Next day we had breakfast at Kiss the Cook, in Glendale, Arizona. I recommend the New Orleans Cajun Omlette.
Thursday, August 9, 2018
It's been the craziest, busiest summer ever for Emily and me. After several (I lost count) conventions, and both of us slammed with writer biz, we needed a break, a real vacation. Our nephew Miles, flying in for some post-high school graduation, writer mentoring, and bookstore crawling seemed what we needed.
The monsoon, with humidity and unpredictable downpours, arrived at the same time.
At the airport, a woman's T-shirt caused a Disney-style cartoon version of Minnie the Moocher--complete with opium pipes--to spontaneously play in my head. A young man's shirt simply said NARCOTICS. And a mysterious security bell kept ringing.
This was early in the morning, so we took off to Prescott, where we had breakfast at the Lone Spur Cafe. Buffalo and elk heads, cowboy art and artifacts, and a photo of Calamity Jane watched over us.
Later, in an antique shop, Minnie the Moocher—the original, Cab Calloway version—played.
At the Peregrine Book Company, I found a paperback reprint of a Buffalo Bill dime novel, and books by Ishmael Reed and Harlan Ellison. After dinner at El Charro Restaurant, we had to drive through heavy rain, thunder and lightning to the motel, where the wi-fi sucked, but somehow, I managed to post Calamity on Twitter and Facebook.
Next morning we got breakfast at the Dinner Bell Cafe. Emily was so impressed she bought the T-shirt. I liked the Divorciado Omelette. Miles liked their chicken fried steak.
Then we crawled through two thrift stores, and a bookstore. Grabbed Walt Kelly's The Pogo Stepmother Goose, William Eastlake's Castle Keep, among other goodies.
The next morning Miles and I checked out writing markets online. Then we cruised some Goodwills—a lot of lost treasures end up there, the last stop before the landfill (I found Samuel R. Delaney's Hogg, LeRoi Jones' Home: Social Essays, and Ronald J. Wimmer's Extraterrestrial Organology: The Study of Future Wind Insturments) -- and some local bookstores, including Bookmans, where I found Max Evans' Bluefeather Fellini in the Sacred Realm.
We had dinner at Phoenix's hot spot for recombocultural cuisine, Chino Bandido. If they ever expand into a nationwide chain they will need to have a comic book, like Bob's Big Boy.
Next day we had breakfast at Kiss the Cook, in Glendale, Arizona. I recommend the New Orleans Cajun Omlette.
Then, one of our tires went flat. Luckly, AAA saved the day.
We still managed to get to some more thrift stores, bookstore shopping, and burgers at Moe's, through the alternating monsoon blazing sun and rainy clouds before putting Miles back on his plane to California. Hopefully, our wisdom as professional writers will help him. At the very least, he had a good time.
Friday, August 3, 2018
Thursday, July 26, 2018
I've received the all clear from headquarters, so: Hey everybody, I just sold another story! Let the celebrating commence!
It's called “Those Rumors of Cannibalism and Human Sacrifice Have Been Greatly Exaggerated,” a Xicanxfuturistic romp through Wild, Wild Aztlán, inspired by my travels in the region, and certain, recent political developments.
Stay tuned for details and developments. Meanwhile, feel free to dance in the streets, and practice rituals in honor of Xochipilli.
Friday, July 20, 2018
Monday, July 9, 2018
We left the house at 6 AM to celebrate the Revolution! And it didn't really matter which one. No plans. Just go. Just do it. We both had the day off, and we felt like playing hooky.
After grabbing coffee at the nearest Quik Trip, it was off to Sedona. Hot air balloons dotted the sky. Not much traffic for a holiday, but then it was early.
Made it to the Coffee Pot in Sedona at 8 Am. Had a buckwheat pancake fix among the fabulous faux cowboy and Indian décor.
