Archive for the ‘Rudy’s Blog’ Category

Miami & Key West

It’s been about six weeks since my last post. With Return to the Hollow Earth published, I’m kind of drifting. I did two new paintings last month, we had Thanksgiving here, and before that I did a trip to Miami and Key West. I’ll start with the paintings, then do Santa Cruz, then Miami, and then Key West. Going backwards in time, more or less.

“Dot the Eye” oil on canvas, October, 2018, 30” x 24”. Click for a larger version of the painting.

Here I just wanted to paint, with no content. I went for a puzzle grid of rectangles with scumbled messy colors in each one. I put a squiggle in most of the boxes, kind of like Sanskrit or, more fancifully, like High Martian. If I didn’t like a squiggle, I rubbed it off, leaving colorful debris, and then I’d do a new squiggle. I called the painting Dot the Eye because I put a pupil in that small white patch. What does the painting mean? Well, can’t you read High Martian? It says “I like squiggles and colors.”

“My Flag” oil on canvas, November, 2018, 30” x 24”. Click for a larger version of the painting.

This was a follow-up to “Dot The Eye.” I took the grid pattern from “Dot the Eye” and flipped it over. So “My Flag” is kind of a mirror image. I painted it on Election Day, thus the title. Regarding the imagery, this time I was using really thick and heavy amounts of paint, extreme impasto, and I held myself back from smoothing the paint over. I deliberately left it rough, and with the colors not mixed within each rectangle, leaving a spontaneous ab-ex paint pattern in place.

Okay, now let’s move on to Santa Cruz, Miami, and Key West!

Rudy Jr. Georgia, and their families were here for Thanksgiving. A big time. We went down to Cruz on the rainy day after Thanksgiving, it was soft and mellow in the damp air. Some nice big logs on the beach.

Rudy Jr. and I rolled a log stub down to the edge of the surf, and the five grandkids stood on it. What a sight. I’m lucky.

Here’s Grandpa.

We stopped by the tiny Surfing Museum in the little lighthouse on the point by Steamers Lane. There’s a particular handboard there that intrigues me, I’ve looked at it many time. The one writing project I’ve been into of late is a story called “Surfers at the End of Time,” which I’m writing with my old partner in gnarl, Marc Laidlaw, who currently resides by the beach in Kauai. We wanted to our characters Zep and Del to be able to surf through time (whatever the eff that means, but never mind, it’s science fiction). And I fixated on this particular teardrop-like handboard. It’s a time machine!

We’re so happy for rainy days in California just now. The first rain since last year.

Here’s the Vizcaya mansion in Miami. Love the light. Why were we in Miami?

Well, Sylvia and I flew to Florida for the Miami Book Fair. A random invite, via my 4D scholar friend Christopher White, author of Other Worlds, about 4D space and the spiritual impulse.

I presented about Return to the Hollow Earth. Underwhleming. I’d prepared slides, but didn’t have a really smooth talk, and I only had ten or fifteen minutes to talk in. I did manage to get a few laughs. Sadly, the fair organizers had failed to get any of my Return to the Hollow Earth books to sell on the spot. But I handed out bookmarks with the the URL for the book’s page. I’ll podcast the talk later this week.

As I was saying, one of the sights S & I checked out was this Italianate mansion Vizcaya by Coconut Grove, south of Miami. Great garden. This particular spot here, with the boxy shrubs, I’d like to be buried there. With alligators and technicolor lizards nosing up my remains. But not yet. Who knows, I may yet sell some books.

The guy who built this mansion was a lifelong bachelor called Deere—of harvesting machine fame. Kind of a Citizen Kane routine, get a bunch of European stuff and load on the class! He had a stone gondola installed at his waterfront, I guess you could lounge on it while bathing, really cool. Dig the striped poles, just like in Venice.

The Miami Book Fair organized a party for the authors at this super deluxe spot called the Standard Spa Hotel, across the bay from Miami on the island that is Miami Beach. It felt a scene in Antonioni’s movies “La Notte” or “L’Eclisse”. S & I haven’t been to nearly enough parties like this in our lives.

We never could seem to find an SF Union Square type or an NYC Fifth Avenue type “downtown” in Miami. Did catch a good meal and some music in Little Havana. And Miami is a great graffiti town. This pumpkin appeared in lots of places. Hard to see the detail here, but it’s kind of about to eat a cop who’s giving a ticket beneath the Miami Sun Hotel.

We wandered into a Cuban diner and I had a very good “Cuban sandwich,” which includes pork and ham. Culinary genius. I like the dead, small city look of the street outside. Reminds me of Louisville in the 50s & 60s.

They blast up or quarry out “coral stone,” maybe from blocks by the beach. With these designs that we biomimetic computer graphics types called Turing patterns. Activator inhibitor algorithms. Nice to see some out there in the world “on the hoof.”

This is a cool illusion-type photo. It’s rotated 90 degrees, and what it “really” is a graffiti design over some stairs, reflected in a puddle. But when it’s rotated the stairs still look like stairs, which kind of hides the fact that its rotated, but then the reflection part looks like…whoah!

We checked out the Design District area of Miami, kind of a Rodeo Drive thing, with boring ultra deluxe standard brand stores. But the architecture was very cool. The best thing was parking garage for the Institute for Contemporary Art museum, four stories high, covered with something like a Jim Woodring mural, made of embossed 3D parts, heavy pasted-on glyphs, and with huge rococo pillars at the bottom—not exactly pillars, more like the figures on ships. Insane. Very 22nd Century. I didn’t get a picture of it. The Institute for Contemporary Art itself didn’t have much in it. But in their garden I got a nice shot of the glass wall and the cloud-live sky.

Professor Rucker, wobbly on his pins, happy with a giant mural of math, in a super-graffitistic neighborhood called Wynwood.

