PAT CADIGAN, HUGO WINNER!

Almost as thrilling as the news that Pat Cadigan has just won the Hugo Award for her novelette "The Girl-Thing Who Went Out for Sushi" from the anthology Edge of Infinity, is the realization that this is Pat's first Hugo. Well-deserved, and damned well-earned!

As hard to believe as that is, it's equally hard for me to believe that her career now extends more thana third of a century , back to her first stories in fan publications. Her career, like most writers' careers, has had its ups and downs, but the trajectory of that career — always a different thing from the temporal reality of any writer's career — has remained in the ascendant.

Edge of Infinity

That she was — and is — a writer of large ambition has been clear from the moment, in the early '80s when her "Deadpan Allie" stories began to appear, although it was probably her "Pretty Boy Crossover" that really began her breakout from new writer to major writer.

The Allie stories formed the kernel of her first novel, Mindplayers (1987), with its killer opening:

I did it on a dare. The type of thing where you know it's a mistake but you do it anyway because it seems to be Mistake Time.
 

No mistaking that voice and what it had to say — there was a writer in the room.

It was around this time too, maybe slightly before, that she became known as the "Queen of Cyberpunk." That she was, but so much more as well. Just how much more would begin to made clear as her second and third novels appeared, a year apart, in the early '90s.

Synners

That second novel, Synners (1991) pushed cyberpunk — and then some — in half a dozen simultaneous and simultaneously different directions, a huge leap in both craft and art over Mindplayers, and a major novel by any standards, not just those of cyberpunk.There was not a more complex, or more complexly provocative SF novel in the 1990s. It is the richest of her novels so far.

Her third,  Fools (1992), pushed matters of identity (real and virtual) even further. Though smaller in scope and girth than SynnersFools marked another advance in Pat Cadigan's craft, not to mention her art, and may be the best of her books (ditto "so far"), although Synners may still have the edge for me in the sheer size of the ambition that powers its narrative..   

Throughout the 90s she continued to write exceptionally good short fiction, for OMNI and elsewhere. She proved herself a fine nonfiction writer as well, as her 1995 "Carnival Diablo" piece, written for me at OMNI (actually it was written for OMNI's readers, who were the prime beficiaries as they were of the Cadigan fiction OMNI and OMNI Online published, but I'll bask in whatever reflective [sic] glory I can). 

Approaching and then entering the new century/millennium, Pat Cadigan began ringing changes, some subtle, some audacious, on her explorations of  virtual lives (and deaths) and virtual responsibilities, not to mention the nature of the virtual world's effects on the real world we were increasingly using our virtual connections to distance ourselves from. Her set of matched novels, Tea From an Empty Cup (1998), and Dervish is Digital (2001), marries -- and consummates the marriage! — of cyberpunk with procedural noir. The novels have a gritty reality and an even grittier virtual reality. They deserve to be better known than they are. Caveat (sorta): I am one of the dedicatees of  Tea, which doesn't affect at all the esteem with which I regard that novel.

Throughout all of this, Pat Cadigan was (and is) a working writer as well as a gifted and ambitious one. Much of her work over the past decade has been on assignment, movie tie-in novels, movie tie-in nonfiction, round-robin fiction, and more. She brings to each of those projects an impressive professionalism, delivering precisely the goods and then some that the publishers commissioned.

Throughout all of this, too, Pat has continued to produce a body of short fiction that is among the very best of her generation — and any other for that matter. Her stories continue to be highlights of the magazines and original anthologies in which they appear, as they are of the best of the Year anthologies they also inevitably (well, almost inevitably) appear in.

"The Girl-Thing Who Went Out for Sushi," in fact, can be found in Gardener Dzois' latest Best Science Fiction of the Year, along with a couple of hundred thousand words of other terrific SF. 

Her gifts for short fiction are even larger than her novelistic gifts, as any reader of the collections PatternsHome by the Seaor Dirty Work discovers quickly. It is high time for a collection or two of her recent work, and past high time for a Best of Pat Cadigan

What sets Pat's fiction apart is that for all the sharp edges, unflinching toughness, awareness of just how rotten humans can be, there is a humanity, a heart, that is most often revealed in a blood-fierce anger and rage at what we do to each other, and what our creations are doing to us. She hates much of what she sees in the world around her, and transmutes into the worlds she builds, but she hates it with love, and not gently.

Se can also be a very funny writer, and also not gently.

