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A couple of years ago I visited my homeland and was inspired by its weirdness and my own weird feelings about home and family and things of that nature to write a weird story about it. It was initially a stand-alone short thing about a dude who visits his family home in Wisconsin during a period of bizarre climate change and runs into some Lovecraftian supernatural business. Then, last fall, I churned that concept into my annual attempt at National Novel Writing Month and developed a sequel to that original story, a Part Two, which focused on the son of the protag from the original story and what that kid was up to while his dad was away in Wisconsin. I didn't make word count for NaNoWriMo with this, but I did figure out that the story actually wouldn't end properly without a Part Three bringing together the threads from the earlier attempts.

So now I think I have the start of Part Three, and I am considering telling the whole third part in epistolary form, letters back and forth between the characters, maybe some journal entries, kinda like Dracula. The original story (Part One) was in first-person from one of the main characters. The second part was told in a more or less conventional third-person narrative aligned with the other main character. I am not sure about going epistolary with Part Three yet, just trying it out. I don't usually like the concept. It worked for Dracula over a century ago but it's failed so many times in the internet age when a novelist thinks that stringing together a bunch of emails and social media postings works easily as a narrative. It gets dated fast, and often just ends up being dumb. I pretty much always rejected this when I was editing M-Brane SF. I recently read Dennis Cooper's gay-sex horror/porn thing from a few years back, The Sluts, which is relayed in message board posts, and it's not a very good read. I like his work generally because of its transgressiveness, but that one really needed a different format. But when I started on Part Three of my thing, I found myself writing letters. I think if I continue in this fashion, I will try to assiduously avoid a lot of references to how things like computers and smart phones operate currently. These characters aren't putting quill to parchment. It's set "now." They are using their tablets and phones, but I don't want the tech to be too up-front. So maybe the concept of letters without a lot of talk about how they are transmitted might work? Anyway, this is the way Part Three starts...

It would be better than here. Just in the like that, if you can’t remember anymore if. I want to know but I can’t see are you up there. I don’t have a lot of strength now. The sky is stripped. I am too weak to write much. But I still hear them walking in the trees; not speaking. Waiting here, away from the terrifying weaponry, out of the halls of vapor and light, beyond holland and into the hills, I have come to wound the autumnal city. So howled out for the world to give him a name.
            —From the last and first sentences of Dhalgren by Samuel R. Delany, with italic emphases added by A-R Kanayda for his “response/thought text” Bellona City of Vapor, Denny Kid of Fire

