Contest Winner25 Jul
In case you missed my Sirius/XM appearance or my Comic Con announcement (thanks Adam Neff), or my Facebook post, then this is news to you. The the winner of the Story Contest is… “The Writing Contest” by Stephen Tateishi! Congratulations, Stephen! And thanks to all who entered or voted. Stay tuned for further announcements about Editor’s Choice. The contest may be over but we want to share more of these wonderful stories.
In the meantime, I’m going to make all the stories available for reading for a limited time. Thanks to Dan Harvey, Susan Golomb and Patton Oswalt for the judging.
How to attain literary popularity: First, take an artistic form beloved by geeks. Second, add a liberal dose of historical and pseudo-historical figures who helped create and define that form. Third—the most difficult step—send your genre-based characters on an adventure that reflexively fits their form. The result, ideally, is a critically acclaimed, popular novel that addresses comic books like The Amazing Adventures Of Kavalier & Clay, or magicians like Carter Beats The Devil. Or it could be The Astounding, The Amazing, And The Unknown, a fast-paced, pulpy novel channeling Golden Age science-fiction authors.
There is some historical basis for the events of the book. Robert Heinlein did, in fact, recruit L. Sprague de Camp and Isaac Asimov to join his research unit in Philadelphia during World War II. The purpose of that, according to The Astounding, was to engage in a rollicking adventure, tracking down Nikola Tesla’s greatest experiment, a corporate conspiracy, and possibly a Nazi fleet of superbombers threatening the entire Eastern Seaboard.
The Astounding is the very definition of a page-turner, as dozens of chapters fly by in a single sitting. Does having famous science-fiction authors and editors on these adventures make the book better? Maybe not, but they probably were necessary to get the book published. The book’s use of familiar names can be impressive, as with Asimov’s difficulties in understanding people leading him to sympathize with robots. Sometimes it’s cutesy—Heinlein meets Albert Einstein and berates himself for not having a single, simple word to describe Einstein’s deep understanding of the universe, a word Heinlein later invented for Stranger In A Strange Land. And sometimes it’s a little disturbing, as when Asimov and his wife argue about his desire for fellatio and her resistance.
Still, in spite of its somewhat odd relationship with real persons—some only recently deceased—The Astounding, The Amazing, And The Unknown is undeniably effective entertainment, and a gateway into the history of science-fiction pulps. It may not be great literature itself, but it’s great fun, and as with the pulps it describes, who’s to say the former can’t come from the latter?
We know some things to be true: Robert A. Heinlein recruited fellow science fiction writer Isaac Asimov to work in a research lab at the Philadelphia Navy Yard during the Second World War. There is a persistent rumor associated with the Navy Yard–the alleged disappearance and reappearance of the USS Eldridge in the “Philadelphia Experiment” of October 1943. Earlier that year, L. Ron Hubbard was relieved of his U.S. Navy command after a shooting incident in Mexican territorial waters, and there are conflicting stories of what he did for the rest of the war. Hubbard was also involved with Jack Parsons, who was simultaneously a pioneering member of the American space race program and one of the nation’s highest-ranking occultists. And the publication of “Deadline,” a short story written by Cleve Cartmill at the urging of Astounding Science Fiction editor John W. Campbell, led to a federal investigation into the possibility that science fiction writers were leaking atomic secrets to the enemy.
From Shelf Awareness:
Paul Malmont takes all these historical tidbits–along with some of the legends about Nikola Tesla–and bundles them into a rollicking novel in which pulp fiction writers become real-life adventurers. (The Astounding, The Amazing, and the Unknown invokes the titles of three of the most prominent science fiction magazines.) There is also a bunch more real-life figures who make cameo appearances, whose identities will remain concealed to preserve the surprise for readers. Sure, the story tweaks the historical record in a few places; “Deadline,” for example, wasn’t actually published until the spring of 1944. It’s clear readers aren’t meant to take all of this too seriously, though, as the plot becomes increasingly baroque, with more than a few ingenious twists along the way.
Malmont’s rich characterizations do much to obscure any questions of accuracy. In the midst of a hunt for a super weapon to defeat the Nazis, Heinlein and Asimov are distracted by the fissures in their marriages; Hubbard, frustrated by his failed efforts to be a war hero, takes some of his first steps towards the formulation of Scientology. (Malmont plays this straight down the middle: Hubbard is opportunistic and self-aggrandizing, but not a scheming mastermind–more like a guy who’s tired of being a hapless victim of circumstance). And just about every writer in the story is obsessed with the business of writing, whether it’s about hanging on to their status at the top of the pulp market, trying to sell more stories to better magazines, or even getting out of the pulps completely and writing “real” books. It’s because this re-creation of the literary and fan communities that emerged during the science fiction boom feels so accurate that all the other stuff seems, even if only for a few moments, utterly plausible… and remains entertaining even after disbelief returns. –Ron Hogan
Shelf Talker: Malmont inserts some callbacks to his first novel, The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril (2007), which took a similar approach to pulp stars of the 1930s, but readers can enjoy this new story with or without that one under their belts.
