Not a Blog

R.I.P. Kinkster

July 1, 2024 at 10:11 am
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I was saddened to read that Kinky Friedman died a few days ago.

I first encountered his music back in the 70s, and always remained fond of it.   Kinky was one of the originals, one  of  the “Outlaw Country” movement that grew out of Austin, in reaction to the more traditional country music of Nashville.   Willie Nelson, Jerry Jeff Walker, Townes Van Zandt, Kris Kristofferson, Waylon Jennings, those were the outlaw kings back then.   Kinky was the court jester.    He was best known for his irreverent satirical pieces, like “The Ballad of Charles Whitman,” “Put Your Biscuits in the Oven and Your Buns in the Bed,”  “They Ain’t Making Jews Like Jesus Any More,” and the like, which inevitably provoked screams of outrage from the humor impaired, but he also wrote more serious tunes, some of them really fine.   “Sold American,” “Silver Eagle” (a damn fine railroad song), “The Ballad of Ira Hayes,” and this one here, a personal favorite.

I saw Friedman perform live twice.   Once way back in the 70s when I was visiting Austin to hang with Howard Waldrop and Lisa Tuttle.  And more recently a few years ago in Albuquerque, when Parris and I joined John and Gail Miller to see him play at the Jewish Community Center.   Fun shows both times.

In between writing and singing songs, he also authored a number of detective novels set around a country bar in New York City.   The detective was the owner of the bar, a musician named… ah… Kinky Friedman.   Those were a lot of fun too.

Oh, and he ran for governor of Texas once, against Rick Perry.   A pity he didn’t win.   His campaign slogan was “How Hard Could It Be?”


Current Mood: sad sad

Words of Wisdom

June 19, 2024 at 9:03 am
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Current Mood: contemplative contemplative

Farewell to Melanie

April 17, 2024 at 7:08 am
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I was saddened to read that Melanie, the singer/ songwriter whose career took off after a memorable performance at Woodstock, died on January 23, at the age of 76.   Her real name was Melanie Safka.

I was not at Woodstock, alas (though Parris was), but I started hearing Melanie on the radio soon thereafter.   Never met her, never attended a concert, but I always loved her music.   She had a lovely voice, and wrote some wonderful songs with roots in both rock and folk.   “Candles in the Rain,” “The Nickle Song,” the lively funny sexy “Brand New Key” (her only number one hit, I believe) and many many more.

Including this one:

RIP, sweet lady.

Current Mood: sad sad

Words For Our Times

April 5, 2024 at 8:20 am
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Current Mood: hopeful hopeful

Dark Days

January 29, 2024 at 9:37 am
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In years past, I would often do a Not A Blog post on or about New Year’s, looking back over the year that was ending and ahead to the year to come.   This year, though, as I reflected on the year we had just lived through, I found I had no appetite for living through any of that again.   2023 was a nightmare of a year, for the world and the nation and for me and mine, both professionally and personally.   I am very glad that it is over.

Unfortunately, so far 2024 looks to be even worse.

There is war everywhere.   Ukraine and Gaza dominate the news, but there is a war in Myanmar as well that our western media just ignores, things are heating up in Yemen and the Red Sea, North Korea has nukes and is testing missiles and rattling sabres, Venezuela is threatening to annex three quarters of neighboring Guyana.

Meanwhile the US grows more polarized every day.   Hate is rising, democracy is under threat, millions of Americans have swallowed the lie that the 2020 election was stolen.  Newspeak has taken over political discourse, cancel culture is destroying lives and careers, and we have a disgraced, indicted, venomous ex-president winning primaries despite openly declaring that he will be a dictator on day one and will govern on a platform of “retribution,” when he is not busy grabbing women by the pussy.   His last attempt to overthrow the government failed on January 6, but some of his more ardent supporters are now saying that “next time” they will bring more guns.   There are actually folks out there wanting civil war.

It is hard to escape the feeling that we are living in the Weimar Republic.

I am famous and I am wealthy and, supposedly, I have a “big platform.”  Whatever that is.  But I have grown more and more cynical about this supposed “power” that people keep telling me I have.   Has anything I have ever written here ever changed a single mind, a single vote?  I see no evidence of that.  The era of rational discourse seems to have ended.

