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Pokes from the Muse

April 19th, 2016

I’m still recuperating from a series of operations to replace my left hip. But at this point I think the end is in sight. Meanwhile I’ve gotten very good at using my fancy forearm style Sidestix crutches. I’m 70 years old. And I often wear a fedora hat. A picture’s worth a thousand words:

During this ordeal it’s been good for me to have my novel Million Mile Road Trip to work on. Like, I need to go into my fictive world to escape boredom, anxiety, and pain. To forget my ragged, worn self.

Recently I got some encouraging pokes from the Muse.

Poke 1: Dali in a Bosch Painting.

John Shirley, my old partner in literary crimes and misdemeanors, sent me a link to a super detailed online image of Hieronymus Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights. And while panning and zooming around in there I found an image of Salvador Dali!

I maintain that the great Surrealists Bosch and Dali synchronistically conspired to place this image here and now for me to find! William Gibson sometimes speaks of SF as a type of “street surrealism,” like in his Introduction to my Wares series.

Encountering first the fiction and then its author, I took it instantly for granted that in Rudy Rucker I found an exemplar of a natural-born American street surrealist, bordering at times on a practitioner of Art Brut. Rudy’s fiction has a much higher percentage of surrealism molecules than most fiction, science or otherwise. It has, as moonshiners say when they swirl whiskey in a glass, in order to closely observe how it settles back down the sides of the glass, “good legs”. Rudy’s fiction is probably a bit too strong, in that regard, for some readers, but even the hard stuff, let me assure you, is an enjoyably acquired taste.

So my brahs Jeroon Bosch and Sally Dali are in the house to help.

Poke 2: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego

Recently I was gearing up for my characters Zoe, Villy, and Scud to encounter this kind-of god called Goob-goob. Out of the blue, I started thinking about the Bible story of Shadrach, Meshach & Abednego. They walked through a fiery furnace? I got the idea that my trio should walk through Goob-goob. Much more interesting than to stand there talking to her like she’s a face on a wall-monitor. God is a door. So, yeah, going through Goob-goob should be like Shadrach, Meshach & Abednego in the fiery furnace. I looked up the story in the Book of Daniel, and learned that an angelic or god-like fourth figure appears in the furnace with the trio.

While deepening my research I found a Beastie Boys 1989 cut, “Shadrach,” great words, very wild, and a video hand-colored by, Adam “MCA” Yauch. The video has an ad on top of it that you have to close.

Anyway, I have my characters go inside the “furnace” of Goob-goob, and there’s a fourth figure (a virtual fourth Beastie Boy?) who’s maybe a little hard to see. Is this new being a quantum mix of the three kids? A quantum superposition? But I need to know what he or she looks like.

Poke 3: The Flat Cow.

I suddenly had the idea that the extra fourth character should be what I’ll call a flat cow. Shaped kind of like a saucer, but smoother, more discus-like, and covered with nappy, brindle-pattern calfskin cow hair. And her side unzips like a coin purse so the kids can hide inside.

I still need to make up a logical explanation for the flat cow. Not worried about that. I believe in the Surreal hard SF approach: Vision first, Logic later.

Here’s an esoteric notion that I probably won’t use. In the higher physics of mappyworld, a “flat cow” is a term that literally means “quantum superposition of any set of objects, producing a new superposed object.” And—for reasons so erudite that I haven’t invented them yet—the flat cow sum of any set of objects does happen to indeed resemble a bulging disk covered with calfskin and which moos. The number of spots on the cow indicate how many objects it’s based on. Computing the flat cow of some objects is a routine mathematico-physical operation.
Imagine a divorce counselor. Who gets the house, hubby or wife? Generate a flat cow based on the man, the woman, and the house. And then listen to this flat cow’s moos.

I have a mental image of one of the saucers attacking or molesting the flat cow that hides the kids. Either the saucer takes a jagged shark-bite out of the flat cow or it extrudes a tube that it tries to insert into the flat cow. Not clear to the kids if this is a mating or a feeding tube. But highly unwelcome in either case. Scud shoos it off with a dark energy zap from his wand.

I’ve always liked drawing and painting blobby animals with spots on their coats. Brindle cows. Here’s something that I called a gub in my novel The Big Aha. A gub is a little like a knobby giraffe, and a little like a flat cow.

Vintage Poke: The Knobby Giraffe

Liz Argall posted a nice interview with me in Lightspeed magazine today, to accompany my story “The Knobby Giraffe,” which is also online.

Let me quote a Q & A pair from the interview, as it relates to the Surrealist Hard SF theme of today’s post.

Q (Liz). A couple of questions about your story “Knobby Giraffe.” Why a giraffe? And why the philosopher Gottfried Leibniz’s cryptic essay, The Monadology?

A (Rudy). For many years, I kept journals, where I’d write about my thoughts and moods, and about things I’d read or see. One particular entry, from 2004, was about me being alone in a motel in the North Beach area of San Francisco, and how I’d woken up early, and I’d read the whole of Leibniz’s short book, The Monadology, while lying in bed.

The Monadology is pretty close to being incomprehensible. It’s way out there. Leibniz seems to say that our universe is an assemblage of “monads” which reflect each other, and each monad has the whole world inside it. And, naturally, it struck me that an idea this crazy ought to be used in an SF story. And—here’s the pro surrealist-in-action part—as soon as I thought of that, I immediately thought that each monad should resemble a knobby giraffe. With brindle patches on it. A zap from the muse. Those little black antlers on a giraffe, they’re like joysticks, see, and you could wiggle them to control the appearance of the world. The knobby giraffe! Very clear in my mind.

So, okay, I’d written this journal entry in 2004, and I came across it again in 2014, and a year later I found a way to put that image and the Monadology rap into the heart of an SF story. I often start with a cool image or situation, and I grow a story outwards from there, filling in the gaps with transreal story cubes.

Cubist Transrealism ?!?!

Oh, one other Q & A pair from Liz Argall’s interview that I want to highlight. I got a chanced to coin and define a new label for a type of SF writing. Cubist transrealism!

Q (Liz).You wrote a pretty passionate manifesto for transrealism in the early 80s. How has your relationship to transrealism evolved over time?

A (Rudy). In short, transrealism means writing fantasy or SF that is in some way based on your actual life. You’re steering clear of received media ideas and trying to write about your daily reality in a warped way. SF tropes become objective correlatives for your psychic drives. At times, I’ve based transreal novels on specific swatches of my personal history—such as college, say, or my experiences working at a software company. But these days I’m more likely to write what I call cubist transrealism. That is, I don’t go for a full reality-encrypted roman a clef. Instead I shatter my daily experiences into surreal frags and tessellate them into a tale. The juxtapositions generate the story and plot.

