Parsec Picnic this Saturday!

The Parsec Picnic will be this Saturday, August 27, 2016, from 12 noon to dusk at the Dormont Park large pavilion.

The park is located between Memorial Dr, Annapolis Ave, Dormont Ave, and McFarland Road. To find the pavilion, park in the lot off Annapolis Ave, and walk on the paved path next to it to the pavilion. The zip code is 15216.

Make your own alien at Confluence

Sample alien

Sample alien

Create your very own alien to bake at the workshop and take home!

We will cover polymer clay basics and how to bake your creations. You will get 4-5 1oz chunks of various colors, a bottle of aloe gel (to clean your hands) and a write up about polymer clay. Limit of 12 people. Material costs: $7.

Sign up at Registration or just stop by the workshop to see if we have room. Watching is free. (Workshop will be held in the same room as the Art Show, Ballroom 2.)

Costuming at Confluence

Confluence (July 29-31 at the Sheraton Pittsburgh Airport Hotel)


We haven’t had a formal masquerade in a good while, but this year we plan to give out ribbons and prizes for hall costumes, including a signed copy of Mary Soon Lee’s CROWNED to the “most heroic costume” and special guest Lawrence M. Schoen will use YOUR NAME as a character name in his next novel for a “really, really” good costume based on the sentient animal characters of BARSK.

Confluence Program

Program Update for Confluence (July 29-31 at the Sheraton Pittsburgh Airport Hotel)


Principal theme this year: heroic fantasy (our Guest of Honor is fantasy author Saladin Ahmed). But we will also have lots of SF, science, horror, and writing panels, and special guest Lawrence M. Schoen will be talking about both the Klingon language and the sentient elements of his Nebula nominated novel, BARSK. We have an outstanding filk track, and this year many of our filk guests will also be appearing on panels and in workshops.

If you’d like to take part in the Confluence Writing Workshop (July 30, Saturday morning), send a short story or part of a larger word (up to 3,000 words) to BY JULY 15 and then come to Confluence to go over it and improve it with the help of a brace of professional writers and editors.

Saturday will also be David Hartwell Tie Day: wear your gaudiest tie in honor of a friend, dealer, panelist and editor who was a Confluence regular until his recent untimely death.

On Saturday evening, Steel City Improv Theater will present USS IMPROVISE at 8 PM – it looks like it will be a lot of fun.

And of course, panels, workshops, readings, art show, dealer’s room, autographing sessions, kaffeeklatsches and literary beers, plus a couple of book launches and the camaraderie of our con suite.


Confluence News

Pittsburgh’s annual literary science fiction / fantasy / horror convention, Confluence, is coming up on July 29-31 at the Sheraton Pittsburgh Airport Hotel, 1160 Thorn Run Road. Coraopolis, PA 15108.


Online registration is available through July 22. Mail-in deadline is July 11. If you pre-register, you will save $10 on a full-weekend adult membership. There is also a $5 discount for paid-up members of PARSEC.

Alpha Book Signing July 27

The Alpha book signing will be on Wednesday, July 27 from 7 to 9 pm. Authors involved: David Barr Kirtley, Karina Sumner-Smith, Tamora Pierce, Seth Dickinson and Amal El-Mohtar.

Location: The Greensburg Barnes & Noble is at 5155 Route 30, Greensburg, PA 15601 (724-832-0622).

Dagnab that flibbertigibbet

by Joe Coluccio

Gort_Klaatu_KlingonLanguage lives and is far too vital to be ossified in a graveyard of grammar books, the commercial guidelines of publishing house editors, or in the strictures of those who claim to hold our key to linguistic structure.

If it isn’t obvious by now, I will point out that my tack is toward descriptive, not predictive language. Grammar and word usage should not be something akin to a literal interpretation of the Bible. All rules passed from on high applied by tightening fingers around your stiff starched collar.

