Old New England

Trip report from my SFF Net newsgroup, dated August 15, 2006:

So I’m back from a few days in New England. Stayed with my sister in North Reading, visited Julie’s sister in North Chelmsford, played tourist on Cape Ann and in Boston, lunched with an old friend, dined with another of Julie’s sisters in Nashua NH, but the actual reason for the trip was a multi-class high school reunion that drew almost 500 people and was fascinating but much too loud.

Lui Lui’s, a pizza-and-pasta place on the Daniel Webster Highway in Nashua, just across the state line from Massachusetts, is highly recommended — we gave them a very hard time (not deliberately), and they remained helpful, cheerful, and competent throughout. And the food was very good.

The food at Captain Carlo’s, on Harbor Loop in downtown Gloucester, was even better — I’m fairly sure my haddock was still swimming in the Atlantic that morning. Best haddock I’ve ever eaten, and not expensive. Climbed on the rocks at Stage Fort Park and at Folly Cove. Alas, Hammond Castle had been rented for a private function, so we didn’t stop there.

The weather was astonishingly good, which made our stroll through the Public Garden a delight. The line for the swan boats was daunting, so we only walked. We walked up as far as Government Center, actually, and decided that City Hall is pretty decent architecture despite being weird and late-modernist. Got ice cream from a little stand in the Downtown Crossing shopping district; I still have a spot of Fenway Fudge on one shoe.

Wouldn’t have recognized most people at the reunion without name-tags; didn’t recognize lots of them even with name-tags. Was startled by how many of them knew that I was Lawrence Watt-Evans. Chatted with Bill Bryan briefly; he’s still working in Hollywood. Don’t think there was anyone else there you might have heard of, though apparently one of Julie’s classmates had a pretty impressive career in the Marines, and recently retired as a full colonel after seeing combat in three different wars.

That’s Not Catchy, That’s Sick!

From a newsgroup post dated June 24, 2006:

(From a thread about why so many songs are about really unhealthy relationships…)

Got one stuck in my head today —

“Get down now baby, let your boss man see
If you can howl just like a dog for me.
Black leather is my favorite game
And you will learn how to scream my name…”

“Ball Crusher”
from the album STEPPENWOLF 7

So what really twisted pop songs can you guys think of?

Here are a few of my favorites:

“Every Breath You Take”
“In Your Room”
“How Do I Make You”

Those are all stalker songs, more or less; then there’s stuff like Grace Slick’s “Silver Spoon,” about cannibalism.

Damn near anything by the Bloodhound Gang would qualify, I suppose. “Yummy Down On This” and “The Ballad of Chasey Lane” seem especially lurid.

When Stories Explode

Not a reprint! An all-new blog post about current stuff!

So a few years back I came up with an idea for a story called “The Dance Lesson.” When I say “an idea,” I do not mean a complete story; I mean an idea, something that could be an element in a story. In this case, I had two characters and a social situation and an ending scene — not a climax, but the closing scene of the story, part of the denouement, a bit that would reveal something about the viewpoint character and leave the reader with a good feeling.

I had very little idea how to get there, but I figured it wouldn’t be hard, just a matter of constructing a simple plot where Character A would solve Character B’s problem. I wrote an opening scene that introduced the characters and set up Character B’s problem, the one A would need to solve.

But I didn’t actually know how he’d solve it, or why he’d want to, and I didn’t have a market in mind for a story like this, so I stopped there.

Then later I came up with an idea to make their initial interaction much more interesting, so I added that, which completed the opening scene, but I still didn’t know what came next, so again I set it aside. Before I set it aside, though, I changed the title to “The Dance Teacher” or “The Dancing Teacher” because the “lesson” part no longer fit.

Then last year I got an anthology invitation, with a June 1, 2017 deadline. It was for a follow-up anthology to one I’d been invited to ages ago, where I’d started a story called “Fearless,” but then got too busy to finish it before the deadline for that earlier volume. So I hauled out “Fearless” (which took awhile, because I’d forgotten the title) and looked it over and discovered I’d forgotten half the plot, and it might not really be all that great a fit with the anthology guidelines anyway, which was annoying.

But then it occurred me that “The Dancing Teacher” might suit the anthology instead, so I went and looked at it, and decided that to fit the guidelines it needed a particular sort of conflict (which I am having second thoughts about even as I type this), so I worked out a plot that could make this happen. I wrote more of the story.

And I realized it was going off the rails. I had Character A doing something boneheaded that could not, by any reasonable means, result in the happy ending I wanted.

So I threw out most of it, back to almost where I’d stopped over a year ago.

Then I started forward again — and almost immediately, I realize I’ve set up A in a situation where he must lie to his employer with fairly little justification. Not just a little lie, either, but a serious deception that could have serious negative consequences. Which makes him a little more morally ambiguous than I’d intended.

Why is this story being so damned uncooperative?

Crossovers That Shouldn’t Happen

Newsgroup post dated April 23, 2006:

In another group there’s a thread about the Andrew Lloyd Webber version of “The Phantom of the Opera,” which I’ve been reading with some attention because of my own recent viewing of the 1925 movie.

