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Piers Anthony, January 2018
Piers Anthony, January 2018

Apull 2020


I read The Mystery of the Old Farmer’s Gate, by Steven G. Taibbi. This is not in shape to be formally published at present, but it has a solid story. It starts with the Avaloneans of 20,000 years ago. They managed their civilization well, taking good care of their planets and people. They were expert in computer science and robotics and androids, which were hard to tell from living folk. Exploring a primeval forest, they encountered an odd structure, which turned out to be a gate to another world, a duplicate of their own but deserted. Who made it and left it unattended? That is the mystery. They made a tunnel to it and guarded it, but as time passed and their empire faded the gate was forgotten. Later folk on Earth found the tunnel and gate but kept it secret, instead exploiting the natural resources of the world beyond it. So the mystery of the gate remained. Then Kevin Burke discovered it, and the contemporary story commences. He gets to know the local librarian Ann Belknap and her cat Paws, and shows them the new world. Things complicate, as they discover a kind of subway, that remains operative, and are attacked by vicious 8-foot-tall creatures. They meet an alien watcher, who provides them with superior weapons and recruits them as representatives of the Avalonean Empire. They wind up traveling in space and waging war against the monsters. There is also another tunnel that leads to a world where magic operates. There is a huge amount in this novel, with the mysterious gate turning out to be the access to far more than an alternate world.

I read Immortality, Inc., by Chip Walter. This is about the prospects for extending human life, perhaps indefinitely. Most of it details the involvement of Silicon Valley executives involved in the effort to cure diseases and abate aging, but it does in due course get to the essence. That is that we are not there yet, but progress is being made, and in another decade or so we may have ways to greatly extend the lives of folk now living. The techniques relate to genetic engineering and close study of the human genome to spot hidden liabilities so that they can be dealt with before becoming lethal. So probably the answers will come just too late for me, as I am 85 and not getting younger. Ever thus.

I read Love in Cardwell, by Mark F. Geatches. This is a romance, but I think not a genre formula novel. Handsome Jason is a former U.S. Navy SEAL, deadly in combat, now a restaurateur, running his own little establishment, but he keeps himself fit with daily exercise. Three regular patrons size him up as a prospect: Susan, an attractive 50-year-old who is incidentally married, Karen, who has an aggressive boyfriend, and Lucy, a nice girl. Karen makes a play for him and soon has him in bed, much impressing him. That freezes Lucy out, but she is nice about it, as is her nature. It is clear to everyone else that Lucy is the one for Jason, but Karen is experienced, skillful, and determined, and soon has him roped. Except for an unplanned encounter that changes everything. Karen’s boyfriend attacks Jason, who was not looking for trouble but is more than competent to handle it, and the boyfriend winds up injured and unconscious. That does open Jason’s eyes about the nature of his girlfriend; he hadn’t known of the other man. Now at last he orients on Lucy. Romance is not my genre, but I found this novel competent, interesting, and compelling. I recommend it to those who like non-formula reading, whatever the genre.

AUTHORS GUILD sent news that it is appalled that Internet Archive is now making millions of in-copyright books freely available online without restriction on its Open Library. I am appalled too, as I earn my living by writing and that will dissipate if my books are stolen and posted openly online. This is piracy. They justify it because of the pandemic. Oh? What else will the pandemic justify? Carjacking? Robbery? Murder? Where is the limit, once the law is ignored? This needs to be shut down, if we are not to become a lawless world. The Guild membership is up in arms. So should we all be.

As folk generally know, I have been a vegetarian all my adult life, essentially because I don’t like hurting animals, and am now considering taking the next step to going vegan. I admire the vegans, and this does seem to be an obvious progression for mankind as a whole. The February 2020 issue of the newsletter wise vystopia, but Marc Ten Low, addresses this subject. He says Australia is having its hottest, most deadly summer in recorded history, with billions of wild animals perishing in the brushfires. “But that is almost nothing compared to the number of animals slaughtered in the livestock industry on a daily basis.” He says the easiest way to reduce suffering in the world is veganism, based on nonviolence toward any sentient form of life. Nonhuman animals should NOT be used for food, clothing, entertainment, or any other purpose; they are here with us, not for us. He points out that many so-called environmentalists are not vegans. “The vegan movement is currently the greatest and fastest growing social justice movement in the world. Society is starting to open up, but it may be too late for life as we know it.” Check his newsletter for more information. I am glad to know that there are people like him in the world.

