Monday, February 6, 2012

Don't You Wish!

By Matt Gray. What on earth — or off — are you supposed to do with a Jinn who grants you three wishes, but who insists there’s no such thing as magic? And then moves into your life (and your apartment), and takes over everything from what you have for dinner, to what you wear and where you work? Stuff the creature back into the back alley pickle jar from which you rescued it?

No, you invade the sacred precincts of Washington’s political elite, fast talk your way into an all-expense-paid fact finding mission, buy a new (well, new to you) convertible, confront the corrupt and moderately murderous trustees of a world-famous snack food company, get kidnapped a few times too many, find out what really happened in the Crash of ’29, search for a lost will and a misplaced treasure, and tangle with a lively assortment of blondes, brunettes, and redheads . . . all of which turn out to be the same person (and she’s not crazy).

Oh, and lay the foundation for world peace and prosperity by opening up democratic access to capital credit to make every child, woman, and man on earth an owner, demonstrating the obvious truth that it’s a case of own or be owned in this world or any other.

Friday, February 3, 2012

The Missteps of Melanie (A Chapter Play)

By Matt Gray.  Take a beautiful heroine transported by astral projection to another universe in which she undergoes perils unheard of in our mundane world, overcoming every obstacle with courage and ingenuity in her relentless quest to defeat dictators bent on universal conquest, free a people held in virtual slavery and fight her way home against insurmountable odds, and what have you got?

Not this book.

No deep issues or world-shaking events here. Instead of taking hundreds of pages delving deep into imponderable imponderables, ultimately deciding that nothing is worthwhile and you might as well go jump off a bridge and end it all before somebody ends it for us in a nuclear or economic holocaust, this novella presents a light diversion for a few hours’ amusement. One or two things might make you pause and think, and (if so) the author offers his most sincere apologies. The effort to create something that a reader doesn’t feel he or she has to hide under the mattress from his or her mother, as well as entertain resulted in something above the usual literary pabulum offered these days. In addition, you will not see:

• Gratuitous sex and violence (anything along those lines is absolutely necessary . . . trust us),

• Gratuitous sax and violins (no music at all, that we recall, although the reader is free to improvise something exciting during the fight scenes),

• Gratuitous . . . okay, we’ve done that one to death,

• Bad (or good) pastiches of other humorous fantasy and science fiction (why buy fake Robert Aspirin or Keith Laumer when the real thing is one, better, and two, cheaper?),

• Forced, non-situational jokes that won’t make sense to anyone outside the inner circle when this book achieves the status of cult classic (next week some time).

What have you got? Just an enjoyable piece of science fiction that doesn’t pretend to be more than it is.

Take and read — you’ll be glad you did.

Diamonds in the Sky with Lucy and Other Stories

By Matt Gray.  Matt Gray, best known for his humorous science fiction and fantasy, does have a serious side that manages to boil over once in a great while and find its way into his fiction. (We won’t mention his non-fiction, for which you will search in vain.)

Humorous or serious, however, most of the stories in this collection are bound together by the same theme: the failure of our social and financial technology to keep pace with advancing technology. Here we’ll find miners in the Asteroid Belt, sword-and-sorcery heroes at home, a few deals with the Devil, and even a successfully unsuccessful inventor.

If you’re looking for something to while away an idle hour or two, albeit in a moderately profitable way, give this collection of never-before published short stories a try. Who knows? It might give you an idea or two. It will certainly entertain.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

There's One Reborn Every Minute, or, The Triumphant and Completely Unexpected Return of James Rufus "Get-Rich-Quick" Wallingford

By Matt Gray.  At the turn of the last century, the bane of all rubes, greenhorns, suckers, boobs, shysters, marks, dudes, nincompoops, ninnys, blockheads, goofs, oafs, goons, chumps, fools, dolts, pushovers and pigeons was —

James Rufus “Get-Rich-Quick” Wallingford.

If there was a fool and his money anywhere within shouting distance, they were soon parted if J. Rufus had anything to say about it. Fast-talk legends such as George M. Cohan and W. C. Fields took lessons from Wallingford. Snake oil or colored carpet tacks, it was all the same to him. The fast buck was what he was after, and the gilt-edged scheme was the bait he used to hook his victim.

We haven’t heard anything about him since 1921 and the burst of prosperity that followed the depression after the Great War. He seems to have reformed and dropped out of sight, leaving the field to the amateurs who bested his record in October of 1929. Nevertheless, this American Business Buccaneer in his prime was someone to look out for. He was big. He was bad. And now?

Hold on to your wallets and watches, and count the silver spoons.

He’s back.

What is "Universal Values Media"?

