Not a Blog

Farewell to a Marvel

November 16, 2018 at 9:49 am
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Unless you have been hiding in a cave somewhere… or down with the Mole Man in the bowels of the Earth… by now you will have read that Stan Lee has died, at the age of 95.

A good age, that.   Stan Lee lived a long life, and leaves a grand and glorious legacy behind him.   He has been part of my world for so long that it seems impossible that he is gone.

Not that I can claim to have been a friend.   I never had that honor.  Oh, yes, I met Stan a dozen times or so, at various San Diego Comic-Cons over the years.   Every time I did, it was like meeting him for the first time; he never remembered our previous meetings, and I don’t think he had any idea who I was.   It made no matter.   He was always genial and generous to me, as he was to all the fanboys who surrounded him at those cons.  And when I was in Stan’s presence, that’s just what I was: a fanboy, slightly tongue-tied and more than a little in awe.

I owe so much to Stan Lee.   He was, in a sense, my first publisher, my first editor.   “Dear Stan and Jack.”  Those were the first words of mine ever to see print.  In the letter column of FANTASTIC FOUR #20, as it happens.   My first published loc, a commentary on FF#17, compared Stan to… ah… Shakespeare.  A little overblown, you say?  Well, okay.  I was thirteen…

And yet, and yet… the comparison, when you think about it, is not entirely without merit.   There were plays before Shakespeare, but the Bard’s work revolutionized the theatre, left it profoundly different from what it had been before.   And Stan Lee did the same for comic books.  I had been reading comics all through my childhood, but by the late 50s I had started to drift away from them.   I was buying fewer and fewer “funny books” (as we called them back then), and more SF and fantasy paperbacks.   The DC comics that dominated the racks had become so formulaic and tired, they were no longer holding my interest as they had when I was younger.   I was “outgrowing” comics.

And then Stan Lee came along, and pulled me back in.   The first issue of FANTASTIC FOUR that I chanced on (#4, it was, the one where the FF met Prince Namor) caught my interest as nothing had for years.  A short while later, along came Spider-Man.   And then the rest, one by one, in an astonishingly short period of time.   The Hulk.  Thor.  Iron Man.   Ant-Man (and the Wonderful Wasp).  The X-Men.  The Avengers.   Wonder Man (who died in the same issue he was introduced).  Black Panther.   The Inhumans.  Galactus and the Silver Surfer.   And the villains… Dr. Doom, Dr. Octopus, the Vulture, the Sandman, Mysterio, Loki… and on and on.   (We will not talk about Paste-Pot Pete.   This is a tribute).

These characters had personalities.    Quirks, flaws, tempers.  The heroes were not all good, the villains were not all bad.  The stories had twists and turns, I could not tell where they were going.  Sometimes good guys fought other good guys.   The characters grew and changed… over at DC, Superman and Lois Lane had been locked into the same relationship for decades, but Peter Parker went through girlfriends like a real teenager, he graduated high school and went to college, people could and did die.

You had to be there to understand how revolutionary all this was.  Comics as we know them today would not exist except for Stan Lee.   They might not exist at all, if truth be told.

No, of course, he did not do it all  alone.   The genius of Marvel’s artists, especially Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, should never be minimized.   They were a huge part of Marvel as well.   But Lee was at the center of it all.

That letter in FF#20 was only the first of many I sent to Stan and Jack, and Stan and Steve, and Stan and… whoever the artist was on the book I was writing to.  A number were published, with my full address attached.   Other comics fans around the country saw the letters, and began sending me fanzines and letters of their own.  My friendship with Howard Waldrop began thanks to those letters… him in Texas, me in Jersey.   And after reading some of those early ditto’d fanzines, I began to write for them as well.  My first published stories.  Heroes of my own creation.  Manta Ray.  Garizan the Mechanical Warrior.  The White Raider (who, like Wonder Man, died in his first story).  And, then, a little later, heroes created for STAR-STUDDED COMICS by my friends from the Texas Trio, Powerman and Dr. Weird.   I could not draw so I wrote “text stories,” superhero stories in prose.   Which people liked.   Which encouraged me to keep writing.   And as I wrote, I did my best to write like Stan Lee.

