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Farewell, Randy (1960-2017)

My old friend Randy Byers (Randall Dean Byers) died today. We met as Freshmen at the University of Oregon. I have posted a bit about it on Facebook, for the sake of mutual friends and his family. But I wanted to put some of it here where it won’t be so hard to find later:

I’d mostly been in touch with Randy on Facebook over the last few years, though I was fortunate enough to join him at a beer and birthday celebration in Seattle a couple years back, and we spent some hours together sipping whiskey at WorldCon in Spokane. We first met as fellow fans at the University of Oregon. We listened to a lot of Brian Eno and Talking Heads in each others’ company, and were almost roommates at one point (I think he took over my room in a house I moved out of). Therefore, Randy is present in quite a few of my memories of those college years, up till around 1982.

I got to see him again from time to time once we moved to Seattle in 1997–sometimes at Norwescon, but more reliably at Eileen Gunn’s and John Berry’s parties. Randy prevailed on me to polish up an extended joke about the Taco Bell Chalupacabra and published it in his famous long-running (though not long enough by far) fanzine, Chunga.

All interactions with Randy over the last few years have been overhung by the shadow of his brain cancer diagnosis, and recently all who knew him have dreaded this day. He was fortunate to spend the last little while in the care of his family, and my thoughts are with them now.

I bought a copy of Philip K. Dick’s Galactic Pot-Healer today because I remember sitting in Randy’s kitchen in our junior year, taking turns reading parts of the first chapter out loud. There’s a translation game in there that led to many laughs. I never was able to finish the book, one of Dick’s worst, but it’s a good Randy memory, so maybe I’ll get to the end this time.

My main, major Randy memory involves a weekend-long acid trip with Randy and a handful of friends at a cabin on Mercer Lake near the Oregon Coast, peaking on Groundhog’s Day/Joyce’s Birthday. Someone you’ve done acid with is a friend on a different level. We passed the time drawing and writing, walking in woods, listening to Taking Tiger Mountain By Strategy, agreeing that we all saw the same identical nonexistent things, and trading places at a typewriter in an Exquisite Corpse type situation.

This is quite simply one of my best memories.

Peace, brother.

A Few Words About Stillborne…and Twitter

F&SF has put up one of their blog-post interviews, where I discuss a few of the things that went into “Stillborne.”

In other news, I just deactivated my Twitter account. It was cutting into my time for reading and writing; it was increasingly hard to justify putting energy into that particular forum. If you see any accounts popping up, purporting to be me, well…they’re not me. If I go back to Twitter at some point (for instance, at some publisher’s request, to promote a new book), I will let people know on my blog that it’s me again.

I continue to maintain the usual Facebook page.

UPDATE (11/13/17): I have re-activated my Twitter account, just to hold the spot so it can’t be poached. I won’t be active there, but it will automatically update when I post on this blog. I won’t have access to the account, won’t be able to read notifications or direct messages; I’ve handed it over to a third party for safekeeping.

 

Stillborne

The current issue of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction is now available, featuring the latest, longest, and possibly lastest Gorlen Vizenfirthe story. This final novella (close to 50 pages in the magazine) also contains the beginning of the series, curled up larvally inside it.

It’s available at newstands, by subscription, or in various electronic formats.

All the details here!

Looking Through the Window in a Mirror

To write “realistic” fiction, you look out the window and send your imagination there. To write fantastic fiction, you look at that window in a mirror…and send your imagination there. The light coming through the window is the same light. But the feeling you get when you look through the mirror window is very different, and that’s what fuels my imagination. It goes back to childhood. I looked through windows like anybody else. But early on I noticed that looking out the window in a mirror created a shivery feeling…and I’ve been pursuing it ever since.

[resurrected from an old Facebook post]

 

Epistle 3

 

Dearest Playa,

I hope this letter finds you well. I can hear your complaint already, “Gertie Fremont, we have not heard from you in ages!” Well, if you care to hear excuses, I have plenty, the greatest of them being I’ve been in other dimensions and whatnot, unable to reach you by the usual means. This was the case until eighteen months ago, when I experienced a critical change in my circumstances, and was redeposited on these shores. In the time since, I have been able to think occasionally about how best to describe the intervening years, my years of silence. I do first apologize for the wait, and that done, hasten to finally explain (albeit briefly, quickly, and in very little detail) events following those described in my previous letter (referred to herewith as Epistle 2).

