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Friday, 31 March 2006
Essential Ellison
Mood:  cheeky
Now Playing: White Stripes SEVEN NATION ARMY
Topic: Focus on Author
"In honor of my recent purchase of ESSENTIAL ELLISON, a gigantic tome-like collection of almost every short story the celebrated author has ever written, I got to talking about him online, and the inevitable Harlan at Conventions" stories cropped up. Which led to the following blatant ripoff of a SNL sketch, so with apologies both to SNL and Harlan, here's a left handed tribute.

Long term fans of Saturday Night Live will recognize the origin of this sketch easily.

SCENE: a typical airport watering hole. Several businessmen are clustered around the bar swapping stories. They all appear to be tipsy.

First Friend of Ellison: Harlan Ellison is a son of a bitch! Do you fellas know Harlan Ellison?

Second Friend of Ellison: Hell yeah, I know Harlan Ellison! He's a big fella, goes about 6'4", 280. He loves his Scotch!

Third Friend of Ellison: He does! He's a hell of a science fiction writer!

Fourth Friend of Ellison: To Harlan Ellison! Again, Dangerous Visions is the best damned Sci Fi book ever!

Together: Harlan Ellison!!

Third Friend of Ellison: Did you know Harlan Ellison is the godfather of my son?

Fourth Friend of Ellison: Harlan Ellison?

First Friend of Ellison: He's a big fella!

Second Friend of Ellison: Oh yeah, he's a big guy! Goes about 6'7", 385.

Third Friend of Ellison: Well, anyway.. he shows up at the church in his golf pants, caked in mud. Well, ol' Harlan Ellison pushes the priest aside and says, "I'll baptize that piece of calimari!" Then he pours Scotch all over my baby son and says, "There! You're baptized!"

Fourth Friend of Ellison: And your son is blind to this day!

First Friend of Ellison: Yeah, he makes brooms somewhere in Georgia, doesn't he?

Third Friend of Ellison: I have no idea. [ pause ] To Harlan Ellison!

Together: Harlan Ellison!!

Second Friend of Ellison: Did I ever tell you about the time Harlan Ellison sold me into slavery?

First Friend of Ellison: Well, if you're talking about Harlan Ellison, I believe it!

Second Friend of Ellison: Oh, yeah! He puts me on a ship to Thailand, right? And I'm chained to a pipe. Meanwhile, ol' Ellison, he's back in the States siring three beautiful children with my wife!

First Friend of Ellison: I hate Harlan Ellison.. but I respect him!

Guy At Bar: Are you talking about Harlan Ellison? I know Harlan Ellison!

First Friend of Ellison: Then let me buy you a round!

Third Friend of Ellison: Hey, easy, Hank, easy.. To Harlan Ellison!

Together: Harlan Ellison!!

Fourth Friend of Ellison: Did I ever tell you about the time Harlan Ellison showed up at my daughter's wedding? You know my daughter, she's a beautiful girl.

First Friend of Ellison: I tell you, I'd like to have sex with her!

Fourth Friend of Ellison: Well, Ellison shows up.. and you know he's a big fella.

Third Friend of Ellison: Goes about 7'8", 530.

Fourth Friend of Ellison: Well, he's standing right between me and my daughter at the ceremony. He's got no right to be there, but he's drunk and he's Ellison! Well, long story short: the priest accidentally marries me and Ellison!
[ the guys laugh ] Off! Off! Off! We spend the weekend in the Poconos - he loves me like I've never been loved before!

Second Friend of Ellison: Best damn science fiction writer! in the universe!

Together: Harlan Ellison!!

Third Friend of Ellison: You know how Ellison served three tours in 'Nam?

Fourth Friend of Ellison: Uh-huh!

Third Friend of Ellison: Well, I'm in Corpus Christi on business a month ago, and I had this eight-foot tall Asian waiter.. which made me a little curious, so I asked him his name, and sure enough it's Ho Tran Ellison!

First Friend of Ellison: To Harlan Jay Ellison!

Second Friend of Ellison: Oh, yeah!

Fourth Friend of Ellison: Hey, you ever go camping with Ellison?

Third Friend of Ellison: Many times.

First Friend of Ellison: I went to WORLDCON with Ellison, his wife, and his daughter Debbie!

Third Friend of Ellison: Debbie Ellison?

First Friend of Ellison: Debbie Ellison. She's 7-years-old, goes about 3'5", 55 pounds. So, I'm in the Con Suite with Harlan Ellison and an annoying fan! Well, Ellison, he grabs the fan by the ears, looks at it and says, "I'm Harlan Ellison! Say it!" Then he squeezes the fan in such a way that a sound comes out of its mouth - "HarlanEllison!" It wasn't exactly it, but it was pretty good for a fan!

