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Piers Anthony, Jan. 1, 2011 Piers Anthony, Jan. 1, 2011. Photo by Jane McConnell.
Apull 2017

The Journey, my latest collaboration with J R Rain, is to be published this Apull. It's about 39,000 words, featuring Floyd, a young man sent on The Journey, a rite of passage for children to become adult citizens. He is poorly equipped, but of course survival is a significant aspect of it, sorting out the competent from the incompetent. He is intercepted by Amelie, the girl of his dreams, who saves him from a pursuing press gang that means to make him a galley slave. Only it's not Amelie, but Faux, a magic Fee (a species of Elf) woman Amelie has engaged to help him, though this may cost Amelie her soul. Thereafter it gets wild, as they encounter all manner of challenges and travel to Asia, to Xanadu, where Coleridge's Kubla Khan once ruled. This is a story any reader who likes my fantasy should enjoy; let me know if you don't.

On the 21st Xanth #39 Five Portraits is being promoted by BookBub and will be downpriced to $1.99 for that day only. So if you missed it—how could you? And to think you call yourself a fan!—here is your chance to get it dirt cheap.

On the 22nd Xanth # 41 Ghost Writer in the Sky will also be downpriced to $1.99 for one day. That one will catch you up to the present, with more in the pipeline.

I read Vacuum Flowers by Michael Stanwick. This is a densely detailed science fiction novel wherein a young woman who thinks of herself as Rebel wakes immobilized, prepped for surgery, and nobody will tell her anything. Sounds like typical hospital treatment, but she doesn't take it lying down, as it were. She manages to trick a nurse into un-immobilizing her, then manages to get up and sneak out. She's an independent sort. The story builds from there, as she escapes pursuit, finds a friend she may or may not be able to trust, and learns more about her situation. She's actually an imprint of a person, and the other personality in this body may take over, abolishing her, so it remains chancy. A giant unscrupulous corporation wants her alive or dead, for something in her mind. It is one weird future society with all manner of super science and imprinted personalities, but perhaps a bit much for the reader who prefers adventure without thought.

I read Lost Eden, by J C Rain and Elizabeth Basque. I understand it is a novelization; that is, a novel written from a movie screenplay. As I read, I tended to see the likely movie images in my mind. Jack Rome manages to save twelve year old Tessla from arduous slave labor as a camel jockey. She's a lovely girl even at that age, but her master keeps her gaunt so as not to add weight to the racing camel. Jack manages to free her, but falls over a cliff himself and she thinks he is dead. Twenty years later they meet again, and though he is reluctant, he is obliged to try to help her recover her son, kidnapped by her ex husband. She is coerced into locating the Garden of Eden, which it seems still exists today, hidden in a volcano in backwoods Iran. They find it, but the bad guys are hot on their trail. There follows mayhem, and machine guns and hellfire missiles take on the Guardian Angels of the Garden. Continuous violent action. Do I believe the Garden is there? No; I believe it was in the Lake Victoria region of Africa, during one of the periods when it was dry. But this remains a compelling story.

I read The Wonder by J D Beresford, published in 1911. As you might expect, the language is apt, but the narration is tedious. It takes forever to move slightly forward, and I do not recommend it for contemporary readers. It is the story of a child prodigy who cares nothing about other people, only about learning, so that from infancy on he reads voraciously and understands things that most folk never do. Then he turns up dead, drowned, probably murdered by a resentful acquaintance. There is no real investigation and he is soon buried and forgotten. And that's it. It really doesn't pass muster by present day standards of story telling.