A wonderful writer, and a magnificent human being, one whom I am proud to call friend, as I also call her equally magnificent husband, the original one-and-only-they-broke-the-mold-when-they-made-him Christopher Fowler. Theirs is one of the best marriages I know of. Pat's son Robert Fenner is a grown man now, but based on who I to got know a little when I spent some time with him when he was a boy, I have no doubt that he is a fine man.

Now Pat is a Hugo winner, and about damned time. "The Girl-Thing Who Went Out for Sushi" (love that title!) may signal a new direction in her work, being set in a meticulously built and vividly realized outer solar system some time from now. It is interesting to see Pat working in space, as it were, and working it and its venue(s) as thoroughly and as originally as she has every other venue she has turned her talents to. Check out the story's opening:

Nine decs into her second hitch Fry hit a berg in the Main ring and broke her leg. And she didn’t just splinter the bone — compound fracture! Yow!
 

No mistaking that voice either — it's Pat Cadigan's.

It is clear that after three decades of gathering strength and power as a writer, Pat Cadigan is in the springtime of her career.I look forward to the blossoming and growing seasons ahead.

Still known as the "Queen of Cyberpunk," my own feeling is that Pat Cadigan is the Queen of whatever she wants to choose to become the Queen of, and long may she reign.

 

Window on the World

There comes a moment at my desk every year when I glance out the window to my right and see that the trees' progression toward spring is complete.

This year's progress was slow, even fitful, and for a time I wondered — as I have before, probably most years — if some of the older limbs would bear leaves again.

Some of them haven't this year, and may not last through the next heavy storm. But the ones I have been most concerned about appear to be doing fine.

I love the view during all seasons.

And during all seasons, today's season most definitely included, it is a view that calls for me to step away from the desk, to get outside, to take a closer look at the world the trees live in, and be reminded, as always anew, of the ways in which that world informs and expands whatever world or worlds I am engaged with at this desk.

 

H. G. Wells And The Intolerant Future

Toleration to-day is becoming a different thing from the toleration of different times. The toleration of the past consisted very largely in saying. "You are utterly wrong and totally accurst, there is no truth but my truth and that you deny, but it is not my place to destroy you and so I let you go." Nowadays there is a real disposition to accept the qualified nature of one's private certainties. One may have arrived at at very definite views, one may have come to beliefs quite binding upon one's self, without supposing them to be imperative upon other people. To write "I believe" is not only less presumptuous and aggressive in such matters than to write "it is true," but it is also nearer the reality of the case. One knows what seems true to one's self, but we are coming to realize that the world is great and complex, beyond the utmost power of minds such as ours. Every day of life drives that conviction further home. And it is possible to maintain that in quite a great reminder of ethical number of ethical, social, and political questions there is no absolute "truth" at all — at least for finite beings. To one intellectual temperament things may have a moral tint and aspect, different from that they present to another; and yet each may be in its own way right.

— H. G. Wells, Mankind in the Making, 1904
 

The first futurist I called Wells the "First Citizen of the Future" in my biography of him  understood, at least early in his career, that he was not a prophet. Rather in books such as Anticipations and Mankind in the Making, he was developing a sophisticated and exuberant schema for thinking about change and its consequences, which is the first key to thinking seriously about the future or possible futures we may inhabit.

Yet in those early books he was also something of an optimist, or at least a hopeful social critic as the passage above indicates. Wells held real hope, even belief, that the spread of education and literacy, culminating in a universal encyclopedia that made the whole of human knowledge available to all the world's citizens, and in doing so would make possible a true global dialogue. 

For with such dialogue came the possibility of true hope. Its cornerstone was to be a further refinement and enhancement of the toleration he writes of in the opening of Mankind in the Making. In that book, even as his larger vision of education was taking shape, he wrote of his hope that readers who disagreed with him would

exchange a vague disorderly objection for a clearly defined and understood difference. To arrive at such an understanding is often for practical purposes as good as unanimity; for in narrowing down the issue to some central point or principle, we develop just how far those who are divergent may go together before separation or conflict becomes inevitable, and save something of our time and of our lives from those misunderstandings, and those secondary differences of no practical importance whatever, which make such disastrous waste of human energy.
 

Wells's vision darkened as the years passed — the passages quoted here appeared a decade before World War I began; he lived long enough to see the Second World War with its horrors, culminating in — atomic energy used to devastating military ends.

