I'm delighted to announce that in the July 2016 issue of Apex Magazine, released today, I have an interview with Andrew Fazekas, The Night Sky Guy, about his new book "Star Trek The Official Guide to Our Universe: The True Science Behind the Starship Voyages." If you follow the first link above you can find out the rest of the contents and buy the issue for the incredibly low price of only $2.99.

(And you want this issue. I've already read some of the stories in here and they're most excellent.)
mabfan: (book-cover)

March is the month in which Apex Publications has put the ebook of my collection I Remember the Future on sale for only 99 cents!

In case you don't have it yet and would like it.


With only about $850 and 2 hours to go, the Pangaea II project needs you! Anyone who buys my second Tukcerization offer will get TWO names for the price of one!

Follow this link to back the project: Pangaea II.

Want to read what I said about this project when the Kickstarter started? See my blog post: Pangaea II - A New Kickstarter.
Last year, I was part of an anthology called Pangaea edited by Michael Jan Friedman. As I recounted in the blog post Pangaea – The Anthology, Michael had come up with the idea of an alternate Earth in which the supercontinent had never broken apart. He invited a bunch of writers to contribute stories to this new shared world, and we were delighted to do so.

The anthology was so successful that Michael is doing it again. This time, there's a few new voices in the book, and we're working to share our characters with each other as well as the setting. Also, there's some new developments in the world of Pangaea, as can be inferred from the subtitle: "The Rise of Dominjaron." Who or what is Dominjaron? Well, you'll find out in the book...

Personally, I'm planning to continue the adventures of Betsi and Devora from "The World Together" and I'm excited to have them interact with the characters created by my fellow writers. And I'll be writing two new characters, both of whom will be named by people who support the project, as I've offered two new Tuckerizations. Better move fast, though, as the project went live over the weekend and the first of my two Tuckerizations has already been claimed!

The Kickstarter for Pangaea II can be foiund by clicking on the title. You can go there to get a full description of the book and the project, but here's the list of authors who have agreed to take part: Kirsten Beyer. Ilsa J. Bick. Michael A. Burstein. Peter David. Kevin Dilmore. Michael Jan Friedman. Robert Greenberger. Glenn Hauman. Paul Kupperberg. Ron Marz. Kelly Meding. Aaron Rosenberg. Lawrence M. Schoen. Geoffrey Thorne. Marie Vibbert.

Join us as we explore another world, a world that might have been.

Today, over at the Pangaea Kickstarter, Michael Jan Friedman puts the spotlight on me:

Michael A. Burstein has spent much of the last several weeks digging his family out from blizzard after blizzard in Brookline, Massachusetts. However, he promises to emerge from winter’s frigid grasp in time to make his contribution to our Pangaea anthology.

For our readers, that’s a good thing.

Michael is one of the most compelling voices in science fiction. In 1997, he won the Campbell Award for Best New Writer. Since then, he has earned four Nebula nominations and no less than ten Hugo nominations for his short fiction. A short film based on Michael’s story I Remember The Future recently took top honors at an independent film festival…

And although we're halfway to our goal, my two Tuckerizations are still up for grabs! If you have $100 to pledge, I will name one of my story's characters afer you (as best as I can, given that this is an alternate world and our names will not be spelled the same way).

What's Pangaea about? Here's what I said two weeks ago.
A few days ago, a Kickstarter project launched that I'm proud to be a part of. Author and editor Michael Jan Friedman came up with the idea of an alternate version of Earth in which the Pangaea supercontinent never broke up, and invited a bunch of writers to contribute stories to this world. I found myself intrigued by the notion and signed up immediately.

I'm delighted to be a part of this anthology. I'm in the company of many worthy writers, including Adam-Troy Castro, Russ Colchamiro, Peter David, Michael Jan Friedman, Robert Greenberger, Glenn Hauman, Paul Kupperberg, Kelly Meding, Aaron Rosenberg, Lawrence M. Schoen, Geoffrey Thorne, Dayton Ward, and Kevin Dilmore.

