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02 July 2015 @ 11:50 am
Last night Gay and I went with her sister Wendi and Judith Clute to see the new rendition of the musical High Society at the Old Vic, a stirring recreation – resembling the 1956 movie more than the 1939 stage play (The Philadelphia Story), experts say.  Good enough; that was a great movie.

A note to myself – when I get back to the states  want to rent or buy the 1956 movie, which has Louis Armstrong as the musician character.  He was played by jazz pianist Joe Stilgoe in the play last night, absolutely smooth and jazzy.  There was an eye-popping four-handed windmilling performance with Stilgoe twining arms impossibly with the Musical Director Theo Jamieson, standing behind him – that tour de force was worth the price of admission alone.

We had a sturdy pub lunch beforehand with cocktails in the interval, but were too tired to make a whole evening of it.  Age and travel fatigue – Cole Porter would have just popped another bottle of champagne, I'm sure, and partied into the night.  But they were built of sterner stuff back then.

He chain-smoked nonfilter Camel cigarettes and boozed constantly and lived to be 73.  Just think of how long he might've lived if he'd entered a monastery instead.  His music might have been less interesting.

Last night we went off to see "Invasion of Privacy," a very interesting play about the life of Marjorie Kennan Rawlings, author of The Yearling and other regional fiction set in Florida.  (She hated that "regional" label, but it does fit.)  The play was about a lawsuit that Rawlings got stuck with, when a local character – quite a character, it turned out – sued her for invasion of privacy.  After a long and (for Rawlings) grueling court battle, she wound up paying one dollar.  But it sapped her strength and spirit, and she left Florida, her writing career essentially over.

I read The Yearling when we moved to Gainesville thirty years ago, and found it a worthwhile YA novel, but I've always liked her chatty cookbook, Cross Creek Cookery, more.  I've visited her well-preserved cottage many times; it's a great place to take visiting writers.  Until a few years ago, they kept one of her typewriters on the porch, and maintained it in working order.  So you could sit where she used to sit, and type your own deathless prose.

It's still one of the best literary tourist spots in Florida.  People who don't care for literature can still enjoy the Yearling Restaurant nearby, with all kinds of Rawlings memorabilia. and dam' fine southern cooking as well.  A good place for alligator, now that it's off the endangered species list.  Cooter (freshwater softshell turtle) is wonderful, but rarely available.  Catfish and trout are fine, but I most love their frog legs and quail.  And atmosphere.  They sometimes have a black guy who fingerpicks a wonderful steel guitar and sings murky lyrics.

They say when Hemingway drove down toward Key West in the thirties, he took a detour to see Rawlings and Cross Creek.  I'm not sure that's true, but it should be, and you should do it, too.

17 June 2015 @ 08:30 am
Yesterday we fled the record-breaking Florida heat for the airconditioned screamfest of Jurassic World, which I think was the same story as Jurassic Park, with similar but different dinosaurs.  Handsome leading man, check; sexy female scientist who shucks her lab coat as quickly as possible, check; adult scientists and other authority figures for comic relief and villains, check; young boy and girl as bait, check.  No  gross-out dinosaur-shit jokes; they must have scored low on the audience response surveys.

One real improvement was that this time they had good-guy and bad-guy dinosaurs.  The scientists had scientifically implanted morals in some of them, but alas, some of these got the bad kind of morals.  Two hundred tons of surly rabid carnivore – maybe we should think this through, Jim. An antepenultimate scene where the good dinosaurs defend the humans against the bad dinosaurs –

Jesus.  I just realized that I wrote that as a comic book when I was eleven years old.  Then frittered away the intervening six decades having a life!

I coulda been a contender.  But I read some actual science fiction, and then got infected by a liberal arts degree . . . .
16 June 2015 @ 09:59 am
Sorry to see that Wolfgang Jeschke has died.  He was seven years older than me, born three years into Hitler's reign.  I remember sitting with him on a kerb in Ireland maybe thirty years ago, talking about his childhood.  He could remember searchlights scanning the midnight skies as American and British bombers droned overhead, dropping clusters and strings of bombs that boomed and crackled in the distance.  He and his friends were too young to be afraid, and marveled at the powerful beauty of it all.   Of course their parents found them and scooted them into the nearest shelter.

He was my editor and sometimes translator, and we raised many a wrist in our mutual hatred of war and love of science fiction.  Grüß Gott, mein alter Freund.
16 June 2015 @ 09:20 am
Relaxed for a bit with the Questar last night.  Got a quick glance at Jupiter before it set and then Saturn came up in the east.  (Unsurprising.)  As usual it was hauntingly beautiful, a golden orb in impossible balance, huge forces spinning in apparent tranquility on the frozen edge of the classical solar system.  The air was still enough for me to use 350X.  The Cassini Division was clear, a fine black line splitting the large ring system, and the Crepe Ring was visible as a slight smudge against the pale yellow of the planet's atmosphere.  Three moons visible, with Titan showing as a tiny circle at that power.

Good job for the Questar, almost 60 years old, pushing a hundred power per inch.  And these eyes, rather older.