I’ve done a lot of interviews over the last quarter century, and the collection is up to 400 accumulated Q & A pairs—all of which appear in my “All the Interviews” document online. Any further questions?

I’m Bursting With “Million Mile Road Trip”

April 6th, 2016

I’ve been working on my novel Million Mile Road Trip pre-visualizing some of the chapters with drawings and paintings. This might be my last novel. When I told this to Bob Silverberg last year, he said, “Make sure it’s a good one. If you write a bad last novel, then everyone will say, ‘Aw, he was bad all along.’ Your last one has to be a killer.”

I have a lot of wild, funny things going on in the book, and I feel like it’s going to be one of my best. After some of my writing days, my heart is pounding with excitement about the book. And when I think about some of the scenes I start laughing. Getting near the home stretch, I might be done by July, 2016, at which time I’ll try a few of the commercial publishers, and if that doesn’t work out—as was case for my most recent two novels—well, then I’ll do a Kickstarter for it and publish it myself via Transreal Books. What-effin-ever, it’s gonna be a masterpiece.

I’m bursting to share some of Million Mile Road Trip . So I’m posting three scenes today, along with some of the visual art I’m doing as part of my writing process. As these are excerpts, some things might be a little unclear, but the flow should work for you in any case. And the paintings are getting pretty gnarly too. More info on these on my paintings page by the way.I just started a spring sale on the paintings.

I: The Royal Pupa

To Scud’s undeluded eyes, the Lady’s room is a low, littered den—and his companions are eating garbage. The room is lit by some glowing knobs of fungus on the walls. He sees the reality this thanks to his wand, and he also sees the Lady for what she is: a leathery, boneless form on a heap of rags. A meaty yam, wide in the middle and pointed at both ends. She has about three dozen eyes, and a slit mouth at one end. Just now she’s lapping at a cracked bowl of water. An Aristo. In no way is she like a Szep.

Flipsydaisy walks over at Scud and makes a languid, knowing gesture. She offers Scud an arch smile. “Can you find it in your heart to see Lady Filippa as she wishes to be seen?”

“Never mind that,” hisses Scud. His heart is pounding from his near escape. “There’s a monster outside, the thing that was wailing in the high tower, it’s like a giant dog. I zapped it into dust, but it’s not dead.”

Tollah Dog attacks the Pupa, Scud, Villy, and Zoe. Watercolor, March, 2016.

“Groon spawns those things just as he spawns the saucers,” says Flipsydaisy, speaking too quietly for Zoe and Villy to hear. “We call them Tollah dogs. Tollahs eat Szep and I believe they eat humans as well. And, yes, he’ll soon regain his vim. The Lady and I mean to open the hatch and let him come in. You are the bait. And handling him will be a test for you three. An entrance exam. But meanwhile, Scud, can you be a gentleman as I asked?” With another of her odd smiles, Flipsydaisy raises her left hand—as if proposing a toast.

The Tollah-dog flings himself at the Lady Filippa pod with his slavering jaws wide open. As soon as he touches the pod, it goes doink, like an error-sound in a videogame but with a sting attached, and the Tollah yelps like a hyena and runs all around the room breaking things, as if that matters, given what a total shit-hole the Lady’s lair is.

Scud’s waves his baton-wand in rapid figure-eights and gestures for more volume. Zoe follows his lead. She gets into a riff that circles back on itself, a little higher and louder each time. It’s the old stairway to heaven routine, and Villy’s adds accents to the riff, like spikes sticking out of the stairs, or like a rain of razorblades. And—here’s the wand coming into full effect—Villy’s spikes form thicker threads than before. They radiate out from his Flying Vee guitar like glowing spaghetti. And Zoe’s chords are cords.

At first it seems like the sound-threads will stay trapped inside the gold igloo with them—the strings are feeling around like worms looking for a hole. They’re not fading away, but they’re piling up around their feet, which isn’t going to be much use.

“Get Lady Filippa to help,” yells Villy over the guitars.

“She’s won’t,” shouts Scud. “She and Flipsydaisy and Pinchley just want to watch.”

“Like this is a test?” says Zoe.

“Your college admission application,” says Villy, weirdly amused, never truly afraid. “Time to kick up your game, Z-bomb.”

“Yah mon,” she says, heartened by his voice. “I’ll bring it.”

So Zoe adds funk to her riffs, bending the notes and smearing them like you do with a dirty blues, and the spaghetti and the zig-zags get that much hairier, and now, thank you, the strings of sound are radiating out from the gold igloo like the spines of a sea urchin.

“Defending the Royal Pupa” (not that they’re defending her in the story. Oil “24 x 20”, March, 2016

Somehow this pisses off the Tollah dog, or scares him, and he charges toward them like he’s going to pop the igloo and tear the humans to bits. He leaps. It’s like a scene in a horror movie—with a giant tweaked-out wolf coming at Zoe in slow motion, trailing rabid slobber from his mouth. Zoe and Villy bear down, stratocast style, Scud sends extra energy through his wand, and—the strands wrap all around the Tollah dog, layer after layer, tighter and tighter, until he’s lying motionless on the ground, like a fly that a spider’s cocooned up for a later meal.

Moment of silence.

The gold igloo and the yam’s pod fade away, and here’s the six of them. The captive Tollah. The three humans. The two Szep: Pinchley and Flipsydaisy. Plus Lady Pinchley, the Aristo.

She’s not a Szep, that’s for sure. She has about thirty eyes on her body and she’s dragging herself across the filthy floor. No arms or legs, but very dynamic.. She gets right up on top of the shrouded Tollah dog, and she looks over at Zoe with a twinkle in her eyes. Pinchley and Flipsydaisy have their arms across each other’s shoulders, watching the show with big smiles. Like they know what’s coming next.

“Be so good as to sprinkle on your caraway seeds,” says Lady Filippa. Her voice flutes out of the little mouth slit at one end. “A nice fresh Tollah is the special food I require.”

Scud hesitates. “Go on,” says Villy. “This is what we came for, seems like.”

So okay, Scud pours all the remaining caraway seeds across the music-thread-wrapped Tollah. Zoe can hear the threads a little bit, humming and reverberating. They’re pretty colors, and the caraway seeds stick to them like sprinkles on a frosted cake.