Last HiPiers column, I mentioned my house guest MaryLee, who transitioned from Companion to Girlfriend. Now she has moved on to Fiancee. She wears my engagement ring with a three quarter carat pale amethyst stone and we have matching platinum wedding bands for when. We don’t know when we’ll marry, but it will probably be a small, quiet, very private occasion, maybe a virtual elopement. The auspices are mixed. We became engaged, and the stock market plummeted, pandemic spread across the globe, and we are under virtual house arrest along with millions of others as the global economy sinks toward a devastating recession. Was it something we said? I wanted to take her to the big amusement parks like Disney and Universal, and they shut those down. She wanted a beach wedding, and they shut the beaches down. She wanted to go shopping, but we’re not supposed to go near other folk even if the stores remain open. Yet if we have to be housebound 24 hours a day, at least we are alone together. There’s a whole lot of hugging and kissing going on. Don’t tell.

This will be my briefest HiPiers column in some time, because distractions like the coronavirus and MaryLee (no known connection) have taken my time. My reading and writing have also suffered. Incidental items: a front tooth on my dentures popped off, and I had quite an adventure getting it fixed and picking the dentures up from the lab, as deliveries were stalled. Then next day it popped off again. This time I’m using the dentures anyway, as I need them for chewing. I do newspaper puzzles to keep my brain halfway alert. On Sunday, March 15, I solved their Word Wheel, the word being Pedestal, only to find a different answer, Stampede, in their answer key. Lo, both words fit. I read that a flat-earth believer rode a rocket into the sky, to prove the earth is flat, but it crashed and he died. Now we’ll never know whether it is flat, round, triangular, or sexy hourglass shaped. Assisted suicide is spreading. I feel a person should have the right to die in his/her own fashion, as well as the right to live, rather than being captive to the special interests who want to preserve life until the financial estate is completely wasted. Hypnosis as a medical treatment is coming back, especially for treating anxiety. The Cambrian explosion 500 million years ago is thought to be when modern creatures, including the ancestors of mankind, first appeared. But new research suggests that there was no explosion then, just a continuation of developments in the prior period, the Ediacaran, 600 million years ago. But fear not; modern creatures did evolve, even if it seems that the most primitive become politicians. Remember Otzi the Ice Man? Evidence grows that he wasn’t just a traveler ambushed unaware. He may have been fleeing pursuit, and they finally caught up with him. He led them a fair chase, but they got him and left him to freeze on the mountain. They have found evidence of an ancient ape that walked on two legs 5 million years before mankind did. Not bent-legged like other apes, but solidly straight. Maybe that’s where mankind got the idea. And an item on the origin of the self: why did awareness of it develop? Maybe it is the interface between a complex outer world and a complex inner world. How does a living body know what to do with the myriad impressions constantly coming in? Randomness could be disastrous. Which of the myriad aspects of the internal realm can best handle them, when each one is different? Something needs to decide, and that is the conscious self. I remember a friend of mine in college whose logical graduation thesis concluded that man is the universe, and self dies not exist. He could not accept either one. I, though a skeptic, can handle both. But I do believe that self exists, while being uncertain about the universe.

The isolation of the virtual lockdown means that now I have to do things that others did for me before. I am trying to learn the laundry, though MaryLee stepped in to take the brunt of that, and downloading and uploading my own email. I learned how to work the WiFi dingus, pushing the switch from FFO to NO to turn it on, though the WifFi can be as balky as the regular internet used to be. When there’s something complicated like a copy of a letter to another person or an attachment, MaryLee steps in again, being more experienced in online navigation than I am. But our computer thinks it’s me, so pulls its usual stunts, like vanishing a sentence, paragraph, or whole file without warning or chance to save it, or closing the program without notice, or simply refusing to do what we ask, like download or send. Once I got an error message that I had used the wrong password and my letter could not be sent, when that action required no password. Today when we listed a copy of a letter to send, it translated that address to Japanese, repeatedly. I have never sent any letter in Japanese, as I almost flunked high school because I was unable to learn a foreign language. Anyone who thinks that computers are dumb machines that do only what they are told to do has not had experience with my willful equipment. MaryLee is now a believer. Even geeks have admitted bafflement on occasion. So hours can dissipate frustratingly, helping me to get very little done these days. Which perhaps is the point. If the critics couldn’t shut me up, the jinxed equipment is trying.

Until next time, virus and computer permitting.


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