September 26, 2015

The Spin Doctor is IN, for SF&F Literati, 9/28/15

Date: Monday, September 28, 2015-7:00 p.m.
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Available fromFine booksellers, including Barnes & Noble
Meeting LocationBarnes & Noble #2352, 2nd Floor
11323 W 95th Street, Overland Park, KS 66214

Overview from Barnes & Noble:
Two science fiction masters—Jack McDevitt and Mike Resnick—team up to deliver a classic thriller in which one man uncovers the hidden history of the United States space program…
“Houston, we have a problem…”
Formerly a cynical, ambitious PR man, Jerry Culpepper finally found a client he could believe in when he was hired as NASA’s public affairs director. Proud of the Agency’s history and sure of its destiny, he was thrilled to be a part of its future.
But public disinterest and budget cuts changed that future. Now, a half century after the first Moon landing, Jerry feels like the only one with stars in his eyes.
Then a fifty-year-old secret about the Apollo XI mission is revealed, and he finds himself embroiled in the biggest controversy of the twenty-first century, one that will test his ability—and his willingness—to spin the truth about a conspiracy of reality-altering proportions.

Didn't read it? Come anyway! The conversation is always good—PLUS you get to help pick the next four reading selections! Please com with ideas and/or a list!

IMAGE: Many thanks to the Staffer’s Book ReviewBlog for the cover image.

September 22, 2015

Creative Corner

Here's what Creative Friends of KaCSFFS are Doing!

Bryan Thomas Schmidt

Bryan Thomas Schmidt's debut novel, The Worker Prince, which made Barnes and Noble's “Year's Best SF of 2011,” is being released in a newly-revised and expanded Author's Definitive Version from Kevin J. Anderson's WordFire Press, in November.

Two sequels, to complete The Saga of Davi Rhii space opera trilogy, will be released next year, with both out by MidAmericon II. The Returning was released earlier; it will be re-released in a revised edition, along with the brand new conclusion to the series, The Exodus.

MISSION: TOMORROW, Bryan's next anthology for Baen and his first as a solo editor, is out November 3rd.

Bryan will be appearing at Archon, and as being a Featured Speaker at Susan Satterfield's MCC Longview Literary Festival in October, and appearing at Stan Lee's Comikaze Comic Con in Los Angeles Oct. 30-Nov. 1.

Mitch Bentley

Mitch Bentley will be the Artist Guest of Honor at Fencon, September 25-27, at the Westin Dallas Ft. Worth Airport. He also will appear at Archon the following weekend, October 2-4, at the Gateway Convention Center and Doubletree Hotel in Collinsville, MO (near St. Louis).
Mitch will debut a new cover for Rhonda Eudaly's Tarbox Station, published by Yard Dog Press, at Fencon. Also for Yard Dog, he will debut a new cover for Lee Killough's Ancient Enemy, later this year.

In addition, Mitch just completed the cover for Virtue Inverted, for Piers Anthony and co-writer Kenneth Kelly, who also served as art director on the project. The book is still in the initial stages of layout and design, but it should be released very soon as an eBook. The trade paperback will be released a little later.

William F. Wu

William F. Wu's most recent work is a short story called "China City Flame" in an anthology called Asian Pulp. It's a crime story set in 1939, and is his second published crime story, though the first was also a ghost story.This is his first published story without any science fiction or fantasy elements.

Wu also had a new story, titled "Yellowsea Yank," in the original ebook anthology, 
Defiant, She Advanced: Legends of Future Resistance, edited by George Donnelly. The story is steampunk, set in the 1890s, and he hopes it'll be the first of a series. He also has another steampunk short story in the pipeline, for another original anthology, the game-related Steamscapes: Asia. This story is titled "Clockwork Glide."

In addition, Wu has an ongoing series of stories in the War World anthology series, edited by John F. Carr, and he has begun releasing some of his short fiction in e-book form, on all the major retail websites.

