Tag Archive for The Good Humor Man or Calorie 3501

The Good Humor Man Now Only $1.99 in Kindle

For those of you who have been procrastinating on picking up a copy of my blistering satire of the nanny state, The Good Humor Man, or, Calorie 3501, procrastinate no longer! The Kindle edition of one of Booklist‘s Top Ten SF and Fantasy Books of 2010 is now available from Amazon for the low, LOW price of only $1.99! That’s right — for the price of a medium cup of Starbuck’s Coffee, you could be enjoying the adventures of ex-liposuctionist, soon-to-be-ex-Good Humor Man Louis Shmalzberg right now!

But don’t delay! Because I have no idea when Amazon will decide to boost the price back up again!

UPDATE: I just found out this price reduction is for today only, expiring at midnight, 12/6/12 Pacific Time. My book was one of nine science fiction books selected for Amazon’s Daily Kindle Deal.

UPDATE TO THE UPDATE: Please disregard the Update above! This promotion is still going on. So you procrastinators aren’t out of luck yet! Curl up with your Kindle and a Big Gulp soda and giant bag of Cheetoes and wonder how Elvis will manage to save the world sixty-four years after his premature death!

The Good Humor Man Back in the Kindle Store!

Hoo-ray!!! I just got word from the wonderful Jill Roberts at Tachyon Publications that all of their books have been returned to Amazon’s Kindle store. That means The Good Humor Man, or, Calorie 3501 is once again easily available for those of you who do your reading on a Kindle device. Here is Jill’s announcement:

“We’re pleased to report that, as of this weekend, our Kindle e-books will be available through Amazon again. Our e-books in all formats continue to be available on our website and through Weightless Books.

“We don’t have the details of the agreement, but we hope that IPG’s stand will have an ongoing positive effect throughout the publishing community, particularly as future negotiations with Amazon transpire.
IPG made this statement to its client publishers (excerpted):

“‘[We] can’t thank you enough for your input, support, patience, sacrifice, and loyalty over the last few months…. IPG and our publishers also received a tremendous amount of support from much of the rest of the industry, for which we will be forever grateful. I feel that the experience has clarified some things for us and our clients, and that now we are all even better equipped to navigate through this rapidly changing industry.’

“To all of you as well — thank you for your ongoing support as we continue to save the world one good book at a time. See you in the future.”

The Good Humor Man: Food Police Updates

This is the third in an occasional series of links round-ups to news and commentary on the growing reach of the Food Police, whose future exploits are chronicled in my novel, The Good Humor Man, or, Calorie 3501 (selected by Booklist as one of the Ten Best Science Fiction and Fantasy Books of 2010!).

A San Francisco-Bay Area community, Richmond, becomes the first city in the U.S. to place on the ballot a “sin tax” on sodas

One writer suggests that Richmond skip the sin tax on soda and go straight to a sin tax on giving birth, the logical progression of sin taxes

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health issues rules outlawing bake sale fundraisers at public schools; public outcry leads the Massachusetts Legislature to pass a law forbidding the Department of Public Health from issuing such a rule; the Boston Globe ridicules the public and sides with the Food Police

Fat Tax:” a study in the British Medical Journal advocates for a minimum twenty-percent additional tax on foods and beverages judged by public health officials to be excessively fattening

“Obesity in America is a crisis that threatens the national security:” the National Institute of Medicine issues a 478-page plan calling for “bold actions”

Is there a Good Humor Man in your future? Or will public backlash against the overreaching nanny state hand the Food Police their walking papers?

The Good Humor Men live! Or they certainly are being midwifed into life by Big Nanny and the people who love her.

Earlier round-ups:

The Good Humor Man: Truth is Stranger Than My Fiction

Friday Fun Links: Thanksgiving Greetings From the Food Police

And here’s a link to an excerpt from The Good Humor Man, or Calorie 3501, depicting a Good Humor Man raid on a surreptitious Hanukkah party where illegal fried latkes are being consumed. Enjoy (and remember — reading is not fattening, if done without a bag full of chips next to you)!

SF in San Francisco

This past week I had the great pleasure of visiting San Francisco for the first time. I think there are few enjoyments more enjoyable than seeing a vibrant city for the first time, with fresh eyes, when every vista is a new one. Given the briefness of my visit and the fact that I was only able to walk through six of the city’s nearly 120 distinct neighborhoods, San Francisco should provide me with that “fresh vistas” thrill on many subsequent visits, should I be lucky enough to experience them.

My day job sent me to San Francisco, but I was also fortunate to be able to do some business and make some connections concerning the job of my heart – writing, the job that doesn’t pay the bills, but which rewards me through the simple act of doing it.

Jacob Weisman and Jill Roberts of Tachyon Publications

The afternoon I landed in town, Jacob Weisman and Jill Roberts of Tachyon Publications, publishers of my novel The Good Humor Man, or, Calorie 3501, swung by my hotel in Jacob’s little Scion to pick me up and take me back to their office. Turns out their office occupies the first floor of Jacob and Rina Weisman’s three-story home in the hilly part of the city a few miles south of the Financial District, where I was staying. I had a chance to meet Rina (who is a big-time book collector and an absolute hoot), Elizabeth Story, and James DeMaiolo. The whole staff clusters together in a shared workspace with beautiful hardwood floors and some of the most impressive bookshelves you’ll find anywhere (handcrafted by the same talented gentleman who built all the bookshelves at Borderlands Books, as it turns out).

Being in the Tachyon offices gave me a chance to take a look at their entire publishing output all at once. I have to say I was pretty impressed. Running Tachyon is clearly a labor of love for Jacob, Rina, Jill, and the rest of the staff – what they’ve accomplished is to put out a very full, rich line of books for people who both love reading science fiction and fantasy and who are intensely interested in the history and heritage of those fields. One of the very first books they published, back in the mid-1990s, when Jacob was running Tachyon primarily to provide limited edition books for specialty SF and fantasy bookstores (a species of store now very much endangered, unfortunately), was a reprint edition of Stanley Weinbaum’s 1939 novel The Black Flame, with its complete, original text restored. Their more recent output has ranged from extremely interesting (and fun) retrospective anthologies, such as The Secret History of Science Fiction, The Secret History of Fantasy, The New Weird, and Kafkaesque, to nonfiction about the field or some of the field’s most famous practitioners (The Search for Philip K. Dick by Anne R. Dick), to reprint editions of “lost” classics (Lot and Lot’s Daughter by Ward Moore), to “quirky” or “difficult” works by major writers (The Word of God by Thomas M. Disch).

Me standing in front of Tachyon Publication's wall of their bestselling books

It may be a bit self-serving for me to say so, given that they published my most recent book, but I think Tachyon is one of the most interesting publishing concerns going, and they are certainly partial proof that we are living in what may be considered a golden age of small press SF and fantasy publishing. I could certainly envision myself, upon my retirement (whenever that may be… I suspect very far into the future, given the ages of my children), spending a year or two doing little but reading the entirely of Tachyon’s output. And having a grand old time doing so.

