Thursday, March 29, 2012

News of Alien Contact

Alien Contact While I was slogging away in the nether regions of fabulous Orange County throughout February and March, two reviews of anthology Alien Contact were published in online 'zines.

The first review, published on February 21, is courtesy of Josh Vogt (@JRVogt), Speculative Fiction Editor for From the review:
Alien Contact is a new short story anthology taking readers through 30 years of extraterrestrial fiction. As with many short story collections, there's a little bit of everything here. From the humorous to the horrifying, the inspiring to the incomprehensible. Often, I count an anthology successful if it leaves a lasting impression with at least a couple stories--and this one hits the mark more than once.
He goes on to review a few of his favorite stories, stating: "Of them all, 'Sunday Night Yams at Minnie and Earl's,' by Adam-Troy Castro, reigned supreme." Josh concludes his review with:
Alien Contact is a strong collection of science fiction short stories, well worth a hefty slot in your reading schedule. As with any anthology, there are entries that fall a bit flat, or leave you wondering what the point of it all was--but these are few and far between here. For all those who've wondered whether we're alone in this universe (and desperately hope this isn't the case), this collection will uplift your imagination and give you access to a wider reality where anything is possible.
The second review, from Laith Preston, appeared on The Dragon Page (@dragonpage) on March 1:
I'm always on the lookout for good reading and new authors to follow. Alien Contact is something of a veritable who's who of the current genre greats, with some names I'm not as familiar with in the mix as well.

With twenty-six short stories telling tales of man meeting with other intelligences, Marty Halpern has pulled together an anthology filled with hours of enjoyable reading.
One of the reviewer's favorite stories in the anthology was Harry Turtledove's "The Road Not Taken" -- "An extremely well told tale of the first meeting between two races, one more advanced than the other, and the unexpected outcome of that meeting." Laith sums up his review with: "I would highly recommend this anthology to fans of good short form Science Fiction."

And now for something related, but completely different:

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

"Our house is a very very very fine house..."

My apologies for the lack of posts this month, but the exigencies of life often get in the way of more desirable (and preferable) options. So, I thought a status report was in order....

This past weekend I returned from my third week-long trip (the two previous trips this year were in February) -- and what I hope will be my final trip -- to Southern California for the purpose of cleaning out my mother's house in preparation for its sale. Funnily enough, even though my father passed away in 1998, most of the required work at the house was for his "stuff," as evidenced by my March 4 blog post regarding the Lionstone Old West liquor decanters that he designed.

I signed with realtors The Lappin Team on February 1 for the sale of the house. Facebook users can search for "Lappin Team Real Estate" to learn more -- and if you have property in Southern Cal that you wish to sell, trust me, these are the folks you want to have promoting your house. I lucked out connecting with them: Archie Lappin went to high school years ago with the neighbors' son from across the street -- and when I asked the neighbors for a referral for real estate agents, The Lappin Team was on their list. In fact, the Lappins put together a YouTube vid of my mother's house as part of their promotional efforts. When I first watched the vid, and saw how Kelly Lappin had "staged" (her word) the various rooms in the house using her own décor, my reaction was like "Wow! That's the same house?"

So as I said, I signed with the realtors on February 1, but I wouldn't let them place the house on the multiple listings service until I had an opportunity (two weeks worth) to clean the place up as much as possible. The Lappins could show the house themselves -- in fact, they had an open house on Sunday, February 19 (I arrived at the house around 4:00 p.m. that day for a week-long stay; the open house had ended around 2:30) -- but I wanted to hold off opening the house to other realtors. The house was finally placed on the multi listing service on Sunday, February 26, and I signed the acceptance paperwork, which placed the house in a 30-day Escrow, on Wednesday, March 7. Amazingly, the house sold (with multiple offers) within ten days of being placed on the multi listing! And the buyers? A husband and wife; he grew up two doors down, graduating from the same high school as Archie and the neighbors' son (and me as well).

My wife Diane and I have our hands full managing our own house, but I have also had responsibility for managing my mother's house -- and her affairs -- since August of last year (she passed away in October), and with the added complication that I live nearly 400 miles away. But hopefully in two weeks, when Escrow closes on April 6, most of this will be behind me; all that will be left will be the disbursement of my mother's trust.

Within about a week and a half or so I hope to be able to announce some good news regarding the status of the Lionstone whisky bottles: one official hurdle remains (though I believe it's more of a formality), which should be resolved next Wednesday, April 4. Keeping fingers crossed....