Mark Esping
Mark Esping has reprinted NEQUA, or The Problem of the Ages, a "feminist, hollow-earth, utopian science fiction novel" originally published in 1900 in Topeka, KS. It includes 40 pages of new material, giving background information on some of the people originally responsible for publishing it. Available via Amazon, ABE, and (KAXFEN interested in purchasing a copy should bring $20 cash to a meeting, and he'll hand-deliver your copy).

If you are interested in learning more about this piece of sf history with a local angle, you may find the small item Mark wrote for Fantasy and Science Fiction interesting. The novel also is the subject of a Wikipedia page. There are only 11 or 12 copies of the original edition still in existence.

Susan Satterfield 
Susan Satterfield reminds local and regional writers that the 2015 MCC-Longview Literary Festival will be held Friday, October 23 on the Longview campus of the Metropolitan Community College, in Lee's Summit, MO. (Please note the link currently leads you to information on last year's festival, but 2015 should be similar). For more information or if you'd like to participate in panels, readings, and/or a table to sell your work, contact Susan Satterfield.

IMAGES: Many thanks to Bryan Thomas Schmidt for his cover art, Mitch Bentley for the images of his cover artwork, to William F. Wu for the images of his covers, to Mark Esping for the cover image of NEQUA, and for the photo of students at the literary festival, from the Longview Literary Festival page.

September 19, 2015

Now, THAT's Fantasy Football!

Does your Team have Special Powers?
Football season (and Fantasy Football, too) is in full swing this month. But we're science fiction fans. We are not bound by mundane rules. 

So: how fantastic IS your fantasy team? (Don't let us down!)

IMAGE: Many thanks to theGame Informer website, for this image!

September 15, 2015

Is the KaCSFFS Picnic on Your Calendar?

Fun, Food for All
What: Annual KaCSFFS Picnic
3607 Pennsylvania Ave., Kansas City, MO 64111
When: Saturday, September 19, 2015
5:00 Load-in food and equipment to the back parking lot begins. Once everything's in, you'll have to park elsewhere after unloading. PLEASE BE PROMPT! 
6:00 Let the festivities begin!
9:00 Begin load-out, in the back parking lot

Don Mull and Kristina Hiner at an indoor picnic in 2013
An Indoor-Outdoor Picnic 
For the past several years we've held our annual picnic indoors, in recognition of some of our members' allergy, mobility, and other health issues. However, an influx of new members has brought many requests to go back outside. 

This year we hope to accommodate both groups. We've moved the Picnic's timing to September, in the hope it won't be as hot as it often is in June. 

Grills and some picnic tables will be set up in the shady, level parking lot area in back of The Writers Place, once all the equipment and food has been unloaded.  

We also will set up some of the tables indoors, so everyone will have a place to eat that is comfortable and safe.
An outdoor KaCSFFS Picnic in 2006
Field Day in Front
We also plan to set up lawn games in the front yard of The Writers Place. If you have something fun to share, be it Frisbees, croquet, bocci, horseshoes, beanbags, Nerf weapons, Super-Soakers, or whatever, please bring your toys to the party.

Feeding the Fen
KaCSFFS will provide hot dogs, hamburgers, buns, ketchup, mustard, some soda left over from the ConSuite, and tableware (table-coverings, plastic flatware, plates, cups, napkins, etc.)--but that leaves a lot of things we need from members:
  • Grills, charcoal, utensils, and most importantly COOKS! 
  • Delicious side dishes to share with everyone (there's a sign-up message on the Google Group. Please use it, so we can make sure not everyone brings the same thing).
  • Drinks of your choice, if our standard soda choices don't work for you.
  • More specialized condiments (pickles, tomatoes, lettuce, onions, mayo, cheese, chili, or other goodies)
  • Ice, for drinks and coolers

It should be fun! It should be delicious! You should be there! Please sign up to bring stuff, and join the festivities.

IMAGES: Many thanks to Jan Gephardt for the "indoor picnic" photo, and to Tracy Majkol for the "outdoor picnic" picture (to see more, go to his "KaCSFFS Picnic" page). The "Lawn Games" photo is courtesy of, via Snipview. Many thanks to all!