These days, in interviews, I am often asked which writers influenced me most when I started out.   There were a lot of them.   For SF there were Heinlein and Andre Norton and Eric Frank Russell, for fantasy Robert E. Howard and JRRT and Fritz Leiber, for horror the inimitable H.P Lovecraft.   Later on, when I was older, there was Jack Vance and Ursula K. Le Guin and Roger Zelazny and Samuel R. Delany and Alfred Bester, and later still William Goldman and F. Scott Fitzgerald.

But the greatest influences are the earliest influences, I think, and at the beginning there was only Stan Lee.

Comics have had a lot of great writers in the half century since the Marvel Age began.   Neil Gaiman, Len Wein, Alan Moore, and more and more and more… the list goes on and on.   But if not for Stan Lee and the worlds and characters and style he created, their own careers and accomplishments would have been very different, if not impossible.

Let me close with one last letter of comment.

Dear Stan,

You did good work.   As long as people still read comic books and believe in heroes, your characters will be remembered.  Thanks so much.   Make Mine Marvel.

George R. Martin
35 East First Street
Bayonne, New Jersey

 

 

 

Current Mood: melancholy melancholy

RIP, Paul

October 16, 2018 at 1:37 pm
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I was saddened yesterday to read of the death of Paul Allen.

I cannot claim to have known Paul well, but I met him a few times, and always enjoyed his company.   He had a house in Santa Fe, and when he was there, we would sometimes get together for a breakfast and talk about… well, all sorts of things.

With great power comes great responsibility, Stan Lee once wrote.  In the modern world, there is no power greater than wealth.  Paul Allen used his great wealth for the benefit of his community, his country, and his planet.   He left the world a better place than he found it, and no more can be asked of any man.

This was a kind man, a bright man, a profoundly good man.   He will be missed.

Current Mood: sad sad

Another Sadness

June 30, 2018 at 12:57 am
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Harlan Ellison died in his sleep the day before last.  He was 84.

It was a gentle ending for a turbulent soul.  Not entirely unexpected.  Harlan had been in very bad health since a stroke laid him low a couple of years ago.  For the world of science fiction and fantasy — he always preferred being called a fantasist to being called a science fiction writer, and he hated being called a “sci-fi writer” — this is another brutal loss in a year that has been full of them.   The same is true for the larger world of literature.   Harlan was not just a great fantasist and/or science fiction writer; he was a great writer, period.   When he was at the top of his form, from the late 60s through the 70s and well into the 80s, there was no finer short story writer in all of English literature.

Harlan was fifteen years older than me.  He was part of a generation of writers who emerged in the late 50s and early 60s, a generation that included such giants as Robert Silverberg, Roger Zelazny, Algis Budrys, Ursula K. Le Guin, and Samuel R. Delany.   They were the New Wave generation, and they remade the genre in their own image, none more so than Harlan, whose anthology Dangerous Visions and its sequel Again, Dangerous Visions not only outraged and delighted tens of thousands of readers, but had an enormous influence on the writers of the generation that followed, my own generation.  Those books blew the doors off the hinges in ways that might seem incomprehensible to those who did not live through those times; they opened doors to worlds and worlds of possibilities, to lands of the imagination that John W. Campbell and H.L Gold never dreamt of, and I rushed on through, together with most of my contemporaries.   Writers of the Golden Age wanted to impress JWC; writers of my youth wanted to impress Harlan.   He was a hero to us.

The first time I met Harlan in person was at 1972 Lunacon at the old Commodore Hotel above Grand Central Station.   He read “The Whimper of Whipped Dogs,” a powerful story made even more powerful by his reading (no one read better than Harlan, ever),  and gutted the entire audience.   A few hours later, he moderated the New Writers Panel.   The new writers in question included Gardner Dozois, Jack Dann, a couple of Haldemans (I think), and Geo. Alec Effinger.   Harlan did the panel as if it were the old tv show Queen for a Day, and had the whole ballroom howling with laughter.  I’ve seen half a dozen panels as funny as that one in the half century since, but never one that was funnier.   Laughter and tears; he could evoke them both.