Universal Values Media was founded primarily to republish "long lost" works of fiction that embody the values that support in some degree the general philosophy of the "Just Third Way." There is more than enough material to keep us busy publishing for years, especially since we make a point of "adding value" to our publications of older works in the form of newly written forewords and annotation. Our editions of the novels of Robert Hugh Benson and John Henry Newman have received critical acclaim.  We also have a close relationship with the Center for Economic and Social Justice, and co-market our books with theirs, especially their most recent release of A Plea for Peasant Proprietors (others can be found in the "CESJ Bookstore," along with a number of free publications).

Occasionally, however, we like to present something new that combines our focus on moral values common to all faiths and philosophies with a nod to people's need for low-cost, quality entertainment as an alternative to much of what is currently available. That is why we started a program of publishing moderate length new fiction in Amazon's "Kindle" that fits into the general framework of the Just Third Way.

Since this is a program for new, untried authors, we have adopted the policy of pricing everything at the lowest possible price (99¢ for novellas, $2.99 for full-length novels), and of using the "generic cover" supplied by Amazon. This makes it easy for you to try out a new author at no risk.  If you are a member of "Amazon Prime" you can read these editions for free.  Everyone can read the first chapter or so at no cost by clicking on the "Look Inside" feature.

Do You Want to Write for Universal Values Media?

Our "Submission Guidelines"

While we do not actively discourage submissions, our standards are somewhat different from what you are probably used to.  Plus, as you can see, our policy is to price new short and mid-length fiction at 99¢, and new novels at $2.99.  This means that, even if your book is accepted and turns into a "small press best seller" (3,000 to 5,000 copies), you're not going to see much of a return, even with a 50% royalty (of the net margin, not the retail price) after our cost recovery — and we don't pay advances, either.

Added to that is our policy of not publishing anything that we believe to be contrary to the "Just Third Way" of the Center for Economic and Social Justice, a non-profit think tank in Arlington, Virginia, USA, with which we have a close relationship.  CESJ was established to promote the economic justice principles of Louis O. Kelso and Mortimer J. Adler, and (even though CESJ has members from many faiths and philosophies) the social doctrine of Pope Pius XI.  CESJ has a publishing program for non-fiction under its "Economic Justice Media" imprint, and it's standards are, frankly, even stricter than ours — you can get away with a lot more in fiction than in non-fiction.

If, after all that, you have something that you'd like to see published by Universal Values Media, do not submit anything without first sending us an enquiry at "publications [at] cesj [dot] org" (yes, it's CESJ e-mail, but it will be forwarded to us — we have the same distributor, and it's easier not to confuse them with two different entities, one for-profit and one non-profit).

Most important of all, do not even write anything to submit to us until and unless you are in material agreement with the principles of the Just Third Way.  Unless you are, you'd only be wasting your time and ours.  To get a good idea whether you can write for either Universal Values Media or the Center for Economic and Social Justice, visit the CESJ website and, at a minimum, read the following books — all of which are available free.  We list them here in chronological order:

Rerum Novarum (1891): Considered the first "social encyclical," and the lead-in to all the others. Yes, CESJ has an interfaith membership, but that doesn't mean we can't accept truth wherever we find it.

Quadragesimo Anno (1931): "The" 20th century social encyclical.

Divini Redemptoris (1937): The follow-up to Quadragesimo Anno.

Introduction to Social Justice (1948): Do yourself a favor and don't try to read any of the three encyclicals listed above before you have read this condensation of Father William Ferree's The Act of Social Justice, his 1941 doctoral thesis published in 1943 and republished in 1950.  When he died in 1985, Father Ferree, a co-founder of CESJ, was eulogized by his friend, Father Andrew Morlion, as "America's greatest social philosopher."

The Capitalist Manifesto (1958): the book co-authored by Louis Kelso and Mortimer Adler that began the "expanded ownership revolution."  Ironically (as far as the title is concerned), it describes a system that is the antithesis of traditional laissez faire capitalism.

The New Capitalists (1961): Kelso and Adler's second collaboration that, again, doesn't really have much to do with capitalism!  The true significance of this very short book is found in the provocative subtitle: "A Proposal to Free Economic Growth from the Slavery of [Past] Savings."

If, after doing your homework, you still think you can be a "Just Third Way" writer, give it a shot.  A final word of warning, however.  We started UVM (Universal Values Media) and the CESJ publishing program to present our views, not the opposing positions.  If you want to prove that Kelso and Adler are all wet, or that our understanding of Catholic social teaching or the natural law is off the wall, you are certainly entitled to your opinion — but don't expect us to provide you with a platform.  We wish you the best of luck elsewhere.