Giant squirrels scurried around the Walnut Canyon National Monument. I got a Lifetime Interagency Senior Pass—the National Parks and Monuments are now mine! We also climbed down into the Sinagua ruins, remembering Arizona's original cultures. As we left, a raven big enough to carry off small children lurked around the parking lot.
We keep running into giant ravens the rest of the day.
In Flagstaff, we hit some antique stores. Em bought the Asian painted screen of her dreams. I got a paperback copy of Bob Dylan's Tarantula, while Johnny Cash sang Hank Williams songs.
Back towards Sedona, it got crowded. You'd think there was a national holiday going on. Oak Creek Canyon was a mob scene. I said, “Nothing like getting in an good, old-fashioned, all-American traffic jam on the Fourth of July,” and scanned some of Dylan's post-beat, pre-hip-hop bop prosetry.
Beyond Sedona, the crowds dwindled away to nothing and we had the road to ourselves again, for a scenic, meditative drive through hippie country, Cottonwood, Jerome . . .
There were lots of squashed skunks and bunnies in the roads.
In Prescott, people wearing stars and stripes were swarming along Whisky Row. A ritual was impending, perhaps sacrifices were needed. We kept moving until we got to Bill's Grill, where we got burgers like good Americans.
Em had the BBQ, while I went for the Black & Blue Buffalo.
The roads were empty as we drove through the rocky, jagged, cactus-studded landscape obscured by hazy mist through the funky, pre/post-apocalyptic semi-ghost towns under saucer-shaped clouds. Sometimes the flags were at half-staff, other times they were not. Where was everybody? Had the world ended? Was the Metro Phoenix Area now a smoldering, radioactive crater? Does this continent/planet/universe give a damn why all us cosmic parasites keep torturing and killing each other?
We didn't see many political statements. A TRUMP PENCE bumper sticker on way up. A BERNIE on the way back. Both artifacts from 2016. Are people getting sick of it all?
Wherefore art thou, Trumptopia?
A Confederate flag flew in front of a fake, theme-parkish compound.
“I felt excited about leaving town,” Emily said, “and now that we're going back, I feel the same.”
The traffic never got too thick as we approached Phoenix from the west. Sun City and Surprise looked like a pre-fab Mars Colony, built in advance by nanodrones, waiting for the colonists to arrive, and argue if the first press conference will be from McDonald's or Starbucks . . .
It's all a perfect setting for Chicano/Latinoid extra-fiction--or our lives.
Before sunset our neighborhood sounded and smelled like a war zone.
Friday, July 6, 2018
How do you become a writer?
And what if your some kind of Chicano/Latinoid?
Well, Somos en escrito is having an extra-fiction contest, and I've taken on the job of the final judge:
So take your cultura and go wild:
Monday, July 2, 2018
The current generation sees Harlan Ellison as a curmudgeon who was always bad-mouthing their favorite franchise products. The don’t get why an old guy like me, who was coming of age in the early Nineteen Seventies, thinks he’s such a big deal. After all, they’ve been programmed to hate their favorite writers for not keeping all their favorite series coming at them fast and furious, as if it were possible to die from not enough of the right kind of entertainment.
It was different for me waythehell back then. Harlan was young too. He seemed to be possessed of limitless energy, like a superhero. To be in the same room with him, even a gigantic ballroom, nearly blasted you off your feet. His lectures had the intensity of rock concerts.
He seemed more like a rock star than a writer.
I started reading him at an age when most millennials were reading Harry Potter.
His name kept coming up in the science fiction magazines I was reading. Then I found The Beast That Shouted Love At the Heart of the World on the sci-fi shelf of my local public library. “Along the Scenic Route” -- “Shattered Like A Glass Goblin” -- “A Boy and His Dog” !!! Made Ray Bradbury look like an old fogey. Then when I found Dangerous Visions! And what happened when I snuck those books onto the campus of Edgewood High School in West Covina, California, and slipped them in front of the eyes of unsuspecting teenage girls . . .
I realized that being a writer could be more than my adolescent mind dared imagine.