Crazy, crazy shit in Wynwood. These eyes, so wild with, like Arabic writing on them and the collapsed fence.

An dig this graffitized Senior Center. The old lady still kickin’ it, and the checks on her coat are…Cuban dancers. And her blouse is just spray can squiggles. I’ve never seen a graffiti this strong.

A special selection of the Wynwood graffiti are set off in an area called Wynwood Walls, kind of like a gallery, although deep down there’s a really violent self-contradiction in gallerizing graffiti. But, anyway, they had some good stuff. I like the *duh*-type whale wearing pants.

And this piece, a cross between Cthulhu and and elefump, I mean heffalump, I mean ole Jumbo. Reminded me of Charlie Stross’s new novel The Labyrinth Index which I was reading with huge enjoyment as an ebook in FLA. Stross actually has Cthulhu taking over the Republican party, and he’s not far wrong…

And here’s a whole effin building covered with the urban blight of graffiti. Mother far effin out.

Dawn over Miami Beach. SUCH lovely clouds in Florida, so big and meaty, towering up, big old anvils, the rain comes and goes, my heart skips a beat.

I flew out a little early and drove down to Key West on my own. I kept not finding a place to snorkel, so on my way back to Miami from Key West, I did a snorkel outing off Islamorada Key, the second big key down from the top. I paid a guy a couple of hundred bucks to boat me three miles out and essentially throw me overboard near a rusty, steel frame structure on a six foot deep shoal, the tower is called Alligator Lighthouse. Like a gangland hit, it was, being put in the water there. All that was missing was the cement overshoes.

I’d only wanted to go one mile out, to the Cheeca Rocks, but the water was turbid, so the boatman points out to this thing like a little oil derrick, or Eiffel Tower, on the horizon, and we plow out there. Saw stacks and stacks of fish, yaar. I was having trouble keeping it together in the water, as the sea was rough—three foot waves. I was ready to puke from the ride out, and my heart was pounding really hard…I kind of thought I might die. But it was worth it, in a somewhat sad and lonely way. By then I’d been in the Keys four days, and I was missing having Sylvia with me.

On the way out of Key West I stopped at this Episcopal church, kind of a cathedral, called Santa Maria maybe. The whole time in Key West, I’d been thinking about my father, who, when he was about sixty, left my mother and took off on a road trip with a woman and spent some time in Key West. He really liked it there. He was drinking a lot, and Key West is a drinkers’ town. I lit a candle for him here.

I myself don’t drink anymore, but I stopped in at the Green Parrot, one of the older bars in Key West, if not all of Florida. Such a companionable hubbub in there. Went wild and had a no-alcohol beer.

The Green Parrot is right by the end of Route 1, kind of an amazing thing. The road runs from Key West all the way up into Maine. And here’s the zero, with a red fire hydrant, and the lovely yellow light of night. Mellow.

The better known Key West bar is Sloppy Joe’s a place my Pop liked a lot. And so did Ernest Hemingway. When Pop was there he’d grown a white beard like Hem’s, although sometimes people would compare Pop to Kenny Rogers, but he liked that too. Had an 8-track stereo in his on-the-road Cadillac, and, like two tapes, and one of them was Kenny’s hits.

There’s a wall of Hem memorabilia in Sloppy Joe’s, with a giant marlin and a photo of Hem with Castro and eeeeek a boxed shotgun, presaging our man’s sad demise.

I really admired Hemingway’s writing in high-school and even in college, although later, you know, his attitudes no longer rang true. Even so, he was a great stylist. I like that economy of phrasing thing. Classic example is the first page of his first novel, Farewell to Arms. A lot of later writers come out of that style, I often use it myself. Paring down, making the prose like haiku poetry.

There’s this big open spot Mallory Square in Key West, and poeple go there to see the sunset, with buskers and jugglers and a few cruise ships tied up. And out on the horizon, a pleasure-trip schooner plies its way back and forth, posing with the sun, quite lovely.

When you don’t see anything to photograph, you can take a picture of the faces on the ground. I think when I took this I was looking for my rental bike, which had disappeared, or been stolen, or I’d forgotten where I put it, somewhere near Sloppy Joe’s, and I have a sore leg these days and hated to have to walk all the way back to my hotel via “shanks mare” as some call walking. I never did find it, but the rental guys are used to that, befuddled tourists a plenty, and found it within an hour while I lounged by the tiny pool of my nice hotel, staring up at the fading sky.

Egrets all over Key West. At first I didn’t get what this guy was doing, but then I realized he was waiting for a lizard to crawl along. That beak! Dart! You meet your doom!

Just wanted to photograph clouds all the time down there…

The peak relaxation moment of my Key West visit was when I still had my rental bike, and I stopped in at a random cafe by the beach at the south end. The beaches themselves not super inviting…no coral and no fish, the sand very fine, the weather not quite warm enough to swim, and the sun just insanely strong, like sunlight on the Moon, drilling down into me with those ultraviolet rays, and I’d lost my sunglasses right before the trip, but at least I had a brimmy hat.

Anyway stopped in this cafe and had an ice tea, sitting at a table inside, with a guy my age doing maitre’d to let people go through the inside and onto a relatively chic patio. He said I could sit where I was as long as I wanted, we were twins, basically, 70ish men killing time in Hawaiian shirts. Looking out the door I saw a very animated little dog. This isn’t the real photo I took of him—I took the real photo in my head before I got my camera up to my face—but this one will do.

Liked this shot of the busboy out through the window too. Nobody rushing too hard in Key West.

And nearby was the tip-ass southmost point of the continental US. Like this condo and that amazing wavy-trunk palm, and always the CLOUDS.

Self portrait as a rotated pig on a grill.