Allow me to give you more details about the project. First let me quote directly from the Pangaea webpage and then I'll tell you a little bit about my own story further on - and the pledge rewards I've personally offered.

First the description:

At least four times in Earth’s history, the continents have come sliding together. Over millions of years, separate and distinct landmasses have crawled across the planet's surface on immense tectonic plates to form a single mass--a super-continent. Geologists have dubbed the most recent such formation Pangaea.

Of course, Pangaea broke up a long time ago, and because it did, mankind developed in drastically different climes and circumstances. But what if we twenty-first century types were living in one of the super-continental periods--those characterized by “lid tectonics” rather than “plate tectonics?” What would it be like if all of humanity was confined to a single landmass...and had been so confined for all of our recorded history?

That's the ever-so-tantalizing axis on which our Pangaea anthology turns.

It's an exciting and original idea, one that deserves the best world-building talent available. So to explore this world on your behalf, we've harnessed the word-smithing abilities of some of science fiction's most inventive writers.

Now, as to my story.

I can't give away too much, but I'm writing a story with the current working title "Beliefs and Challenges." It's actually a love story about two teenagers in an agrarian part of the world, and how world events affect their relationship and their religious beliefs, and finally leads one of the two to make a major, life-altering decision. As this is a shared-world anthology, my hope is that the other writers will decide to bring my characters into their own stories, like the writers who contributed to the Thieves' World stories or the Wild Card stories.

There are many levels at which you can pledge to support this project. For only $8 you can get the ebook. For $25 you can get a signed trade paperback as well. Or if you have $100 to contribute, you can be Tuckerized in my story, meaning that I will name one of my story's characters after you (as best as I can, given that this is an alternate world and our names will not be spelled the same way).

So please follow the link, take a look, and if you're so inclined, make a pledge to support Pangaea.

Thank you for reading.
So yesterday over on Facebook I asked everyone's opinion of what age would be good to read "The Wizard of Oz" to kids. (I mean the kids' age, not mine.) I had read the original 14 Oz books as a teenager when Ballantine Books brought out a new edition in the 1980s, and I loved them. Most recommendations for the Oz books place the age at a little older than my kids currently are, but I had the feeling that they might be receptive even this young.

Also, I had a rather odd incentive to get them started on these. Muffin discovered that the TV show The Fresh Beat Band apparently did a TV-movie where one of the characters goes to Oz, and she wants to see it. I did NOT want that to be my kids' introduction to the Oz books.

I also didn't want them to start with the movie. Frankly, the movie scared me when I was a kid, and as something of an Oz purist I don't like the fact that the silver shoes aren't in it (I know some of you may be asking, "What silver shoes?" thus making my point) nor the fact that the movie establishes Oz as a dream. The books make it clear that Baum does not intend for Oz to be a dream.

Enough of you who responded seemed to feel that the girls' current age would be appropriate, so I figured I'd give it a try. I asked Nomi to pick up a copy of "The Wizard of Oz" at the library, and by happenstance she picked up the one with the wonderful Michael Hague illustrations. (Denslow's are okay, but I thought the girls might respond better to the more colorful pictures.)

The upshot is that last night I started the book, and for the most part the girls were spellbound. They insisted I keep reading after chapter 1, so I got through chapter 3. Tonight, they made me read all the way through chapter 7 before they would go to bed. And the girls make me stop over and over so they can enjoy the illustrations.

I think we have a winner here.

(By the way, when we got to the part with the Kalidahs threatening Dorothy and company, I turned to Squeaker, who was a little nervous, and said to her, in essence, "She doesn't get eaten by the eels at this time.")

As some of you already know, it was reported yesterday that Gary David Goldberg, the creator of the TV shows Family Ties and Brooklyn Bridge, had died. I read his autobiography "Sit, Ubu, Sit" when it came out in 2008, and the story he told on page 108 of how he finally earned his college degree stayed with me. I love this story so much that I have taken the time to type it up so I could share it with you. Enjoy.