Jacob and Jill were kind enough to take me on a stroll around their neighborhood, show off some of the hilltop views of their city and bay, and bring me to a neighborhood coffeehouse for a hot chocolate (Rina insisted I try the hot chocolate) and a pastry. We talked a good bit about Jacob’s and Jill’s careers prior to working at Tachyon (journalism and non-profit fundraising, respectively), the adventures they’ve had working with some of Tachyon’s more, shall we say, opinionated and feisty authors, and what it is like living with a houseful of little boys who can turn Barbie dolls left behind by their older sister victims of monster trucks or dinosaurs or even into light sabers to bonk each other with (this last topic being my contribution). I talked some about my plans to branch out into children’s, middle grade, and young adult fiction this year (I recently wrote a children’s chapter book, The Velveteen Ebook, an updating of the classic story, and I’ve started the first book of what I hope will be a series of middle grade novels set in the world of Mount MonstraCity, The Runaways of Mount MonstraCity).

One thing all three of us have in common is a deep appreciation for the skills of Marty Halpern. Marty has worked as a copy editor on a great number of Tachyon books, and he served as my copy editor for The Good Humor Man, or, Calorie 3501. Although my experience with copy editors is somewhat limited, I’ll go out on a limb and say I think Marty has to be one of the best in the business. The man sweats the details, and ninety-nine times out of a hundred, he is right. I’ve reached the point with Marty that I won’t argue with his suggestions unless I’m darned sure I know what I’m talking about. My wife, Dara, used to work as a copy editor herself, for a pair of technical magazines published in Washington, DC, and when she perused some of the emails Marty sent me, she nearly swooned. “Oh, he’s so good! Oh, he’s so good! Oh, I want to meet this guy!” If I didn’t know Dara as well as I do, I would’ve gotten as jealous as Othello.

Golden Gun Investigations, a couple of blocks from the Tachyon office

When we walked out of the coffeehouse, I looked across the street and saw a business I simply had to photograph – the Golden Gun Investigations agency. Isn’t that quintessentially San Francisco? Don’t you immediately picture a Sam Spade of Chinese heritage working there, smoking Camel after Camel while trading bon-mots with his bored, underpaid, but loyal secretary? I think that place needs to show up in a book published by Tachyon; it’s right in their neighborhood, after all (even though it does bring to mind one of the weaker entries in the James Bond franchise). Maybe Jonathan Lethem could write a follow-up to his first novel, Gun, With Occasional Music. Or maybe I could send Jules Duchon on a trip to San Francisco… after all, his friend and one-time protégé Doodlebug doesn’t live too far away…

Wednesday night I took a BART subway train from the Financial District to the Mission District to do a “meet and greet” and book signing at Borderlands Books. Borderlands is located on Valencia Street, a long commercial strip which in recent years has become a hub for ethnic restaurants, boutiques, antiques outlets, and specialty stores. Jude Feldman, the bookstore’s general manager, welcomed me and ushered me over to the Borderlands Café next door, which opened last year, and provided a much needed cappuccino. Jude is an absolute sweetheart. We discovered a shared love for Robert Mayer’s wonderful superhero farce Superfolks, and she introduced me to a number of the store’s regular patrons. Unfortunately, she had to boot me and the gang from Tachyon out through the front door before I’d had a chance to peruse more than half their selection of new and used books – it was closing time! But I had a chance to pick up a copy of Michael Bishop’s Philip K. Dick is Dead, Alas and a couple of vintage Philip Jose Farmer paperbacks before getting the boot.

Borderlands Books (with Borderlands Cafe to the left)

One interesting side note about the Borderlands Café – it doesn’t feature wi-fi, and that was by design. Jude mentioned to me that, not long after the café opened, she’d surveyed the customers to find out how much they wanted wi-fi to be available. It turned out that many of them, particularly the writers among them, didn’t want it at all… they wanted to have a place to hang out where they could escape the Internet and the siren song of social media. I’ve found an even easier way myself to avoid the Internet when I want to do real work: I do all my writing on a Mitsubishi Amity laptop from 1997, which won’t run anything more modern than Windows 98 (and, in fact, all that I run on it is DOS 6.1 and WordPerfect 5.1, that classic word processor which will have to be torn away from my cold, dead, stiff fingers – I feel the same way about WordPerfect 5.1 that Harlan Ellison feels about manual typewriters).

Rina and Jacob Weisman

After Borderlands closed for the evening, Jacob, Rina, Jill, and a friend, Jeremiah, took me out to a Thai restaurant a few blocks away. I discovered that Jacob and Rina had hooked up the same way Dara and I had – through JDate.com (although they had met previous to their electronic hook-up, when Jacob had made the error of wearing his bar mitzvah ring on his left ring finger, mistakenly signaling to Rina that he was married; her finding him on JDate cleared that up). Jill revealed that she had met her boyfriend while they’d both been engaging in indoor rock climbing (he had charmed her by swinging like Tarzan on a safety rope). The food was quite good, by the way… I’ll prevail upon Jill to remind me of the name of the restaurant, in case anyone needs a recommendation for good Thai food in the Mission District.

One more little note before I bring this post to a close (I’ll be writing more in a day or two about my nighttime gambols through Chinatown, North Beach, and the Fishermen’s Wharf area). While I was on my trip, I made use of the long in-flight times to work on a short story to submit to Claude Lalumiere’s upcoming anthology of tales about books, book collecting, reading, and writing, Bibliotheca Fantastica, scheduled to come out late in 2012. My story centers on a mostly unsuccessful science fiction writer whose earliest claim to fame was being chosen First Runner Up in the 1985 Writers of the Future contest. Writers of the Future is an annual contest and anthology which has given many science fiction and fantasy writers their first rung up on their climb to professional status. It was founded by L. Ron Hubbard in 1983. Writers of the Future has always had a double-edged reputation in the science fiction field; many writers and readers are grateful to the contest for midwifing so many promising careers but are a bit leery of its sponsorship, given the somewhat shady rep of Hubbard’s Church of Scientology.