Always so glad to see my friend the banyan tree. Grow up grow down grow all around. This was right by the Key West Lighthouse which was right by…

Hemingway’s house! Hem’s office very inviting, the nice chair and lounge chair. He’d knock off for the day once he’d written about 700 words. Then off to Sloppy Joe’s! Or maybe go out deep sea fishing. He lived in Key West about seven years. It was fun looking at his stuff.

The main drag of Key West is kind of blah, although varied, with tourist shops, eateries, drag bars, rave bars, and this eye-catching post-Halloween display in the CVS drugstore window.

Driving down to Key West from Miami took longer than I expected. This one tiny place I stopped at, Conch Key, really appealed to me. Five pilings in the water, and a pelican sitting on each, with various poses. Liked this guy the best.

Most of the houses on Conch Key were trailers. End of the line. Complete silence. Reminded me of the Turks and Caicos Islands where brother Embry used to live.

When I few into Miami, it was too late to drive all the way down the keys, so I spent the first night on Key Largo. I had fairly terrible but nonetheless exciting and memorable breakfast at the Café Cubano there.

And now, eeek! It’s back to the prison camp of the Silicon Valley yuppies!

And the home of sage among sages, Nick Herbert. I had a funny conversation with Nick before Thanksgiving. I was feeling a little bummed when I got to his house, and I had this classic koan-type exchange with him.

Rudy: “I wish I could stop being an effing asshole.”
Nick: “What would happen then? What would be different?”
Rudy: (pause) “Nothing.”
Nick: (laughs for a long time)

And in that moment, the monk received enlightenment.

The Old Writer Scheming. Nature & Art.

I’ve been at loose ends for a month or two. In the moonlight.

As I mentioned earlier, I published The Hollow Earth & Return to the Hollow Earth , and sent the reward copies to my Kickstarter backers, also some copies to reviewers. My old Tor Books publicist Patty Garcia is helping with this. So far, no responses. Discouraged. I mean—Return is a great book!

That old writer’s comfort: “I’ll be famous when I’m dead” isn’t working for me anymore. But I write on anyway. I like doing it or, put more starkly, I don’t know what else to do. It feels good to exercise my practiced skills. And I forget myself when I’m writing. And I do get some rewards. Never enough, but some.

But these days I’m not quite ready to get back into a canoe and paddle across an ocean again.

Sylvia and I went hiking near Carson Pass in the Sierras last week. Check out this gnarly tree. I mean, this is the gold standard meter of gnarl, no? It kind of looks like an eye on the left, and that branch on the right is kind of like an elefump trunk. Sculpted by the Sierran winds, roots twined sturdily to the schist of granite.

It feels so good to plug fully into nature. Always the same. Heedless of our human wheenks. Someone inevitably pipes up: “But won’t we ruin nature with our pollution etc?” Not in the long term. If we screw things up badly enough, all of us will die, and nature will still be there. Healing adapting advancing across the millennia.

We have trouble grasping the scale of deep time. A few years ago, Sylvia and I visited the Fossil Butte National Monument in southwestern Wyoming. The place isn’t much to look at, just desert with some low hills and a visitor center, although the center has some great fossils. Lots of fish, of all things to find here in this arid spot.

But the thing I want to get at is that along the winding mile-long road into the visitor center, the canny park poeple have erected signs with names of geologic eras like Mesozoic Era and Age of Wheenk and Stegographene Period. And the road is leading you forward in time across some millions of years, and at the very end, the timeline dwindles down to markings along a wood railing around the visitor’s center, and the last effin’ inch of the line that has our recorded history in it, and we humans strut onto stage in, like the final sixteenth inch of all. Strut and preen. “We’re the masters, and its up to us whether Nature continues.” “Sure, dude. Go ahead and think that.”

“The Tyrant’s Wife” oil on canvas, October, 2018, 40” x 30”. Click for a larger version of the painting.

Speaking of the occasional hideousity of humanity, many of us were stunned by our day of watching the Kavanaugh hearings. Wanting to transmute this dross into art, I did a painting of it. I used oils for a change, which are messier, and give a dirtier, grungier look, with lots of impasto, and allow for an ab-ex (that’s abstract-expressionist, friend) look in the details. And overall it’s plain old 1930s expressionist in terms of embodying the suffering artist’s bleating wheenk. A cri de coeur.

It was a hard painting to do. As the news cycles rolled by, I went for making it a bit more general, a bit less shituation-specific. And I began to realize that, in a sense, the wife was the center. I had a lot of trouble with the faces—I did some of them 4 or 5 or 7 times.

Every now and then I feel a bit hampered by the fact that, strictly speaking, I can’t really draw. But as guys like me say, “Well, you’ve got cameras if you want a photo. It’s more important to have something say.” Actually sometimes I don’t even have anything to say. I just want to play with paint. So wonderfully non digital.

Look at the way this tree has a toe. Isn’t that great?

And how about this log that’s a squid, I mean, see the eye and the tentacles? I read that if you take an overdose of the benzo drug Ativan, things begin looking like they’re alive. Hylozoism in a pill, eh. But you don’t need the pill, do you. You just have to pay attention.

But writing about a guy who takes drugs might be fun for me. Escape literature. A virtual high. Gives the story some color. A glaze. I’m thinking about a character who’s an assassin, a “good assassin,” tasked with taking down an evil tyrant. Seen any of those lately?

Coming back from the Sierras into the traffic on 580 was brutal. Dig the sun on this rolling death box. Great shot.

The otherworldly quality of the jam, with the hells-gate windmill guardians. Like a Bosch scene of Hell.

And the luminous fantasy of the missed exit to Peace. Thing is, if a you’re in a bum scene, and you’re getting good photos of it, then you’re, um, happy, right? Art redeems all.