I was a new writer myself in ’72, with maybe four or five sales under my belt, but nowhere near the stature to be invited to be on any panels.   (I would have to wait another three years for that.  I actually won my first Hugo before being asked to be on my first panel.  In those days, you were expected to pay your dues before they put you on stage).  Nonetheless, I screwed up my courage enough to approach Harlan in the hall and introduce myself.  To my surprise, he knew who I was; he’d seen the handful of stories I had published by that point.   But when I asked him if I could submit a story to him for The Last Dangerous Visions, he shot me down quickly and firmly.  The book was done, he said, and would be out that Christmas.   (Years later, Harlan did write me and ask me to send him something.  I sent him an early draft of my story “Meathouse Man,” the darkest and most dangerous story I had in me at the time.  He rejected it almost by return mail, with a scathing letter that ripped it to shreds.   He was completely right about everything he said.   So I gnashed my teeth, muttered curses under my breath, and rewrote the story from beginning to end, making it four times as long and a hundred times as good.   When I sent it back to him… he rejected it again.   He was not easy to please.   Eventually I sold the story to Orbit… but though Damon Knight published it, it was Harlan who edited it, and helped me make it what it is, for good or ill).

GRRM & HE at WFC 1983

Of course, I ran into Harlan many times in the decades that followed, at cons and awards banquets, and even at his fabled house in Sherman Oaks, which I visited for the first time when Lisa Tuttle was living there.   Lisa was only one of a succession of young writers that Harlan welcomed into Ellison Wonderland; Edward Bryant, James Sutherland, and Arthur Byron Cover preceded and followed her, and no doubt others I’ve forgotten.  They paid no rent.  All that Harlan demanded of them was that they write.   These days they’d call it mentoring, I suppose.  Things were less formal in those days, but the bottom line was, very few people ever went as far as Harlan when it came to encouraging and supporting young writers.   He taught at Clarion almost every year in those years, and when he found a talented newcomer, he went above and beyond the call of duty in promoting him or her.

Harlan Ellison was also deeply entwined in my own beginnings in television, as it happens.  It was Phil DeGuere, the executive producer and showrunner of the Twilight Zone revival of 1985-86, who first took a chance on me and gave me my first script assignment, but it was Harlan who suggested that I be given the rewrite of “The Once and Future King,” the Elvis episode that landed me a place on staff.   As irony would have it, Harlan himself took over the short story I’d originally brought to Phil, a Donald Westlake story called “Nackles,” which proved to be his undoing when the CBS censors tried to rip the heart of his script, the first he’d been slated to direct.   Harlan quit rather than let that happen.   Lots of people talk the talk, especially in these sad sick days of the internet, but Harlan always walked the walk as well.   Censorship was anathema to him.

Let there be no question; Harlan Ellison could be a difficult man.   He did not brook fools gladly, and he was quick to take offense at any slight, real or perceived.  Most people, as they go through life, make an enemy or two along the way… especially people who never learned to keep their voices down and their heads bowed, which was never Harlan.  Harlan was the only one I’ve ever known who had so many enemies that they actually formed a club, called… of course… the Enemies of Ellison.   But he had far more friends than enemies, as can be seen from all the heartfelt eulogies going up all over the internet.   He was a fighter, and fighters always make enemies.   He fought against censorship with the Dangerous Visions anthologies.  He fought for racial equality, marching with King at Selma.  He fought for women’s rights and the ERA.   He fought publishers, defending the rights of writers to control their own material and be fairly compensated for it.   He served on the Board of Directors of the WGA.   He gave of himself to Clarion, year after year.