And then Lady Filippa digs in. She opens up her mouth slit, and she’s got this nasty translucent squid beak inside. With a twitch of her body, she flips her other end up in the air so that she’s balancing on top of the laid-out Tollah. She’s nearly as tall as a person, a bumpy column of eyes, with her open mouth at her lower end, already munching on her prey. She starts at one end of the Tollah and eats him up entirely, working from one end to the other.

Right when Lady Filippa begins chowing down, the tight-wrapped Tollah is still alive. So there’s anguished pathetic dog howls that Zoe would rather not have heard, plus a puddle of sick juice like yellow blood, but Lady F gets down the whole entire meal. And then she flops over to one side and lets out this huge fart. Then closes all her eyes and falls asleep.

“Lifestyles of the Szep City Aristos,” goes Villy, and Scud cracks up, with all the crazy tension of the last hour jittering out into his voice.

II. Villy in the Jet Stream.

The great Aristo zeppelin-creature is on the ground next to Scud, fluttering his comically small bat-wings and gesturing with his tentacles. Talking with Scud. The zeppelin has eyes scattered across his body like polka-dots—just like on Lady Filippa’s pupa. The eyes are big, with black pupils and yellow irises. For sure he sees Villy and Zoe.

“Feeling uneasy,” says Zoe, fully grasping the size of the Aristo. Although Stolo is nothing like the size of a classic Hindenburg-style zeppelin, but he’s still half a football field in length, kind of pointed on one end, and blunt on the back. With tentacles.

“Aristo vs. Saucers,” Pen and ink drawing. Previsualization for this chapter.

The creature’s body is translucent, ribbed, and filled with gas. Villy can see twisty intestines within, plus feathery gills, plus all the other lobed, rounded organs that animals have. The innards look almost weightless, bobbling around inside Stolo’s outer skin.

“What’s the word?” says Villy. He’s having trouble with his train of thought. Very strange teep emanating from Stolo, completely alien, a collage of colors and smells highlighting a scary image of flying saucers blasting them while they’re still on the ground.

“His tentacles are what have my attention,” says Zoe. If our new pal Stolo is like his pupal relative Lady Filippa, there’s gonna be a nasty-ass killer beak in the middle of that squid-bunch bouquet.”

“We won’t go near that spot,” says Villy very quickly. “We’ll ride on top”

They’re close enough to smell Stolo now, kind of a fishy odor, mixed in with lavender and wax and latex rubber. The giant Aristo makes a wet blatting noise.

“His voice,” says Scud. “He says he’s glad to meet you. And he’ll fold a special wrinkle for us on his back. For our seat. He says we should hurry. He doesn’t want them to catch us on the ground.”

“Them?” goes Zoe.

“Don’t ask.”

“Where’s he gonna take us?”.

“To Goob-goob,” says Scud. “The god who lives above Szep City in the Sky Castle cloud.”

Villy hears a sharp crack and a bullet tears past, ripping at the air. Shit. It’s that saucer-worshipping faction of the Szep locals again—boiling out of the tunnel into the stack, twenty or thirty of them, armed with rifles and heavy rayguns.

Stolo says something, that is, he makes another fart-like noise, and then, faster than it takes to say it, he wraps three tentacles around the kids, one tentacle each, and tucks them into a crease on his back. They rise like a helium balloon.

The belligerent saucerians keep shooting at them, but Stolo’s leathery underside is quite impervious to their bullets and rays. And then Stolo and his riders are halfway up the immense stack. Stolo isn’t exactly using his little wings to fly—it’s more like he’s levitating, and the wings angle against the air to steer him. They’re rising so fast that Villy has to yawn and waggle his jaw to equalize the pressure in his ears. Scud’s exultant, and Zoe’s laughing with relief.

The air cools as they continue climbing. There’s an odd, wavering tone sounding from the top of the insanely tall stack. Like a giant blowing across a bottle. And when they drift out, the encounter a howling, gale-force wind. It’s a broad river of air, separating them from the vast, intricate cloud they call Sky Castle—five hundred feet above them, with its underside ruffled and torn by the frigid gale.

Stolo bucks and shudders, on the point of tumbling out of control, but he doesn’t seem worried. He’s used to this difficult crossing. Borne by the wild wind, they fly along the bottom of the Sky Castle cloud at several hundred miles per hour. Stolo’s little bat-wings flap like rags on a laundry line. Flexing his bulky body, he maneuvers himself back and forth, working his way higher. He flies with his pointed end in front and his tentacles end in the rear. Meanwhile Villy, Zoe and Scud keep their legs tucked under a crease in Stolo’s skin—it’s almost like they’re sitting in a bed, or perhaps in a kangaroo’s pouch. It feels secure. For now.

A particularly strong gust flips Stolo to a vertical position. If he were a boat you’d say he was pitchpoling—with his bow digging into the waves. That is, his pointy front end is down, and his tentacled back end is up. The Aristo blimp stays cool. Villy senses that he’s worrying about something, but it’s not the wind. Not that Villy has much time to think about this just now. Zoe is screaming that they’re about to die, and Scud has gone catatonic with fear.

“Sky Skirmish,” Acrylic 30” x 24,” April, 2016. Inspired this passage, but with the zeppelin changed into a squid.

Meanwhile Stolo allows himself to tumble further. He executes a full flip, and then another and another, somersaulting and rolling. Scud and Zoe are hanging on tight, but Villy loses his grip and—oh no!—he jolts out of his seat, bumps along Stolo’s ridged hide, skims across the bulging cornea of one of the creature’s great eyes, fails to catch hold of the monster’s ragged wing—and goes into free-fall.

Villy’s several thousand feet above Szep City, which stretches out beneath him as far as he can see. His one bit of luck: the wind is so insanely strong that he’s not so much falling as he is skimming along horizontally, bowling along like windblown trash, moving in parallel with Stolo. Gathering his wits, Villy surfs the wind instead of fighting it, yes, he’s riding the gale, stabilizing himself with graceful bends of his body, keeping his arms at his sides, controlling his motion with slight twitches of his hands. It’s working, but the air is so brutally cold that he’s going to be dead pretty soon. Villy teeps a desperate S.O.S. rescue-me message to Solo.

And that’s when the three flying saucers attack. Stolo sends out a warning, and, yes, Villy sees the evil trio rising up from the Saucer Temple far below. They’re moving at a several hundred miles per hour, homing in on Stolo, Villy, Zoe, and Scud.

