Monday, March 31, 2003

Well, I think it’s become obvious to all and sundry that I am not cut out for a blogging career. I think I’ve even figured out why.

If I’m going to write up my thoughts and opinions, I do it for pay, not for free. What I want when I go online is a conversation, not a chance to lecture — which means newsgroups, or my guestbook. I know there are blogs now that allow other people to post in them, but even that just seems so much slower and clunkier than a newsgroup.

And it doesn’t help that I’m using a slow modem and Blogger is a busy site; adding something here is too much like work.

I’m not going to give it up completely, or take down what I’ve got, but I’m not going to pretend I’ll be posting any more regularly or more often in the future. I’ll post when the whim strikes me, whether that’s twice a day or twice a year.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, August 07, 2002

Sorry it’s been so long since I posted anything here, but I’ve finally got an item…

I finished writing my first novel, The Lure of the Basilisk, in April, 1978. I finally got up the nerve to submit it to Del Rey in late August, 1978.

The day I mailed it I also mailed Del Rey the manuscript of a novel called Slant, written in 1976, that had already been turned down at Ace and DAW. (This was, incidentally, the story I later rewrote as The Cyborg and the Sorcerers.)

Slant came back with a rejection in December, 1978. I expected The Lure of the Basilisk to follow quickly.

It didn’t.

In March 1979 I phoned Del Rey to ask what had become of the other novel, and was told they had no record of it, so I figured it was lost in the mail and that despite my minor-market successes with articles and a short story or two, I wasn’t meant to be a writer — a conclusion my wife Julie had reached a month or two earlier, actually. I spent April starting a mail-order business dealing in “paper ephemera” — comic books, pulp magazines, non-sports trading cards, etc.

On May 10, 1979, I got a long letter from Lester del Rey offering me $3,500 for The Lure of the Basilisk if I’d make a few revisions — they’d had no record of it at Del Rey because he’d taken it home with him, so it wasn’t in the office.

I called Julie at work and said, “Hey, guess what!”

She said, “You sold your novel!”

Took the wind right out of my sails, that she actually guessed. I mean, how’d she do that?

So a few days ago I got a letter from an old friend of ours, someone we’ve known for close to twenty years but these days see maybe once every year or two, mostly at conventions. This was the first letter in months, and contained an item of news that I found more than a little startling. The next day, when we were sitting in the family room, I said, “Hey, we got a letter from X. Guess what?”

“He’s changing his sex?”

Yes, that was the startling news — he’s started the hormone treatments and counseling for “sexual reassignment.”

Mind you, he had never mentioned this to either of us before as something he was considering. When I asked Julie, “How’d you guess?” she shrugged and said, “Well, he was always a little sexually ambiguous.”

Yeah, but so are a lot of people we know, and they don’t go for surgery!

How does she do that?

Tuesday, March 05, 2002

Looking through the books I inherited from my parents today, I came across The Longer Day, by the anonymous author of Miss Tiverton Goes Out.

You know how a lot of popular culture stuff from the period from about 1920 to 1960 makes fun of ”the modern novel”? Well, I think this is the sort of book they had in mind. The original review in the New York Times called it “psychological” and “devilishly clever,” according to the results of a quick web search. There are, upon skimming through it, several amusing bits, like the woman during the First World War (simply called “the war,” since this was published in 1930) who can’t tell the sound of bombs exploding from the sound of artillery, and is distraught because she was told at a seance that she would be killed by the thirteenth bomb and how can she keep count with all those guns going off? But an attempt to actually read it bounced off very quickly. The characters are repulsive, the dialogue contrived, and the ending, I am not kidding, I swear, amounts to ”…and then they were all run over by a bus.”

Okay, not all of them, but the protagonist is killed by running out into traffic while attempting to rescue an unusually stupid kitten.

There’s no sign of a plot.

I think I am going to give this book away.

Tuesday, February 12, 2002

One sometimes hears stories of jokes that have gone too far; I’ve just discovered a joke that doesn’t go far enough. It’s the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Robots.

This is something that could easily be elaborated upon, but so far there’s apparently just the one page; the graphics at the bottom are just graphics, not links. It would be so easy to write a FAQ, or cite examples of horrific cruelty to household appliances…

Ah, well. Just another missed opportunity.

[Additional note, Sept. 9, 2006:  I see they’ve elaborated on the original.  Good!]

Saturday, February 09, 2002

I got a Harriet Carter catalog by streetmail yesterday, and looked through it at lunch today.

I’m trying to imagine being the sort of person who would buy much of this stuff, and failing — which is really a bit peculiar, since I think I’ve ordered from them in the past.

And I find myself wondering, now that they’re on the Web, what people overseas would think of this stuff, should they stumble across it. Fabric shavers and bra extenders — are these peculiarly American products, or is this sort of kitsch available everywhere?

Monday, January 21, 2002

There are two kinds of weblogs.

Well, actually, there may be dozens, but I’m familiar with two. First, there’s the sort of online journal I’ve been doing here, posting the odd thought when the whim strikes me. Some people do daily entries, treat it as a diary, whatever, but it’s basically a self-contained journal.

Second, there’s the sort where people report Cool Sites they’ve found on the web, so that their friends can check ’em out. I haven’t done much of this, because frankly, I don’t do all that much websurfing, and when I find cool stuff it’s largely because I saw it in a friend’s weblog. Including it here is too much like plagiarism.

But right now, I’d like to point out a website I have just rediscovered after many years of neglect: The Really Big Button That Doesn’t Do Anything.