He did not, obviously, live long enough to see more than the first hints of the promise of computers and telecommunications.

Yet I wonder, were he able to see the Internet, with its ability to provide virtually any piece of knowledge to virtually anyone on the planet, and at the same time see or even experience how as one consequence of the Internet's universal accessibility of public communication, just how very much of that conversation and commentary on "ethical, social, and political questions" is presented only from a perspective of "there is no truth but truth" — and presented so in the harshest, most condemnatory and derisive, even hate and loathing-filled tones and tenors, I wonder...

I wonder if presented with our modern world and even an hour of political, social, ethical chatter and cant, I wonder Wells would view his younger self as a naif, even a fool for having held out hope for reasonable dialogue, debate, and accommodation, or his older, bleaker self as the truest Cassandra, the realer prophet.  

Or both. 

 

Of October and Thomas Wolfe

Thomas Wolfe wrote more — no surprise there of course — and better about October than anyone.

One passage in particular surfaces with this month every year. Here it is. As we shall see, it is more accurately considered a "scrap" or "extract than a passage:

"All things on earth point home in old October: sailors to sea, travellers to walls and fences, hunters to field and hollow and the long voice of the hounds, the lover to the love he has forsaken."
 

You can find those words, as many doubtless have today, on most of the "quote sites."

These are sites that, not incidentally, don't cite — none of the quotation aggregators I looked at offered any citation other than Thomas Wolfe's name; nor did any of them indicate or even suggest that that this quotation was not only lifted out of context — they all are, obviously — but also out of a much longer sentence.

To do the citation work the quotation sites are too lazy or sloppy or both to insist upon, the words are from Of Time and the River, published in 1935 as Wolfe's immense second novel. (A variation of the passage appears in Wolfe's short story "No Door," drawn from a draft manuscript for what became Of Time and the River and other books.)

I say published as, because Of Time and the River as published did not reflect Wolfe's intention or, it has been suggested, his actual accomplishment.

Working with Maxwell Perkins, his editor at Scribner's, Wolfe reluctantly in the act and bitterly in retrospect saw his vast scheme for a cycle of novels reduced to his first — Look Homeward, Angel, published six years earlier — and Of Time and the River, which would be presented in print as the sequel to Angel.

But not just the plan for a novel cycle was altered. The editorial process saw the novel's poiont of view shifted from first person to third, and Wolfe's nonlinear approach to time as filtered by memory rebuilt into a straightforward A-B-C chronological structure. Such an approach would have seen Proust's Recherche ending with its narrator retiring to bed following a straightforward lifetime of experiences presented one after another.

Even as published, Of Time and the River is far more than a sequel or continuation if Angel, though how much more it had been before editing is hard, and even heartbreaking, to say.

Look Homeward, Angel had been subjected to similar, though less severe surgery than River experienced. But careful scholarship and hard work on the part of Matthew Bruccoli recreated Wolfe's original of Angel, restoring close to 70, 000 words of text, and shifting, in some places dramatically, the nature of its narrative.

Published in 2000, O Lost, Wolfe's preferred title, the novel gives both the opportunity to experience Wolfe's own novelistic intentions and vision, and also to dispel the widely-held (still!) contention or belief that he was an unconscious, uncontrolled artist, a savant at best, an oaf with pretensions at worst (Ernest Hemingway, ungenerous of other writers in the best of circumstances and moods, called Wolfe the "L'il Abner" of American letters), unpublishable at all without editorial supervision and, yes, intervention, the more Draconian the better.

O Lost shows that even in his twenties Wolfe knew what he was doing, and more importantly for a novelist of such ambition, what he was trying to do. 

We do not have, evidently, the same sort of opportunity with Of Time and the River's original manuscript. The great stacks and stretches and packing crate of manuscript that were to have formed other volumes of his original cycle — part of which was called The October Fair — were, after his death in 1938, re-shaped, adapted, even rewritten (and added to) by another editor. The October Fair, for instance, was transmogrified into portions of The Web and the Rock and You Can't Go Home Again, with characters re-made, structure radically altered, new passages actually written by the editor, an editorial approach that was, in the opinion of historian and Wolfe biographer David Herbert Donald, "both from the standpoint of literature and ethics, unacceptable."

So we will likely never know precisely what Wolfe accomplished in the manuscript that became Of Time and the River.

