Reviving Dark Tales from my youth with the launch of my first short story collection Car Dodging and Other Stories on Amazon and Smashwords today

CarDodging-digital cover

The influence of short stories on my writing life can’t be overestimated. I was a lonely teen in the mid-1970s when my fascination and love for the short story began. Although it is a literary form that has been pretty much overlooked and forgotten in the modern age (from its heyday in the 1930s, 40s, and 50s when publications were devoted to highlighting the art of the short story), the power of the short story endures for me as inspiring and moving as any novel.

So I am more than thrilled that today my first short story collection CAR DODGING AND OTHER STORIES is available on Amazon and Smashwords as a digital book and as an Amazon paperback.

All the stories in this collection were based on previous works I had written in my teens or for my college English classes at California State University Long Beach. I updated the stories but worked to maintain as much as I could my original, youthful vision I had attempted decades before. BACK OF THE STATION WAGON, the final story in my collection, is the only work in this book not created from a previous story from my youth. However, it was inspired by a racist incident during my childhood.

The writers that first beguiled me with their stunning short story talents were the science fiction writers Richard Matheson, Ray Bradbury, Harlan Ellison, and Isaac Asimov, among many others. They told intriguing tales of new worlds and future possibilities, but always illuminated the foibles and darkness of human nature through their powerful stories, told with such brevity and economy. The length of the stories was hardly the point, as their imaginations were unlimited.

Later, in high school and college, I was introduced a wider range of writers, who also explored and enhanced the short story form, such as Shirley Jackson (The Lottery), Willa Cather (Paul’s Case), Dorothy Parker (Big Blonde), John Updike, John Cheever, James Joyce, James Baldwin, Richard Wright, Ernest Hemmingway (Men Without Women), John Steinbeck, Anton Chekov (The Lady With The Dog), Charles Bukowski, Flannery O’Connor, Joyce Carol Oates, O. Henry, and many others. In fact, there are truly too many to mention here. I still feel the impact of their words and stories on me today.

As you could imagine, with such brilliant examples and teachers, I was daunted initially to take a stab at writing my own short stories. Despite some first attempts, many of which are in this book in expanded form, my first actual completed short story was TROUBLES I had written at 17. It was a simple story of a robot who works on an assembly line in the future, has an awakening and leaves the factory on an adventure. I expanded this story into the novella ROBOT TROUBLES, which I recently published. I have included my original short story in this collection as well. In 1980, I sent my short story to my writing hero Isaac Asimov’s science fiction magazine and received my first rejection letter. I have detailed that story in the introduction of ROBOT TROUBLES and won’t do that again here. Suffice to say, I was originally crushed by the rejection, but I continued to write short stories.

I have provided detailed introductions before each story in my collection detailing the origin and inspiration of each story. I won’t do that here either.

Car Dodging and Other Stories paperbackcover

Yet I will provide a quick overview. CAR DODGING focuses on a childhood game that turns deadly; the aforementioned TROUBLES is about a robot assembly line worker’s awakening in a dark future; JACK is a story about a robot boxing trainer and the fighter he helps turn into a heavyweight champion; THE NEIGHBOR is about a man finding out his neighbor is from another world; THE ELDERS imagines a space traveler who sleeps for 210 years and finds himself on a new world many lightyears from Earth; BROKEN BARRIERS is a love story across different worlds and civilizations; A DEADLY SPACE focuses on a space shuttle pilot being held hostage by two Russian killer satellites; THE HELLHOLE, PART 1, THE FIRST FIGHT, A BATTLE OF WIZARDS: ANDOLEN’S ARENA SHOWDOWN, THE ADVENTURES OF THE MAGIC SWORD, JONAH’S VICTORY and A SWORD’S EDGE are all fantasy, sword and sorcery stories inspired by my love of the LORD OF THE RINGS and other fantasy books in my youth; THE JOB is about a policeman’s dissatisfaction with his job in the future; ANOTHER CHANCE focuses on a veteran car racer’s comeback journey culminating with a race on the planet Mars; MAKING ORANGE JUICE and A CONVERSATION WITH MOTHER were scene exercises for my college class that I have updated as short stories; STEPS TO NOWHERE was expanded from the A CONVERSATION WITH MOTHER scene into a larger story that explores a young teenager’s growing awkwardness with his mother following his father’s death; THE GARDENER is about a former blues singer who works in a dead-end job as a gardener at a university and reflects on his life; SIDE OF THE ROAD focuses on a man parked on the side of a freeway lamenting his failing marriage, and the previously mentioned BACK OF THE STATION WAGON is based on a racist incident during my youth.