In addition to these whisky bottles, my father had a history of other such creative endeavors. Back in the 1950s and early '60s, he was an amateur photographer (living in Pennsylvania at the time), with a penchant toward circuses, if you can believe that. This was long after the Ringling Brothers Circus fire (1944), so the only circuses still performing under the "big top" were smaller, family-owned circuses. He would sometimes visit as many as two different circuses in a single day across the state, photographing the shows and the performers themselves, often before or after the show, back in the trailer areas, which was typically off limits to the public -- but not my father. As a "thank you" for their posing for his pictures (slides, actually), he would gift them with a set of slides from his previous visit. To make a long story short, I found a box of slides from various circuses from the late '50s and early '60s: Cole Bros. circus, Hagen Bros. circus, and quite a few others. I contacted the Circus World Museum in Baraboo, Wisconsin, and shipped off the 500 or so slides last Thursday to the attention of archivist Peter Shrake. In addition, I found my father's old movie-making equipment: a Revere movie camera, circa 1955; two tripods, one brand new and still sealed in the original packing box; two title-making setups, both brand new and sealed in the original boxes; and a ton of title-making letters, in gold, silver, red, blue, and black. I packed up two huge boxes of this stuff, and shipped it to the photography teacher, Victoria Byers, at Silver Creek High School, where my daughter had attended. She always spoke highly of the class and the photography teacher, who has since retired, so I wanted to make this material donation to the school. Schools continue to need our support, particularly for the elective classes.

Upon cleaning out the kitchen cabinets, hall closets, and garage storage areas, we filled two trash bins (one regular trash, one recycled; but note that I had filled two dumpsters, each holding 80 cubic feet of trash, during my previous visit); we also filled the rental SUV from back to front with a Goodwill donation (this was my fourth, and final, trip to Goodwill since October). And the realtors promised me that they would find good homes for all the remaining furniture.

So, that was how my wife and I spent our spring vacation. And why I have been absent from this blog for most of the month.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Wild West Show Closing Down....

Wells Fargo Agent
This blog post is not about books; it's not about publishing or editing or any such related topic. So I'll understand if you click on the Back button, or some other fave link, and go elsewhere at this time. This blog post is about my father... Well, not exactly about my father, but rather about the product of one of his creative endeavors.

I spent two of the past four weeks in February staying at my parents' house in Southern California, cleaning the place up so that the house can be sold, while trying to come to terms with the detritus of the nearly 50 years that my parents -- together, and then my mother alone -- lived in that house.

I filled two 80-cubic-feet (each) dumpsters; I made three trips (carloads) to Goodwill, with a fourth trip already set aside which the realtors have promised me they will take care of, because a pickup truck is required; I made two trips to the hazardous waste disposal center; I filled two city-provided recycle bins and one trash bin four times each (with special thanks to the neighbor across the street who graciously hauls the bins to the street for me, and then returns them to the backyard after they are emptied the following day). And yet still there is more to do....

This also explains why there have been few blog posts this month; I wish that my time in SoCal was all that was required of me, but even when I'm home there are phone calls to be made, forms to complete, and, alas, bills to be paid.

My father, Al Halpern, had many hobbies; one might say "passions" rather than hobbies because he often went over the top in his pursuit of these hobbies -- even, occasionally, to the point of what I would call craziness. If you had seen the house right after he passed away -- and the backyard shed that I just emptied a week ago -- you would have understood.

Pictured at the top of this blog post is an example of the fruits of one of his passions. This is a full-size whiskey bottle -- or, to be fancy, decanter -- which depicts in authentic detail a Wells Fargo agent from ye olde Wild West. Note the liquor tax stamp on the back: the agent's head is actually the top of the cork. My father designed these bottles in the '70s for Lionstone Distilleries in Kentucky. The "Wells Fargo Agent" bottle is just one of about thirty or so bottles that I need to find a home for now that their home for the past forty years will soon be sold.

My father was a resident of Anaheim at the time, and the Orange County Register ran a full-page article on his work in Section B (the "Local" news section) in the November 21, 1972, issue. I've scanned the article as best I could and will include it here with your indulgence; since it's a full-page spread, it took four scans to capture all the photos and text. If you click on each section, that section will appear in a larger form in a separate window, and thus should be easier to read. The Register will do a more succinct job explaining my father's hobby than I ever could.

The triptych of bottles pictured at the beginning of the article -- and showcased at the end of the article in my father's hand design -- is the "Shootout at the OK Corral." When I lived at home, I was totally taken with this set: the detail was mind-boggling, particularly the horses on the middle bottle. But I haven't seen these in years and years, decades actually; they weren't stored anywhere at the house, so I assume at some point my father (or possibly my mother, after his passing) sold them.