Yet even fashioned — or carved or shaped or hewn: all of these words, and similar others have been used, usually with a hint or outright sniff of derision — into something traditional enough in form to be considered commercially publishable, Of Time and the River remains magnificent. I believe it to be, along with Faulkner's Absalom, Absalom!one of the 1930s' two greatest American novelistic achievements, which to me places it, for all of its flaws as published, among the greatest of all American novels and for that matter not just American.

Wolfe is less well known or read today than his contemporaries Faulkner, Hemingway, or Fitzgerald, though his accomplishment is as large or larger, and his ambition came close to being matched only by Faulkner.

Thomas Wolfe wanted to capture it all — the nature of experience and of the human consciousness which permits and enhances experience both in the fact and in the memory —in a new and original prose, an approach to the nature of the novel that was — or would have been if published — revolutionary and, perhaps ultimately subversive of traditional form and structure. Certainly he was subversive of the severe, but also severely limited, aesthetic that has dominated literature and particularly literary criticism since Henry James. It is an appealing and in many ways admirable aesthetic, one which well-adhered-to can produce great art, but one which only obtains if one is judging (or for that matter writing) fiction created within its admitted constraints.

Bringing that aesthetic to bear upon Wolfe's achievement is to mis-read both his text and his intent, and to do so profoundly. This sort of misreading has beset any number of our greatest novels, from Moby-Dick in advance of Wolfe, to Jones's From Here to Eternity, Nabokov's Ada, Mailer's Ancient Evenings, Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow, Wallace's Infinite Jest after him. Such books — crossing the seas one could add War and PeaceTristram ShandyUlysses, and Proust's Rechere itself — demand of the reader an abandonment of expectation equal to the writer's abandonment or subversion of forms and formalities that would limit or obviate the vision being captured, the art being created. This is a demand that some readers will accept, critics rarely, and academics almost never.

The editorial, or more accurately, publishing aesthetic — or something — that Maxwell Perkins and, after Wolfe left Scribner's for Harper's (in no small part over the editing of his work), Edward Aswell, committed (sic) against Wolfe's vision was, as Gore Vidal noted, "as if Leaves of Grass had been reshaped by John Greenleaf Whittier."

That sort of reshaping, on a far smaller scale, is what the search engines turn up when their algorithms are charged with finding "Thomas Wolfe + October."

The quote sites' scrap or extract again:

"All things on earth point home in old October: sailors to sea, travellers to walls and fences, hunters to field and hollow and the long voice of the hounds, the lover to the love he has forsaken."
 

Which words and the cadence in which they are embedded doubtless offer some comfort and reassurance about time and its passage, some pleasant images of the season. Just the sort of thing to fit into a speech or mount on a bulletin board in a classroom or a bordered box at the head of a newsletter. Of course, having found the scrap on a quotation site, the speaker or teacher or newsletter writer will attribute the words to Thomas Wolfe (likely some will make a leap and attribute them to Tom Wolfe) without mentioning Of Time and the River. The scrap will serve its comforting or reassuring purpose.

The actual passage, as it appears in the published novel anyway, places those extracted words precisely where they belong, in the midst of something entirely different. They are a portion of chapter XXXIX, the opening of the novel's "BOOK III: TELEMACHUS." The chapter begins on page 325 (of 912) of my Scribner's edition, a bit more than a third of the way into the novel.

The chapter begins with a traditional, even cliched ("painting the air") invocation of the month and its transitions:

October had come againand that year it was sharp and soon: burning the thick green on the mountain sides to massed brilliant hues of blazing colors, painting the air with sharpness, sorrow and delight — and with October."
 

One could be reading Francis Parkinson Keyes or — to draw from Wolfe's native region — Jan Karon.

Within two paragraphs Wolfe makes clear that his protagonist, Eugene Gant, has returned home following the death of his father. The next few pages explore both that death and the month, passages alternating between straightforward and conventional description ("The ripe, the golden month has come again" and "The corn is shocked: it sticks out in hard yellow rows upon dried ears, fit now for great red barns in Pennsylvania, and the big stained teeth of crunching horses" and similar descriptions) and darker streams of death-haunted, father-haunted consciousness. The quotation marks are Wolfe's, indicating that Eugene is thinking and giving voice to his thoughts; the ellipsis is Wolfe's as well:

"October has come again, has come again, has come again...I have come home again and found my father dead...and that was time...time... Where shall I go now? What shall I do? For October has come again, but there has gone some richness from the life we knew, and we are lost."
 

