Archive for the ‘Rudy’s Blog’ Category


Buttload of Photos. Rudy and Nick.

Another buttload of photos today, listed more or less in reverse chronological order.

The one above is a panorama of a hill near where I live in Los Gatos. I think it’s great that I can find fairly wild-looking natural spots close to my house. I feed on nature. I shot these first three photos on my iPhone SE, which as the same camera as the 6S model, but which has the same small size in my pocket as the 5. This seems like the first iPhone that’s actually usable for (fairly) decent photos. The panorama feature works really well, once you frikkin figure it out.

It’s kind of a cliche to shoot a single bush on a hillcrest, but it’s a nice tras effect. I think at a deeper level it speaks to a person as an image of themselves, alone (at least a lot of the time) in the world. Wonderful clouds on this one particular day.  Like thoughts in the sky.

I like the path along this hill, it’s near the Testarossa Winery in Los Gatos. The path looks, in my mind, like a smile. Or the expression when someone’s eyes are amilng, but they’re holding their mouth straight, or even downturned a bit, because for some reason at that moment they have to look serious, but really they’re smiling. The hill is alive.

Switching now to my Fujifilm X 100T camera. It has a fixed wide-angle 23mm lens, and basically I PhotoShop and crop nearly image I shoot with it. Like just shoot what’s in front of me like I’m fogging a swarm of bugs, and then I scoop out a sections I want. Anwyay, this is a cropped timer photo of me with Nick Herbert, ten years my senior, that is, about 80, and a freak from the way-back. I think we didn’t quite think the timer would work, which is why we look so casual. Nick says his three big influences were the Catholic Church (as a boy), LSD (in his 20s or 30s), and quantum mechanics.

Nick lives in a fairly primitive cabin near Boulder Creek, and he spends a lot of time on his battered porch among the redwoods. I think this is a bucket of rainwater. I hope it’s not piss. I dug the dust and the dead bugs and the sun reflection in the bucket.  Like god within the lowliest elements of the world.

Nick’s wiring is a little like what you see in photos of third world countries. That cool ball is, I think, originally for brewing tea, and I’m not sure why it’s there now, although it looks great. Nick has a theory that at some point we’ll be able to apply quantum effects to our mind—I wrote about this idea in my last novel, The Big Aha, a great work, although curiously neglected by the public at large (as I so often end up saying about my books). So maybe those wires and that ball make Nick’s porch into a macro-quantum-effect platform.

For some other unkown reason Nick has three branches tied into the shape of a triangle in the air. A “feral triangle” I termed it to a friend, and he warned, “they’re vicious when cornered.”

I love reflections like this. A familiar photographic trope…I think the mirror suggests the idea of introspection and the notion of some skewed alternate reality which perhaps we inhabit. Re. Nick’d ideas about quantum consciousness, here’s a great essay by himcalled Holistic Physics – Or – An Introduction to Quantum Tantra. I drew on this essay a lot for my (did I already say curiously neglected?) novel The Big Aha.

When I visit a place with a lot of clutter, I like to take my camera and carve out little compositions. Always a good trove at Nick’s.

I wanted to talk to him about the unny tunnels a.k.a. Einstein-Rosen bridges a.k.a. wormholes that my characters travel through in my novel Million Mile Road Trip. But we never quite got into that. Didn’t matter. Good to have a day off.

Now back to a couple of earlier shots. A ceiling fan is always a fascinating theme. A symbol of divine grace? Breath from above.

This one’s near Aldo’s restaurant in Santa Cruz Harbor.  Love all the action.

Here I am with my nephew Embry Rucker III, who’s an extremely accomplished pro photographer. He has a great eye, and great timing. Helps you see. Little E always liked me when he was growing up…I was the off-beat uncle. He’d call me Uncle Dudley. Always great to see him. Passage of time.  I can’t believe Embry’s in his forties, and I’m a seventy-year-old man. Let’s go back to those old Christmas mornings and Thanksgiving dinners and vacations in Maine!

And here we are back in the hills of Los Gatos. Getting exercise for my healing leg. It’s just about summer.

SFMoma, SRL show, Cyclecide, Bagpipe and Flat Cow

Time for another blog post. I have a lot of photos that have piled up. Today I want to make it easy on myself, so I’ll just post the photos, recent ones first, older ones last, with some comments.

Today’s theme? ART!

Sylvia and I got into the newly renovated SF MOMA yesterday. They got a ton of modern works from the Gap owner, who also paid for the new galleries. A little bit of a vanity self-publishing aspect to this. “My collection is perfect, and I don’t want no stinkin’ curator messing with it!” Some good stuff in there, with a certain number of misfires. I mean, the guy was buying art every year, no matter what…and some things don’t hold up so well.

Here’s a couple of my fellow culture vultures with an Ellsworth Kelly painting. A bunch of paintings by him…they’re kind of satisfying. I don’t think they’d work at all if they weren’t so big.

I guess it goes without saying SF MOMA isn’t on a level with the treasure house that is the NY MOMA — despite some local boosters’ efforts to say otherwise. Floor area isn’t everything. But, hey, don’t ask too much, after all, SF is only a tenth as large of a city as NYC. And, make no mistake, the new SF MOMA really is a fun place to visit, and I don’t mean to dis it. More stuff than you can see in one day. I look forward to many trips there.

Saw a great Stella called “The Hunt: the Third Day,” … see the horse hooves on the lower right. Stella has done a million of the wall assemblages, but this a particularly nice one.

I really liked John Chamberlain sculpture made from a squashed washing machine biting a car bumper. I told my brother-in-law I’d pay $100K for it, if I were richer, and he said that to buy that sculpture he’d need to have $60M in the bank…and be drunk. But I feel he’s mistaken. It’s not so easy to bend and crumple a washing machine so that it looks like art. The frozen torque, mon ami.