Here’s me with Bruce Sterling at the “secret” Google X lab a week ago. Always energizing to hear Bruce, and to bathe in the flow of his words. That slightly sarcastic tone he always has, and the wealth of historical and modern data points, and the fastidious self-aggrandizing. More than a match for my patented and copyrighted line of bullshit. Our joint story collection Transreal Cyberpunk is a supreme masterpiece, although this slim, astute volume remains, oddly and vexingly, all but unknown. It’ll be famous when we’re dead, okay?

So, inching towards another foray into writing, I’m thinking of an old man who risks all to assassinate an evil dictator, a tyrant like our worst dreams of a certain type of guy reaching a full, Hitlerian. Not yet sure about the characters’ names. It’s set in a mix between near future and 22nd C.

The hard thing about assassinating the tyrant is that you need to kill him, not only in our physical world, but in the cloud. Heavy backup for the zottarich pigopolists, you understand. Kind of like how it wasn’t enough to kill the Terminator just once.

But I want it to be, in some dry sense, funny. That’s where I get the angle of having the old assassin taking some odd drugs. Reality Clipping. High Vibrance. I thought of Milgrim who was on Ativan in Gibson’s Spook Country. Or of the “old writer” in Burroughs’s The Western Lands. And, especially, of Elmore Leonard’s characters. It doesn’t absolutely have to be chemical drugs my guy is taking. Software highs are cool too. Like make the world seem to run twice as fast or a hundred times slower. I’m working up some bogus tech in my “secret” Rucker X lab.

As I’ve already mentioned in this blog, I did a painting called The Red Saucer last month. Things I never stop thinking about: infinity, the fourth dimension, flying saucers, hylozoism, uploading your mind into some other form.

Might my next novel include flying saucers? Well, maybe, but maybe they’re really small. Rizing up from the subdimensions. Or maybe they’re peripherals, that is, gnostic “gnoses” being “driven” by minds in the biotech-based cloud. The people in that cloud can sense what’s on Earth, and they can use their meaty little saucers for effectors. They’re embodied.

To make it sweeter, I’ll take another arrow from Gibson’s quiver—the minds and the sensor/effectors might be in different temporal locations. Thanks to the cross-time communication channel of subdimensional subquantum wheenk.

All this is “breaking news” to me. I’m making it up as I type. And here’s a premonitional painting I did of some of the people involved.

“People of the Red Saucer” oil on canvas, September, 2018, 24” x 30”. Click for a larger version of the painting.

Early in 2018, Sylvia and I stayed at a hotel on 26th Street in Manhattan, near an imposing armory. I’d meant to paint that building, and then I did, using the leftover oil paint on my palette from The Red Saucer .

Drawing in perspective isn’t that hard, but it does take mental focus. I mean, I don’t always want to be a cartoony expressionist. And I liked putting scenes in those windows…I’ve always admired Wayne Thiebaud’s window-scenes, which are calligraphic and abstract.

So these people are connected with that red saucer I painted. So I put images of a red saucer on the posters, and the letters from the phrase “SAUCER PEOPLE,” writing some of the letters backwards or upside-down to make it seem higher-dimensional. And while I was at it, I signed my name backwards. Is that guy in the middle flying, or is he sitting on a girder? Time will tell.

A Sherlock Holmes Sampler

I’ve been working my way through all of the Sherlock Holmes novels and stories over the last month. I love Holmes and Watson. Holmes’s deprecating remarks to Watson. His way of disguising himself so that Watson doesn’t recognize him. His haughtiness. His neurotic spells. The British usages, and the country scenes, and the class system. The dialog, and the dialect. Such fun, so comfortable, and a pleasant escape from our tense 21st C USA.

As described in the Wikipedia entry for Sherlock Holmes, the so-called Holmes Canon of works includes four novels, four story collections, and an isolated story. In chronological order they are:

• A Study in Scarlet (Novel) 1887
• The Sign of the Four (Novel) 1890
• The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (Stories) 1891–1892
• The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes (Stories) 1892–1893
• The Hound of the Baskervilles (Serialized Novel) 1901–1902
• The Return of Sherlock Holmes (Stories) 1903–1904
• The Valley of Fear (Serialized Novel) 1914–1915
• “His Last Bow” (Spy story that was published with a volume of reprint stories) 1917
• The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes (Stories) 1921–1927)

My favorites are The Sign of the Four (that’s the one where Holmes is famously shooting up cocaine, but the key thing is that the story and characters are great in this one), and the story collections. Holmes supposedly dies at the end of the last story in The Memoirs, but he reappears in the first story of The Return. The intermediary The Hound of the Baskervilles is set before Holmes’s supposed death.

At this point, I’m near the end of the The Return of Sherlock Holmes, and I haven’t even gotten into the Case-Book yet. I’m glad I still have some Holmes left.

The edition I’ve been reading is Sherlock Holmes: The Complete Collection (Including all 9 books in Sherlock Holmes series), by Arthur Conan Doyle, Hatman’s Books. $0.99 on Kindle. I should caution that this cheap edition fails to include the occasional maps or diagrams that appear in the stories.

As I read, I’ve been highlighting passages that I find amusing or memorable. A nice feature of the Kindle is that it’ll send you a list of the passages you’ve highlighted, although I don’t think my ebook is laid out in the correct canonical order. Anyway, I’m reprinting a more or less consecutive series of Holmes quotes, without bothering to comment on them—they speak for themselves. And I put in the the novel or story titles.

Although I read The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes with relish, I neglected to highlight any passages in that collection…the highlighting was an idea I only had later on. But maybe, as time goes by, I’ll add a few more Holmes quotes from time to time.

If you want to locate the full passage corresponding to one of my excerpts, you can open a very nice online complete edition of the Holmes Canon , assembled by the worthy Christoph Ender, a software engineer in Husum, Germany. Note that Ender also provides ebook versions.

On Ender’s vast and capacious page, you can do a webpage Find words to find a given passage by typing a few words of the passage into a webpage Find box. To open a web page Find box, press Ctrl+f or Apple+f on the page, or go to the browser menu and select Find.

