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:

  • Posada December 20, 2014
    Yesterday there was a Posada celebration at a local church, and I went with my Spanish class.  Posadas are traditionally about Joseph and Mary going from house to house looking for lodging, but at this church they turned it into a drama about undocumented immigrants.It was incredibly terrific, and very moving.  At the end of the play the family came to the border and asked to enter, and an Anglo, playing the part of an immigration official, refused them entrance and said, "What would you do if I wanted to come into your house?"  "Invite you in!" someone in the audience yelled, and someone else shouted, "Cold as ICE!", drawing out the "s" sound.  (ICE is US Immigration and Customs Enforcement.)  Kids carried signs saying things like, "Jesus Was a Migrant Child."Then the pastor at the church invited everyone inside.  We listened to a Ugandan immigrant talk about being attacked in Uganda for being gay and escaping to the United States.  And then, much to my surprise (I'd thought there wouldn't be anything in the service I'd recognize), a man lit candles for the third night of Hanukah.  Yeah, it's one of those churches that tries to be all-inclusive, and I have to say I really did feel welcome.Then we went to dinner, the kids screaming, and then -- finally -- the kids lined up and got presents.  (I didn't have time to shop, but I brought some deviled eggs (huevos diablos?) for the dinner.)  We ended up talking in Spanish to some of the parishioners who'd immigrated from Mexico and Guatemala and Honduras and listening to their fascinating stories.  There was one woman there whose daughter writes fantasy, which I thought was incredibly cool.Well, I said I'd thought there wouldn't be anything in the service I'd recognize, but in fact my mother was an undocumented immigrant, something I wasn't allowed to talk about while she was alive.  (I did, of course, usually to someone complaining about "illegal aliens.")  Our immigration policy in this country is so stupid, so counter-productive -- no one works harder than immigrants, no one is more appreciative of the United States than people who literally risked their lives to come here, and no one knows more about this country, because to become a citizen you have to take a test about history and government that most people born here wouldn't be able to pass.  But at that church, at least, there were people doing what they could to help.  We all left heartened, and high on human fellow-feeling.
  • New Review at LOCUS ONLINE December 17, 2014
    I look at Catherine Asaro's new book:http://www.locusmag.com/Reviews/2014/12/paul-di-filippo-reviews-catherine-asaro/
  • Release Date for Weighing Shadows December 15, 2014
    Just found out my book Weighing Shadows will come out in October, 2015.  This is actually sooner than I thought, so Yay!
  • New Review at LOCUS ONLINE December 14, 2014
    I look at a debut SF novel:http://www.locusmag.com/Reviews/2014/12/paul-di-filippo-reviews-jennifer-marie-brissett/
  • New Review at the B&NR December 11, 2014
    I look at that SF novel from China that's been getting a lot of good press:http://www.barnesandnoble.com/review/the-three-body-problem/
  • Helicopters December 10, 2014
    For the past few days we've been hearing helicopters flying overhead, mostly at night. We can even see them sometimes, flying slowly in a circle or hovering over a single spot, as stationary as if they've been set on a table. The sound of the rotors stopping for a few hours and starting up again is disturbing, intrusive, like a dull headache, and that's even before you remember what they're doing up there -- watching, keeping track of the people protesting against police shootings of unarmed black men.You'd think that Berkeley, with all its experience of the student protests in the sixties, would know how to deal with mostly peaceful demonstrators, but for some reason the police here have reacted all out of proportion, as this article shows. They bottled protesters in with no way of escaping, released smoke bombs and flash bangs, beat people with batons, shot rubber bullets, and even, according to this tweet, "raised their guns at ppl who weren't even involved in the protest, just lived in the neighborhood and were trying to get home." They also hid their badge numbers from the protesters, never a good sign.And yes, protesters did break shop windows. But it's hard to believe that broken windows call for this kind of response.And then there's the helicopters. Why do they need this kind of 24-hour surveillance? What are they expecting is going to happen? And it's not the first time helicopters were brought out -- they also used them for Occupy Oakland, and at that time too Oakland was one of the only places in the country that reported violence. Like I said, shouldn't the Bay Area know how to deal with protests by now?Please, stay safe, everyone.

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:

  • Saving A Friend
    We are not the only species to feel love. We are not the only species that help each other. There is something uplifting about that.
