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Feb. 23rd, 2015


Pangaea - Halfway There!

Today, over at the Pangaea Kickstarter, Michael Jan Friedman puts the spotlight on me:

Michael A. Burstein has spent much of the last several weeks digging his family out from blizzard after blizzard in Brookline, Massachusetts. However, he promises to emerge from winter’s frigid grasp in time to make his contribution to our Pangaea anthology.

For our readers, that’s a good thing.

Michael is one of the most compelling voices in science fiction. In 1997, he won the Campbell Award for Best New Writer. Since then, he has earned four Nebula nominations and no less than ten Hugo nominations for his short fiction. A short film based on Michael’s story I Remember The Future recently took top honors at an independent film festival…

And although we're halfway to our goal, my two Tuckerizations are still up for grabs! If you have $100 to pledge, I will name one of my story's characters afer you (as best as I can, given that this is an alternate world and our names will not be spelled the same way).

What's Pangaea about? Here's what I said two weeks ago.

Feb. 10th, 2015


Pangaea – The Anthology

A few days ago, a Kickstarter project launched that I'm proud to be a part of. Author and editor Michael Jan Friedman came up with the idea of an alternate version of Earth in which the Pangaea supercontinent never broke up, and invited a bunch of writers to contribute stories to this world. I found myself intrigued by the notion and signed up immediately.

I'm delighted to be a part of this anthology. I'm in the company of many worthy writers, including Adam-Troy Castro, Russ Colchamiro, Peter David, Michael Jan Friedman, Robert Greenberger, Glenn Hauman, Paul Kupperberg, Kelly Meding, Aaron Rosenberg, Lawrence M. Schoen, Geoffrey Thorne, Dayton Ward, and Kevin Dilmore.

Allow me to give you more details about the project. First let me quote directly from the Pangaea webpage and then I'll tell you a little bit about my own story further on - and the pledge rewards I've personally offered.

First the description:

At least four times in Earth’s history, the continents have come sliding together. Over millions of years, separate and distinct landmasses have crawled across the planet's surface on immense tectonic plates to form a single mass--a super-continent. Geologists have dubbed the most recent such formation Pangaea.

Of course, Pangaea broke up a long time ago, and because it did, mankind developed in drastically different climes and circumstances. But what if we twenty-first century types were living in one of the super-continental periods--those characterized by “lid tectonics” rather than “plate tectonics?” What would it be like if all of humanity was confined to a single landmass...and had been so confined for all of our recorded history?

That's the ever-so-tantalizing axis on which our Pangaea anthology turns.

It's an exciting and original idea, one that deserves the best world-building talent available. So to explore this world on your behalf, we've harnessed the word-smithing abilities of some of science fiction's most inventive writers.

Now, as to my story.

I can't give away too much, but I'm writing a story with the current working title "Beliefs and Challenges." It's actually a love story about two teenagers in an agrarian part of the world, and how world events affect their relationship and their religious beliefs, and finally leads one of the two to make a major, life-altering decision. As this is a shared-world anthology, my hope is that the other writers will decide to bring my characters into their own stories, like the writers who contributed to the Thieves' World stories or the Wild Card stories.

There are many levels at which you can pledge to support this project. For only $8 you can get the ebook. For $25 you can get a signed trade paperback as well. Or if you have $100 to contribute, you can be Tuckerized in my story, meaning that I will name one of my story's characters after you (as best as I can, given that this is an alternate world and our names will not be spelled the same way).

So please follow the link, take a look, and if you're so inclined, make a pledge to support Pangaea.

Thank you for reading.

Feb. 8th, 2014


The Oz Books and My Kids

So yesterday over on Facebook I asked everyone's opinion of what age would be good to read "The Wizard of Oz" to kids. (I mean the kids' age, not mine.) I had read the original 14 Oz books as a teenager when Ballantine Books brought out a new edition in the 1980s, and I loved them. Most recommendations for the Oz books place the age at a little older than my kids currently are, but I had the feeling that they might be receptive even this young.

