Reviews, interviews and articles by and with Paul

The Inferior 4+1 is a Livejournal community maintained by Paul, lizhand, Paul Witcover, lucius-t and ljgoldstein.

Recent posts:

  • Let Me Explain... No, There Is Too Much. Let Me Sum Up. May 27, 2015
    I may or may not blog about the novels on the ballot, but it'll take a while for me to read them all and write about them.  So I thought I'd take a breather here and just talk about what I learned from reading all the short fiction on the Hugo ballot.First of all, these are bad stories.  With few exceptions they range from really, really awful to mediocre.  (I thought "The Triple Sun" was decent, and "Championship B'tok" might have been all right if I knew more about what was going on, but neither of them rise to the level of a Hugo nominee.)  And they're all bad in different ways.  There are cardboard characters, plots without tension, confusing plots, poor writing, commonplace ideas, allegories that don't allegorize, and stories that are just boring as hell.One of my questions when I started was why the Puppies chose these specific stories.  And after all that reading, I have to say that I still don't know, and the statements of the Puppies themselves don't really help.  Larry Correia wanted to nominate stories that would "make literati heads explode," stories with right-wing themes that would anger SJWs (Super-Judgmental Werewolves?) when they appeared on the ballot.  But we're very used to narratives of straight white men doing straight white manly things, and even seeing those stories nominated for Hugos.  It's all just business as usual.  I don't know about other people's crania, but my head stayed firmly on my shoulders while I was reading -- though it did slip toward the desk a few times, my eyes closing, thinking, Ho hum, another one …Correia also rejected "boring message fiction" -- but then how to explain John C. Wright's Catholic apologia, or Tom Kratman's push for more and more weaponry?  And his final explanation was that people were mean to him at a convention.  Okay, but why these stories?  Was putting us through all of this his idea of revenge?Brad Torgersen, famously, wanted books that matched their covers.  He also wanted non-literary, non-elitist fiction, only for John C. Wright to say that he, at least, did write literary work.  (Not by me, he doesn't, but that's a whole other discussion.)What about nominating good stories?  Surely that should be the most important criterion of all for a Hugo award, but in fact it was very rarely mentioned by the Puppies themselves.  And yet here was an unmatched opportunity to introduce the sf community to well-written fiction by conservative-leaning authors.*  Instead they gave us this parade of shabby, stale stories, a series of embarrassments compared to previous nominees and winners.Look, guys.  Science fiction is, almost by definition, about all of time and space.  You can write about  practically anything.  A proton that unfolds in other dimensions to cover an entire planet, as in Three Body Problem.  A battalion sharing a single mind, as in Ancillary Sword and Ancillary Justice.  Love.  Lust.  Greed.  Revenge, or deciding against revenge, as in The Goblin Emperor.  Galaxy-spanning civilizations.  Incomprehensible aliens.  Three sexes.  Four sexes.  Sixteen sexes.  Magic.  Obsession.  Strangeness.I don't know about you, but this year I feel cheated.----* For example, "Salvage and Demolition" by Tim Powers, which would have been eligible in the Novella category in 2014.  Check it out.
  • New Review at the B&NR May 26, 2015
    What's cooking with Paolo Bacigalupi?http://www.barnesandnoble.com/review/the-water-knife
  • The Hugo Ballot, Part 15: Back to Novellas May 25, 2015