Transamerica Pyramid

Anyway, I’m walking to my temporary work location a few blocks away from my hotel, and I stroll right past the famous Transamerica Pyramid building, built between 1969 and 1972 (and briefly the tallest building west of the Mississippi River, before being eclipsed by the Aon Center Building in Los Angeles in 1974). While waiting for a traffic light to change, I glanced across the street at a striking triangular-shaped building which looked like a smaller version of the Flatiron Building in the Manhattan (home of Tor Books, by the way). Large letters on its side read, “Transamerica Corporation.” Even bigger letters on its front spelled out, “Church of Scientology.” Turns out this was the original headquarters of the Transamerica Corporation, prior to the Transamerica Pyramid being built, and it became the headquarters of the San Francisco Church of Scientology in 2003.

original Transamerica Building, now the HQ of the Scientology Church of San Francisco

Here’s what the online Fodor’s Guide to San Francisco has to say about the building I photographed:

“The original Transamerica Building is a Beaux Arts flatiron-shaped building covered in terra cotta; it was also the home of Sanwa Bank and Fugazi Bank. Built for the Banco Populare Italiano Operaia Fugazi in 1909, it was originally a two-story building and gained a third floor in 1916. In 1928, Fugazi merged his bank with the Bank of America, which was started by A. P. Giannini, who also created the Transamerica Corporation. The building now houses a Church of Scientology.”

Friday Fun Links: Amazon vs. IPG, Updated

800 lb. gorilla

I apologize in advance if these “Friday Fun Links” are less fun than the ones I usually post. But I wanted to update my readers and friends on the current status of the Amazon versus IPG (Independent Publishers Group) standoff. In what has widely been viewed as a David versus Goliath conflict, scrappy little IPG continues to hold their ground, not knuckling under to Amazon. However, this means that over 5,000 ebooks published by companies distributed by IPG — including Tachyon Publications, publishers of my The Good Humor Man, or, Calorie 3501 — continue to be made unavailable by Amazon (although Kindle editions are available from other online retailers and directly from IPG).

Considering Amazon’s enormous (and growing) power in the publishing marketplace, this story has the potential to impact many, many more people than just the employees of IPG and the small publishers whose books they distribute, the authors of those books, and those books’ readers. If Amazon can succeed in driving its smaller competitors and partners from the marketplace, readers and writers alike will be at the company’s mercy, which does not bode well for the future of a thriving intellectual market in the United States or, given Amazon’s worldwide reach, much of the rest of the Western world.

Amazon vs. Indie Publishers: IPG “not budging”

Amazon’s Assault on Intellectual Freedom

Amazon’s Squeeze on Booksellers Leads to Boycotts and Protests

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America Protests Amazon’s Yanking Kindle Availability of 5,000 Books, Many of Them SF and Fantasy

Jacob Weisman, owner of Tachyon Publications, responds to SFWA’s move

A Simple Explanation of Wholesale versus Agency Pricing of Ebooks

Appearing at Borderlands Books in San Francisco

My day job is sending me to San Francisco this week to support a couple of days of computer training. This’ll be my first opportunity to visit San Francisco, home to lots of Beat Generation history and many, many albums’ worth of classic West Coast jazz (as well as one of Ray Harryhausen’s early monster classics, It Came From Beneath the Sea).

My good friends at Tachyon Publications set me up for an informal book signing at Borderlands Books on Wednesday evening. I’ve met the nice folks from Borderlands Books before, but at conventions (pretty sure I chatted with them and shopped their wares at the 2010 NASFiC in Raleigh, North Carolina), never at their store.

Book Signing and Meet-and-Greet at Borderland Books
Wednesday, March 7, 2012, 7:00-9:00 pm
866 Valencia Street, San Francisco, California
(415) 824-8203

I hope a few of you will be able to drop by on Wednesday, or have friends in the San Francisco area to whom you could pass along the word. I’ll be staying at the Hilton in the Financial District, right next to Chinatown, not far from the waterfront, and only about four or five blocks away from City Light Books and Cafe’ Vesuvio, two classic Beat hangouts. Although it’s never easy to be apart from my family, I’m really looking forward to the trip and to seeing places that, until now, I’ve only read about (not just the Beat spots, but also Philip Marlowe’s haunts in The Maltese Falcon). Thanks, work!

This is a Bummer… Amazon as 800-lb. Gorilla

Alas, more stormy seas in the ever-changing world of publishing…

I participated in a terrific panel discussion last night with the James River Writers Group in Richmond, Virginia. Unfortunately, their bookstore partner didn’t bring any copies of The Good Humor Man, or, Calorie 3501 to sell, and that book got talked about quite a bit (the discussion was all about the portrayal of food and romance in popular fiction).

Given that there seemed to be a lot of interest in the room about my novel, I was curious to see if any ebooks had sold after my talk. So I went to the Author Central portal of Amazon.com to see if there had been a recent spike my Kindle sales… only to find that the Kindle version of The Good Humor Man is no longer available.

I quickly fired off an email to Jill at Tachyon Publications, my publisher, to let her know about what I assumed was a technical glitch. Turned out she was already well aware of the situation, which affects many more writers than just me. Below is the email she sent out to all of Tachyon’s authors:

*****************************

Dear Tachyon authors, artists, and friends–

Regrettably, due to a contract dispute, our e-book titles are currently not available at Amazon.com. Amazon.com made a unilateral decision to remove over 5000 Kindle e-books from its site this week, including all Tachyon e-books.

The issue is the Kindle contract between our book distributor, IPG, and Amazon. IPG’s Kindle contract came up for renewal. Amazon took the opportunity to ask for yet another larger cut of Kindle book sales. IPG took a stand and refused. In response, Amazon.com has pulled all of the e-books by IPG’s publishers.

While this means for the time being that you won’t be able to buy Tachyon e-books at Amazon.com, there are many other excellent options.

Our books are still available in print and in EPUB and PDF electronic editions from local independent bookstores (find them on www.indiebound.org), and on web sites such as Barnes & Noble (www.barnesandnoble.com), the Sony bookstore (www.ebookstore.sony.com), Apple’s iTunes, Google Books and elsewhere.

You can also purchase Kindle and other e-book formats from our friends at Weightless Books (www.weightlessbooks.com). Free software programs such as Calibre (www.calibre-ebook.com) can be used to convert non-Kindle e-files to Kindle readable formats. Kindle Fire users can download programs from the Amazon app store to read non-Kindle formats.

Please feel free spread the word about this unfortunate situation and let me know if you have any questions. This fight between Amazon and IPG is another chapter in Amazon’s continuing effort to control the marketplace, which is ultimately a bad thing for publishers and authors. For now there are only two certainties: change in the publishing industry is inevitable, and Tachyon will do its best to continue to publish the most thought-provoking and challenging speculative fiction available.

****

I waited a little to see if things would shake out quickly, but as of now, we don’t have any time frame for a resolution. It’s maddening, but I’m proud of IPG for standing up to Amazon’s bullying.

Best,

Jill

Jill Roberts
Managing Editor
Tachyon Publications

**********************************

This is a fairly good illustration of the dangers of even a near-monopoly in the marketplace. It is true that Amazon doesn’t hold a monopoly on either electronic reading devices or the provision of content for electronic reading devices. But their portion of those markets is so huge (and owners of Kindle devices are basically “locked in” to utilizing Amazon as a provider of ebooks) that their position allows them to act as a bully to their partners — the publishers, writers, and subsidiary distributors.

