Archive | September, 2013

Now what?

twiZonDorMy daughter turned me on to a friend of hers who’s starting a magazine for “Sword & Sorcery” fans, and linking it to a website including stories, games, illustrations, films… whatever.

I’d never written anything about the Middle Ages, and for that matter hadn’t read much about it either. I know Anglophiles dote on the stuff. Me, I prefer science fiction to straight fantasy. If you’re going to invent whole worlds and cultures, why encumber yourself with armor and seventy obscure words that have no use other than that they are the names of medieval objects?

I’m not, generally speaking, a nostalgic kind of guy. I figure we left all that behind for a reason. Probably, several thousand reasons, if you want to get down to counting them. Plague, for instance. We didn’t so much ‘leave it behind us’ as we discovered a relationship between rats and people dying from bubonic infection. As we got further into it, we found the relationship to be fleas. The fleas on the rats spread the plague.  But wait there’s more.

When we got even further into them, we discovered these fleas were carrying something that other rat’s fleas weren’t. Didn’t know quite what it was, though. Sometime around then, this Dutch guy invented lenses. And believe it or not, you could actually see what the fleas were carrying in their blood! This was a whole new ball of wax, looking through lenses on a tube, finding massive planets far off in the sky and deadly teensy things right up close. Some even preferred it to gallumphing around wearing fifty pounds of steel and killing people in the name of Redemption. Especially when you could actually save people by doing so.

However, here’s a guy who wants to pay for my stuff, if my stuff is about medieval doings. Lead me to the writing machine.

Two days later, I’d written two 2500-word stories. Not bad, I said. I read them over. They were indeed in English. I sent them out.

The Editor/publisher immediately emailed me that he’d received them. He hadn’t read them, but he soon would. He was preparing for a convention of gamers in Indianapolis held the following week, and the convention was a week long. Besides which, he’d pretty much settled on the content for his premiere issue, scheduled for the end of September. So he probably wouldn’t be getting to my stories until around then. But thanks for writing them, and sending them in, and we’ll talk later.

Most of my life, I free-lanced. I’m quite used to calls from producers asking my availability for this project or that and they’ll be getting back to me “soon”, and that’s the last I hear from them. Many years ago, when I started, I followed up on one or two of those calls. I soon learned not to. Better to forget they called. If they want you to do something, they’ll damn sure call back.

But this was somewhat different. For one thing, fiction writing, at my level, isn’t a business. It’s more like – I’m a porcupine, see, and I keep producing quills. Whether I need them or not, the quills are coming. I have to get rid of the ones I’ve already made. I could just bundle them up like tree trimmings and put them in the trash (in ‘sharps’ containers, like used syringes). However, all quills have patterns in them. Weaved delicately, they can make lovely, even striking, place-mats. You can even build things with them, Christmas tree ornaments, log-cabin structures for model railroads, even plaques such as those which hang on the walls of Mt. Vernon. They can say something about what your life is worth, if you are good enough at weaving them.

I’m not in this as a business. I want to sell my stories so that they will be published and people will read them. I could really use the cash, too. But I’m not looking for a contract to produce so many words in this period of time. I made sound tracks for industrial films. If I’d wanted to do that, I would have at least started there. The point is, I”m not looking for work.

So I haven’t written the guy. And, he hasn’t written to me. Now, it’s the legendary End of September. And I’ve written eight more stories. Twenty thousand words.

Do I send them all to him? I don’t think so.But the writing’s developed some. It’s not like it was when I started. I think I’ll send him the last one, and explain that things have changed and I’d love to hear what he thought of the first ones compared to this one.

Meanwhile, He seems to have become involved in a different website. is some sort of exhibition site – cum – schnorring site. The setup is, you exhibit your work there and you ask for a contribution to help you make art. He’d set up a site. So, I set up a site.

You might ask, “If he jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge, would you?” I dunno. I’ll get back to you on that.

