Trailer Park

We went to see Blade Runner 2049 (which we liked, but I can see how not everyone would), and saw seven trailers (and a Coke ad) before the feature:

Ready Player One does not interest me. I liked playing 1980s video games, but I don’t look back on them with nostalgia, and the dystopic future doesn’t look interesting or believable to me, so… not for me, unless the word of mouth is amazing.

I’m not especially fond of disaster films of the subcategory “weather run wild,” but at least Geostorm seems to have an interesting backstory for its storms, in the form of saboteurs/hackers/hostile powers subverting a weather control system, rather than just saying Mother Nature’s gone mad (or humanity has ignored warning signs and brought an ice age/superstorm/earthquake/volcano about). I’ll still probably pass unless our friends love it.

Maze Runner: The Death Cure is the third film in a series where I didn’t see the first two, so I won’t be paying to see it. Julian tells me the first one’s pretty good, the second not so much, so I wouldn’t expect too much of the third.

Pacific Rim: Uprising I might actually want to see. I enjoyed the first one — giant robots fighting monsters with some drama among the robot operators, what’s not to like? It wasn’t exactly brilliant cinematic art, but I had fun watching it, and if this sequel has any decent buzz I’d like to check it out.

Why did they remake Death Wish? Who thought that was a good idea in today’s political and social climate? Admittedly, getting Bruce Willis for the Charles Bronson role was a very good choice, but I still have severe reservations about the whole concept. I confess I never saw the original, and I don’t go to a lot of crime movies these days, so I probably won’t see this one, either.

I had never heard of Annihilation before, but it looks interesting. The trailer showed us some very surreal, dreamlike landscapes with cool stuff happening in them. Natalie Portman stars. This is one I’ll keep an eye on.

And… I don’t remember the seventh (I always keep count, but don’t note titles), which is not a good sign.

You will notice that this list is all dark stuff, mostly dystopian futures. I don’t suppose they thought people coming to see Blade Runner were likely to be interested in romantic comedies, but there was a certain unappealing sameness to this string.

[Flashback] I’m an expert?

Okay, I think this really is the last one. It’s from January 7, 2006:

I hate being cited as an authority.

I love passing on odd bits of information, but it creeps me out when I see them turn up in reference works without any real authentication.

What brings this to mind is the Wikipedia entry on Lester del Rey, which gives his real name as Leonard Knapp.

Mind you, I honestly and sincerely think it was Leonard Knapp, but I would not state that as a fact, without qualification, if I were writing the Wikipedia entry. And yes, I’m apparently the source for that datum, as someone e-mailed me to verify it.

Note: Someone has since verified it through his sister, invalidating my complaint, but in 2006 they hadn’t done that yet.

But the verification was just, “How sure are you of that?” and my reply was, “Pretty sure.” No attempt to contact any of Lester’s old friends or legal contacts.

The way this came about: I started corresponding with Lester del Rey in May 1979, when he accepted my first novel, and back in those pre-net days I was an obsessive letter-writer, so the correspondence covered a lot more than business. I met Lester and Judy-Lynn in 1982, hung out with them a few times before Judy-Lynn’s death in 1986, talked to them on the phone, but we weren’t close friends or anything.

A couple of months after Lester died in 1993 I got a phone call from someone who gave his identity as the lawyer representing Lester’s estate. I don’t remember his name, unfortunately. Anyway, he said he was trying to track down any potential heirs, and told me that Lester’s story about having been born Ramon Alvarez, which I already seriously doubted, was bullshit from the word “go,” that his birth name had been Leonard Knapp.

This struck me as entirely plausible, and I’ve repeated it as fact since then — but I don’t actually know it’s true. I don’t know the guy was really the estate’s lawyer; I took his word for it. I don’t know he wasn’t bullshitting me just as much as Lester always had. I have no proof, no evidence except one unrecorded phone call.

I’ve also been cited as an authority on comic-book artist William Ekgren’s background, but that’s entirely based on an e-mail I got from a Swedish woman wanting to know whether the comic book artist I’d mentioned in an article was the same guy as her uncle William, an artist who’d gone to New York for a few years in the late forties/early fifties to make his name in the art world, failed, and come home. I said I didn’t know, but the times matched and the styles matched, so it was probably him.

Now I find myself being cited as the expert who identified the comic book guy as the fine artist.

I was once cited on WPRB radio as having explained the way all of Jim Morrison’s songs fitted together into a single huge suite, the implication being that I had some sort of secret inside information, when actually I’d made the whole thing up while drunk and hadn’t realized this idiot disk jockey was listening and taking me seriously.