I am certain this will not be an issue for Independent Publishers Group (IPG) alone. You can stuff French fries up my nose and use me as a potato gun if Amazon doesn’t soon begin demanding a bigger cut, probably a much bigger cut, from writers who independently put their works up for sale on Amazon as Kindle books.

What can be done?

Well, we’ve got the power of social media, which can sometimes be successfully used to shame big companies into backing down on their bullying. And there are competitors to Amazon out there which need to be supported. If you’re in the market for an ebook reader, you may want to strongly consider a Nook or a Sony eReader, if only to forestall a world in which Amazon is the only surviving player for ebooks (and print books, for that matter).

Update: Here’s a link to a February 23 story in the Chicago Tribune on the dispute between Amazon and IPG, which provides more context.

The Good Humor Man Gets 9 Star Review

A very complimentary review of The Good Humor Man, or, Calorie 3501 appeared recently on the Canadian book review site BilblioBabes. They gave the book nine out of ten stars. Some of the language in their appraisal was a bit salty, but I’ll quote below the Family Friendly bits:

“It’s very well done weirdness, I can tell you that much. Every bizarre element wound up having an integral part in the story, somehow. Which is actually mighty impressive when you consider that some key plot points are: Elvis Presley’s belly fat in a jar; a mysterious government funded wasting disease; a 500lb food Nazi and his clones; and a church dedicated to the cannula. Imagine, if you will for a moment, being heavily intoxicated and lying in a bed with 3 other people while trying to explain this book. …”

And yes, I know I’m being a bit overly prudish for the guy who posted a photo of a young (and perky!) Alice Krige’s secondary sexual characteristics in my recent review of Ghost Story. No need to write any snarky comments on my hypocrisy, my friends (although snarky comments do help make this website more fun)…

And thanks to all my readers up there in the Great White North!

Happy Hanukkah from The Good Humor Man

In honor of the first day of Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights, I present to you, my festive readers, the Hanukkah party scene from The Good Humor Man, or, Calorie 3501 (excerpted from chapters 5 and 6).

Just to bring you up to speed: we’re in the year 2041, when the government has outlawed all high-calorie, “unhealthy” foods, and officially sanctioned vigilantes called the Good Humor Men enforce those dictates. Dr. Louis Shmalzberg, who very recently resigned from the Good Humor Men after a bout of guilt stemming from his participation in a botched raid, is attending his cousin Cindy’s Hanukkah party, where illegal potato pancakes, or latkes, fried in high-fat oil, will be secretly served.

If you like what you read here, please remember, books make great Hanukkah or Christmas gifts! The Good Humor Man, or, Calorie 3501 is available as either a trade paperback or in any of the popular ebook formats: a Kindle book, a Nook book, an Apple iBook, and a Sony Reader ebook. So now buying the novel Booklist selected as one of their 10 Best SF and Fantasy Novels of 2010 is more convenient than ever, amigos!

In the meantime, treasure your freedom to eat those potato pancakes and Christmas cookies and slurp down that eggnog without Big Brother (or the Good Humor Men) looking over your shoulder…

__________________________________________________________________________

**** THE LATKE RAID ****

Shit. I’m late for Cindy’s dinner party in La Jolla. Apart from my father, she’s the only family I have left. Worse, I forgot to get out to the store to buy a gift. I search the kitchen for something to bring. The best I can find is a bottle of California table wine. I wrap it in tin foil and hope Cindy won’t notice that the top fifth of the bottle is empty. …

Buddy answers the door. I’ve never much cared for him. According to Cindy, he’s been an emotionally removed husband and father, burying himself in his engineering business. It’s probably the resemblance to my own father that irks me. But he’s certainly provided my cousin and their son with a comfortable home.

“Hello, Lou. Cindy was just wondering whether you’d make it.”

“Hi, Buddy. How are you?” We awkwardly shake hands. I catch him looking curiously at my black eye. “You haven’t fed the last crumbs of the latkes to the dogs yet?”

“Not yet. Cindy’s just taking them out of the oil now.”

“The latkes or the dogs?”

No smile. “The latkes.”

“Good. I understand Will is scheming to make you a grandfather?”

“Yeah. Isn’t that a kick in the head?” He almost smiles. “He and Blair are out in the solarium, if you want to go congratulate them.”

“I’ll do that. Here’s a little something for the party.”

He takes my wine and mumbles his thanks. The rich aroma of frying latkes greets me. I exchange nods of familiarity with several of the other guests. Many of them must have heard I’m a Good Humor Man. I wonder how they feel about that, sipping their fat-laden matzoh ball soup at Passover and eating their latkes at Hanukkah next to a man with the power to revoke their health care privileges. …

I find Cindy in the kitchen, wrapping her latkes in paper towels to absorb the excess oil. I sneak up behind her and put my hands on her shoulders. “Miss, tell me the name of the black marketeer you bought that oil from,” I say, “and it’ll go easier on you.”

She turns around. “Lou! You made it!” Her bright-eyed smile immediately turns to shock, however. “Jesus Christ! What happened to your face, honey?”

Cindy’s nine years younger than me. Despite the age difference, we were close growing up. She was a lifeline for me after Emily died. I’ve never been able to lie to her. “A bad day in the food confiscation business,” I admit.

Shit,” she scowls, pulling off her cooking mitts and lightly touching the bruises around my eyes. “They beat you up? Where were those macho pals of yours? Aren’t they supposed to protect you? You’re too old for all that crap, Lou. How long have I been begging you to give it up? It’s not as if you believe in it anymore.”

She’ll certainly be happy to hear my next bit of news. “I resigned. Just last night.”

Her eyes go wide. “Really?”

“Really. I’ve confiscated my last chocolate bar.”

She hugs me tightly. “That’s great, Lou. That’s really great. That’s the best news I’ve heard since — well, the second-best news, after Will and Blair deciding to have a kid.”

“I told them I’d pitch in for the embryologist’s fees.”

“That’s awfully sweet of you. But can you afford that?”

“I’ll do whatever I can. I figure it’s my patriotic duty to help grow the population. Although it sure would be wonderful, not to mention enormously cheaper, if they were willing and able to get pregnant the old-fashioned way.”

“Heh. Yeah.” She smiles ruefully, multiplying the tiny age lines around her eyes. “But you can’t expect kids today to put up with what our generation did, Lou. Blair’s seen the pictures of me pregnant with Will. I was El Blimpo, remember? She’s heard how long it took me to drop all that excess blubber. Asking her to get pregnant au naturel would be like asking her to cut off her arm.” She doffs her apron and puts her arm around my waist. “C’mon into the dining room. The kids are about to light the candles. Then we’ll eat.”

The guests are all gathered around the ornate brass menorah, the ceremonial candelabra with its branches for each of the eight days of Hanukkah. Although I’ve never been particularly religious, I have warm feelings for this holiday, with its symbolism of ever-increasing light. Tonight six candles will be lit.