When Sylvia and I wandered down the 2nd floor galleries wondering what was there, we were surprised to find the museum’s old collection…I had forgotten about that in the hullaballoo of the new Gap-load. Good to see some old pals here. Fabulous surreal painting by Diego Rivera, called “Symbolic Landscape,” inspired by a woman’s murder in Taxco — suggested by the woman’s glove, and the bloody dagger with a ring at the bottom — and dig how the peeled log “is” the woman. Such lush painting. Diego is king. Not enough of that in contemporary works, in my geezerly opinion.

I was happy to see they have Arneson’s “California Artist” on display, wearing shades whose lenses are holes revealing, oho, that he has an empty head, California artist that he is. I first saw this sculpture when we moved to California in 1986, and I was, like, yeah, I’m a California artist too. I just didn’t realize that before. It’s high time I got here. Solidarität!

“Riding the Flat Cow” acrylic and oil on canvas, April, 2016, 24” x 20”. Click for a larger version of the painting.

I’ve been painting a lot myself lately. Here’s “Riding the Flat Cow,” with my character Villy atop the back of a seemingly flat, or flattish cow, who is in fact a flying saucer and, more than that, is the general of the flying saucer rebel army and, more than that, is capable of travel into the four-dimensional “unspace” that separates our universe from the saucer-filled parallel universe in which it is in fact possible to do a Million Mile Road Trip in your car, assuming you have some really good tires and shocks.

I love the bagpipe in Hieronymus Bosch’s “Garden of Earthly Delights.” With what you might call a “Yay Bagpipes” flag near it. Cropping the image, I see a possible Boschian commentary, to the effect: “The sound of that frikkin bag is like a knife through my ears.”

The super boss villain in Million Mile Road Trip is a bagpipe the size of Mt. Everest. He’s about to touch down on the high-school building during graduation ceremony. Fortunately everyone is sitting on the lawn outside, just like at Los Gatos High every spring. Unfortunately giant jellyfish-like saucers will be dragging their edges across the lawn, eating people. Fortunately, Villy and the Flat Cow are going to get rid of the giant bagpipe. Unfortunately the book is almost done. Fortunately I’ll be able to stop writing.

Thinking about a device in a container, I noticed this little tableau near Aldo’s restaurant in the Santa Cruz Harbor. Love how lively that ensemble of red fire pipes looks.

I always get some good photos when I’m at my son Rudy Jr.’s house or with him and his friends. What is more beautiful than a faded yellow plastic ball with the sun shining on it?

The legendary Marc Pauline and his machine art group SRL (Survival Research Lab) were putting on a surprise show in San Francisco when we were up there a couple of weeks ago. And Rudy’s rabid bicycle art group Cyclecide, a.k.a. Bike Rodeo where helping to set the show up. Here we see some of the Cycleciders assembling an SRL Tesla coil for creating giant sparks.

All sorts of great photos to be found in the Bike Rodeo’s workspace/living space down near the bay. A bag of hammers saying “HAMMERS”…so great.

Jericho, one of the main forces behind Cyclecide, has never seen a bike he didn’t like, not a bike that he didn’t wish to liberate and to reform to revolutionary standards.

Of course you have a steering wheel on the floor.

And a meaty noose with a poster of a Pullman porter.

A tin roof with chains and block and tackle.

A head-mask monster and a hipster.

“Funland,” a word to conjure with. Fading memories of amusement park arcades…

If it’s green enough, a bulb horn doesn’t even need to honk.

Such a great assemblage on this wall. Like…why do I go into museums?

Across the street, a whole Corvette incorporated into a body shop’s sign. Wonderful.

Here’s me, still on my effing crutches for the cracked femur, with some of the Bike Rodeo characters: Big Daddy, Violet Blue, Katie Bell, and John Law.

And that night we saw SRL in action. Some robots here attacking innocent dummies.

For the last twenty years or so the San Francisco fire marshal refused to give SRL another license for a show. This might have had something to do with an epic 1988 or so show with a stack of three burning grand pianos being attacked by a back-hoe under an elevated freeway leading to the Bay Bridge. With chunks of “front line demolition” explosive cubes with fuses scattered about. In any case, the old fire marshal has retired, and the new one was like, “SRL? Who? An art show? Sure.”

And here’s a “claw” that Marc Pauline’s been working on of late. Facing down that sparking Tesla coil.

What does “Bob” Dobbs have to do with anything anymore? Well, I did run into a fellow SubGenius named Philo Drummond at the show. This is a processed image I made of “Bob” using the software CA Lab about thirty years ago. You can get that ware free online. (And good luck getting it to run.) We had to change it’s name to CelLab because some humorless greedy pinheads at a company called Computer Associates claimed they “own” the initials “CA.”

Anyway, back at Rudy Jr.’s now-former apartment, here’s a nice touch of California spring. I like the weathered peeling San Francisco paint, in a pastel shade of course, and the untended garden.

These are the bad ass wheels of my grandson Calder.

I don’t remember where I took this photo. Who do I know who has a stack of four snow tires in their kitchen? Obviously I don’t go there often enough. Reminds me of our old days in upstate New York.

As my leg/hip gets better, I’m going out more. I went to Santa Cruz with my professor pal Jon Pearce. Classic picnic table on wharf here. Blustery spring day.

Look at these three seals. Part of a whole “raft” of them floating off the wharf, on their backs holding up flippers to warm them in the air. I like how these three are in a triangular pattern. The graces, the muses, singing out to me the ending for my novel:

“Have a giant bagpipe attacking from the fourth dimension with a big cloud of flying saucers.”

Oh, of course. Duh!

Pokes from the Muse

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?

David Hartwell (1941-2016)

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.


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