As the chapter proceeds, the rhythms and the repetitions deepen and darken under Wolfe's hand; the omniscient narrative voice all but vanishes. We hear Eugene Gant speaking his thoughts as he lies in bed in his mother's house. We begin to approach the comforting and reassuring scrap the quote sites offer (it begins the fourth paragraph below).

But now we approach it not via a search engine's guided reductionism and a quotation site's extraction, but via a great artist's guiding hand and eye and mind. Comfort and reassurance are not among the qualities he is guiding us toward as he brings the chapter to its close, and in doing so brilliantly launches the third segment of the novel's long search for the meaning of time and experience and memory, and the consciousness that shapes all three.

There are traditional and conventional October images here — but only if you extract them. In their proper place, they become something else, both counterpoint and commentary, in a passage that is neither traditional nor conventional, any more than was its author, his vision, his intent, and his accomplishment: 

Only the darkness moved about him as he lay there thinking, feeling in the darkness: a door creaked softly in the house.

"October is the season for returning: the bowels of youth are yearning with lost love. Their mouths are dry and bitter with desire: their hearts are torn with the thorns of spring. For lovely April, cruel and flowerful, will tear them with sharp joy and wordless lust. Spring has no language but a cry; but crueller than April is the asp of time.

"October is the season for returning: even the town is born anew." he thought. "The tide of life is at the full again, the rich return to business or to fashion, and the bodies of the poor are rescued out of heat and weariness. The ruin and horror of the summer is forgotten — a memory of hot cells and humid walls, a hell of ugly sweat and labor and distress and hopelessness, a limbo of pale greasy faces. Now joy and hope have revived again in the hearts of millions of peoplethey breathe the air again with hunger, their movements are full of life and energy. The mark of their summer's suffering is still legible upon their flesh, there is something starved and patient in their eyes, and a look that has a child's hope and expectation in it.

"All things on earth point home in old October: sailors to sea, travellers to walls and fences, hunters to field and hollow and the long voice of the hounds, the lover to the love he has forsaken — all things that live upon this earth return: Father, will you not, too, come back again?

"Where are you now, when all things on the earth come back again? For have not all these things been here before, have we not seen them, heard them, known them, and will they not live again for us as they did once, if only you come back again?

"Father, in the night time, in the dark, I have heard the howling of the winds among the great trees, and the sharp and windy raining of the acorns. In the night, in the dark, I have heard the feet of rain upon the roofs, the glut and gurgle of the gutter spouts, and the soaking gulping throat of all the mighty earth, drinking its thirst out in the month of May — and heard the sorrowful silence of the river in October. The hillstreams foam and welter in a steady plunge, the mined clay drops and melts and eddies in the night, the snake coils cool and glistening under dripping ferns, the water roars down past the mill in one sheer sheetlike plunge, making a steady noise like wind, and in the night, in the dark, the river flows by us to the sea.

"The great maw slowly drinks the land as we lie sleeping: the mined banks cave and crumble in the dark, the earth melts and drops into its tide, great horns are baying in the gulph of night, great boats are baying at the river's mouth. Thus, darkened by our dumpings, thickened by our stains, rich, rank, beautiful, and unending as all life, all living, the river, the dark immortal river, full of strange tragic time is flowing by us — by us — by us to the sea.

"All this has been upon the earth, and will abide forever. But you are gone; our live are ruined and broken in the night, our lives are ruined below us by the river, our lives are whirled away into the sea and darkness, and we are lost unless you come to give us life again.

"Come to us, Father, in the watches of the night, come to us as you always came, bringing to us the invincible sustenance of your strength, the limitless treasure of your honesty. the tremendous structure of your life that will shape all lost and broken things on earth again into a golden pattern of exultancy and joy. Come to us, Father, while the winds howl in the darkness, for October has come again bringing with it huge prophecies of death and life and the great cargo of the men who will return. For we are ruined, lost, and broken if you do not come, and our lives, like rotten chips, are whirled about us onward in darkness to the sea."

So, thinking, feeling, speaking, he lay there in his mother's house, but there was nothing in the house but silence, and the moving darkness: storm shook the house and huge winds rushed upon them, and he knew then that his father would not come again, and that all the life that he had known was now lost and broken as a dream.
 

Thomas Wolfe wrote that.
 

wolfe.jpg
 

Golding Voyage

Late last night I finally made my "big winter book" decision, and chose William Golding's To the Ends of the Earth, a trilogy collected in a single volume.