I read Jaytar's Journey-Quest by Juan R Rodriguez Jr., the first of his five volume Lands of Opullus series. I have remarked before how in the old days only about one percent of aspiring writers ever got anything published. How I have worked to open up publishing for the other 99%. These range in quality from excellent down to abysmal. The dream of writing and publishing a novel may have little relation to actual writing talent. Many writers are part smart, able to generate ideas but not to express them effectively, or possessing nice expressive ability without having much actually to say. I feel they all deserve their public display, and let the readers rather than the editors or money hungry publishers decide the merits. Well, this one is unpublishable by any commercial standard. The author has enthusiasm, imagination, and a story, but virtually no idea of the requirements of presentation. Paragraphing, spelling, narrative efficiency—forget it. To read this you must turn off your critical mind and go for the story itself. Prince Jaytar is a child survivor of a treacherous sneak attack that completely wipes out the personnel and government of his kingdom. But there is hope, as he undergoes extensive training, and teams with his cousin, Prince Ang-Sar, to fight back and reconquer the kingdom. In places it is like a scavenger hunt, as they must fetch whole series of magic artifacts, including different weapons and devices, to forward their mission. Such as a magic kettle that pours out food without ever emptying. They rescue other kings, princes, and princesses, earning their lasting gratitude, and in due course assemble a remarkable array of royal companions and armies. Finally they do battle the arch enemy, and manage to prevail, though Jaytar has a bad moment. So as I said, there is a story for those with the fortitude to glean it, but this is definitely part of the lower 99%. I suspect it will never gain a favorable review, but it could find its readers, too many of whom are not represented by established reviewers or critics. Those who object to establishment standards may find Jaytar worthwhile.

So what was I doing the month of Marsh? Writing another 50,000 words of Xanth #43 Jest Right, the one about the lady jester nobody takes seriously. She loves being a success as a comedienne, but that curse really messes up her love life. This effort of writing squeezed out much of my reading and letter writing, and all of my video viewing. My daughter says not to worry, nobody cares about video reviews anyway. Now there's a backlog. I expect to finish writing the novel next month, then catch up on the reading, letters, and viewing, so brace yourselves for a lot of nothing much.

A mailing from the Southern Poverty Law Center says that Donald Trump's victory has unleashed a barrage of hate. The bigots and racists figure their time has come, and and now it's open season on blacks, Muslims, Jews, gays, women, and anybody else who isn't a rightist white male protestant. They have a map showing the active hate groups in every state of the union. This appalls me to think that America, a land of immigrants—and I am one of them—has come to this. But I note that the Republicans, who voted 60 times to abolish Obamacare when it didn't count, finally got their chance to do it for real—and didn't. I guess when they realized that screwing over twenty million people, many of them Trump supporters, out of their medical insurance might lead to reprisals next election. Fancy that!

The Hightower Lowdown reminds us that in 2014 America's CEOs earned 350 times what the average worker did, creating the world's greatest income gap. That's the unfettered free market in action. So now the city of Portland, Oregon, is doing something about it. They added a surcharge to the local tax bill of any corporation that gives its top exec more than 100 times the median pay of its workers. I like than, except that if I were doing it, the ratio would be more like ten times, not a hundred times.

An employment agency in England, my country of origin, has a dress code for women that requires that they wear non-opaque tights, have hair with no visible roots, wear regularly re-applied makeup, and appear in shoes with a heel between two and four inches high. Talk of sexism! Those high heels give women ten times the foot ailments of men, and I see it as akin to foot binding in China, hobbling women in public. And they're also supposed to make sure that men can get regular peeks through their underwear? Does anyone actually care about the quality of the work they do, or are they merely painted dolls to decorate the premises? A receptionist who was sent home without pay for wearing flat shoes started a petition against this code. More power to her. The very idea that a woman should wear sensible shoes! Now Parliament is getting into the act, promising to stop this crap. I certainly hope so.

Remember Percy Bysshe Shelley's sonnet “Ozymandias”? The statue of the king of kings who said “Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair”? Well, they have found pieces of a huge statue near Cairo, Egypt, that is believed to be that of Pharaoh Ramses II, the original Ozymandias who ruled Egypt 3,000 years ago. It was a 26 foot tall colossus made of quartzite. The poem remarked how nothing remained but the desert sands. Thus the frivolous vanity of a ruler I took to be fictional. Live and learn. I featured Ozymandias as a character in one of my novels, frozen in the ice of Hell. Yes, Hell did freeze over; you didn't know?

Science fiction anticipates many things that later come to pass. There are lady robots in my fiction that in some respects put real women to shame. They don't get headaches or times of the month, for example. One of them becomes conscious and sues to be recognized as a legal person, in To Be a Woman, part of Metal Maiden. Now a California company, Abyss Creations, promises to have a lifelike, artificially intelligent, sex capable robot woman ready for sale by the end of 2017. They already make life size silicone love dolls that can't move or speak but evidently can do the deed for around $7,000. I presume the animated robot will be more expensive. Too bad; I'd certainly like to have one. Meanwhile I'll believe it when I see the lady robots campaigning against high heels. It's hard enough for a robot to stand on two lovely legs to begin with, without having to perch on stilts.