September 09, 2015

Laser Rangers 2015 September Meeting

Off-Center Comedies
Date: September 12, 2015
Time: 4:50pm
Location: David Sooby’s home theater with 51-inch Samsung HDTV, a 5.1 Surround Sound Dolby Digital sound system, a full set of audiophile-grade speakers, and upgraded seating for about 15 people without crowding.
Captain Laser: Ty G.
Food: East Indian
Costume: Normal?

To learn more, please visit our Facebook Event Page.

Short features will be shown before each feature. Don't miss them!

The Grand Budapest Hotel

(2014, 99 minutes) Directed by: Wes Anderson

Starring: Ralph Fiennes, F. Murray Abraham, Edward Norton, Mathieu Amalric, Saoirse Ronan, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Léa Seydoux, Jeff Goldblum, Jason Schwartzman, Jude Law, Tilda Swinton, Harvey Keitel, Tom Wilkinson, Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Tony Revolori

In the 1930s, the Grand Budapest Hotel is a popular European ski resort, presided over by concierge Gustave H. (Ralph Fiennes). Zero, a junior lobby boy, becomes Gustave's friend and protege. Gustave prides himself on providing first-class service to the hotel's guests, including satisfying the sexual needs of the many elderly women who stay there. When one of Gustave's lovers dies mysteriously, Gustave finds himself the recipient of a priceless painting and the chief suspect in her murder.-IMDB

Watch the trailer here!

After the first feature, please join us for a potluck dinner. Bring something to share. It can follow the theme, or be something you prefer.

Feature Presentation!
The Castle

(1997, 83 minutes) Directed by: Rob Sitch

Starring: Michael Caton, Anne Tenney, Stephen Curry, Sophie Lee, Eric Bana

The quirky Kerrigan family lives together in a makeshift home they built themselves -- with great pride and a bizarre attention to detail -- a few yards from the edge of Melbourne, Australia's busy Tullamarine Airport. When a building inspector condemns the building and reveals that the government plans to use their land for an airport expansion, Darryl Kerrigan (Michael Caton) and his brood recruit hack attorney Dennis Denuto (Tiriel Mora) and prepare themselves for the fight of their lives.-IMDB

Watch the trailer here!

The home of the Laser Rangers is located about four miles north of the Kansas Speedway, NW of the intersection of I-70 and I-435 on the Kansas side of the Greater Kansas City area.

IMAGE CREDITS: The information for all of these shows come from the invaluable IMDB. The movie posters come from Wikipedia or the movie's respected distributors. 

The movie screen frame image used for the Laser Rangers contact information is courtesy of Psychology Today Online. Many thanks to these websites!

September 06, 2015

Call for Grill Wizards and Sundry Others

KaCSFFS Needs You for the Annual Picnic!
Start planning now for the Annual KaCSFFS Picnic at The Writers Place. Same fun folk, new month, and a new format: an indoor-outdoor picnic

We're hoping for nice weather September 19.

But KaCSFFS can't do it alone! We hope you'll start thinking NOW about what you can bring. We will need:

  • Lawn toys (Frisbees, croquet, bocci, horseshoes, beanbags, Nerf weapons, Super-Soakers, or whatever).
  • Grills, charcoal, utensils, and most importantly COOKS! 
  • Delicious side dishes to share with everyone (there's a sign-up message on the Google Group. Please use it, so we can make sure not everyone brings the same thing).
  • Drinks of your choice, if our standard soda choices don't work for you.
  • More specialized condiments (pickles, tomatoes, lettuce, onions, mayo, cheese, chili, or other goodies)
  • Ice, for drinks and coolers.
IMAGES: Many thanks to La Saucisserie Artisan Sausage Maker, for, ironically, the image of burgers on the grill; also to the blog On Your Grill, for the image of the hot dogs. Are you hungry yet?

