November 20, 2015

Jews of America: Do a Solid for Syrian Refugees

Hey All,

Gentiles, of course, are welcome to join in, but I'm especially talking to my Semitic brothers and sisters here, since this is very much a "because of what He did for me when I was a slave in Egypt" situation.

Many of our governors are being the proverbial "sack of dicks" about taking in Syrian refugees fleeing the violence of ISIS. It's time for us to write letters--as Jews--urging them to reconsider.

Why us? To my mind, it's especially important for Jews to voice our support of Syrian refugees because the exact same "national security" justifications (and concern trolling) being used to halt their entry were used to sharply curtail Jewish immigration in the 1930s and '40s (example). Today, I think it is safe to say that basically *everyone* finds the idea of Jewish refugees operating as Nazi agents and saboteurs absolutely laughable, nonetheless this very "concern" kept tens of thousands of Jews locked up in Europe, and effectively ushered them to the gas (Anne Frank among them).

It'd be awful nice if we could limit ourselves to making tragic mistakes just once.

So, here's a draft of the letter I just sent to my governor. Please feel free to borrow from it as you will, and share it as broadly as you like.

November 20, 2013

Governor Rick Snyder
P.O. Box 30013
Lansing, Michigan 48909

Dear Governor Snyder,

I'm writing as a Michigan Jew urging you to reconsider your position: Please welcome Syrian refugees to our state. I know that many of my co-religionists are sending you notes very similar to this one. We want to show our children that our state and nation can live up to the ideals taught in our schools, that this continues to be a nation defined by diversity, acceptance, and opportunity—one that arrises out of many to be unified as one. As Jews, we acutely feel for our Syrian brothers and sisters, fleeing circumstances as dire and world changing as those our own relatives fled so recently. As Jews and Americans, we want to set a better example than that of previous generations, whose fearful inaction lead to the deaths of the many thousand Jewish asylum seekers that our nation turned away.

The diversity of Michigan is exceptional, rich with agrarian traditions, vibrant and diverse Jewish and immigrant communities, a storied hotbed of African-American creativity and American industry. Michigan is home to America’s largest population of people of Middle Eastern descent—Muslim and Christian alike. Many were persecuted in their homelands, came here fleeing violence, and have formed the cornerstones of our state.

As Jews, we are especially aware of what it means to be a minority that is both persecuted and feared. Many of our grandparents and great-grandparents owe their lives to America's open doors. Many of our families lost members who were not able to find sanctuary here when those doors slammed shut. When we see Syrian parents taking their children on dangerous journeys in unsafe conditions, sure that anything is better than what they are leaving behind, we see our own story—an emphatically American story.

This week, for a homework assignment, my nine-year-old son asked me about how and why our family came to the United States. It's not an especially pleasant story: My Ukrainian grandfather was orphaned when his mother died of consumption and his father, a miller, was murdered during a pogrom. Relatives pinned a note to his jacket with a Detroit address, and sent him to be raised by his sister. But while I was telling him all this, it suddenly dawned on me: My son is the first member of my family not to experience anti-Semitism at first hand. I was six the first time that I was bullied by children and singled out by adults for being a Jew. By the time I was nine I knew about the Holocaust not just from textbooks, but from the stories of my aunt, my friends' grandparents, my teachers at Sunday school, and from anonymous vandalism, my peers' mocking jeers, and the vitriol of White Supremacists on TV and in public office.

We live in a truly remarkable time, and I'm often stunned by our progress. Now it's time for us to progress further.

As humans, we have a moral duty to help the helpless. As Americans, we are honor bond to make good on the promises inscribed on the Statue of Liberty. As Jews, we are obliged to work to mend what's broken.

Please reconsider your statements and positions. We urge you to be strong in bending the arc of Michigan's history toward justice; keep our home ever a place of opportunity, growth, and acceptance.

All Best,
David Erik Nelson . . .

November 13, 2015


Gott in Himmel, it's finally happened: Copies of Junkyard Jam Band are shipping and in stores! It's 400 pages of awesome, covering 16 projects with 300+ pics, diagrams, schematics, and illustrations. Each project includes mods and expansion, plus there's a dozen extra circuits and appendices that will get the total newbie soldering and the total neophyte started with music theory. It took me almost four years to write the damn thing, and it was almost 30 months *late.* There's so much of my blood, sweat, and tears in this thing, each copy of the book is technically as closely related to me as either of my children.