In the meantime, I don’t think opening this will kill me immediately. Even if it’s for wannabes and other frauds. Then I’ll only be there a week or two. Anyway, who’ll know? There’s just you and me, here.


Happy New Year


“How did I discover that I was God? I was praying, and I suddenly realized that I was talking to myself.”

Peter O’Toole

I have spent Rosh Hashonahs past doing many different things.

I spent twelve, at least, in prayer. Two years, I blew the shofar, sounding the battle calls with which my People welcomed the NewYear praying for peace. I see no contradiction there. Other aspects of the synagogue seemed contradictory, though, and amounted to hypocracy – that is, actions promoting spiritual destruction even while prayers for elevation were being spoken. Since I could neither condone nor banish these practises of my People, I have chosen another path. My People apparently respect my choice. They don’t invite me to join them any more in their practises. I miss them but will not condone the outrages I see in their congregations. And so, here we are.

What a wretched pain in the ass.

Our synagogue had a membership of perhaps 500 families – close to 1800 folks with all the children and generations included. Its sanctuary could hold maybe a tenth that number, so they rented the Carnegie Music Hall for High Holiday services and packed it This belle epoque jewel, with its mighty pipe organ, opera boxes and lobby of black marble columns and floor and gold-leaf ceiling, was one-fourth of the Carnegie Institute of Arts and Sciences, the great gift Andrew Carngie built his home city, to hold a first-class library and world-class natural science museum (and a cool history museum,too). It was impressive, magnificent and prestigious, real class that makes most modern efforts at such look chintzy to me. No casino, no luxury hotel or resort, no snazzy multi-million dollar home built in this century has ever impressed me with its grandeur, for I have seen the real thing. And that’s about that.

The Institute nestled into a corner of Schenley Park,just up Forbes Street from Forbes Field. The ballpark faced the city park, which from that angle was a hillside, grassy lawned and rimmed with trees.

The force in my life in which I’ve experienced the greatest spiritual uplift is baseball. Like Annie Savoy, Susan Sarandon ‘s character in “Bull Durham”, I say, “I was raised in the Church of Baseball.” In major league cathedrals, I have seen miracles I cannot deny. The Sistine Chapel ceiling should contain the beauty of Bill Mazeroski’s pivot in the double-play. I can’t describe Roberto Clemente playing right field. If I ever can, I will call myself a poet.

One day I sat behind third base in Forbes Field. With a runner on first, a batter lined a drive into right field that hit fair and bounced into the Pirate bullpen. There was a screen, about ten feet high, protecting the box seats from errant bullpen pitches. So when Clemente ran into the bullpen and got the ball, I couldn’t see him. All I saw was the lower part of his right forearm and the hand throw the ball over the screen, on a dead line non-stop to the third baseman, who tagged the runner out.

I havn’t been in High Holiday services in over thirty years – maybe forty. A long time. Some I’ve spent working, others wandering in forests. I have spent some travelling, driving or flying long distances, floating out of contact in a wholly gentile world. All sorts of commerce and transactions flew about me. They meant nothing to me. It’s a very odd feeling to be a Jew and not in synagogue on Rosh Hashonah.

I imagine my family doesn’t consider me a Jew. I’d suppose, if asked, they’d say I’m a ‘non-practising’Jew, but Judaism requires practise. Perhaps they could consider me a ‘dormant’ Jew. Maybe, if there was a season which enables Judaism, my faith could be re-ignighted. I tend to doubt even that.

I’ve cobbled together a religion of my own. It recognizes no god outside me[1] but contains a hope that there is an overweaning spirit “that flows through all things” that empowers guidance to well up now and then, like there is a Righteous Table somewhere under the mulch on we walk through life (don’t hold me too closely here, if you want to get what I’m driving at), and here and there the Terrain of Life permits calm ponds and eruptive geysers and fresh, sparkling springs to break into view, enabling those who look for it to derive What To Do and nourishing all, regardless.

Happy New Year, one and all.