Aaaaaaaaaaaaand we’re back.

Previously on The Fog of Ward:

Yes, it has indeed been mighty quiet around these parts for quite some time. I promise it has nothing to do with anything bad, but rather just my being busy on various fronts. My consulting work comes in fits and starts, with tasks arriving from multiple sources and often with competing deadlines or at least competing time frames in which action is required. It’s nothing that isn’t manageable, at least in and of itself. However, couple that with a major writing project with which I must admit I struggled in a way I haven’t experienced in a rather long time, and the time crunch starts to assert itself.

Then there were the usual sorts of other tasks demanding attention such as my regular volunteering stints at the museum plus some fun things like a school trip for our oldest child to Florida. Their orchestra, band, and choir were afforded a tremendous opportunity to participate in a workshop with musicians from Disney down at Disney Studios, and the school built a pretty fun mini-vacation into the mix. We spent four full days at the Magic Kingdom, Disney Studios, and Universal Studios taking in all the attractions and other fun, and yes, I even snuck away when the Starship Enterprise wasn’t looking in order to visit space vessels from another galaxy. You know….the one far, far away.

What a piece of junk, amirite?

With the weather warming up, that means more time spent outside, either working in the yard or tending to other things around the house, or enjoying extended walks around the lakes in our neighborhood. It also means convention season, with the first of those coming up later this week when I venture northward for Star Trek: Mission Chicago. I’m actually leaving for that event later today, and it promises to be a busy next several days. Later this month, Kevin and I will be guests at Planet Comicon here in KC, and a few weeks after that we’ll be on our way to Denver for what has only been recently announced as the final Starfest Convention. After missing in-person conventions for the past two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I’m truly going to miss our annual pilgrimage to Colorado. We’ve been attending that show as guests since 2003 and have made so many friends with whom we enjoy reconnecting each year. This will be a tough one, especially when considering friends who’ve left us during the past two years, but we’re bound and determined to have a blow-out party for the ages as we gather one last time.

So far as summer conventions go, Shore Leave is of course a big one. As it did with Starfest, the pandemic kept me from traveling to Baltimore to hang out with friends and colleagues I might only see at this show, and there also will be some folks whose absences will be keenly felt. Perhaps for that reason above so many others, I’m grateful to reconnect with my East Coast extended fam and enjoy each other’s company while remembering absent friends.

Summer also brings with it the summer swim league for our neighborhood kids, and our youngest is still keen to participate. That means lots of practices during the league’s six-week season and six (hopefully not too hot) Wednesday evenings when we get to hang out with neighborhood friends. There’s also the museum, at which I’m still regularly volunteering, and hopefully a family vacation somewhere in the midst of all that…even better if it ends up being with my sister and her family, which is the current plan we’re hatching.

And yes, I plan to get back to littering this space with my usual brand of…well, whatever it we want to call what I do here. Writing and book release announcements and related musings, of course, but I also have a few ideas for the “Tuesday Trekkin'” and “Tied Up With Tie-Ins” recurring features, and a few other ideas percolating. If there’s something you’d like to me to spend a bit of time babbling about, drop your suggestions in the comments.

But first? On to Chicago!

Extended hiatus.

So, yeah, it’s been pretty quiet around here.

Work and other demands have taken their toll these past several weeks. What I can say is I’m nearing the end of this rather lengthy period of “Quiet Time” in blog land, but there’s still one stretch of days left to navigate. Once that’s done and things return to something resembling “normal,” I’ll get back to posting my irregular yet still-somewhat frequent blatherings about writing, pop culture, and other nonsense that takes up far too much space in my brain.

Until then, though?

I mean, that’s basically what I’ve been doing most of this time, along with the aforementioned work and other things. I probably should’ve said something before now, but I figured my absence — perhaps noted by one or maybe even two of you — was enough to convey that I was probably off somewhere doing other things. However, it occurs to me that it’s actually only part of the deal, because no sooner do I finish the Writing Project-In Progress than I plan to disengage from the electronic realm for a bit, at least to a very large degree. The primary exception for this will be checking in on various members of my family to see where they may have strayed while I’ve been occupied. And maybe binge some backlogged TV.

