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Sunday, January 31, 2016

On Life and Love

Gretta M. Anderson, my wife and constant companion of nearly thirty years, died four years ago today.
Gretta and I were (and still are) soul mates. We shared a love of science fiction and fantasy that bordered on fan-atical. We went to conventions together, read literally every story and novel published in the sf, fantasy, and horror genres between 1979 and 1995, and read thousands of manuscripts for 2AM Magazine. Gretta was the editor and publisher of 2AM, and I was Irwin Chapman, 2AM’s book reviewer and editorial assistant. We were extremely happy. I wrote stories and novels of my own and many were published by mainstream publishers.

Then Gretta’s father and mother became ill and shortly thereafter Gretta’s mother died.

Gretta never completely recovered from a fall off a cliff while hiking and rock climbing as a teenager. She broke her back in multiple places. Although she underwent extensive surgery, she remained partially paralyzed and had to learn how to walk all over again.

After the multiple-year illness and eventual death of her mother, Gretta’s own health began to decline. I, too, developed a life-threatening illness in the mid-1990s. Gretta and I reluctantly left science fiction and fantasy to search for cures. We both went back to college and did extensive research. We shared much of what we learned by opening the enTrance Center and teaching regular classes.

With one foot in traditional medicine and the other in alternative treatments, we explored wellness. We helped many clients to heal, and our students continue that healing work today.

On January 31, 2012, Gretta died of a massive heart attack. I discovered her body when I awoke that morning.

I am angry that Gretta left me. I express that anger in some of my writing. I closed the enTrance Center a year after Gretta died, and I returned to reading and writing sf, fantasy, and horror. I imagine Gretta visits me in spirit as I craft new tales.

This year I revived 2AM Publications in Gretta’s honor.

During the course of one’s life, if one is lucky, one may learn to love many people and many things. I love my daughter, Tammy, and I love my three feline companions. I love the books and magazines that line the walls of my house. And I love the house itself.

I love Elizabeth Flygare differently than I love Gretta. Elizabeth is more traditional and literary mainstream than Gretta. Elizabeth complements my life in new ways.

Dare I say that I also love Teddie, my first wife and Tammy’s mother? Dare I say I love Susan, my second wife? Love never dies, and it IS possible to love more than one person. But love and relationships change over time, and though love continues, life forces us to move on.

I’ve made my share of mistakes in this life, but allowing myself to love is not one of them.

I love you, Gretta. I have always loved you, and I always will.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

#MastersOfHorror: Interview with Mort Castle By David Kempf

#MastersOfHorror: Interview with Mort Castle By David Kempf: Mort Castle Born 1946 (age 68–69) Novelist, short story writer, comic book writer Mort Castle (born 19...

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Just Fall is a deadly love story

Just Fall by Nina Sadowsky (Ballantine, March 2016) alternates between then and now. What a wonderful way to bring in backstory.
Now is in present tense, then told in past tense. Ellie married Rob. Rob was a cold-blooded killer. Ellie has to become a killer to save Rob’s life. Rob lies, and Rob has lied to Ellie in the past. Can Ellie trust this husband she barely knows?

Everyone has secrets, and everyone lies to hide those secrets. Sometimes they lie to others, including the ones they love. Sometimes they lie to themselves.

Amid this tale of secrets and lies, deliberate murders and accidental murders, is a love story. Love is sometimes tender, sometimes cruel, sometimes deadly.

Just Fall is a brilliant first novel by an accomplished screenwriter. The dialog is rich, the scenes vivid, the characters believable.

I couldn’t stop reading Just Fall even with other deadlines demanding my attention. That says a lot for a first novel. I can’t wait for a sequel, and I hope there is one.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

David G. Hartwell and science fiction conventions

News of David G. Hartwell’s death reminds me of how close a family writers, editors, and readers of science fiction and fantasy often are. WorldCons are family reunions where we pick up conversations precisely where we left off the last time we met. Award banquets are family feasts where we converse at the table over rubber chicken instead of turkey. Is it any wonder that for half a century I have chosen to attend conventions scheduled during holidays (Wiscon on Memorial Day weekend, Worldcon over Labor Day, Windycon on Columbus Day, Chambanacon over Thanksgiving, World Fantasy Con over Halloween) rather than dine at home with blood relatives?
So many of my extended family have recently passed on: Gretta M. Anderson, Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Richard Matheson, Fredrick Pohl, A. J. Budrys, Jon Arfstrom, Ken Hunt, Jack Williamson, Jerry Williamson, Robert Bloch, David B. Silva, Richard Laymon, Tom Piccirilli, George Clayton Johnson, Poul Anderson, and now David G. Hartwell. Their works remain, and the memories of conversations and correspondences endure. But there is a period at the end the sentence and no “To Be Continued” at the bottom of the last page.