I feel for you Mad Madrasi, I really do. And if an Indian publisher decides to put out The Astounding, the Amazing, and the Unknown, I am totally going to see if I can put the story you would have come up with into it. But the rules really are out of my hands.
I know your parody of our contest was meant to sting, but all it did was impress me. So much effort applied for mischief. Well done!
Check it out!
What can you say about them that hasn’t been said?
Well, authors Ashley Merryman and Po Bronson have the answer to that. And it’s a book that’s rocking parents from coast to coast: NurtureShock. The great thing about this book is that it’s not just making assumptions and opinions about parenting and, well, kidsing, it’s grounded in some very real, very new science.
Here’s some of the points the Publisher’s Weekly highlights of the 10 provocative chapters that cover such issues as:
- The inverse power of praise (effort counts more than results)
- Why insufficient sleep adversely affects kids’ capacity to learn
- Why white parents don’t talk about race
- Why kids lie
- What evaluation methods for giftedness and accompanying programs don’t work
- Why siblings really fight (to get closer).
The chatty reportage and plentiful anecdotes belie the thorough research backing up numerous cited case studies, experts’ findings and examination of successful progressive programs at work in schools.
Thanks to Ashley and Po, OWL will be sending a case of their book to troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. Remember, these donations are being made from the goodness of the authors’ hearts–so please help them out and pick up a copy for yourself to help them recoup their donation. They’re not asking you to do this–but I am.
This one looks like a classic!
Major Rusty Bradley is an American hero. He’s been in the army since before I was born and came to lead a Special Forces A-team into one of the most important battles in the Afghan War.
Here’s more of the book’s description:
The Taliban and their allies were infiltrating everywhere, poised to reclaim Kandahar Province, their strategically vital onetime capital. To stop them, the NATO coalition launched Operation Medusa, the largest offensive in its history. The battlefield was the Panjwayi Valley, a densely packed warren of walled compounds that doubled neatly as enemy bunkers, lush orchards, and towering marijuana stands, all laced with treacherous irrigation ditches. A mass exodus of civilians heralded the carnage to come.
Dispatched as a diversionary force in support of the main coalition attack, Bradley’s Special Forces A-team and two others, along with their longtime Afghan Army allies, watched from across the valley as the NATO force was quickly engulfed in a vicious counterattack. Key to relieving it and calling in effective air strikes was possession of a modest patch of high ground called Sperwan Ghar. Bradley’s small detachment assaulted the hill and, in the midst of a savage and unforgettable firefight, soon learned they were facing nearly a thousand seasoned fighters—from whom they seized an impossible victory.
Now Bradley recounts the whole remarkable story as it actually happened. The blistering trek across Afghanistan’s infamous Red Desert. The eerie traces of the elusive Taliban. The close relations with the Afghan people and army, a primary mission focus. Sperwan Ghar itself: unremitting waves of fire from machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades; a targeted truck turned into an inferno; the death trap of a cut-off compound. Most important: the men, Americans and Afghans alike—the “shaky” medic with nerves of steel and a surgeon’s hands in battle; the tireless sergeant who seems to be everywhere at once; the soft-spoken intelligence officer with laser-sharp insight; the diminutive Afghan commander with a Goliath-sized heart; the cool maverick who risks all to rescue a grievously wounded comrade—each unique, all indelible in their everyday exercise of extraordinary heroism.
Thanks to Major Bradley and his co-writer, Kevin Maurer, Operation Warrior Library be sending two cases to troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. These books are donated for free, folks, so help the authors recover their costs and pick up a copy (or two) today! And thank you, Major Bradley, for your service, and continuing dedication to your soldiers.
An Open Letter to the Empire State Building
June 9, 2011
Dear Empire State Building,
I read in the news how the producers of the Spider-Man musical had asked you to change the color of your lights for their opening night. You turned them down, and for the right reason! Their show has nothing to do with you. How right you were to point out that they, in fact, feature your arch-nemesis, the Chrysler Building. It’s like Peter Parker asking Clark Kent to be his best man, am I right? Boy, I hope that irony isn’t lost on them. And kudos to you for your gutsy call.
I’m worried, though, that your refusal may have left you with a lighting gap in your schedule. Never fear, I have the perfect solution for you. On Thursday, July 14th, Simon & Schuster will proudly be launching my new WW2 adventure novel, THE ASTOUNDING, THE AMAZING, AND THE UNKNOWN at the Mysterious Bookshop in Manhattan. Please, turn your lights yellow to help me kick off my book in true New York style.
