Excelsior, Stan Lee

When I was as a kid, happily watching X-Men: The Animated Series with Spider-Man pajamas on, Stan Lee often seemed like he was just another superhero. He was the grinning, sarcastic, grandfatherly figure behind all the magic, holding his hand out and inviting you to join the fun. For me, as someone whose maternal grandparents were New York Jews, there was always something familial about Lee’s presence in my favorite superhero stories; the New York accent, the creativity, the combination between heartfelt sentiment and witty humor.

young stan lee marvel comics.jpgSuperheroes always save the day, and so, as a little kid, it seemed hard to imagine a world without Stan Lee. But I remember one day, when my elementary school self watched an interview with Lee, and I  suddenly realized he was getting older—which caused the second, scarier realization that at some point, he’d die. At such a young age, this thought saddened me deeply. If Stan Lee died, would all of the superheroes still be around? Would the magic die?

Now, that day has come, and in certain respects, it’s important to realize than while the world has lost Stan Lee, Lee himself finally has the chance to rest. In his final years, he faced many struggles, from the loss of his wife to his ailing health to the much-documented elder abuse saga, all of which was heart-wrenching to watch. Still, the loss of Stan Lee hits almost every superhero fan heavily. If there’s one thing that’s deeply heartening to see, it’s the wave of love and affection for him visible today, exploding across social media: a love that he fostered for decades and decades, whether he was creating superheroes, writing for “Stan’s Soapbox,” or making gleeful cameo appearances in every Marvel movie.

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Stan Lee wasn’t the only creative force behind Marvel Comics, of course—you can’t ever forget to mention Kirby, Ditko, and Romita, to name just a few—but there’s no question, to me, that Lee was the guiding agent, the force of nature that turned Marvel into the phenomenon it is today. He was a man who poured all of his love, energy, and enthusiasm into an art form once perceived as silly and childish, and successfully transformed it into the biggest force in pop culture today. When measuring the impact of characters like Spider-Man and movies like Black Panther,  it’s easy to see that, in the end, Lee became one of the single most influential creative voices of the 20th and 21st century, though he probably didn’t realize it at the time. By creating so many colorful figures who fought to make the world a better place, he inspired countless weird, awkward children to see these heroic characters in themselves, and to try to do the same thing. Everyone identifies with at least one superhero, and it was truly Stan Lee’s focus on these characters which made that possible.

Though I never met Stan Lee in person—I once saw him from a distance, which was amazing enough—I can’t shake the feeling that I’ll miss him, as if a distant family member died. Of course, I’m hardly alone in that sentiment. I’d imagine that millions of people across the world today, millions of adults who grew up on superheroes and kids who love superheroes today, are mourning Lee’s death, and remembering his legacy.

The news of Stan Lee’s death hits just as hard and heavy as everyone thought it would. However, the magic that he put out into the world isn’t dead, and never will be. All the concepts that Stan helped create, from worlds to world-eaters to multiverses to geeky teenagers with spider-powers, live on, and countless more kids will be drawn into the Marvel Universe for years to come.

Thanks for everything, Stan. Rest in peace, and excelsior.

stan lee with spider-man marvel creator

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October 24th, 1946: The First Time Earthlings saw Earth from Space

As science and technology perpetually shoot forward at the speed of light, there are a lot of things we take for granted today, which would’ve been totally bizarre to past generations. For example, isn’t it weird that telephone calls used to involve using a human operator, instead of calling people directly? Isn’t it odd that “computer” was once a job description?

Or how about this: before human beings ever had the ridiculously ambitious idea of jumping on a rocket and going into the stars, what did they think the Earth looked like?

Seriously, stop and think about this for a moment. Today, popular culture is so inundated with images of our little blue globe that it’s odd to remember that, once upon a time, people had no idea what it looked like from the outside. Sure, everyone knew it was round—ancient Greek mathematicians figured that out thousand of years ago, according to the Independent—but for the majority of human history, it was like every one of us was locked into one house, totally unaware what color the outside paint might be.

Humankind is nothing if not ambitious, so naturally, lots of people tried to figure out what our little globe looked like from space, with varying results. The U.S. Library of Congress shared some of these old images back in 2013, and you have to give those artists an A+ for effort. For example, check out this image of the Earth and the Moon, as seen from Mars, drawn by Marcianus Filomeno Rossi in 1920:

Marcianus Filomeno Rossi

Not bad, right?

Anyhow all that speculation came to an end on this date in history, October 24th, in the year of  1946. According to Vice, it’s now been over 70 years since this pivotal day, where a rocket launched from the U.S. southwest shot into the sky and snagged Earth’s very first selfie:

first photo of earth from space october 24 1946

Sure, there have been a lot of better photos since then. But there’s something magical about looking at this picture, and realizing that it was the first time we ever got to see ourselves.

Meanwhile, if you’re into spacey coincidences: the date of October 24 also marked the death of astronomer Tycho Brahe in 1601, and legendary Star Trek creator Gene Rodenberry passed away on October 24th, 1991.