(Years later, Patricia Kenneally, the woman who claims to be Jim Morrison’s widow but couldn’t produce a marriage license and lost out to Morrison’s parents in court, told me I had part of it right but that it was mostly bullshit — Morrison was never that organized.)

I hate this. Haven’t any of these people ever heard of things like “corroboration,” “confirmation,” “fact-checking,” “documentation,” or even “evidence”?

At least the Wikipedia article doesn’t name me as the source.

[Flashback] Guy Stuff

Okay, I said I was finished with my old newsgroup, and I am, but I’ve found a few things from other defunct newsgroups I wanted to preserve here. This one is from a private newsgroup, originally posted September 30, 2012.

Back in July, right around my birthday, I started getting mysterious packages in the mail. Someone had signed me up for a cosmetics trial offer, the Book of the Month Club, the North American Hunting Club, and several magazine subscriptions.

The cosmetics I returned — the first two packages included return labels, and the other two I didn’t open, I marked them “Refused, return to sender.” The books — I contacted BOMC and explained the situation, and they said to just keep the books, it wasn’t worth the postage to ship ’em back. The hunting people have been a pain in the ass — they won’t cancel my membership or take anything back unless I provide a membership number, name and address isn’t sufficient, and the only package from them I opened (it didn’t say who it was from on the outside) didn’t have a membership number. It’s probably in one of the subsequent mailings, but I haven’t yet gotten around to looking.

The magazines started showing up at various times, starting in July but at least one didn’t show up until September — hell, there may be more yet to come. So far, I’m receiving Yachting, ESPN the Magazine, Chevy High Performance, and Forbes. Oh, and North American Hunter, which comes with the club membership — which is apparently a lifetime membership, if I read one as-yet-unopened envelope correctly.

I’m not going to bother cancelling the magazine subscriptions — even assuming it’s possible, why should I? It’s easy enough to just trash ’em if I don’t feel like reading them, and I’ve had fun glancing through some of them. Whoever signed me up probably used surplus airline miles or something; I haven’t gotten any bills.

Anyway, when this first started, I had no idea what was going on, and was worried that it was some sort of attack. I noticed that a couple of items said stuff had been charged to “my” American Express card, so I checked both my AmEx accounts. (I have a lot of credit cards — I’m perfectly willing to take sign-up bonuses, then just toss the card in a drawer and let it sit until they cancel my account for non-use. Except some of them never cancel, so I have some accounts I have literally never used since the original sign-up purchase that are still open after twenty years or more. Two of those are AmEx.) No charges. Then I noticed that the BOMC slip gave the last four digits of the AmEx card, and they don’t match any of mine.

I put an alert on my credit reports anyway, just in case.

But as time passed, and nothing bad happened, I began wondering whether this was someone’s idea of a surprise birthday present. I now think that’s the most likely explanation, as everything started arriving the week of my birthday.

If it was any of you guys, this would be a good time to ‘fess up.

Anyway, whoever it was turns out to have done a favor for Our Boys in Uniform. A friend’s son-in-law is currently commanding a small outpost in the ass end of nowhere in Afghanistan, and his mother-in-law is putting together care packages — non-perishable snacks (we donated a package of jerky and a bag of mixed nuts), and stuff to read. “Guy stuff,” she said.

So I donated the three issues of Chevy High Performance, an issue each of ESPN and N.A. Hunter (I’ve only received two of each so far and I’d already tossed one of each), and a random copy of Guitar Player Julie had picked up somewhere. I didn’t really think Yachting or Forbes would go over all that well with a dozen enlisted men, so I kept those.

I hope some of the guys will enjoy them.

Incidentally, I did glance through everything before disposing of it. You need to be a serious fan of Chevy muscle cars to care about anything in Chevy High Performance — it’s in the running for “most boring magazine I ever saw” — but maybe some of the guys are serious fans of Chevy muscle cars.

ESPN was surprising — I’m not a huge sports fan, but I like baseball, so I read some of that, and it’s very well-written stuff that never descends into hero worship or excessive stat-crunching. Beats the heck out of Sports Illustrated, which I’ve read in the dentist’s waiting room. The survey of baseball players’ wives was really pretty interesting — only 10% of them admit to worrying about their husbands indulging in groupies.

N.A. Hunter wasn’t quite as boring as Chevy, but it came close; the writing’s a bit better.

Forbes is bizarre — their stuff is all based on a worldview I consider reality-challenged. And for such a prominent magazine, some of the writing is astonishingly poor.

Yachting is almost surreal — do you know what those things cost? Even a fairly moderate boat will set you back half a million, and an actual yacht is seven or eight figures. Most of the magazine is ads selling boats — if you ever want to drop $23mil on a hole in the water, I can now hook you up.