And death is everywhere.   Howard Waldrop was the latest, and his passing has hit me very very hard, but before him we lost Michael Bishop, Terry Bisson, David Drake… from my Wild Cards team, Victor Milan, John Jos. Miller, Edward Bryant, Steve Perrin… I still miss Gardner Dozois and Phyllis Eisenstein and my amazing agent Kay McCauley… Len Wein is gone, Vonda McIntyre, and Harlan Ellison… Greg Bear too, and… oh, I could go on.    I look around, and it seems as though my entire generation of SF and fantasy writers is gone or going.  Only a handful of us remain… and for how long, I wonder?  I know I have forgotten people in the list above, and maybe that is the destiny that awaits all of us… to be forgotten.

For that matter, the entire human race may be forgotten.   If climate change does not get us, war will.  Too many countries have nukes.


Well, I take solace where I can.   In chocolate thrones, if nowhere else.   In books.   In films and television shows… though even there, toxicity is growing.  It used to be fun talking about our favorite books and films, and having spirited debates with fans who saw things different… but somehow in this age of social media, it is no longer enough to say “I did not like book X or film Y, and here’s why.”  Now social media is ruled by anti-fans who would rather talk about the stuff they hate than the stuff they love, and delight in dancing on the graves of anyone whose film has flopped.

And don’t get me started on immigration.   We are a nation of immigrants, yet millions of us have now decided we hate immigrants… refugees dreaming of a better life who are no better or worse or different than our own ancestors.

It is all so sad.

Now that I have made you all as depressed and angry as I am, let me close with something nice.   When word of Howard’s death got out, I got a lot of texts and emails of condolence from mutual friends and fans.  One of them was from Steven Paul Judd, the amazingly talented screenwriter and director who worked with us on the adaptation of MARY-MARGARET ROAD GRADER that will be going out on the film festival circuit Real Soon Now (more on that in a later blog post).

Steve wrote:

“Oh, no.  I’m so sorry.  My heart is heavy for your loss…  In my tribe (Kiowa) in the old beliefs, they said we would go ‘west’ when we walked on into the spirit world.  Who knows if that’s true, but if it is, then Howard is on his journey west now, going to the place where the fields are filled with buffalo and the grass is green even in winter — and when he gets there he can tell all his wonderful stories to those around the campfire.”

Howard would like nothing better, I think.

Current Mood: depressed depressed

Howard Is Gone

January 19, 2024 at 2:08 pm
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Howard Waldrop died on January 14 in Texas, of a stroke.   He was 77 years old.  (Two years my senior, barely).

The world got a little darker then.

I learned of Howard’s passing through a phone call from a mutual friend.   I was away from home when it happened, out of the country, with no email and no internet, else I would have posted something here much sooner.

Howard and I never lived in the same city, nor the same state, but we had been friends for a long long time.   When we first “met” — via comic fandom and the US mail — John F. Kennedy was in the White House and both of us were in high school, Howard in Texas and me in New Jersey.   I had just bought a comic book from him.   BRAVE & BOLD #28, as it happened.  Starro the Conquerer.   Howard charged me a quarter.   When he sent the comic, he backed it up with a nice drawing of a barbarian on stiff cardboard, and a friendly letter asking me if I liked Conan.   We struck up a correspondence that lasted more than half a century.  We finally met in person in 1972, at MidAmerican Con in Kansas City.    He was my oldest friend from the SF community… the kindest, brightest, funniest man you could meet…   and one of the greatest writers of his generation.

He was one of  a kind.   There will never be another like him.  But he only wrote one-and-a-half novels, so he never got the acclaim (or the money) that he deserved.  These days, short story writers get little respect (’twas not always so, at least in SF and fantasy) and less money.  And Howard Waldrop was among the very best short story writers ever to work in our genre.

And certainly the most original.

I last spoke to Howard less than a week before his death.    He has been living in an assisted living hotel in Austin for the past few years.   We have been adapting a few of Howard’s classic stories into short films, and our mutual friend Robert Taylor had just screened a rough cut of MARY-MARGARET ROAD GRADER for him on his laptop.  (Howard did not use a computer and had no truck with email, texts, or social media).  I was calling to ask if he liked it.  He did, I am pleased to say… and I am so so so happy that he got to see the film before he left us.   He was not entirely happy when we spoke… he had fallen out of bed a few days before, and had required help to get back up.   That made him grouchy.  Howard gave good grouchy.   But talking about the film cheered him up.  That was good to hear.   He was laughing by the time we ended the call.