For one thing, the work was new to me. I've never read any of the three novels. Despite the many familiar books calling out to me to be re-read, I found myself in the mood for something new, albeit by a familiar and well-loved writer. Golding, that bleakest of English novelists, has never disappointed me and two of his books, Pincher Martin and, above all, The Inheritors are books I turn to often; The Inheritors is rarely far from my desk. I have a fondness for The Spire, as well, and of course Lord of the Flies.

Yet I had little knowledge of his maritime trilogy and was unaware until this morning that it was made into a Masterpiece Theater series a few years ago, but I never saw it, nor remembered hearing of it. I was glad of that — I always prefer to read the original before seeing the adaptation.

All of which is well-beside the point. It's Golding. I knew I would be in good narrative and philosophical hands.

The trilogy is the story of a voyage, a journey from England to New South Wales on a vessel whose better days are behind her. The story is told in the first person — in the form of journal entries — by Edmund Talbot, a well-born young man bound for an administrative posting.

The narrator is no seaman (especially in the heaves of the opening pages!) and is a passenger aboard the ship, not a member of its crew. It will be interesting, I suspect, to compare Talbot's sense of life at sea — and Golding's presentation of it — with Patrick O'Brian's novels of professional seamen.

Finally, as I didn't discover until after I had chosen the book, and begun it, the first volume, Rites of Passage won the 1980 Booker Prize, edging out Anthony Burgess's Earthly Powers, one of the great novels of the last century, my favorite novels of all timeand a perennial all-season candidate for my re-read list. I almost took down the Burgess yesterday.

But it was the Golding that I chose last night, and it was the right choice..

Fittingly enough for a literary voyage, the weather began to shift here not long after I selected the book, temperature dropping, winds rising, skies graying.

Rough seas ahead, no doubt, and no doubt gloriously so.

Like the narrator, I'll send dispatches as able.

 

Kathleen Stein

There were moments in nearly every conversation with Kathleen Stein when you could sense that she was on the brink of saying something — or not saying it — and was weighing the words she would use, or not use to make a point or launch a critique or deflate a pomposity. Or just let things go.

Letting things go was not Stein's style. Generally, she chose to speak up, and when she did her words were always well-chosen, with attention paid to specificity if not to tact.

But that didn't matter — she was not being rude. There were points to be made, not points to be scored, and that very crucial difference set Kathleen apart conversationally as surely as did the quality of her arguments, her insights, her mind.

Kathleen died instantly last Sunday, in a fall during one of the hikes that she loved. 

Kathleen Stein and me.jpg

Stein, during her long — epic! — tenure as staff writer at OMNI, became one of the very best writers on science, and particularly neuroscience, in the country. Her stewardship of the magazine's legendary interviews is the prime reason they are legendary.She followed science with the assiduousness of a good reporter, and pursued its explication for general audiences with the enthusiasm of an evangelist. 

Which last is a strange, but deliberate choice of words — Kathleen had less use for or belief in anything supernatural or mystical than anyone I have ever known. She was a rationalist and an articulate one, who did not tolerate the word "nonbeliever" because it implied that there was something she chose not to believe in. Which she knew there wasn't.

She came to science writing and editing the old-fashioned way, working her way toward her own best metier one story at a time, in various fields.

She was a rock journalist for awhile, and a good one, writing for Circus, Creem, and others. Lester Bangs referred to her as "Kathi" Stein, but she used another variant spelling when, as Cathi Stein, she wrote Elton John: Rock's Piano Pounding Madman in 1975, when Elton"s and Stein's careers were both relatively new.

How she hated to have that little book mentioned! But she hated it with a twinkle — which she would deny existed — in her fierce eyes. It was an honest piece of work-for-her, quickie paperback dues-paying by a  journalist headed for other things.

Those other things could have been anything — Stein was interested in all of it, and could write well about any of it.

At OMNI she turned her interest in everything into writing, and editing, pieces on everything -- neuroscience was her passion, but she was a grand generalist, and could write as well about the broad intersections of science and culture, as she could about the minute and minutely specific details of cortical structure.   

It would be nearly a third of a century before her next book, The Genius Engine: Where Memory, Reason, Passion, Violence, and Creativity Intersect in the Human Brain and this time the byline was:

By Kathleen Stein.
 

Damned right — and a damned good book it is, a careful, and carefully written, examination of the prefrontal cortex. 