Third Friend of Ellison: That's Harlan Ellison!

Together: Harlan Ellison!!

Fourth Friend of Ellison: I once saw him eat a whole live chicken.

First Friend of Ellison: His favorite movie is "One on One" with Robby Benson.

Fourth Friend of Ellison: Harlan Ellison once gave me a videotape of him having sex with my wife, and it was the most beautiful damn thing I ever saw!

Second Friend of Ellison: I have that tape!

Guy At Bar: [ turning around ] So do I!

Third Friend of Ellison: To Harlan Ellison! A ten-foot-tall, two-ton son of a bitch who could eat a hammer and take a shotgun blast standing!

Together: Harlan Ellison!!

Posted by mrnizz at 10:54 AM EST
Updated: Friday, 31 March 2006 10:58 AM EST
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Monday, 6 March 2006
Mood:  sad
Now Playing: A funeral dirge
Topic: Focus on Author

With great sadness, we should mourn the passing of Octavia Butler at the untimely age of 58 last week. She was a great talent, a writer of great SF stories that focused on the human side, rather than oh-gee-whiz stuff. She shall be missed.

A lot was made about the color of Ms. Butler's skin when she was first published. I'll say this about that; she was just a great writer of stories. Her characters and stories were color-blind.

My favorite books by Octavia are CLAYS' ARK and WILD SEED. I admit, I had lost touch with her stuff in recent years, but plan to go back and reread some of it some day soon.

Here's the obituary, copyright the SEATTLE TIMES:

Octavia Butler, prominent science fiction author, dies at 58


The Associated Press

SEATTLE – Octavia E. Butler, the first black woman to gain national prominence as a science fiction writer, died after falling and striking her head on the cobbled walkway outside her home, a close friend said Sunday. She was 58.

Butler was found outside her home in the north Seattle suburb of Lake Forest Park on Friday. She had suffered from high blood pressure and heart trouble and could only take a few steps without stopping for breath, said Leslie Howle, who knew Butler for two decades and works at the Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame in Seattle.

Butler's work wasn't preoccupied with robots and ray guns, Howle said, but used the genre's artistic freedom to explore race, poverty, politics, religion and human nature.

"She stands alone for what she did," Howle said. "She was such a beacon and a light in that way."

Fellow Seattle-based science fiction authors Greg Bear and Vonda McIntyre said they were stunned by the news and called it a tremendous loss.

"People came the world around to talk to her," Bear said. "She was sweet. She was smart. She knew science fiction and how to work with it."

Butler began writing at age 10, and told Howle she embraced science fiction after seeing a schlocky B-movie called "Devil Girl from Mars" and thinking, "I can write a better story than that." In 1970, she took a bus from her hometown of Pasadena, Calif., to East Lansing, Mich., to attend a fantasy writers workshop.

Her first novel, "Kindred," came out in 1979. It concerned a black woman who travels back in time to the South to save a white man. She went on to write about a dozen books, plus numerous essays and short stories. Her most recent work, "Fledgling," an examination of the "Dracula" legend, was published last fall.

She won numerous awards, and most notably in 1995 became the first science fiction writer granted a "genius" award from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, which paid $295,000 over five years. She served on the board of the Science Fiction Museum.

Peter Heck, a science fiction and mystery writer in Chestertown, Md., said Butler was recognized for tackling difficult and controversial issues, such as slavery.

"She was considered a cut above both in the quality of her writing and her imaginative audacity," Heck said. "She was willing to take uncomfortable ideas and pursue them further than a lot of other people would have been willing to."

Heck's wife, Jane Jewell, executive director of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, called Butler one of the first and definitely the most prominent black woman science fiction writer, but said she would have been a major writer of science fiction no matter her race or her gender.

"She is a world-class science fiction writer in her own right," Jewell said. "She was one of the first and one of the best to discuss gender and race in science fiction."

Butler described herself as a happy hermit, and never married. Though she could be very private, Bear said, she had taken classes to improve her public speaking and in recent years seemed more outgoing.

"Mostly she just loved sitting down and writing," he said. "For being a black female growing up in Los Angeles in the '60s, she was attracted to science fiction for the same reasons I was: It liberated her. She had a far-ranging imagination, and she was a treasure in our community."

