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
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....