And Guitar Player I only had the one issue, but my Lord, it’s technically oriented! They interview a rock star, and instead of asking him any of usual crap, they ask stuff like, “What was the signal chain on that track?” Meaning, “exactly what was the sequence of devices from the guitar string to the final recording?”

Weird. They’re all glimpses into these strange little jargonated subcultures.

Follow-up, 2017:

There were indeed more magazines that showed up later: Men’s Health and Men’s Fitness. I forget which was which, alas; one was good stuff, the other fairly trashy with a faint homoerotic tinge that did not appeal to me. I kept the good one until the sub ran out, and gave the other away by sending a change of address directing it to the intended recipient’s home.

I also redirected Forbes to one of Julian’s friends who was studying business. Can’t remember whether I was able to re-home any of the others.

All the subscriptions ran out years ago. I still look at Yachting and ESPN when I stumble across them, though — Yachting turns up in medical waiting rooms, for some reason, and there’s an empty house down the street with a subscription to ESPN that Julie sometimes steals when the mailbox there overflows. ESPN is still one of the best-written, best-edited magazines around, far better than it ought to be.

The Last of the Newsgroup

I got tired of doling them out roughly once a day, and just transferred the dozen or so remaining progress reports from my old SFF Net newsgroup to the Serial Box, my other blog.

If you look through that list, you’ll see that I’ll never need another story idea as long as I live. (I’ll undoubtedly generate lots of them anyway, though.) People who think ideas are really important for writers, take note: Ideas are cheap. Originality isn’t necessary, either.

My biggest problem is finding the time to write the damned things.

Anyway, this means that sff.people.lwe is really, truly gone for good. Sigh.

Mission Accomplished

Julie and I have just completed a project that’s probably a complete waste of time, but which led to the discovery that one of my hard drives is totally dead, and also that Windows Vista is no longer supported. Here’s the story:1982

In 1982, on a whim, I decided we should make our own Christmas cards, rather than using store-bought ones. I drew up an all-occasion card, took it to a local printer and had 100 copies made (I think it was a hundred), and we used those for our holiday mailings.

That was well received, so in 1983 we did a card meant to look like an official notice that the recipient was required to have a happy holiday.

Pretty sure we skipped 1984. In 1985 we hired an artist for the first time and had William Levy draw us an elf with a raygun. (At the time I was writing a column called “Rayguns, Elves, and Skin-Tight Suits” for the Comics Buyer’s Guide.) In 1986 we had just moved, so we had note-cards made up with a picture of our new house, and as our Christmas card that year we hand-drew wreaths on the front door on some of the note-cards and used those.

1985Don’t know what we did in ’87 and ’88, but in ’89 we figured that as a writer I should write us a card, and we did the Dreaded Pun Card, and ever since then custom-made cards have been a regular part of our holiday rituals. Sometimes we hired real artists, sometimes we cobbled together something ourselves, and many years, once she was old enough, Kyrith provided the art. We did skip a few years. In 1994 we started doing family newsletters, as well. And three times we sent out chapbooks, rather than cards, with short stories I had written for the occasion.

And somewhere in there, Julie decided we should keep a complete collection of all this stuff. We hadn’t kept them in any sort of order, so it took awhile to compile an album, and it wasn’t necessarily complete, but we tried.

2000And then, when we moved in 2009, the movers “lost” one box of stuff — “lost” in quotes because we were pretty sure it was somewhere in the house, but we couldn’t find it. Most of it wasn’t anything to be concerned about — school supplies and the like — but the holiday card album was in there.

So we’ve been looking for the album ever since, and trying to keep copies of the cards and newsletters for when it turned up (or we made a replacement), but not being very organized about it.

And a couple of weeks ago Julian was visiting, and cleaned out his closet, and there was the lost box, including the album.

So now that we had it back, we set about completing it, bringing it up to date with everything from 2009 on and filling in any gaps from further back. In some cases we couldn’t find the physical cards or newsletters, but I still had the computer files and card stock, so I printed new ones for the collection. But we couldn’t find the 2010 newsletter anywhere, and there were some other problems and omissions.

2013I still had the hard drive from Chloe IIIB, my primary desktop computer from 2003 to 2011, remounted as an external hard drive, and I thought maybe the 2010 newsletter would be on there somewhere (though in theory everything had been copied off it already), so I tried to boot it up and found it was completely dead. Sigh. (Elsewhere I referred to that machine as Chloe 3.5.2; that was my memory playing tricks on me. Chloe IIIB replaced Chloe III, which replaced Chloe 2.6.2, and I’d forgotten the sequence. Long story; short version, Chloe III was defective and CompUSA replaced it six days after we bought it with Chloe IIIB. Chloe II had been custom-built and went through a lot of upgrades during the period I owned her — roughly 1994 to 2003 — and was Chloe II Version 6.2 by the time I replaced her, Chloe 2.6.2 for short.)