Ender’s page includes the drawings that are missing from my Kindle edition, although his online HTML version and his ebooks lack the final volume of Holmes stories, The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes, as this volume is not yet in the publich domain, due to some grasping lawyers’ pettifoggery.

As I so often do, I’m going to fold in a completely irrelevant series of photos from my recent stash, with th expectation that the Surrealist Muse of Randomicity will, as always, provide hidden connections and entanglements among the quotes and the images. And take the Location numbers as surreal mileposts, if you will.

A Study in Scarlet

Holmes is a little too scientific for my tastes—it approaches to cold-bloodedness. I could imagine his giving a friend a little pinch of the latest vegetable alkaloid, not out of malevolence, you understand, but simply out of a spirit of inquiry in order to have an accurate idea of the effects. To do him justice, I think that he would take it himself with the same readiness.

The Sign of the Four

Sherlock Holmes took his bottle from the corner of the mantel-piece and his hypodermic syringe from its neat morocco case. With his long, white, nervous fingers he adjusted the delicate needle, and rolled back his left shirt-cuff. For some little time his eyes rested thoughtfully upon the sinewy forearm and wrist all dotted and scarred with innumerable puncture-marks. Finally he thrust the sharp point home, pressed down the tiny piston, and sank back into the velvet-lined arm-chair with a long sigh of satisfaction.

The Sign of the Four

He did not seem offended. On the contrary, he put his finger-tips together and leaned his elbows on the arms of his chair, like one who has a relish for conversation.

“My mind,” he said, “rebels at stagnation. Give me problems, give me work, give me the most abstruse cryptogram or the most intricate analysis, and I am in my own proper atmosphere. I can dispense then with artificial stimulants. But I abhor the dull routine of existence. I crave for mental exaltation.

The Sign of the Four

“I trust that you have no objection to tobacco-smoke, to the mild balsamic odor of the Eastern tobacco. I am a little nervous, and I find my hookah an invaluable sedative.”

The Sign of the Four

“This is all an insoluble mystery to me,” said I. “It grows darker instead of clearer.”

“On the contrary,” he answered, “it clears every instant. I only require a few missing links to have an entirely connected case.”

The Sign of the Four

He whipped out his lens and a tape measure, and hurried about the room on his knees, measuring, comparing, examining, with his long thin nose only a few inches from the planks, and his beady eyes gleaming and deep-set like those of a bird. So swift, silent, and furtive were his movements, like those of a trained blood-hound picking out a scent, that I could not but think what a terrible criminal he would have made had he turned his energy and sagacity against the law, instead of exerting them in its defense. As he hunted about, he kept muttering to himself, and finally he broke out into a loud crow of delight.

The Sign of the Four

I followed him some distance, but he subsided into an ale-house:

The Sign of the Four

“See how the folk swarm over yonder in the gaslight.”

“They are coming from work in the yard.”

“Dirty-looking rascals, but I suppose every one has some little immortal spark concealed about him. You would not think it, to look at them. There is no a priori probability about it. A strange enigma is man!”

“Some one calls him a soul concealed in an animal,” I suggested.

The Sign of the Four

“The division seems rather unfair,” I remarked. “You have done all the work in this business. I get a wife out of it, Jones gets the credit, pray what remains for you?”

“For me,” said Sherlock Holmes, “there still remains the cocaine-bottle.” And he stretched his long white hand up for it.

The Hound of the Baskervilles

“Would you have any objection to my running my finger along your parietal fissure? A cast of your skull, sir, until the original is available, would be an ornament to any anthropological museum. It is not my intention to be fulsome, but I confess that I covet your skull.”

The Hound of the Baskervilles
A short walk brought us to it, a bleak moorland house, once the farm of some grazier in the old prosperous days, but now put into repair and turned into a modern dwelling. An orchard surrounded it, but the trees, as is usual upon the moor, were stunted and nipped, and the effect of the whole place was mean and melancholy.

The Hound of the Baskervilles
Dr. Mortimer lunched with us. He has been excavating a barrow at Long Down and has got a prehistoric skull which fills him with great joy.

The Hound of the Baskervilles
He stopped suddenly and stared fixedly up over my head into the air. The lamp beat upon his face, and so intent was it and so still that it might have been that of a clear-cut classical statue, a personification of alertness and expectation.

The Hound of the Baskervilles
The path zigzagged from tuft to tuft of rushes among those green-scummed pits and foul quagmires which barred the way to the stranger. Rank reeds and lush, slimy water-plants sent an odour of decay and a heavy miasmatic vapour onto our faces, while a false step plunged us more than once thigh-deep into the dark, quivering mire, which shook for yards in soft undulations around our feet. Its tenacious grip plucked at our heels as we walked, and when we sank into it was as if some malignant hand was tugging us down into those obscene depths, so grim and purposeful was the clutch in which it held us.

The Valley of Fear
“You have heard me speak of Professor Moriarty?”

“The famous scientific criminal, as famous among crooks as—”

“My blushes, Watson!” Holmes murmured in a deprecating voice.

“I was about to say, as he is unknown to the public.”

“A touch! A distinct touch!” cried Holmes. “You are developing a certain unexpected vein of pawky humour, Watson, against which I must learn to guard myself.

The Valley of Fear
“Is he not the celebrated author of The Dynamics of an Asteroid?”

The Valley of Fear
“Your native shrewdness, my dear Watson, that innate cunning which is the delight of your friends, would surely prevent you from inclosing cipher and message in the same envelope.”

The Valley of Fear
“The old wheel turns, and the same spoke comes up.”

“The Stock Broker’s Clerk” in The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes

One morning in June, as I sat reading the British Medical Journal after breakfast, I heard a ring at the bell, followed by the high, somewhat strident tones of my old companion’s voice.