    Okay, I'm surprised.  Tom Kratman's "Big Boys Don't Cry" actually reads in places like an anti-war story.  Well, let's not get carried away here -- it's more a story about the harm that fighting wars can do, the ways in which a personality can be twisted and perverted by the aims of those in command.Maggie is a Ratha, an intelligent fighting vehicle who has been through countless battles, and been made to forget some of her more disturbing actions.  She has been mortally wounded and is being taken apart for scrap -- but the more the workers drill down, the more she starts remembering things that now seem to her to be problematic.What this means is that, through Maggie's memory, we see a lot of battles, and that means a lot of weaponry.  A lot of weaponry, each with its own exhaustive description: "Then there was the question of tracked versus the recently developed antigravity technology… The five options were: tracked, antigravity, both but with an emphasis on tracked and an anti-gravity assist to reduce ground pressure" -- well, there are two more options, but you get the idea.  "Meanwhile, the Ratha's secondary armament, a 75mm KE cannon, electrically driven and coaxially mounted, plus two similarly mounted 15mm Gauss Guns…"  I have to be honest here -- I skimmed through a lot of this.  I'm not all that interested in weapons, but really, I can't think of anything that I'd read huge lists of with interest -- dogs, chocolate, you name it.I know that some people like meticulous descriptions of weapons, that it's one of the tropes of military sf.   (Also explosions.  There are lots of explosions here too.)  And I have no problem with that -- have at it.  The only thing is --Well, about midway through, the story changes.  Maggie starts remembering the unjust wars she took part in, the innocent people she slaughtered at the command of her superiors.  And for me, this juxtaposition didn't work -- there seemed to be a huge disconnect between the two sections.  It seemed to be saying, "War is terrible -- but also, it's a lot of fun!  Look at all these cool weapons!"  The parts never joined up into a full, rounded whole.And there's another thing.  I expected to be reading a good many right-wing talking points in the Sad Puppy stories, but I was pleasantly surprised to see that most of them had no conscious message at all.  I was almost to the end of the ballot, home free, and then…It's almost as if the author can't help himself; he has to take pot-shots wherever he can, or even carve out a place for them if one doesn't exist.  So people who don't make preparation for war are "low-grade morons" and "moral lepers" -- this from a third-person viewpoint, which makes no value judgments before or after this one outburst.  One of the few women in the story, a planetary governor "unimportant in every mind but her own," is shown to be incompetent and over her head.  A man named Garcia is described only as short and "greasy looking."The weirdest jab is for the concept of non-binary gender.  One of the Rathas "has certain peculiarities in its crystalline brain (to wit, being unable to decide whether it was male or female, hence never given a nickname, and never fully integrated into the unit)."  Why?  Was zie manufactured like that?  Why would this happen, if all the other Rathas were created to identify as male or female, and binary gender is important to the cohesiveness of the unit?  But the whole point, of course, is to show how unnatural non-binary gender is, how the other Rathas don't like zir (why not?), and refuse to let zir join in any Ratha games.The prevailing mood of the story is mournful, elegiac, a character coming to terms with a difficult past.  Every time Kratman pauses to insert his opinion on something unrelated it jars badly with the tone, pulling the reader right out of the narrative, making them wonder what the point is.  (For example, why is the planetary governor "unimportant"?  She's certainly important enough for someone to nominate her as governor.)  And it turns the story into "message fiction," something I thought the Puppies were against.
  • New Review at LOCUS ONLINE May 25, 2015
    What about the new one from Clive Barker?http://www.locusmag.com/Reviews/2015/05/paul-di-filippo-reviews-clive-barker/
  • The Hugo Ballot, Part 14: A Brief Trip Back to Short Stories May 24, 2015