I feel fortunate to have interacted with many great writers and artists over the years. I treasure their works and return to them often for inspiration. I am still the bright-eyed fanboy I was at age twelve.

However, this will likely be the last year I make the full convention circuit. Arthritis in my knees make it difficult to walk long distances at Worldcons. I plan to stay connected via Facebook and blog posts. But I’ll miss the face-to-face interactions with my friends and extended family.

So goodbye, David G. Hartwell. Thanks for talking sf with me at the 2005 Nebula Awards and at Worldcons and Wiscons. Thanks for the anthologies. Thanks for the novels you edited and the authors you introduced to the world. And thanks for the twelve-year-old’s smile you kept even into your seventies.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

A. R. Morlan 1958-2016

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose, would by any other name smell as sweet.” Romeo and Juliet, Act II, scene 2.
A. R. Morlan died this week. Ana was a writer, someone whose stories appeared often beside mine in magazines or anthologies. We were friends of sorts because we both wrote horrific tales, both lived in the Great Midwest (Morlan in Wisconsin and I in Illinois), and we both loved cats.

A. R. Morlan and I corresponded in the 1980s and 1990s when we still wrote everything by typewriter and sent mail via the post office (I began to also use a computer in 1988, but Morlan—not unlike Jerry Williamson—never felt comfortable with an electronic keyboard and continued to use a manual typewriter exclusively). The first novels to bear our by-lines appeared in print about the same time, and we kept busy writing our third and fourth novels while churning out short stories right and left. God was in His heaven, and all was right with the world. Then tragedies began befalling both of us.

For some strange reasons, Morlan began calling me Paul Dean (I think she confused me with Dean Koontz or C. Dean Andersson) and I began calling her Arlene. Arlene Campbell, for those of you who have not yet read A. R. Morlan’s The Amulet, was “dutchess of the Dumpsters, queen of Ewert Avenue, and the dowager of debris.” That, in retrospect, is probably an accurate description of A. R. Morlan.

When I learned of Morlan’s suicide and the mysterious disappearance of her mother and Ana’s subsequent legal difficulties, I began putting two and two together until an entire Fibonacci sequence unfolded before my eyes. There were clues in many of Morlan’s Ewerton stories that foretold the tragedy of her life and death. I reread Morlan’s letters and Christmas cards, reread The Amulet and Dark Journey, and reread selected stories. Her entire life is there, spelled out in graphic detail, hidden among the names she chose for her characters.

I wish I had known A. R. Morlan better during her lifetime. She was a complex person whose stories were her life.

So goodbye Ana, Anna, Arlene, Arlette, Renee, and all the other names you chose to write under or become. Thanks for the nightmares.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Review of The Widow

The Widow by Fiona Barton (New American Library, March 2016) is the kind of mystery I love to read. Told from alternating points of view, the reader has to piece together what happened the way police and reporters do from eye-witness interviews. Kate Waters, a Hampshire print journalist, is the first to get an in-depth interview with Jean Taylor, the notorious widow of Glen Taylor, a man everyone calls a monster. Jean, hidden from the press inside her own home, allows no one to enter after Glen dies. But resourceful Kate gets her foot in the door and befriends Jean. Detective Inspector Bob Sparkes is the copper who relentlessly investigates the disappearance of two-year-old Bella Elliott, taken from her Southampton home nearly half-a-decade ago. Sparkes works night and day for years to find Bella’s abductor. Eventually, enough evidence points to Glen Taylor as the man who kidnapped Bella that Sparkes arrests Glen. That’s when the tale takes a few twists and becomes really interesting.
Barton is such a good writer that she seamlessly pulls off multiple points of view and shifts from present to past tense without taking readers out of trance. Ripe with details, rich in dialog, The Widow is a character-driven novel that is also a suspenseful mystery from beginning to end. Very highly recommended.