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Sheckley, Desktop Search, Heat Rule Border

Sad news this week, 76-year-old writer Robert Sheckley is in a Ukranian hospital — he was there for a science fiction convention.

Get well, Sheck-man!

I recently downloaded the free Google desktop search engine, which is in some ways close to the Lifebox interface I’m always talking about. That is, I can search through all the aging files on my machine and find, e.g. every mention of Sheckley. Kind of like racking my brain. But the results pop up pretty fast in a nice Google-search-style window, each reference clickable and in context. I don’t have the energy to make up a brand-new econium for my beloved Sheckley just now, but here, in place of that, are some of the bits that came up in my Desktop Search for the Master's name.


In my story, “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” the word “geezel” is an homage to the master Robert Sheckley, who once used it to stand for a kind of alien food; and “lesnerize” is from a story where he uses it to mean “sneeze.”

“Faraway Eyes,” “The Man Who Ate Himself,” “Inertia,” and Master of Space and Time all involve characters called Joe Fletcher and Harry Gerber. These are a very traditional SF pair of characters, whose roots go back to Robert Sheckley’s AAA Ace stories, to Henry Kuttner and beyond.

“The Last Einstein-Rosen Bridge” has an odd history. After writing it, I sent it to Robert Sheckley, who was then the fiction editor at Omni. He called back to say he was going to buy it, provided I made a small change to the ending. I was overjoyed, as Omni was at that time the top-paying SF market. My wife and I were about to go to New York for a conference anyway, so we arranged to meet Sheckley, which was great fun. Sheckley suggested the Hamlet quote for the head of the story. My wife and I had dinner with him and his then wife, Jay Rothbel. The waiter behaved like an out-of-control Sheckley robot and Sheckley and I almost got run down crossing the street. It was all perfect. But then I didn’t hear anything from Sheckley for quite some time.

When I next talked to him, he told me that his boss at Omni had told him not to use “The Last Einstein-Rosen Bridge.” Also Sheckley told me that he was being eased out of the Omni job. So in the end I never did sell a story to Omni.

In my story, “Soft Death,” The character-name “Leckesh” is a near-anagram of Sheckley. For me, the most important SF writer of all is Robert Sheckley. Somewhere Nabokov describes a certain childhood book as being the one that bumped something and set the heavy ball rolling down the corridor of years. For me, that book of books was Sheckley’s Untouched by Human Hands. I first read it in the Spring of 1961, when I was in the hospital recovering from having my ruptured spleen removed.

Around the time I was writing “Soft Death,” about 1985, Sheckley and Jay Rothbel showed up at our Lynchburg house in a camper van and lived in our driveway for a few days, their electric cord plugged into our socket, and their plumbing system connected to our hose. I could hardly believe my good fortune. It was like having ET land his ship in your yard.

An exciting literary feature of moving to California in 1986 was that I got to see my hero Robert Sheckley again. This time he was visiting his writer/comedian friend Marty Olson in Venice Beach. Olson had dreamed up the idea that Tim Leary would start hosting a PBS series about various futuristic things. Sheckley and I were to be the writers. Olson paid my plane-fare to LA, where he and “the Sheck-man” (as Olson called him) picked me up. It was a wonderful goof, hanging out with them, and then driving over to Tim’s house in Beverly Hills. Tim was up for the meeting, with pencils and pads of papers; he was a nice old guy, and a freedom-fighter from way back. We were all in full agreement about everything, but the hitch was that we never found a sponsor.


I haven’t been blogging as much lately as I’ve been busy pushing my novel forward, writing an alien contact scene.

I’m starting to worry that I repeat some of my gimmicks book to book. Well, Bruegel always drew devils and angels the same, too. Maybe at this point I’m more, like, rearranging things at a higher level.

Anther thing I’ve been busy with is in making long skinny bitmaps that might be usable as borders in my forthcoming The Lifebox, the Seashell, and the Soul (Sell it, Ru.) The map shown up above is a variation of the so-called 1D BigNabe Heat rule, run on a 64-cell wide world with wrap at the edges, seeded with a hump, and using a striped color palette. Space is horizontal, and time runs down the page. I made this with CAPOW, which you can get from the Lifebox/Seashell/Soul downloads page.

The shapes look kind of like a dog-pile of faces to me, reminiscent of the great eyeball-kicks borders you used to see on Mad or Weirdo covers.

This image is intended as a border for the chapter on “Society”, thus the aptness of the totem-pole dog-pile quality of it.

4 Responses to “Sheckley, Desktop Search, Heat Rule Border”

  1. Cram Waldial Says:

    Two secondhand updates. One via Silverberg at the SFWA forums: Sheckley has regained consciousness and is off the respirator.
    One from someone in Kiev (via Ellen Datlow): “Bob’s daughter Anya arrived. We went to the hospital. Bob seemed to be much better but doctors still cannot predict anything. There is no direct danger to his life. But his lungs are in awful condition.”

  2. Steve H Says: The Sheckley story PROTECTION: Don’t lesnerize!

  3. jett Says:

    Robert Sheckley might benefit from Hyssop:
    “Purge Me with hyssop and I shall be clean” – Psalms 51:9
    “Don’t you love it when you can find herbs mentioned in ancient and holy text like the Bible? Many plants were called Hyssop during the times of the Old & New Testament so we can’t be sure which plant is the Biblical Hyssop.
    We do know the ancient Greeks used Hyssop for cough, wheezing and shortness of breath. Medieval German Herbalist Hildegard of Bingen wrote that hyssop cleans the lungs. She suggested chicken should be cooked in hyssop and wine. Knowing what we know about chicken broth and colds she was right on target by adding the hyssop.
    Famous English herbalist Nicholas Culpeper suggested that Hyssop should be used for chest aliments. He also felt that it killed stomach worms. He also mixed hyssop and wine together to wash and soak inflammation. We now know that the microorganism that produces penicillin grows on hyssop leaves. Some people have stretched this truth to say “Hyssop contains Penicillin.” , it doesn’t.
    The Colonist brought Hyssop to America but as the years went by it fell from fame and favor. The past few years Hyssop’s popularity has started to pick-up but still to date , it is undervalued. Hyssop can be useful as both calming and tonic. Is has a positive effect when used to treat bronchitis and respiratory infections . It helps to produce a more liquid mucus so that the lungs can expel it . Next time you have a bad cold try a cup of Hyssop tea.”

  4. Boris Sidyuk Says:

    Bob is getting stronger. He breathed on his own for over 2 hours
    today and talked to me, Simon, Anya and the doctors with his own voice. Today the doctors already dare to make predictions. In 3-5 days
    they hope Bob will breathe on his own all the time. In 5 days he will
    have enough power to stand on his feete and make little walks.

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