    I've gotten the Hugo packet and am now able to read the stories I missed.  And with the first of them, "A Single Samurai" by Steven Diamond, comes a problem I haven't had in this read so far.  Namely, that I didn't like the story, but I can imagine people who would.If your idea of fun is seeing really big creatures -- I mean really big -- stomp past leaving a trail of destruction in their wake, if you've held onto that child-like joy that only a rampaging monster can bring, then this story might be for you.  It's a very simple tale -- a samurai tries to stop a monster from destroying his land -- and the monster isn't very well described, and there's a lot of unnecessary verbiage about samurai swords, and the end has some spectacular problems (about which more later), but that enthusiasm is there.  On the other hand, if you like stories about giant mythical monsters, you'd do far better to read Lucius Shepard's Dragon Graiule stories, which have a sheer descriptive power and a vast strangeness "A Single Samurai" never matches.But the fact that some people might go off and read this story prompts me to put in aSPOILERwarning before I talk about the end.Okay, is everyone ready?  First of all, it's weird that the brain of the monster is out in the open like that, with no protection.  If the samurai can fall into it, what's to prevent anyone else from doing the same? What about those weird cats the samurai has to kill -- what's to stop them from dropping down into the cave and munching on some tasty brains?  Why on earth would something evolve that way?The second problem is far worse, though.  As Nick Mamatas has already pointed out, although the samurai tells the story in first person, he ends up dying at the end.  How can he possibly be narrating this story?  Are we to assume that while he's bleeding out all over the monster's brain he's also sitting there and writing everything down?  Beginning writers make this kind of mistake, when they haven't learned the nuances that go with each point of view.  Here, it makes everything that's gone before look a little silly.
  • The Hugo Ballot, Part 13: Novellas May 21, 2015
    In "Flow," by Arlan Andrews, Sr., we follow a crew riding an iceberg down a river to the Warm Lands.  The first half of the story is little more than a travelog, as the main character, Rist from the Tharn's Lands, learns about the Warm Lands from his compatriot, Cruthar.It's not terrible.  The two societies are different in interesting ways, and Rist makes a good naive traveler.  But it is, once again, not a story but an excerpt; we've already missed the beginning and there is no real ending.There are other problems as well.  For one thing, Rist seems remarkably dim.  It takes him an unbelievably long time to realize that the sun covered by mists in the Tharn's Lands is the same as the shining sun in the Warm Lands.  He learns Warm Lands' words for things -- "day" instead of "dim," for example -- and yet every time he goes to use a word he forgets it and has to remind himself, or someone reminds him.  (The Warm Lands' words are all italicized -- west and east and morning and Shining One -- something that started to drive me up the wall.)  And it's not just Rist who seems none-too-bright but everyone from the crew.  At one point Rist waits patiently until Cruthar counts up to three.*I don't know if this is intentional -- if the Tharn's Landers are actually not as smart as the Warm Landers, maybe even another species.  (They look fairly different.)  But it's something the reader should be able to figure out.The writing is pretty hard to get through as well.  There are far more adjectives than necessary: "'Welcome to the Warm Lands, bird-rider!' his rough berg-companion Cruthar shouted back, also trying to be heard through the thunderous crashing, sharp creaks, and long groans as their shepherded small mountain of ice slid and pounded against the river stones."  There's a sharp point-of-view switch, when with no warning we're in Cruthar's head instead of Rist's.  At one point we hear about Rist's father's "advanced literacy in reading" -- as opposed to, I guess, his advanced literacy in basket-weaving.Like I said, though, it's not terrible.  There's some action, finally, after pages and pages of exposition -- although, unfortunately, the most interesting part seems just about to occur when the story ends.  But there's nothing new here, nothing that stands out or makes this worthy of a Hugo.-----* Fairness compels me to admit that something else may be happening here.  Cruthar is making several points to Rist, and has gotten through numbers one and two.  Then he pauses, and "Rist waited while Cruthar struggled to count up to the next point."  So Cruthar could be trying to think of the third point, but that's not how I read it at first.-----