Also, I had a rather odd incentive to get them started on these. Muffin discovered that the TV show The Fresh Beat Band apparently did a TV-movie where one of the characters goes to Oz, and she wants to see it. I did NOT want that to be my kids' introduction to the Oz books.

I also didn't want them to start with the movie. Frankly, the movie scared me when I was a kid, and as something of an Oz purist I don't like the fact that the silver shoes aren't in it (I know some of you may be asking, "What silver shoes?" thus making my point) nor the fact that the movie establishes Oz as a dream. The books make it clear that Baum does not intend for Oz to be a dream.

Enough of you who responded seemed to feel that the girls' current age would be appropriate, so I figured I'd give it a try. I asked Nomi to pick up a copy of "The Wizard of Oz" at the library, and by happenstance she picked up the one with the wonderful Michael Hague illustrations. (Denslow's are okay, but I thought the girls might respond better to the more colorful pictures.)

The upshot is that last night I started the book, and for the most part the girls were spellbound. They insisted I keep reading after chapter 1, so I got through chapter 3. Tonight, they made me read all the way through chapter 7 before they would go to bed. And the girls make me stop over and over so they can enjoy the illustrations.

I think we have a winner here.

(By the way, when we got to the part with the Kalidahs threatening Dorothy and company, I turned to Squeaker, who was a little nervous, and said to her, in essence, "She doesn't get eaten by the eels at this time.")


Jun. 25th, 2013


A Gary David Goldberg Story I Enjoyed

As some of you already know, it was reported yesterday that Gary David Goldberg, the creator of the TV shows Family Ties and Brooklyn Bridge, had died. I read his autobiography "Sit, Ubu, Sit" when it came out in 2008, and the story he told on page 108 of how he finally earned his college degree stayed with me. I love this story so much that I have taken the time to type it up so I could share it with you. Enjoy.

From "Sit, Ubu, Sit" by Gary David Goldberg:

"...I am also scheduled to receive my B.A. and graduate next term. However, at the last minute, after one and a half years at San Diego, two years at Brandeis, three years at Hofstra, semesters scattered about at Long Beach State, UC Berkeley, and San Francisco State, after thirteen years in college, I am told I'm still short one unit of biology.

"I go to the head of the Biology Department, Dr. Claude Merzbacher, and explain my story. I've been in college since the presidency of John F. Kennedy. I have a family. Diana's going to be teaching at USC. I'm going up to L.A. with her to try to be a comedy writer. I love biology as much as the next guy, but I don't have time to make up this one unit.

"Dr. Merzbacher's great. He totally gets it, and tells me he'll give me the one unit. Three conditions. One: Go out in the backyard tonight and write a page or two about what I see and hear. Two: I have to promise that if I ever write about scientists in general, and biologists in particular, I will portray them in a positive light. And three: If I ever win an award or I'm asked to make a speech, I will give the audience one scientific fact to take home with them. I promise. I get my one unit, and I graduate.

"Three years later I will win the Writers Guild Award for Best Comedy Script for an episode of M*A*S*H. Nate Monaster will be in the audience. I have the privilege of thanking him publicly for all he's done for me. And then I tell those assembled: 'Photosynthesis is a process by which energy in sunlight is used to convert water and carbon dioxide into carbohydrates and oxygen.'"

Mar. 11th, 2013


Meeting Douglas Adams: A Note

Since Google is noting that today is the birthday of Douglas Adams, I feel compelled to mention that I met him once, when he was touring the United States promoting his books Last Chance to See and Mostly Harmless. The late lamented bookstore Wordsworth hosted a reading at the Brattle Theatre, and although he was a draw, it was not so crowded that we didn't all get a chance to spend a few minutes talking with him. He was quite friendly and personable. And tall. Boy was he tall. I finally understood why Ford Prefect felt that one of the things humans say over and over is the obvious phrase, "You're very tall." Because he was tall. Even taller than my friend Ian Soboroff, who is very tall.

Did I mention that he was tall? He was.

Dec. 6th, 2012


A Hypothetical Question

So, if I hypothetically were to have another collection of stories coming out, what would people want to see in it? :-)

The list of my published stories can be found here.