I found some of the old files we needed were in formats that can’t be accessed by any modern software. Fortunately, I still have Iris, a laptop running Windows Vista, which can run old versions of Microsoft Publisher and buttonFile and the like. So I booted up Iris for the first time in months and she went nuts trying to update her version of Windows, which is how I found out Vista is no longer supported. It took several tries to calm Iris down enough to run Microsoft Publisher and access our 2001 card.

But we eventually did track down pretty much everything except the newsletter file for 2010, and the album is now complete and up to date, unless there are cards from 1987 and ’88 that I’ve forgotten.

(And by the way, that 2013 card? I set up a real Kickstarter account and campaign to get that screenshot. Never took it live, of course.)

Strange Days

From a newsgroup post dated March 21, 2016:

So we got a couple of those DNA test kits from Ancestry.com, and used them. I just got my results.

There are mysteries surrounding my great-great grandmother — who was not my great-great grandfather’s wife; he never married. She appears to have been his housekeeper.

We know very little about her. Her first name was Mary, but on everything else, sources conflict. On everything, including her surname, ethnicity, age, etc.

One story said she was Irish. Another said that her father was definitely not Irish, but claimed to be Chippewa. Or maybe only half Chippewa.

Claiming to be Indian was a fairly common ploy escaped mixed-race slaves used to avoid being kidnapped back into slavery, so for a long time I’ve said I might be descended from an escaped slave.

Well, apparently I was right. Genetically, I’m between 1% and 2% Senegalese.

And there’s zero Native American in my DNA, which is mildly surprising in a family that came to America in 1628.

There’s also zero Native American in Julie’s DNA, which is more than mildly surprising, since her family tree shows her being 1/16th Algonquin. (And she looks native American, to some extent. So do most of her siblings.) Either the Sylvestre family tree is completely unreliable, the DNA test is completely unreliable, or her grandmother’s father wasn’t who her grandmother’s mother said it was. (All the other parts of that lineage are female; that’s the only place a cuckoo could be nesting.) Or I suppose maybe she just didn’t inherit any of the genetic markers in that branch, but that’s statistically very unlikely.

Interesting.

And that, dear friends, is the last old post for this blog, though there are still several more progress reports to be copied to the Serial Box.

Strange Days

From a newsgroup post dated February 23, 2016, about my decision not to use a planned April Fool’s joke:

What is the idea?

Finally someone asks!

I was going to announce that I’ve decided to change the direction of the Adventures of Tom Derringer series, and change it to the Amorous Adventures of Tom Derringer, starting with Tom Derringer in the Sultan’s Seraglio.

Julie and I later came up with some more — Tom Derringer and the Beauties of Berlin, Tom Derringer and the Libertines of Lisbon, etc.

Strange Days

From a newsgroup post dated February 22, 2016:

Over New Year’s I recorded most of the Syfy channel’s “Twilight Zone” marathon to my DVR, and I’ve been working through that collection little by little, mostly while exercising.

Last night I watched “What You Need,” based on the “Lewis Padgett” (Henry Kuttner) short story of the same name*, and one of the minor characters was a pretty girl in a bar who had this light-up-the-room smile. I didn’t recognize her, but she was eye-catching and could act, so I was curious what had happened to her, so I watched the credit and saw her name was Arline Sax.

Later I looked her up. Turns out she changed her name to Arlene Martell, and had a modest career — a lot of work over the years, but never a real break-out role. And I’d seen her in her best-remembered role, but would never have realized it was the same person. She played T’Pring on “Amok Time” on the original Star Trek.

It strikes me as somehow perverse to take an actress with this astonishing lovely smile, and cast her as a Vulcan who never smiles.

==

* I have this odd relationship with Kuttner’s original story. I kept coming up with this idea for a fantasy story, and starting to get enthused about it — I even started writing it once or twice — before remembering that Kuttner had already written it. It got to the point that I wrote myself a note, which I keep in my “ideas” folder (both hardcopy and virtual), telling myself in no uncertain terms that IT HAS BEEN DONE, and better than I could.

At least I never actually finished it, which is more than you can say about “Alterations,” my inadvertent rewrite of William Tenn’s “Brooklyn Project,” which I actually sent out to market once before realizing what I’d done. (It was rejected, of course.)

Metapost

There are fifty-four newsgroup posts still in the queue, but (a) I won’t repost all of them, and (b) a lot of them, probably most of them, are progress reports that will go in the Serial Box instead of here.