I've been working full tilt on the Neil Gaiman / Amanda Palmer / me Top Sekret Projekt the deadline for which is ... today and I was pleased that it drove me to New York City yesterday where met up at Peter Straub's house with some of the brightest lights in American letters, including Chip Delany. I'd read Chip's book Empire Star sometime in the 1990's and was completely blown away. As you reach the last page, you suddenly understand some small fraction of the things you should have understood all along and you race back to the beginning to tear through it again -- like a ride with no line at six flags. I don't think Chip considers Empire Star to be his best book either -- he's done more, he's done better. And he's written, arguably, the Ulysses of science fiction in his novel Dhalgren.
I figured I was obligated to do a birthday portrait.
Today is Samuel R. Delany's
After Top Sekret Stuff with Chip and illustrator Mia Wolff I photographed Peter Straub in his stairwell looking a lot more sinister than he actually is. I've always been so cowed at how kind and humble he is (find some of his talks on youtube & see for yourself -- he's funny and erudite), he's a genuinely nice guy and you wonder where all these ghastly thoughts come from. ("He always seemed so normal....")
(For the photo geeks, this is one light behind an umbrella on the landing across from Peter triggered with a Pocket Wizard.)
Peter and I went out to lunch and I had some hideous beverage called a "watermelon martini" while Peter leisurely explained how you could poison someone with a martini, in various undetectable ways, all the while looking at my martini.
Peter spins a fine yarn -- I've been reading his opus of the 1980's Floating Dragon and enjoying it a great deal -- it's a bit the devil comes to Stepford, a bit Andromeda Strain, and more than bit Donnie Darko, a decade before Donnie Darko.
When we returned to his home, Peter invited me into his basement. "Tell no one of what you see here!" he warned, turning to look over his shoulder and waving a finger -- and friends, I can not -- I can no more tell you of what is in that place than I can ever excise the dreadful knowledge from my mind -- it has seared the synapses of my brain in such ways that always in my thoughts will be that horror relived -- but my friends I saw nothing for the sounds of that dreadful dungeon caused me to clench my eyes shut tight lest I go mad from the sights. The slithering and shrieking, the lunatic barking, the wet pad of a thousand footed beast -- (and what might possibly have been a clothes dryer) raised the hackles on my neck, I put one careful foot before the other, boards creaked, I thought at any moment I would be consumed or entombed but after some dreadful minutes of terror which I cannot force my mind to relive, I emerged with a signed copy of Peter's latest book The Ballad of Ballard and Sandrine which later that night, unbeknownst to us, would win the Stoker award for Superior Achievement in Long Fiction. Congratulations Peter!
My Megabus was an hour late leaving NYC and as a result it was entirely packed. There was a screaming 2 year old sitting across from me. I dealt with this by putting in my headphones and staring down at a book. An hour or so later I discovered that the woman in front of me had dealt with the screaming child by teaching her to sing a song in Japanese, they were best of friends and jolly as can be by the trip's end and the kid had moved from her mother to be with her new friend who delighted her to no end. I may need to re-think how I interact with people who bother me, or perhaps be content that my new headphones seem to work well.
This is not nearly all the news from Fortress Hennepin, there will be another blog post tonight about something important, a Top Sekret that's revealed and some sad news about a shurb. Until then -- do something fabulous. We are off to a birthday party in the park.
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