On The Road, Pittsburra: SFWA 2017 Nebula Awards Conference

All right, all right, it’s not Pittsburra, but rather Pittsburgh, but the last five letters are the same as in Edinburgh…

Anyway, long ago I could have become an active member of “SIF-wuh.”  (Speaking of pronunciation, that’s how they say SFWA, which stands for Science Fiction Writers of America.)  But I just joined.  This past weekend I went to their yearly Nebula Awards Conference for the first time, which was held in Pittsburra.

Considering that their Nebula Award is the most prestigious award for this genre, the Nobel Prize in Literature for those of us who write speculative fiction (science fiction and fantasy), the first thing that struck me was the open friendliness extended to me as a newcomer.  The president of the organization was kind enough to meet with me one-on-one, an honor I wasn’t expecting, and even bought one of my books from the bookstore.  A writer reputed to make six figures a year as an indie author was so intent on offering me marketing advise that he spent twice as long with me as he’d agreed to.  It didn’t take me long to realize, from everyone I came in contact with, that what I had joined was a family.

And then there was the banquet, during which the Nebula Awards were announced and given out to the winners for work published in the previous year.  Floral arrangements in the center of the tables?  No…and here I’ll start dropping names…a unique found-object robot sculpture on each table, compliments of Don L. Jones.  Dull, small talk among the strangers I was seated with?  No, I had two animated authors on one side and, on the other, Jim Fiscus who won a well-deserved special award and delighted me as we debated the merits of various Japanese film directors.  Toastmaster?  A real, live astronaut, Dr. Kjell Lindgren, who delighted us with his personal pictures and stories from four months of weightlessness with killer views.  This special guest, having watched our planet for so long from afar, stole our hearts when he expressed how he couldn’t understand why anyone fortunate to live on such a beautiful planet could do anything nasty to the rest of us living here.  Charlie Jane Anders stole our hearts when, having just won a Nebula for her novel All the Birds in the Sky, she said…in the small voice of someone who feels very deeply what they say…that everyone should have a voice.

In short, this writer had a truly wonderful time in…oh, all right…Pittsburgh.

 

Boomers for the Stars Kindle version now on sale for a mere 99 cents

Okay…I did get a little carried away fancying up the paperback version of my latest sci fi novella, the result being that it’s retailing for $14.99 on Amazon.  But now that it’s available elsewhere, including a 99-cent Kindle version, do you forgive me?  Hmmmm?

Boomers for a mere 99 cents HERE

Even if you did pay $14.99, please keep your fingers crossed for me that SFWA’s featuring Boomers for the Stars a couple of different ways at the upcoming Nebula Awards Conference is enough to get it a Nebula Award for 2017…

But mostly I just hope you enjoy this sometimes tongue-in-cheek tale of how future generations deal with freakishly ancient Baby Boomers as much as I had fun writing it!

Check out my newly released sci fi novella, Boomers for the Stars!

BOOMERS FOR THE STARS:  Another sci fi novella I had a lot of fun writing, which will be featured on a big banner at the May 2017 SFWA Nebula Awards Conference.

In a dystopian future Baby Boomers…kept alive far too long by the first, clumsily imperfect advances in the science of longevity…once served as guinea pigs for the fledgling science of interstellar travel.  Now things are even worse…

I’ve just released it in paperback on Amazon:

Boomers for the Stars (paperback) BUY ON AMAZON

I’ll let you know as soon as it’s available elsewhere and when the Kindle version is available for a mere 99 cents.

Tumbleweed

For those of you curious about where I got the inspiration for my most recent book, Rococo, here’s the flash fiction from whence it came…on one of the many days in which I found myself thoroughly disgusted by self-help books.

Toeing an anti-depressant wrapper, she loitered at the western edge of a northsouth.  The alternating rubble and reclaimed farmlands of New Jersey twinkled in the twilight…visible through a Westside airbus clearing.  From the east, through the dip in the moonscrapers created by the Chrysler Building Museum, a battered airbus buzzed in for its landing.  Flashing silver amidst its graffiti, its landing gear descended like the pincers of a huge, battle-worn beetle.  It dopplered over her head, spraying her with a cloud of urban dust that smelled vaguely of discarded electronics, and slid into its clearing.

She sneezed, turning as a rustle announced another observer of the setting sun, and found her voice.  “Trixie, you slut, what an angelic smile.  And who had to slap you silly to get you to wear something that’s even thigh-length, let alone not leather?  That dress…  How can you even walk, let alone clear a doorway, with all those ruffles?

A cloud of dotted Swiss twirled before her.  Eyes full of pastels and spring widened.  “Were you addressing me?”  There was just the faintest hint of a Southern drawl.

