Feb 28 2015

I was always Spock


If the game was Star Trek, I was always Spock.

I’m old enough to have watched the original Star Trek series during its first run.   Brand new, never-before-seen — not syndicated, not rerun, and not from the past.  New.  Now.

Just hearing about it, well before the first episode, sent me into paroxysms of joy.  Science fiction!  On TV!  And not monster movies, not evil aliens.  The real deal — or so I hoped.

And when the first photos  and articles appeared in TV Guide my hopes went higher.   And when the show premiered, it did not disappoint.

Looking back at the original series now, oh, there’s plenty to criticize.  Of course there is.

But the flaws it had were the flaws of its time, while the virtues it had were its own –  and more forward-looking than anything else to be found on the TV of those days.    The positives shone so very brightly, and that was all that mattered.

And there was Spock.

The instant I saw him, I wanted to be him.   He was everything I loved.   Science, reason, strangeness.  Discovery, adventure.

He was smart, and it was good.  He was wise, and others turned to him for that.

He was the Outsider, and I didn’t just want to be an outsider, I was one –  and I liked it.

The existence of Spock let the world know that the Outsider is a good and worthy thing to be.

I was just at the age when one stops playing make-believe… but I still played make-believe.   Perhaps I’ve never stopped.

And in my games, and in my dreams, I was Spock.




Feb 25 2015

Last chemo


Yesterday, that was.

I’m still rather boggled about the whole thing.  No more chemo… Because it worked.  All done.

I bought four flower arrangements: one for the front desk and administrative staff; one for the assistants who log me in, enter all my latest vitals, escort me to the doc when it’s time; another one for all the nurses and assistants in the chemo suite; and a big one for the chemo suite itself and all the patients I’m leaving behind.

The nurses, assistants, and admin people were stunned – they said no one’s ever done that for them before.  Later, my oncologist came by (Sabine and I had already thanked her, and hugged her), and she thanked me, saying no one had ever thought to do that for the staff before.

I say, why the heck not?  These women (and they are all women) do not get enough appreciation, in my opinion.  And they all participated in saving my actual life.  They should get lots of love, from everybody.   I wish I could give them all trips to Paris, but it’s illegal to do that.  Plus, I can’t afford it.  Flowers — that, I can do.

Then they gave me flowers.

There were two carnations, but one lost its head in the car as I drove home because I kept hitting it with my elbow, because I drive with manual shift.

There were two carnations, but one lost its head in the car as I drove home because I kept hitting it with my elbow, because I drive with manual shift.

There’s a tradition at this hospital. .. they have  a bell by the door– a brass bell with a plaque attached, which says that persons leaving the chemo suite for the last time are to ring the bell three times to declare that they are DONE!   The staff all gathered around, Krista handed me a reflex mallet (“Hit with the metal handle!“).  And I rang that bell.  The guy with the guitar played a little fanfare.   We all hugged.  They gave me the flowers.   We hugged again.  We all got misty.  I forgot to take a photo of the bell.  But I got a picture of the gang:


There they are.

There they are.

Tomorrow, my chemo port gets removed!   I thought I’d have to wait for a opening, but yesterday afternoon I got a call, and they had scheduled me for Thursday!  It’s out-patient, so it should be a piece of cake.  (The last time I saw my surgeon, I mentioned that I heard that they sometimes pull out the port with no anaesthesia at all, and was that what he was going to do?  And his immediate response was: “Fuck, NO!”   I like him.)

So… port out tomorrow, then an echocardiogram in a couple of weeks (to check up on the possible Herceptin side-effects).   Then… check in with the oncologist every three months.

No more actual treatments.  It seems a little unreal.


I only look glum because I'm taking the picture using my netbook with Windows 8, and the interface sucks beyond all belief

I only look glum because I’m taking the picture using my netbook with Windows 8, and the interface sucks beyond all belief.

Feb 21 2015

Boskone in the blizzard


For the last few years, Boskone has been held at the BostonWestin Harborside –  a seriously upscale hotel.  Why this is the case, I do not know… you’d think that a less-expensive location would attract more attendees.   It’s a bit of a squeeze to be able to afford the weekend.

But I have to say that this year I actually appreciated the amenities.   Having returned to the day-job, being a bit more tired from that, and uncertain about my energy level after all the treatments of various kinds — it was nice to just pay the money and take it easy.

25 year old Macallan.   The best scotch I've ever had in my life...

25 year old Macallan. The best scotch I’ve ever had in my life…


Park in the expensive hotel garage, dine at the restaurants.   Relax in the hotel lounge/bar/atrium, with the indoors birches, and gaze out the three-storey-tall wall of glass at the MAJOR BLIZZARD outside.  Pretty nice.