To begin with, as you may recall from the closing paragraphs of my previous missive, the death of Elly Vaunt shook us all. The Research & Rebellion team was traumatized, unable to be sure how much of our plan might be compromised, and whether it made any sense to go on at all as we had intended. And yet, once Elly had been buried, we found the strength and courage to regroup. It was the strong belief of her brave son, the feisty Alex Vaunt, that we should continue on as his mother had wished. We had the Antarctic coordinates, transmitted by Elly’s long-time assistant, Dr. Jerry Maas, which we believed to mark the location of the lost luxury liner Hyperborea. Elly had felt strongly that the Hyperborea should be destroyed rather than allow it to fall into the hands of the Disparate. Others on our team disagreed, believing that the Hyperborea might hold the secret to the revolution’s success. Either way, the arguments were moot until we found the vessel. Therefore, immediately after the service for Dr. Vaunt, Alex and I boarded a seaplane and set off for the Antarctic; a much larger support team, mainly militia, was to follow by separate transport.

It is still unclear to me exactly what brought down our little aircraft. The following hours spent traversing the frigid waste in a blizzard are also a jumbled blur, ill-remembered and poorly defined. The next thing I clearly recall is our final approach to the coordinates Dr. Maas had provided, and where we expected to find the Hyperborea. What we found instead was a complex fortified installation, showing all the hallmarks of sinister Disparate technology. It surrounded a large open field of ice. Of the Hyperborea itself there was no sign…or not at first. But as we stealthily infiltrated the Disparate installation, we noticed a recurent, strangely coherent auroral effect–as of a vast hologram fading in and out of view. This bizarre phenomenon initially seemed an effect caused by an immense Disparate lensing system, Alex and I soon realized that what we were actually seeing was the luxury liner Hyperborea itself, phasing in and out of existence at the focus of the Disparate devices. The aliens had erected their compound to study and seize the ship whenever it materialized. What Dr. Maas had provided were not coordinates for where the sub was located, but instead for where it was predicted to arrive. The liner was oscillating in and out of our reality, its pulses were gradually steadying, but there was no guarantee it would settle into place for long–or at all. We determined that we must put ourselves into position to board it at the instant it became completely physical.

At this point we were briefly detained–not captured by the Disparate, as we feared at first, but by minions of our former nemesis, the conniving and duplicitous Wanda Bree. Dr. Bree was not as we had last seen her–which is to say, she was not dead. At some point, the Disparate had saved out an earlier version of her consciousness, and upon her physical demise, they had imprinted the back-up personality into a biological blank resembling an enormous slug. The Bree-Slug, despite occupying a position of relative power in the Disparate hierarchy, seemed nervous and frightened of me in particular. Wanda did not know how her previous incarnation, the original Dr. Bree, had died. She knew only that I was responsible. Therefore the slug treated us with great caution. Still, she soon confessed (never able to keep quiet for long) that she was herself a prisoner of the Disparate. She took no pleasure from her current grotesque existence, and pleaded with us to end her life. Alex believed that a quick death was more than Wanda Bree deserved, but for my part, I felt a modicum of pity and compassion. Out of Alex’s sight, I might have done something to hasten the slug’s demise before we proceeded.

Not far from where we had been detained by Dr. Bree, we found Jerry Maas being held in a Disparate interrogation cell. Things were tense between Jerry and Alex, as might be imagined. Alex blamed Jerry for his mother’s death…news of which, Jerry was devastated to hear for the first time. Jerry tried to convince Alex that he had been a double agent serving the resistance all along, doing only what Elly had asked of him, even though he knew it meant he risked being seen by his peers–by all of us–as a traitor. I was convinced; Alex less so. But from a pragmatic point of view, we depended on Dr. Maas; for along with the Hyperborea coordinates, he possessed resonance keys which would be necessary to bring the liner fully into our plane of existence.

We skirmished with Disparate soldiers protecting a Dispar research post, then Dr. Maas attuned the Hyperborea to precisely the frequencies needed to bring it into (brief) coherence. In the short time available to us, we scrambled aboard the ship, with an unknown number of Disparate agents close behind. The ship cohered for only a short time, and then its oscillations resume. It was too late for our own military support, which arrived and joined the Disparate forces in battle just as we rebounded between universes, once again unmoored.