Dear Chris, (my #2 Dad, Alternate Father Who’s Sometimes More Like an Older Brother, Destroyer of Illusion, Captain My Captain, the Falconer who Cannot Hear the Falcon):
            I do not know what happened to you when you were in Wisconsin, what things you did, what things you saw. You have not talked to me about it, except in the most vague of terms, circling around the subject, outward and outward, evading my questions until I am so frustrated that I get sick of talking to you and decide to just leave you alone with whatever it is you do and think all day. You also do not want to know what happened to me while you were gone, what things I did, what things I saw. You make that fact clear by not asking me even when I pointedly tee up the question for you.
            I told you of the arrival here in our house of the Cult Cthulhu and how one of their boys sold me some kudzu fruit at Circus of Foods and how I was enlisted to impregnate one of their women. I know that you had some kind of similarly weird misadventure when you were away, maybe even an experience somehow parallel to mine. Though you have shared little about it with me, you did let slip the fact that Circus of Foods is a store up there, too, and that you bought kudzu fruit there. You admitted, though without saying it bluntly, that you fucked a Cult Cthulhu boy there, that one that I saw with you in the phone image that night.
            Is that why you do not want to tell me much about your visit to Wisconsin? Do you think that I would judge you negatively because you had a relationship with that dude? Do you think that I would frown on the fact that you had your first such liaison post-Brace? Do you worry that I’d somehow be jealous? And do you really think that Brace—if he could somehow know about it from beyond the veil of death—would object? Because if you do, then you don’t know me very well and you have already forgotten something about Brace. Listen: you did pretty much the same thing he would have done had your positions in life versus death been reversed.
            And I think that you did the same thing that I did a few weeks ago.
            Maybe you’re just not yet used to being back home in “real” time. Maybe you are still suffering an effect of the time dilation that was going on under the heat bubble, a kind of temporal jet lag. Maybe you will catch back up to me in time and be able to talk about things like we used to.
            A few days ago, start of last week, I began a part-time job at Circus of Foods. I told you about this and have posted my schedule to the calendar on your phone so that you can know easily when and when not to expect me to be home. You didn’t have much to say about it, other than that I don’t need to work right now and that I need to be thinking more about getting back to school. I told you that I know that I can easily just live indefinitely off of you and the trust that Brace left for me. But I also told you that I might feel better about myself if I can earn some of my own money. And I told you that I am not going back to school until the fall anyway. The fall at earliest. I even told you that I might not go back at all because I thought that would catch your attention, get you stressed, maybe make you angry, maybe make you yell at me and give me the Brace-lecture about how I sure as fuck will go back to school! But you didn’t do that. If you don’t give a fuck about it anymore, then maybe you won’t care that I don’t give a fuck about it anymore.
            Do you wonder if I just said that in another attempt to get a rise out of you? You won't know one way or another until you have a serious talk with me.
            My job at Circus of Foods is in the Deli-Café. That’s a department of the store where we prepare ready-to-go food, mostly for people who don’t know how to cook or who think themselves too busy or important to cook for themselves. My assignment is to make salads and hot foods for the self-serve bar that they have adjacent to the produce department. The manager of the Deli-Café is very impressed with me because he found out that I am Brace Kanayda’s son. I did not present this fact in my application, but it came out in the interview. I admitted during my first meeting with him that I know how to cook and had been taught at home. He said, “I guess it makes sense since your last name is Kanayda!” and he laughed goofily. It turns out that he is a fan of celeb chef-type people, but that he did not necessarily assume that I was actually blood-related to Brace. It was assumed to be a coincidence of name. He would not have guessed that I was actually associated directly because someone like him would presume that no one who’d ever had a brush with “celebrity” would show up for an entry-level job in his store. But I sat there like an idiot and said, “Brace Kanayda was my dad. He taught me how to cook.” If I’d not done that, it would have been a secret. I may have been subjected to gentle ribbing based on the coincidence of my name—much as I might be if my name were Flay or Batali or Morimoto—such things as a co-worker saying, “Hey, don’t mess with the master over there, Chef Kanayda knows what he’s doing” and the like. The dumb shit people might say. Like if I were working as a house painter and my name were Michelangelo. That kind of level of workplace-dumb.
            The manager’s name is Mike DeLouvier and he conforms to the stereotype of grocery store managers. There are pictures of all of them on the wall behind the customer service desk: the general manager, the meat manager, the produce manager, the night shift manager and Mike DeLouvier are all dudes ranging in age from about thirty to about sixty, and they all have mustaches and not very good hair. The other managers, also pictured at customer service (such as the customer service manager), are women in the same age range. They’re also afflicted with bad hair but blessedly lack the mustaches.
            Mike thinks I’m really cool. He says that I am better at chopping stuff than anyone else who works there, and that I work faster, and that the end result of my work looks better. This is all true. But sometimes it’s weird because he seems to pay too much attention to me, even to the detriment of my co-workers, who all need and deserve attention. I suspect that they will eventually come to resent me, and that it will be due mostly to how he spends too much time talking to me and praising my work. I have only worked there a week, and he tells me that he could help me out if I want the assistant manager position that is allegedly opening up soon in the Deli-Café. He has thrice invited me to have an after-work beer with him and some of the others. On each occasion I have been ready with a polite excuse with which to deflect this unpleasant engagement. I’d almost suspect that he was starting to chickenhawk me. Maybe he thinks I’m cute, right? It’s happened before, yo. Would certainly not be the first time, son! But then when I overhear him talking with the other older dudes who work around there, I hear him engage in dumb jokes. I somehow mentioned that you were recently in Wisconsin. One of the other dudes said, “Only thing in Wisconsin is steers and queers!” And they all laughed, including Mike. It’s really stupid.
            Some of the foods I prepare there: macaroni salad, macaroni and cheese, tortellini salad, baked beans, three-bean salad, green bean casserole, potato salad, scalloped potatoes, mashed potatoes, meatloaf, Salisbury steak, country fried steak, carrot salad, broccoli salad, tuna salad, chicken salad and ham salad. A new gelatinous fruit/whipped cream salad based on the kudzu fruit, and a salsa made from it for the weekly taco bar. The meat for the taco bar, its shredded lettuce, shredded cheese, sour cream and regular non-kudzu salsa. I volunteered yesterday to make the biscuit dough for the breakfast shift because I find that I run out of things to do during my own shift because I work so fast. And you have to stay until the shift ends; you don’t get to just go home when your work is done. There are two breaks during each shift, but I never go on break with the others because they say things like steers and queers and I don’t think I will work there for very long.
            So that’s what’s up with me today.