From "Sit, Ubu, Sit" by Gary David Goldberg:

"...I am also scheduled to receive my B.A. and graduate next term. However, at the last minute, after one and a half years at San Diego, two years at Brandeis, three years at Hofstra, semesters scattered about at Long Beach State, UC Berkeley, and San Francisco State, after thirteen years in college, I am told I'm still short one unit of biology.

"I go to the head of the Biology Department, Dr. Claude Merzbacher, and explain my story. I've been in college since the presidency of John F. Kennedy. I have a family. Diana's going to be teaching at USC. I'm going up to L.A. with her to try to be a comedy writer. I love biology as much as the next guy, but I don't have time to make up this one unit.

"Dr. Merzbacher's great. He totally gets it, and tells me he'll give me the one unit. Three conditions. One: Go out in the backyard tonight and write a page or two about what I see and hear. Two: I have to promise that if I ever write about scientists in general, and biologists in particular, I will portray them in a positive light. And three: If I ever win an award or I'm asked to make a speech, I will give the audience one scientific fact to take home with them. I promise. I get my one unit, and I graduate.

"Three years later I will win the Writers Guild Award for Best Comedy Script for an episode of M*A*S*H. Nate Monaster will be in the audience. I have the privilege of thanking him publicly for all he's done for me. And then I tell those assembled: 'Photosynthesis is a process by which energy in sunlight is used to convert water and carbon dioxide into carbohydrates and oxygen.'"
Since Google is noting that today is the birthday of Douglas Adams, I feel compelled to mention that I met him once, when he was touring the United States promoting his books Last Chance to See and Mostly Harmless. The late lamented bookstore Wordsworth hosted a reading at the Brattle Theatre, and although he was a draw, it was not so crowded that we didn't all get a chance to spend a few minutes talking with him. He was quite friendly and personable. And tall. Boy was he tall. I finally understood why Ford Prefect felt that one of the things humans say over and over is the obvious phrase, "You're very tall." Because he was tall. Even taller than my friend Ian Soboroff, who is very tall.

Did I mention that he was tall? He was.
mabfan: (book-cover)
So, if I hypothetically were to have another collection of stories coming out, what would people want to see in it? :-)

The list of my published stories can be found here.

Note that in theory, I wouldn't want to include the stories already collected in I Remember the Future.
mabfan: (book-cover)
Three weeks ago, Ray Bradbury died.

I had thought of writing a tribute piece to him, but it seemed that within hours of the news of his death being announced, many other tributes were published by people far more relevant than I. Fortunately, a good friend, Martha Ingols, emailed me and encouraged me to commit my own thoughts about Bradbury and his work to paper (or electrons, I suppose).

And I've been late with my Apex Blog posts, so...

Thanks to Apex for publishing my tribute piece. You can read it by clicking on the article title below.

Ray Bradbury and Me
Sometimes a column just presents itself naturally.

Nomi and I spend many weekends trying to figure out how to occupy or entertain Muffin and Squeaker. This past Sunday, with the clock change, we got started a little later than usual, and we weren't sure what to do with the kids. All we knew was that we wanted to go out.

And then it hit us. The kids love books, but they have never actually been to a bookstore. So we decided to take them on their very first trip to an actual bookstore, in this case Brookline Booksmith.

The girls had a great time browsing for books, but you don't have to take my word for it. Nomi wrote about the visit in our The Brookline Parent column at Brookline Patch this week.

However, I will take credit for the column's title: Book 'Em, Muffin and Squeaker!

Go read the column, and find out exactly what criteria Muffin uses to select her books for purchase. The answer may surprise you.
Once again, I'm pleased to note that I was invited to participate in a Mind Meld discussion by the fine folks over at SF Signal. This time, the question they asked was, "Who are the most memorable villains and antagonists you’ve encountered in fantasy and science fiction? What make them stand out?"