“The Adventure of the Cardboard Box” in The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes

Finding that Holmes was too absorbed for conversation, I had tossed aside the barren paper, and leaning back in my chair, I fell into a brown study.

“The Final Problem” in The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes

“Now I have come round to you, and on my way I was attacked by a rough with a bludgeon. I knocked him down, and the police have him in custody; but I can tell you with the most absolute confidence that no possible connection will ever be traced between the gentleman upon whose front teeth I have barked my knuckles and the retiring mathematical coach, who is, I dare say, working out problems upon a black-board ten miles away.”

“The Final Problem” in The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes

The torrent, swollen by the melting snow, plunges into a tremendous abyss, from which the spray rolls up like the smoke from a burning house. The shaft into which the river hurls itself is an immense chasm, lined by glistening coal-black rock, and narrowing into a creaming, boiling pit of incalculable depth, which brims over and shoots the stream onward over its jagged lip. The long sweep of green water roaring forever down, and the thick flickering curtain of spray hissing forever upward, turn a man giddy with their constant whirl and clamor. We stood near the edge peering down at the gleam of the breaking water far below us against the black rocks, and listening to the half-human shout which came booming up with the spray out of the abyss.

“The Adventure of the Empty House” in The Return of Sherlock Holmes

[Said Holmes:] “We tottered together upon the brink of the fall. I have some knowledge, however, of baritsu, or the Japanese system of wrestling, which has more than once been very useful to me. I slipped through his grip, and he with a horrible scream kicked madly for a few seconds, and clawed the air with both his hands. But for all his efforts he could not get his balance, and over he went.”

“The Adventure of the Solitary Cyclist” in The Return of Sherlock Holmes

“Oh, it may be a mere fancy of mine; but it had seemed to me sometimes that my employer, Mr. Carruthers, takes a great deal of interest in me. We are thrown rather together. I play his accompaniments in the evening. He has never said anything. He is a perfect gentleman. But a girl always knows.”

“The Adventure of the Priory School” in The Return of Sherlock Holmes

We have had some dramatic entrances and exits upon our small stage at Baker Street, but I cannot recollect anything more sudden and startling than the first appearance of Thorneycroft Huxtable, M.A., Ph.D., etc. His card, which seemed too small to carry the weight of his academic distinctions, preceded him by a few seconds, and then he entered himself—so large, so pompous, and so dignified that he was the very embodiment of self-possession and solidity. And yet his first action, when the door had closed behind him, was to stagger against the table, whence he slipped down upon the floor, and there was that majestic figure prostrate and insensible upon our bearskin hearth-rug.

“The Adventure of the Priory School” in The Return of Sherlock Holmes

The day was just breaking when I woke to find the long, thin form of Holmes by my bedside.

“The Adventure of Black Peter” in The Return of Sherlock Holmes

I got a shake when I put my head into that little house. It was droning like a harmonium with the flies and bluebottles, and the floor and walls were like a slaughter-house.

“The Adventure of the Six Napoleons” in The Return of Sherlock Holmes

The official received us with a very grave face and showed us into a sitting-room, where an exceedingly unkempt and agitated elderly man, clad in a flannel dressing-gown, was pacing up and down.

“The Adventure of the Six Napoleons” in The Return of Sherlock Holmes

Finally, he picked up his hunting-crop and struck Napoleon a sharp blow on the top of the head. The figure broke into fragments, and Holmes bent eagerly over the shattered remains. Next instant, with a loud shout of triumph he held up one splinter, in which a round, dark object was fixed like a plum in a pudding.

“Gentlemen,” he cried, “let me introduce you to the famous black pearl of the Borgias.”

Lestrade and I sat silent for a moment, and then, with a spontaneous impulse, we both broke at clapping, as at the well-wrought crisis of a play. A flush of colour sprang to Holmes’s pale cheeks, and he bowed to us like the master dramatist who receives the homage of his audience. It was at such moments that for an instant he ceased to be a reasoning machine, and betrayed his human love for admiration and applause. The same singularly proud and reserved nature which turned away with disdain from popular notoriety was capable of being moved to its depths by spontaneous wonder and praise from a friend.

“Yes, gentlemen,” said he, “It is the most famous pearl now existing in the world, and it has been my good fortune, by a connected chain of inductive reasoning, to trace it from the Prince of Colonna’s bedroom at the Dacre Hotel, where it was lost, to the interior of this, the last of the six busts of Napoleon which were manufactured by Gelder & Co., of Stepney.”

“The Adventure of the Three Students” in The Return of Sherlock Holmes

“I am very busy just now, and I desire no distractions,” my friend answered. “I should much prefer that you called in the aid of the police.”

“The Adventure of the Three Students” in The Return of Sherlock Holmes

“I shall be happy to look into it and to give you such advice as I can,” said Holmes, rising and putting on his overcoat. “The case is not entirely devoid of interest.”

“The Adventure of the Three Students” in The Return of Sherlock Holmes

“No, indeed,” said Holmes, heartily, springing to his feet. “Well, Soames, I think we have cleared your little problem up, and our breakfast awaits us at home. Come, Watson! As to you, sir, I trust that a bright future awaits you in Rhodesia.”

“The Adventure of the Golden Pince-Nez” in The Return of Sherlock Holmes

As I turn over the pages, I see my notes upon the repulsive story of the red leech and the terrible death of Crosby, the banker. Here also I find an account of the Addleton tragedy, and the singular contents of the ancient British barrow. The famous Smith-Mortimer succession case comes also within this period, and so does the tracking and arrest of Huret, the Boulevard assassin—an exploit which won for Holmes an autograph letter of thanks from the French President and the Order of the Legion of Honour.