The Weird Universe explores a human and natural cosmos that is not only stranger than we imagine, but stranger than we can imagine. The usual suspects are Paul Di Filippo; Alex Boese, curator of the Museum of Hoaxes; and Chuck Shepherd, purveyor of News of the Weird.

Recent posts:

  • Norwegian Navy Beard Form
    If sailors in the Norwegian Navy want to grow a beard, they must submit a form requesting permission to do so. This form should include a drawing of what their beard will look like. Redditor "aellgutta" recently shared a photo of such a form that he submitted, along with a translation: On the top it says "BEARD APPLICATION", then it's rank/ military ID-number, full name and platoon/ division. Then it says "Reason:" to which I wrote "I get irritated skin from daily shaving and it's starting to get cold outside." Under the sketch I drew, it says "DRAW HERE!" and at the bottom the Lieutenant has written that he will inspect it after the next excercise (which gave me about 2,5 weeks) followed by a stamp to show my application was accepted.
  • Rare Instance of VW Beetle Seeming Sexy
    Romance over practicality? What were they thinking?
  • Woman Bites Dog
    Crazy lady told her son that if he eats all the meat she will eat his dog. Apparently, not believing her, he ate all the meat. Inexplicably she made good on her threat by starting with the poor animal's testicles which she bit off. One would think a pit bull would fight back but he just ran off screeching in pain. Crazy lady then used an old tricycle to knock out a witness who tried to intervene and made her son bury her with a piece of garden hose to breathe through. The last was to hide from police, not successfully. Ta Da!!!!!!
  • Hitting a golf ball off an elephant’s ear
    "AN ELEPHANTINE HAZARD — Driving a golf ball from the ear of Jenny, a 12-year-old circus elephant, constitutes real sport for Billy Drews, above, as he shoots a game of miniature golf in New York." Source: Valley Morning Star - May 3, 1931
  • Mystery Gadget 28
    Man in an electrified cage. Why? Find out here.
  • News of the Weird / Plus, May 26, 2015
    News of the Weird / Plus May 26 2015 (Part 2) [weird stuff that made me excited (frightened) (ROTFL) (appalled) last week, some of which will appear in News of the Weird soon] [Part 1 on Monday, Part 2 on Tuesday] Des Cartes De Fidélité: Drug competition on the street in Marseilles, France, is so keen that more than one dealer has now begun to offer "loyalty cards," where a buyer can get a 10-euro discount after 10 purchases (getting all 10 squares punched). One buyer told La Provence, "I thought I was hallucinating. I thought I was at a pizzeria or something." The Local (Paris) Hostage negotiators are good in North Wales, UK. Spent 90 minutes convincing two guys to come down . . from a one-story roof 8 ft off the ground (with a photo!). (Seriously. Couldn’t have hurt themselves if they tried.) South Wales Evening Post So he’s about to go under for LASIK surgery in Lake Oswego, Ore., without his glasses, of course, and they shove a liability disclaimer form in his hands to sign . . in, of course, small font. The Oregonian Feminists get all hysterical about the casual use of “hysterical” to describe hysterical women, but here we have the delightfully named Ms. Heather Hironimus, mother of a once-to-be-circumcised boy and who has lost state case after state case (OK, it was in the F State, but still, we have standards), and she won’t give it up. (Understand: We don’t know what the kid wants; we only know that the dad parent says snip him, and the mother parent says leave him intact, and they’ve been almost knife-fighting about this for years.) (Further Understand: Before Weird Universe hears from the “inactivists” who think circumcision is like female genital mutilation: OK, OK, but Ms. Hironimus has had her day and day and day and day in court. Give it up; there’s the possibility in a democracy that y’all are wrong.) Associated Press via ABC News At Valencia State College in Orlando, medical-assistant students learn various procedures that are important, and the “transvaginal probes” would be an important skill to have. Valencia says, Best way to learn how to do it is to have one done to you (even if you might have to be "stimulated" in order for the probe to be inserted comfortably). Agreed. Except that since it involves a sensitive (if not sacred) area, it seems a little awkward to force students go through it. CNN A hygiene-concerned gentleman in China’s Nanyang City, Henan, was recently photographed carefully river-bathing . . his inflatable sex doll . . and give him credit for ignoring onlookers (photos!). Shanghaiist.com Bright Ideas: In America, we fret about the sensitive way to collect debts from deadbeats. Respect the lender, but also respect the poor debtor. What to do? In Russia, apparently, they simply go confiscate the debtor’s cat. Moscow Times A study reported on Nature.com worried about all the dead links in online reference citations for “scientific” journal articles. Unaddressed by the authors were two superior points: (1) There is roughly 10 times as much “research” as is important in journals, anyway. (2) Nobody reads all that crap, except 4 or 5 people who, of course, always complain when a link is broken. Nature.com

by Charlie Dickinson

(Originally published online on Dec 8, 1998)

Irrepressible humor, a stand-back imagination, a wondrous facility and control of the English language are qualities often assigned to science fiction writer Paul Di Filippo. Native to Providence, Rhode Island, Di Filippo, along with others of his generation, reinvigorated SF storytelling with a cyberpunk ethos during the 1980s (an early Di Filippo story, “Stone Lives,” appears in the definitive cyberpunk anthology, Mirrorshades).

