Figure 1 - Blue VCON LOGO
Figure 1 – Blue VCON LOGO

Time’s almost up! Next Thursday, Oct. 1, marks the beginning of VCON 40’s events at the Sheraton in Richmond, so you’d better not forget it! So go to and get ready to party! (Thursday’s event is a burlesque-y evening, so it may be for adults rather than children and YA. You know how to research these things, so go for it!) That’s my last reminder—and before you ask, no—I’m not on the concom at all; I’m the art auctioneer, is all. VCON is open to both Canadians and Americans, so you guys south of the border (Bellingham, Everett, Seattle, Portland and points between) can drive or fly up and take advantage of your dollar’s strength and our dollar’s weakness—the American buck’s never been this good against the Loonie; come on up!

Correction from last week’s column: a tiny nit picked by one of Ed Howdershelt’s editors: He’s in Iowa, not Ohio. One of those 4-letter states, anyway. Y’know, Ed, that most people move TO Florida when they get older, not AWAY from Florida. Just sayin’. Oh, and if you’re interested, you can get one of his titles absolutely free from Project Gutenberg, just to check out his writing, if nothing else! Click the link if you want to read An Encounter in Atlanta, a Fictionwise best-seller! A bit later in this column I’m going to revisit Ed’s writing via another series, which is more or less inspired by this particular book.

Figure 2 - All PKD Bundle Covers
Figure 2 – All PKD Bundle Covers

Department of “HAVE I GOT A DEAL FOR YOU!”—the PHILIP K. DICK STORY BUNDLE! (Six PKD Award Winners/nominees for $5!)

Figure 3 - Knight Moves Cover
Figure 3 – Knight Moves Cover

If you think back to April of this year, you’ll recall that I reviewed Lisa Mason’s Philip K. Dick-finalist novel Summer of Love (click the link to read the review); I think the PKD Award has been going since about 1983 or so. Any book that either was a finalist or an award winner is a sure-fire good read (as Cajun chef Justin Wilson says, “I gar-on-tee!”). Well, have I got a deal for you! You can—for the next 20 days and some hours only—get a copy of this and five other PKD finalists or winners for only five dollars! Yep, that’s right. Lisa is the curator of the new PKD StoryBundle; which is a fabulous idea whose time has come—for a minimum of $5 (you are encouraged to spend more, as $5 is less than a buck a book) you can get six ebooks, including Lisa’s Summer of Love, Kathe Koja’s The Cipher, Elizabeth Hand’s Aestival Tide, Pat Murphy’s Points of Departure, K.W. Jeter’s Dark Seeker, and Life, by Gwyneth Jones. And here’s the thing: if you pay $15 or more—again, what you pay, minimum $5 is up to you—you will get bonus books, comprising Frontera, by Lewis Shiner, Acts of Conscience, by William Barton, Kay Kenyon’s Maximum Ice, Knight Moves by Walter Jon Williams (with a killer cover by Stephen Hickman [Figure 3]—dang, I love his stuff!), and Reclamation by Sarah Zettel. So if you pay the minimum for the bonus, you can end up getting 11 books for $15! How is that not a bargoon, as they say? I really wanted to review the books individually, but reading time was at a premium this week. So please! For your own sake—go buy this bundle!

HIGH FASHION STEAMPUNK JEWELRY by Carolyn Bruce, a review.

Y’know, the last thing in the world anyone would call me is a fashionista. I’m just an ordinary slob; that is, a guy whose sense of fashion begins and ends with blue jeans (and not even the high-priced spread; the $10 ones from Whatever*Mart do me just fine, even if they’re a bit *ahem!* baggy in the seat area). Like Jack Reacher, I opt for utility and comfort—better yet, utility, low price and comfort. But on Thursday, September 17, I put on a brand-new pair of quality (not the $10 brand) blue jeans and, with my wife, the Lovely and Talented Lynne Taylor Fahnestalk, braved the wilds of Vancouver for your sakes, dear readers, and headed to the prestigious Waterfall Building for An Evening of Intrigue and Fantasy by CarolynBruceDesigns. Because steampunk.

