Saturday, April 26, 2014

“A Can of Vacuum” on the Golden Age Radio Hour



The L. Ron Hubbard Theatre, Golden Age Radio Hour
“A Can of Vacuum” performed April 14, 2014
Reviewed by
Thomas McNulty

This is my third and final post celebrating the historic
30th anniversary Writers of the Future Contest.
Once again, congratulations to all of the winners!

There is an oasis for theatre goers nestled on Hollywood Boulevard, just steps from Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, and in the shadow of swaying palm trees. As the sun sinks in the golden west and the tourists begin shuffling away from the handprints and walk-of-fame stars of their favorite idols; and as the neon begins to glitter on the leaves of the jasmine trees and Australian ferns, they begin lining up at 7051 Hollywood Blvd. for the latest performance at the L. Ron Hubbard Theatre. As I write these words the Golden Age Radio Hour at the L. Ron Hubbard Theatre is Hollywood’s best kept secret, but that has already begun to change.

This is a hot ticket now. Word got out, and they come from all across the country to see these unique and highly entertaining shows. Ushered into the beautiful paneled confines, home to Author Services, the literary executors of Hubbard’s work, and Galaxy Press, the publisher, my wife and I mingled with this years winners of the Writers and Illustrators of the Future Awards while sipping a hardboiled glass of lemon water. The Theatre is on the first floor, while the fourth floor holds the main library where hundreds of original pulp magazines are on display along with dozens of international editions of Hubbard’s books.
The Jive Aces
Acting is storytelling with our bodies. It may very well be the first form of storytelling as ancient man gesticulated and grimaced in his effort to communicate. Years ago, when I interviewed film director Vincent Sherman, he told me that actor Peter Lorre believed that film acting was about “making faces.” This is essentially true. The best actors know how to “make faces.” As we chatted with friends, I was aware that already the actors backstage were preparing to “tread the boards.” The expression dates from the medieval era where traveling acting troupes would build wooden platforms in order for the audience to have a better view.
Cast Bios
This evening’s show was preceded by a musical performance by The Jive Aces, a six man Jump and Jive group who incorporate Swing Music and Rock and Roll into their high energy act. The Jives Aces were fantastic. They took us up one side of a musical wall, slid us around like a roller-coaster, crooned in our ear, made us laugh, made us cheer, and twirled us about. Their energy was contagious and their performance was exhilarating. Several people jumped up and danced spontaneously during the show.
After a break, we were served a thespian entree with actors R. F. Daley, Tom Ayers, Vince Caso, Skip Harris and Miles Vedder who gave a dramatic reading of L. Ron Hubbard’s 1949 story “A Can of Vacuum.” These are all professional actors with screen credits for film and television. Some modest special effects, a great story, and quality acting brought the story alive, and concluded with a standing ovation. R. F. Daley led the charge as the narrator, and Vedder, Harris, Caso and Ayers were perfectly cast and on their marks.
The L. Ron Hubbard Theatre is a small, intimate venue and reservations in advance are encouraged. Hollywood’s best kept secret is the hottest ticket in town. Affordable and entertaining, travelers with a taste for quality Theatre won’t want to miss The Golden Age Radio Hour at The L. Ron Hubbard Theatre. Also recommended: The Stories From the Golden Age audio book collection – this award winning series features actors reading the story as a form of “Radio Theatre” including sound effects and a musical background in the style of classic radio dramas.
For additional information call (323) 798-1635, or visit: www.LRonHubbardTheatre.com


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Review: Writers of the Future Volume 30



This year’s historic 30th anniversary anthology also marks the 25th anniversary of the Illustrators of the Future contest. I was a guest at the awards ceremony in Hollywood and met the talented creators of Writers of the Future Volume 30. In all of thirty years each anthology has become a collector’s item, and this year the anthology was published in a larger paperback format and featuring full-color illustrations. It’s a beautiful book, and the stories and illustrations are all top-notch creations.

