HI-I use the Ogre Months. Ogres are justifiably proud of their stupidity, and their memory isn’t so great either, so they have trouble remembering a month this late in the year. Hence NoRemember. I think my favorite is the one my daughter Penny suggested, FeBlueberry, when the redberries are blue with cold. The ogresses, in contrast, are not so stupid, but are proud of their ugliness; their smile can curdle milk. There was once an actress in Xanth who had to play the role of an ogress. She was a good actress, in fact a superlative actress; her smile could curdle water.
I was invited to contribute to a collection of interesting dreams, but had to decline, because my dreams are dull, if I can remember them at all. It is as if all my vaunted imagination goes into my fiction, and none is left for dreams. Actually, it is my belief that dreams are merely that fragment left over as our sleeping mind goes over recent events, sorting and classifying them according to feeling; something that requires temporary consciousness. An obnoxious driver cut you off at the intersection while giving you the finger? That fresh memory gets considered and classified under Outrage, with connections to Driving, Cars, City Streets, and Obnoxious People. It’s complicated classification. A pretty cashier smiled at you as you paid for your purchase? File that under Wishful Romance, with connections to Pinup Calendars, Shopping Sales, Magenta Lipstick, and Feminine Hair Styles. You certainly wouldn’t want those memories to get jumbled together, so that the pretty girl cuts you off with an insulting gesture, or the arrogant driver flashes you with sexy pink panties. So the brain is busy during sleep, doing the dull scutwork, and dreaming counts. Maybe someday the experts will catch up to the real meaning of dreams, not being readers of this column. But here’s the thing: dreaming is a process, like fire, a river, or life itself, and if you start remembering the process, that has to be processed for filing too, ad infinitum, like two mirrors facing each other. So you don’t want to remember your dreams; just let them do their job and fade cleanly out. So my forgetting my dreams is not a signal of senility, but of proper functioning. Existence is a finely meshed machine.
Nevertheless, as the time crunched nearer to my having to do the chore of writing this monthly column, I remembered a dream. In it I was assigned to write a paragraph on a subject of my own choosing, as long as it was fairly reasoned and presented. What should my subject be? I thought maybe Sexuality. But then I wondered whether that was appropriate for the fine upstanding clean-minded elite folk my fans represent, in contrast to ordinary fans of other writers. Then I woke up with my question unanswered. Bleep! So I think I had better pass that by, to the relief of those elegant fans, yes? So then what should my paragraph be about? Well, the month of OctOgre saw the one-year anniversary of the death of my long-term wife Carol. We were together 63 years, through thick and thin, going from near poverty (I once found a nickel in the gutter and entered it as income) to wealth, from losing three babies stillborn to getting two we could keep, only to lose the elder one, Penelope, to melanoma, skin cancer, at age 41. From my getting blacklisted and lied about for six years with no help from a writer’s organization that tacitly sided with the errant publisher, for the temerity to demand that my publisher honor its contract and stop cheating me. To my later return to that same publisher when it was under new auspices and becoming a best selling author there, uncheated, but with no admiration for the corrupt system that tends to punish the victim rather than the offender. Carol was with me throughout, supporting me and enabling me finally to prosper. I rather doubt that any other writer has had a career quite like mine, pushing the limits of propriety and chance every which way, contemptuous of the endemic knavery in the profession, where Art is subsumed in Finance. I couldn’t have done it without her, and bleep, I’m sorry she is gone.
But time crunches on, and today I am remarried and still looking toward the future. I knew I didn’t want to live alone, and now MaryLee is with me. She loves the Florida backwoods, with its palm trees, hanging Spanish moss, and sea oats; she’s a bundle of enthusiasms. Of course there’s a poem about how there are Day People and Night People, the twain interacting only with difficulty, concluding “By some peculiar quirk of life, / They always wind up man and wife.” Yes, I have done it twice, being a Day Person, she a Night Owl. We do meet at twilight. The Sunken Garden, converted from the pool, is now growing nicely, with the purple flowers MaryLee likes, as well as cherry tomatoes and lettuce. Our latest addition is the papaya tree, which is on its third flower and perhaps its first fruit. I think of it singing “I’m Papaya the Sailor Man.” Gardening is fun, as we see living nature; we do depend on it and should support it. For those who want an updated, comprehensive guide to the benefits of gardening, visit https://happydiyhome.com/benefits-of-gardening/. Outside, our Turk’s Cap hibiscus is now in bloom, with as many as 90 flowers a day.
My octogenarian health seems okay, as I try to eat right, sleep right, exercise right, and live right and left. I mainly stay off the Internet, in part because I fear that gadding about in it would suck up my time, and I’m already well behind on reading my books and magazines and watching my DVD videos. I understand that anonymous trolls lurk there, pouncing on anyone who expresses an original thought or has an opinion contrary to theirs, lying about people, then saying it’s just their opinion. There may come a day when they have to pay a penalty for such abuse of free speech. I defend anonymity, as it helps prevent retaliation for telling the truth—how well I know about that!—but what about lies? There should be some standard of decency, at long last.
And the end of Daylight Saving Time is looming. I remember a comment once that DST is like cutting an end off a stick and gluing it on the other end to make it longer. And we continue to struggle with our old email system, which seemingly randomly eats letters and balks at downloads. It is run by MacroHard Doors, the program that never forgave me for escaping it via Linux. I continue to write Xanth #47, Apoca Lips, being now over 60,000 words into it, and our heroes are about to get to meet a zombie robot. How does a robot get zombied? Read the novel and see, when. So do I have a subject worthy of a paragraph? I doubt it, despite my dream. It wasn’t worth remembering, as my critics knew before I ever did.