Please note that after much internal debate, I decided to include the racist and offensive language in the story BACK OF THE STATION WAGON as the story is about how silence in the face of racism perpetuates it and that racism exists everywhere,  including behind the ugly facade of a so-called neighborhood hero.

The team at Word to Kindle created another impressive cover as well for my digital and paperback version that reflects my title and also my stories’ content. They also created the excellent covers for my previous science fiction novel ROBOT TROUBLES and poetry collection BODY PARTS.

Through looking back at my writing past and reviving these stories, I feel I have recaptured my joy of writing and overcome the fear that used to haunt me as a young, naïve writer. This book has taken a more than 40-year journey to publication.  As I have been reminded many times in the past few years, it is never too late to chase your writing dreams.

I hope you enjoy these stories as much as I enjoyed writing them.

Look for more books later this year, including an updated version of the first novel I had hand-written at 15, and another poetry book based on my lyrics.

GP

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Q& A with George Pappas, Author of Science Fiction Novella ROBOT TROUBLES

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I was recently asked to put together a Q & A by a digital magazine about my long writing journey to create my latest book, science fiction novella ROBOT TROUBLES for a potential podcast. The podcast opportunity has yet to materialize, but I wanted to share the Q & A anyway to provide more insight into my writing process and background.

Enjoy

GP

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Tell us about your 38-year writing journey in creating your novella Robot Troubles?

Science fiction books and films intrigued me during my youth.

One author, the brilliant Isaac Asimov, so captivated and inspired me, that I decided as an ambitious 18-year-old, to write a robot story of my own in the late 1970s. That initial story titled, TROUBLES, is the basis for my new science fiction novella and tenth book, ROBOT TROUBLES, which is available on Amazon and Smashwords . It is also available in a paperback version on Amazon in the same format as the books that originally inspired me.

This novella, which is my first published science fiction work, has only been 38 years in the making. The original story focused on the awakening of a robot assembly line worker model called AL-357 who eventually escapes the factory to discover a human world beyond the factory confines. After the robot returns to the factory and is inspired by what it saw, AL-357 begins to question its purpose further and has an altercation with a company foreman. The robot’s creators Luther Allison and Dr. Elaine Corkran are forced to take it off the line and put it to sleep by the end of the story.

Now, as an audacious youth, I was so taken with my story I boldly sent it to Isaac Asimov’s science fiction magazine in Philadelphia dreaming of my story being published by one of my science fiction heroes.

You can imagine my disappointment when the rejection note arrived a couple months later. However, the note from the publication’s assistant editor John Ashmead was hardly encouraging, but it seemed to make sense to me at the time. I have included the rejection note in my novella’s introduction and below.

troublesrejection-note2

However, looking at the editor’s note many years later, I have to disagree with his main premise that a robot couldn’t have an awakening or feelings just as another appliance or machine such as a lawnmower wouldn’t.  It is strange his lack of imagination considering his magazine featured science fiction stories about fantastical worlds, etc.

Unfortunately, I shelved my short story for many years and moved on to other writing projects. However, in late 2009 I returned to the story and updated it. Yet when revised my original short story, I added an explanation and motivation of why AL-357 experienced its awakening. Once, I had updated the original short story and retitled it ROBOT TROUBLES, I was so impressed with the results I decided that one day I would expand it into a three-part novella using the first story as a launching point. I was also inspired by the Occupy Wall Street protests in 2010 and wanted to use my story as a means to comment on the growing economic inequality in our country and world and as an ominous warning of what can happen if this economic divide continues to go unchecked.

For years, I avoided tackling this novella idea as I worked on other novels and poetry collections. I believe it was out of fear, which is truly the worst enemy of a writer, and this has kept me from pursuing my writing dreams more times than I would care to recount.

Not too long ago, I was laid off from my public relations job and decided to finally tackle my science fiction novella idea. This coincided with my recent discovery of the liberating benefits of indie publishing. There was nothing to stop me now except my own fear, but the first draft came quickly, and I never looked back.

Tell us more about the story of ROBOT TROUBLES?