Villy remembers that Flipsydaisy said the saucers have little hope against an adult Aristo. Evidently their attackers are willing to risk all. Villy has the feeling the saucers would do virtually anything to prevent his party from returning to Van Cott with an Aristo wand. They’re like suicide-bombers. The fanatical saucers are firing pale-yellow zap beams as they come.

Zoe and Scud are in teep contact with Villy, and all three of them are imploring Stolo to pick up Villy before the saucers blast him out of the air. Like a duck in a shooting gallery. But Stolo has his own agenda. The alien zeppelin holds himself still, riding the wind like Villy had been doing. Deeply focused, in a state of Zen-like calm, Stolo aims his tentacles. A fusillade of quick, efficient rays rains down from the tentacle tips and—thank you—the three kamikaze saucers are dead, charred meat.

With a startling burst of speed, Stolo pounces on the saucers before they can drop from the sky. The Aristo seizes the dead saucers with his tentacles and—how gnarly—devours them one by one with the great, curved beak that lies at the center of the tentacle-bunch. It’s just like the the way that the pupal Aristo Lady Filippo ate the dead Tollah dog.

III. Three-Dimensional Moiré

Zoe’s always been fascinated by moiré patterns—the strange visual effects she sees when, say, two window screens or two chain-link fences overlap, slightly out of kilter. A fluid series of lobed patterns erupts, changing with Zoe’s slightest motions. And there’s chic fabrics with mashed-in grooves to give a watery moiré effect as well—quite a craze for these during Zoe’s junior year, matter of fact.

Pre-visualization of the Sky Castle chapter where the 3D moiré will appear. Watercolor, Feb, 2016.

And—here’s the new part—Zoe has found that, once in a while, under certain conditions, her perceptual system can create moirés on its own. Like one time, while she was zoning out in her bedroom, her retinal cells and her brain’s neurons got a smidgen out of synch with each other—or something like that—and, whoah, she sees three-dimensional moirés rippling around her. Faint pale purple or maybe even ultraviolet patterns, lively and improbable as air currents.

The underling grids that create the 3D moirés aren’t just sheets, you understand, they’re solids filling the whole frikkin room. The 3D moiré is generated by a pair of patterns like gelatinous, transparent, 3D blueprints for billion-room apartment buildings—two patterns like virtual-reality honeycombs, or like rubbery jungle-gyms. These two underlying cell structures are ever so slightly, and ever so deliciously, out of phase with each other—and the interfering overlap engenders glorious, tasty shapes that caper around Zoe’s room like dreamtigers.

For a minute she imagines that she herself is a moiré dreamtiger. No realer, and no unrealer. A sum of aethereal grids, why not. And in her ears she hears a symphony of wavering interference beats, emerging from a stereo pair of orchestras, each of them ever so a tiny bit out of tune with the other. Vive la différence, baby. Long story short—Goob-goob looks like a dreamtiger.

“Diego’s God Hunhunahpu,” Acrylic, 36 x 36 , November, 2015. Based on a sketch I saw in Guanajuato, MX.

A Mayan dreamtiger… some of the time.

David Hartwell (1941-2016)

March 9th, 2016

David Hartwell lived from 1941 to 2016. He was involved in books and publishing for most of his life. I was fortunate enough to work with him for the past eighteen years. Here are some of my memories of him. I’ve drawn some of these from old journal entries, so there’s not a completely uniform tone. And a short rough draft of this  remembrance appeared in Locus. And, as is my usual custom, I’ve illustrated the post with semi-random images from my files.

[Dave & Rudy, August, 2015, NYC.]

It’s hard to believe David Hartwell is gone. In his offhand, energetic way, he seemed like he’d last forever.

For an unconventional author, there are times when only one person stands between you and complete commercial unpublishability. For many years, David was that person for a number of us—he saw eight of my books into print. And, always, he was a trusted friend and advisor. An intelligent, courtly man, slightly shy, never vulgar, full of tales, never a loss for an opinion, perpetually able to keep himself amused.

Our author-editor relationship started in March 1998, when Dave bought my off-beat novel Saucer Wisdom for Tor Books. I’d made some illos for the book, drawings supposedly by my saucer abductee character Frank Shook. And I myself was a character in the novel too. There had been some talk of getting the images redrawn by a pro artist, but Dave said something like, “If these images were drawn by a nut in a UFO, how polished do they have to be?” His call gave the book an interesting look—and it saved Tor some money on expenses.

Dave was frugal. At times I had issues with the sizes of the advances he’d offer—but I was always grateful that he was going to the mat for me—and getting my books published.

[My painting “Saucer Wisdom,” showing Frank Shook and Rudy with aliens.]

After Saucer Wisdom—which bombed, possibly because we marketed it as nonfiction—I wanted Dave to offer me a deal for two additional books. One was a historical novel on the life of the artist Peter Bruegel, the other was Spaceland, a Silicon Valley version of Edwin Abbott’s Flatland.

David loved my idea for a Bruegel novel—he said he’d majored in Medieval studies and couldn’t wait to read my draft. And he liked the straight-on hard-SF nature of Spaceland, which featured scenes in 4D space. In January, 2001, Dave invited me to visit him and his wife Kathryn Cramer at their house in Pleasantville, NY. I was hoping we’d discuss a deal.

Kathryn, by the way, had done much of the editing on Saucer Wisdom, making good suggestions. David wasn’t always the most involved of editors–—he’d talk about the idea for the book and weigh in early with thoughts about the plot, but it wasn’t his usual practice to do really detailed edits. His edits came in a higher-level form: remarks about the tone of the book, or about the motivations of the chracters, or about the pace.

Dave took on more projects than most editors—and this was a good thing for us writers. He enjoyed acquiring and conceptualizing novels. And more Dave Hartwell titles meant more slots for unconventional SF. But he could be maddeningly slow. He was out of the office a lot—going to con after con, and this made him even slower. But, again, this, too, was a good thing, in that it meant that authors had more opportunities to meet him and to pitch ideas.

[Random bookstore clutter.]

Getting back to my visit to Dave’s and Kathryn’s house—the editorial board of New York Review of Science Fiction were there putting the new issue together. Tru fans, including Kevin Maroney and Arthur Hlavaty—who was an upperclassman at Swarthmore College when I went there in 1963. Arthur, being twenty-one at the time, would go to the state store for us and buy liquor. It was touching see him so many years later, white-haired, witty, and as pleasantly degenerate as ever.