Megan E. O’Keefe’s “Another Range of Mountains” (illustrated by Sarah Webb) kicks the book into over-drive with this splendid tale that is part mystery, with a dash of fantasy as Lacra uses her artistic skills to craft a resolution to a serious problem. The writing is imagistic, thoughtful and the characters are compelling. I’ll be watching for more stories from Megan E. O’Keefe. The second story is Paul Eckhart’s “Shifter” (illustrated by Michael Talbot) wherein a lost brother is re-discovered in the most unusual way. Eckhart demonstrates a strong range, from colloquial exposition to quality suspense, and “Shifter” has some cool plot twists that I guarantee will keep you reading the story. “Beneath the Surface of Two Kills” by Shauna O’Meara (illustrated by Cassandre Bolan) is a story about a hunter who makes a decision. The nature of that decision is to be discovered by each reader. Stark and memorable, “Beneath the Surface of Two Kills” is one of those tales that stays with you after you read it.

“Animal” by Terry Madden (illustrated by Seonhee Lim) tackles a timely theme about our relationship with other species in a thoughtful and superbly realized tale that I enjoyed immensely. “Rainbows for Other Days” by C. Stuart Hardwick (illustrated by Andrew Sonea) is a poignant story about a ranger who encounters a young girl who wants to be free, and the hint of a radioactive world lingers at the periphery of this mesmerizing story. “Giants at the End of the World” by Leena Likitalo (illustrated by Trevor Smith) is a haunting fable-like tale that might have sprung from the fertile mind of Hans Christian Anderson or the Brothers Grimm, but since they’re no longer around we are fortunate to have Leena Likitalo here to capture on paper such thought-provoking tales.

We are now at the halfway point, and included in WOTF 30 you’ll find a cool zombie tale by Orson Scott Card, a pulp era classic by L. Ron Hubbard titled “Beyond All Weapons,” in addition to a short essay by Hubbard titled “Artistic Presentation.” Hubbard manages to strike at the heart of the matter in a few pages with his concise but accurate view on what it takes to successfully create. Study this essay, because you’ll learn much from it. An essay by Dave Wolverton and a look back at WOTF over the decades by Robert Silverberg take us only halfway home, and there’s so much more to come. “The Clouds in Her Eyes” by Liz Colter (illustrated by Kirbi Fagan) is about a girl named Amba in a drought, and what she does next is rendered with acute craftsmanship by Colter. “What Moves the Sun and Other Stars” by K. C. Norton is about love, and a love without boundaries. One might say that this is science fiction with a heart. “Long Jump” by Oleg Kazantsev (illustrated by Adam Brewster) features a classic “hook” opening line. A hook, of course, being a line so compelling that readers have no choice but to read on to find out what happens next. I won’t repeat it here, because I’m in favor of your discovering it for the first time yourself. It’s a great story. “These Walls of Despair” by Anaea Lay (illustrated by Bernardo Moto) offers such excellence in its structure that I read it twice. A science fiction tale only by categorization, because at its heart this one is about people. The best stories always are.

We’ve turned a corner and we’re racing toward the finish. A story by Mike Resnick, “Robots Don’t Cry” and an essay on art by Val Lakey Lindahn lead us toward the last three stories. “The Shaadi Exile” by Amanda Forrest (illustrated by Vincent-Michael Coviello) is about a woman, Daliya, who creates memory boxes as gifts for newlyweds. A compelling tale of love and ideals, told with expertise. “The Pushbike Legion” by Timothy Jordan (illustrated by Cassadre Bolan) is about Aleck and his bicycle, and quickly transforms into a nifty adventure tale. The final story, “Memories Bleed Beneath the Mask” by Randy Henderson (illustrated by Vanessa Golitz) is a beautifully written tale about loss and love,  and when I finished it I wanted more. The section of color artwork, and the overall quality of each of these great tales ensures that Writers of the Future 30 is an instant collector’s item. Each story was inspiring, unique and written from the heart. I was personally inspired by these stories, and I’m looking forward to reading additional stories by all of the authors. Kudos!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

30th Annual Writers & Illustrators of the Future Contest



30th Annual Writers & Illustrators of the Future Contest
Sunday, April 13, 2014
Wilshire Ebell Theatre, Los Angeles

by Thomas McNulty

My wife and I flew into Los Angeles on a late flight from Chicago and landed in the City of Angels a few days in advance of the 30th Annual Writers & Illustrators of the Future Contest. As invited guests, I was eager to reconnect with family and friends. Hollywood is the perfect location for the Writers & Illustrators of the Future Awards Ceremony. Like my hometown of Chicago, L.A. is a writer’s town. Driving along the sun-drenched highways past rows of ranch houses and mansions shadowed by banana leaf plants, Australian ferns, or lemon and orange trees, the palms swaying gently in a warm breeze, I was reminded of stories by Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, John Fante and L. Ron Hubbard. It was Hubbard who established the Writers & Illustrators of the Future Contest, and today the contest is superbly administered by Author Services and the staff of Galaxy Press on Hollywood Boulevard.
 