There's a lot of possible answers for this one, as you'll see when you take a look at the responses many people have given. But for me, there was one villain who stood out above the rest, a mutant from Isaac Asimov's Foundation series, one of my first encounters with the concept of mind control...

Go check it out:

Mind Meld: Who Are Your Favorite Villains In Fantasy And Science Fiction?

Note that my contribution includes something of a spoiler for the Foundation series, in case you haven't read it yet. But it's kind of an obvious spoiler.
I spent six years teaching at the Cambridge School of Weston, and I made many friends among my colleagues and students. One of those friends was Brian F. Walker, who was in the English department and also worked in admissions in the time I was there.

Brian F. Walker, Michael A. Burstein Brian F. Walker, Michael A. Burstein Photo copyright ©2012 J. Pickard. All rights reserved.

Brian and I bonded over the fact that we were both writers. While I was writing science-fiction short stories, Brian was working on a YA novel based partly on his own experiences growing up in East Cleveland and attending a private school in New England.

That novel, Black Boy White School, has finally been published by HarperTeen, and last night Brian had a signing at The Elephant Walk in Cambridge. I wasn't sure if I would be able to get to it, as it meant making sure that the girls went to bed early or on time. As it is, thanks to Nomi, I managed to make it out the door in time to get to the signing late. I missed Brian's reading, but I had a chance to see him, talk for a few minutes, and get my copy of his novel autographed.

Black Boy White School by Brian F. Walker Black Boy White School by Brian F. Walker

I'm only halfway through the book, but I'm enjoying it immensely. The novel is about Anthony "Ant" Jones, an African-American teenager from East Cleveland who earns a scholarship to Belton Academy, a prep school in Maine. It's fascinating to read about Ant's experiences in these two different worlds, both of which are very different from the world I experienced as a teenager. Ant is dealing with the usual issues of adolescence, of course, but layered on top of that are the problems specific to a black teenager from a rough neighborhood trying to make it in an elite white world. I can't wait to find out what happens to him.
I missed a month of my Apex Blog, but I'm sort of keeping up the time travel theme. Today, I discuss what I discovered when I re-read the Robert A. Heinlein novel Stranger in a Strange Land last week, getting my re-read just under the wire for the book's 50th anniversary.

So does this novel from 1961 hold up in 2011? Click the link for my thoughts:

Stranger in a Strange Land: A Personal Reflection on the Fiftieth Anniversary
I seem to be focusing on time travel a lot lately with my Apex Blog posts. Perhaps there's something in the water?

Anyway, the Apex Blog I posted yesterday, Time Traveling With Lawrence Block, is all about how reading a worthy Grand Master of mysteries can help a writer craft better time travel stories. Go take a look and you'll see what I mean.
mabfan: (book-cover)
Last week, I took some time on Friday afternoon to check out the Borders book store in Downtown Crossing. As I presume most of you know by now, Borders, which has been an active business since 1971, has declared bankruptcy and is going out of business.

Borders Going Out of Business Borders Going Out of Business Photo copyright ©2011 M. A. Burstein.

A few years ago, Downtown Crossing boasted two chain bookstores, a Barnes & Noble and this Borders. My understanding is that the Barnes & Noble closed when the property owner raised the rent, confident that they could get a retailer willing to pay if B&N wasn't. B&N wasn't, and years later, the site is still vacant.

I have to admit that the loss of that B&N hit me more than the loss of Borders does now. I grew up loving many different bookstores, including Coliseum Books, The Strand, and Shakespeare & Co., but all of those were in Manhattan. A short walk from where I lived in Forest Hills, however, were a Waldenbooks and a Barnes & Noble. So I have a more atavistic attachment to those store names than to Borders, even though Waldenbooks was eventually bought by Borders.

Borders Going Out of Business Sale Borders Going Out of Business Sale Photo copyright ©2011 M. A. Burstein.