Blair, the youngest person present, sings the ancient prayers of praise in Hebrew and then in English, while touching the wick of each candle with the flame of the shamas, the lead candle. The sixth candle, the one for tonight, isn’t seated firmly enough. Blair jostles it with the shamas while trying to light it. The burning candle falls onto the tablecloth.

Blair’s face goes white. “Damn — so clumsy —”

Not wanting Cindy’s heirloom tablecloth to get burned, I reach for the wick. “It’s all right —” My fingers burn as I snuff out the fire.

“Lou, your fingers — let me get some first aid cream,” Cindy says.

“Not necessary. I’m fine.” I take a knife and dig the excess wax from the candle holder, then reset the candle in the menorah. “Go ahead, Blair. Finish the prayers.”

Cindy makes an ice pack for me nevertheless. The guests and I sit ourselves around the dining table. The long table is covered with platters of fruits, vegetables, and prime cuts of Leanie-Lean meats. Cindy emerges from the kitchen with the pièce de résistance — a heaping tray of steaming, crispy latkes. We all applaud. Especially this ex-Good Humor Man.

The oldest among us look the happiest. I watch guests in their sixties or seventies eagerly place three or four latkes on their plates at a time. Blair, however, quivers with distaste as she reluctantly spears one small potato pancake, then cuts it in half and quickly shoves the other half onto her husband’s plate.

I take three, plus a generous helping of the sour cream Cindy has managed to conjure up. If there are any latkes left over, I may ask Cindy if she’d wrap some up for my father. The aroma… it’s as if I’m standing in my mother’s kitchen again. I dip a latke in the sour cream and take a bite. It’s just as delicious as I remember. Maybe more so this year, because this is the taste of hope, of fresh beginnings.

The room is quiet. The only sounds are the crunching of latkes and faint music outside, coming from somewhere down the road. It gets gradually louder, as if it’s coming closer.

That first latke goes sour in my stomach.

The approaching music is the false cheer of a calliope.

I glance around the table. The pit of my stomach begins to churn. Some of the others hear the music, too. I see the anticipatory dread in their faces. And worse, accusation, aimed at me like a blowtorch blast.

Maybe the truck is going to another house? The calliope gets louder. Cindy catches my eye. I feel sick. I desperately shake my head, struggle to wordlessly convey I don’t know a thing — this has nothing to do with me…

I hear the truck come to a halt, then the clatter of doors being shoved open, men grunting beneath the weight of equipment, disposal pots banging as they’re unloaded. It’s all so familiar. Only I’ve never heard it from this side of the equation before.

Blair spits out the piece of latke and hides it in her napkin. Her act unfreezes everyone else at the table. Plates clatter and water glasses spill. Guests rush to the kitchen garbage disposal or bathrooms. Many will force themselves to vomit; I’ve seen all this before.

But it’s too late. Already the Good Humor Men are smashing in the door. I stay at the deserted table, eating my last two latkes. I know better than to try to hide the evidence of my “crime.” I have my credentials on me. Perhaps by confronting these men calmly, as a colleague, I can convince them that nothing illegal has occurred, that Cindy obtained a special religious exemption for using the oil… even though no such exemptions exist.

An axe blade bursts through the front door. The first Good Humor Man enters my cousin’s house. And my world is plunged into queasy, inexplicable nightmare again.

It’s Mitch.

“Aww, fucking hell,” he says when he sees me. “I didn’t want to believe you’d really be here.”

He can’t be here. This is thirty miles south of the edge of our district.

“You — you have no enforcement powers here,” I say. “You don’t have… what is your authority to make a raid outside our district?”

My district, you mean. Didn’t you just quit us?”

“Yes. I did.” The anger and hurt in his voice hit me like burning arrows. But again I ask, “What is your authority?”

“Special dispensation,” he says slowly, his eyes tracing the trail of latkes crushed into the carpet. Brad and Alex, Jr. enter, Brad carrying the dragon, Alex bowed beneath the weight of the clumsy disposal tubs. Brad sprints into the other rooms to round up the guests. His eyes don’t meet mine. But Alex’s eyes do. He stares at me with the shocked, stung look of a little boy who has caught his father making love to a mistress.

“The local crew gave us permission to operate on their turf,” Mitch says. “When I explained it might involve a case of corruption inside our unit, they didn’t have any choice but to say yes.”

Brad ushers the guests back into the dining room. Several of them stare fearfully at his flamethrower. Grown men playing soldier. Why didn’t I ever let myself see it before? Because I was one of the toy soldiers.

Someone is hanging back in the hallway. Brad grabs her arm and pulls her roughly into the room. It’s Blair. The poor thing wipes flecks of vomit from the corners of her mouth.

“Brad!” I shout, standing. “Don’t be rough with her. With any of them. It’s not necessary.”

“Lou?” Cindy stands at the edge of the crowd, an oven mitt still dangling from one hand. “Lou, these are… friends of yours? Can’t you make them go away?”

“Cindy, please believe me, I don’t have anything to do with this —”

Her voice is plaintive, quivery, almost childlike. “Can’t you make them go away?”

I turn to Mitch, my oldest friend, hoping I’ll find some pity in his weathered face. I don’t see what I’m hoping to see. He jerks his head toward the door. “Lou. Let’s you and me step outside a minute.”

Out on the porch, Mitch whirls on me, his face distorted with fury. “Lou, how could you do this to me?”

I’m momentarily wordless, stunned that he can view himself as the injured party. He sticks his contorted face close, too close, to mine. “Do you realize the position you’ve put me in? What the fuck do twenty-five years of friendship mean to you? Don’t you have a single goddamn thing to say for yourself?”

“Who was the informant, Mitch?”

What?”

“Who told you I’d be here, and that latkes would be on the menu?”

My unexpected question deflates his anger. Fury gone, he looks like a graying sixty-six-year-old man again. “Hell, I can’t tell you that. You know better than to ask that, Lou.”

I nod. He chews his bottom lip, twists the axe handle in his hands. “Lou… I don’t understand any of this.” He stares at the ground. “Why you quit. Why I found you in the middle of this crime scene. Maybe you’re hacked off at what happened the other day in Mex-Town. About me and the boys not being there to back you up when you needed us. Maybe this is your way of gettin’ even. I don’t know.” He looks up, and his voice gets stronger. “But what I do know is that we’ve been friends for an awful long time, Lou. I don’t like throwin’ friendships away.”

“I don’t either.”

“Good. I’ll make you a deal. Come back inside with me and help finish up the raid. Let’s pretend this quitting business of yours never happened. Agree to come back to the unit, and I’ll explain to the other guys that this was a sting operation, that you were on the side of the angels the whole time. How about it, Lou? Can we make these last three days just disappear?”

