By Scott A. Cupp
This is the 165th in my series of Forgotten Books.
I hope you all had a wonderful Halloween with lots of costumes and candy and fun. We had rain in San Antonio, first early in the day and then again just as the sun went down. Kind of dampened a few spirits and ghouls too.
This week I need to talk about one of my favorite living writers, Victor Gischler. It was Bill Crider who I blame for pointing me in Gischler’s direction. VG was looking for “Gischler virgins” (people who had never read his work) to try a test on. I responded that I was a virgin and he sent me a copy of Shotgun Opera. The only requirement was that I read the book and post a review. If I liked it, great. If not, tell people what I thought and pass the book on.
I posted my review on Amazon and it went along the lines of “What if Quentin Tarrant no had directed the Marx Brothers in Kill Bill and they had done it in drag?” That really didn’t describe the plot of the book, but it certainly captured the flavor. Gischler is not going to be your mother’s thriller writer. Conventional is not a word to enter into these discussions.
I’ve read many of his books, but not all. A couple are waiting for me to get to them. I just cannot binge on this stuff. But I love what I read. When I was Toastmaster at ArmadilloCon a few years back, the committee asked if there was anyone they could invite that I wanted to come. I told them Gischler’s name and he came in from Baton Rouge. He seems like a nice normal person, and I think he had a good time. I know I enjoyed seeing him there.
So this week we are looking at his new science fiction thriller which is not likely to be in a lot of places because … well, it’s not very PC. Gestapo Mars is a title unlikely to send Barnes & Noble ordering 150 copies per store. It’s much more likely to be in the one-or-fewer copy range. Much like Norman Spinrad’s The Iron Dream, this attempts to make a Nazi sympathetic hero work for the reader.
Carter Sloan is a programmed and highly trained assassin and spy for the Third Reich, which is still in existence several centuries from now. He has been in cryostorage for 258 years, awaiting a mission. When he is awaked, he is told that he will be invading a resistance group looking for the Daughter of the Brass Dragon. Almost immediately, the people reviving him are attacked by the Nazis, who also want him to get to the Daughter of the Brass Dragon. His instructions are a little vague. He will have to improvise and move along. When he finds the Daughter he is to capture her. Or maybe kill her. No, it’s capture. Then it’s kill. Things get a little weird.
He is sent to the moon in a disguise and is accepted by the resistance and the lovely Meredith Capulet, who agrees to smuggle him out. But nothing goes as planned, and her little flyer is attacked by the aliens of the Coriandon race, gelatinous beings from somewhere not near here.
To save himself, he must reveal his Nazi connections and call for help. This obviously does not set well with Meredith, but he wants to live and love again. Bad things happen to the Nazis, and Carter and Meredith are on a slow ship back to the Nazi stronghold on Mars.
But, wait, things have changed. The resistance has moved against the Nazis, and no one is safe. His mission changes until he no longer cares and just wants to survive. Enter the exploding dog with new missions.
The action is fast, furious and irreverent. Sloan has to question all sides and make love to all available women. It’s kind of like Raiders of the Lost Reich, as situations change every few pages. The Nazis and resistance need to unite, because the gooey aliens are coming and they have big guns.
It’s a fun and fast read full of in jokes and odd stuff. When someone sings “Hey, hey we’re the Nazis. The people say we Nazi around,” you know sanity has left the building.
As usual, your mileage may vary, but if Ernie Kovacs and Monty Python are your type of humor, along with a tiny sprinkle of Benny Hill, you can find a home on Gestapo Mars. And the cover is fun, too.
Series organizer Patti Abbott hosts more Friday Forgotten Book reviews at her own blog, and posts a complete list of participating blogs.
Writing blog entries about recent cons is tough. Mainly, I worry I’ll forget to mention the names of the fascinating people I drank with, who said smart stuff on panels or whose readings really floored me.
So in the interest of not driving myself crazy trying to remember every person I owe a mention from last weekend’s Armadillocon, let me just say this: It was good to see all of you. You’re a great bunch — talented, smart, entertaining and, for the most part, friendly and inviting.
Instead of the usual laundry list, I’d rather give a collective shout-out to all the San Antonians who attended. If I’m not mistaken, this year’s show boasted the biggest Alamo City contingent I’ve yet seen at the con. And that’s invigorating for me, because our city — while rich in character and history — often lives in the creative shadow of hipper, more-affluent places like Austin and Dallas.
My fellow blogger Scott A. Cupp was there, as usual, slinging books at Willie Siros’ table, but it was a delight to see Max Booth III and Lori Michelle of Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing and Dark Moon Digest also haunting the dealer’s room. It was hard to miss John Picacio’s amazing display of Game of Thrones prints, but how cool was it that fellow illustrator Sherlock also had an hour-long program on how to draw dragons? And was anybody else impressed with New Braunfels’ Jayme Lynn Blaschke moderating the panel on spirituality in sf/fantasy/horror, maintaining a civil tone as atheists and people of faith hashed out some prickly questions?
Cool stuff, all.
During the con, I got to spend quality bar time with K.B. Rylander, fresh off her win of the Jim Baen Memorial Short Story Award (read her winning “We Fly” here), and with fan/writer/raconteur Clayton Hackett. I saw the familiar faces of San Antonio Writers Guild stalwarts James and Doris Frazar and Stewart Smith during my reading, and I caught up with power couple Scott and Sara Cooper during the autograph session. I spent a little time (too little, sadly) talking Chupacabra poetry with South Texans Dr. Malia A. Perez and Juan Manuel Perez. And, as things wound down Saturday, I ran into Eugene Fischer, a sometimes-San Antonian who helped develop the sf track at the prestigious Iowa Writers’ Workshop.