Copyright ? 2006 The Seattle Times Company

Posted by mrnizz at 10:29 AM EST
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Tuesday, 11 October 2005
Never too late for the SANDMAN
Mood:  accident prone
Now Playing: the dozens
Topic: Focus on Author

(crossposted from Another Point of Singularity, because it fits here)

I missed out on the "Sandman Craze" when the popular comic book series was being published from 1989 to 1990-whatever. I never took to "Goth stuph" when I was younger; I suspect I was too old for serious Goth lifestyle changes, and had been through that phase before it was even called "Goth". Since so many Goth-wannabees were aping "Dream" (the titular character of the series) in style and dress, I kind of turned my nose up at it. Big mistake, as it turns out. I deprived myself of a very good read for a long time.

The other night, I was in the library over at Pohick, and noticed that A) they are carrying graphic novels; and B) they have almost every one of the Sandman books.

Now, that's a cool thing. Because I find spending 14.95 plus on a graphic novel trade cover just little bit much, considering 9 out of 10 of them get recycled to a used book store or library book drive. I think my only "keepers" have been KINGDOM COME, THE WATCHMEN, BATMAN: YEAR ONE, THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS, MAUS, DAREDEVIL: GANG WAR, and BATMAN: THE KILLING JOKE). So I don't "do comics" like I used to. Being able to check them out of a library is a big bonus. Among Pohick's graphic novel collection (which is, alas, mostly Manga), is almost all of the Sandman milieu that saw print.

I currently have out on loan A Game of You (a sort of Alice through the Looking Glass meets Steven King's Dark Tower series), Fables and Reflections (all short stories with different graphic artists. My favorite so far), Dream Country and the Kindly Ones (both not read yet, but that is a fault soon remedied). I also picked up A Season of Mists at a garage sale some time back and posted good things about it in my book blog.

What can I say (further) that hasn't already been said, in gushing detail?

I'm impressed that writers that I respect and admire, such as Gene Wolfe, Harlan Ellison and Samuel Delaney find this series so awe-inspiring that they all have written, intricate, thoughtful introductions (my favorite so far is Wolfe's, but I love his writing). The story line appears to have a connecting thread througout (concerning "Dream's" unusual family), but it really doesn't matter that much. Each book stands and falls on its own. I particularly like the way Gaiman adroitly weaves characters and pieces of myth into his storyline; each story is like a subdued trivia test as I read and recognize this or that clever literary reference.

So I like them. I like them quite a bit.

What's the lesson for today, kids? Just because an item is the darling of the culture vultures, DOESN'T neccesarily mean that it sucks.

Posted by mrnizz at 2:27 PM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, 11 October 2005 3:21 PM EDT
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Tuesday, 6 September 2005
Mister Joe Landsdale of East Texas, he can surely turn a phrase
Mood:  energetic
Now Playing: Carmina Burana at loud volume
Topic: Focus on Author
One of my favorite new fixations is the fiction of Joe Landsdale. He is a writer from East Texas, and it's hard to really place him in any genre-- he's written SF, Horror, Westerns, modern crime, thrillers and mysteries. In recent months, I've read MUCHO MOJO (featuring two recurring characters, Hap and Leonard, who live in, you guessed it, East Texas). Much of what I've read so far has been framed as either a period thriller or a murder mystery. Landsdale's work is good in its own right, but new readers will treasure the way he can turn a phrase.

I'm keeping a list of memorarble Lansdale quotes from the books of his I've read so far. Here is a partial list:

Joe Lansdale quotes


That guy had a wart for a dick. A thing like that can give you a pissed-off attitude,

It was as hot and sticky as the crack of a fat man's ass

As creepy as a masturbating fat girl on a nude beach.

As lonely as the last pig in a slaughterhouse line.

A woman like that, she could make you set fire to an old folks home and beat the survivors over the head as they ran out.


(Sunset in a rape scene, page 2, Pete gets killed)

When he snapped his gun belt free, he tossed it nearby, and while he was on her, tugging at his zipper trying to put the mule in the barn, Sunset reached over and slipped his .38 revolver from its holster, and without him being aware, put it to his head, and gave him one to the temple.

When she pulled the trigger the shot was loud as Gabriel blowing her up to heaven, but it was Pete who went to heaven. Or departed, anyway. Sunset liked to think he got a nice chair in hell, right next to the oven.

Pete went limp, not in the organ he had intended to use, but all over. He said not a word, no “ouch” “oh shit”, or “can you believe that?” Things he liked to say under normal circumstances, moments of surprise and duress. He just took the hot load, cut fart near loud as the .38 shot, collapsed, and rode on out on Death's black horse.