We are making a couple of other Waldrop adaptations as well, and I promised him I’d get him a cut of those as well before the end of January.   I never dreamed when hanging up that we would never speak again.

There’s so much more I could say about Howard… and I will, I will.   But not today.   This would turn into a novel if I told all my stories in one long post.   So many memories.  So much laughter.   So much love.

I still cannot believe he is gone.  I want to call him up right now, and hear him laugh again.

Current Mood: gloomy gloomy

As Time Goes By

October 1, 2023 at 8:18 am
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I had another birthday sneak up on me last Wednesday, September 20.  Honestly, I don’t know where the time goes.  The years seem to be flying past much faster than they used to.   We had a great birthday party, with lots of friends on hand.  Thanks to them, and to all of you out there who sent cards and even gifts (not necessary, though).  Friends, family, fans, readers, viewers, I appreciate all of you.

Birthdays always make me think of Eliot.

I grow old… I grow old…
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.
Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.

I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.

I do not think that they will sing to me.

For what it is worth, I mostly wear jeans, not white flannel trousers, and I remain unafraid of peaches.   We had peach ice cream at the party, yum yum.   Along with homemade apple pie, Papa Hemingway’s favorite hamburgers, corn on the cob, and baked beans.  The weather was perfect, and the company was great.

And who knows, maybe one day the mermaids will sing for me.

Current Mood: contemplative contemplative

Once upon a time there was a worldcon…

March 23, 2023 at 9:49 am
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The night I won two Hugos.

Seems like last week.

Seems like a million years ago.

Robert Silverberg was toastmaster (he was a great toastmaster, the best worldcon ever had)  and handed me the rockets.  I have forgotten every word he said.   I have forgotten every word I said, for that matter.   (I wonder if anyone was filming the ceremony.   These days all the Hugo ceremonies are videotaped, but in the days of yore, that did not always happen).   My whole night is a blur… but I do remember how happy I was… and the friends I shared the night with.   Phyllis Eisenstein, Mary Mertens, Ed Bryant… so many more… and of course, Gardner Dozois, who squirted whipped cream in my hair and formally threw me out of the Hugo Losers’ Party.

Once upon a time there was a worldcon…

Current Mood: melancholy melancholy

Let His Voice Be Heard

August 15, 2022 at 1:16 pm
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Let me be clear.  I do not know Salman Rushdie.   Oh, I know OF him, of course.   He has been one of the world’s most celebrated authors for decades now.   I have seen him on television, read about him in newspapers and magazines, listened to his interviews.   We have some mutual friends and acquaintances, I believe, for the world of publishing is a small one, but we’ve never been in the same place at the same time that I recall.   I doubt that he has ever read any of my work, and I am abashed to admit that I have never read any of his.

Not for any particular reason.   There are hundreds of authors whose books I keep meaning to read, without ever quite getting to them.   My unread shelves hold more books than I could possibly read if I lived to be a hundred and did nothing between now and then but read, all day, every day.   There are classics of English literature that I know only from the CLASSICS ILLUSTRATED comic books I read in the 50s.   There are major seminal works of science fiction and fantasy gathering dust on my shelves.   One day, I tell myself, one day.   There are books I have loved… yet other titles by the same writers remain “to be read.”    So my neglect of Rushdie really had nothing at all to do with him, and everything to do with how many books there are in the world, and how few hours in the day.

Not (yet) having read Rushdie’s novels did not keep me from admiring the man… from afar, as it were.  Along with the rest of the world, I read of the turmoil around THE SATANIC VERSES and the fatwa declared against him by the ayatollahs of Iran.     For the “crime” of writing a book that some people did not like, he was forced to spend a decade in hiding, surrounded by guards, wearing disguises when he dared leave his house.  Through it all, he displayed courage, compassion, and grace under fire, while holding firm to his principles and yielding not an inch to the haters.    In more recent years, the danger finally seemed to have ebbed, and Rushdie was once again able to speak and travel and appear in public.