Although the downtown Borders had laid off a friend of mine a while back, making me stay away from it, I decided to go inside to check out the sale. I was curious to see what items were left, and what the atmosphere was like. The store was hopping, but I suspect that the staffers who are about to lose their jobs didn't exactly feel excited about it.

Oddly enough, I found myself uninterested in taking advantage of the sale. I did find a few books that would have once interested me if I had the chance to buy them at deep discounts, such as the fortieth anniversary Doonesbury collection and a reprint of the large hardcover companion to the Carl Sagan Cosmos series. But whether it's because our own finances are tight or being in a closing bookstore depressed me, I just couldn't bring myself to buy anything.

There was also this, which I noticed in the science fiction section.

Borders Science Fiction Section at 60% Off Borders Science Fiction Section at 60% Off Photo copyright ©2011 M. A. Burstein.

The Downtown Crossing Borders was one of many stories that was very supportive of me when I Remember the Future came out in 2008, and they stocked many copies, all of which I cheerfully signed. Seeing my own book as part of the going out of business sale is like the final nail in the coffin, to overuse a cliché.

We Can Remember It For You On Sale We Can Remember It For You On Sale Photo copyright ©2011 M. A. Burstein.

At this point, I believe downtown Boston has only two major large bookstores left, a Barnes & Noble in the Prudential Center and the one in Kenmore Square that serves as the Boston University Bookstore. All I can say is, I'm still glad we have Pandemonium, the New England Mobile Book Fair, the Harvard Bookstore, Newtonville Books, and Brookline Booksmith around.
At the start of a very, very busy long weekend for us, Nomi and I got a special treat.

Nomi Burstein, Bob Greenberger, Michael A. Burstein Nomi Burstein, Bob Greenberger, Michael A. Burstein
Photo copyright ©2011 A. Kaplan. All rights reserved.

Our good friend Bob Greenberger happened to be in town today, so Nomi and I arranged the time out of our work schedules to meet him for lunch at the Milk Street Café.

I've talked about Bob quite a bit on this blog before; he's a writer and editor who used to work for both DC Comics and Marvel Comics, and he's working on becoming a teacher. (He edited some of my favorite comics when I was a kid, long before I knew him.) He's also a local politician in his own town, so he and I sometimes compare notes on Town Meeting issues. Bob and I even collaborated on a story together once, "Things That Aren't," which appeared in Analog back in April 2007.

We literally have not seen Bob in person for a few years, as he lives in Connecticut. Often we would see him at the Malibu Diner in New York City when a group of editor types meet for lunch on a Wednesday (hence the title of this post), but we haven't been there for a while. We also haven't been to any conventions recently, which would have been another chance to spend time with him.

Today's lunch wasn't earth-shattering or anything like that; it was just a few good friends having a chance to catch up in person, as opposed to over the Internet. It was a chance to laugh, and smile, talk about our kids (I can say that now; last time I saw Bob I wasn't yet a father), and just reconnect.

Thanks, Bob.
For an amusing take on Nick Fury recruiting superheroes for the Avengers, see [livejournal.com profile] gnomi's post No Really, We Talk Like This, Children's Book Edition.
Last night, Nomi and I went to Brookline Booksmith for an appearance by Adam Mansbach and Ricardo Cortés, the author and illustrator of the children's book parody Go the (Expletive) to Sleep.

Ricardo Cortés and Adam Mansbach at Brookline Booksmith Ricardo Cortés and Adam Mansbach at Brookline Booksmith
Copright ©2011 by Michael A. Burstein. All rights reserved.

I wrote about the book a few weeks ago in my The Brookline Parent column for Brookline Patch, under the title Exasperation Expressed. At the time, I didn't know that the authors were actually home-grown, as it were; both of them grew up in Newton, and attended Newton high schools. (Whereas I grew up in New York City and moved up here. But I digress.) In my column, I discussed the book as a phenomenon, and how it expressed a frustration that a lot of parents have felt when trying to get their kids to go to sleep.