This is something that’s been on the web since the very early days; it was first put up in 1993 (at a different URL, I believe), and was something I discovered back in 1994 when I first got web access.

I still think it’s one of the funniest sites I’ve ever seen, and the closest the Web comes to true Zen.

So go, click, experience The Really Big Button That Doesn’t Do Anything.

Saturday, January 19, 2002

Today’s pet peeve: Autograph collectors.I got e-mail today from someone who says he’s my biggest fan, he loves my work, and by the way, “If you don’t mind I would love to have an auotgraphed photo or comic to hang on my wall.” (That’s his spelling, not mine.)

Notice that he hasn’t said anything specific about any of my work, or named any titles.

That’s because he doesn’t actually know who the heck I am.

What’s happened here is that he’s taken a list of names and e-mail addresses from a website listing comic book professionals and spammed us all, hoping to get some cool free stuff in the mail. He hasn’t written to each of us individually, and has no idea who most of us are, and doesn’t care; he just wants autographs for his collection, or to trade.

This happens fairly often.

Oh, it’s not always comic book professionals; sometimes someone’s found a list of writers somewhere. I’m on several of those, too.

It’s fairly easy to spot these letters and distinguish them from real fan mail, because they’re always written in vague generalities, where real fans will name titles or characters — instead of “I love your work!” a real fan will say, “I loved Valder in The Misenchanted Sword!”

Some of them are especially obvious — “I love your artwork!” Hello, guy — I’m a writer, not an artist. Not every comic book professional can draw.

New writers get taken in by these sometimes; I’m on a couple of mailing lists for writers, and every so often someone will ask, “Hey, I got a request from a Joe-Bob Smith who wants an autograph — any of the rest of you get that one?” And it’s not unusual for someone to admit that they’d gotten it and sent an autograph.

What I wonder about is why these people want all these autographs, since they don’t know who we are. The mindset that finds value in collecting autographs from strangers one has lied to eludes me.

And it seems a sort of petty cruelty. Here are these eager young writers who have just accomplished something they see as supremely difficult and satisfying in getting their work published, and they think they’ve done it so well that they actually have fans — and then the realization sinks in that it’s just some damnable collector trying to scrounge freebies, someone who hasn’t even read the writer’s story…

I hate autograph collectors who do this stuff.

Friday, December 28, 2001

I want the fat guy in the cheap suit back.

I used to do our taxes by hand, working from handwritten ledgers and boxes of receipts. Then eventually I started using a spreadsheet — PC-Calc, to be exact — to keep track of stuff. Finally, early in 1997 I broke down and got tax software, specifically Parsons Personal Tax Edge, for the 1996 tax year.

I liked it a lot, to my surprise, and one of its charms, as far as I was concerned, was that it included video of a “tax accountant” who went through the whole “interview,” collecting the information you typed in and inserting it into the forms. The tax accountant was a fat guy in a cheap suit who darn well LOOKED like a tax accountant.

I liked him. I found him reassuring. And his script was well-written, being clear, informal, and informative. I advance-ordered PTE for ’97.

And then Parsons sold out to Intuit, and I got TurboTax instead of PTE. I’ve been using TurboTax ever since, and it’s a pretty good program…

But I miss the fat guy in the cheap suit. The tax experts in the TurboTax video don’t have anything like his low-budget charm.

Friday, November 09, 2001

Okay, so it’s been months since I posted anything here. They’ve been eventful months, as we all know, and I considered posting something about September 11th, like everyone else on the Web, but eventually concluded I just didn’t have anything that needed saying that other people weren’t saying just as well as I could.

Besides, I was busy. I finished a novel.

For a lot of people writing a novel would be a major event, I suppose. For me it’s not really a big deal anymore. I was surprised to realize awhile back that I’ve lost count of how many novels I’ve written; I went down to the basement and counted, so I’d have an accurate number, but now I’ve forgotten it again.

It’s just my job, you know? It’s what I do.

So I can’t tell you whether this latest was my thirty-second or my thirty-fifth or what, but it was due in June and I finally finished it in October.

There were several reasons for not getting it done on time — my editor died suddenly in March, throwing everything into chaos, and there was the distraction of getting my daughter through high school and off to college, and of course there was September 11, and so on. Mostly, though, I was ill.

Which is what I actually wanted to post about tonight.

I’m still ill. It’s entirely possible I’ll be ill for the rest of my life, which is a peculiar realization to live with.

And I don’t know when it started, which is also a peculiar realization. It sort of snuck up on me over a period of many months, maybe a couple of years. It got worse and worse, and the symptoms got weirder and weirder, until I finally got serious medical attention starting in July. Up until June I honestly wasn’t sure whether I was sick, or was just getting older, or had had a string of separate ailments.

Finally getting an explanation (which took awhile) was amazingly liberating — it wasn’t my imagination, it wasn’t normal, it wasn’t terminal, it wasn’t a zillion separate problems. And there’s some satisfaction in having a rare and obscure disease.

Which I do. I have a pituitary disorder called idiopathic hyperprolactinemia. It’s a relief to have a name for it, to be able to look at the symptoms and say, “Oh, that’s why that’s happening!”

And it’s a relief to be getting treated. At present it’s just palliative measures while my endocrinologist decides whether anything more drastic is called for, but even that has me feeling better than I have in over a year. I’m getting more work done, being less irritable, and generally behaving more like a human being.

And one reason I haven’t posted here since August is that that’s about when the shots kicked in, and I started doing useful stuff instead.

So there’s an explanation of why I haven’t posted — and why I may not post much in the future, either. Ah, well.

posted by Lawrence 9:14 PM