The Next Good-Bye: Kate Wilhelm

Farewell to Kate Wilhelm, who passed away Sunday. I wasn’t fortunate enough to be able to call her a friend, but I got to know her a bit through the Clarion Workshop while it was here at MSU, and I had tremendous respect for her as a writer and a teacher. I don’t know how visible Kate Wilhelm was from the hemisphere where most of fandom lives these days–I suspect she was below the horizon of too many of today’s fans–but she was a very bright star in science fiction’s firmament, and her passing leaves a hole in our sky.

Kate Wilhelm

(Photo by me, July 1990, at the Clarion Workshop. I have cropped a shirtless Damon Knight out of the frame.)

High Density

Inertia dictates that all manner of objects will collect in the corners of one’s life. I’ve been in my office working on rebuilding my daughter’s desktop computer, and while looking for a particular installer CD I came across a shoebox holding some retail floppy disc boxes.

Two were partial boxes of virgin 5.25″ HD floppies. (HD=1.2MB – remember?)

One contained archival backups of several novels and assorted other early writings.

And two were stuffed full of empty 5.25″ sleeves from assorted brands. It must have made sense to me to have some in reserve so no floppy would ever go naked. But 40+? Inertia again, I suppose.

For the nostalgia value, here’s a photo with some familiar and some nearly forgotten names.

Heavy Metal

And that’s the way it’s done.

I felt like I was 14 again watching it.

Reportedly, there’s also a diecast Tesla with a tiny astronaut somewhere in the car, as an Easter egg.

And this is the prettiest sight I’ve seen in a long time.

Address Update

I’ve closed the post office box which I’ve been using for business since 1991, so as of 10/30/2017
 
PO Box 22066
Lansing, MI 48909-2066
 
is no longer a valid address for me. Please update your records accordingly–thanks!
 
This was my “public” mailing address, which was published in my STAR WARS novels and possibly some others. It also appeared in some editions of the Fandom Directory, and for many years in both the SFWA Directory and the WGA Directory. But my googling suggests that it hasn’t crossed the divide and lodged in very many places on the Web, which simplifies things.
 
I won’t be creating a substitute public mailing address–I’m easily enough reached online. But if you or your organization should want or need to reach me by street mail, contact me on Facebook or by email for an address.
 
We now return you to your regularly scheduled program, already in progress.

Julian May

I’ve just learned that writer and SF fan Julian May passed away on October 17 at the age of 86. Her oeuvre includes more than 300 books, including the very popular Pliocene Exile series which began with The Many-Coloured Land–which was also my introduction to her work. She was active in fandom from her teens, and chaired the 1952 Worldcon at the age of 21.

Julian very kindly provided a cover quote for my first novel, though we weren’t in any way acquainted at the time. As things played out over the years, our paths never did cross, so I didn’t have an opportunity to thank her in person.

Ad astra.

The Persona Paradox, or, 30 Years Online With K-Mac

Point of reflection: my social media persona is older than Facebook, older than Snapchat and Skype, older than Instagram, WhatsApp, Tumblr, or Twitter. Older than Yahoo Messenger, ICQ, AOL, and GoogleTalk. Older than the word blog, or any platform to host same. Older than any part of the Web (on which this personal site first saw light in 1995). My online persona has its roots in the 300bps dial-up days of computer bulletin boards and PLATO, and came of age in CompuServe and GEnie’s science fiction fora.

And I -still- have never gotten comfortable with the performance art aspect of being a writer online, of the implicit expectation that you should always be in Entertaining mode, always trying to raise your profile, to build and keep an audience for your books. Which, I suppose, accounts for why I’m so bad at it. I have <50 Twitter followers, <500 Friends on my personal and pro accounts (Facebook’s 5000-friend limit holds no fear for me).

Now we’ve crossed over into an era in which many creative people find it necessary and/or desirable to not just leverage but monetize their digital presence, by directly selling Items and seeking sponsors (Patreon, GoFundMe). And more power to them, it’s tough to make a living in the arts, but I can’t seem to get comfortable there, either.

Example: I have copies of my back titles, quite a few copies, in some instances, and would be more than happy to sell them to readers new or old. But I’ve never really earnestly tried to make that easy, whether on my own web site, through a store on an e-commerce site, or even just periodically saying out loud on Facebook “Hey, by the way, folks, I have these out-of-print titles/editions available at these modest prices.”

Admittedly, some of that is probably fear of [crickets]. But mostly it’s that I came online, and stayed here, for contact with an interesting mix of people otherwise unreachable. I am here for my tribe, for faraway friends and the friends I’ve never met. It’s a reflection of my disposition toward being at a con–even when I’ve been a GOH, I haven’t gone there to hold court, monopolize the conversation, and Sell! Sell! Sell! My main reason for going was always to spend some time hanging out in the alternate social reality my friend Barry Childs-Helton calls the “flying island of fandom.”