“Well excuse me.  We’ve only been best friends for 20 years.”

Trixie looked blank.

“Does the name…oh never mind my name…does the name Trixie mean anything to you?”

Trixie still looked blank, but rallied.  “Pooh!  I’ll recall names in a minute.  Just see if I don’t.  Why, I just now came out from under the machine at the Nupersonality Discount Outlet up yonder.  You call 2121-8347-11572 to make an appointment.”

“Remarkably selective, those memory wipes…”

“Well yes…yes, I do truly believe they gave me a partial memory wipe while I was there.  They were most considerate and very reasonably priced.  They helped me understand how it would be ever so much easier for me to adjust to my Nupersonality that way.”  Ringlets jiggled as Trixie threw her head back.  “They were uncommonly helpful and the memory wipe costs next to nothing if you’re getting a full personality reconstruction.  If you call now they’d be just tickled to give you an additional 20% off if you get a full personality reconstruction before Mars Day.”

“Trixie, I don’t believe you did this to yourself again.  And I was just getting used to your hooker’s personality.  Of all the shoddy…”

“Whatever you could be talking about, dearest, I really cannot imagine.”

“Fuck.”  She clapped her forehead with the palm of her hand.  “What are you this time, the video-game version of Scarlett O’Hara?  Their languatician should be shot.”

“Don’t be cross at poor lil’…  Trixie!  That’s my name!  See?  A person’s always a little foggy after memory work.  You know they take away a little too much memory on purpose, because some of it comes back, but I’m mighty glad I did it.  You all can be, too!  Their offices are right over yonder at…”

“No, thank you.  You can keep your discount personality houses to yourself.  At least, when you bought your hooker personality from Spice of Life, they had the decency to do their research.  For myself, I’m having enough trouble with reputable therapies.  I went to Sachs for a Feelings Flush yesterday and I still can’t get rid of all this fucking anger.”  She shook, breath whistling through clenched teeth.  Knowing it wasn’t Trixie, she plumbed her depths in search of the something to be angry about.

Birdlike, Trixie tilted her head to watch.

As usual, she came up empty-handed.

Trixie spotted her own image in a mirrored pole and pinched her cheeks till they were rosy.

“Trixie, do you think it was that Assertiveness implant I got last spring?”  Her fury was bubbling to the surface again, as faithful as a geyser.  Compulsively fussing with her already perfect hair, she spotted a truly pathetic homeless boy, dressed in torn plastic, who was watching her closely.  “I felt so good, so strong and powerful at first.  But maybe it was of poor quality and turned on me later.  They say that can happen.  Or maybe it didn’t mix well with that second Positive Thinking I got.”

Trixie was staring past the poor homeless boy at the sun setting over the Jersey cornfields.  “Don’t think of that now.  Don’t let anger and ugliness poison you.  Not when everything’s all misty and warm and sweet.”  The glare of the setting sun off Trixie’s impossibly perfect white teeth as Trixie smiled was blinding.

She was alone, except for Trixie and the homeless boy that kept staring at her.  A rage filled her, then the deepest imaginable sorrow, which slowly subsided with the day.  She wasn’t able to identify a reason for either.

Trixie curtsied deeply and fluttered off, a dotted Swiss tumbleweed weaving with the wind through the steep canyons of the city.

She was left shuddering against a cold that didn’t exist.  Staring into the deep wells of the poor homeless boy’s eyes, a sense of vertigo touched her.  Her own words to Trixie came back to haunt her, reverberating through her bone marrow as they tumbled about the canyons of her mind:  “Does the name…oh never mind my name.  Never mind my name.  What…exactly…is my name?”

The sun popped under the horizon, leaving her alone in utter solitude with a complete stranger.  It wasn’t the homeless boy; he’d left long ago.  Only the sound of his final conclusion about her lingered on forever, echoing through her mind.  It was a long, hard laugh.

Check out my newly released sci fi novella, Rococo!

ROCOCO:  A sci fi novella I had a lot of fun writing!  Even the two years I spent researching our future as predicted by a truly diverse collection of people…but including those paid the big bucks to make accurate calls in such matters for major corporations.  Personally, I love this novella, and its sales so far would seem to indicate that I’m not alone, but in case you’d (somewhat understandably!) prefer a somewhat more objective opinion before spending your hard-earned cash on a copy:

“Welcome, my dearest dear, to Rococo…a novella with as many plot flourishes as its name suggests.  In a richly imagined future, Nan is designing the propulsion system for a vessel with a mysterious itinerary, and she’s working for an elusive boss.  Her work, she discovers, is of interest to many parties, and she has the dark suspicion that not all of that interest is healthy.  There is indeed something sinister afoot, and the voice of Nan’s grandfather echoes in her mind:  ‘Only you can overcome this.’  Sue Hollister Barr’s characters will draw you into this tale, leading you through fantastic settings and swirling twists.” Amanda Coffin, Editor.