Figure 4 - Waterfall Building in Vancouver
Figure 4 – Waterfall Building in Vancouver

My mandate, as I see it, is to bring you interesting news and reviews of all things genre, whether they be local or far away. Now, that doesn’t mean I’m going to try to cover everything everywhere—we have lots of columnists on Amazing Stories to do that—but I am going to cover anything that I find interesting that I feel might pique your interest. And we just happen to have a local artiste/jewelry designer, who’s caught the attention of some celebrities, and is about to burst into the world of high fashion with her overtly and subtly steampunk-influenced jewelry. (“Jewelry? Wotthehell does Fahnestalk know about jewelry—or even the Canadian version, “jewellery,” I hear you ask. Hey, I used to wear a really cool Australian opal stud earring that my ma gave me, I’ll have you know. But I lost it. “Well, you ask a silly question…”)

Figure 5 - Bruce Logo from outside
Figure 5 – Bruce Logo from outside

Anyway, it promised to be an interesting evening by all accounts—even if it was a weekday, and us older folks don’t get out much in the weekday (some people—not me—have to work on weekdays), so I/we girded my/our loins and drove down to Granville Island, which is the really artsy-fartsy part of Vancouver, if you’ve never been, and had dinner with VCON’s Art Show Director, Rose Wilson, artist Hing Kei and artist/photographer Nancie Green—an example of her marvelous photography of one of this evening’s models (head and shoulders above my poor efforts) can be seen at the link above; also artist Melissa Mary Duncan and her husband, writer Donald Duncan, both in semi-Victorian outfits; plus steampunk-outfitted Tracy Ernst, who also makes jewelry (and who won the “Best Costume” prize at the event!). We then walked a couple of blocks to the Waterfall Building (see Figure 4) for the event. There was going to be an auction, lots of professional models, munchies and drinks. And stuff like that there; never having been to a high-fashion event before, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.

Figure 6 - Symone Says, our emcee
Figure 6 – Symone Says, our emcee

After a short wait so we could get our drinks, the night’s emcee, Symone Says, took centre stage; lipsyncing her way beautifully through several high-powered songs; she then talked about Carolyn’s steampunk designs—which usually include both a necklace and matching earrings—and how much a fan she was herself. And then an auction of three beautiful necklace/earring sets on either side of the stage and hung in front of that black mirror you see behind Symone. We were then treated to a couple of songs by singer/songwriter Marilou Catanjal before the break.

Figure 7 - Steampunk Mask by Carolyn Bruce
Figure 7 – Steampunk Mask by Carolyn Bruce

(I will add a few extra pictures this week—although I took over 110 of them, my Pentax was being cranky and had a hard time compensating for the dim light in the Waterfall Building. Figure 7 shows a steampunk mask—wall decoration, not really wearable—as an example of the complexity and thought that goes into her wearable art. For more images of the models and personages who attended, you can click on the link above—An Evening of Intrigue and Fantasy.)

Then, because there were more than a hundred people crammed into that venue—and it was hot and stuffy in there—we all took our break, and many of us went out into the cooler night air; after the break, Symone—who is a professional entertainer, obviously—did a marvelous Diana Ross lipsync and we got ready for the model parade. And what a parade! You can get the names of all the models from the link above; there were twice as many female models as male models, and the catwalk exhibition lasted for at least an hour, after which there was an audience costume competition—which I didn’t enter, as I wasn’t in costume (Okay, I’ll be honest: one of the reasons I’m not much interested in cosplay for myself, including steampunk, is that I’m kinda out of shape. Well, I have a shape… if you count “pear-shaped.”). The competition, as mentioned before, was won by Tracy Ernst. Figure 8 shows three of the female models. It was a great time all around.

Although I stayed up way past my usual bedtime—unless I’m reading or watching a movie I tend to go to bed before 11 p.m. these days—I think this was an excellent reminder that the so-called “mundane” world—whether it knows or not—is being influenced by our genre. And now I feel that I’m just the tiniest bit more fashionable than I used to be!

Figure 8 - Three models
Figure 8 – Three models

Okay, one more photo—these two are audience members, not models, but they’re both wearing Carolyn Bruce necklaces!