It wasn’t just science fiction/speculative fiction/what we called the New Wave after the French filmmakers and before postpunk pop. Harlan was so hip, and cool that he was everywhere. All kinds of magazines, comic books, Star Trek, The Outer Limits, talk shows . . . He was a manifestation of the counterculture, our revolution while the war in Vietnam blazed, kids showed up to class stoned.
I started buying the L.A. Free Press (George’s Liquor Store, my main connection to literature and culture back then, started carrying it) when I found out about his Glass Teat columns that deconstructed our electronic environment. The books collecting them are one of the best, play-by-play accounts of the times--history teachers take note. And what happened when I showed those to the girls at school . . .
And to be listening when he went on KPFK’s Hour 25 and took Pacifica Radio's concept to glorious, obscenity-studded extremes!
He helped me go crazy in those days. I dared to be a rebellious, surrealist cartoonist confusing and scaring people in the high school newspaper. I dived into self-learning how to express myself through writing, because teachers never knew what I was talking about.
Thank you, Harlan. For broadening my horizons. For amping up my guts to explore that deranged world that seemed to be collapsing around me.
I may have still become a writer if I never encountered you. Maybe I would have even been more commercially successful. But I wouldn’t have gotten away with the magnificent shit that I’ve committed.
And that is what it’s really all about.
Friday, June 29, 2018
The Hilton Doubletree North turned out to be right next to the Cholla Branch of the Phoenix Public Library. A Filiberto’s, a Hooters, and Hydroponics Depot were across the street. I found it funny, but then Emily and I had just been to a funeral the day before, which put a peculiar spin on the weekend.
We had also been at Phoenix Comic Fest a few weeks ago, and Em was still recovering from Denver Comic Con, where she was nearly trampled by people trying to get to Jim Davis, the creator of the comic strip Garfield. At one point she was in a hall so crowded, she said, “If we were in someone’s blood stream, they would have had a heart attack.”
After all, we are all just cells in the organism we call civilization.
As we walked in we saw a woman who looked like the ghost of another friend who had died recently.
LepreCon 44, in a lot of ways was the opposite of the corporate comic cons, small, old school, old-fashioned clip-on badges, no program book--just two sheets stapled together, and the tiny art show was combined with a dinky dealer room. The whole thing was put together in a couple of months. It was a fannish time warp to the cons I went to as a kid in Nineteen Seventies, disorganized, funky, things weren’t controlled, but then just about anything could happen.
Most of our panels were in the Executive Board Room, which was crammed with a table a chairs that were way too big for it. A flimsy wall decoration got knocked off and broken as people tried to get in and sit down. I do like the way you can’t tell the panel from the audience.
Water was dripping the ceiling in two places when we got there for the “Are We All White?” panel, which, even though the panelists outnumbered the audience, went well. Maybe the times they really are a-changing. Got wondering if I should give New York another try . . .
Em had to work the next day, so she dropped me off at 10 AM. There were an awful lot of people in with con badges and costumes walking around the hotel for a Sunday morning. Maybe it’s the graying of fandom, and the underage, new generation.
At the “I Wrote Something! Now What?” panel Maxwell Alexander Drake told of his plight of being paid incredible amounts of money to write media projects that end up not being produced and never being seen by anybody. What a crazy business! Guess I’m lucky to have had a career where people notice me and I get called a genius every once in awhile.
The Sketch Off was fun. Shea Robinson, Jason Youngdale, Gilead, and I created art based on audience suggestions that were immediately auctioned off to help an art program for abused children. I really need to draw more.
The last panel “Researching Pasts That Never Were” had an audience that was bigger than the panel. Maybe people were really interested in the subject. David Lee Summers and I got to talk about history, alternate and otherwise, and the joys of research.
I’m glad these old school cons are still around. I wonder what kind of future they have.
