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I read Aladdin Sins Bad for proofing. That's the sequel to Aladdin Relighted, both done as collaborations with J R Rain of bestselling Vampire For Hire fame. In this novel Aladdin travels to sea with Sinbad the Sailor, also of Arabian Nights fame, as they go to rescue Sinbad's captive wife. They have wild adventures, including cloud maidens made entirely of cloud, zombies, and a session with the Sirens, whom they manage to balk with a spell making themselves temporarily tone-deaf so the Sirens' magic song can't enchant them. They wind up making an alliance with the Sirens, and taking one of them along on the rest of the voyage, in the form of a ring shaped like a lovely nude woman. So you can see this isn't exactly classic mythology. This is light entertainment, not Literature. Read it for slightly naughty fun.

 

I read Red Dragon, Green Dragon, by Tony and Virginia Chandler, to be published by DOUBLE DRAGON PUBLISHING. This is fitting, because it's about two dragons, a red one and a green one. I can't say the authors are fully polished writers, but this is one rousing dragon-fighting story, with a thin slice of romance along the way. Owain is hired to kill a red dragon that is ravaging crops and killing domestic animals in England. He does so, but it is one bruising battle, because dragons are tough, they can fly, they can breathe fire, and they have huge appetites. Then news comes of a worse dragon: a larger green one. Owain joins a small band of dragon hunters and they orient on this new menace. This dragon is about sixty feet long, and has a thing against human beings. I can't blame it; they mistreated it when it was small. At one point they are hiding from it in a forest, and the dragon urinates on them, not realizing they are there. It takes days to wash off the stench. I sort of wish they could have found a dragon haven where they could have left a few dragons, far from human regions, so as not to extinguish such a formidable species. The world is surely a duller place without them.

 

We saw the movie Cowboys and Aliens. Reviews have been mixed, but I loved it. It's a western, with a deliberately standard western story line, tough rancher, spoiled half crazy son who makes mischief with impunity, stranger coming into town who doesn't much care whose son the boy is, he needs discipline, townsmen who don't like the situation but lack the power to do much about it. Boy shoots a deputy, gets arrested, father brings a posses into town to break him out. At which point it changes. Aliens with flying machines resembling ten-winged dragonflies raid the town, lassoing a number of people and hauling them away. The people realize that they have a bigger problem than a spoiled rancher's son. Meanwhile, one man wakes in the desert without a memory, and a large weird bracelet on his left arm that he can't get off. He's tough; when three riders decide to dispatch him, he quickly bashes them and takes their horse, clothing, and gun. He's in town when the aliens raid, and lo, the bracelet comes alive and blasts an alien flyer out of the sky. It's a weapon! Things proceed from there, and I admire the way the aliens are not just green monsters, but creatures with appropriate technology and an ugly plan for Earth. Their spaceship is a marvel of alien-ness. Cowboys, villains, townsfolk, Indians all have to get together to deal with the aliens. There's a kind of romance, too, as a woman who is actually a different alien is here to try to stop Earth from being destroyed the way her world was. We know she's not remotely human, but she looks attractively female, and there is a kind of romance developing. After all, in a western, who cares what's inside a woman as long as she looks good? This is really my kind of junk.

 

I had my 77th birthday. It was a routine day, with cards from my wife, sister, and a couple of fans. We celebrated by buying a New York Cheesecake and having small slices. Small, because since I got my dentures I chew better, and I started to gain weight on the same food I'd been eating all along, so now I have to watch what I eat. I drew a line in the sand, 145 pounds nude after my exercise run, before breakfast, and when I nudge over that I cut back more. A big piece of cheesecake would have put me over. Weight control requires constant discipline, and some hunger pangs. But discipline is one of my qualities, along with imagination. I wanted to have a good run in my new age, but the first one was right after a rain with high humidity and puddles, and the second was a drenchpour that delayed me half an hour and soaked my feet as I splashed through puddles, some hundreds of feet long. The third one was ideal. The morning temperature was a hot 77°F, which meant it would be slow, but it was dry. I moved well and knew I had a good run in the making. Then, a bit before the halfway point, my right toe snagged on the ground and suddenly I was down on my face, my first bad fall in 20 years. I picked myself up and ran on, spitting out gravel, blood dripping from my right hand, my forehead, and my knees, but my bones were sound, the wounds superficial. My right knee looked a mess, and my forehead, which dripped blood for hours, and my lower lip. Somehow my nose escaped with only a few small scratches. It could have been worse. Actually it was a good run in terms of time; maybe the pain goosed me to better performance. When my wife fell last year the injuries hardly showed, but she was months in recovery from bone fractures. I looked a bloody mess, but was essentially okay. For those considering it, my advice is don't fall on your face at age 77; it's not much fun even if you're not really hurt, and it probably won't improve your appearance.