Folks have been asking me what the "best" way to buy the book is. Short answer: Any damn way you want! Long answer:

In terms of cash in my pocket:

Buying the book from me at an event puts the most money in my piggy bank. In those situations I'm selling books that I personally purchased wholesale from the publisher, and I see ~10x as much money in this situations. BONUS: You can get your copy personalized! DOWNSIDE: I don't do a ton of events, and they are almost all pretty damn local.

If you *really* want a signed copy, they have a few left at the Barnes & Noble Bookstore on Washtenaw Ave. in Ann Arbor, MI. You can also order a copy through my website or catch me in downtown Ann Arbor (I'm reliably in my Main Street office on Wednesdays. Contact me to make arrangements.)

In terms of my career:

Frankly, every other option is about the same, although for different reasons. No matter what you pay, I'll see the same amount of cash (my royalty is a percentage of the wholesale price, where-as discounts generally come out of the retailer's margins). But buying through a store makes my numbers better, which in turn impacts how willing places are to carry the book and the kinds of events I get invited to, so it's not a terrible trade-off.

You'll probably get the book cheapest from Amazon, and Amazon sales make my look good, as those sales numbers and author rankings are a common metric of "success." Other online stores offer similar deals, and it's about the same to me (here's B&N and O'Reilly.) Incidentally, I see about the same money and karma boost from selling ebooks as print copies, but I'm going to level with you: While I love the PDF versions of my books (they're actually the *exact same files* that the printer uses to make the paperback copies), I'm less enthusiastic about the .mobi and .epub versions (with the proviso that I have an old Kindle; it might look more rad on a newer eReader).

Meanwhile, my publisher is happier if you buy direct from them (naturally). The upside for you is that they throw in the PDF and other ebook formats for free, and the PDF is *fantastic.* Also, they'll basically match Amazon's price if you use the coupon code included in the Jam Pack PDF. (Sign up for the newsletter, download the PDF, and you'll find the code on the first or second page of the PDF. BONUS: That coupon code works for both my books; easy Non-Denominational Gift-Giving Holiday shopping right there.)

Finally, it is perfectly rad to get the book at any physical bookstore you dig; lots of shops stock it (including many B&Ns), and anyone can easily special order it.

Finally, of course, lots of libraries are getting it, because craft books are an easy sell to libraries. If yours doesn't have it, they will almost certainly be thrilled to order a copy; fulfilling patron requests is part of their mission (hell, my library--the Ann Arbor Public Library--started loaning digital oscilloscopes and analog synths because that's what patrons wanted. They are *awesome!*)

November 03, 2015

Guess Who's Featured in the New York Times (full-page ad)!!!

Check out who's in this past Sunday's New York Times (advertising section):

Yep. I made it there, kids; I can make it *anywhere!*

More specifically, I'm going to make it to the Ann Arbor Barnes & Noble on Washtenaw Ave next weekend, to talk about making and DIY music and boomerangs and whatever. Details:

  • WHERE: Barnes & Noble, 3235 Washtenaw Ave
  • WHEN: Saturday, November 7, 1–2pm.
  • WHAT: Chit-chat, Q&A, a story about a chimpanzee, etc.; I'll have copies of both my books on hand to sell and sign.

Finally, we're closing in on the last day to win a copy of that newest book, Junkyard Jam Band. Don't miss out!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Junkyard Jam Band by David Erik Nelson

Junkyard Jam Band

by David Erik Nelson

Giveaway ends November 04, 2015.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

October 23, 2015


For those descending into the Halloween mood, I offer this previously unpublished horror story: "The Slender Men." Among other things, it's sort of my love letter to all the folks caught on the non-tenure-track adjunct hamster wheel. Solidarity, brothers and sisters.


"The Slender Men" | dark fiction by David Erik Nelson

Your Annual Reminder: *Fall* is the Best Time for Kite Flying #FACT

Despite the fact that National Kite Month is in April, now is the best time to fly a kite in most of North America. Here in Michigan, it's been a frikkin' beautiful October; go fly a kite! (My FedEx Diamond Kite project is included in the Craftfoxes database of free projects).