ROBOT TROUBLES is a science fiction novella set in a dystopian future where a ruthless authoritarian global elite government runs a corporate society driven by robot labor while most of humanity lives in squalor outside sleek cities in tent camps. ROBOT TROUBLES takes place in New Los Angeles, a future version of the famed city. The story’s protagonist and unlikely hero is Luther, a former infamous hacker and robot technician at a robot factory located in New Los Angeles. Once imprisoned by the government for his hacking activities, Luther is released from prison to work at the factory under the watchful eye of famous robot inventor Dr. Corkran. Unbeknownst to Dr. Corkran and the rest of the factory’s executive management, Luther has been quietly conducting a sabotage campaign at the factory for years, creating small “robot troubles” that slowed down the factory’s robot project. Driven by guilt for playing a part in the government’s robot labor initiative and feeling as if he has let his fellow humans down, Luther hatches an audacious plan to ignite a robot and human revolution against the ruthless authorities. Luther begins creating a series of robots, each more advanced than the next, to escape the factory and to reach his brother Ezekiel, an activist who has been banished to the tent cities, with his rebellion plan. One of Luther’s robots, AL-457, does escape and contacts Ezekiel with his plan but is captured by authorities. Luther knows time is running short for him as he is temporarily suspended from his duties by Dr. Corkran. After things begin to fall apart at the factory without Luther’s expertise, Dr. Corkran is forced to bring back Luther to set things right again.

RobotTroublesPrintCoverNew

Yet knowing it was probably his last chance, Luther developed an advanced robot model, AL-BR88TOR, which proved a kind of “robot whisperer,” to advance the final phase of his plan.

Unlike many science fiction stories, the robots in my story are benevolent and work closely with the human characters to create a more just world for everyone through rebelling against an unfair system. The robots are also being exploited, which is explored in my book as well.

My novel’s main protagonist, Luther, is also the conscience of the story, discreetly creating the robots to be a kinder version of himself and to help him launch his dream of a robot-human revolution.

My novella is also a dark commentary on the current economic inequality in our country and world and a warning of what can happen when such policies run amok.  However, my story remains hopeful as well.

What inspired you to return to science fiction writing?

I was greatly inspired by science fiction novels and short stories during my youth in the 1970s and 1980s. The works of authors Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Frank Herbert, Richard Matheson, Harlan Ellison, Ursula K. LeGuin, Robert Heinlein, Phillip K. Dick, to name a few, beguiled and fascinated me beyond description. I knew one day I would try to attempt my own stories.

With ROBOT TROUBLES, I feel I have finally come home as a writer, tapping into my youthful love for science fiction and its endless possibilities.

Also, please note that this book is adult with complex themes, but it is not an adult erotica work as with my recent novels. In these pages, you find no depictions of raw sex and erotica and the only mention of sex is just an aside of how robots were being used for sex and in brothels in the world the book is set in. Also, there is some cursing in the story but not too much. This is not a repudiation of my earlier erotica books and past writing of which I am very proud. However, this time, I wanted to go in a different direction and write a book that is more accessible to a wider range of readers in dealing with adult themes.

What can we expect next from you? More science fiction?

I am currently editing a collection of short stories, also based on work I had created in my teens and college years, that I am planning to bring out in early 2019. This will be a mix of literary stories about my childhood, including a new one addressing racism and a racist incident that occurred during my youth to end the book, and updated science fiction and fantasy/sword and sorcery tales. I am editing another poetry collection based on my lyrics that I will publish later this year.

At some point, I will write a sequel to ROBOT TROUBLES picking up where this story ends.

Tell us how indie publishing has impacted your writing career?

Indie publishing has opened a whole new world of writing possibilities for me.

Indie publishing has truly proved a liberating revelation for me as an author. In past couple of years, I have written and published novels MONOGAMY SUCKS, RELATIONSHIPS SUCK, DEAR HEF, YOUNG, HORNY & MORMON, SWINGING WITH THE SUPERNATURAL, and the poetry collections BACKYARD POETRY, THE HOLLYWOOD HOMELESS and MIMI’S DILEMMA AND OTHER POEMS ABOUT SEX, WOMEN AND MODERN ROMANCE.

Where can we find out more about you and get your books?

You can find me on Twitter tweeting about my books or posting blogs about my work on book and poetry blogs at the links below or check out all of my books on my Amazon author’s page.

Twitter: http://twitter.com/gpwriter

Blogs: https://robottroubles.wordpress.com

http://monogamysucks.wordpress.com

https://backyardpoetry.wordpress.com

Amazon author’s page: https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B004FBKNHA

ROBOT TROUBLES

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2GUliKC

Paperback:   https://amzn.to/2J86lVZ

Smashwords: https://bit.ly/2GgMV