By 1995, Di Filippo had published nearly 100 short stories when a three-novella volume, The Steampunk Trilogy, came out. Never one to give his imagination a rest, Di Filippo took the cyberpunk attitude back to Victorian times.

Subsequent books were two story collections: biotech-themed Ribofunk (1996), and Fractal Paisleys (1997) with the SFWA Nebula award-winner, “Lennon Spex,” and a novel: Ciphers: A Post-Shannon Rock-n-Roll Mystery (1997).

Di Filippo’s most recent release is Lost Pages (1998). Although paying homage to a number of modern writers, Lost Pages lets the reader consider some very alternate realities: What if novelist Franz Kafka worked a day job as a columnist for health-faddist and publishing magnate Bernarr Macfadden and moonlighted as a superhero? And that’s only the first of nine stories.

Savoy’s Charlie Dickinson caught up with Paul in cyberspace to pose the 20 Questions.

1

Your short story “Anne,” included in Lost Pages, is a great, imaginative read. You take the Holocaust icon and let her escape from Holland to Hollywood. Any trouble publishing this story?

My record-keeping for the submission of “Anne” indicates that it journeyed to a mere four recalcitrant editors before finding a home with the munificent and perspicacious Scott Edelman in the first issue of Science Fiction Age. I must have had high hopes for mainstream acceptance, since the first two zines I tried were Playboy and Esquire. Only the response of Alice Turner at Playboy sticks in my memory. She accused me of dishonoring the memory of Anne Frank in a particularly scandalous and trivial way. My written response to her: “When I play God, Anne Frank gets another fifty years of life.”

2

“Anne” seems a pretty obvious collision between Jewish moral earnestness and your quite valid postmodern esthetics. Can we have both, ethics and esthetics, and not have one trump the other?

I always like to keep in mind a quote from the work of Thomas Pynchon that one member of the online Pynchon list uses as his signature sign-off: “Keep cool, but care.” I think that one line puts the whole esthetics/ethics rivalry in perspective. The Buddhist goal of wise compassion does the same: wisdom, the intellect, balanced with heart. If it’s possible to be some weird mix of Flaubert and Gandhi, that’s my goal.

3

Without doubt, Lost Pages pays homage to some twentieth-century writers that matter to you. They’re the protagonists in your stories. We’re seeing more historical figures in contemporary fiction. I’ve read T. Coraghessan Boyle sits down with original source materials to compost his fictive imagination. What was your approach with Lost Pages?

The stories in Lost Pages quickly proved to me what SF writer Howard Waldrop had already ruefully discovered: it’s possible to devote an elephant’s worth of research time to produce a mouse of a story. (A very witty and charming mouse, to be sure.) To me, employing a writer as a protagonist involves becoming intimately familiar with his work and his life, as well as the era in which he or she flourished. Obviously, this is a potentially infinite amount of research. In many cases I fudged, garnering just enough details to convey a larger authoritativeness. I had wanted to do an original story for the volume, one in which D. H. Lawrence lived to randy old age and became the dictator of a sex-based, Dionysian U.S. government, but felt daunted by the amount of reading that would have demanded. Maybe when I reach my own hypothetical old age, I’ll buckle down and write that one!

4

One story I especially loved in Lost Pages was “The Happy Valley at the End of the World,” where Antonie de Saint-Exupery meets Beryl Markham. How did that story take off?

