24 August 99

Back on schedule for me: there's a huge golden gibbous moon setting in the west, and the light is just beginning to creep into the sky... I haven't been lazing about, you know. I've been working at-- don't laugh!-- putting together a Blake's 7 Fiction site. It has taken up way, way too much of my time, what with the illustrations and all. And then I am helping out at the stand, and I still have a lot of work for the library, and-- well.

Last week, on the way to the stand, I saw the electric blue pickup truck again. Naturally, my first thought was "Shades of Travis McGee!" (I was pleased to realize that my brain had made a pun.) Of course, it wasn't a converted Rolls, but you can't have everything. Also last week, as I was clearing off the kitchen table, I unearthed an aged survey form I received from a publisher. I had filled it out, but, for some reason, never mailed it. The first question was, Who are your favorite current authors? I had written in, "All my favorite authors are dead." I guess I was feeling a bit churlish.

For sure, John D. MacDonald, author of the Travis McGee mysteries dropped dead a few years ago. P.G. Wodehouse, famed chronicler of the adventures of Jeeves and Bertie Wooster, has been dead lo! these many years. And, just a few weeks ago, my suspicion was confirmed by Harlan Ellison: Roger Zelazny is dead. Rats. Now I'll never know what happened in Amber-- worse, there'll nevermore be any delighfully brain-swizzling stories about Doorways in the Sand, or secret highways that run all the way back to Babylon and forward into the future...

Rats. Rats, rats, rats, rats, rats.

A few weeks ago, during a particularly bad episode of insomnia, I reread some of the old T. McGee: A Tan & Sandy Silence, The Turquoise Lament, The Long Lavender Look. These stories were written in the unenlightened 1970's, and they're very, very dated, expecially where women are concerned. But the stories are solid and the characterizations are consistent-- people's motivations haven't changed much over the past twenty millenia, never mind the last 20 years-- so, if you don't mind a little time travel, they're still very enjoyable reads. And I kinda grew up reading about Travis's adventures, wanting to be Travis McGee, the boat bum "Salvage Expert." I learned a lot from him. I guess that's what bothers me. I've continued, and Travis hasn't. He's frozen in time, and there aren't any more stories; and I'd really like to know who and what he'd have become if he'd "lived" through the last 15 years. (In one memorable story, he transferred all his music collection from vinyl records to tape and then gave the records away! I remember thinking, That's crazy! What the hell is he going to do the when that tape deck starts to eat the tapes? Mercifully, Travis "died" before his collection got ruined. He would have liked CD's.)

I miss Bertie and Jeeves, too. And I'm gong to miss Corwin and his son Merlin-- and I'm really going to miss the hope that there might someday be a sequel to Doorways in the Sand.

Some of my favorite authors are still alive. Ursula K. LeGuin (but I want another story about Ged and Earthsea and the Dragons, and she says she's done with them, four books in a trilogy being sufficient); Dick Francis (but his last wasn't a novel, it was short stories, and I loathe short stories). Alexei Panshin is alive, I know. I've now been waiting twenty years to read his "The Universal Pantograph," the fourth book in his Anthony Villiers series. I taxed him with not having written it yet when I ran into him at a convention six or seven years ago. For some screwey reason he told me that for him to write that story he'd need money and I should buy his other book of essays. Since I couldn't figure out, and he couldn't explain, how my purchase of the essays ($25) would hasten his writing process on The Universal Pantograph, I declined. But I told him I'd've given him a hundred bucks for The Universal Pantograph-- in paperback, even!

Thinking about it, I realize that there are a lot of very good writers I currently enjoy reading. But what makes me feel churlish is the uneasy feeling that all the stories they've only begun to tell won't be brought to satisfactory conclusions before one or the other of us is dead.

Perhaps that is something I should meditate on: Is it necessary-- or even desirable, that stories should be formally concluded? Hmmmm....





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