 The last time I saw Stein in person, she joined my son and me for a beer on a gorgeous New York Saturday afternoon, four years ago this week. We spoke often — though not, now, often enough — on the phone, but being with Stein in person was a richer wonder, one that I always looked forward to, even when I saw her nearly every day at the office.

That Saturday it had been a few years since I'd seen her in person, but she was still Stein — how could she not be — and in the course of a couple of hours the three of us spoke of many, many things.

At one point, we were talking of Norman Mailer, who had died just a few weeks before, and Stein said that his death felt "like one of the foundational pillars of the universe had been removed."

I feel that way now, about her, about a universe without her.

As I understand things, it was probably an injury to the prefrontal cortex that killed Kathleen last weekend. And if so, one can imagine that final instant of her consciousness being pure Stein, observing as she died the effects of gravity upon her own cortex.

That's too facile, of course, and far too easy a search for some comfort. Kathleen wouldn't have allowed me to get away with that, were she here to glance at this piece.

But she's not. 

I will miss her for the rest of my life, but I will also for the rest of my life be grateful for the pleasure and the privilege of having known Kathleen Stein.

 

 

John Stein said...

Keith, thank you for putting this out there. She loved her days with Omni, as well as her associates.

She was the most interesting person I ever met, proud to be her brother.

I miss her gigantically.

John stein

6:36 PM

Jonathan Randolph Long said...

Keith, Yes, thank you for putting this out there. Like you eloquently said, unfortunately, I now realize just how too little I saw her in person.

She was such a magnificently brilliant and inspirational woman. I'm truly honored to call her my Aunt Kathleen.

Jonathan "turtle" Long

10:54 PM

aj peterson said...

Keith,

Kathleen was my best friend’s sister.

We grew up, sort of, revering her superior intellect. She and her sister controlled what they could but we scored, regardless. Kathleen was my surrogate sister and at the end of the day and through life I thought of her as a silent mentor.

She had a look that said just what needed spoken. I am so sorry to hear of her death. She will not be forgotten.

AJ Peterson Sarasota, Fl Stein’s friend for life...

5:08 PM

Julia Stein Long said...

Keith,

On this first day- of the New Year, the first year in my entire life without my sister Kathleen as "a (monumental) pillar," I just want to belately thank you for this wonderful, insightful writing in celebration of her and her life.

Here you have given me, and her family and friends, a marvelous, lasting gift,..one that for which my words can hardly adequately describe our appreciation.

She spoke of you often, and I know she also treasured your friendship and expertise. Maybe one day we can meet.

Julia Stein Long (KathleenStein.org) Weeki Wachee, FL

2:12 PM

Joanna Russ

Sad news this morning, with word that Joanna Russ has died.

Although she published relatively little fiction in the past couple of decades, and was never prolific, there was a decade or so, from '68 to '78, when she was producing some of the most challenging and well-written SF in the world. Her best work included the novels The Female Man, the remarkable And Chaos DiedPicnic On Paradise, We Who Are About To, and shorter works including "Souls," "When It Changed,” "Poor Man, Beggar Man," every one of which worked beautifully as fiction and as science fiction, a tough double-act from which she never flinched.

I taught The Female Man in 1976, and can still, 35 years later, recall both the excitement and distress the students expressed, often simultaneously, at the unflinching challenges that novel offers. The richness and rigor of Russ's imagination, matched and even exceeded by her gifts both with prose and dialectic made that novel one of the outstanding accomplishments of the 1970s. It was an audacious and substantial novel then, and remains so today.

The first Russ I read were some early Alyx stories in Damon Knight's Orbit anthologies, and bought the Alyx fix-up, Picnic On Paradise when it first appeared, as an Ace Science Fiction Special in 1968. Russ and Alyux turned "heroic" fantasy" on its head even as the success of Conan reprints was beginning to spur much of heroic fantasy's long and ongoing retreat into pulp cliche and convention.

Joanna Russ was a stern and tasking critic as well, a scholar and a playwright.

But it is as a writer of fiction that I will best remember her, and it is with her fiction that I will, a bit later today, curl under a tree and do just that:

Remember her.

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Selby Bateman said...

Thanks so much for this tribute to Joanna Russ! I will immediately start looking for her works.

6:35 PM

Karl said...

Keith, thank you for posting this informative tribute about Joanna. My local paper posted the announcement today, more than a week after she passed away. But I'll certainly keep an eye out for her works.

11:43 AM