In between the sessions of snowplowing.

In between the sessions of snowplowing.

I was on only two panels, which was about all I could reasonably handle this time around, I think.

One was on cross-influences between music and science fiction/fantasy, which evolved into mainly a discussion about how filk music has expanded from from jokey parodies and developed into simply music with sf/f themes.    Much was said by persons far more erudite than myself, and I feel I learned a lot.

The second was on world-building: how we do it, and how we communicate it.   This was a lot of fun.  My co-panelists were Myke Cole, Peadar O Guilin, Lauren Roy, and E. C. Ambrose (aka Elaine Isaak), who also served as moderator.

I have to say that Elaine is a brilliant moderator — as well as having a lot to say as a participant.   She kept things moving, brought up great topics, and did it all with grace and aplomb.

I believe that what made it so interesting was first, the range of viewpoints represented; and second, our willingness to step up and disagree with each other (in a civilized way).  Myke set the tone on this, by announcing  up front that he was by nature a very vehement person, and warned us that he’d state his opinions in a strong manner, but that it didn’t mean that he didn’t respect our opinions — it’s just the way he was.  I now feel that every panel should begin with a similar announcement by someone, because we were off and running.  I believe no one held back.  This made for a lively exchange, and a good overview of all the different ways to make your world-building work.

What are those ways?

Well, there’s the minimalist approach (Myke’s choice), where you create just enough world to have the illusion of there being more world behind it — like the plywood cut-outs of houses used in old movie sets.   The reader creates the sense of the world by the clues and cues given by the author.
Then there’s the wide, deep, detailed world, of which the reader only sees the bit pertaining to the story at hand (As J.R.R. Tolkein did).

And there are all sorts of ranges in between the extremes.

And there’s my approach, which is a sort of feedback loop, where you might create some aspect of a world in order to justify a particular dramatic point, which  aspect then generates other details about the world (or necessitates actual research!), which then in turn inspire further dramatic points — and  repeat until the world or society reaches the required level of depth and breadth.

As for how your world is communicated: Elaine had a lovely demonstration (which she uses when teaching writing), where she has people take out a penny, and look at the penny, and see just how much the simple existence of this tiny object communicates about the society that uses it.    There are obvious things it tells us, such as that metal is used by this culture — but did you ever notice that there are two languages on a penny?  And that there are examples of clothing, and architecture?   And she said more — I won’t tell it all.   But that was such a smart thing to say, and such a smart thing to make us notice.

And lots more was said — about research, and inspiration (Peadar spoke of looking for the extremes; I spoke of flipping expectations).    It was all fun and interesting.   I’d do that again, with the same line-up, in a heartbeat.

Non-paneling, just hanging around…

Jo Walton introduced me to Ada Palmer and Lauren Schiller of the a capella group Sassafrass, and we were treated to a couple of stunning tunes from the Norse Myth song cycle/play that Ada wrote.   Even with just the two singers, the songs were amazing, and moving.

At one point I actually borrowed a guitar and sang and played Buddy Mondlock’s “The Kid”, which I thought I could handle… but my voice is still shredded, and my breath control non-existent, and my fingers wouldn’t do all the fiddly bits of the arrangement I use, so I had to simplify on the fly… but it felt good.  Time to put in some practice and get my serious chops back.

Here’s Buddy himself doing the song:

You know,  I seem to be the only person who does the third verse these days (“I’m the kid who fell asleep at the movies…”).   Possibly because it’s rather a long song when it’s included… But it was on the lyric sheet included with the cassette (!) when I bought it ages ago, and I do love that verse.

Also, I had an autograph session!


The crowds at my autograph session

The crowds at my autograph session

Oh, and I did a reading.

About which, more later.




Feb 19 2015

A post to let you know I’m going to write a post.


But I can’t at the moment — I’m still catching up from the Boskone weekend, and three days of Day Job.

Just to let you know… I’ll have stuff to say about Boskone.

Real Soon Now.


Feb 9 2015

Melanie Tem


tem man on the ceiling


I don’t recall what made me pick up The Man on the Ceiling, by Melanie Tem and Steve Rasnic Tem.

I really do wish I could remember.  I had not read any other book by either of them, I think.  And on paper, The Man on the Ceiling sounds like the sort of book that would not have attracted me.  Not so much a novel as a collection of possibly-fictional events and vivid symbol-laden scenes, interwoven with meditations on family, and parenthood, and life and death and love.

Possibly someone whose opinion I respect mentioned it in a blog post, or possibly Amazon’s algorithm saw something in my purchase patterns and suggested it.

