Following are my links and such for the month of March. I've listed them here, all in one post, and with additional detail and comment (and the occasional rant). You can receive these links in real time by following me on Twitter: @martyhalpern.
- If you haven't surmised by now, I am a freelance editor; my wife is also self-employed. When our health care premium topped over $1,100 per month -- more than $13,200 a year (and that was 2 years ago!) -- we had to abandon that plan and go with an HSA plan with a high deductible. So you won't be hearing any complaining from me about health care reform; in fact, I'm truly saddened there is no public option: that was the only way to force some real competition among the private health care providers, who whine about rising costs as they give multi-million-dollar bonuses to their CEOs.
I bring this to your attention because of a blog post by award-winning author George R. R. Martin, who speaks from the heart on health care and its impact on freelance writers: himself and his close friends. "It is worth pointing out that if either of my friends had lived in Canada, or Australia, or France, or England, or any country with that old vile 'socialized medicine' the right wing likes to denounce, they would never have gotten so sick. They would have seen a doctor much earlier, early enough so that their medical problems could have been diagnosed, treated, and perhaps cured or ameliorated before they required major surgery. But no, they couldn't afford doctors, and they didn't feel THAT bad... not at first... so they did what millions of Americans have done, and ignored their symptoms until it was almost too late."
If you are a freelancer, if you are self-employed, and you have health care coverage -- even what is termed "catastrophic coverage" -- consider yourself very, very lucky indeed.
- In my February Links & Things, I talked about Paul Williams, former editor of Crawdaddy, former head of the Philip K. Dick Society, author of the Bob Dylan: Performing Artist series, and all-around great guy; and I linked to an article about Paul's current illness: early-onset dementia. As a follow-up to that entry, author Paul Di Filippo has an article on BarnesandNobleReview.com in which he discusses the significance of the Collected Stories of Theodore Sturgeon (12 volumes to date), all of which have been edited by Paul Williams. The final volume, entitled Case and the Dreamer, is scheduled to be published this October. Paul Di Filippo expresses concern that Paul Williams "might already be beyond the point where any kudos can reliably reach him." It's a well-done, albeit short article highlighting the significance of Sturgeon's short fiction, and this 13-volume series in particular. I have all 12 volumes in my library, and am eagerly awaiting the final volume in October.
- Author Mark Teppo (@MarkTeppo) is in the news a lot these days to promote Heartland (Night Shade Books), book two in his Codex of Souls. You can read my previous blog about working with Mark on the first two books in this series.
Mark has two entries on Amazonblogs's Omnivoracious, hosted by Jeff VanderMeer. In the first, on "The Nature of Magick," Mark writes: "I love the idea of secret knowledge, and when you strip away all the pomp and circumstance surrounding most modern religious practices, what remains is an unshakable faith in a secret." The second entry is entitled "On the Existence of Monsters": "I think we're more afraid of our fellow man. We're more terrified of the innocent-looking neighbor who might worship a different god or who has a predilection for devouring children or who might simply want to tell us what we can do in the dark privacy of our own home. These sorts of monsters are hard to defang because you can't find them, because they aren't physically different than you or I. What makes them different is the way they think."
Lastly, here's an excerpt from the Mark Teppo interview in Fantasy Magazine: "I jettisoned all of [the urban fantasy tropes] for historical occult practices, secret religious doctrines, alchemical theories, and other religious magic practices. Why? Because I couldn't sort out a worldview where vampires didn't turn us all into cattle, or we got our shit together to wipe them out. Couldn't do it. Stopped trying after a while. Though, to be fair, Markham [the protagonist in the series] is, essentially, a psychic vampire, and the soul-dead are zombies, so I haven't quite abandoned the tropes.... Ignorance is not the victor; that is certain. Ignorance is what gets Markham into trouble and what hounds him during the ten years he spends wandering. In Lightbreaker, it does come down to a faith and/or knowledge, and [which one] the reader chooses will inform how they interpret the last chapter."
- Another new title (which I also edited) is Matthew Hughes's Hespira (Night Shade Books), the final volume in his trilogy of Henghis Hapthorn adventures. Hapthorn is a "discriminator" (think Sherlock Holmes but in the style/language of Jack Vance), who is trying to survive in a world in which the age of rationalism (aka science) is succumbing to sympathetic association (aka magic). Hespira is reviewed by Andrew Wheeler, former editor of the Science Fiction Book Club. Wheeler writes: "I can't see any reason why the SF audience would avoid a writer as witty and endlessly pleasurable as Hughes, but they certainly didn't buy all that many copies of [his earlier Warner and Tor] books. But Hughes has kept writing, adding new wrinkles to his Vancean far future with each book and becoming one of the most entertaining writers the modern genre has to offer.... Again, I can be reliably counted on to call each new Matthew Hughes novel a triumph; he writes wonderful books that I enjoy massively. The Vancean flavor [has] mixed with a dash of Wodehouse, a couple of jiggers of Conan Doyle, and a shot or two of Wolfe to form a bracing cocktail that is nothing but Hughes. Hespira in particular builds on its two predecessors to make a satisfying end to a trilogy -- and what SFF reader can resist a trilogy? Hughes is the writer I invariably mention whenever the question of modern underrated writers comes up; he writes the kind of wonderful, funny, thoughtful, exciting, zippy novels that should be massively popular and winning him shelves-full of awards."
- We've all been hearing about the demise of print media -- magazines and newspapers in particular; how ad revenue has dropped 30-plus percent over the past year, thousands of newspaper and magazine employees laid off, etc. Well, here's one: Robert Feder of blogs.vocalo.org writes: "...you'd think the chief executive officer of a company struggling to emerge from bankruptcy and desperate to salvage an $8 billion buyout-gone-bad would have better things to do than pester his underlings with crazy proclamations. But in the case of Tribune Co. CEO Randy Michaels, you'd be wrong. The man at the top of the troubled media empire took time out of his real job this week [the week of March 10] to issue a list of words and phrases -- 119 of them, to be exact -- that must never, ever be uttered by anchors or reporters on WGN-AM (720), the news/talk radio station located five floors below his office in Tribune Tower." Here are a few of those banned words: "alleged," "close proximity," "flee," "icon," "legendary," "motorist," "untimely death," "vehicle," and "youth," to name only a few of the 119 words/phrases. You will be shocked to see the everyday words on this list. (via mediabistro.com)
- NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, has updated its Flickr account with some new, astounding photographs of the "Blue Marble" -- Earth. I often imagine what it would be like to be "out there," looking down. Whew.... (via @Huffingtonpost)