The Mailing List Has Arrived

Life gets busy. The 21st century is a hectic place. As a result, trying to keep track of new book releases can get stressful, and it’s no fun being left behind.

So, welcome to day #1 of the official NicholasConley.com mailing list. If you sign up using the form below, you’ll receive updates whenever I have a new book coming out.

Here’s the deal. I’ll never bombard your inbox with emails: this mailing list will only ping you when I announce a new release, and then ping you again when the new book lands on Earth. Sometimes it takes a while, of course. Space travel is rough. Also, here’s a bonus: since you all will be the first wave of subscribers, if you sign up within the first week, you’ll receive a free ebook edition of Clay Tongue: A Novelette, as a special thank you.

Clay Tongue novelette Nicholas Conley fantasy golem

Sounds good? Okay, let’s do it!

One rule, though. If you want to join the mailing list, please include this one term: Helios. You can include it anywhere in the email, but that way, I’ll know you’re a human being.

 

 

 

Intraterrestrial Pale Highway Clay Tongue Cage Legacy books paperback Nicholas Conley author sci-fi

True stories behind American Tall Tales

True Stories Behind American Tall Tales

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These days, nobody pretends that a superhero like Captain America is a real dude. But back in the centuries before the internet made fact-checking into a spectator sport, a variety of zany “tall tales” lifted up the stories of ordinary mortals and made them into metahuman gods, capable of insane feats of strength, supreme marksmanship, and more. Real American history looks boring compared to the fantastical version told around campfires, where a towering giant carved out the Grand Canyon, a carnivorous “Red Ghost” haunted the desert, and the first U.S. president was such a swell guy that he never, ever lied.

Read More: https://www.grunge.com/131142/true-stories-behind-american-tall-tales/?utm_campaign=clip

REBLOG: True Tales Live: “Day One” (Video)

Nicholas Conley

This past month, I was honored with the opportunity to appear on the second season premiere of the local NH television program, True Tales Live.  As with the True Tales radio program that preceded it, True Tales Live seeks to give storytellers the opportunity to share actual stories from their life.

For this episode of True Tales Live, I shared my story, “Day One,” where I delve back into my early days working in a nursing home, as a nursing aide on a longterm care unit, and how that experience changed my views, my perception, and my way of trying to be there for other people.

Though the series can be watched on local TV in the NH area, everyone else can check it out here on the official True Tales YouTube! My section begins around 46:50, in the video below:

Other storytellers in this episode include Arnie…

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Slugs in Real Life

When real life starts to resemble the books you write, well…

leopard print slug pale highway nicholas conley

… Pale Highway fans will understand my amusement.

No, this little guy didn’t start talking to me, and definitely didn’t mention anything about a “Sky Amoeba,” but when I happened upon him in the backyard, I couldn’t help but take notice.

Hope you’re all doing well!

The 2018 Exeter UFO Festival

This past weekend, the skies of Exeter, New Hampshire were filled with flying saucers. So-called “little green men” walked through the streets, filled up the shops, or made themselves evident in numerous ways. Luckily, no laser guns were fired, no shrink rays went off, and the 2018 Exeter UFO Festival was a happy occasion for Earthling and extraterrestrial alike.

Nicholas Conley aliens Intraterrestrial exeter UFO festival new hampshire

The reason that the state of New Hampshire plays host to such an intergalactic gathering every year is because—as all UFO fans know—of a 1961 incident generally known as either the “Betty and Barney Hill abduction,” or the “Zeta Reticuli Incident,” where a Portsmouth couple reportedly witnessed a UFO, and claim to have subsequently been taken aboard and examined by inhuman beings from another world. This alleged encounter was the first alien abduction report that spread to a wider audience, popularizing many of the tropes that are now familiar today. Whatever one thinks about the story, whether it’s belief or skepticism, there’s no questioning the incident’s huge impact on pop culture.

Exeter UFO festival New Hampshire nh aliens

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what it is about “aliens” that captures the human imagination so fervently. Perhaps it has something to do with our own hubris: humans are so naturally inclined to think of themselves as the center of the universe, but the arrival of another living species that is so much more advanced than us would completely undo any sense of Earthling superiority, forever. As a species, we’d have to reckon with our own terrifying smallness for the first time, like ants figuring out that they’re ants.

Besides all that, talking about aliens generally just makes for a good time, and that’s why Exeter’s annual celebrations are a blast. As the proud author of my own alien science fiction novel, Intraterrestrial, I’m always thrilled to dive deep into some alien mythology, though I still can’t quite answer the person who was wondering about those sharp theets back in 2016.

Anyhow, kudos to the city of Exeter for hosting such a weird, wonderful event every year, thanks to the Exeter Area Kiwanis Club for putting it on, and a huge round of applause for the fact that all of the money raised during the UFO Festival is donated to local children’s charities. Very cool.

Alien Exeter UFO Festival NH