“The Adventure of the Golden Pince-Nez” in The Return of Sherlock Holmes

It was a wild, tempestuous night, towards the close of November. Holmes and I sat together in silence all the evening, he engaged with a powerful lens deciphering the remains of the original inscription upon a palimpsest, I deep in a recent treatise upon surgery. Outside the wind howled down Baker Street, while the rain beat fiercely against the windows. It was strange there, in the very depths of the town, with ten miles of man’s handiwork on every side of us, to feel the iron grip of Nature, and to be conscious that to the huge elemental forces all London was no more than the molehills that dot the fields.

“The Adventure of the Golden Pince-Nez” in The Return of Sherlock Holmes

“Nothing was moved before I got there, and strict orders were given that no one should walk upon the paths leading to the house. It was a splendid chance of putting your theories into practice, Mr. Sherlock Holmes. There was really nothing wanting.”

“Except Mr. Sherlock Holmes,” said my companion, with a somewhat bitter smile. “Well, let us hear about it. What sort of a job did you make of it?”

“The Adventure of the Missing Three-Quarter” in The Return of Sherlock Holmes

At that instant, to give point to his words, the carriage came round to the door.

“Could you not follow it?” [I asked.]

“Excellent, Watson! You are scintillating this evening. The idea did cross my mind. There is, as you may have observed, a bicycle shop next to our inn. Into this I rushed, engaged a bicycle.”

“The Adventure of the Abbey Grange” in The Return of Sherlock Holmes

It was on a bitterly cold and frosty morning, towards the end of the winter of ’97, that I was awakened by a tugging at my shoulder. It was Holmes. The candle in his hand shone upon his eager, stooping face, and told me at a glance that something was amiss.

“Come, Watson, come!” he cried. “The game is afoot. Not a word! Into your clothes and come!”

Ten minutes later we were both in a cab, and rattling through the silent streets on our way to Charing Cross Station. The first faint winter’s dawn was beginning to appear, and we could dimly see the occasional figure of an early workman as he passed us, blurred and indistinct in the opalescent London reek.

“The Adventure of the Abbey Grange” in The Return of Sherlock Holmes

“I must admit, Watson, that you have some power of selection, which atones for much which I deplore in your narratives. Your fatal habit of looking at everything from the point of view of a story instead of as a scientific exercise has ruined what might have been an instructive and even classical series of demonstrations. You slur over work of the utmost finesse and delicacy, in order to dwell upon sensational details which may excite, but cannot possibly instruct, the reader.”

“Why do you not write them yourself?” I said, with some bitterness.

Madison, California Zephyr Train, Ed Note for “Return to the Hollow Earth”

Editor’s Note to Return to the Hollow Earth

[This is my note to my Mason Reynolds novel, Return to the Hollow Earth. I’ve illustrated the post with some photos taken during a visit with our daughter Georgia and her husband Courtney in Madison, Wisconsin, and then a train trip from Chicago to Denver and onward to Oakland, California.]

In 1990, I edited Mason Reynolds’s 1850 manuscript, The Hollow Earth, and I saw it into publication. The Hollow Earth ends with Mason and his wife Seela setting off for California aboard a clipper ship, the Purple Whale. Newspaper records of the time report that the Purple Whale sank off Cape Horn with no survivors.

For years I’ve wondered if Mason and Seela might somehow have made their way to California anyway—and whether they ever revisited the Hollow Earth.

In 2006, one of my woman readers emailed me that, while on a dive trip to Fiji, she’d spent a passionate night with a man named Alan Poague, who showed her an unfinished manuscript attributed to Mason Reynolds and entitled Return to the Hollow Earth.

By way of researching this, my wife and I took a cruise on a liveaboard dive boat in Fiji—great fun. In a village on one of the smaller islands, I met this Alan Poague, a Californian who’d gone native in the islands. A raffish and engaging man, he played a steel guitar in the lounge of an inn that catered to divers and surfers. I told him my story, and he readily showed me the manuscript pages that he’d shown the woman diver who’d emailed me.

Poague said he was familiar with my edition of The Hollow Earth, and that his manuscript was by Mason Reynolds as well. How so? Supposedly the words had come to Poague in a kava trance, that is, in a waking dream brought on by an intoxicating local plant. He’d typed the text without really having to think about it. He’d produced eleven pages this way, and then the flow had stopped, or he’d gotten distracted—and he’d moved onto other projects. He was now assembling a diving guidebook for the Great Astrolabe Reef. And he dreamed of writing a New Age work based on his notions of the thought-processes of the woomo. I made a copy of Poague’s eleven pages and we returned home.

Ten years later, in April, 2017. I began having lucid dreams involving the Hollow Earth—in particular I was sensing the mind of the giant woomo whom Mason called Uxa. Uxa was extending her tendrils from the core, worming them through volcanic vents and ocean-floor holes. Upon reaching me, Uxa’s fronds wrapped my body in a net of pale gold. Using this connection, the Great Old One was speaking to me—not in words nor in images, but via certain physical sensations. She was making my fingers twitch.

I had no writing project that April. Sitting at my computer keyboard one morning, I turned my thoughts to my dreams of Uxa. As I thought of her, my fingers began to move. Suddenly I realized that Uxa wanted me to type the second narrative of Mason Reynolds.

I knew this in the same non-verbal way that I might know the workings of a mathematical proof. Mason had written Return to the Hollow Earth in his head, Uxa had read his mind, and now she was using me to put Mason’s words to paper. She’d tried earlier to use Alan Poague of Fiji for her scribe, but he hadn’t had the patience. But now, with me already having edited The Hollow Earth, Uxa had found someone who would see the project through.

Smiling to myself, I unleashed my fingers and let the story flow. As my tekelili connection to Uxa sharpened, I began mentally hearing the words I wrote, and inwardly seeing the scenes I described.

The strange, intense transmission lasted several hours, and when I was done, I’d typed the first six pages of Return to the Hollow Earth. The next day I typed five more. I compared what I had to my copy of the Alan Poague manuscript. The two texts were word for word the same.

