He's heard it dozens of times: The publishing business is a risky business. "But what business isn't?" asks Glenn Yeffeth, one of those people who, midcareer, switched professions (15 years as a business consultant) to start a new business (independent publishing house) with money he saved--one of those people you hate because he's doing something you wish you had guts enough to try. "What business is a sure thing, because I might go into that?" says Yeffeth, owner of BenBella Books, with offices on North Central Expressway. "I'm kidding, of course."

Of course, because this is something he's always wanted to do: publish books, especially science-fiction books and other tomes with their roots in popular culture. Hence, the first three offerings from BenBella: Taking the Red Pill: Science, Philosophy and Religion in The Matrix, a collection of essays edited by Yeffeth; Fort Worth-based author Candace Havens' biography of Buffy the Vampire Slayer creator Joss Whedon; and Blood Will Tell, a vampire tale by novelist Jean Lorrah, whose Star Trek paperbacks often make The New York Times best-seller list. For a start-up, BenBella has enough big names to give it the appearance of real player: Yeffeth will publish both brand-new and out-of-print novels by sci-fi author David Gerrold (including his time-travel classic The Man Who Folded Himself). BenBella, so named for Yeffeth's kids Benjamin and Isabella, has some dozen books slated for release in 2003, and while Borders and Barnes & Noble will carry his titles, Yeffeth figures on doing most of his initial marketing through the Internet. Can't figure out why a publishing line devoted to sci-fi books would want to start there.

Why in the world would anyone get into publishing?

I have always loved books, which doesn't make me unusual, but I always wanted to get a hand in it and always wrote essays as part of my consulting career. I was ready to do something different, looked into a whole bunch of things and decided if I was going to start my own thing, I might as well do something I love.

It's fairly impressive you start with someone like David Gerrold.

I grew up with David Gerrold. I worship him, and I think everyone knows his name. I don't know that for a fact. You confirm that he's known.Well, I really only know him because he wrote the Star Trek episode "The Trouble with Tribbles." I assume you read science-fiction as a kid and never outgrew it?

I grew up reading science-fiction, and the thing I most love about it is the power of the ideas. There's no literature out there that has that wow factor like science-fiction when it's done really well. It has that chance to be mind-blowing more than anything else. I also love things that deal with intellectual concepts. Even Taking the Red Pill looks at everything from post-modernism to the future of technology the way science fiction does.

You don't have many local authors, so where are you getting your writers?

I don't think I could have done this 10 years ago. Ninety percent of everything I do is by e-mail, and location is now irrelevant. There are a lot of fly-by-night publishing houses, and dubious publishers and agents and authors have all been burned, so people are skeptical, but they're also open-minded, and if you can show you have integrity and have money behind you, they will take you seriously. And we have names people recognize, whether it's Buffy or Joss or David. We're obscure, but the books aren't. --Robert WilonskyLook at the plaques at right, and you'll see our conundrum. Too...many...jokes. Page...can't...contain...all of them.

Let's start with the basics. This photo was taken at DISD headquarters, and it shows the wall plaques listing the recent superintendents of the Dallas Independent School District. The big question mark over your head is subtitled, "James Hughey? Who the hell is that?" Well, James Hughey was the man who served as interim superintendent in 1998-'99 after Yvonne Gonzalez went to prison for buying personal furniture with district funds--and, no, they didn't delete her; she's listed at the bottom of another row.

That means interim superintendents are listed here? Not in all cases, obviously, as the man who held down the fort after Waldemar "Bill" Rojas was fired (for not maintaining "good rapport" with the school board...seriously), Robert Payton, is not listed.

Why is that? Not sure. Not that we care; we're just glad that they haven't yet fully fastened Rojas' name to the wall. Lets us make the obvious joke about the man always having a screw loose. About a month ago, shortly after the all-star break, I queried Dallas Mavs owner Mark Cuban via e-mail about the state of big men Shawn Bradley and Raef LaFrentz. I asserted that they haven't exactly played well this season and asked for his take. Cuban took umbrage and attempted to defend the defenseless before demanding that I do some "fucking homework" for once in my career. He was very angry. (There's a lot of vitriol directed at me these days; my grandmother would be appalled.)

In an attempt to smooth things over with Mad Mark, the Dallas Observer has decided to make me do some real work every month. "Do what he says," my boss demanded. "Do your homework and be quick about it. Don't you know he could buy and sell us all, you stupid $#@!?" (See what I mean? Lots of rage out there.)

Fine. Here's what everyone's favorite interior players did in February. I made sure to include lots of those numbers that Cuban loves so much.

Shawn Bradley (five years left on seven-year, $30.5 mil contract)

Minutes per game: 18.1

FG percentage: 53.5

Free throws: 20 of 23 (87 percent)

Rebounds per game: 4.5

Assists: 1.2

Blocks per game: 2.1

Points per game: 5.1

Raef LaFrentz (six years left on seven-year, $69 mil contract)

Minutes per game: 20.9

FG percentage: 54.4

Free throws: 6 of 12 (50 percent)

Rebounds per game: 4.8

Assists: 0.8

Blocks per game: 0.9

Points per game: 7.4

Those are some sizz-olid stats. You've gotta feel especially good about LaFrentz shooting just 12 free throws in the entire month (that includes nine games--out of a possible 13--in which he didn't shoot any). Sweet.

If you just could combine their numbers, they'd almost be an average player. Almost.--John Gonzalez


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