(see also: Reminder: Springtime is an Awful Time for Kite Flying)

October 16, 2015

Enter to win a copy of "Junkyard Jam Band: DIY Musical Instruments and Noisemakers"!!! #DIY #books @nostarch

Goodreads | Book giveaway for Junkyard Jam Band: DIY Musical Instruments and Noisemakers by David Erik Nelson Oct 14-Nov 04, 2015

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Junkyard Jam Band by David Erik Nelson

Junkyard Jam Band

by David Erik Nelson

Giveaway ends November 04, 2015.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

My latest DIY book is out later this month, and those sweethearts at No Starch Press is giving away 10 copies(!!!). Click through now, and enter to win! And please help spread the word—Thanks!

Never used Goodreads before? No sweat: You can create an account (which is maybe a drag for you) or sign in with your existing Facebook/Twitter account (which is actually sorta nice if you're a book lover connected to a lot of book lovers, since then you see your friends who are also on Goodreads, and can share raves, gripes, recommendations, etc.)

Oh dag! Just learned that No Starch has posted the first sample project from Junkyard Jam Band! Check out the Droid Voicebox Here's a sample of what it can sound like:

October 07, 2015

Squidtastic Steampunkery: Free Fiction this Thursday! #steampunk #kindle #scifi

ATTENTION: My steampunk short "The Bold Explorer in the Place Beyond" will be free for Kindle tomorrow and Friday. Here's the official link:

Please do me a solid and help spread the love far and wide; thanks! If you read the story, please hit it with a review--even if you don't like it. Bad reviews help readers just as much as good reviews and, let's be real, you ain't gonna hurt my feelings (scroll down for details).

ADDED BONUS: My celebrated steampunk novella set in the same universe, Tucker Teaches the Clockies to Copulate, will be steeply discounted next week.

FUN FACT: The most negative review I've ever received was in response to "The Bold Explorer"--which was also my first big break in publishing. That review begins:

"The Bold Explorer in the Place Beyond" by David Erik Nelson, reads like a sick joke. ...

and ends

... It's a dark day in the history of science fiction when such an offensive and ridiculous story appears in one of the pillars of the genre.

It is, to date, my absolute favorite review of one of my works. This guy may not *like* me, but he certainly *gets* me.

(If you wanna stay on top of things, and get advance notice of freebies, giveaways, and my ongoing lapses in judgement, sign up for my basically-only-monthly newsletter. Thanks again!)

October 02, 2015

HO-LY *SHIIIIIIIIIIIIT!* New Mammoth Found in Chelsea, MI!!!

Unearthing of a mammoth today in Chelsea Michigan.

Posted by Sheryl Myers on Thursday, October 1, 2015

UPDATE: Farmer uncovers woolly mammoth bones near Chelsea, Michigan |

September 29, 2015

"The main quality of a Strong Female Protagonist is someone who is a full human being."

I love this short film. As I've seen it float around online, I've seen folks say "Watch this! It's such a great short film about domestic violence!" (which obviously it is), and I've seen folks say "Really, this is a short film about abortion! It's great and powerful; watch it now!" And it's that, too. And I can imagine someone saying "This is a great film about Patriarchy! Feminism! Rape Culture! The legal system! Psychology! Psychiatry! Our Prozac Nation!"

All of that can be argued. It's all those things.

But that isn't why I love it.

I love this because it is a great short film--a great short story--about a human making a wrenching decision. And it is about the protagonist's will to power. And, as Cortazar instructs it must, it wins by KO.

So, watch this now. Please.


REDACTION from Tim Sanger on Vimeo.

FYI: The quote I used as this post's title comes from a pal of mine, Sarah Zettel; she says some very concise and sharp things about women in SF as both readers and characters here:

September 25, 2015

The Video Table of Contents for "Junkyard Jam Band" is Finally Live! #DIY

book trailer #2: "Junkyard Jam Band" video Table of Contents - YouTube

*And* you still have time to sign up for a free PDF Jam Pack including full build instructions for two projects and a steep discount on either of my DIY books. Check it out!


About the Author

David Erik Nelson is an award-winning science-fiction author and essayist. His fiction has appeared in Asimov's, The Best of Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet, and Steampunk II: Steampunk Reloaded.

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    Make cool things (water rockets, cardboard boomerangs, a $10 electric guitar, a sock squid, etc.) while learning cool skills (basic soldering, sewing, carpentry, woodburning, etc.), and do it all on the cheap (most projects are under $10, many supplies are *FREE*).
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