Figure 9 – Two Audience Members
Figure 9 – Two Audience Members

ED HOWDERSHELT, revisited: Probably because I’m incapable of leaving well enough alone (that’s a joke, son, as Foghorn Leghorn used to say), I dug back into the electronic pile of Ed’s books and found another series I enjoyed, and for the same sorts of reasons as I liked the 3rd World Products series: the main character is Ed (of course), and he has similar experiences—gets enhanced—as in 3rd World. The main differences here are that 1) this enhancement is a personal one: his physical and mental powers get a “superhero supercharge” of sorts, and 2) there are a lot more, and longer, erotic scenes. In fact, Ed’s enhancement takes place after/because of an erotic encounter.

The series is called In Service to a Goddess, and there are (as far as I know—I might be missing one) five books, all called (like the 3rd World books) In Service to a Goddess plus the book number (except number 1, which isn’t numbered). The goddess part comes about because—in this version of Ed’s world, the Earth is part protectorate, part secret battlefield—and the Earth has only a few main protectors, all female; the two main ones are April and Sara. They’re both blonde, and like the Amarans in the 3rd World series, are descended from Earth people taken off planet centuries ago; these women are gene-designed to be almost literally goddesses. Of course, they’re built like brick sh… er, outhouses; they can do things like fly into the asteroid belt and either throw asteroids around or burn ‘em up with their equivalent of Superman’s heat vision. They’re invulnerable to everything but the element gold (AU, element 79). They can create “enhancees” of normal Earth folk, and are very slowly creating an army of enhancees to fight the Aktions, bad guys from another galaxy that want to wipe the Earth out. (I forget why; it’s not really germane.)

Enhancees are created only by the protectors; and all enhancees, male or female, are created during sexual intercourse by a special organ in the protectors that creates a retrovirus (that smells like honey and wildflowers) during the protectors’ orgasms. An enhancee is a bunch stronger than a normal human, not quite invulnerable—although will live longer than an unenhanced and is immune to all known disease—can’t fly and can lift several tons at once. They are needed to protect Earth from the Aktions, who are like the protectors, but who can’t fly. (There are three kinds of Aktions—all of whom are also descended from Earth people: Alphas, the really strong ones; Betas, like the enhancees, and some “normal” types, though few of those.) Ed, however, is unlike the normal enhancee; he can fly almost immediately, and is stronger than most enhancees, and more invulnerable; he also has—and had before he was enhanced—a sort of sixth sense that allows him to know when a protector or enhancee is nearby. I won’t go into details, but there’s a pretty fair amount of action, all made more realistic by the fact that Ed the writer is—sans enhancements—pretty much the same as Ed the character. Again, the amount of explicit erotica in these makes them probably unsuitable for the YA crowd—you’ll have to decide how mature your teens and tweens are.

To quote from his afterword to the first “Goddess” book: I am… the retired mercenary/medic in the story. I’m 6’2”, 178 pounds, still fast enough to grab a rattlesnake (had to do that recently in Titusville, FL), and I can put either of my hands through a cinderblock or use them to type about 40 words per minute. I informally teach TKD karate three nights a week for pocket money and personal fitness and sometimes write poetry….I can fly a light plane or helicopter, pilot a boat in dark and fog, assemble or repair a computer, create web pages, and will generally find a way to defy any stereotype you can try to apply to someone my age and/or gender because I truly hate stereotyping. Modesty isn’t my strongest feature because it’s useless when asking others to meet or exceed themselves. People need examples, not speeches and rhetoric.

Ed’s books are, as always, available from either his Abintra Press website, or from as ebooks.

Department of COLUMBO (“Oh, just one more thing, ma’am…”): Regarding my Jack Reacher/Lee Child review a couple of weeks ago, there’s a long YouTube video from the University of Maine, featuring Lee Child being interviewed by Stephen King on the occasion of the release of Make Me, the 20th Reacher book. I found it interesting and informative. It’s 45 minutes long, so set aside some time to watch. Go here:

Please comment on this week’s column if something I say strikes a chord in or with you. Register and comment here (if you haven’t already registered); or comment on my Facebook page, or in the several Facebook groups where I publish a link to this column. Your comments are all welcome; and don’t feel you have to agree with me to post anything! My opinion is, as always, my own, and doesn’t necessarily reflect the views of Amazing Stories or its owners, editors, publishers or other bloggers. See you next week!

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