 

I proofread the third Dragon's Gold series novel, Chimaera's Copper, a collaboration with Robert E Margroff first published in 1990, for republication electronically. The chimaera here is a huge beast with three heads: human male, human female, and dragon, who regards human beings as inferior life forms, fit mainly to be eaten. But I rather like it. You see, the three heads have quite different personalities, with the male being gruff human who likes mayhem, the dragon being, well, a dragon, and the female being Mervania, a rather winsome, practical sort. All are telepathic. When our hero Kelvin first sees Mervania's head he assumes that the rest of her is human too, similarly shapely. That is emphatically not the case, but Mervania enjoys flirting with him a while before revealing herself. See what I mean? She's fun. There's a whole lot of other action in this novel, with a rousing conclusion, but it's mainly Mervania I remembered twenty years later.

 

I read The Frostbourne Chronicles Book One / A Fool's Errand by Samuel J E Trawick, self published at BOOKLOCKER.com; the author sent me a copy. This is typical amateur fiction in one sense: ideas galore, but not great on spelling, punctuation or typos. It is the story of a young man who somewhat inadvertently organizes the resistance to the conquest of the land by The Empire. The enemy's program is simple in essence: they march into a village, and the villagers must either join or die. But it turns out that some villages are able to defend themselves. There are Dwarves, Elves, crossbreeds, warriors, and some folk with obscure magical powers. Daenar is a young barbarian who is guided into leading the resistance, joined by assorted others. They try to fight a huge bear, and to make a deal with the Elves to fight the Empire, but the Elves are arrogant and prefer to go it alone. It is evidently setting up for the larger campaign to come, with Daenar strongly  influenced by his magical girlfriend Teppia, who has secrets she has not yet shared with him. Fantasy adventure with occasional brutal violence, and sex.

 

Two weeks and two days after my fall, I fell again, worse. I was on the scooter, just at the top of our slight hill, not going fast, and didn't see a newly fallen branch. It was about four feet long and three inches wide. My scooter smacked into it and I went over and landed on hand, knees, and left shoulder. The back of my right hand was horrendously scraped, blood all over, and my right knee was re-scraped worse than before, with lesser scrapes on left knee, ankle, elbow, and a bruised left thigh and big left toe. I wore a helmet and goggles and suffered no head damage, but what didn't show was what hurt: that shoulder. My wife took me to the emergency room, the same one I took her to last year, and they X-rayed my shoulder and left ribs. They concluded that I might have some faintly fractured ribs, nothing serious. But even a non-serious fracture at my age is mischief. I am in pain as I type this, largely unable to use my left arm. I type by resting the heel of my hand on the base of the keyboard and using my fingers. I make typos, but it works. I sleep sitting up in my study easy chair, as it is agony to try to lie down. Getting off the chair or off the toilet can be a struggle; I have to hunch forward, lever my weight over my feet, and lift without using my arms if possible. My right arm has full mobility, but if I use it to brace my body,  the tension impacts my ribs and shoulder and I get jolt of pain. I can't cough to clear my lungs, because of the pain. So I am not in good shape, hoping mainly that things will heal enough to allow me to function more comfortably. My exercise program has been wiped out. Putting on pants one-handed requires a balancing act, and donning a shirt is a contortionist challenge. Ever try pulling on socks one-handed? For sixty years I have eaten left handed; now, perforce, right handed. I must use my right hand for almost everything, and somehow the scrapes on the back of it constantly bang into things, delivering jolts of pain. When I wash my hands I no longer put both hands to the towel to dry them; I take the towel down with my right hand and bring it to my left hand. Sometimes I pick up my left hand with my right and place it where it needs to be. All to avoid more pain, to the extent feasible. The emergency room doctor prescribed pain pills, but I take them only at night so I can sleep; I don't like to risk clouding my mind at other times. Correspondence is suffering, and of course my current novel, Esrever Doom, (that's Mood Reverse spelled backward) has slowed to a crawl. Routine things take twice the time they did before. I still make meals and wash dishes, slower.