  • Teaching history and science by dance
    Marian Morgan believed that dance could be used to enhance the instruction of just about any subject. And back in 1916, she toured the country with her six dancers, demonstrating how dance-enhanced education would work. The basic theory was that students would pay more attention if young female dancers performed at the front of the classroom as the lecturer talked. For example, as explained by the Washington Post (Aug 20, 1916): Picture a fat freshman dosing in the chemistry class. The day before he had said boldly, and unashamed, 'I think I'll cut that beastly class in chemistry. I don't care what those darned atoms do to each other.' The fat freshman enters the class, bored and rebellious. He remains in it sleepy and indifferent. Suddenly he starts, suppressed a yawn, stealthily arranges his tie sheepishly, combs the hair with hurried fingers. What happened? Has Old Bones (his disrespectful nickname for the professor of chemistry) been rooting around some second-hand store and found Aladdin's lamp? The freshman's perception, newly acute, pierces his usual mental haze. The scene is a real one and delightful. True, 'Old Bones' is continuing his discourse. He is describing the chemistry of the blood. 'But this war of atoms may be a beneficent one,' he drones. 'The presence of disease-breeding bacilli in the blood is not necessarily destructive. For there are vigilant baccilli who lay hold upon the destroyers and slay them, as you see illustrated by this dance.' The eyes of the freshmen beam. Never have 'Old Bones'' lectures been rewarded by such rapt and flattering attention. On the platform one lithe young Amazon in short Roman tunic is struggling with another. Too bad this never caught on. Certainly would have improved a lot of lectures I had to sit through back in my college days. Morgan's dancers
  • Tatcho
    [Click to enlarge] Who ever knew that a nice day at the beach could cause such horrors? Explanation of Tatcho.
  • News of the Weird, December 21, 2014
    News of the Weird Weirdnuz.M402, December 21, 2014 Copyright 2014 by Chuck Shepherd. All rights reserved. Lead Story People advertising for love interests via online dating sites have apparently become picky about how they describe their sexuality. To the usuals (male, female, gay, heterosexual) have been added recently (as reported by NPR in December after surveying OkCupid.com) “asexual,” “androgynous,” “genderqueer” (evidently not the same as “gay”), “queer” (not quite “gay,” either), “questioning,” “trans man,” “transsexual,” “transmasculine,” “heteroflexible,” and the NPR reporter’s favorite, “sapiosexual” (turned on by “intelligence”). Still, some users of the site found the choices inadequate. One young woman described her sexual orientation as “squiggly,” and the reporter cited others who thought highly of that term. [NPR, 12-4-2014] Bright Ideas Britain’s Home Office revealed in November (by releasing archived documents from 1982) that among the contingency suggestions for worst-case nuclear attack on the country was commissioning “psychopaths” to help keep order. They are “very good in crises,” an advocate wrote, because “they have no feelings for others, nor moral code [yet] tend to be very intelligent and logical,” and thus could do quite well at containing the vigilante survivalist enclaves that might develop in the event parts of the kingdom became lawless. (After an apparently thoughtful debate, the suggestion was not agreed to.) [The Independent, 11-1-2014] Great Art! At a recent art show at Paris’s Palais de Tokyo, Italian artist Sven Sachsalber, for his provocative piece, brought in a large haystack on November 13th, dropped a needle into it, and gave himself two days to find it. Late the next day, he picked it up. (Palais de Tokyo calls itself an “anti-museum par excellence.”) [Daily Mail (London), 11-14-2014] Ironies (1) Three homes on the Pacific Ocean near Grayland, Wash., were washed away by the violent rainstorms in early December, but the residents had seen it coming. The longtime local name for the area is “Washaway Beach.” Said one, “I knew it was going to happen sooner or later, but I had hoped it wasn’t this soon.” (2) In November, an airline’s advertising staff created the catchy slogan (to attract impulse travelers), “Want to go somewhere, but don’t know where?” and convinced management to send it, via Twitter, to the airline’s thousands of followers. (Spoiler: The airline was Malaysia Airlines, whose Flight 370 still has not been found.) [KOMO-TV (Seattle), 12-11-2014] [Malta Independent, 11-28-2014] Hide the Show Program Inside the Porn: A theatrical producer in Madrid found a way around Spain’s recent steep sales tax increase on certain entertainment venues (sports, movies, live theater): It sold back issues of vintage pornographic magazines for the equivalent of $20--with a “free” ($20) ticket to its latest stage production by noted director Pedro Calderon de la Barca. (A show ticket would carry a 21 percent tax, but a pornographic magazine is still taxed at 4 percent.) [Bloomberg Business Week, 12-1-2014] Compelling Explanations Creative: Eric Opitz, 45, who was indicted on 13 counts of fraud in Philadelphia in October, had explained that the reason he needed Human Growth Hormone (that he would resell) despite being 6-foot-3, 450 pounds, was that he was really a dwarf and feared he would recede if he stopped the medication. [NJ.com, 10-10-2014] Bungling Cinematographers: Zak Hardy, 18, and Terrill Stoltz, 41, were arrested recently in separate incidents and charged with photographing women in bathrooms without their permission. Hardy, caught in a public restroom in June in Exeter, England, pointing his phone from one stall to another, explained that he was just trying to see whether his phone was waterproof. Stoltz professed his innocence, as well, claiming the camera he set up in his ex-girlfriend’s bathroom in Billings, Mont., was solely to have a photographic record of him when he cleaned his chickens in