Becoming a Good Humor Man again… that rates dead even with necrophilia and cannibalism on my “to-do” list. But I’d eat my own arm if it would save my family from humiliation and financial hardship. “I’ll rejoin the unit, Mitch, on one condition. You let the others know this was all a mistake. The three of you leave those people in there alone. My family and all their guests.”

His eyes fall to the ground again. He shakes his head slowly. “You’re asking too much.”

“Why? Why too much?”

“That should be goddamned self-evident, Lou.” His fury reawakens. “Brad and Alex saw what those people dumped in the toilets. They watched those girls in there make themselves throw up. What do you expect me to tell them, huh? How am I supposed to keep their respect, their allegiance, if I tell them some bald-faced lie? It’d mean the end of the unit!”

“You’d be lying to them anyway,” I say as calmly as I can manage. “You want things between us to go back to how they were? I’ve told you what I need.”

His half-hissed obscenity barely reaches my ears before he swings his axe in a violent arc, embedding its blade in one of the porch’s wooden posts. “It’s impossible!” he shouts. “Why are you being such a suicidal asshole? Those people in there — they’re going down no matter what you do. You can save yourself, save your reputation, and they’re going down. Or you can sacrifice yourself, like some fuckin’ idiot, and they’re still going down. So what’s the goddamn difference, Lou?”

He doesn’t see it. He doesn’t see the difference, and that is terribly sad. “ ‘Those people’ are my family, Mitch. If you can’t see a difference between my betraying them and my standing with them… then our friendship is done.”

I see something break behind his eyes. I’ve done it. I’ve stepped into the abyss.

I follow Mitch back into the house. Cindy’s guests are doctors, engineers, and architects. Most of them have probably never even been issued a traffic citation, and now each of them will have this century’s scarlet letter permanently affixed to their record and reputation: “G” for Glutton. Their eyes beseech me for mercy, as though I control their fates. But I’m plummeting through the abyss right alongside them.

“Collect their health system cards,” Mitch says to Brad. He indicates me with a twitch of his thumb. “His, too.”

I open up my wallet and remove the laminated card. Sixty-eight years old. I’d better pray for good health.…

Friday Fun Links: Thanksgiving Greetings from the Food Police

Hello out there to my hordes of appreciative readers, all five of you, those stalwart die-hards who trudged into work today and are desperately looking for something to fill up your eight hours. (Yes, I know most of you, those who are NOT reading my website today, are either Black Friday shopping, Occupying Black Friday, or blogging on the pros and cons of Occupy Black Friday.) My own office looked like one of those end-of-the-world movies (think The Omega Man) where some plague has killed everyone off but left all the good stuff (convertibles, caviar, pre-war issues of Action Comics) behind for some lucky(?) sole survivor to enjoy. I, too, am seeking to fill the lonely hours. Plus, I haven’t put up an edition of my ever-popular Friday Fun Links in a while, and I still need to beat the drums for the ebook editions of The Good Humor Man, or, Calorie 3501. So, here we go…

Reality is quickly catching up to the scenario portrayed in my third novel, the aforementioned The Good Humor Man, or, Calorie 3501 (now available as an ebook! all the popular formats! cheaper than the trade paperback! a screaming bargain!). So I like to occasionally point my noble readers in the direction of the stepping stones which are leading us all down the calorie-counting path toward my nanny state dystopia (click here for an earlier compendium of links):

You’ll be happy to know that this Thanksgiving, the Food Police were on the case

The terrifying tale of the Food Grinches Who Want to Steal Your Thanksgiving

Asking the important questions: Is Flavored Milk Public Enemy #1?

Scientists asking the important questions: Is America a Nation of Food Junkies?

Yes, I know we have a budget deficit the size of our entire national economy, but is a tax on obesity the way to fix it?

And here are a few recent news items from the wonderful world of Frankenfoods (or genetically modified foods, for those of you who cannot abide neologisms):

Be afraid, be very afraid… Genetically Modified Organisms are Taking Over Your Pantry

Asking the important questions: Ten Billion Acres of Genetically Modified Crops Can’t Be Wrong, Right?

And, although this item has nothing to do with genetically modified foodstuffs (unless you like eating flying insects), its not-so-subtle hint of things getting out of c-o-n-t-r-o-llllllllll does put me very much in the mind of various corporate/scientific snafus in my recent novel: Scientists Buzzing on Genetically Modified Mosquitoes (I mean, what could possibly go wrong?)

An Unpredictable (But Golden) Reward of Publishing

I’ve written elsewhere on this website about the personal rewards of the act of writing. Few things give me more pleasure than crafting a well-wrought metaphor or paragraph, brainstorming a delightfully appropriate plot development, watching as a character takes on a voice all his or her own and begins telling me where the book should head next, or coming to the end of a final chapter and knowing exactly what the final sentences of a book must be. I believe that if a researcher were to conduct a brain scan of me when I’m in the midst of such moments, the firing of my neurons and the hyperactivity of my serotonin would closely mimic well-documented brain activity during a “runner’s high” or following absorption of a powerful anti-depressant.

Apart from the rewards of writing, what about the rewards of publishing? I’ve also written in my blog that I believe “story” is a shared performance of at least two persons: the writer, and the reader, who must be seduced by the writer’s efforts into injecting his or her own memories, colorations, mental voices, and emotional responses into the act of story. Unless both actors, reader and writer, are giving their fullest energies to the shared performance of story, the gestalt does not achieve its full potential. Without publishing of some sort (which can be as basic as printing up extra copies for one’s workshop group to read), there are no readers, and the act of story remains incomplete. Yet publishing is often drudgery, involving tasks a writer either dislikes or feels far less competent at than the act of writing (such as marketing one’s work, either to agents or editors or directly to prospective readers; dealing with contractual or legal issues, and struggling through layers of bureaucracy to ensure one’s book doesn’t get “lost,” if working with a traditional publisher; learning the intricacies of document conversion to various e-formats and dealing with hired copy editors and cover designers, if self-publishing).

Those are the burdens of publishing. So what are the rewards of publishing? The obvious ones leap to mind. If one is fortunate enough to be chosen by an editor and publishing staff at a traditional publisher, one receives the ego boost of external validation. One may also experience the pleasures of spotting one’s books in a favorite local bookstore, or being approached at a convention by a reader asking to have his copy signed. Sometimes there are financial rewards to be had, although, in the overwhelming majority of cases, if one honestly adds up all the hours of labor spent writing, revising, and marketing one’s book, the pay received per hour comes to considerably less than the minimum wage.

However, there is another reward of publishing, a reward most often hidden from and unknown to the writer, a reward which, by its nature, is completely beyond prediction and cannot be consciously striven towards. It is a reward that may sometimes come from completing the circuit of “story,” that wondrous instance when three elements come into full confluence: the writer’s best efforts at storytelling, the reader’s best efforts at interpretation, and external circumstances which render the reader especially receptive to being drawn into a book’s enchantment.