Did he make mistakes?  Sure he did.   Was he wrong from time to time?  Definitely.   Who isn’t?   Was he loud, opinionated, sometimes obnoxious?  Oh, all of that… but he was also kind and caring and generous, and a relentless champion of excellence, free speech, and equal rights.  No one goes through this life without a stumble.  The question is not, “was he perfect in every way?” but rather “did he do more harm or good?”   Harlan Ellison was no perfect paladin, but he left the world… and our genre… a better, richer, fairer place than he found it, in half a hundred ways… and that’s why you are seeing such an outpouring of affection for this temperamental, exhausting, relentless, raging, loving, roaring giant who lived among us for a time.

He was a complicated guy, a genius in his own way, and his muse was an angry harpy… but oh, he could write.

And that’s the thing that matters, in the end.   Long after the enemies of Ellison and the friends of Ellison have all followed him to the grave, long after the criticisms and the paeans of praise have faded away and been forgotten, the stories will remain.

Current Mood: sad sad

Editing with Gardner

June 17, 2018 at 9:00 am
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It has been a few weeks since Gardner Dozois died.   I’m still having a hard time coming to grips with it.   He was such a huge presence in the field, such a gigantic personality, it still seems inconceivable that he’s gone.  I posted about our friendship below,  about the laughter he brought with him wherever he went… but I wanted to write about his legacy as an editor as well.

It’s been harder than I anticipated.   Every time I start this post, it hits me all over again, and I realize that I will never see him again.

I need to say something, though.   Not for Gardner — there are dozens of memorials all over the net, speaking of his talents  — but for myself.

There’s really not much that I can say that has not already been said.   As an editor, I think, Gardner had few peers.   Over the decades our genre has been fortunate in having a succession of amazing editors: H.L. Gold, Anthony Boucher, Terry Carr, Damon Knight, Robert Silverberg, Donald A. Wollheim, Cele Goldsmith Lalli, Ellen Datlow, Ben Bova, Ted White, Fred Pohl, and Groff Conklin all come to mind, and many more.   But two figures tower above them all: John W. Campbell, the editorial genius who gave SF its Golden Age, for whom not one but two memorial awards are named… and Gardner Dozois.   His stint as editor of Asimov’s can rightly be compared only with Campbell’s decades at Astounding and Analog, and was similarly influential.  He discovered and nurtured more new talents than I could possibly remember or recount… among them, myself.   Not at Asimov’s, no.   I was already well established before Gardner got that gig.  No, he found me long before, in his first editorial job… reading the slush pile at Galaxy.  It was in that pile, in the summer of 1970, that he came across my short story “The Hero,” and passed it along to editor Ejler Jakobsson with a recommendation to buy.   That was my first professional sale, and came during the summer between my senior and graduate years at Northwestern, when I starting to seriously contemplate what I wanted to do with my life.   That sale, and the publication that followed, went a long way toward making that decision for me.   It’s no exaggeration to say that I might not be where I am today if Gardner had not fished me out of the slush pile in 1970.

Many decades later, I had the honor and privilege of working beside Gardner on a series of anthologies that I am still very proud of.    We were both huge Jack Vance fans, so the idea of a doing a Dying Earth anthology was a natural for us… and when Jack gave us permission, we were thrilled.   SONGS OF THE DYING EARTH was a tribute anthology as well, and the best kind: one that Jack Vance was actually able to read and appreciate while he was still with us.  I hope he liked reading that book (the tributes at least) as much as Gardner and I liked doing it.

I’ve never met anyone who was as well read in SF and fantasy as Gardner Dozois, but like me, that was never all he read.   He loved mysteries and thrillers and historicals as well; so long as the tales were gripping and well told, he never cared what the imprint was on the spine.   So the next thing we tackled after the Vance books were the crossgenre anthologies: massive books with very broad themes, featuring work from outstanding writers from a dozen different genres.   WARRIORS was the first.   It did so well that we soon followed it with DANGEROUS WOMEN and ROGUES.   Those did even better.   They won awards, got great reviews, and even more importantly, introduced thousands of readers to some great new writers they might never have encountered, if we hadn’t put them between covers with their familiar favorites.   Gardner and I did a couple of fun genre mash-ups as well.   There was DOWN THESE STRANGE STREETS, crossing private eye stories with fantasy and SF, and SONGS OF LOVE AND DEATH, an SF/ fantasy/ romance hybrid.