I waited all that day at Dave’s house to corner Dave and talk about what was uppermost in my mind, “Are you going to buy Spaceland and my Bruegel novel or not?” I felt like little of Bruegel himself—courting a likely patron.

Hartwell got a Ph.D. in English, and his thesis was an edition of a Beowulf-like work about, I think, Sir Gawain. That afternoon, he quoted the opening lines of Beowulf to me in middle English. I had mixed feelings. Math majors vs. English majors. But at the same time I was really glad to be with a literate editor. And then he did make me the offer. Summing up the day to myself, I thought: “This man is my friend.”

My Bruegel novel, titled As Above, So Below, was one of the times when Dave did in fact edit a book of mine very closely. He put his finger on every short-cut I took, ferreting out every weak spot, and peeling away each loose fleck of paint. The very last change request was that I deepen one of my characters—who was doing little more than happily waving a beer mug. So I gave the character cirrhosis of the liver.

[“Tree of Life,” a painting of mine for Million Mile Road Trip.]

By 2003, I was working on another book for Dave at Tor, Frek and the Elixir, featuring a twelve-year-old boy in the year 3003. I had hoped Tor would market it as a YA book, Harry Potter style, but Dave and my agent didn’t want to. The book ended up much longer than my previous titles, and Dave fought to make sure it came out in a large enough trim size so that we didn’t have to use a Bible-type font.

In 2005, Dave got me invited to give the keynote talk at ICFA, the International Conference for the Fantastic in the Arts, held in a brutally cold motel Florida. One of the organizers quipped, “We don’t come here for the sun, we come here for the air-conditioning.”

Dave told me that a member of the committee had said, “We can’t invite Rucker, he’s a difficult drunk,” and Dave told him, “Not any more.” By then I’d been sober for nearly ten years. I said to Dave, “I wonder if my drinking years had a bad effect on my career.” Dave said, “I don’t think so. Even now, I still talk to people who are very disappointed when they see you at a con and you aren’t swinging from the chandeliers.”

David really wanted to publish my next novel, Mathematicians in Love. I was pushing hard for a better than usual advance. My then-agent Susan Protter told me Dave went to Tom Doherty, owner of Tor, and begged for more money for me as if he needed a kidney transplant for his dying mother (as Susan put it) and Doherty was like, “Oh, all right, offer Rudy a little more.” So we inched up to where I was comfortable.

[View of the Flatiron building, home of Tor Books, seen from a NYC bus on a rainy day.]

Over the years I lunch with Dave in the restaurants around Madison Square about twenty times. I like visiting Manhattan, and part of the tradition was to come to Dave’s more-than-overcrowded office at Tor in the fabulous old Flatiron Building. Captain Nemo elevators. Manuscripts and piles of books on every horizontal surface. At lunch Dave would reminisce and talk about the current state of publishing—always worse than the year before. But always with rays of hope and possible opportunities. He was glad to speculate with me about future book projects—although he was categorically unwilling to talk about hoped-for (and evanescent) movie deals. He shared my view of a career as a long pipeline. And he liked to reminisce about having edited some novels for Philip K. Dick. Dave liked to tell a story about going to Phil’s apartment, and, over the course of many hours, Phil gave him a detailed, scene by scene description of a novel he was planning to write. Phil had the whole book in his head.

At one point I considered writing a sequel to Frek and the Elixir. I wanted to advance Frek’s romance with his girlfriend to a sexual level, but Dave was against this. His opinion was that that among young adolescents, perhaps half are uncomfortable with sex, and half do want to hear about it==—but the ones who read fantasy and SF are all from the “uncomfortable with sex” camp. Possibly a dated view.

Around 2006 and 2007, I sold Dave a linked pair of cyperunkish hard-SF books: Postsingular and Hylozoic. I might have tried to sell a third book in this series, but at this point my support at Tor Books was beginning to erode. Wanting to enhance my visibility, I talked Dave into letting me do a free CC ebook edition of Postsingular—following Cory Doctorow’s advice. Dave didn’t like it, but he let me do it.

[A Mexican “Flatiron building” in Guanajuato near the Mummy Museum.]

“Hylozoism” is an actual dictionary word, it means “the philosophical doctrine that every object is alive.” It was an SF-like notion I’d always wanted to write about, and now I found a way to make it scientifically logical.

Hartwell said he liked the book title Hylozoic as it was so “stefnal.” And I was like, “What is stefnal”? So I went on Google and unearthed a definition in the context of a post in a Night Shade Books discussion, this info from no less a man than Paul Di Filippo:

“Historically, within the genre, stef has been another long-standing term for science fiction. The derivation comes from the old scientifiction, which was always abbreviated stf. The vowel was interpolated so that one could actually pronounce the term. Stefnal has three fewer syllables than science-fictional, always a plus for economical writing. Additionally, it functions as a totally baffling shibboleth.”

In 2009, I nearly died, and I decided to write my memoir, Nested Scrolls. Dave was unwilling to give me a thumbs up or thumbs down on the project—over the years he’d gotten ever-slower about deciding on my projects. Probably because my sales weren’t that great, and he didn’t really like to say no to me. So my agent and I took the book to PS Publishing in England for a limited hardback edition and a short-run trade edition.

[Fountain near Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, note parallel streams.]

And then Dave changed his mind. He managed to get Tor to make an offer for Nested Scrolls. His cost-cutting angle (other than paying me a very small advance) was that Tor would use the PS design and layout for the book. Dave also got involved with the editing before the PS edition, which was welcome. He had me put in the dates of events—more reader-friendly—and then to move the material around to get a more uniform temporal flow.

Dave was taken by my remark that, once you’re in your forties, Jack Kerouac and Edgar Allen Poe no longer work as viable role models. He suggested that I should put more scenes involving my former alcohol problems into Nested Scrolls so as to dramatize the significance of my getting sober in 1996.

So I did some of that, but maybe not as much as Dave wanted. I found I didn’t want to structure my autobiography as a standard “descent into hell followed by redemption.” That’s not really how my life was. So Dave finally said, okay, it’s your autobio, and it’s up to you to write it the way you want.

[Tor cover with 1969 photo. The PS edition has the subtitle: “A Writer’s Life.”]

Dave had asked that the memoir include a fun anecdote about a Mondo 2000 magazine party, so I reworked a party scene from Saucer Wisdom. It was a type of inverse transrealism, where I started with my memory of an actual party, transrealized it into a fictional scene in Saucer Wisdom, and then I used the scene in my memoir as a supposedly real account of the actual event.