So, be good to each other while I’m gone. Be good to each other the other times, too.

UPDATE: I realize now my original post makes it sound like my situation is dire or otherwise unpleasant. Rest assured that’s not the case, and I apologize if anyone came away with that impression. I promise my absence from here is simply do to other, greater work priorities, to be followed by a brief reprieve spent with the family. I expect I’ll be back here with something by next weekend or so, if not a bit earlier…unless something pops up that simply demands I blab about it.

January writing wrap-up.

Well, 2022 is off to a rapid start. I think that adage about time seeming to speed up as you get older is very true. I mean, it was just 2014 yesterday, right?

2022 picked up what 2021 threw down: Me, with my foot on the gas. Lots of things to read, review, comment on, meet about, talk about, wonder about, and so on and so forth. There was also some writing involved with that, but not the sort of writing you’re likely here to read about. Well, maybe you are but I can’t talk about any of that, so I’ll just focus on the things I can kinda sorta talk about.

Yeah, that’s not vague. I mean, at all.

Anyway, let’s look at what happened in January, writing-wise….

Continue reading “January writing wrap-up.”

February 1, 2003.

Nineteen years ago this morning, the Space Shuttle Columbia, returning to Earth after a successful 16-day mission, broke apart during re-entry and disintegrated, killing its seven-member crew.

I spent the rest of that afternoon and the ensuing days watching the news coverage as new information came to light, and possible explanations and causes for the disaster began to emerge. To this day, it’s hard to believe something so seemingly simple as a few damaged heat tiles could wreak such unchecked destruction.

On the other hand, the tragedy served to reinforce the harsh reality of the incredible dangers inherent in crewed space flight, and nothing about it is “simple” or “routine.” I did and still believe our exploration of space is a worthy and necessary endeavor, and I hope the sacrifices made by men and women such as Columbia‘s crew will always be heeded when taking our next small steps and giant leaps.

Generations from now, when the reach of human civilization is extended throughout the solar system, people will still come to this place to learn about and pay their respects to our heroic Columbia astronauts. They will look at the astronauts’ memorial and then they will turn their gaze to the skies, their hearts filled with gratitude for these seven brave explorers who helped blaze our trail to the stars.

– Sean O’Keefe, NASA Administrator
Arlington National Cemetery, February 2nd, 2004

 (l-r, blue shirts): David Brown, William McCool, Michael Anderson.
(l-r, red shirts): Kalpana Chawla, Rick D. Husband, Laurel Blair Salton Clark, Ilan Ramon

Where never lark or even eagle flew….

73 seconds after launch on a particularly cold Florida morning 36 years ago today, the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded, killing astronauts Dick Scobee, Michael Smith, Judith Resnik, Ellison Onizuka, Ron McNair, Greg Jarvis, and Christa McAuliffe.

On March 21st, 1987, a permanent marker paying tribute to the crew was placed at Arlington National Cemetery. The marker’s face features likenesses of the crew and the following dedication:

In Grateful
and Loving Tribute
To the Brave Crew
of the United States
Space Shuttle Challenger
28 January 1986

Inscribed on the back of the marker is this poem:

High Flight

Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
and danced the skies on laughter silvered wings,
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
of sun split clouds – and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of wheeled and soared and swung
high in the sunlit silence hov’ring there.
I’ve chased the shouting wind along and flung
my eager craft through footless halls of air….

Up, up the long delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the windswept heights with easy grace
Where never lark or even eagle flew
and while with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod
the high untrespassed sanctity of space
put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

– John Gillespie Magee, Jr.

challenger-crew
L-R: Ellison S. Onizuka, Michael J. Smith, Sharon Christa McAuliffe, Francis R. Scobee, Gregory B. Jarvis, Ronald E. McNair, Judith A. Resnik

God speed to the crew of Apollo 1.

Each year, January 27th marks the beginning of a somber week of remembrance for NASA.

On the evening of this date in 1967 while conducting a routine test of their spacecraft’s power systems, astronauts Virgil I. “Gus” Grissom, Edward H. White, and Roger B. Chafee were killed when a fire broke out inside the Apollo 1 capsule.