Dear Arthur,
            This is very odd that I am writing a letter to you, in response to your very odd letter to me. But I think you are correct that I have been slow to catch up in time. I know that your letter was received several days ago, but I somehow feel like I am answering a letter that I just received a moment ago. But I think I am catching up. Each day feels a little more normal.
            But didn’t we see each other each day since you sent your letter? Didn’t we sit at the table and eat dinner together just last night? We did. I know it. We ate fajitas that you made. There are leftovers of it in the refrigerator right now. I just looked to make sure. There was even some kudzu-fruit salsa that you made but which was almost exactly like one that I made in Wisconsin, and we even talked about this for a moment. Why do you have to write a letter to me when we sit together for dinner every night? It makes no sense. Really, why do I need to write a letter to you now when I just had dinner with you last night and expect to do so again tonight? Do we really not ever talk? It feels to me like we do, but maybe it’s just so slow from my perspective, delayed, and you are somehow still ahead of me in time.
            I’ll be ready to talk to you more directly very soon about the important and valid points that you raised in your letter. But we may need a change of scene for it. It might help us both. I am attaching an image that I suspect will interest you.
            [Attached image: Airship Atreides, Moored at the Obelisk, Capital]
            That ship is coming to Argos-Bellona next week. Do we want to get tickets?
            Love you,
So, in last night's post of random thoughts about Delany's Through the Valley of the Nest of Spiders, (the heartrending conclusion of which I'd just reached), I stopped while still wanting to consider to what extent the novel is science fiction and to what extent it is pornography, the genre labels which its author affixes to it (and we already stipulated that it is Real Literature based on the fineness of its writing and the lovely architecture of its narrative).

If SF is still supposed to be that genre where differences between the current real world and the world of the fiction are expressed in terms of scientific and technological changes that may happen in the future (or in an alternate history), then Through the Valley... fits genre-well in that its timeframe reaches into the eighth decade of this century (the Future), and indeed there are a number of science/tech advancements that affect the lives of future people, even if Eric and Shit remain rather isolated from them, quite on the sidelines of it all. But SF has also been far too rigidly, even ideologically, defined as a literature where the entire story and everything about it hinges totally on a principle of science or future tech without the presence of which the entire enterprise collapses and it is no longer, by definition, science fiction. Or: if the same, exact story could be told without the science/tech element, then it's not SF. I have to say that this narrow conception of the genre hamstrung for many years my own attempts to write in it, made me feel I couldn't even try to tell such a story if I didn't have some kind of plausible, ironclad scientific linchpin holding the whole thing together--as if a cadre of real scientists were going to review my work and denounce it as impossible. If SF were to be defined so dogmatically, then maybe Delany's book doesn't make the cut. Because the same story could certainly be told without the futuristic details that abound as the narrative moves later into the century. He could have had the 2030s and 2070s look exactly like our own present year and completely ignored the likelihood that tech and the way people behave around each other may evolve, that cultural norms may shift, that things--as much as they stay the same--will still look different. But that would have been weird, and maybe ridiculous, and certainly detrimental to a story that really must start when it does in real-world years and end when it does in future years. No, what Delany wrote here is SF whether or not it fits a strict Golden Age/Old Men of Science Fiction definition of the genre. And, besides, he's bent the hell out of that old mold for fifty years and is one of the best practitioners of the genre ever. Doubt it? Then read Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand, one of the greatest achievements of space opera ever and packed with more "science" stuff than most writers and readers can easily apprehend in a single book. So, science fiction: check.

But is it also pornography just because it has a lot of graphic sex in it? And it really does have a lot of graphic sex in it, almost, maybe more than is really reasonable even for a novel such as this, so much that the individual scenes occasionally seem far too long and too back-to-back and too repetitive of stuff that happened earlier (but this may be on purpose, pushing the reader to slog through it, because within all this surfeit of bodies and fluid are constantly-discovered little gems about the characters as real people--but you have to work for them, all the while reading about a lot of cocks and cum and snot). It's also a range of sexuality that seems designed to push pretty much every single reader outside his/her comfort zone--even a nearly-no-limits fag like me. The Venn diagram with the deeply purple-shaded area that represents the overlap of every single kink and predilection depicted in this novel's sex-content probably, in real life, contains no one at all (maybe the author himself? But I wonder). So is it porn if its intent/result is not just to titillate, arouse, induce masturbation? As sexy as some of it was to me as I read it, I never responded to it as I might to something tailored as porn for my particular biases and kinks. But if porn is a form or sub-genre within the fantasy genre, then maybe this is a giant accomplishment in that genre.