The kernel for my Saint-Exupery story was actually reading the script of Wells’ Things to Come. I began conjecturing how in reality the airmen Wells was relying on as saviors of humanity were really a raffish, selfish lot, and probably wouldn’t have gone along with his plans at all. From there, it was a simple matter of choosing the two standout aviators of their time as protagonists. I avoided Lindbergh, since one of my rules of writing is to focus on the secondary or lesser-known personages of history. They offer so much more in the way of fresh tales!

5

You’re having a My Dinner with Andre evening with one famous, or infamous, living person. Whom and why?

I think I’d like to sit down with Neil Young and find out his secret of not growing old.

6

Reading about your formative years in the Contemporary Authors Autobiography Series, I was struck by one defining moment for you at age eighteen. You’d graduated from high school in Providence and you’d spent the summer working at a tough physical job in a spinning mill. While your former classmates were off to college, you took your savings, packed typewriter and a small book collection, and were off for Hawaii. You were a writer. Okay, once there, you didn’t write your first publishable story. Nonetheless, how did this experience change you?

Striking out on my own at age 17 proved to me one indelible truth: I wasn’t a prodigy. The science fiction field is famous for its brilliant youngsters. Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, Samuel Delany, Michael Moorcock. I think I had some notion back then that I was one of them, and that stint proved that I surely lacked the chops at such an early age to follow in the footsteps of these teen geniuses. My path would not be identical to theirs.

7

Now, flash forward a few years. You’re almost twenty-two and boom! you’ve set up housekeeping with your life’s companion, Deborah, and you’ve sold your first story. Two decision biggies — whom to live with, what to do for a living — that plague many people through their twenties, and beyond. Do you feel your early focus and decisiveness gave you more time to produce what many consider a respectable body of work by someone who’s not that far into his forties?

As mildly disillusioning as my first foray into the dedicated creative lifestyle was, it had a paradoxical confirming effect. This was what I wanted to do, but I just wasn’t ready yet. So a few years later, making certain major decisions once and for all did indeed free my energies to flow into a channel that had been at least shallowly scraped in the sands of Hawaii five years in the past. Richard Feynman’s famous anecdote about deciding to eat only chocolate pudding for dessert for the rest of his life in order to free up a few decision-making neurons for more important matters has always resonated with me.

8

Your writing has loads of humor and none of the neurotic drearies. So if you don’t write as therapy, why do you write?

Writing humor has always come naturally to me, although in times of personal crisis the stories do emerge somewhat grimmer. Consider “Mama Told Me Not to Come” in Fractal Paisleys, which begins with the narrator’s attempted suicide. In any case, I think I write for the same reason many writers do: to replicate through my own prose some golden hour of reading of my youth. Haven’t quite done it yet, though!

9

Public imagination thrives on the idea of SF visionaries like Verne whose boldly speculative worlds come true decades later. Power of the imagination aside, I suspect you read loads of articles about biotech, cybernetics, nanotechnology, and such. Care to comment on how you go mining for SF ideas?

I keep abreast of science mainly through journals for the self-educated lay person such as Scientific American, and through pop-sci books. Although some writers such as Fred Pohl and Bruce Sterling delve into esoteric professional journals and visit actual labs, I find that most of the time I can get enough insight into up-and-coming trends and gadgets and waves of paradigm-shifting through standard sources. What counts in making a fun story is the twist. Given transgenic animals, for instance, will you find them waiting on you at your local McDonald’s, or being illegally served on a bun at some black-market dive? Or both?

10

Here’s a question we ask everyone: What are you reading now? Why did you pick it?

As a full-time reviewer, I read so much that this question would have a different answer almost every hour! [Could Savoy agree to refresh these lines accordingly? (Grin.)] This morning, however, I picked up something very different: a work in manuscript, sent to me by Jonathan Lethem. Titled Doofus Voodoo, it’s written by a friend of Lethem’s named Tom Clark, and so far has managed to intrigue me. Clark is a poet, and his weird tale seems on a par with something like Steve Aylett’s Slaughtermatic, another fine book I commend to one and all.

11

You still write on a Commodore 128?