And then there were the new Alamo City faces — or new to me, anyway. I broke bread (literally, we were served an entire loaf at Black’s BBQ) with Justin Landon, a Hugo-nominated editor, podcaster and blogger for Tor.com, and I panelized with YA author Peni Griffin. A pleasure to meet you both. I hope we cross paths again soon.
Viva Armadillocon! Viva San Antonio!
I’ll be at the 33rd annual ArmadilloCon this weekend, participating in panels pontificating on everything from what sf books should be on college reading lists to why people still love those cuddly flesh-eating zombies.
Guests at the venerable Austin convention include Guest of Honor Paolo Bacigalupi, author of The Windup Girl, which has won the Hugo, Nebula, Locus and just about every other award you can think of; Artist Guest Vincent Villafranca, known for his vibrantly imaginative bronzes; Editor Guest Lou Anders, award-winning editorial director for Pyr Books; Fan Guest Fred Duarte Jr.; Toastmaster Mark Finn; and Special Guests Emma Bull and Will Shetterly.
I counted nearly 100 participants, including horror giant Joe R. Lansdale, off-the-wall short story writer Howard Waldrop and fellow Alamo City residents David Liss and Scott A. Cupp. (Cupp, I believe, has attended every Armadillocon since the con was established.)
The convention is being held Friday, Aug. 26, through Sunday, Aug. 28, at the Renaissance Hotel Austin, 9721 Arboretum Blvd. Three-day memberships are $50. Individual daily passes are available for $20 (Friday and Sunday) and $35 (Saturday).
I have enjoyed every Armadillocon I have attended, and I appreciate the organizers’ continued focus on sf, fantasy and horror literature. Yes, folks, good old-fashioned books. That’s not to say no one dresses up in costume, bitches that Firefly was cancelled or huddles in a corner playing GURPS while nibbling on Cheetos, just that media and gaming are not the sole reasons for the con’s existence. If you’re a reader, a writer or aspire to be either, it’s a con not to miss.
Here’s a list of my panels, if you’re inclined to catch some:
Friday, 6 p.m. in the Sabine Room: Texas is a Scary Place
Myself, Matt Cardin, Joe Lansdale, J.M. McDermott, Nate Southard and Frank Summers
Friday, 10 p.m. in the Trinity Room: Fantastical Feast: Food in SF/Fantasy
Myself, Cat Rambo, Linda Donahue, Kimberly Frost, Julia Mandala and Marshall Ryan Maresca
Saturday, 1 p.m. in the San Antonio Room: SF101: A Reading List for a College Course
Myself, Bill Crider, Scott Cupp, Jess Nevins, James Reasoner and Josh Rountree
Saturday, 9 p.m. in the San Antonio Room: The Rising Popularity of Zombies
Myself, Linda Donahue, Scott A. Johnson, Josh Rountree and Nate Southard
Saturday, 11 p.m. in the Trinity Room: Ghost Stories
Myself, Don Webb, William Browning Spencer, Nat Southard and Scott A. Johnson
For a full rundown, including a list of all the panels and participants, check out the Armadillocon website.
This weekend, I will be participating — along with scads of other Texas speculative fiction writers — in the 32nd annual ArmadilloCon. If it’s like the others I’ve attended, it should be quite the party.
This are more than 100 participants at this year’s Armadillocon, including guests Rachel Caine, Cat Conrad, Anne Sowards, Elspeth Bloodgood, Nancy Kress, Ilona Andrews and Michael Bishop. San Antonio will be well represented with myself, Scott Cupp and Joe McKinney in attendance.
Of course, the difference between Armadillocon and so many other cons is that the focus is on books rather than movies, TV shows and toys. In other words, there are a ton of creative panels covering all kinds of speculative fiction and (generally) no people walking around in wookie costumes.
I will be participating in the panels New Weird: Has the Old Normal Taken Over (5 p.m. on Friday), Trials and Tribulations of the Short Story (noon on Saturday) and Is Lovecraft Hurting Horror (11 a.m. on Sunday). I’ll also be doing a reading at 8:30 p.m. on Friday and 4 p.m. on Saturday and a 1 p.m. autograph session Saturday.
The con runs Aug. 27–29 at the Renaissance Hotel Austin, 9721 Arboretum Blvd. A three day membership is $50. Individual daily passes are available for $25 (Friday and Sunday) and $35 (Saturday).
Drop on by. If you haven’t been before, it’s quite a show. Even if no one is walking around in a wookie costume.
I’m back and still digging myself out from under work I put off to attend Armadillocon 31 in Austin, the state’s longest-running literary sf/fantasy convention.
It was great to see old pals like John Picacio (fellow Missions Unknown blogger), Scott Cupp (the con’s toastmaster), Chris Roberson (the editor guest of honor) and Joe McKinney (S.A.’s zombie-writing homicide detective) – and to rub shoulders with literary giants like Joe R. Lansdale, who signed books like a madman, and Michael Moorcock, who made a surprise appearance opening night.
I also got to meet swell new folks like Mario Acevedo, Nancy Hightower, Matt Cardin and Vincent and Michelle Villafranca. (By the way, any of you folks ever check out Vincent Villafranca’s art? You really owe it to yourself.)
Can’t wait to do it again next year.