Last, but definitely not least, were our two “retro SF’ collections, OLD MARS and OLD VENUS.   Damn, those were fun to do.  Gardner and I shared a deep deep affection for the lost solar system of our youth, the Mars of the canals and dead cities and vanished races, the Venus of endless swamps and dinosaurs and web-footed Venusians.  And we discovered, to our delight, that a lot of writers shared that love, and had been waiting all their lives for a chance to set a story on the Mars and Venus of yore.   Those books were easy to edit; we had to beat off writers with a stick.   Both books won awards.

The sad part is, it ended there.   I didn’t want it to.   Neither did Gardner.    I loved working with him, and we had more anthologies we wanted to do.  We wanted to follow OLD MARS and OLD VENUS with OLD LUNA, and maybe down the line OLD MERCURY, or a book set in the asteroids.   Done retro, like the first two.  We talked about doing more crossgenre books.  A second WARRIORS, a second ROGUES, a second DANGEROUS WOMEN, maybe one called VILLAINS or HEROES or (this would have been fun) SIDEKICKS.   The publishers were interested.  The earlier books had sold very well.   Gardner was interested.   I was the one who demurred.   As proud as I was of those books, as much as I enjoyed working with Gardner, I did not have the time.   WINDS OF WINTER was late and getting later, and the editing had taken more of my time and energy than I thought it would.   “I can’t take on anything more right now,” I told him.  “We’ll do them later, once I’ve delivered WINDS.”   So Gardner went on to edit THE BOOK OF SWORDS and THE BOOK OF MAGIC by himself (he could have edited all these books by himself, he never actually needed me, we just enjoyed working together).    I contributed stories to both books (a reprint to MAGIC, since I did not have the time).    There would be plenty of time to do ROGUES 2 and OLD LUNA and SIDEKICKS and all the rest, after all.   All the time we needed.   Just as soon as I got King Kong off my back… we even kicked around the notion of a reprint anthology we wanted to call THE HUGO LOSERS.   After all, we were the guys who founded the Hugo Losers Party… just yesterday, in 1976….

We’d do all these books tomorrow.  Next month.   Next year.   Real soon now.

Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow…

He’s gone now, and I fear he has taken all those books with him.   I may edit other anthologies in the future (in addition to the Wild Cards series, which I imagine I’ll be editing till I join Gargy at the Great Worldcon in the Sky), but I could never bring myself to edit those particular books, the ones we had talked about doing together.   It just wouldn’t feel right.

Gardner Dozois won fifteen Hugo Awards as Best Editor, a record that will never be broken, I expect.   He and I won some Locus Awards and a World Fantasy Award as well, and I will always cherish those.   It was an honor to know him, and to work with him.   I miss him so much.

 

 

 

 

Current Mood: melancholy melancholy

Reading Vic

February 23, 2018 at 6:21 pm
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Vic Milan has left us… but his words and his work live on, so long as he is being read.

Tor has asked me to announce that his new story, “EverNight,” is now available to purchase in ebook on Amazon and other retailers. Here are the links:

https://www.amazon.com/Evernight-Tor-com-Original-Victor-Mil%C3%A1n-ebook/dp/B079Y7NC1N/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1519227187&sr=8-1&keywords=evernight+victor+milan

http://us.macmillan.com/books/9781250198167

For those looking for his recent books, the first three volumes of his DINOSAUR LORDS series are available via mailorder from the Jean Cocteau Cinema:

http://jeancocteaucinema.com/product-category/author/m-p/milan-victor/

All the dinosaur books are autographed.

Some of his fans have emailed to ask if there will be more dinosaur books coming. My understanding is that he had done an outline for three more volumes, and had written some portion of the first of those, but did not have a contract to continue the series. How much material he left behind, or whether he would have wanted someone else to finish the books, I cannot say. If I learn more, I’ll be sure and let his readers know.

