And Meanwhile ..

Eight weeks since I last posted here, and it’s been a rough two months.

The last two weeks of February found me in a rising panic – topped by two urgent care visits – as I found it more and more difficult to draw a breath of air. Finally landed in the hospital for three days – February 28, 29 and 30 -where I was diagnosed with pneumonia.

I’ve been home six weeks and tethered to an oxygen tube  for most of that time, particularly at night while I sleep. I am feeling much improved and able to move around without the extra oxygen for longer and longer spells, as long as I’m not under stress.

I did well untethered the first of April, when we drove up to Skagit County for the first day of the tulip festival, so we got tickets for the Mariners home opener – one of our favorite things to do. I only made it to the fourth inning before I was panting and shivering, even though it was a pleasant night. The pressure of being in a stadium at maximum capacity (47,000+) added to my rising panic, I suppose.

Rachael was gracious enough to take me home (she loves me, it seems, more than she loves the Mariners, and she does love the game). I had an oxygen tank in the car, so I was feeling better by the time we got home.

No more outings for a time, it seems.

Even worse, being ill has left me without the energy to write. Two months and I haven’t done a thing but sit and stare at the monitor.  Some improvement there, though. I wrote this post today and last night I managed to add two hundred words to Still and Always Incandescent, a post-apocalyptic tale involving the Geezers of Fury, a septuagenarian motorcycle club. Hopefully, I’ll have more to tell about that project soon.

Life at a gallop ..

For the past couple weeks, I’ve been mulling over how quickly time passes and how we all float in and out of other people’s lives.

I grew up in small-town Ohio with a fellow named Mike Kuntz. There was a group of us who were pals, the same age, and we all called him Kuntzie. We were the smart kids in our class, the ones the teachers called on first because our hands were always in the air.

Summers, we swam the pools that collected in the northeast Ohio strip-mines; played marathon Monopoly and Risk games on Tom Dreher’s porch and blew up plastic model cars with M-80s and other firecrackers that are illegal now.

Winters, we would hang around somebody’s house and spin dreams about what we would do when we got out of high school. For most of us, that meant getting out of town. First to college and then to other things more exciting than could be done in little Ohio towns.

Mike was always interested in rocks and that meant geology. He got an undergraduate degree and then a masters. He came by the house my ex and I were renting for breakfast the Sunday morning after our tenth-year high school reunion. I was working for the local newspaper; a job that let me talk to people and spin yarns about what they told me.  He was working for a corporation that let him look at rocks. He talked about wanting to see the world. I remember him saying, “Ohio’s not the only place I ever want to see.”

We promised to stay in touch, but you know how things are. Life comes at you at a gallop, and you either swing on board and hold on tight or get trampled in the rush.

From time to time, I heard he was hanging out somewhere in Europe or Australia or New Zealand. It sounded like he was having fun, but that Sunday morning breakfast was the last time I ever saw or spoke to Kuntzie. That was forty years ago. If I even took or had the time to think of Mike in the intervening years, it was to daydream for a few minutes of all the exotic places he had been.

Last week, my sister sent me an e-mail to tell me he had died suddenly. He had stopped roaming a quarter century ago, found a job as a government geologist, got married and raised two kids. Along the way, he had the time to run marathons and iron-man triathlons; finished as high as second in his age group in one race.

And for the past nine years, since we moved to Seattle from the Florida Keys, I’ve lived forty-five minutes away from where Kuntzie had settled down. In the Pacific Northwest, that’s practically next door and I never knew he was there.

Life can be many things,  some wonderful and some not, but first and most of all it is ironic.




Recent Reading

I finished Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Mercy tonight.

It’s the third in a trilogy – Ancillary Justice, Ancillary Sword and Ancillary Mercy. I’ve read all three.