Sometimes a book, as an act of communication, as an instance of human sharing, can provide a lifeline to someone who needs one.

When did I decide I wanted to be a writer? I began thinking about it when I discovered I could entertain my peers by writing an appealing story. But what solidified my desire was receiving the gift of a remote human touch when I truly needed such a touch, from writers such as Ray Bradbury, Robert Silverberg, and Anne McCaffrey. The clincher was reading Barry N. Malzberg’s The Engines of the Night, which told me about the real-life sadnesses and struggles and failures of the minor figures of the science fiction field, men and women (mostly men) who had dreamed big, achieved some measure of success, occasionally major success, and had then been forgotten. I was a teenager when I first read Barry’s book. The stories he shared with me humanized a whole class of people – writers – whom I’d previously assumed led charmed lives. Paradoxically, reading about the writers Barry referred to as the failures of science fiction only made me want to become a science fiction writer even more. Revealing their flaws and their disappointments made me more optimistic that I could, with enough practice and diligence, at least approach their level of work. Perhaps most wonderful of all was my sense that Barry was speaking directly to me, even though we had never met. That sense of connection made me feel much less alone, at a time in my life when I was very prone to feeling terribly alone.

I thought one of the best things I could possibly do as a writer would be to provide someone else, some stranger whom I might never meet, with the same sense of companionship and connection that Barry’s work had granted me. So at that point I knew I would work towards becoming a writer, even though I was fearfully uncertain then that I would have anything worthwhile or new to say.

Living one’s life and taking the gut punches that experience tends to dole out eventually provide a person with something to say; rarely new, but worth the telling (the best stories, after all, can be repeated again and again without losing any of their power). When I was thirty-two, I experienced a double blow that literally left me gasping on the ground. I broke my left ankle in two places during my first attempt at rollerblading, and my wife of four years announced she wanted a divorce. I’ll never forget the book I was reading at the time: Robert Silverberg’s novel, Hot Sky at Midnight. Not one of Silverberg’s classic works, but it was still Robert Silverberg – and I had read and loved enough of Robert Silverberg’s prose to cling to his familiar voice like I would the edge of a lifeboat. For several weeks after my wife’s announcement, I couldn’t fall asleep without talk radio turned on, without some voices (talking about the stock market or home repairs or whatever) to distract me from the voices in my own head. And I couldn’t remain sanely awake in the empty apartment, a cast on my leg, without having Robert Silverberg’s book open on my lap.

The third book I wrote, and the first I was able to get published, Fat White Vampire Blues, grew directly out of that experience. I took my feelings of abandonment, betrayal, yearning, and loss and my resentment at having to move to a new home, put them to words, and made them funny by voicing them through a 450 pound vampire. It was a form of self-therapy, probably one of the most positive things (apart from rehabbing my leg by swimming at the Loyola University gym) that I did for myself. As soon as I finished them, I mailed chapters to my best friend from high school, Maury, who had recently moved from New Orleans to Upstate New York. Maury was going through a rough emotional patch himself, and he told me that my bumbling, hard-luck vampire, Jules, had become a welcome companion, someone who regularly cheered him up, almost as good as having me in the apartment with him.

Recently, I attended CONtraflow in Gretna, Louisiana, the first fan-run science fiction convention to be held in the New Orleans area since just before Hurricane Katrina in 2005. In the hallway outside the dealers’ room, a trio of volunteers from Biloxi’s Coast Con manned a table to advertise their upcoming convention. I hadn’t met any of the three, but I’d attended many Coast Cons, and I stopped by the table to ask them to do a favor for me. A group of Gulf Coast fans, all connected with Coast Con, had tracked me and my family down while we’d been sheltering in Florida after Katrina and had mailed us several care packages. This had touched me very deeply, because I knew the people who had assembled the care packages had most likely been personally devastated by the storm (Katrina came ashore between Gulfport and Bay St. Louis, smashing and inundating most of the Mississippi coast prior to breaking the levees in New Orleans) – yet they had taken the time away from their own troubles to do this for my family and me. I had mentioned this in an Afterword to my most recently published novel, The Good Humor Man, or, Calorie 3501 , and I wanted as many Gulf Coast fans as possible to know how much I had appreciated and would always appreciate what they had done. Knowing I’d likely be unable to attend the next Coast Con in the spring, I asked the three fans at the table to help spread the word for me.

One of the three, a young woman, seemed very eager to talk. She told me she had read Fat White Vampire Blues. She said she had read it a few years ago during an extended hospital stay, when she had been seriously ill. Reading my book had helped her get through her physical and emotional ordeal. It had made her laugh. Reading it and laughing had given her something to look forward to each day she’d been in the hospital. She’d come to think of Jules the vampire as a buddy, someone she happily anticipated spending time with.

I thought back to what Maury had told me years ago, before the book had been published. Being able to provide a modicum of entertainment, diversion, and emotional relief for my best friend, welcome and wonderful as that was, was not too unexpected. But to be able to do the same for a complete stranger, a person I had never had any direct contact with… that was another thing entirely. That almost seemed like a form of magic. Or a blessing. I had sent my book out into the world, a message in a bottle, not knowing how the message would be received, nor who would receive it. And here I was, a thousand miles away from my home, talking with a stranger, only to learn that my effort at storytelling had achieved something well beyond my modest ambitions for it. It had helped shepherd a fellow human being through a harrowing ordeal.

In moments of frustration, disappointment, and self-pity, I sometimes think of myself as a “garbage can novelist,” a writer who had his shot at commercial success, came close but missed, and whose manuscripts now get endlessly circulated around the publishing world, generating rejection after rejection. But I’ll have a much harder time considering myself a failed writer now. My various agents have told me that comedy is a hard sell, risky in the marketplace, because humor is so subjective. I’m sure there’s a lot of truth to that. But now I know I made someone laugh when they really, really needed to laugh.

And how can anyone consider himself a failure when he has done for someone else what the heroes of his younger days did for him?

The Good Humor Man: Truth is Stranger Than My Fiction

In honor of the e-book reprinting of The Good Humor Man, or, Calorie 3501, I thought it might be an appropriate time to reprint my recent round up of Food Police, Food Fascists, or GMO (Genetically Modified Organism) food terrorist stories bouncing around in the news and blogosphere. After all, what fun is it to be a Cassandra if you can’t shout from your blog, “I TOLD you it would happen!”

Here’s a selection of headlines that could be torn straight from the first third of my novel:

The Growing Ambitions of the Food Police

Invasion of the Food Police

Food Police Planning Next Attack

LA Food Police Ban Burger Joints

Fighting the Food Police

But wait, there’s more!