He emerged as one of the world’s leading defenders of free speech, which only deepened my admiration for him.   Freedom of speech is a central pillar of our democracy, and every other democracy in the world.   There is nothing, but nothing, that I believe in more strongly.

And these days freedom of speech needs defenders, for when I look around, I find it under attack everywhere.   Blacklisting, cancel culture, libraries being closed or defunded, classic works of literature being banned or bowdlerized or removed from classrooms,  an ever growing list of “toxic” words the mere utterance of which is now forbidden no matter the context or intent, the erosion of civility in discourse.   Both the Rabid Right and the Woke Left seem more intent on silencing those whose views they disagree with, rather than besting them in debate.    And the consequences for those who dare to say things deemed offensive have been growing ever more dire; jobs lost, careers ended, books cancelled, “deplatforming.”

And now, it seems, attempted murder.

I cannot begin to express how horrified I am by the attack on Salman Rushdie in New York as he was about to give a speech.   He was stabbed multiple times by a masked man who leapt onto the stage and rushed at Rushdie before he could say a word.    The latest report I’ve read says that Rushdie is off the ventilator and improving, but he will never entirely recover.    He suffered damage to his liver, and to his arm.   He may lose an eye.   The attack took place in front of a large audience who had come to hear him speak… ironically, about America as a haven for dissidents.

The attacker was arrested, and is being held without bail.   His name is known, but I will not use it here.   He already has an attorney, and I read that he will plead “not guilty” to the various charges being brought against him.   When you try to kill someone on a stage in plain view of hundreds… well, I have to wonder how his legal team will dispute his guilt.   An insanity defense?   The devil made him do it?   He was just following orders, a soldier of god?  Maybe he just did it for the money.   There is a considerable bounty on Rushdie’s head, after all.   (Would that those who offered that bounty could also be arrested and tried before the World Court).   Perhaps the attacker was drunk, or on drugs.   Maybe he’d eaten a Twinkie.   No doubt we will learn his motive when the case comes to trial.   (Will the trial be televised?  Will the public follow it as avidly as they did the Johnny Depp/ Amber Heard case?   Call me cynical, but somehow I doubt it).

I think we all know what motivated the attack, however.   We know what Salman Rushdie did.   We have known for many years.

He wrote a book.

A book that a lot of people did not like.

I don’t know Salman Rushdie, as I said.    That cannot be helped.   There’s not much I can do for him… except to hope that he makes a full recovery, or as much of a recovery as he can possibly make, given his injuries… or maybe I should call them wounds.   For that is what they are, wounds received in battle in a war he has been fighting most of his life, a war for freedom of speech, for art, for compassion.

I don’t know Salman Rushdie’s work either, however… and THAT is something I can do something about.    I just placed an order for copies of THE SATANIC VERSES, MIDNIGHT’S CHILDREN, and several of his other books.   And I have instructed the managers at Beastly Books, my little bookshop here in Santa Fe, to order every Rushdie title presently in print.   Beastly is not an ordinary general interest bookshop (Santa Fe has several of those); almost of the books it stocks are autographed.   They carry my own titles, of course, along with books by the authors who have appeared at Beastly Books and the Jean Cocteau Cinema over the years for signings, interviews, readings, and other events.   Rushdie’s books would not previously have been on our shelves, no more than those of thousands of other writers who we have never hosted.   But that’s changing, as of today.   From here on, we will be stocking everything Rushdie wrote…

The man who rushed on stage in Chautauqua with knife in hand wanted to do more than murder Salman Rushdie.   He wanted to silence him.

Well, fuck that.   I say, let his voice be heard.  

I hope that all of you reading this will join me.

If, like me, you have never read his books, if he’s only someone you saw on the news, go out and buy THE SATANIC VERSES.   Or any of his books, actually… but SATANIC VERSES is the one that will make the point most clearly.   If you already have a copy on your shelves, great… but he has lots of other books, buy some of them.   Tell your local bookstore to put his novels on their shelves.   Make sure your local library stocks them.

If enough of us out there truly believe in freedom of speech, we can send Salman Rushdie soaring up the bestseller lists again.   Nothing would please me more than to see THE SATANIC VERSES rise to #1, decades after its original publication.   Nothing would make the point more clearly.




Current Mood: angry angry


July 31, 2022 at 7:57 pm
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An Update from LA