The subject line, however, has somehow gotten truncated to “The Phantom of the O,” and just now I suddenly found myself imagining a blending of “The Phantom of the Opera” and “The Story of O,” which would actually be very easy to do…

Linguistic Theory

Originally posted to sff.people.lwe on March 23, 2006:

I have a theory — not a very serious one — that languages are optimized for specific uses. German’s good for giving orders, Italian’s good for singing, Spanish is good for gossiping, English is good for explaining.

And Mandarin Chinese is good for arguing.

Any comments? Suggestions for other languages?

And So It Begins

Newsgroup post, March 4, 2006:

With the kids out of the house, the place doesn’t get messed up much. This means Julie actually has these silly fantasies about someday getting everything cleaned up and sorted out.

We had to move a bunch of boxes to install the new water heater, including one that had been partially soaked by the leak that precipitated the departure of the old water heater, and then they had to stay out of the way until the WSSC inspector came to approve the installation. That meant that those boxes were sitting out in the basement den, taunting Julie.

So we’ve actually started going through some of this old stuff, reorganizing it, throwing out the obvious trash, etc.

And we’re stumbling across stuff that has us wondering, “What the heck should we do with this?”

For example, there are four manuscripts here — photocopies, not originals — of novels I was asked to blurb in the 1980s. Specifically, The Magic of Recluce, by Lee Modesitt; Alchemy Unlimited, by Douglas W. Clark; The Duchess of Kneedeep, by Atanielle Annyn Noel; and The Blind Archer, by John Betancourt.

Now, what should I do with these? eBay? Donate them to a SFWA charity auction? Trash? Donate to a museum somewhere?

April 4, 2017: I note that nobody had any useful suggestions, and I still have all these manuscripts ten years later. You people are no help.

Remakes: The Good, the Bad, and the Really Ugly

Newsgroup post from March 3, 2006:

Okay, I didn’t see it, but can someone tell me why they remade “When A Stranger Calls”?

Or “Fun with Dick and Jane”?

Or “The Bad News Bears”?

Or “The Shaggy Dog”?

Or “The Hills Have Eyes”?

Or “The Omen”?

None of these are unjustly-neglected films that deserve to be remade to give them a second chance. None of them are classics due for an updating. They’re just, y’know, old movies. Not even all that old, really –The Shaggy Dog” is the oldest at what, forty?

So why have they all been remade?

And there have been lots more inexplicable remakes in the ten years since then, too.

Some of the Novels in My “Works in Progress” Folder

This list was originally posted September 24, 2005. I debated whether to put it here or in The Serial Box, but eventually decided on here; the Box is only for new stuff, not these salvaged old posts.

I’m going to annotate this in italics — anything italicized has been added in March 2017. Anything after this sentence that’s not italicized is from 2005.

Sorted a little:

>A Blast from the Past
(Haven’t touched this in years, and the plot’s a little out of date now.)

>A Handful of Gold (spin-off from The Lords of Dus)
>Assassin in Waiting (I’ve worked on this one a little.)
>Manda’s Magic
>Meant for Each Other
>Power of the People (I don’t recognize this at all; no idea what it is.)
>Putting on Heirs (sequel to Split Heirs)
>The Dragon’s Price (This one has gotten a little further.)
>The Third Mage (a trilogy, really) (I’ve changed the setting to a contemporary setting and started it over.)
>Myth America
>The Gates of Faerie
>Yard Sale Mystic (This one got converted to a comic book script, and has been hanging fire for years because the artist has yet to start on it.)

Science fiction:
>Cultural Attache (Retitled first The Partial Observer, then The Research Agent.)
>Dark Bodies
>Escort Duty
>Fast Times
>One Hundred Suns
>Realms of Light (sequel to Nightside City) Written and published.
>Refugee Planet
>The Ghost Takers
>The Terran Zone
>The Three of Us
>Trumpets of the Sky

>Jones and the Preacher

>One-Eyed Jack Written and published.
>Queen Vampire
>Something Wrong
>The Bride
>The Undine

>Rakehell’s Daughter


Hard to classify:
>Pentagram Squadron
>Vika’s Avenger Written and published.

Y’know, I’d really like to write all of these eventually, but I
probably won’t — I come up with new ones faster than I finish the old

I’ve come up with many more, and made progress on a few of the above, but I’ve also flat-out forgotten or abandoned some of these.

Blind Spots

(This is very much out of sequence, but caught my fancy.)

A newsgroup post from 6/26/2008:

Elsewhere on the nets, I’ve been reading (but not participating in) a discussion where a couple of people are talking about how they despise modern popular music — “modern” in this case meaning everything after 1955 or so.

What boggles me is their air of superiority — they listen to real music, i.e., classical. All this modern stuff is just noise.

Well, no, it isn’t. You cannot sell people straight-out noise; it’s been tried repeatedly. (Anyone remember what Yoko Ono did before marrying John Lennon?) Obviously, if millions, perhaps billions of people find something enjoyable in popular music, there’s something there to enjoy. No, you cannot fool that many people for that long. If you genuinely can’t hear it as anything but noise, it doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with the music; it means there’s something wrong with you. You are lacking a normal human response.

This is not something to be proud of. You, whoever you are, are a part of the human race, a member of a social species. If you cannot understand, even intellectually, something that provides billions of your fellow humans with pleasure, this does not make you part of an elite; it makes you defective, an outcast, a failure.

I would think this was obvious. Apparently it isn’t.