The trilogy follows Breq, the sole survivor of a starship destroyed by treachery and a human clone that is the vessel of the starship’s artificial consciousness, as she attempts to revenge herself on the ruler of her civilization. Leckie explores what makes an individual human and defies our society’s binary gender paradigm by using the feminine pronoun for all characters and refusing to use character descriptions that might, in any way, suggest sexual identity. That is jarring, at first, but I soon fell into the notion and found it comfortable. The three books also suggest that the only way to earn loyalty is by giving loyalty, of which I very much agree.

Ancillary Justice, published in 2013, won the Hugo Award, Nebula Award, British Science Fiction Association Award, Arthur C. Clarke Award and Locus Award. It is one of the few novels to sweep those awards and is, in my opinion, the best of the three books by far. All the awards were well deserved.

I recommend it.

Ancillary Sword, the second book, offers some surprises, but doesn’t have the power of the first, and Ancillary Mercy runs a distant third. It’s not much more than “this is how Breq’s story ends.”

Read them to finish up Breq’s tale, but don’t expect any of the surprises of the first book.

A great way to start the day

This morning I received the most delightful story rejection I have ever had. I won’t say who sent it or which story it concerned, but here’s part of what it said:

“I absolutely loved it up to around Page 11. You’ve given us some of the best fiction we’ve ever published. If you’ve a mind to dream up a honking knock-my-socks-off second half to this piece, I’d run through molten lava to read it.”

So to the editor who sent this, I tip my glass of cranberry juice in an early-morning toast. Thank you! Your kind words have made my day.

Recent Reading

I just finished reading The Bazaar of Bad Dreams, Stephen King’s new collection.

A King fan since I read Carrie, I am sorry to say the short stories in this book are not up to King’s best work.  None of the stories are truly awful, but none are memorable, either; except for the last story – Summer Thunder.

It’s a melancholy piece about the end of the world; somewhat reminiscent of the early pages of  The Stand, but with a tighter focus. Stuart Redman and Glen Bateman come to mind, as King relates the last few days of two men and a dog, and although the ending is expected it still carries quite a punch.

Just before King, I read George R.R. Martin’s A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms.

Although it’s novel length, it’s really a collection of three connected novellas set in Westeros two hundred years before the Starks and Lannisters and Baratheons went at it, toe to toe.

I was drawn into the lives of Ser Duncan the Tall, a hedge knight who is far too honest and noble for his own good, and his squire, Egg, who is really a prince-to-be, Aegon Targaryen.  Although the stories were previously published in 1998, 2003 and 2010, I had never read them. The first one, The Sworn Sword, is the best, but I enjoyed all three tales.  If you’re a fan of Martin, the book is well worth the read.

Now if we can just get George to finish the next A Song of Ice and Fire novel …

The Expanse

the expanseI just finished episode six of SyFy Channel’s new series, The Expanse,  and it continues to get better and better.

Tightly written. Well acted. Great graphics and  a superb attention to the little details.  I have been hooked since the first minutes of episode one.

SyFy has finally given us real science fiction, instead of the crap the channel has been serving up for years. Good on them. I hope they continue.  [After note: I have been told they have green-lit season two.]

Two more episodes before the season ends.  It’s not too late to catch up.

At Daily Science Fiction

I’ve got a piece of flash – Last Call – appearing today at Daily Science Fiction. The story is about baseball; about umpires and newspaper reporters and computers. And how some folks are attracted to their jobs out of love of the work, not a desire for money.

I am particularly pleased with this story.  It’s very near-future science fiction.  All the elements are there; human arbiters are already using high-resolution cameras and computer tracking  to make final judgments on disputed calls at first, second and third base.  And television networks show viewers whether or not pitches were in the home plate strike zone — after the human umpire’s call.

Technology has a way of pushing forward, whether or not people want it or not. Like Pandora’s Box, once opened, it’s difficult to put things back and ignore potential changes. And not everyone benefits from such changes.  Buggy-whip manufacturers come to mind.

I hope you enjoy the story.