So Nested Scrolls came out, first from PS and from Tor, in hardback, paperback, and ebook. Dave picked a great photo for the cover of the Tor edition, and the book was beautiful. I’ll always be grateful to him for getting my autobiography published by a big New York house. For me this was a very big deal. A parting gift. He was always doing everything he could for my cause.

We had of Nested Scrolls rising up into the mainstream and saving my balance-sheet bacon at Tor Books. But that didn’t happen. The numbers weren’t there. I’d run out my string at Tor, at least for the time being. I published my next novel with Jeremy Lassen at Night Shade Books, their business collapsed, and I self-published my next two novels via via my own outfit, Transreal Books.

In any case, I continued visiting Tor Books and having lunch with Dave whenever I passed through Manhattan. I remember a question he asked at our very last meeting, in August, 2015. I was describing my current novel project, Million Mile Road Trip. “Why flying saucers in the book?” Dave asked. I must have looked miffed, so he amplified: “That’s a plot question.” Thereby giving me an insight about what I now needed to do. I couldn’t just put in saucers because I like them. I needed to give them a crucial role in the plot. Without an editor like Dave I can forget the simplest things.

[A pair with a prize-winning large pumpkin at Half Moon Bay, CA. Author and editor with a manuscript?]

It always seemed at least remotely possible that Dave and I might get together on a book project once more. The field is always changing. You never know. Authors’ careers rise and fall. Dave and I were only separated—not divorced. But now he’s dead.

One more memory. In the summer of 2009, I was the instructor for the last week of the six-week Clarion West F&SF writing workshop in Seattle. And Dave had been the instructor the week before me. So my wife Sylvia and I met Dave for dinner up there.

[My UFO painting, “I Once Was Blind But Now I See,” inspired by Keith Haring.]

After the meal, we walked along the edge of the water, looking at the Seattle skyline. Dave was lively, taking photos for his beloved New York Review of SF, chattering about science-fiction, colorfully dressed as always, encouraging but realistic about my current projects, and conspicuously enjoying himself. Like a big kid, almost. Forever young. I sang him a chant I’d been working on for my students. He liked it.

Time, saucers, sex and goo
Elves, mutants, robots too
Muse of strangeness old and new
My blank pages call to you.

Peace, Dave. I’ll miss you.

Delirium and “Stratocast.”

January 27th, 2016

So last week I was in the hospital for hip surgery for three nights.

I was really sad and anxious about going in there. Infection in my hip joint and they took out all the hardware, and I’ll be on intravenous antibiotics for six weeks, and then they put a new hip back in. A traumatic two operation under deep full anesthesia

Opiate painkillers. Each night my room seemed like a completely different space. The second day I noticed the effects of the opiates on my dreams.

Watching the dreams like movies, semi-awake. Rooting through mounds of rusty metal scrap. Faces. Never getting into proper dreams, but enjoyable, in the sense that being high is enjoyable, and unpleasant, in that I no longer like to be high. Most of all it was exhausting, and in the morning I didn’t want to go back there.

My wrist looked so pathetic. At times I’d almost be looking at all this crap on it and wondering if it was my wristwatch.

Our daughter Isabel made me a lucky amulet, she’d stamped one of my favorite slogans onto it, “Eadem Mutata Resurgo,” which is Latin for, “The same, yet changed, I arise again.” One of the mathematician Bernoulli brothers chose this as his epitaph, in connection with his work on the logarithmic spiral that nautilus shells trace.

The third night the pain ramped way up, we loaded on the opiates. I fell deeply asleep at 6:30 pm, and woke, soaked in sweat, in a state of delirium at half-past midnight.

My bed seemed like the edge of an alleyway, and I was like a wet rag of clothing lying there, a wadded nightgown or a bra or some scraps of paper. A nothing. Pathetic. Lost. Undone. I was awake, but unable to remember who I was, or where, or what my significance was, or what ordeal I was undergoing, or what I was supposed to do. A wet crooked rag in an alleyway.

Overhead was the “trapeze” lifter-bar of my hospital bed. It meant something, some task, but I didn’t know what. Sounds from beyond a curved wall which was the curtain across my door. I hoped someone would come in. They didn’t. Eventually I found the ringer-button to call a nurse. I told her I couldn’t remember who I was, and that the body trauma and the meds had gotten to me. She was sympathetic.

On the table by my bed, I found the paper scrap with my marked up draft of the “Stratocast” chapter for Million Mile Roadtrip, which is the novel I’ve been working on for over a year now. I told the nurse the scrap was from a science fiction novel I’m working on, and that I was a writer, and that I’d try to recover myself by thinking about it. She approved. I had all the time in the world here, anonymous in the middle of a hospital night. After a few minutes I got the courage to call for a nurse again—a different one came, both of them were Indian, this one got me my laptop from my knapsack cross the room, and I got to work, writing on till 3 am. Had to call the nurse yet one more time for my reading glasses. They didn’t question what I was doing.

I was happy to be writing in such an extreme situation, and I think the material came out pretty well. And I decided to run the last twenty or thirty basins as a single block. A surreal mural.

Out of the hospital now, I’ve revised the chapter a couple more times. It’s not really that my medical delirium led me to these visions. It’s more like other way around. These comfortable (to me) visions helped draw me out of med-trauma delirium. For me, these visions, are ordinary, base-line reality. Check ‘em out.

Copyright © Rudy Rucker, 2016, draft of a chapter to appear in Million Mile Roadtrip.

Villy quickly realizes that his half-sized Flying-V guitar is alive. Basically she’s an alien. A type of Harmon. She stretches her neck so she can nuzzle Zoe’s black guitar, who is male. The instruments chime softly to each other. Villy thinks of them as a pair of race horses that he and Zoe are about to ride.

“Or magic broomsticks,” says Zoe inside Jorge’s head. The crew has teep powers again.

Crazy Pinchley’s at the wheel, his head cocked at an odd, coquettish angle. He’s already rigged a flappy rudder to the back of the car—for steering them once they’re airborne. Pinchley is more than ready to set sail for Szep City. He’s got Yampa’s memorial gig to plan.

Scud’s in front, next to Pinchley, holding the saucer pearl. Unfortunately he’s still not quite able to levitate the car.

“Think of a fin all around the pearl,” Villy tells his brother. “And the fin is part of you. Don’t hold back, You have to merge into the whatever.”

“Not my usual thing.” mutters Scud. A full minute of silence. And then: “Hey, I’ve got it! And you do this all the time, Villy?”