02 May 2015 @ 06:07 pm
While we were in the air between Poland and Florida, this story unfolded–
Thursday, 11:18 AM: EXCLUSIVE: Warner Bros. and Sony are battling to set up
the feature adaptation of the popular sci-fi actioner The Forever War with Channing
Tatum attached to star and Jon Spaihts (Prometheus, Doctor Strange, Passengers)
scripting. The Forever War, written by Joe Haldeman, is considered one of the
best science fiction stories of all time and won numerous awards. The book,
which also was continued in two sequel novels, was written in 1974 and also
spawned a graphic novel. The story is an analogy about the Vietnam War, a endless
war where soldiers fight with no clear idea about why they are engaged in combat.
So something indeed has happened/is happening.  I await word from my agent (who
alerted me when the first story broke) and of course a line of sweating minions
pushing wheelbarrows full of money up my sidewalk.
UPDATED, Thursday, 6:15 PM: Warner Bros outbid Sony late Thursday after a spirited
negotiation and is now in business with a new possible franchise, The Forever
War with Channing Tatum on board to star. The script is being penned by Jon
Spaihts and will be based on Joe Haldeman’s book. Richard Edlund had the rights
to the book for 27 years, and it had been at Fox for the past seven with Ridley
Scott, but after several scripts, it never made it to the big screen. Hopefully,
this time, the 41-year-old classic sci-fi novel — said to be one of the best
books of the genre — finally will get made.
Fingers and toes crossed!
25 April 2015 @ 09:02 am
Pyrcon (in Poznan, Poland) may be the largest convention we've been to, with about 25.000 in attendance.  Mostly game-players and media, but thousands of readers as well. 

Yesterday I was interviewed by , and took questions from the audience, a couple of hundred people, which only took up a small corner in the front of the huge exhibition tent..   There was a panel discussion on __ with __ and ___. 

In the morning, Gay and I had wandered around Poznan for awhile, and had a good lunch at a deli, which was actually a pretty large quiet restaurant.  A tender beefsteak with good small potatoes.  They serve lots of interesting relishes and preserves with every meal.

The line to get into the convention was hundreds of people long, looping through another hundred or so milling around.  We were able to bypass it, going through a VIP entrance.

The convention center is large by any standard.  Parking for 2000 cars.   Sixteen pavilion buildings.  Modern electronic facilities that seem to work better than American ones.  The website doesn't say how old it is, but it can't be more than a couple of years.

Good beer!  Budweiser hasn't discovered them.

An interesting panel that examined the claim that sf writers are either architects or gardeners.  I courageously said I was both, though maybe I'm really neither.

Better run off to breakfast.  Lots of coffee.  Tryong to keep ahead of this unnatural desire to sleep.

18 April 2015 @ 11:11 am
Morning in Warsaw, local time 10:30 ayem . . . just got back from a delicious and too-generous breakfast.  I was impressed by the freshness of the citrus fruit; the stuff we get in Florida this time of year comes from California.  These are probably from Georgia.  The other Georgia.

Haven't done any touristing yet.  Slept pretty well but not long enough.  Still, up and around and try to catch up with the clock.

Suitcases lost somewhere between Amsterdam and here.  Not worried yet.

Here is the inspiring view from our window.  Socialist realism!

10 April 2015 @ 03:05 pm
(In reference to mince pies . . .) Thanks for the international broadening, Liz.

I think the best meat pies in the English-speaking world are found in Australia.  They have an elaboration that I love, though some think obscene – the "pie floater," which is a meat pie plopped into a bowl of split pea soup.  A little squirt of catsup for both color and flavor.  The sine qua non of pub grub is a pie floater with a side of Merton Bay bugs – nothing else like it in the world!

(Anybody who says "Ew – I wouldn't eat bugs!" has never had the Merton Bay variety.)

04 April 2015 @ 05:28 pm
Over on, we got to talking Writer Nostalgia . . . .

Deedee, I haven't had a New York signing in awhile.  It's not worth a special trip, and we don't pass through NYC as often as we used to, when we lived in more northerly climes.  To go to Britain or Europe I can fly straight from Jacksonville now.
The writing biz has changed, too.  It's less NYCentric.  In the 70's, 80's, and 90's, I went to New York once or twice a year, just to show up and remind people that I existed.  Do lunches with editors and shmooze with everybody.
I loved it.  We'd stay at the Algonquin and do the old-fashioned New Yorker bit – the cats, the Blue Bar, drinks in the living room.  The head clerk knew me by sight (along with another thousand writers and wannabes) and greeted me by name even if we hadn't been there in a year.
The French have a phrase for it, nostalgia for a time and place that never really existed.  There was a coterie of sf writers and editors who headed for the Algonquin whenever they were in town, and it wasn't because the rooms were good (they were small and not as sanitary as one might like) — but really because Dorothy Parker and her gang still hung out there in spirit.  The martinis were great and the chat was spirited and warm; every writer's home away from home.
To share the space where Parker and Benchley and Harpo Marx and Alexander Woolcott traded gossip and insults; I don't know of anyplace quite like it in America.  Google surprises me by noting that the Round Table only met for ten years, 1919-1929.
The Crash destroyed it, along with a lot of America that was genteel and "smart."  Of course it was temporary and fragile and doomed.  Most of them knew that, and perhaps it made the wit sharper and the food and drink more satisfying.
Dorothy Parker wrote its bleak, unsparing epitaph:
These were no giants. Think who was writing in those days—Lardner, Fitzgerald, Faulkner and Hemingway. Those were the real giants. The Round Table was just a lot of people telling jokes and telling each other how good they were. Just a bunch of loudmouths showing off, saving their gags for days, waiting for a chance to spring them....There was no truth in anything they said. It was the terrible day of the wisecrack, so there didn't have to be any truth…
But almost a century later, it still has charm, in the old magical sense of the word.  A lot of what makes good writing is mysterious and hard to explain, and not always painless or pretty.