Archive for the ‘Journal’ Category

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.


UPDATE: I am not a musician but my of my connections with Randy were musical, and on the day of his death I found myself “composing” a piece in his honor. It stumbles and halts but this reflects what I was feeling.

Infinite Selfies

“Just look at that narcissist taking photos of himself, ” I posted, completely ironically I assure you, on my website devoted to me, after failing to capture him by pretending to take a selfie of my own.

And by the way, when you want to take candid photos of people these days, just go ahead and take an ordinary old-fashioned photo, pointing your camera right at them. As long as you pose and throw in some duck-lips while you’re doing it, they will assume you’re taking a picture of yourself.

Your Old Paperclips May Not Be Archival


For the past two days I have been scanning nearly four decades’ worth of manuscripts and other paper-based ephemera. My fingers smell like rusty paperclips; there are copious microinjuries. When a certain variety of paperclip, presumably manufactured in the ’70s or ’80s, gives in to decay, it sheds a shiny outer layer that is twisted, somewhat sharp, and snags in carpet and flesh. I feel at risk for tetanus. And yet, this hazardous undertaking is not unrewarding. I have filing cabinets full of text I generated (or as we old timers might say, “stories I wrote”) in a distant pre-digital era. It has made me nervous to think that almost none of that stuff exists anywhere else, except in increasingly fewer increasingly moldy magazines and paperback anthologies.

I’ve now got around 60 old stories scanned and OCR’d, which I am going to be cleaning up and posting here on my website. Most of it will go into the Online Fiction section, though there are a few odds and ends that are harder to categorize. Found the full transcript of an interview with David Lowery of Camper van Beethoven, done during the Key Lime Pie tour, of which only bits and pieces appeared in Mondo 2000. A thing called “Michael J. Fox as Wormboy” which is really just the most extended dream-journal I ever wrote, following a dream so weird that I woke up and promptly spent most of a day writing it down. But mostly it’s just stories, old ones, with some new Author’s Notes appended.

Stories such as “Spawn of the Ruins,” my first real publication, from 1977.

And “Sneakers,” the only story I sold to the late Charlie Grant for his celebrated Shadows series.

I’ve got more to clean up, a lot more, and I’ll post them as I go. Some of the formatting is a real mess. Old dot matrix manuscripts don’t play nice with OCR, it turns out.

And if you spot any errors or typos (I am sure there will be plenty), I would be much obliged if you would drop me a line at the contact page and let me know!

Things I Saw A Lot Today

This article about the sexiness of books versus Kindles reminds me of something I saw today, an image that has for some reason persisted all day even through a torrent of other chaotic images in what I must count as a busy and crazy day.  I was crammed in along the edges of a very crowded gymnasium for a volleyball tournament, folding chairs and blankets strewn everywhere, people marking off their little areas with collections of waterbottles, duffel bags, and books, to show the spots were occupied.  I’m always looking to see what people around me are reading, but at one point as I threaded my way through the crowd during a lull, I noticed a sequence of books:  First, a person reading a kindle; just beyond that, a very tattered copy of Twilight with the pages rolled back; sitting in a chair, a slightly dogeared copy of Cryptonomicon, and on the floor near that chair, a really old paperback copy of an Ian Fleming/James Bond novel.  It was the Fleming that instantly drew me–I almost picked it up to see which one it was.  It was an interesting cross-sectional screenshot of what random people at a junior girl’s volleyball game in the Puget Sound area are reading.  I notice that nobody ever leaves their Kindle lying around, and it’s impossible to tell what they’re reading.  The Kindle needs to take on the coloration and some graphic elements of the book it is mimicking at that moment.  Protective coloration, or some kind of display.  That would be pretty sexy.

The other thing I saw lots of today were cops, everywhere, all day.  From the troopers pouncing on people abusing the diamond lane at 8:15 on a Saturday morning, to the one who had a teenager out of his car and sitting on the curb in the grocery store parking lot this evening around 11 p.m., I saw stuff like this happening all day.  A guy at a bus stop in Kent, stepping off the curb to signalling a passing patrol car, which immediately rounded the corner and pulled over a white truck that had been at the bus stop seconds before…two cop cars speeding Seattle-wards across the Lake Washington floating bridge with sirens and lights going, these two sightings separated by about 20 minutes and several miles…I don’t usually notice this much cop activity in one day.  John Shirley would have a theory about this.

The Big Box of Wonders

Tonight at Fantagraphics in Seattle, a wonderful event: Paul di Filippo appeared with Jim Woodring (see his website on the blog’s sidebar) to read from Cosmocopia, which you can buy here (in a limited edition of 500 copies). Cosmocopia is a novel inspired by Woodring’s art, accompanied by some of said art, including a 500 piece Woodring jigsaw puzzle.


I have known Paul for many years, but we have never met in person. Years ago, he circulated a small zine called Astral Avenue, and I began to bury him in correspondence, little knowing how well Paul would rise to the challenge. For many years, I would receive one or two envelopes a week from Paul, each one heavily and lovingly collaged, and full of weird ephemera he’d scoured from the antique stores and garage sales of Providence. We eventually appeared in Mirrorshades together, and collaborated on a short story about the photographer Weegee (“Sleep is Where You Find It” aka “The Human Head Cakebox Murders”), and even tried to get a collaborative novel off the ground. Weirdly, with the advent of email, we corresponded less. When I lived on Long Island in 1988, we spoke on the phone once. We’d never met in the flesh until tonight. So to meet Paul and Jim Woodring, one of my artist heroes…in a shop crammed with Fantagraphics’s amazing creations…it was quite a night. Followed by huge amounts of great food, hilarious conversation and Hard Corn Poneography at Hing Loon. As an extra bonus, I met Max Woodring, who it turned out I’d already run into at the Gage Academy a few months ago. So it was a night packed with import and sure to give rise to significant strange events somewhere up ahead and unforeseen. I can’t wait to read Cosmocopia–and one of these rainy nights, maybe I’ll tackle the puzzle as well.