Note that in theory, I wouldn't want to include the stories already collected in I Remember the Future.

Jun. 26th, 2012


Apex Blog: Ray Bradbury and Me

Three weeks ago, Ray Bradbury died.

I had thought of writing a tribute piece to him, but it seemed that within hours of the news of his death being announced, many other tributes were published by people far more relevant than I. Fortunately, a good friend, Martha Ingols, emailed me and encouraged me to commit my own thoughts about Bradbury and his work to paper (or electrons, I suppose).

And I've been late with my Apex Blog posts, so...

Thanks to Apex for publishing my tribute piece. You can read it by clicking on the article title below.

Ray Bradbury and Me

Mar. 16th, 2012


Brookline Patch Column: Book 'Em, Muffin and Squeaker!

Sometimes a column just presents itself naturally.

Nomi and I spend many weekends trying to figure out how to occupy or entertain Muffin and Squeaker. This past Sunday, with the clock change, we got started a little later than usual, and we weren't sure what to do with the kids. All we knew was that we wanted to go out.

And then it hit us. The kids love books, but they have never actually been to a bookstore. So we decided to take them on their very first trip to an actual bookstore, in this case Brookline Booksmith.

The girls had a great time browsing for books, but you don't have to take my word for it. Nomi wrote about the visit in our The Brookline Parent column at Brookline Patch this week.

However, I will take credit for the column's title: Book 'Em, Muffin and Squeaker!

Go read the column, and find out exactly what criteria Muffin uses to select her books for purchase. The answer may surprise you.

Feb. 22nd, 2012


SF Signal's Mind Meld: Who Are Your Favorite Villains In Fantasy And Science Fiction?

Once again, I'm pleased to note that I was invited to participate in a Mind Meld discussion by the fine folks over at SF Signal. This time, the question they asked was, "Who are the most memorable villains and antagonists you’ve encountered in fantasy and science fiction? What make them stand out?"

There's a lot of possible answers for this one, as you'll see when you take a look at the responses many people have given. But for me, there was one villain who stood out above the rest, a mutant from Isaac Asimov's Foundation series, one of my first encounters with the concept of mind control...

Go check it out:

Mind Meld: Who Are Your Favorite Villains In Fantasy And Science Fiction?

Note that my contribution includes something of a spoiler for the Foundation series, in case you haven't read it yet. But it's kind of an obvious spoiler.

Jan. 27th, 2012


Brian F. Walker: "Black Boy White School"

I spent six years teaching at the Cambridge School of Weston, and I made many friends among my colleagues and students. One of those friends was Brian F. Walker, who was in the English department and also worked in admissions in the time I was there.

Brian F. Walker, Michael A. Burstein Brian F. Walker, Michael A. Burstein Photo copyright ©2012 J. Pickard. All rights reserved.

Brian and I bonded over the fact that we were both writers. While I was writing science-fiction short stories, Brian was working on a YA novel based partly on his own experiences growing up in East Cleveland and attending a private school in New England.

That novel, Black Boy White School, has finally been published by HarperTeen, and last night Brian had a signing at The Elephant Walk in Cambridge. I wasn't sure if I would be able to get to it, as it meant making sure that the girls went to bed early or on time. As it is, thanks to Nomi, I managed to make it out the door in time to get to the signing late. I missed Brian's reading, but I had a chance to see him, talk for a few minutes, and get my copy of his novel autographed.

Black Boy White School by Brian F. Walker Black Boy White School by Brian F. Walker

I'm only halfway through the book, but I'm enjoying it immensely. The novel is about Anthony "Ant" Jones, an African-American teenager from East Cleveland who earns a scholarship to Belton Academy, a prep school in Maine. It's fascinating to read about Ant's experiences in these two different worlds, both of which are very different from the world I experienced as a teenager. Ant is dealing with the usual issues of adolescence, of course, but layered on top of that are the problems specific to a black teenager from a rough neighborhood trying to make it in an elite white world. I can't wait to find out what happens to him.

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