Not only is the Chrysler Building not in my book, but you’re practically one of the stars! And though my book is fiction, the part you play is based on some amazing true facts. First of all, you were the New York headquarters for the Kamikaze Group—a band of science fiction writers including Robert Heinlein and Isaac Asimov recruited by the military to create super-weapons. Remember that? Eventually, this oddball group finds themselves trapped in your sub-basement, menaced by the frigid spring waters of Minetta Stream which still flow beneath you. My characters have a discussion about your founder, Al Smith. I don’t think there’s even anyone named Smith in the whole Spider-Man musical cast, let alone a conversation, or even a song.
Why yellow? Have you seen my book jacket, yet? It’s gold foil, man. In fact, it’s the same beautiful gold that they used for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo! And look how that book turned out. Your building will positively glow—radiating positivity across the skyline. And let me say this about the Mysterious Bookshop: it’s a New York institution, charming and just the kind of neighborhood business we need to celebrate at this time. Meanwhile, the Foxwoods Theatre? What is that, something from Connecticut? Plus the early reviews on my book have been much better than that show’s. Library Journal said that, “it’s so much fun that it virtually defines what light fiction should be.”
I think it’s been awhile since you’ve changed your lights for a book, hasn’t it? Think about the children—how many of them will be inspired to read when they see your golden light on July 14th. I’ve filled out your application and have submitted it. You should have it by now.
Here’s what I’m proposing to make it worth your while. I’ll spend all day at the Empire State Building, handing out free copies, and signing them! Then I’ll slip downtown for a little while to do my reading. By that time, the sun will be waning, and I’ll bring my Mysterious Bookshop audience uptown—by bus if I have to—and we’ll all go upstairs to join others for the lighting. I’ll read a little more, if people want. Then we’ll celebrate at the Empire Room. The massive Simon & Schuster publicity machine will generate enough publicity for this that I can almost guarantee we’ll have press following us from the store to the summit of New York. Did I mention that they have over 122,000 Twitter followers alone?
I’m going to post this letter on-line and set up a petition at www.thatamazingpetition.com. I’m hoping a groundswell of support will help convince you that people want to see literature shining like a beacon from New York’s still most-beautiful and awe-inspiring building. Please, Empire State Building, don’t turn off the dark for reading—turn on the gold for THE ASTOUNDING, THE AMAZING AND THE UNKNOWN.
Cory Doctorow over at Boing Boing was kind enough to post about the contest.
And then the most amazing metaphysical comments argument broke out. Here’s a sample:
“Noen – prove to us that *you* can feel.”
Pains and tickles and itches, feelings, have a first person ontology. So if I feel that I am in pain, then I *am* in pain. That I am conscious is not something that I can be mistaken about. To be conscious of being unconscious would mean being consciously unconscious. A plain contradiction and therefore not possible.
“Serious question, that.”
I appreciate the opportunity to refine my position. Thanks.
“That’s part of why Alan Turing devised the Turing Test the way he did – the question of “Can computers think/feel?” hits the same exact problem as *people* trying to prove they think/feel.”
The Turing test has been rendered useless. There is in fact a case where the Turing test cannot distinguish between an unthinking “AI” and a real intelligence. Searle’s Chinese Room refutes both strong AI (that computers can or ever could think) and it also provides a counter example to Turing’s test.
Do you really want to claim that chatbots, which are nothing more than databases, are living conscious beings? Do you really believe that it is possible in principle to put yourself onto your hard drive? If so, before you do, can I have your stuff?
“if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck”
Behaviorism was also refuted long ago (Chomsky). No one actually believes in the behaviorist program any more. While it may be useful in certain clinical settings it has become abundantly clear that it cannot fully explain human psychology nor could it possibly be the case that consciousness can be reduced to behavior only.
Simulated weather is not weather.”
My thoughts, exactly!
From Kirkus Reviews.
THE ASTOUNDING, THE AMAZING, AND THE UNKNOWN
Author: Malmont, Paul
Review Date: June 15, 2011
Publisher:Simon & Schuster
Price ( Hardcover ): $26.00
Publication Date: July 5, 2011
ISBN ( Hardcover ): 978-1-4391-6893-6
In 1943, alerted to German scientific advances that could turn the tide of World War II, the U.S. government calls upon a group of noted young science-fiction writers to halt the Nazi threat by making imagined phenomena real.