[Wait, what's fantasy? The intrusion of un-reality? magic? suspension of consensus-reality rules?]

Because in this world that Delany describes, the sex ain't ever bad. It is always consensual and pleasurable--even when among immediate family--and it is always available in the most unlikely locations and at the weirdest times. If you are horny in this world, you will get promptly laid. If you like it with multiple partners at once, they are at your disposal. Any kink you can imagine getting off upon will be available. A truck stop and a giant movie theater are well known as places for public sex among men and they exist openly, totally un-harassed by the law and society (save for some occasional interference from the ineffectual background villain Johnston). Likewise a "Gay Friendly Rest Room" at the market (which scene, by the way, involves some seriously funny comic writing). The protag Eric has a fetish for piss, and so there exists for a while a bar that is designed to make his  fantasies real, almost as if it were put into business years before specifically anticipating his arrival in town. This is why the porn of Through the Valley... is a whole different thing than the porn of Delany's earlier novel Hogg (written way, way back even before Dhalgren but not published until many years later). There's no horror, coercion or brutality in this newer book. Instead, it's a sex utopia. Fantasy, even if it's not your particular personal fantasy. So, if porn is fantasy-about-sex, then this novel works easily, almost silkily and insidiously, within that definition. 

But is a utopia (science-based or sex-based) of any kind, where everything's easy, inherently boring? I think I just read about one that's not. 

Finished this evening reading Samuel Delany's Through the Valley of the Nest of Spiders. I did this while baking chicken that was later to join avocados and tomatoes and radishes and cucumbers and scallions in a salad for our dinner. I'm glad I didn't finish it earlier this afternoon, when I had the book in my hands while doing laundry. Because then I probably would have been weeping in public at the laundromat instead of alone in my kitchen (Jeffy was away in the front room). 

And I look again at its last page--its very last paragraph, which is this:

--and woke, thinking, in the dark. No. I have a bit more time. He relaxed before the rumoring sea.

And that's not sad at all. It's a relief. But the pages that preceded it, that last awful movement of the shared life story of the two protagonists, those moments before the two together became one alone, were extremely hard to take. I knew what was coming hundreds of pages away and didn't want to experience it, but I needed to know the details anyway because I adored those characters. It's not the common novel that follows two people in life and love from their teens years all the way until their late eighties and end of life in the late 21st century. 

I worked for a couple of years as the cook for a residential (and end-of-life) facility for people with dementia. I thought of them a lot as I read about Eric Jeffers' and Shit Haskell's final days together. I have a grandmother who, at 96 years of age, still lives in reasonable health but has less and less memory as time passes, particularly of anything that happened more recently than three decades ago. And less still of anything that happened today. 

The last couple hundred pages of the book, read over the last few days, which dwell more and more upon aging (and which are almost interrupted from time to time by funerals for and mentions of the deaths of characters from earlier in the book), have made me feel older. No, that's not true. It's made me think about being old more than I normally do. Age--my own aging, if I actually live to be truly old--has always been a dismaying abstraction that I'd rather set aside. But what will it really be like, and what will it really be like for me and my partner should we grow that old together (as I increasingly suspect we will)? The characters in this story, Eric and Shit (I won't sanitize it here by using his "proper" name Morgan--he didn't like it and, at his own insistence, nobody hardly ever called him that) live, in their youths and well into their middle-age and later years, a fantastical (possibly preposterously so), sex life with each other and with others, much of it rendered for the reader in detail that Delany himself always calls not "erotica" but rather "pornography." It's a distinction that I am not sure matters, but this book makes me wonder about it. I think about how my partner and I, together for almost thirteen years now, did not ever have anything approaching that crazy a sex life even in the early days (and know we never will in the future) and I wonder if we missed something. Would we have even wanted, in the most excessive fantasy mode of mind, to have had anything like the carnal world that Eric and Shit had? I don't think so. It's over the top. Theirs is a fantasy--it's speculative fiction. The novel becomes science fiction to some extent later in its course, but it's out-and-out fantasy early on. I think so anyway. But not sure if I have reasoned that out completely. 

