthews), and fans.

Honestly, I’ve been going to these science fiction conventions since 1985 (Milinecon Minus 15, Dayton Airport Hotell) and highly recommend you give one a whirl. Oh, you can start out with one of those huge, sprawling Comicons if you like. They can be fun too.

But personally, I recommend you seek out one of the smaller, cozier ones close to home. You get a real sense of community at the local conventions that can’t be found in a larger venue. Great conversations take place in hotel lobbies with like-minded geeks you only met an hour ago, and lifelong friendships get off to a great start.

In short, it’s always worth it to seek out new friends and new conversations. To boldly con where few have coned before.

See you there!

Going to Orycon 39!

So…it’s coming up on my favorite Con of the year. I haven’t missed but one Orycon since I moved to Oregon, and that year I was in Iraq.

This year I’m once again a panelist and will be speaking on such wide-ranging topics as Getting Your First Professional Sale to Wonder Woman How to be her and feel comfortable doing so. And you can be sure the guys where I work are more than a little curious as to how I’m going to pull that second one off. I will also be doing an after hours, erotic reading (with a little help from my wife) of Seka Heartley’s classic Passion Pirates of The Lost Galaxy.

So, If you find yourself in the Portland area next month, I know this great party and recommend you check it out at the Red Lion Hotel in Jenson Beach, Oregon. Learn more by checking the link below.

http://39.orycon.org/

New Book, THE SPIRIT OF CAHIR MULLACH, Now on Amazon

So, I did it again…I committed novel.This is my first “Fantasy” novel. No science fiction gizmos, just some Irish magic, and ghosts. It starts in the Viking age and then the reader is woodshed eight hundred years into the time of the American Revolution when a war weary redcoat returns to the British Isles and is ordered to billet in a haunted castle.

This time I skipped the whole publisher thing and went straight to Amazon so I could keep the price low. Frankly, I don’t see any reason for people to pay more than $5 for an e-book or more than $10 for a print on demand.  I hope folks like it.

I hope folks like it.

Crazy Lucky-A Space Romance, Now An Actual Book (with paper)

me-holding-crazy-lucky

So, my sequel to The Adventures of Crazy Liddy is now available in paperback. As you may recall, Liddy often spent her spare time reading cheap romance novels with titles like Starpilot’s Mistress. This prompted my “friend,” Seka Heartly to write Passion Pirates of The Lost Galaxy (which is now also available on Amazon).

So, I figured, “what the hell?” Dosen’t Liddy deserve a romance of her own? And then I wrote Crazy Lucky-A Space Romance. Of course, this being Liddy, it had to take place in space, involve crime, adventure, alien races and a secret mission to save a world. It being a romance novel, it also had to involve a handsome, suave, dude with roguish charm and a sordid past.

Fun for one and all!

If you’re like me, e-books are not quite “real” to you yet. Real books are made of paper and you can hold them in your hand as you smell the ink off the pages. A real physical thing that you can cherish on your bookshelf forever. And, unlike e-books, you can throw ’em at people who annoy you. 🙂

Feel free to check out the real Crazy Lucky-A Space Romance at…

https://www.amazon.com/Crazy-Lucky-Clayton-J-Callahan/dp/1539363813/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1476154646&sr=1-1