Regardless: I do remember clearly that once I had experimentally read a passage or two (probably via the Amazon Look Inside feature), I immediately knew it was a book I had to have.   Whatever sentences I read, they struck a chord.  I bought it.

I think I read the book three times, straight through.  Got to the end, went right back to the beginning.  And did it again.

There was a period when I bought copies and gave them to people — to whoever I thought might respond to it.  And some did — and some did not, and looked at me with a bit of perplexity.

It was (and remains) very hard for me explain exactly why it grabbed me.   But it’s a book that is both frightening and reassuring; and without fail it moves me to tears each time I read it.

Melanie Tem passed away today.   I wish we could stop losing people.

Here’s the announcement in LOCUS.

“If you love someone, they leave you.  But if you don’t love someone, they leave you, too.  So your choice isn’t between loving and losing but only between loving and not loving.”

The Man on the Ceiling, Melanie Tem and Steve Rasnic Tem

Feb 1 2015



This year Boskone is February 13-15, and I’ll be there.

For those of you who don’t know, Boskone is the longest-running Science Fiction convention. I try to do it every year (but was not able last year, it being in the midst of my heaviest sessions of chemo).

But here’s a thing I just noticed: On Friday from 2PM to 6PM, all the events are FREE to the public. So, if you’ve never been to a science fiction convention,  and want a free taste, here’s your chance. Head over to the program schedule and take a look: there are some really interesting items taking place in the “free” period.  The convention takes place in Boston, at the Westin Waterfront .

As for my schedule, it’s this:

Reading: Rosemary Kirstein
Saturday 10:30 – 10:55, Independence (Westin)

Mining Fiction and Music for Creative Inspiration
Saturday 14:00 – 14:50, Marina 4 (Westin)

While fiction inspires music, music also inspires fiction. How do these two forms of expression interact? Panelists discuss examples of music or fiction that were inspired by the other genre. Who are the great literary musicians? Discussion may also include some live demonstrations as examples.  Panelists: F. Brett Cox (Moderator), Maya Bohnhoff , Rosemary Kirstein , Beth Runnerwolf, Mary Ellen Wessels

Writers on Writing: Worldbuilding from the Ground Up
Sunday 12:00 – 12:50, Harbor III (Westin)

Some spectacular stories take place in worlds very different from our own: from life on (or in) a gas giant to a civilization that lives on a world-tree as big as the Himalayas. But there are perils associated with venturing far beyond human experience. An inconsistent or poorly described worldscape can furnish a confusing story, or challenge a reader’s ability to suspend disbelief. Hear from writers who have created fully realized worlds that their readers can almost see, touch, and smell.  Panelists: E. C. Ambrose (Moderator), Myke Cole, Peadar Ó Guilín, Lauren Roy, Rosemary Kirstein

Autographing: Steven Brust, Rosemary Kirstein, Darrell Schweitzer, Jill Shultz
Sunday 14:00 – 14:50, Galleria-Autographing (Westin)
This is only the second convention I’ve done since going through my various treatments and surgery.   I made it to Readercon last year, but I was pushing it, a bit.   I had only one panel, and that was about all I could handle, really; and I don’t feel I was at my best.

I’m still not quite at my best… I don’t feel as sharp as I’d like, nor as mentally nimble (very useful during panel discussions, where one sometimes has to be certain to get heard).   Still, I must come out of hiding at some point!

And yes, I am doing a reading.  I have no idea what I’ll read, yet.  But something will be read.  By me.

I note that I seem to have no Kaffeklatsch, and I wonder if I forgot to ask for one?  Too late now.

Of particular interest:  Jo Walton is conducting an interview with Guest of Honor Steven Brust.  Both Jo Walton and Steve Brust have readings, as do Jane Yolen, James Patrick Kelly, and Charles Stross (whose reading takes place during the “free” part of the convention).   Also,  some of the panels sound fascinating — they always do, and I can never manage to get to as many as I’d like.   I hope to catch some poetry and music, too.  (Alas, I won’t be performing, myself — I’m not fit for that, yet.  Chemo and peripheral neuropathy  have conspired to make it hard for me to play guitar for very long, meaning that not only can I not play for long, I’m also seriously out of practice.  And my singing voice is sort of… shredded.  And my breath control is non-existent! As a performer, I’m a mess.  But!  Next year!  I’ll get it all back!)

Well.  Must get back to work now (my work, not the day job), which at the moment consists of prepping for my panels and figuring out what of this  great mess of a book can possibly be extracted to read in public in a coherent fashion — and if possible can it be something that I have not read in public before?

Plus: getting ready for the next great snowstorm, which apparently should hit, oh, any minute now.