Although Nomi and I tend to be more circumspect in our own use of language, we're both fascinated by the use of taboo words in English. Nomi comes to it naturally, with her linguistics background; I come to it from a writer's perspective, as I sometimes ponder how and when a character would choose to use a word. So we had no problem attending a reading laced with taboo words, as we knew what we were getting into.

Mansbach was an excellent lecturer. One of the things I appreciated was that he really had the right attitude about the minor phenomenon his book has become: a slightly detached bemusement at how much it was struck a chord with people. He and Cortés discussed the book, and Mansbach did his own dramatic reading. I briefly considered recording it, but in the end decided not to. (Even if I had, I wouldn't have the rights to post it.) However, I'd encourage him to do his own audiobook version if he has the chance, because his own reading felt quite authentic.

Given that the text of the book was so short, Mansbach had plenty of time to answer questions. The more I heard, the more I liked.

On the controversy of the book, Mansbach noted that it is made pretty clear that the book is not for children. One parental watchdog group in New Zealand said that in the wrong hands of an abusive parent, the book could be damaging to children, to which Mansbach pointed out that in the wrong hands a spoon could be damaging to children. In my opinion, if a parent really chose to read this book to their young child when trying to get that child to go to sleep, that he or she probably has some other problems.

On the profanity in the book, Nomi and I were delighted when he made a point of noting how the book is mostly filled with vulgarity and not profanity. Like us, he understands and makes the distinction among the different types of taboo language out there. The fact is that the book only has about three or four uses of profanity; most of the book presents vulgarity and obscenity, which is not the same thing.

One audience member asked Mansbach about whether he wishes the fame he had gotten came from one of his serious novels. He pointed out that he's been asked this question in a lot of media interviews, and his answer is that he's delighted that the book has made him more well known, as it does help shine a spotlight on his other work. That's true. I'll admit that I'd not heard of him before, but I'm now planning to take a look at his novels.

I also appreciated his attitude about the leaked PDF of the book. In the early days of the book's publicity, the PDF that had been sent to some authors for blurbs went viral and was pirated all over the Internet. At first, Mansbach tried to stop the PDFs from being posted, and he usually approached the posters in a friendly way, reminding them that the book wasn't even published yet and asking them to "chill." He said that one person who had posted the PDF on Facebook offered to take it down, but pointed out that it had sent his 300 friends to pre-order the book on Amazon. Which made Mansbach pause. In the end, he saw the value of the leaked PDF as spreading the word and not really cutting into the book's sales. But he did note that this did not mean he endorsed piracy of people's work in general. I think that's the right attitude to take. (I told him when we met that I had actually tried to get people I knew to stop linking to the PDF, and I would also remind them that if they liked the book they should buy it to support the author.)

(Another aside: I found it interesting that Amazon played a prominent role in the book's story, because for a while there the Amazon page was the only marketing that the book had. I kind of wonder how the Booksmith staff felt about Mansbach referring to Amazon semi-frequently throughout the presentation, but I guess they're used to it by now.)

After the Q & A had ended, Nomi and I lined up with our copy of the book that we had bought at Booksmith for signing. (We also have a copy we bought elsewhere, which was a second printing; Booksmith only had third printings at this point. I kind of wish we had managed to get a first printing signed, but we'll take what we can get. And I always support the bookstore hosting a signing by buying the book there.)

When we got to the signing table, I delivered a message of greeting from a friend of a friend at the University of Wisconsin who knew Mansbach, and Nomi and I shared a few words with him about how much we appreciated his talk. We were glad we got the chance to meet him and get the book signed.

And I shouldn't neglect Cortés. Although he spoke less than Mansbach did, he talked about his own creative process in choosing the illustrations for the book and how it was a collaborative effort. Personally, I feel that the book wouldn't work nearly as well without the imagination that went into the accompanying illustrations.

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