“It’s how I surf.”

The purple whale rises into the air, revealing a vista of Harmon cubes amid streaks of smeel foam. Spidery green critters scamper about. They have T-shaped bodies, with big eyes on the sides of their hammer heads. They pluck and and thump the cubes, livening up the choruses.

“Gear we go-go!” says Pinchley, still talking like Yampa. He guns the engine—and nothing whatsoever happens. The gigundo tires spin in empty air.

“You do stratocast now?” says Scud. “Is that the word?”

“Gear we go-go,” says Villy, kind of mocking Scud and Pinchley.

Zoe stares into Villy’s eyes. She looks zonky and vamp. Like a goth rocker. The lovers have their fingers on their frets, and they’re holding triangles of seashell for picks. Zoe nods her head once and—

Zam deedle squee. She’s off, sailing the sonic sea, and Villy’s close behind. The two of them are dancing in music-space, orbiting each other like strands of DNA, growing a tree of sound. Sweet. But, uh, the car’s still not moving.

Zoe breaks off, embarrassed, and she begins tuning her guitar, or trying to, except that it doesn’t actually have tuning pegs. The car hangs in the air like a ripe fruit, gently swaying. Pinchley and Scud turn halfway around to stare at the would-be stratocasters.

“So we’ll do the damn drive dumb,” says Pinchley. “Lower us, Scuddy.”

“Wait,” says Scud. “I’ll give them caraway seeds.” He produces the jar. “Everyone here loves caraways. Maybe its a Goob-goob thing. Maybe they’ll help with your stratocasting.” He pauses, takes out a couple of seeds from the jar, and nibbles them with his front teeth like a rat. “Curved,” he says. “Rye bread aroma. I feel maybe even smarter now. Try them, Vill and Zee.”

So Villy and Zoe eat some caraway seeds, pretty much a whole teaspoon of them apiece, crunching the seeds with their back molars. Villy definitely feels a lift. He sees colored shapes from the corners of his eyes. And when he turns his head, the quick bright crescents are gone.

“I see the colored things too,” says Zoe. “Smeel boomerangs. Flying out of our ears like bats from their caves, huh? We’ll play with them. Stratocast a goblin march.”

“That’s a plan?” says Scud.

“Shut your crack,” says Villy.

Zoe strikes a fresh chord. She goes for a bluesy beat, a cycling rhythm beneath the jai-lai scribbles of the smeely grace notes. Villy gets into it as well, gazing out at the horizon. The smeel crescents creep forward, they’re like frail, lace-winged bugs in the cones of the lovers’ eyebeam headlights. Villy checks them off with pecks of his pick—without exactly staring at them. They’re hella shy.

So, yaaar, Villy and Zoe are playing at a new level, fully into the flow, elaborating riffs like syllogisms in symbolic logic, and where the hell is Villy getting words like that—oh, he’s siphoning them from Scud and Pinchley and Zoe. All four of them part of the pudding, with the ghost of Yampa present as well.

The purple whale is a stratocasting pod of sound, yeah, it’s rushing across the Jello-salad expanses of the Harmony basin, swifter than a strafing jet. Pinchley does a solemn steamboat-pilot routine, guiding them along a graceful curve that, much sooner than seems at all possible, has covered five thousand miles. Scud levitates a little extra, just enough so they scrape it across the ridge between Harmony and the next basin over. Oh wow, are they ever going fast.

“Hundred thousand miles per,” gloats Pinchley. “Rock the roll, Zoe-Villy. This here new basin is called Wristwatch by the way.”

Villy peers down, putting his guitar fingers into reptile-brain auto mode. The Wristwatch basin is cogs and gears, a vast array of them, slowly turning, with levers and springy coils and, weirdly, big patches of honey here and there, clogging up the works. Ants in the soft honey, timekeeper ants. But how can Villy be seeing such tiny details, with them careening past so fast?

“Frog tongue eyebeam,” goes Zoe, very cryp and glam, with glowons highlighting the outlines of her far-gone face. She’s playing Egyptian crescendos, accompanied by teep images of, like, jackal-headed gods marching into a pharaoh’s tomb, and semi-unwrapped mummy-girls shaking their booties beside the curly purling of the river Nile.

Villy backs her with the argle-bargle grunts of man-eating crocodiles. As for Zoe said just now—she means that, even though they’re topping a thousand miles a minute, it’s possible, what with their caraway-seed-enhanced mental powers, to shoot out an eyebeam quick as a frog’s bug-catching tongue, and to leave your eyebeam in place for a few secs, and thereby to vacuum up a mini-video of what is/was happening there/now.

Goofing on Wristwatch basin, Villy notices independent little batches of cogs and worm-gears bustling around on their own, rooting at the planetary timepiece and prying off toothed wheels to take unto themselves. For its part, the big watch is of course eating as many of the ticking freebooter assemblages as it can—sometimes trapping them in the ants’ honey-ponds.

Lots of time. Until time’s up. They squeak over another ridge.

“Cuttle Scuttle Swamp,” says Pinchley.

A flying cuttlefish thuds against the grill of the car, sending them into a wrenching 3D tumble. They’re in danger of blacking out. Zoe bears down on her guitar and gets into feedback mode. The internal amp is driving the strings which drive the amp which drives the strings—generating a chaotic jitter of skronks and wheenks. The dark energy of the way-sick bleat is enough to right their yawing vessel. Thank you, holy stratocast.

Scud in the front seat becomes watchful, looking far ahead, and he zaps the next incoming cuttlefish into sparkly dust. Not that the cuttlefish are attacking them, per se. They’re into some intramural scene of their own. A civil war?

Two populations inhabit Cuttle Scuttle Swamp: red cuttlefish and green ones. The red ones fly, beating their skirt-fins, and the green ones disport themselves in the shallow, smeely waters. The air-cuttles dive down at the water cuttles, and the water cuttles power themselves into the air like breaching manatees. When two cuttles collide, they tangle their tentacles and—are they biting each other?

“Making love,” says Zoe, and she segues her solo into a steamy, insinuating beat. “Sharing. Like you and me, Villy boy.”

Villy crafts a squalid bass line to match Zoe’s mood. He’s never played this well before. Basins flit past. For half an hour, he and Zoe are fully zoned into the stratocast. And then they happen to notice the landscape again.

“Gold Bug basin,” Pinchley is saying. He has this whole sector mapped in his head.