My Commodore, alas, has been put out to pasture. In line with Bruce Sterling’s Dead Media Project, an ongoing chronicle of obsolescence, I now maintain the faithful C128 as a shrine, and keep electric incense perpetually aglow before this fine old piece of hardware on which I wrote five novels and scores of stories.

12

So I take it you don’t do Windows?

[Editor’s note: Paul opted for a Mac.]

Five hundred years from now, Bill Gates will have entered the ranks of the minor deities. Whether as Zeus or Lucifer remains to be seen!

13

Your favorite pizza and where?

This important question deserves a three-part answer: a) any pizza purchased in Italy, because I’d have to be in Italy to eat it; b) Deborah’s caramelized onion-and-garlic white pizza on homemade wheat dough; c) Caserta’s on Federal Hill in Providence.

14

Anyone who has read your novel Ciphers: A Post-Shannon Rock-n-Roll Mystery realizes that your R & R knowledge is both encyclopedic and reverent. You’re on a desert island and have an entertainment choice. Either the CDs or the videos go. Which will it be and why?

I doubt I’ve watched more than two hours’ worth of videos since the birth of MTV, and that amount’s been in ten-second snatches. Videos are to music as film adaptations are to novels. No contest here on which to dump!

15

Tell us about “pronoia.”

Pronoia is the irrational belief that someone somewhere is trying to do you good. Whether this belief is as harmful to one’s mental well-being as paranoia, and whether the notion of someone trying to do you “good” is a scarier prospect than that of someone trying to harm you, both remain unanswered questions.

16

What bumper sticker(s) is on your car, or what would you compose to tell other motorists what’s on your mind?

Our 1981 Cressida sports a colorful “Free Tibet” injunction and also one of those black-rimmed, white oval place-abbreviation stickers, in this case “BI”. The latter stands for Block Island, a beautiful resort we love to visit, although its shady alternate meanings tend to raise motorist eyebrows.

17

One of the things you’ve done to survive as a fiction writer was a stint at the refreshment counter in a stag movie house. You gain any special understanding of human nature from this work? Any of it of value in writing stories?

I learned that it’s possible for the average person (not the actors and actresses on-screen, but the owners of the theater) to utterly divorce their feelings about the product they peddle from the paycheck it delivers. A useful marketplace reminder of how anyone can slide into becoming a merchant of the dubiously valuable, and a lesson every writer should keep uppermost in mind.

18

You’ve also had a gig writing computer code and with your SF eye on the future, what’s your best guess on how the Y2K Millennial Bug is going to play out? You stocking up the wine cellar, you ready to plant potatoes in the backyard?

I wrote in COBOL plenty of Y2K code, and am indelibly grateful I am not now in charge of cleaning the mess up. But I will take the absurdist stance that dealing with the Y2K glitch will boost the global economy into new stratospheric levels, as businesses are forced to invest in up-to-date hardware and software and modernize their procedures. Already, Y2K has earned millions of dollars for consultants and old hackers.

19

About a year ago, in doing its annual roundup of hot books for ‘98, Publisher’s Weekly discussed at length Fractal Paisleys, your previous short story collection. The reviewer said you deserved to be better known, but your primary work in the short story form kept you from reaching a wider audience. What’s on tap in the way of novels?

My first novel, Ciphers, has received some encouraging reviews that allow me to believe readers might be ready for more. In Spring 1999, Cambrian Publications will release a picaresque comedy — no fantasy or speculative elements! — titled Joe’s Liver. And a manuscript titled Fuzzy Dice is currently seeking a home. That one’s a Ruckeresque romp across dimensions. But I’ve yet to choose what longer project surfaces next from a pool of several new ideas.

20

You ever entertain the notion that it’s time to move on to a bigger state than Rhode Island?

Wasn’t it William Blake who urged us “to see Texas entire in ev’ry minuscule Rhode Island”? Something like that keeps me here in the land of my birth, happy and productive, and like all good Yankees I say, “Don’t fix what ain’t broke!”