He does have one more Wild Cards story coming out in TEXAS HOLD ‘EM, scheduled for release in hardcover in October. It features a new character, Dust, and Candace Sessou, the protagonist of “EverNight,” and I know Vic was very pleased with it.

Current Mood: sad sad

Another Ace Falls

February 13, 2018 at 10:18 pm
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Our writing community here in New Mexico, and the world of SF and fantasy in general, took a blow this afternoon when our friend Victor Milan died after two months of suffering and struggle in a series of Albuquerque hospitals.

I first met Vic not long after I moved to Santa Fe in 1979. Outgoing, funny, friendly, and incredibly bright, he was one of the cornerstones of the New Mexico SF crowd for decades, a regular at Bubonicon in Albuquerque, the perennial masquerade host at Archon in St. Louis, a fan, a lover of ferrets and collector of guns, a gamer (I can’t tell you how many times we stayed up till dawn playing Superworld, Call of Cthulhu, and other RPGs with Vic, and laughing at the outrageous antics of the characters he created). But above all, he was a writer.

He wrote all sorts of things, in and out of our genre: westerns, historicals, men’s action adventure, more books than I could possibly list… but it was in science fiction that he did his best work. CYBERNETIC SAMURAI and CYBERNETIC SHOGAN were two of the best known from the old days. More recently, he was finding new readers by the score all around the world with his DINOSAUR LORDS series.

He was also a Wild Cards writer, of course; one of my aces. In a sense he was the father of Wild Cards. It was Vic who gave me the Superworld game as a birthday present back in 1983, and it was those long long nights of playing Superworld that eventually inspired me to start Wild Cards.

Vic was an integral part of the series right from the very start, and the characters he created were among our most popular. Among them were the Russian ace Molniya, the Harlem Hammer, the twisted German psychopath Mackie Messer, Dr. Pretorius, Ice Blue Sibyl, Flipper, Dust, the Darkness… and above all, Mark Meadows, aka Cap’n Trips, and his “friends” Jumpin’ Jack Flash, Starshine, Moonchild, Aquarius, Cosmic Traveller, Monster… and the Radical. The long saga of Mark Meadows began in volume one, and was brought to a close in volume twenty, SUICIDE KINGS. It was a long strange trip indeed, and every step of it was exciting, thanks to Vic.

Sadly, Vic’s health has not been good in the past few years, and it finally gave out on him. But his warmth, his wit, and his talent will be long remembered by everyone who knew him, and his words will live on after him.

And, as irony would have it, he has another story coming out tomorrow on Tor.com. It’s a Wild Cards story called “EverNight,” set in the catacombs of Paris and featuring Candace Sessou, the Darkness, a character he introduced in SUICIDE KINGS. The link will not go live until 9 am EST tomorrow, but once it does you can read the story here, for free:

https://www.tor.com/2018/02/14/wild-cards-evernight-victor-milan/

It saddens me that Vic did not live long enough to see his story on Tor.com, or appreciate the gorgeous piece of John Picacio art that adorns it (he was a huge fan of John’s)… but I hope that many of you will read “EverNight.” If you like it, do leave a comment. I think that would have pleased him.

I believe that Vic may have another book or two in his DINOSAUR LORDS sequence coming out, but I am not sure of that. I do know that he will be represented in two more Wild Cards books. He has a story in TEXAS HOLD ‘EM, due out in October, and a collaboration in the book we’re doing now, JOKER MOON. Would that I could say that there will be many more after that, but I fear those will be the last.

Fare thee well, Vic. It was an honor knowing you.

Current Mood: sad sad

Ursula K. Le Guin, RIP

January 24, 2018 at 2:43 pm
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I was very saddened to hear of the death of Ursula K. Le Guin, one of the great SF and fantasy writers of the past half century.

Over the years, I had the honor of meeting Le Guin a few times, but I cannot claim to really have known her as a person. Our encounters, such as they were, were all at conventions or Nebula banquets or writer’s workshops, and they were all brief and forgettable.

