Strange Days

From a newsgroup post dated March 21, 2016:

So we got a couple of those DNA test kits from, 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.


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.


While there are still dozens of progress reports to post to the Serial Box, it looks like I only have two more old newsgroup posts that will be reposted here.

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.)


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.

The Writing Life

From a newsgroup post dated October 14, 2014:

Had odd dreams last night; one was clearly the result of being on six (!) panels at Capclave, but the other isn’t quite so readily explained.

In the last dream, which was still going when I woke up, a reader was asking me (in e-mail, I think) when I was going to get back to my “Cyber War” setting, and whether it connected to my other story settings.

I explained that yes, it was connected to my two time-travel series, “The Deleted Dinosaurs” and “The Time Meddlers.”

None of these three actually exist, of course, and other people have written series called “Cyber War” and “Time Meddlers,” but “The Deleted Dinosaurs” sounds promising. Anyway, in the dream I’d written multiple stories in all three series, starting in the 1980s.

In that earlier dream I was one of the headliners at a second annual event where the first one had gone spectacularly well, to the point the organizers (I might have been one of them, it wasn’t clear) had done very little preparation, on the assumption that everything would go smoothly because it had before. It didn’t; no one could remember the schedule or find the printed programs (though we all agreed that they existed, albeit in insufficient numbers).

The event was some sort of writer-training thing. There were supposed to be panels and workshops, but the lack of organization meant those weren’t happening. At some point I took the bull by the horns and began lecturing a large audience on manuscript preparation — a lecture I have actually given, but not for a decade or more because it’s out of date in these days of e-mail and electronic submissions. I remembered its obsolescence when I woke up, but I don’t think I did during the dream. (The dream was interrupted by a neighbor’s yapping dog, but I went back to sleep and eventually dreamed about that three-part SF series.)

The lecture dream clearly resulted from Capclave, but the program at Capclave was actually superbly well run this year except for being too long — it started at 3:30 Friday (I was on that panel) and ran until 5:00 Sunday (I was on one of the last set, too; there were three at that hour, instead of just one). It was well-attended, too, except for that last slot.

The connected-stories thing, though, just comes from being a writer for a long time.

I don’t usually remember any of my dreams, let alone two semi-coherent ones from a single night; I’m not sure what to make of it. I’m pretty sure there was yet another dream I almost remembered in between the lecture and “Deleted Dinosaurs,” but I can’t recall any details.

Geographical Checklist

Continents visited:
North America

Not visited:
South America

United States:
New Hampshire
Rhode Island
New York
New Jersey
North Carolina
South Carolina
West Virginia
District of Columbia
New Mexico
North Dakota

Not visited:
South Dakota
Idaho (slept through it on a train)

Prince Edward Island
Nova Scotia
New Brunswick
British Columbia

Not visited:
Northwest Territories

Quintana Roo

Not visited:
all the others

Other countries visited:
Wales (but just barely)
new> Vietnam
new> Greece

Japan (never left airport)
Iceland (spent a couple of hours in Reykjavik’s airport (which
is in Keflavik))
South Korea (spent several hours in Incheon airport.

Questionable as to whether they count as countries:
West Germany
East Germany

The End of the Exotic

It used to be that there were places in the world no one you knew had ever seen, foods that you’d never heard of, things you’d never done, and the strangeness of these things was part of their appeal.

Then my daughter lived in Shanghai. I still can’t get over how weird that is. My daughter, my little girl, was living and working in Shanghai, on the far side of the frickin’ planet.

She’s back, but now her brother is working in Hangzhou. In fact, I may have been to conventions in dozens of states, but Julian’s been to conferences in lots of countries. He’s visited Costa Rica, Canada, Mexico, the Bahamas, China, South Korea, Argentina, Paraguay, Australia…

There is no more “exotic.”

And this summer, on just a few weeks notice, I accepted speaking engagements in Hanoi and Athens. International trips used to take months, even years, of preparation and planning, but I was in Vietnam four weeks after I got the invitation.

Play It Again, Sam

From a newsgroup post dated August 9, 2013 (exactly four years ago!):

I’m listening to the soundtrack of the movie version of “Tommy.”

That was a spectacularly bad movie. Listening to this I’m reminded over and over of all the places it went off the rails, all the wrong choices they made, from casting to setting to pacing.

But you know, it didn’t have to be. I don’t think the story is unfilmable. They just did it wrong.

Yeah, the original WW1-to-1930s setting has very serious problems, but 1945-1960s doesn’t work much better. Aging Tommy at the time of the murder from three or four to six wasn’t an improvement — by six most kids are a little more resilient. It was apparently done entirely to preserve the rhyme scheme in “1921”/”1951.”

Oliver Reed was miscast. Ann-Margret… well, better, but still not great. Tina Turner sounds like brilliant casting as the Acid Queen, but in fact she was pretty bad.

The most disappointing thing to me, when I saw it, was the visuals. I mean, here you have something kinetic and visual at the center of the story — pinball — and you do nothing with it! Elton John looked totally stupid on stilts, and when they show him playing he’s terrible at pinball, draining every ball instantly.

Ken Russell was not the right director, to put it mildly.

Someone should remake it. Seriously. With modern CGI you could do a fine job on the surrealistic parts, show things from Tommy’s warped point of view. Move it to a contemporary setting. Have Captain Walker lost in Iraq or Afghanistan or somewhere in Africa; you don’t need to get specific. And modern mass media make a pinball (or videogame) cult more plausible — he’d be all over YouTube.

It could be cool.

Know Thyself

From a newsgroup post dated May 28, 2013:

There’s a website at called “I Write Like” that purports to analyze one’s prose and match it to a well-known author. I tried it out last night.

Taking a passage from On A Field Sable told me I write like Jane Austen. A chunk of One Hundred Suns, though, matched Arthur C. Clarke.

Graveyard Girl was where it really got interesting, though — my first pass got Cory Doctorow. I decided the sample I’d used wasn’t typical, so I tried again and got Jack London. Then I removed one paragraph from that, and it was Cory Doctorow again.

Not exactly consistent results. is still there.