Friday, June 22, 2018
He's one of the most popular writers on the planet:
He writes about UFOs and the paranormal:
Mostly, it's stuff like this:
But he keeps on investigating:
Thursday, June 14, 2018
“If it weren't for the writers we'd be here at a comic book convention!” I heard Harlan Ellison scream that at the 1972 WorldCon. Yeah, I was there, a teenager with Jimi Hendrix/Abbie Hoffman hair that scared people.
But what really scared them was the science fiction.
I found myself thinking a lot of stuff like this at the Phoenix Comic Fest.
Harlan was right. If it wasn’t for writers, the comics, TV and movie franchises that comprise geek/nerd culture wouldn’t exist. But is seems that most of the consumers would rather imagine it to be part of their natural environment.
Only their environment ain’t so natural, and it keeps changing.
Just ask the Hohokam who dug the canals we still use in the Valley of the Sun, and played the ancient ball game in courts of the same design found as far south as Central America. The Phoenix Convention Center is built on a site where their artifacts have been excavated. Sooner or later we become archaeology--if we’re lucky.
Emily and I did a park-and-ride on the light rail, from which Phoenix looks like a sunny near future from a pre-Blade Runner sci-fi production, complete with lots of shiny, colorful new apartment complexes to house the workers for the tech industries that have not quite moved in yet. The Comic Fest is the manifestation of the culture of that brave new world.
We got out with the nerds and cosplayers, and were greeted by giant metal insects, pedicabs, concrete barricades, police cars with lights flashing, dogs sniffing the perimeter for . . . explosives? . . . drugs? Then we got scanned with the metal detectors at the security checkpoint.
Utopia? Dystopia? What kind of topia do we have here? Just where does the sci-fi end and the real life begin?
In the old days there was the giddy impression that the fans were creating a world of their own. The “mundane” world saw it as a threat. It was especially fun when a convention shared a hotel with a religious gathering. Ah, the looks of confusion and horror. “Is it something you . . . believe in?”
I liked to imagine someone freaking out into a pay phone: “Operator! Give me the police! All these weird hippies have taken over the hotel! Some of them are naked! My daughter told me the stairwells smell like marijuana! I think they slipped me LSD! The things I keep seeing! Better make that the National Guard! Do you think they have those tactical nuclear weapons I’ve heard about?”
Now the geeks come to bow down and worship corporate icons. They are the audience. Writers should know something about their audience.
They were there in force, a lot in costumes, sometimes entire families. I know a lot of people who come to these things with their mothers. Are any of them interested in books? Or anything strange, different and not brought to them by a familiar multinational corporation? Were they just there to engage in the nerd consumer orgy?
At first the section with the panels looked small, a sideshow, compared to the rest of the Fest, but that was just because whole thing was so big. After I adjusted my mind for the scale, I realized that they had a good sized convention going on inside the Fest. The panels were in bigger rooms and better attended than in most of the traditional cons I’ve been to lately.
Tor had sent Emily to publicize Medusa Uploaded. I must admit they did a good job in putting their writers in front of the audience. It’s quite different from back when they gave me the bum’s rush back in the Nineties. A lot of the panel titles were prefaced by “Tor Presents.” John Scalzi and Cory Doctorow kept things under control, never making you feel like a riot or a revolution was about to break out--like in the bad old days.
But then, when things get this big, the name of the game becomes crowd control.
Control . . .
One of the panels that Emily was on was about “The Prophets of Science Fiction.” She asked me about it ahead of time. I told her that the most accurate sci-fi predictions of our times were made by Philip K. Dick and the Firesign Theater. Mostly because they weren’t trying predict anything. They didn’t take it too seriously (the fatal flaw of a lot of science fiction) and let it get absurd.
The future is absurd, kids, get used to it!
When I think about the franchise frenzy, the costumed crowds in the halls, and audience at the panels going on and on asking serious questions about changes in society, and the armed security that surrounded us, it seemed like collaboration between Dick and the Firesign. And the real future is probably only going to be more so.
I wonder what the old-time science fiction fans, and the Hohokam would think.