This year the event was held at the historic Wilshire Ebell Theatre where Judy Garland was discovered in the early 1930s, and where Amelia Earhart made her last public appearance before drifting off into history over the pacific in 1937. The Ebell, as it is formally called, opened in 1927 as a venue for the creative arts. The Ebell is an Italian style building, and its long halls, expansive windows, lush courtyard, and magnificent auditorium all echo a vibrant history.
Thirty years is a notable anniversary, and since my wife and I are also celebrating 29 years of marriage in a few months, we decided to co-join our celebration with that of the Writers & Illustrators of the Future. This turned out to be a wise choice. It was sunny and warm as we joined the crowd on the red carpet for this black tie event. A media camera drone was whizzing above our heads, and I remarked that from that lofty angle the camera would have a splendid view of my bald spot.
The After-Party was packed
The show and awards ceremony were stunning, and I understand you can watch it on the Writers & Illustrators of the Future website. But this was an event where it is no mere hyperbole to state: You really had to be there. This was history in the making. I’m not certain of the exact number, but over fifty media groups covered the event for television, newspaper, radio and Internet news reporting. I was moved by the keynote speech by Leland Melvin, and the vocal performances by Drew Seeley and Cassie Simone. Aerialist Tania Holt nearly stole the show, and the Hollywood Hotshots dance troupe helped keep the tempo lively. Also notable were Anjani’s Kathak Dance of India Company and the bicycle performance by Ryan Russell and Chad Johnston. My favorite song was “Off the Ground” (music and lyrics  by Brandon Slavinski and Josh Skinner) sung by Drew Seeley and accompanied by the choir the Melodye Perry Music Group and included the afore-mentioned aerial performance by Tania Holt. The acceptance speeches by the winners were heartfelt and inspiring to hear. This was the ultimate reason for attending, to show our support for these talented people. A full review of the anthology will follow this essay in a few days. The winners are chosen by a blue-ribbon panel of judges, famous authors in speculative fiction including; Tim Powers, Kevin J. Anderson, Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle, Orson Scott Card, Robert J. Sawyer, Sean Williams, Dave Wolverton, Brian Herbert, Rebecca Moesta, Nina Kiriki Hoffman, Gregory Benford, Doug Beason, Eric Kotani, Mike Resnick, Eric Flint, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Dean Wesley Smith, Todd McCaffrey and Nnedi Okorafor.