Shiny black beetles are excavating galleries and making lacy mounds. Beetles like the living cars of the Van Cott streets, but less citified. More tribal. Miners. Their antennae bear rows of sideways branches. They emit explosive clouds of gas to help with their excavations. One of them will crouch down, raise her tail, and another will strike a spark with his jaws. Ftoom. They’re digging for lumps of gold, A midnight-blue beetle displays a large nugget in her triumphant mandibles. Villy’s focus-point twitches from the prize nugget to a crater filled with dome-backed beetles waving fringed June-bug antennae. The beetles are worshipping an idol, a golden beetle-god the size of a blimp. Glowons add to the graven idol’s luster.

The appreciative Villy and Zoe segue into a shimmering musical fantasia of lush flourishes. And then Scud torques them over the beetle basin’s onrushing ridge. Pinchley trims their course, ever aiming towards distant Szep City. The four of them take a feral pleasure in their phantasmagoric speed. More basins and more.

“Funky Broadway,” announces Pinchley. Zoe chimes a downward arpeggio, with Villy in teepful synch.

Funky Broadway is a world of living cities, blocky hives trundling across a great plain. The cities are inhabited by parasitic or symbiotic races of monkeys. Here and there pairs of cities batten onto each other. Their primate passengers hop from one metropolis to the other. Some of the ape-men brandish exquisite works of art to trade, others take prisoners whom they feed into gigantic meat-grinder gear-trains embedded in the lowest foundations of the towns.

Zoe’s music is like stabbing cries. Villy circles them with mournful evocations of fallen worlds. Once again the lovers lose themselves in their stratocast harmonies, threading through basins by the score.

“Paramecium Pond,” intones Pinchley.

A simple world. It’s a five-thousand-mile pond, glowing a pleasant shade of yellow-green, vibrant with algae, shiny with microorgasmic tides. Paramecia, amoeba, volvoxes, and rotifers—teeming, breeding, and engulfing each other when they can.

“An octillion in all,” says science-boy Scud. He shares Villy’s and Zoe’s ability to lock onto a passing sight and do a mental zoom. There’s quite the teepy vibe inside the car by now, what with the living Harmon guitars, the saucer pearl, the kids’ mental acrobatics, and Pinchley’s crackbrained imitations of Yampa.

As they plane across Paramecium Pond, Zoe and Villy spin out a sludgy mat of sound—a multipart fugue. The microorganisms’ population count is dropping at a logarithmic rate. They’re eating each other and getting bigger—like rivals working their way up through the brackets of a tournament tree. A mere billion of them remain. A thousand. A hundred. One. A paramecium the size of a continent.

The titan lolls in the planetary pond. A fat man in a bathtub. Suddenly the glowing waters slosh. Something wrong? A dark spot has appeared upon the emperor’s ciliated pellicum. It’s a raging infection, a rogue colony of his lower companions. The lord of all paramecia springs a leak—*pop*—and they’re back to time zero. A planetary pond with an octillion rivals.

Inspired by the scene, Zoe and Villy craft a bombastic rock opera that spins into a mad whirl across all the remaining basins en route.

Red, white, and black starfish tessellate the surface of a basin, They peel up in twelves, forming dodecahedra. Trumpeting elephants bear smaller elephants to and fro, building mounds that stretch towards the heavens, calling out the thousand names of Goob-goob. Pinchley steers them past their writhing trunks and, where necessary, Scud zaps the trunks to stubs. A zone of spiderwebs and flies. The flies buzz with pleasure as they’re eaten. The spiders grow wings and take to the air. Milk-spurting udders flop in high green grass. Towering flowers chide our party, speaking in snobby British accents. Vines with floating cucumbers like zeppelins. Little uniformed airmen in the airships—they gather on a taut hull for a hornpipe dance. Recirculating flows of lava amid rubbery volcanoes. Gouts of magma flatten into fiery flying saucers who do their best to annihilate the purple whale. They escape to a basin of mermen and sirens who loll beside a glassy black sea. Krakens ply the inky waters, their heads like the prows of Viking ships. A sky full of barking dogs, with a grid of identical doghouses below. Evil saucer rabbits slink from house to house, enslaving puppies, and ignoring the fruitful carrot fields all around.

Tiny saucer gnomes juggle huge, bristly ogres in the air. Steaming cauldrons of porridge. The ogres dwindle to raisins in the mush. Flying jellyfish carrying tiny shrimp-people. The shrimps rise up in mutiny, and set the jellies to warring against each other. Lashing, stinging tentacles. Beneath the fray, striped sea snails cheer from wagging sponges, and offer floral bouquets to the mutinous shrimp. Hopeful pigs join snouts in pairs, disk to disk. They spin upwards like helicopters. Saucers zap them into showers of greasy bacon. The strips drift down into the traffic on greasy, overcrowded streets. Hippos in a basin of braided rivers. The waters cascade down the cliffs at the basin’s edge. The hippos roar in joy, showing stubby peg-like teeth. A population of sinister eyeballs rolls across a plain, swirling about a commanding central figure who revels in being seen. A planetary sea of whirlpools that split and fork, weaving elegant sheaves of knots. Above the sea, parasitic tornadoes fill the hazy air, draining energy from the maelstroms. Colored clouds float above them all, the clouds savoring each others’ rain. Lightning bolts dance from one cloud to another, as if to herd them into a grid. In another basin, crystals sprout like hoarfrost ferns, then snap loose and tumble, transforming themselves like images within a kaleidoscope. Arpeggios ring from the crystals, sounding a chorus that’s continually approaching a final realization—but not getting there.

Rubbery fungi grow upon the crystals, dampening their sounds. Zoe and Villy join forces with the crystals, pushing their swelling harmony over the edge—and the crystals shatter into swirling flakes that carve the mushrooms into bits. Another basin holds a planet-sized human corpse with homunculi feasting upon it—like fiddler crabs on a dead dolphin. Fish walk by on pairs of legs, and chickens stand on ladders wearing mortarboards—all of them discussing the planetary corpse. Crawling naked brains play cards and dance in festive patterns, like folk dancers seen from above. A book takes shape amid the ring of circling brains. Squealing bagpipe sacks covered with red mouths and beady eyes. They clack their chanter tubes in sword-fight duels. But their real enemies are pairs of scissors seeking to cut them open. And, at the end of the trip, a scary mystery basin, velvety black, with seen/unseen/unseeable forms within. Beings from unspace. To truly perceive them would be to go mad. Scud levitates, Pinchley steers, and the lovers push.

And the delirious outward stratocast is done.


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