What happened next is even harder to explain. Alex Vaunt, Dr. Maas and myself sought control of the ship–its power source, its control room, its navigation center. The liner’s history proved nonlinear. Years before, during the Disparate invasion, various members of an earlier science team, working in the hull of a dry-docked liner situated at the Tocsin Island Research Base in Lake Huron, had assembled what they called the Bootstrap Device. If it worked as intended, it would emit a field large enough to surround the ship. This field would then itself travel instantaneously to any chosen destination without having to cover the intervening space. There was no need for entry or exit portals, or any other devices; it was entirely self-contained. Unfortunately, the device had never been tested. As the Disparate pushed Earth into the Nine Hour Armageddon, the aliens seized control of our most important research facilities. The staff of the Hyperborea, with no other wish than to keep the ship out of Disparate hands, acted in desperation. The switched on the field and flung the Hyperborea toward the most distant destination they could target: Antarctica. What they did not realize was that the Bootstrap Device travelled in time as well as space. Nor was it limited to one time or one location. The Hyperborea, and the moment of its activation, were stretched across space and time, between the nearly forgotten Lake Huron of the Nine Hour Armageddon and the present day Antarctic; it was pulled taut as an elastic band, vibrating, except where at certain points along its length one could find still points, like the harmonic spots along a vibrating guitar string. One of these harmonics was where we boarded, but the string ran forward and back, in both time and space, and we were soon pulled in every direction ourselves.

Time grew confused. Looking from the bridge, we could see the drydocks of Tocsin Island at the moment of teleportation, just as the Disparate forces closed in from land, sea and air. At the same time, we could see the Antarctic wastelands, where our friends were fighting to make their way to the protean Hyperborea; and in addition, glimpses of other worlds, somewhere in the future perhaps, or even in the past. Alex grew convinced we were seeing one of the Disparate’s central staging areas for invading other worlds–such as our own. We meanwhile fought a running battle throughout the ship, pursued by Disparate forces. We struggled to understand our stiuation, and to agree on our course of action. Could we alter the course of the Hyperborea? Should we run it aground in the Antarctic, giving our peers the chance to study it? Should we destroy it with all hands aboard, our own included? It was impossible to hold a coherent thought, given the baffling and paradoxical timeloops, which passed through the ship like bubbles. I felt I was going mad, that we all were, confronting myriad versions of ourselves, in that ship that was half ghost-ship, half nightmare funhouse.

What it came down to, at last, was a choice. Jerry Maas argued, reasonably, that we should save the Hyperborea and deliver it to the resistance, that our intelligent peers might study and harness its power. But Alex reminded me had sworn he would honor his mother’s demand that we destroy the ship. He hatched a plan to set the Hyperborea to self-destruct, while riding it into the heart of the Disparate’s invasion nexus. Jerry and Alex argued. Jerry overpowered Alex and brought the Hyperborea area, preparing to shut off the Bootstrap Device and settle the ship on the ice. Then I heard a shot, and Jerry fell. Alex had decided for all of us, or his weapon had. With Dr. Maas dead, we were committed to the suicide plunge. Grimly, Alex and I armed the Hyperborea, creating a time-travelling missile, and steered it for the heart of the Disparate’s command center.

At this point, as you will no doubt be unsurprised to hear, a Certain Sinister Figure appeared, in the form of that sneering trickster, Mrs. X.  For once she appeared not to me, but to Alex Vaunt. Alex had not seen the cryptical schoolmarm since childhood, but he recognized her instantly. “Come along with me now, we’ve places to do and things to be,” said Mrs. X, and Alex acquiesced. He followed the strange grey lady out of the Hyperborea, out of our reality. For me, there was no convenient door held open; only a snicker and a sideways glance. I was left alone, riding the weaponized luxury liner into the heart of a Disparate world. An immense light blazed. I caught a cosmic view of a brilliantly glittering Dyson sphere. The vastness of the Disparate’s power, the futility of our struggle, blossomed briefly in my awareness. I saw everything. Mainly I saw how the Hyperborea, our most powerful weapon, would register as less than a fizzling matchhead as it blew itself apart. And what remained of me would be even less than that.

Just then, as you have surely already foreseen, the Ghastlyhaunts parted their own checkered curtains of reality, reached in as they have on prior occasions, plucked me out, and set me aside. I barely got to see the fireworks begin.