the bathtub. [Exeter Press and Echo, 10-27-2014] [Billings Gazette, 11-25-2014] The New Normal An Oceanside, Calif., couple were surprised in November to discover that buying a purebred bichon frise on credit meant they were actually only leasing the dog for 27 months and would have to make a 28th payment to actually “own” “Tresor.” Furthermore, the lease, under a “repo” threat, required “daily exercise,” “regular bathing and grooming,” and “immediate” disposal of Tresor’s “waste.” A spokesperson for the store, Oceanside Puppy (which works with four finance companies), told the San Diego Union-Tribune that the arrangement is fairly standard now for expensive pets. [San Diego Union-Tribune, 11-28-2014] First-World Problems (1) NBC’s “Today” show reported in December the “heartbreak” parents are feeling when they learn that the supposedly unique name (“wonderful, distinctive, rarely-heard”) they had given their infant in the last year or two (e.g., “Mason,” “Liam,” “Lily”) actually appeared on Baby Center’s annual list of most popular names of 2014 (6th, 3rd, and 8th, respectively). (2) After hearing tenants’ complaints, the New York City Council is now considering a regulation requiring landlords to post notices if a common area or amenity is unusable for 24 hours or more--which applies of course to elevators and laundry rooms, but would also extend to any “air hockey” or “foosball” facilities in the building. [NBC News, 12-2-2014] [Crain’s New York, 12-8-2014] Perspective Although elephants, rhesus monkeys, cobras, cows, and water buffalos are regarded as sacred by many of India’s Hindus, the animals most certainly do not live idyllic lives, according to a November BBC News dispatch. As “growing populations are swallowing up habitat,” the divine symbols are forced to the cities, where they must dodge traffic, forage garbage for food, and endanger themselves encountering people less certain of their holiness (such as in the November report of the cobra harassing customers at an ATM in Delhi). As representatives of Lord Ganesh, elephants live well only during religious festivals, but otherwise must navigate asphalt and potholes that tear up their hooves. In another November incident, some Hindu leaders protested a drive to kill rats that had infested the Maharaja Yeshwantrao hospital in Indore--because Ganesh was depicted riding a mouse. [BBC News, 11-15-2014, 11-6-2014] Police Report In a 2012 incident in Cleveland, Ohio (where a white officer recently shot to death a black teenager holding a toy gun), 13 officers high-speed-chased two unarmed black homeless drug users and fired 137 shots at the pair, killing them. (A car had supposedly backfired, suggesting a gunshot at the cops.) As a result of “communication” failure, the 13 were placed on limited “desk duty” for 16 months and subjected to continuing investigation. Recently, nine non-black officers of the 13 sued the city, charging that white officers are historically and illegally disciplined more harshly for mistakes when victims are black. [The Daily Beast, 12-2-2014] Big Crime: (1) Four officers responded in Tayport, Scotland, in November to arrest Irene Clark, 65, who spent 48 hours in jail--after committing the crime of swatting her husband with a magazine while arguing over TV programs (causing a paper cut). (2) Christopher Saunders, 38, pleaded guilty in North Devon, England, in July to possession of 0.09 grams of marijuana (value: 14 cents). (3) Keith Shannon, 44, was sentenced (2 years’ probation) in Letterkenny, Ireland, in November for twice being caught swiping “tester” packets of aftershave at a Boots store (value: 2 cents each). [The Scotsman (Edinburgh), 11-24-2014] [North Devon Journal, 11-16-2014] [Highland Radio (Letterkenny), 11-27-2014] A News of the Weird Classic (February 2011) * The ear has a "G-spot," explained Santa Clara, Calif., ear-nose-and-throat surgeon Todd Dray, and thus the moans of ecstasy that Vietnamese "ear pickers" reportedly elicit from their clients might well be justified. A San Jose Mercury News reporter, dispatched to Ho Chi Minh City in January [2011] to check it out, learned that barber shop technicians could sometimes coax "eargasms" (as they removed wax) by tickling a certain spot next to the ear drum served by multiple nerve endings and tissue-paper-thin skin. Said one female client, "Everybody is afraid the first time, but after, it's, 'Oh my God!'" Said one Vietnamese man, returning home after a trip abroad, and who went immediately from the airport to a "hot toc" parlor for a picking, "[This] brings a lot of happiness." [San Jose Mercury News, 1-23-2011] Thanks This Week to Kev of arbroath.blogspot.com, and Christine Van Lenten, and to the News of the Weird Board of Editorial Advisors.
  • Crusader for corporal punishment caned
    Eric Wildman was a crusader for corporal punishment. He believed strongly that if you spare the rod, you'll spoil the child. He was the president (and perhaps only member?) of the National Society for the Retention of Corporal Punishment in Schools. To support himself, he sold canes and whipping paraphenalia to schools and caning enthusiasts. In 1948, he was invited to speak at Horsley Hall, a British school for boys. But the talk didn't turn out as he expected. As he was talking, a group of the boys crept up behind him, grabbed him, pinned him down, and then began beating him with his own canes. Strangely enough, the assault turned out to have been planned by the school's headmaster, who was strongly anti-caning. He had decided to give Wildman a taste of his own medicine. Wildman threatened to sue the school, but never did. You can read more about Wildman and the Horsley Hall incident at corpun.com, which also has lots of info about the strange history of corporal punishment. Wildman and his canes The Horsley Hall Incident The Modesto Bee - Nov 26, 1948
  • Dr. Black & Mr. Hyde
    Caution: gratuitous bare female flesh for a few seconds at the start. Full movie below.

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!”