Washington bureaucrats work to have Tony the Tiger Placed on the Endangered Species Act

about to do the perp walk

McDonalds’ CEO Jim Skinner, confederate of Emmanuel Goldstein, subjected to “Two Minutes’ Hate” for daring to defend corporate spokes-clown Ronald McDonald

Rather creepy stuff — British school bureaucrats secretly open students’ lunchboxes, photograph contents, calculate nutritional values, then send threatening notes home to parents if contents are not up to approved nutritional standards

And on the genetically modified foods front:

Farmers sue Monsanto over GMO seeds

In East Flanders, members of the Belgian Field Liberation Movement [FLM] destroy field of genetically modified potatoes meant to withstand potato blight, while in Chicago, the Organic Consumers Association protests their local Whole Foods store

October 16, 2011 will be Millions Against Monsanto World Food Day (and there’s still time to read The Good Humor Man, or, Calorie 3501 before the big day!)

Eco-terrorists suspected in chop-down of genetically modified papaya trees in Hawaii (in my book, it was genetically modified bananas that caused all the ruckus, but if Elvis had been fond of fried peanut butter and papaya sandwiches, I might’ve used papayas instead). Well, all the characters running around the world of The Good Humor Man would have to agree it’s a darn good thing the King of Rock and Roll sure liked his fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches, because otherwise… well, read the novel to find out about that “otherwise”…

Elvis Before

Elvis After... ready to save the world

The Good Humor Man Now Available as an Ebook!

Hey, ebook fans! Now you can buy the novel Booklist selected as one of their 10 Best SF and Fantasy Novels of 2010 in any of your favorite ebook formats! Tachyon Publications has just reissued The Good Humor Man, or, Calorie 3501 as a Kindle book, a Nook book, an Apple iBook, and a Sony Reader ebook.

Here’s what some prominent science fiction authors and reviewers had to say about the book in 2009:

The Good Humor Man is hilarious, trenchant, important, and the story of Dr. Louis Schmalzberg’s search for the jar of liposuctioned Elvis fat that may save America is impossible to put down. Andrew Fox writes like a combination of Kurt Vonnegut, Dave Barry and Molly Ivins…”
-Lucius Shepard

“A Fahrenheit 451 for the post-millennium, told with Fox’s magnificent evocation of place and twisted humor. Wonderful!”
-Kage Baker

“Andrew Fox has provided readers with some inspired riffs on the Vampire Lestat and Ignatius Reilly. . . Now he extends his range a bit with a hilarious new novel, The Good Humor Man, Or Calorie 3501.” Read more
-Susan Larson, The Times-Picayune

The Good Humor Man is an intensely interesting, wild ride through a wickedly-accurate depiction of the American psyche…a witty, incisive satire all on its own. By turns heartbreaking and mesmerizingly grotesque, The Good Humor Man is well worth the read.” Read more
-Chris Braak, io9.com

“…keeps the pages turning…. I’d suggest playing ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ and grabbing a bag of chips for ambiance.”
Electric City

“Who but Andrew Fox, author of Fat White Vampire Blues, could combine Elvis Presley, anti-junk food fascism, clones, a world-threatening virus, and weird sex involving liposuction into one book?” Read more
Edge San Francisco

Here’s the back-cover description from the original Tachyon Publications trade paper edition:

“In this witty tribute to Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 set in 2041 government-sanctioned vigilantes – the Good Humor Men – ruthlessly patrol the streets, immolating all fattening food products as illegal contraband. A pound of real chocolate is worth more on the black market than a kilo of cocaine. Evil nutraceutical company MannaSantos controls the food market with genetically modified products like ‘Leanie Lean’ meats. But the craze for svelte healthfulness has reached a critical turning point, as a mysterious wasting plague threatens to starve all of humanity.

“A lone ex-plastic surgeon and founding Good Humor Man, whose father performed a secret liposuction surgery on Elvis Presley, holds the key to humanity’s future. In a mad dash to retrieve his family heirloom – the mortal remains of the King’s belly fat – Dr. Louis Shmalzberg becomes entangled with a civil servant of questionable motives, an acquisitive assassin from a wealthy Caliphate, a power-mad preacher evangelizing anorexia, a beautiful young woman addicted to liposuction, and a homicidal clone from a MannaSantos experiment gone terribly wrong.

“Can Elvis save the world sixty-four years after his death?”

And as an extra, added little bonus featurette, here’s a link to a video of Rose Fox’s September, 2009 interview with Chris Genoa and with me (about The Good Humor Man) for GVTV (Genreville TV).

The Good Humor Man Ebook Switches Publishers


Just to update everyone, there’s been a change of plans regarding the publication of ebook versions of my third novel, The Good Humor Man, or, Calorie 3501. When I first started this blog a few months back, at the beginning of July, 2011, Tachyon Publications, publisher of the printed book version, and I had just signed a contract with Ridan Publications to have them issue and publicize the ebook. However, since that time, scheduling conflicts and a host of high profile projects have emerged at Ridan, so they informed us they wouldn’t be able to put out The Good Humor Man as an ebook at this time.

However, the good folks at Tachyon have always been major boosters of The Good Humor Man, and so they have agreed to make the book available in a number of e-formats, including Kindle, Nook, and Microsoft Reader, among others. So those of you who have been awaiting an e-version of The Good Humor Man shouldn’t have to wait too much longer. It should be available sometime during the second half of October, 2011, probably just in time for Halloween. I’ll keep you all posted once the actual release date is set.

Halloween… now why do I suspect this was one of Elvis’s favorite holidays (along with Thanksgiving and Christmas… can’t have too much turkey, pumpkin pie, eggnog, or fruitcake, after all)? Well, all the characters running around the world of The Good Humor Man would have to agree it’s a darn good thing the King of Rock and Roll sure liked his fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches…

Elvis Before

Elvis After... ready to save the world

New Article on 9/11 and Science Fiction


Having just visited New York City, and with the tenth anniversary of the terror attacks of September 11, 2001 rapidly approaching, I wanted to write a survey of how 9/11 and the subsequent War on Terror have been reflected in works of science fiction and fantasy. What my admittedly limited research (primarily web searches and consultations with my own library) suggested surprised me — the events of 9/11 and the War on Terror have hardly been touched upon by speculative fiction writers at all, particularly in comparison with the volume of works written in response to earlier national traumas and upheavals of the 20th century.

I make my case for the relative paucity of 9/11-related speculative fiction here, and also suggest some possible reasons as to why this is so. I hope you find my article informative and thought-provoking (perhaps debate-provoking).

Having lost my cousin Amy to random holiday gunfire on New Year’s Eve in New Orleans in 1994, I know a little what it is like to lose family to senseless violence. Amy’s mother never fully recovered from the shock. My thoughts go out to all of our fellow citizens who lost loved ones ten years ago, who will be feeling their old wounds perhaps torn open anew by the anniverary and the memories it brings.

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