But I certainly knew her work… as anyone who calls themselves an SF fan surely must. She was one of the giants. A gifted storyteller, dedicated to her art, she influenced a whole generation of writers who came after her, including me. THE LEFT HAND OF DARKNESS ranks as one of the best science fiction novels ever written, in my estimation, and THE DISPOSSESSED and THE LATHE OF HEAVEN were splendid works as well. The original Earthsea trilogy occupies a similar lofty position in the fantasy pantheon (though it was badly served by its television adaptation).

The Golden Age of Science Fiction is usually reckoned to have been the Campbell Era at ASTOUNDING, and its Big Three were Heinlein, Asimov, and Van Vogt. Yet as important as that era was, for me the true Golden Age will always be the late 60s and early 70s, when the Big Three were Roger Zelazny, Samuel R. Delany, and Ursula K. Le Guin. We shall never see their like again.

The world is poorer today.

Current Mood: sad sad

Happy Holidays

December 26, 2017 at 5:52 pm
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Merry Xmas and Happy New Year to all my friends and readers out there.

I had a lovely Christmas Day with friends and family, and Santa was very good to me. I hope the same is true for all of you.

Even so, I look forward to the new year. I thought 2016 was a bad year, but 2017 was even worse… if not so much for me personally, then certainly for a lot of my friends and loved ones, and for the nation and the world as a whole.

I hope better times are ahead for all of us.

Current Mood: contemplative contemplative

Dare I Eat A Peach?

September 21, 2017 at 12:57 pm
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Yesterday another birthday came and went.

(And thanks to all those who sent me cards and emails. You’re very kind. Love you all).

I had a good day with family and friends, but…

69

Really.

Urk.

How did that happen?

Seems like only yesterday I was one of the Young Turks of Science Fiction.

What a long strange trip it’s been…

And I still have a ways to go, I hope. Lots of stories still to tell.

(And yes, Mr. Prufrock, I still eat peaches).

Current Mood: contemplative contemplative

Another Sadness

September 14, 2017 at 6:40 pm
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I’ve been trying for several days to write something about the death of Len Wein.

It’s been hard. The words stick in my throat. Len was not just a professional colleague, as Jerry Pournelle was. Len was a friend. An old, dear friend. He lived in LA and I lived in Santa Fe, so we never saw each other more than a few times a year, but I cherished all the time I spent with him and his wife, Chris Valada. I don’t have a bad memory of Len, and I doubt that anyone does. He was a sweet, kind, funny man, and a joy to be around, to share a meal with (even though he always refused to “eat anything that looked like itself”).

Len and I went way way back. We were both there when comics fandom was being born, and we met for the first time in a place called the Workingman’s Circle, at the 1964 New York Comicon. The first comicon… and Len Wein was one of the kids who made it happen, one of the organizers, while I was the first fan to send in $1.50 for a membership. We were both in high school at the time. Many years later, at a San Diego Comicon with its 150,000 members, I turned to Len and sad, “See what you did?” He just laughed and replied, “Who knew?”

You don’t need me to tell you about his career, his professional accomplishments, his creations. If you don’t know who Len Wein is, you’ve never read a comic book. He created Wolverine, the New X-Men, Swamp Thing, the Human Target, Lucius Fox, and, oh, about five hundred other characters. Maybe a thousand. Most of those were created under the old work-made-for-hire contracts so common in the comics industry when Len stared out, so he had no ownership of any of them, and made very little, if anything, from all the movies and TV shows that featured them. (Lucius Fox was the exception to that, since he was created later, under a contract that gave the creator more rights, In one of the little ironies of life in the comics biz, Len made more money from Lucius Fox than he ever saw from Wolverine). If it had been me, it would have made me incredibly bitter to see my creations making billions while I got some loose change, but Len never bitched about it. He knew the rules when he signed the contracts, he would always say. And he loved seeing his creations on the big and little screens. There was no bitterness in the man, and no anger that I ever saw.

He loved comics, and he loved life, and I’m just one of the many who loved him.

((Comments allowed, but only about Len)).

Current Mood: melancholy melancholy