Ready to buy now?  Hmmm?  Hmmm?  (The Kindle version’s only 99 cents!)  If so, Rococo‘s currently available a number of different places including Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

rococo-by-sue-hollister-barr

Craig Healing Springs (this excerpt from my memoirs is about aging)

See if you agree with the editor who, though he published other work of mine in the New York Times, rejected this piece.  (Written long ago, it’s now part of Craig Healing Springs, the title I’ve given my memoirs.)

CHS

THE GOLDEN YEARS

When I moved to Long Island the first neighbor to introduce herself was an elderly woman living alone.  She fussed over my 18 month old, asked after my husband, and delighted me with her dry humor.  Of all my new neighbors, she was the one who made us feel our new house was a home.

I’d tear about the yard like a crazy person, figuring I had five minutes to finish clipping before the baby woke, and see my neighbor lovingly caress each rose.  I’d race to the car to make a run for milk and juice…and spot my neighbor leaning on her rake to watch the sun glint gold off Northport Harbor.

She worked a lot “on the grounds.”  It gave her the opportunity to commiserate with passers-by on how a homeowner’s work was never done.  It didn’t take long to decode her complaints:  her house was her pride and joy.

Then one day she fell down the stairs.  Something was broken.  I forget what because what happened afterwards struck me as much more important.

Her daughter, whose distinction it was to be talked about even more than the house, came to care for her.  It was decided that my neighbor was senile.  Anyway her eyesight was bad, and sometime while recovering from her fall she signed, without realizing it, a power of attorney.

After that the daughter, who loved her, was afraid of her living alone.  The stairs were steep, and the next fall could have been a lot more serious, but my neighbor didn’t want to sell her house.  “For her own good” it was put on the market anyway.

My neighbor, full of rage and hurt, moved to her daughter’s home.  She felt her own home had been stolen and hated to see her possessions transplanted into someone else’s.  Her glass collection didn’t look right on a modern bookcase.  Her son-in-law mistreated her “color TV.”  She felt caged in someone else’s world where she had no function…no life.

The next stop was the nursing home.

Meanwhile the 18 month old my neighbor used to make yarn octopuses for was soon to enter kindergarten.  Remembering how this neighbor fussed over my firstborn, I was sorry she wasn’t around when I was pregnant with my second.  She would have told me to eat my vegetables and would have predicted the child’s sex.

My second child was six months old when I dressed her in a hand-embroidered dress we only used for picture taking and took her to see my ex-neighbor.

I found the nursing home at the end of a short street marked “dead end.”  (Better an occasional driver curse his/her way through a U-turn than to leave that sign posted!)

The building itself was beautiful…a shaded, once-graceful home.  But it smelled of urine.

The living room was actually many rooms, poorly lit.  People lined the walls in an assortment of odd chairs.  Well-meaning nurses talked pleasantries to people who rarely responded.

I wondered if I should disturb this sepulchral setting with a gurgling, giggling, squirmy baby, but just then said baby was discovered.  It wasn’t just by my ex-neighbor.  Looking down, I found gnarled fingers holding each pink hand, plump foot, and every accessible roll of baby fat.  Whether hobbling, in wheelchairs, or clanking along in walkers, each of that nursing home’s inmates was making it over to ooh and ah and coo and tickle.  I couldn’t leave until everyone had had their turn.

I’d just brought my baby for my neighbor to see but left with a bittersweet feeling of discovery.  Had my infant daughter been a fountain of youth in a place that, no matter how well-intentioned, was little more than a gentle person’s death row?  The people in that nursing home were put there because loving relatives were willing to pay for what would appear to be most important:  top-quality care.  I wonder.  Maybe there are things worse than finding your death at the bottom of a staircase in your own home.

Ink Splatters 3

Out with the sold; in with the new…

…author’s edition of my horror novel, Twisted, with heartfelt thanks to all who have bought, read, and given the original conventionally published version five-star reviews.  I think you’ll like this new version…much meaner and cleaner with new twists in the plot…even better.  You can get it on Amazon (paperback or Kindle):  http://www.amazon.com/Twisted-Sue-Hollister-Barr/dp/0986191701/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1448830440&sr=8-1&keywords=sue+hollister+barr  

Twisted (new author's edition 2015)