September 03, 2015

Film Review: "The Wind Rises"

By David Sooby
Film review: The Wind Rises (2013; original title "Kaze tachinu"); an Anime biopic with fantasy elements.
My rating: 3-1/2 stars out of 4

How does Hayao Miyazaki, creator of such Anime fantasy masterpieces as Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, Howl's Moving Castle, and Kiki's Delivery Service, go about creating an Anime biography of Jiro Horikoshi, a Japanese aircraft engineer who designed the  Mitsubishi Zero, probably the best fighter plane in the early part of WW II?

He does it by including dreams and daydreams showing the desires and inspirations of a young man working hard to become an inventor and engineer; dreams of flight which fit very well into Miyazaki's style of beautiful, richly detailed, fantastic visuals. 

Dreams of flight in The Wind Rises
But counterpoint to the dream sequences, the setting of this film is firmly grounded in historical reality. The auteur does not shy away from showing the economic turmoil and social chaos in pre-WW II Japan. As shown in the film, this was a period of rising militarism, when Japan spent massive amounts of its limited wealth on building up its military, even while Japanese citizens were being impoverished and displaced.

As depicted in this film, aircraft designers like Horikoshi  wanted only to make wonderful flying machines, not weapons of destruction. (This might be not far from the truth. According to Horikoshi's Wikipedia entry, his diary showed he was "strongly opposed to what he regarded as a futile war".)  It is the supreme irony of the film that these engineer-inventors were able to see their dreams realized -- produced and actually flown -- only because aircraft development was funded by the military. Miyazaki does not shy away from this irony, and in fact underscores it by making the simultaneous rise of militarism in Germany and Italy part of the story.

The engineer-inventors get to see their dreams become real--but only with military help.
A parallel story in the film is how Horikoshi met and romanced the love of his life. This plot also seems, fatalistically (and fatalism plays a very big part in Japanese storytelling), to be on a road to inevitable tragedy, for soon after he starts courting her he learns that she has tuberculosis.

The story is slow moving and filtered through a very romantic lens. Miyazaki has eschewed suspense and excitement in favor of, apparently, sticking close to actual historical events, despite the heavy dose of romanticism. Patience by the viewer will be richly rewarded in the many beautifully rendered scenes of Japanese landscape and architecture, as well as the sometimes literally fantastic flying sequences. 

Japanese landscapes and a love story fill out the story, but slow the pace.
Counterpoint to the romance, Miyazaki injects some elements of realism into the mix; Horikoshi's slide rule is depicted with exacting detail in many scenes, as are the drawings and aircraft blueprints produced by his aircraft company. The many hours Horikoshi spends on calculations provides a counterpoint to the fantastic dreams-of-flying sequences.

I'm a fan of animation, and I don't see Anime as a separate genre, but rather as just one style of animation. This is by far one of the most beautifully drawn animated films I've ever seen. I give it a small down-check for occasionally wanting the story to move a bit faster, but overall it's a wonderful film.

Fantastic flight sequences, as we soar with the inventor's imagination.
One mark of a great director is that, somewhere in the film, he will insert a line which sums up his vision of the film. In Lawrence of Arabia, this comes at the half-way point, when a motorcyclist shouts across the Suez Canal to Lawrence: "Who are you?" The voice of the motorcyclist is the voice of director David Lean.

In "The Wind Rises", one of Horikoshi's idols is the Italian aircraft designer Giovanni Caproni. In the young engineer's dreams, Caproni becomes his mentor. In the final scene of the film, the imagined Caproni says to Horikoshi: "Airplanes are beautiful cursed dreams, waiting for the sky to swallow them up." I'm not sure whether or not Miyazaki intended for that to sum up the entire film, but it certainly does serve as an insight into the director's thinking. 

IMAGES: Many thanks to Anime Monday, for the first and final still images in this post, to Madman, for the movie stills of the military planes and the couple in the woods, and to YouTube and Deadline Hollywood, for the official trailer. 
PLEASE NOTE: this review was originally posted on the Laser Rangers Facebook Page.