For a week nothing more came. I lost hope. Perhaps I’d unwittingly memorized Poague’s manuscript and had merely retyped it. Perhaps there was no Uxa. Perhaps I was a doddering, self-deluded, borderline-senile old man. A writer at the end of his rope.

But then, bam, Uxa linked into me for three days in a row—and I was well into the second chapter. My joy mounted, and in the coming months my confidence steadily grow. I didn’t like telling my wife or my friends exactly what I was up to. I just said I was working on a sequel to The Hollow Earth, and that I had no outline at all, and that I was depending entirely on the muse. My scribing continued, off and on, for nearly a year. Nobody paid me much mind. Writing is what I do.

On March 24, 2018, things got stranger. According to what I was transcribing in the pages of Return to the Hollow Earth, Mason had arrived that day in Big Sur! No longer was he a fictional or a historical figure. He was here and now, just down the coast from my Los Gatos home. A day later, I found myself typing that Mason and his family had moved in with four undocumented Latinos in the Beach Flats neighborhood of Santa Cruz. Should I go and meet him? I didn’t quite dare.

How had Mason jumped so far forward in time? I had only to study the pages I’d written. Mason had spent over a hundred and sixty seven years stranded with the woomo Uxa in the slow time zone at the Hollow Earth’s core. Evidently it was near the end of that stay when Uxa began using her tekelili to send out Mason’s narrative for transcription. First she’d tried it with Alan Poague, and then she’d turned to me. And then Mason had escaped the slow time zone and he’d ridden to Big Sur in a live flying saucer made of two veem. And, now, even with Mason so far away from the Earth’s core, Uxa was still picking up his mental narrative—and transmitting the updates to me.

On March 28, 2018, I found myself writing that Mason had sold an article to a Santa Cruz newspaper called Good Times, and that his article was appearing that day. I’d been leery of seeking him out, but this pushed me over the edge. I got in my car and drove to the Good Times editorial office in Santa Cruz, and asked where I could find Mason Reynolds. A young woman told me to check the crumbling old Evergreen Cemetery.

I hurried there—and I found Mason, along with his wife Seela, their baby Brumble, Mason’s new friends Maya and Rafaelo, plus an inquisitive policeman, and none other than the recently resurrected Edgar Allan Poe, accompanied by his wife Ina. I felt like I was going crazy.

But yet, everything remained, in some ways, ordinary. Mason already knew that I’d edited and published his manuscript of The Hollow Earth, and he was interested in discussing this. He and his friends were on the point of being in trouble with the police, and I was able to talk our way past the problem.

And—Edgar Allan Poe? Was I really meeting Poe? It certainly seemed so, not that he was in good shape, having spent well over a century buried in a bronze casket, and then having immediately gotten drunk. But you know all this if you’ve read Return to the Hollow Earth. Mason describes these scenes better than I. He’s a born writer, a natural.

Having grown used to the fluent, assured tone of Mason’s two narratives, I was startled to see how young he was in person. Eighteen years old, or not quite that. He was dark-skinned from the woomo light, with the features of a slender, white, Southern boy, and with, of course, something of a Virginia accent. He was very articulate, and with a rich vocabulary. His speech had a leisurely pace that matched his origin in slower times. His eyes were quick, animated, and perhaps a bit haunted.

Seela was dark brown, with thin lips and a delicate nose, resembling the Melanesian women of Fiji. She was beautiful and lively, with a sharp tongue. Clearly she loved Mason and Brumble. The moment of her parting with them was very painful, and their reunion a joy.

Mason and Seela didn’t like our present day world, and Mason himself was a bit let down that he hadn’t traveled onward through that dubious tunnel in space with Eddie Poe. I was glad to give Mason and Seela some money—although he thinks it should have been more. I hope I did well in suggesting they move to Pohnpei. And I’m glad to have inherited their dog. Arf is good company, with deep wisdom in his eyes.

In my excitement, I didn’t think to take any photos of Mason, nor of the epic scenes at Big Sur. But Arf is here in the flesh. As I like to tell people, “If you don’t believe the Hollow Earth is real, come visit me and you can see the dog!”

As I write this, he’s lying in a patch of sun, thumping his tail against the floor. Good dog. Arf is my proof that the Earth is hollow.

I’m no longer getting any tekelili updates from Uxa. Perhaps, from the woomo point of view, my mission is done—not that I’m certain what was the purpose of my mission. Perhaps Mason’s two narratives are meant to prepare our society for an eventual merger with the civilizations of the Hollow Earth? The woomo take a long view.

I don’t have any contact information for Mason, but I do have Rafaelo’s email address. A couple of months ago I mailed a paper printout of my draft of Return to the Hollow Earth to Mason in care of General Delivery at Pohnpei. Rafaelo emailed me Mason’s response, and this comprises the brief closing section of the book’s final chapter. I’ve heard nothing more since then.

Judging from Mason’s ending to the book, I think he’s angry about his book being published with so little fanfare—and that he blames me. And never mind that I spent a year writing his book for him, and gave him ten thousand dollars! A slicker promoter might have found a way to package Mason’s adventures into a best-seller. A wiser editor might not insist—in the face of universal derision—that Mason’s two books are literally true.

The public is wary of nuts—and this category unfairly includes believers in the doctrine of the Hollow Earth. But Mason and I are right. As he puts it—to hell with them all. What matters is that we’ve managed to publish the truth, and nobody stopped us.

As a final point, note that definitive proofs of the Hollow Earth doctrine are in the offing. Eventually the passageways at the poles will reopen. As the Antarctic ice melts, the cap across the South Hole will crumble. And, as ice vanishes from the Arctic and the speed of the polar jet stream increases, the pre-1850 North Hole maelstrom will reemerge.

And then Mason Reynolds will be granted his just place in the Pantheon of great explorers!

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