When we moved to our tree farm in 1988 we planted assorted flowers. One was a night blooming jasmine that did well for several years before expiring. Another was a pink azalea, one of about 25 of different colors, but the others all perished in the course of time. This one survives and prospers, and on a day in Jamboree had 250 flowers. Then its season faded in FeBlueberry, and there was only one flower bravely hanging on in Marsh. Another was a Turk's Cap hibiscus, which sent up stalks as high as ten feet, with over a hundred flowers, until in the past year the deer discovered it and ate it back until most of it is dead. Sigh; we like the deer, but wish they would leave our flowers alone. Another was a star jasmine, which would put out a solitary star shaped flower every so often, that lasted only a day. Then as it spread across our back yard, there were more flowers each year. One day I counted 50. Last year the high day was 84. This year the high day was 180.

We, being cheap, refuse to get locked into cable or satellite TV for fees like $150 a month. So we got a 50 foot TV tower put up, and that brought in about 45 stations, as we are midway between Tampa Bay, Orlando, and Gainesville, three broadcasting centers. But then it went wrong. We paid over $500 for fixes, and suddenly even more channels were coming in. Until about four hours after the serviceman left. Then they quit. Now they generally come in by day and poop out erratically by night. We called, but they say it can't be the equipment, it must be bad reception conditions. How come those bad conditions weren't operative before? Well, maybe somebody put up a new tower near us that interferes. So it seems we're stuck. We're not pleased. I don't pay much attention to TV, but my wife does. We do not want to be herded into a satellite corral, however eager they may be to fleece us.

Newspaper has a review of a new anti-Scientology play in Tampa. I've been anti-Scientology since before it existed, circa 1950, when fantasy writer L Ron Hubbard first presented Dianetics in Astounding Science Fiction magazine as a new science of the mind. I thought it was rubbish then, and still do. Stage by stage it has been taking over the city of Clearwater, Florida, but that's another story. This one woman show is Squeeze My Cans by Cathy Schenkelberg, a disaffected devotee. Provocative title; exactly what or where are her cans? Turns out they are the handles of an E-meter, the device used in auditing. What did you think they were?

  1. Two letters in the newspaper, titled What Democrats Believe and What Republicans Believe, by John Morse and Mary Cascio respectively. Democrats believe that all citizens have the right to vote, and voting should be made easier, not harder. That we should not be currying favor with dictators. That everyone should have adequate health insurance. That global warming needs to be confronted, not ignored. That gun violence can be addressed without infringing the Second amendment. That tax policies that help the rich get richer while the poor get poorer will not lead to a prosperous nation. That the Constitution means it about promoting the general welfare. Republicans believe that it is common sense to suppress voter fraud. That the Democrats under Obama were snuggling up with the Cuban dictatorship. That health care should be based on free markets, not forced down the throats of citizens by the government. That the environment should be protected. That some of the most violent cities, like Chicago, have the strictest gun laws. That pro-growth tax reform will help workers and businesses. Okay, I have been a registered independent from when I first got my citizenship and registered in 1959, but from here the Democrat manifesto seems reasonable while the Republican one is mostly a tissue of code words, omissions, and personal attacks. Obamacare was passed without a single Republican vote, so it was forced down the throats of those who would rather see poor folk hurry up and die, not the twenty plus million who finally could get insurance. The so-called free market generally screws those who need health care most by jacking up prices beyond affordability, as was the case before Obamacare. Suppress voter fraud? Hardly any has ever been documented, but measures to suppress it have instead systematically suppressed minority votes. Republican tax reform is code for making the rich richer and the poor poorer, as the Democrat protested. Global warming? Not a Republican word about it, as they say it's a hoax. Protecting the environment? The Republicans talk the talk but definitely don't walk the walk, as Florida politics show. What an exercise in hypocrisy!

I have a pile of additional clippings, but I have a novel to return to writing, so this is enough of my fulminations for now.

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