I wrote a short short story on request for a charity flash fiction anthology for families struggling at Christmas, “A Home for Skyla.” This may not be your ordinary Christmas story, because Skyla is a scorpion that stings a little girl on Christmas Eve Day. We get to see Skyla’s take on it.
I have a twice-weekly Chore Hour, when I do chores that I know I’ll never get done otherwise. A recent one was cleaning up one of my cluttered desks. I found old papers dating back over 20 years. One from only 10 years ago was sent me by a fan, Julia, a feature on Reasons to Buy a Dog. If you want someone who will eat whatever you give him, and never say it’s not as good as his mother’s, then buy a dog, with a cute doggie picture. If you want someone always willing to go out at any hour wherever you want, buy a dog. Another cute picture. Someone who will never touch the remote, doesn’t care about football, will sit next to you as you watch romantic movies, buy a dog. Someone who is content to get on your bed just to warm your feet; someone who never criticizes what you do, who loves you unconditionally, buy a dog. But if you want someone who will never come when you call, ignores you totally when you come home, runs around all night, only comes home to eat and sleep, and acts as if your entire existence is solely to ensure its happiness – then buy a cat. I like the fakeout.
The early Xanth novels were published individually, then later collected in three novel volumes for 1, 2, 3, and 4, 5, 6. I thought that was all, but fan Michael “Snicker” Lynch corrected me: there is one for 7, 8, 9, titled Spellbound Xanth or The Continuing Xanth Saga. Read it at your own risk.
And my ever-accumulating pile of clippings. I read mainly science magazines, weird as that may seem for a writer who scored mainly in fantasy. Here is the key: I love fantasy, but I don’t believe it. I believe science. My secret ambition is to know everything about everything, before I kick the bedraggled bucket and descend into the oblivion that is the fate of nonbelievers. In the February 1st (okay, in ogre terms, FeBlueberry 1th) issue of NEW SCIENTIST—I did mention getting behind a bit?—is an article titled “What is Reality?” That's one of my buttons. I’ve never been quite satisfied that existence makes sense; there should be nothing. I fear that one bright day I will truly discover reality, and pop out of existence, along with the universe. The article may be coming to a similar concern. “The harder we look, the less real it seems.” So is reality imaginary? We’re not sure. “Everybody knows that we don’t see all of reality. I say we see none of it.” “We perceive the world in relation to what we already believe.” In sum, we just don’t know. That leaves me uneasy. Article in the Feb. 29 issue addresses antimatter: what is it really? It seems to be the same as matter; with on opposite charge. Some wonder whether it would fall upward, but that seems doubtful. Newspaper article by Benjamin Warner titled “Claiming my Racism.” He is a well-intentioned, liberal, vegan with a couple of black friends. He lives in a comfortable neighborhood with its benefits and general protection. Black folk mostly can’t do that. So is having the benefit of a society crafted by racism an indication of racism in himself? Maybe. Are women the stronger sex? Article in the August 1 (AwGhost 1th) NEW SCIENTIST concludes that they are, because they have two X chromosomes while men have only one. That gives them twice as many options to make up for defects in one or the other, so their systems mess up less and they live longer. Why do clever people make stupid decisions? Because they may jump to “obvious” conclusions. Yes, I’ve seen it happen, and been caught by it myself. You do have to be careful about assumptions. An example: if it take 5 machines 5 minutes to make 5 widgets, how many minutes would it take a hundred machines to make a hundred widgets? Most people answer a hundred. I got the right answer, which is five. But I have encountered tricks like this before, so am wary. NEW SCIENTIST for 1 August has an article about the unlikely rise of dinosaurs. They were pipsqueaks in a world of giants. But they had one thing the others lacked: birdlike lungs, that could take in oxygen both breathing in and breathing out. The Permian extinction of 250 million years ago took out 95% of species in the ocean and 70% on land. That gave the more efficient breathers their chance. Then 66 million years ago the meteor took out the dinosaurs, leaving only the birds and mammals, who I think survived because they were mostly hidden in caves. We were lucky we were small enough. Item in THE WEEK that Trump is catering to the Republican base, but since liberals and independents make up about 65% of all voters, he can’t win that way. NEW SCIENTIST again, saying that you might think we know a lot about the universe’s first fraction of a second, but we don’t. In fact we don’t know enough about its present state. It is constantly expanding, but we don’t know how fast, or, I think, why. Digital computing has pretty much taken over, but is analogue coming back? Maybe so, or possibly hybrid. If you are one of the working poor, you are almost as likely to get audited by the IRS as if you are in the top 1%. Fraud is huge, but nothing is likely to be done about it. Why? Because the rich have the resources to fight back, and we are on the way to becoming a plutocracy, government by and for the rich. Of those who get Covid-19, as many as 9 of 10 may suffer some kind of lingering condition after recovery. Like extreme tiredness, difficulty concentrating, or loss of taste and smell. So it is not a matter of getting over it and being part of herd immunity; that herd will be sick.
MaryLee and I continue on home lock-down, being in the high risk group, despite wishing we could get the heck out and visit the beaches, tour the amusement parks, and shop up a storm. We never even had a honeymoon, because of the Virus. We have now been married six whole months, and haven’t tired of it yet. Those twilight trysts can be delightful. I repeat: if you have to be confined, it helps to be newly married, even when you are of geezer age. Now you know.
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