Afterward, we followed the crowd upstairs for the after-party and book signing. Suddenly, we were awash in a sea of Tuxedos, elegant gowns and glittering jewelry. Typically Hollywood, but refreshing because of its literary origins. The crowd was massive and there was little elbow room. First up was the anthology signing and I was thrilled to talk with so many talented writers and artists. We made our way around the long tables, passing celebrities like Jim Meskiman and Jennifer Aspen, Nancy Cartwright and others. An hour later, the crowd seemed impossibly thicker.
With Tim Powers
Shortly thereafter I found myself face to face with Tim Powers, and I am a bona fide card-carrying fan of Tim Powers. He signed the book for me, and I, still reeling in awestruck fascination, blurted: “The Stress of Her Regard!” (the title of one of his books). Powers is skilled at raising a quizzical eyebrow. He fixed his gaze on me. “Yes?” My tongue, having turned to wood, refused to cooperate, and I may have said “Loovedglobitsomerch” or some such ancient dialect. Eventually I managed to express that indeed, The Stress of Her Regard is one of my favorites. To his credit, Powers took this all in stride. He was gracious, patient and charming. And so it went. I passed Kevin J. Anderson and I also spoke with Dave Wolverton, whom many readers know as Dave Farland, author of the Runelords books. Dave is another favorite, and Orson Scott Card, who received the Lifetime Achievement Award, was equally as gracious and charming.
With Orson Scott Card
About a year ago I was asked to participate in a documentary about Errol Flynn, and as I was preparing my remarks I struck upon some facts that I have since included in a long essay-turned speech that has relevance here. The golden age of Hollywood coincided with the golden age of pulp fiction, and it was a truly unique era. L. Ron Hubbard began his career when the United States was experiencing an economic depression, and people were hungry. What do people do when they are hungry? I think we all know the answer to that question. When people are hungry they dream, and they don’t just dream about the food they need to fill their bellies, but they dream about rising above their circumstances and making something better of themselves. They dream about falling in love and having great adventures like the ones they saw in the movies or read about in stories by L. Ron Hubbard. It’s a beautiful dream, and you might even say that it’s the American Dream. It’s a dream that never dies, and today that dream is made real every day by the Writers & Illustrators of the Future. As L. Ron Hubbard once wrote: "A culture is only as great as its dreams, and its dreams are dreamed by artists."
The Winner's Table
Any individual reading this report with questions about the Writers & Illustrators of the Future Contest should immediately contact the fine people at Author Services. The website is: http://www.writersofthefuture.com/ (click on the link). You will find all of the contest rules and information on the site. The Writers of the Future Contest began in 1983, and this year marks the 25th anniversary for the Illustrators of the Future Contest, all of which attracts entries worldwide in science fiction and fantasy. Twelve quarterly winners receive prize monies and, along with selected finalists, are published in an annual anthology which is sold in bookstores and at Amazon.com and gives the winners high profile exposure. If you have made any attempt at writing or illustration then there is no reason not to enter this contest. I encourage you to do so. The next step you take is only a second away, and it could be really amazing!

Blessings.


30th Annual Writers & Illustrators of the Future Contest
2014 Winners
THE WRITERS
Memories Bleed Beneath the Mask by Randy Henderson
Another Range of Mountains
by Megan E. O’Keefe
Shifter
by Paul Eckheart
Beneath the Surface of Two Kills by Shauna O’Meara
Animal by Terry Madden
Rainbows for Other Days by C. Stuart Hardwick
Giants at the End of the World by Leena Likitalo
The Clouds in Her Eyes
by Liz Colter
What Moves the Sun and Other Stars by K.C. Norton
Long Jump by Oleg Kazantsev
These Walls of Despair by Anaea Lay
The Shaadi Exile by Amanda Forrest
The Pushbike Legion by Timothy Jordan

THE ILLUSTRATORS
Cassandra Bolan
Adam Brewster
Vincent-Michael Coviello
Kirbi Fagan
Kristie Kim
Seonhee Lim
Bernardo Mota
Trevor Smith
Andrew Sonea
Michael Talbot
Sarah Webb


Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Gunsmith # 387 Mexico Mayhem by J. R. Roberts


The Gunsmith # 387 Mexico Mayhem continues the ever-popular series with Clint Adams, the man known as the Gunsmith, taking a little vacation down Mexico way. Those of you that follow the series know that recently Adams has found himself under attack from an unknown adversary. Taking refuge in the seaside town of Laguna Niguel, Adams reconnects with an old friend, and inadvertently encounters another. Laguna Niguel is a town with secrets. The sheriff, Domingo Vazquez, is a hard-edged man, but which side is he on? That’s the question Clint Adams has, and even Vazquez’s sister, Carmen, who happens to be messing around with Clint, isn’t saying much. Then there’s Father Flynn, a priest with a past, and Ernesto Paz along with his men; and finally two gunmen on the trail with an agenda that remains to be discovered. Mexico Mayhem is a little shy on gunplay this month but the pacing and suspense are elevated, something author Robert J. Randisi does better than anyone. Clint Adams is now a cultural icon among western fans, and if Robert Randisi ever finds a way to bottle and sell his talent then count me in for a case or two. Meanwhile, I’ll have to settle for two fingers of whiskey. Since Barnes & Noble is the only major retail bookstore chain left, I recommend picking up some copies of The Gunsmith series (and Longarm, too). Barnes & Noble won’t carry them unless we buy them. Saddle up!