Grissom had been with NASA almost from the beginning, flying missions for both the Mercury and Gemini programs, and White also was a Gemini veteran. The Apollo 1 flight was to be Chaffee’s first space mission.

Though tragic, their sacrifice ultimately played a monumental role in NASA’s effort toward bettering the machines which soon would fly to the Moon, and ensuring the safety of the men they carried there.

apollo1-crew
(L-R: Astronauts Gus Grissom, Ed White, Roger Chaffee)

IN MEMORY
OF
THOSE WHO MADE THE ULTIMATE SACRIFICE
SO OTHERS COULD REACH THE STARS

AD ASTRA PER ASPERA
(A ROUGH ROAD LEADS TO THE STARS)

GOD SPEED TO THE CREW
OF
APOLLO 1

Tied Up With Tie-Ins: Man from Atlantis!

Hey! Been a while since I traveled this road, huh?

For those of you who’ve joined our program already in progress, one of the “irregularly recurring features” I like to play around with here in the confines of this blog-type thing is something I like to call, “Tied Up With Tie-ins.” Basically, it’s when I decide to take a fond look back at a favorite series of movie or TV tie-in books. Given my penchant for nostalgia and collecting old books, I figure this is a nice intersection for those two interests, which often means I’m revisiting something older, such as the many different tie-ins which were all over the place during my childhood and early adulthood. That said, I’m certainly not above babbling about something newer if it tickles my fancy.

This time around, we’re heading back to the 1970s and taking a (not too) deep dive to pay a visit to Patrick Duffy, who before he was Bobby Ewing and the dad from Step By Step and Bobby Ewing again, was Mark Harris, the Man from Atlantis.

Continue reading “Tied Up With Tie-Ins: Man from Atlantis!”

Your Moment of TrekZen*.

Courtesy of friend Aaron Harvey, we have this bit of 1970s Star Trek merchandising goodness.

I have to admit – and this is something I get to say with decreasing frequency as the years go by – but I’d never even heard of this particular item let alone seen one before yesterday. It’s totally insane and yet has everything I love about that early era of Star Trek merch.

First, there’s the obvious “label slapping,” whereby the toy manufacturer just adds the name of a popular TV show, movie, comic book, or whatever onto something that evokes the tagged property in no meaningful way whatsoever. But then there’s the groovy box art that really makes this worthwhile. I admit I like it way more than the actual “Phaser Rocket Gun.” I’d actually rather collect just the box over the toy itself.

This gem was produced in the UK and likely never made it over here to the States in any signficant numbers, making it a definite rarity and item of curiosity for many a hardcore Star Trek collector. There was one other toy from “Lone Star” that I did know about: their “Inter-Space Communicator” which as you can plainly see bears absolutely no resemblance to anything you might’ve seen Kirk or Spock talking into on the original series.

“Can you hear me now?”

I didn’t do a particularly deep dive on this, and so only found these two examples of Star Trek merch from Lone Star, which I’ve decided had to be the British successor to our very own and very much beloved Remco from the late 1960s while the original show was still in production. You know what I’m talking about…..

For anyone interested along with any of you who keep insisting I’m hard to shop for, as I write this there’s currently an eBay auction for the “Phaser Rocket Gun,” with an opening bid of $350. So, so you know….bid early and often!

(* = with acknowledgments–and apologies–to The Daily Show)

December writing wrap-up.

Our journey into the future continues as we welcome 2022! Let’s take a look at the future history calendar to see what milestones we might expect from this new year.

Oh.

Well, damn. I wonder if we taste like chicken.

(If you’re one of the few people left who doesn’t get the reference, go here.)

The last month of 2021 was…active? Yeah, that’s a word. There was writing, of course, along with a lot of reading, reviewing, commenting, and discussing all sorts of other things. Since this is my monthly writing wrap-up blog, I should probably just stick to talking about that here.

So, with that in mind, what went down in December? Let’s have a look-see….

Continue reading “December writing wrap-up.”

My first two decades as an alleged novelist.

How’s that song go? “It’s been a long road…..”

Yeah. Twenty years in the rearview mirror, just like that.