On the other hand (four fingers and a thumb, a friend of mine would say every time he was faced with a dilemma) I dislike common parlance and works of fiction that insist on peppering speech, prose, or script with the topical phrases, mostly gathered from popular movies and television, which rise then fall with the depressing regularity of a row of rotating sheet metal ducks at a busy bee bee gun gallery. It’s kinda like using a cellophane wrapped greeting card to express your emotion. I guess you could say that I dislike it big time, bro.

I believe that one of the important concepts of writing and reading is novelty. I’m not sure what I make of James Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake, but I love the fact the end of the Wake, “A way a lone a last a loved a” wraps back around to the beginning sentence “riverrun, past Eve and Adam’s…” Ouroboros. Eternal Return. World Without End, Amen. I like the fact that the very words of the story carry as much meaning as the story structure. And many thanks to Murray Gell-Mann who discovered quarks then drove the name from Joyce’s elementary text into the sea of our language. “Three quarks for Muster Mark! Sure he hasn’t got much of a bark. And sure any he has it’s all beside the mark.” Strange and Charmed. It is all great fun. Great fun is important. Maybe more important than you think.

Science fiction, full of neologism and wacky meme, from its pulp roots, seems the best place to find novelty. Darko Suvin, who would most likely disagree with everything I think about the importance of the pulp origins of SF, describes the field by what he calls “cognitive estrangement” the presence of a “novum,” a novel device, that leads us to conceive our world in a different way.

“Ninety percent of everything is crap,’ observed Theodore Sturgeon. Ninety percent of crap may reveal everything of value. It’s a grand feeling to throw off the pristine uniform and wallow in the muck.


by Joe Coluccio, President, Parsec

As I look at the trees in my backyard, I am transported in an instantaneous mind snap to a younger time. This one is for Tom, who tells me the only desire that SF stirs in him is to be transported. Scotty was only interested in getting the cast down to the planet surface to advance the story. Gully Foyle jaunted and transformed. Perhaps this is the telling difference between a visual narrative and a written/read tale.

I can tell you to transport in time and in space only takes a scent, or a sound, or a fleeting glimpse. I can tell you that memory is reality. As much as the moment you inhabit now. I can also tell you that the spiritual journey that leads to the shadow of memory is travel in time and transport in space. No mechanism required.

moonrocket_tall  I can’t tell you which synapse takes my whole psyche back to a dreaming childhood. Each summer when I gaze up through the backyard trees at dabs of green and sun flashing yellows and deep emeralds filling the branches. A clearing blue sky with billow white clouds. I am transported. All because of the moment and a paint by numbers kit portraying the Disneyland Moon Rocket located in Tomorrowland. Proust had his crumb of madeleine. I have the swaying leaves resembling colors in plastic pots of paint, the scratch of a hard brush in my hand against the feel of a stiff cardboard canvas, combining outlines guided by numbers. I find my way out of my yard into the painting. A quick slip and a trip to the Moon.

It is some of the wonder of Science Fiction that the parts of the Disney parks that age most quickly are those that posit a vision of Tomorrow. That often SF special effects set a film in a previous decade, as surely as Twiggy and Carnaby Street or the bisecting gymnasium pool in “It’s a Wonderful Life.” That Crashing Suns and Captain Future only are left with some nostalgic value. The future, the supposed realm of science fiction, remains, no matter how solemnly you interpret Nostradamus or revel in the words of Jean Dixon, thankfully, potential. Sure, once in a while even the least of us seems a prophet. What we imagine is far too important to be relegated to simple prophecy. Visions from the past mock our present which is the past future revealed.

Are black holes nothing but two dimensions? Is our consciousness in lock step with the quantum universe? Is the pinpoint of light in the sky an alien visitation. Is there anti-entropy? Is Soylent Green people?  Are we greater than the sum total of our parts? Did Albert Einstein and Marilyn Monroe have a kid?

Can I transport from my Inner Reaches to the Outer Limits? To Tomorrowland in a blot of paint or a glance at the sky?

You betcha I can. You come, too.