(Jones has just killed himself with a giant crosscut saw at the lumber mill. Zack, a black lumber mill worker, has found Jones' wedding ring during the cleanup)

Zack thought about giving it to Mrs. Jones, then thought it might be better to take it into town and sell it. But if someone found out he sold the ring, it could go bad for him. So he put the ring in one of Jones' boots after removing what was left of ankle and foot. Interestingly enough, both boots were in good shape. No cuts, or tears, just bloody inside.

Later that night, at home, Zack thought about the beating Pete had given him and the way that Jones had made him carry the body (of Pete) back. He thought about the ring again and wished he had kept it.

A week later, Zack found a chunk of Jones, possibly a testicle, under a log fragment in the mill house. He kicked it around for a while before using a stick to toss it out to the one-eyed stray cat that hung around the mill.

The cat took it in its mouth and ran away into the woods.


It was Clyde Fox. He had removed his cloth cap and his black hair hung down, almost covered one of his eyes. He was big enough to go alligator hunting with stern language.

(later-- Sunset is attracted to “hillbilly” her deputy)

Sunset knew Hillbilly’s pat on the leg and remark were unnecessary and an excuse to touch her thigh, but she couldn't bring herself to say anything against it. She wished she could say: “put your hand here, your mouth there, twist one of my legs behind my head an make me say calf rope”

(later, Clyde the other deputy thinks Sunset is cute)

Clyde took a chair, watched her write. He liked watching her do most anything. Her hair was so red and long and smooth, flame-like, but much prettier in color than the fire that that had licked his home to death. Her face was smooth and pink-cheeked and she had about the most beautiful nose and mouth he had ever seen. He really liked her mouth. Last night, in his dreams, her mouth had played a prominent part. He even liked the way her feet fit in her work boots; there was something, so damn cute about those little feet in those work boots. And that thick gun belt. He shouldn't think of that as cute, but he did. If she had suddenly bent over and farted out “Old Man River” to the beat of her tapping feet, he knew he would have found that cute as well.

(Deputy Rooster encounters a blonde prostitute at McBrides apt)

He had seen her before (though he was now seeing a part of her he hadn't seen before), but he didn't know her name. When the blonde turned away, leading, her naked ass moved from side to side like a couple of happy babies rolling about.

(deputy Clyde again)

When they finished eating, Clyde said, “I think I'm going to be the first ass in that outhouse. I feel it coming”


I drove into town and rented a VCR and checked out a couple movies. Jaws, which I'd never seen, and Gunga Din, which I saw when I was head high to a cocker spaniel's nuts.

The big black cop didn’t' look at the white cop. You got the idea they did that kind of dull banter all the time, just to keep away. The black cop got a turd-colored cigar out of the inside of his coat and put it in his mouth and chewed it.

It was so dark in the back of the place you could have pulled your dick out and put on a rubber and no one would have known it.

(Ilium is dead, but the speaker doesn't know it)

“yeah, he runs all manner errands for the church. He's a real do gooder, that Illium. That sonsabitch dies, he's gone sit on the right hand of Jesus and Jesus gone give him a juice harp, personal like, let him play a few spirituals...

I figure Illium was probably twanging out a rendition of “the Old Rugged Cross” even as we spoke. I thanked the old man, paid up and started back to the house.

Hanson took a deep breath. He tried to smile but he had a face like a man that had just found a dog turd in his mouth.

In quite a different way, next door to us, operating against the law, but not restrained or bothered b it, a whole houseful of ball sweats were doing a similar thing, and we weren't stopping them.

She pointed the pistol at my groin, and I reached down and scooped it aside with my palm and jumped in close and grabbed her head with both my hands, and gave her a knee in the face. I figure I'd hear from the Southern Club for Manhood for that, but I didn’t give a shit, you try to hurt me, and I'm gonna hurt you back

For a real treat, check out an Audio interview with Lansdale
at the "Agony Column" website.

Posted by mrnizz at 4:13 PM EDT
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Thursday, 17 February 2005
The Obscure pleasure of reading Gene Wolfe
Mood:  caffeinated
Now Playing: my Banjo
Topic: Focus on Author
Re-Reading a lot of Gene Wolfe quite a bit at the moment. I found Castle of Days in Mckay's Used books for a couple of bucks (hardcover). Castle of Days is a collection of short stories (Book of Days) combined with a long rambling, multi-chaptered discourse about how the Book of the New Sun series came to be. some people might find this sort of self-indulgent. I'm not one of them. There's a real creative magic in this series-- beautiful crafting of language and concepts, and Otter explains most of Wolfe's method in creating the story. It's great!


Posted by mrnizz at 10:04 PM EST
Updated: Tuesday, 22 February 2005 12:23 PM EST
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