It was on this date in 2002 that my first novel was “officially” published. As it happens, it was a Star Trek novel, In the Name of Honor, and as is often the case with mass-market paperbacks, it had been showing up in stores in the days running up to its scheduled release date. Today, however, is the day I circled on the calendar way back when.

Little did I know what might come next.

Those of you familiar with my secret origin story know that this first novel came about after I sold short stories to each of the first three Star Trek: Strange New Worlds anthologies. I still recall the afternoon that John Ordover, at the time the editor overseeing the bulk of Pocket Books’ Star Trek fiction output, called me at my office in the fall of 1999 to tell me that he was buying my story “The Aliens Are Coming!” for the third edition of the annual contest and its resulting anthology. I don’t remember the exact words, but it was something along the lines of, “Okay, I’m buying your story. This is your third sale, so you can’t enter the contest anymore. I think it’s time you wrote a Star Trek novel for me.” The rest…as they say…is a frappin’ mystery.

(Takeaway: All of this is John’s fault.)

Is it a stretch to say that phone call changed the course of my life? I don’t think so. Until then, I was rather happy with my career as a software developer. Writing fiction was something I’d taken to doing as a creative outlet, with no real thoughts – serious or otherwise – about ever being professionally published. That was something “real writers” did. I was just writing goofy stories to make my friends laugh, or the occasional bit of Star Trek fan fiction just because it was fun. Only after a dear friend, Deb Simpson, basically dared me to enter a story in that first SNW contest did I ever write something with the idea someone might consider buying it, and I was as stunned as anyone else when my name was announced as one of that first contest’s winners.

At the time I considered it a fluke, but there was no denying the utter rush of seeing my name in a table of contents in an actual book you bought at an actual bookstore. There’s nothing quite like it, I think; that sense of accomplishment, indelibly recorded for all the world to see. Even then, In the Name of Honor was different. This was the first time my name was on the front cover, and that was its own level of “Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?” Holy hell. How did this happen?

(Again, blame John.)

They should find a way to capture that sensation so you can drink or smoke it, because it’s an incredible feeling and even after all this time the experience is the same every time I get my first look at a new cover with my name on it. If that excitement ever fades, I’ll know it’s time to get out of this game and go do something else.

Since then, I’ve been afforded some amazing opportunities – things I can’t imagine ever doing if not for those SNW contests and this first novel. For one thing, I met the dude who would become my frequent writing partner to say nothing of my best friend, Kevin Dilmore, but I’ve also befriended so many other people – writers, fans and fellow Star Trek enthusiasts, people involved with the various Star Trek television series and films (and a few non-Trek productions, as well), and even a couple of honest-to-goodness astronauts.

Eventually, the writing and everything that came with it expanded to influence so much of what I was doing that I cast off my corporate shackles and took up the challenge of writing full-time. I don’t mind saying that was an exciting and yet terrifying period, but I have absolutely no regrets.

Over the years, I’ve written and published original fiction, and even had the chance to write stories in other favorite “universes” like 24, Planet of the Apes, and Predator, but Star Trek has been and continues to be very, very good to me. Without a doubt, Star Trek opened all of those other doors but if you’d told me back in 2002 I’d still be writing and publishing anything – let alone Star Trek stories – twenty years later, I’d have thought you were high. If you told me back then I might eventually find myself in a position where Star Trek pretty much dominates my every waking and working moment, I’d have asked for your dealer’s contact info.

But, here we are. It’s been a long road, all right, but I’m honestly having the time of my life.

Every day, I’m privileged to work with talented and dedicated people who love this thing as much as I do and who want to do right by it. Any list of people to thank is pretty damned long at this point and I know I’d accidentally leave off someone, but I’d like to think they know who they are. They have – each and every one of them – elevated my game, and I can only hope I’ve somehow found a way to return that favor at some point along the way.

With that said, the opportunities and success I’ve enjoyed these past twenty years all track back to In the Name of Honor and – even more so – that first Strange New Worlds contest. For that, I am and will forever remain grateful to John Ordover along with writer and SNW editor Dean Wesley Smith and Paula Block for making it all possible in the first place.

Here’s to the next twenty years, or however many the Fates decide I have in me.