That’s my main reason for being here, too.

But it’s a changed world, and I am coming to accept that sometimes we need to fight against our own reflexes shaped in other times. Evolve or die, as the pragmatists say.

So today I’m here with a modest request, and a Yellow Alert.

The request is this: if you’ve never posted a review of one of my books on Amazon or B&N or GoodReads or the like, please consider doing so for whatever work of mine happens to be your favorite. I’m still working on getting my backlist released as ebooks, I’ve begun actively working on a new novel, and positive energy will help with both.

The Yellow Alert is that I AM going to go into my personal warehouse, make a list, do an inventory, and in the very near future post here the particulars of how You, yes, You, could sponsor and adopt one or more rare, endangered dead-tree varieties of my past writings. If this will make -you- uncomfortable, be prepared to avert your eyes. If, on the other hand, this will make you happy, you can start picking up pennies from the sidewalk and searching the couch for loose change now.

Have a great weekend, everyone.

What Next?

Which of these would you be most interested in buying/reading:

–the bookend to VECTORS (previously known as FRAGMENTS)

–a sequel to THE QUIET POOLS telling the story of the Memphis

–a stand-alone K-Mac novel in a new universe/future

Drop me a note at michael@k-mac.org, or share your thoughts with me on Facebook.

Lost Treasure

You can find the darnedest things on the Internet.

I finally got around to registering on Goodreads as an author, and in looking through the listings linked to my name I found a publication which was completely unknown to me. It’s a 1982 German anthology titled ANALOG 5 which contains a story of mine, “Eine Frage der Veranlagung.” The English title was “A Question of Compliance,” and it appeared in the June 22, 1981 issue of ANALOG–my first story there.

Virtually no chance of scaring up a copy for the brag shelf at this late date, of course. There’s a copy for sale on amazon.de, but it doesn’t appear the seller ships internationally. Maybe I have a fan in Germany who could do me a solid?

(And did the Davis Publications contract back then cover reprints and translations? Hmmm. As long as I’m digging into old files–)

Ad Astra, Jerry Pournelle

The news that Jerry Pournelle passed away this afternoon is spreading across social media tonight. Over the last hour or so, I’ve been reading remembrances of Jerry by the likes of David Gerrold and Ray Feist and realizing how incomplete my picture of the man was.

I knew the Jerry Pournelle of “Chaos Manor,” his long-running, influential and idiosyncratic column on personal computing in BYTE magazine. Especially early in the PC era, his opinions carried considerable weight in the industry. I still own one of the special “Pournelle keyboards” produced by Northgate in response to Jerry’s commentaries on keyboard layouts.

As a long-time L5 Society and NSS member, I knew Jerry Pournelle the passionate space development advocate. His contributions in this area were recognized in 2016 when he received the National Space Society’s Heinlein Award.

As an SF fan, I knew Jerry Pournelle the novelist. The first of his novels I read was KING DAVID’S SPACESHIP. The best of his novels I read was his first collaboration with Larry Niven, THE MOTE IN GOD’S EYE. I have several other of his works on my shelves (despite my limited appetite for military SF and conservative politics).

As a writer, I got glimpses of Jerry Pournelle the con personality–on panels, in the green room, in an elevator, at SFWA meetings, in the SFWA suite. I found that Jerry to be brusque, opinionated, and–frankly–more than a bit intimidating. Consequently, I’m fairly sure I never tried to engage him in conversation, or even asked him to autograph a book.

But I have a couple of memories from lurking in his vicinity. I remember Jerry Pournelle with a mic in one hand and a drink in the other, serving as master of ceremonies for a huge Meet the Pros party (1984 Worldcon, I think)–that Jerry was also very loud.

And I remember the only time I ever saw Jerry Pournelle at a loss for words. In a very crowded SFWA suite (at a Norwescon, I think), he took note of Algis Budrys, the respected writer/editor/reviewer, seated on a couch.

Looming over Algis with drink in hand, Jerry started griping about the review A.J. had given one of Jerry’s books. Algis listened impassively, then said, “Jerry, I will tell you what the problem is with your stories. Too much pushing and shoving.” End of conversation.

Of course, Jerry has vast numbers of fans who’ll heartily disagree. FOOTFALL (also co-written with Niven) went to #1 on the NY Times bestseller list. LUCIFER’S HAMMER made it to #2.

And he was, after all, the pragmatic framer of Pournelle’s Law: “Money will get you through times of no Hugos better than Hugos will get you through times of no money.”

My condolences to Jerry’s family, friends, and other fans. His life changed the lives of uncounted others, from Korea to Washington DC to fandom, and he and his works will surely not be forgotten.