And here we are. I spoke of my return to this shore. It has been a circuitous path to lands I once knew, and surprising to see how much the terrain has changed. Enough time has passed that few remember me, or what I was saying when last I spoke, or what precisely we hoped to accomplish. At this point, the resistance will have failed or succeeded, no thanks to me. Old friends have been silenced, or fallen by the wayside. I no longer know or recognize most members of the research team, though I believe the spirit of rebellion still persists. I expect you know better than I the appropriate course of action, and I leave you to it. Expect no further correspondence from me regarding these matters; this is my final epistle.

Yours in infinite finality,

Gertrude Fremont, Ph.D.

 

Clarion Write-a-Thon Update

I have been proceeding ploddingly at my self-appointed task for the Clarion West Write-a-Thon. Updates appear sporadically here.

Here is the start of chapter 9 of what is today being called, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Now With Many More Monsters.

“Nothing is more painful to the human mind than, after the feelings have been worked up by a quick succession of events, the dead calmness of inaction and certainty which follows and deprives the soul both of hope and fear. Space Vampires (also known as Mind Parasites) are admittedly near the top of the list, but still, the dead calmness thing is officially pinned at the top. Justine died, she rested, and I was alive. The blood flowed freely in my veins, free of miniaturized nuclear submarines in search of tumorous targets, but a weight of despair and remorse pressed on my heart which nothing could remove. Sleep fled from my eyes; I wandered like an evil spirit, and not a generic one from a James Wan movie, for I had committed deeds of mischief beyond description horrible, and more, much more (I persuaded myself) was yet behind. Yet my heart overflowed with kindness and the love of virtue. I had begun life with benevolent intentions and thirsted for the moment when I should put them in practice and make myself useful to my fellow beings. Now all was blasted; instead of that serenity of conscience which allowed me to look back upon the past with self-satisfaction, and from thence to gather promise of new hopes, I was seized by remorse and the sense of guilt, which hurried me away to a hell of intense tortures such as no language can describe, except perhaps in the voice of Pinhead.

“This state of mind preyed upon my health, which had perhaps never entirely recovered from the first shock it had sustained. I shunned the face of man (must I mention Pinhead again?); all sound of joy or complacency was torture to me; solitude was my only consolation–deep, dark, deadly, spooky-as-a-spooky-skeleton deathlike solitude.”

Still no sponsors, according to the report I received several days ago. Who dares to be the first? Please don’t make me ask my mother. Or my children.

Return of the Monster (That Never Really Went Away)

In keeping with the promise of the Clarion West Write-a-Thon, I tonight reworked Chapter 7 of Frankenstein, Now With Lots of Monsters. Herewith, the first and final paragraphs of the chapter:

“My dear Victor,

“You have probably waited impatiently for a letter to fix the date of your return to us; and I was at first tempted to write only a few lines, merely mentioning the day on which I should expect you. But that would be a cruel kindness, and I dare not do it, any more than I dare descend into a moaning crypt blindfolded and bare of foot. What would be your surprise, my son, when you expected a happy and glad welcome, to behold, on the contrary, tears and wretchedness? And how, Victor, can I relate our misfortune? Absence cannot have rendered you callous to our joys and griefs; and how shall I inflict pain on my long absent son? I wish to prepare you for the woeful news, but I know it is impossible; even now your eye skims over the page to seek the words which are to convey to you the horrible tidings, and also those which satisfy the guaranteed density of monstrosities, which, let’s face it, are the main reason this particular phrase exists.”

###

“Dearest niece,” said my father, “dry your tears. If she is, as you believe, innocent, rely on the justice of our laws, and the activity with which I shall prevent the slightest shadow of partiality. And recall that even Kamoebas the Space Amoeba could be defeated by Godzilla when he stuck his neck out.”

Please consider sponsoring me, or any of the other fine writers, to support the work of Clarion West.

Onward…

Frankenstein Fest for Clarion West

In past years, I’ve been honored to be asked to speak to students at Clarion West, an excellent six-week writing workshop that takes place each summer in Seattle. This year, since I won’t be around for it, I decided to join the annual Clarion West Write-a-Thon in order to help raise funds for the workshop.

I am but one of many, many writers participating. If you find someone here that you like, please consider sponsoring their participation.

For my own project, I’m going to use this excuse to focus on finishing my ridiculous Frankenstein remix, in which I add more monsters to Mary Shelley’s somewhat monster-deficient masterpiece.

Here’s where I’m at, as of today. There’s a long way to go:

I know that some, perhaps most, will find this entire project unsupportable. But it’s for a good cause, I promise!