Malmont, whose Chinatown Death Cloud Peril (2006) turned noted science-fiction and pulp writers of the past into intellectual action heroes, returns with a lively tale involving “death rays,” secret underground crypts, vanishing objects and mysterious boxes. The writers, led by Robert Heinlein, include L. Ron Hubbard, Isaac Asimov, Walter Gibson and Sprague de Camp. When their personalities and egos aren’t clashing, they bond together to investigate secret experiments by the late Nikola Tesla, legendary competitor of Thomas Edison in the so-called War of the Currents. Tesla was testing the long-distance transference of energy when he succeeded in zapping millions of trees in Siberia from the U.S. The writers’ pursuits take them from city to city and ultimately to a ship in the North Pacific where things have a way of suddenly disappearing. This book, the title of which was taken from the names of pulp journals, is as much a comedy of brainy errors as it is an adventure. Heinlein, whose tuberculosis ended his Navy career, must contend with the self-fixated Hubbard, who hadn’t yet entered his Scientology phase, and the insecure Asimov, who hadn’t yet written the first of hundreds of novels. The men all have women problems, Heinlein with his open marriage back in California, and Asimov with his lonely wife in Philadelphia. As close to parody as the novel gets, Malmont maintains a love for science fiction and its ability to bridge “what is known and what is about to be possible.” Like his role models, he never sells his story short.
A larkish imagining of sci-fi greats becoming part of one narrative they can’t control. A fun novel, and an informative one in tracing the origins of the genre.
Today’s guest on the Morning Media Menu was author Paul Malmont, talking about his new novel and writing contest.
Malmont (pictured) will give one writer a chance to be published in the paperback edition of his novel, The Astounding, the Amazing, and the Unknown. The author also shared book promotion tips for all the writers in the audience.
Interview excerpts follow below, but here’s more about the contest: “Finish the story begun by one of the characters in the new novel. Start your version with ‘The robot felt…’ Finish with ‘In the end, the robot felt nothing. He wasn’t programmed to.’ The up-to-2000 words in between are all yours.”
Malmont shared some promotional tips: “You’ve got to look around at the other tools that are out there. I’m using an app that was developed for Facebook in particular, it’s the Wildfire app. It makes it very easy to put together a contest like this. It allows for the social voting and everytime somebody votes or writes or submits, that gets broadcast out to their larger network. That will hopefully bring in people that hadn’t heard about the novel before.”
He continued: “When you turned in a book, the question they used to ask was ‘what book will you write next?’ I think that question is now ‘what are you doing to promote that book?’ The publishing companies have pulled way back on what they are doing. They aren’t sending people on tours, they found that people don’t really go to readings anymore … the cost/benefits of a tour don’t pay off the way they used to.”
Malmont concluded: “You can directly contact bookstores all around the country. I’ve been writing the booksellers that I’ve met that I’m not going to get to visit on this tour as I would have liked to. I’m working with them to try and set up other things like streaming video events or live chats.”
Friends are always asking me how they can help with Operation Warrior Library.
Well, here’s a way we haven’t tried before but sounds cool. Author Jack Lewis has a special offer this Memorial Day weekend for you to send a specially inscribed copy of his book to our soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. Click below to purchase “Nothing in Reserve” for a discounted price of $10, and Jack will sign it with the inscription of your choice.
The book itself sounds awesome, and appropriate for Memorial Day. Nothing in Reserve invites the reader to an intimate glimpse of one middle-aged soldier’s journey to Iraq and back. True stories set in wartime, these are not war stories. Jack Lewis offers an unexpectedly vulnerable glimpse into one of the timeless tests men have faced: going to war, and returning home. While the veteran will find honesty and truth within, this book is accessible to the uninitiated as well. Early stories give an authentic and often funny glimpse of military life, building to a crisis of self all too common among returning soldiers. Exploring the universal human question of how we move through our lives, acknowledging mortality and pain without becoming lost within it, Jack shares with us his own journey toward elusive redemption.
So buy a book for a solider, and pick yourself up a copy while you’re at it. Thank you, Jack, for your service, devotion and artistry. And here’s to remembering all our soldiers (that’s you too, Dad.) this weekend.
One winner’s original story will be published in the Simon & Schuster paperback edition of the novel “The Astounding, the Amazing, and the Unknown,” by Paul Malmont.
Finish the story begun by one of the characters in the new novel. Start your version with “The robot felt…” Finish with “In the end, the robot felt nothing. He wasn’t programmed to.” The up-to-2000 words in between are all yours.
Then get friends and fans to vote for your story. Paul Malmont and a panel of industry judges will choose the winner from the top five vote-getters. The winning story will be published at the end of the paperback edition of “The Astounding, the Amazing, and the Unknown.”
The winner grants Simon & Schuster and Paul Malmont a royalty-free, non-exclusive, perpetual, worldwide license to use the story in all versions of The Astounding, The Amazing, and the Unknown and associated media including advertising and the author’s website.
The Winner will be announced at Comic Con International in San Diego!!
Only persons residing in United States who are at least 21 years of age can enter.
May 21, 2011 @ 12:01 am (EDT)
July 04, 2011 @ 11:59 pm (EDT)