 

So the rest of this column will be abbreviated; I simply don't have the time or energy. I saw a podiatrist about my painful right foot, between falls, and learned that it was a clogged sweat gland with the sweat backing up. I sent contracts and payments for my anthology One and Wonder, my favorite early SF and Fantasy stories; whole lot of paperwork there. And as noted above, at mid month I started writing Esrever Doom, Xanth #37. Fan mail is constant, as are routine household chores. I updated the ongoing Survey of Electronic Publishers and related services. I have the usual pile of clippings and things to comment on, but this time will give them really short shrift. Deon Duke sent a notice reminding women to walk naked Saturday August 20 to freak out Muslim men, thus abating a terrorism threat in America. I'm not sure how many did walk or freak. In Sandy Ego a teenager was throwing rocks at cars, and someone in a car shot him with a crossbow arrow. Naturally I don't approve such violence, yet in my secret heart I'm suppressing a serves-him-right chortle. Dear Abby refers to a V triad, wherein a woman has open sexual relations with her husband and a live-in lover but the two men do not have sex with each other. Wow! Things have liberalized since my day. “Luann” comic strip has a meeting between the man's mean-spirited but sightly boss Ann Eiffel, formerly of Borderline Books, and his girlfriend Daytona. It seems compatible, and he says “Guess she's not upset you are here.” Daytona says “Oh, she's way past upset.” I love that. Women know women as men don't. As I child I knew the song “Pop goes the Weasel” but never knew what it meant. Turns out the weasel was a wool spindle whose mechanical counter went Pop! when a certain number of turns were made. And an Internet circulated picture of Jesus with I think the woman of ill repute who anointed his feet, urging me to relay it widely because those who do, get good fortune and those who don't, suffer ugly things like deaths in the family. Speaking as an agnostic who knows Jesus, I say Jesus would not approve any such circular. He did not believe in physical threats and rewards, but in spiritual enlightenment. So many folk speak in Jesus name who seem to know nothing about him.

 

Our daughter rented us the video True Grit that my wife wanted to see. We saw it, after a half hour struggle with players that decided not to play, or that played but refused to heed the
Play button when it was time to see the main feature, leaving us on perpetual previews. I get annoyed at self-willed machines that do what they choose to do, instead of what you want them to do. Similar is true with my Fedora system now; it's good and I like it, but for two weeks it refused to close properly and I had to recover from a crash each morning. Finally it decided to return to properly loading my files, but then it decided not to recognize any backup drive. I had to reset to clear that. Anyway, Grit is not my kind of movie, but there was one sequence that struck me. This fourteen year old girl is determined to avenge her murdered father, and at one point a Texas Ranger has had enough of her attitude and decides to spank her. He hauls her off her horse and whams her repeatedly on the backside with his hand, then gets a branch and starts in with that. At that point her companion, a man with an unsavory reputation, draws his pistol and points it at the ranger. He doesn't say anything, but the ranger gets the message: enough is enough. He gives over, and the man puts the gun away. Nicely nuanced.

 

Other items: new study shows that the taller you are, the more likely you are to get cancer. In the course of a lifetime almost all of the substance of your body is replaced, so you are not the same person you were. Newspaper editorial essay of advice to President Obama—I am wary of such things, as it is way easier to give advice when you're not the one who will reap the consequences, but this one has points—saying that stories were how our ancestors transmitted knowledge and values—I agree emphatically, of course--and that Obama should tell the story of the recklessness and greed of conservatives, who claimed that if we just rewarded such things all would be well. But of course it wasn't well, and never has been. So he should stop trying to placate these greed-heads and get on with helping the nation. I agree with the sentiment, but doubt that either the greed-heads or Obama will pay attention, as the ship of state slowly sinks lower in the icy water. Some folk just have to go to hell in their own fashion. The tragedy is that they are taking us with them.

 

So I have succeeded in having a shorter column, the hard way. I hope that next month I am in fitter fettle.

PIERS
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