There's an obnoxious 1-star review of Through the Valley... on Amazon (note to self: keep up with the policy of avoiding user comments on stuff) in which the poster complains generally about the porn element of the book  (I think because he doesn't think it's "hot"), and expresses incredulity that Delany is a published author of a number of books (revealing that he hasn't heard of Delany's long and broad career) and generally bagging on the quality of the writing. He then goes on to suggest that if one wants to read some REALLY interesting and transgressive shit, then one should read some other authors including Dennis Cooper. Years ago, I happened to select for back-to-back reading Dennis Cooper's Frisk and Poppy Z. Brite's Exquisite Corpse, two fairly contemporaneous examples of creepy and squicky horror/murder-porn involving gay characters. Brite's book--regardless whatever any of its detractors may have said about it--didn't blink. It was a fucking horrifying story with a godawful climax and a horrendous denouement, a total success in its mode. Cooper's, on the other hand, did blink. It ended with a sort of "just kidding" or it "it was all a dream" wrap-up. When I read that one, I wondered if the author had planned something else but then fell too much in love with his protag to let it happen. I guess I don't have anything else to say about that other than anyone who thinks that Cooper is a better novelist than Delany needs to read a lot more books. I respect Cooper's work...but damn, he's no Delany.

I gather that part of the aesthetic intent of Through the Valley... is to fuse the contemporary "literary" novel with science fiction and pornography. That the book is Big L literature is plainly apparent, but whether it is also really science fiction or really pornography might be open to discussion. I might take that up in a later post, but not now (cuz not quite done wiping away tears and snot from how sad those last few pages were!)
I am past the half-way point of Through the Valley of the Nest of Spiders (Samuel Delany) and still liking it a lot. It's actually become easier to enjoy as it's gone on, but one side-effect is that its characters and locations are seeping into my dreamscape. But what's really weird is that it somehow seems to have somehow seeped into my boyfriend's dreamscape as well, and he has never read a word of the book! And I hadn't told him anything about it either (he finds it intensely tedious if I try to explain to him what I am reading). We were in the living room a few nights ago and I dozed on the couch. During this short nap, I had experienced a fleeting snippet of a dream set in what my mind has constructed to be the house that the main characters live in, a small, shabby thing in a small coastal Georgia town. When I awoke, I told him that I was heading to bed and that I'd just had a dream about this shack in Georgia, a setting of that novel. Then J said, "I had a dream last night that was in some kind of shack like that." Then he described how, in the dream, he became involved with people who were having all kinds of incestuous and kinky sex. I asked him if there as an older white guy there. He said there was and added that there was also a younger mixed-race dude and a young blond guy. In other words, he saw the book's lead characters in their home. Not sure how or why he managed to have this dream, but it's super-weird. I am not aware of any past situation where have shared dream-content like this but now I want to encourage him to talk about his dreams more often. He doesn't like to do that, always says he can't remember much, but I am going to ask a lot more now. 
I haven't been maintaining my pointless journal lately, and it's been driving me crazy. My work life the past few months has been so intense that I have had no time for much of anything. But that's settling a bit--we're entering a mid-season mitigation of insanity--and I am done with regular M-Brane tasks for a while, and I have been carving out a bit of normalcy. Which should really include babbling in this journal and then advertising that I have done so. Just like in the old days. For tonight's post, I have no particular topic other than recapping what's been on my mind outside of work lately.

Reading Books!: Anyone who knows me very well might be stunned to learn that in the year 2012, which is nearly half-over-with, I have read exactly ONE book plus 206 pages of second one (whilst in 2009, for example, I think I tore through about 100 titles). But what a wonderful, huge, weird and totally crazy long-ass book that one was: Haruki Murakami's 1Q84. Clocking in at nearly a thousand pages, this giant hardback city of weirdness, given to me by Jeff for X-mas, engrossed me for months. In usually very short installments. I actually read most of its bulk on laundry mornings at the laundromat. And then I'd struggle to return to it at night on the couch after work. But inevitably doze off from exhaustion, sometimes after having read as little as a single new sentence. At this pace of reading such a long book, in sessions of as little as 30 seconds at a time, it's not too hard to figure out why it took me so long to get done with it. Weird fact: just a few days after I finally finished it, it developed that Jeff's mom had heard about the book from one of her friends (who had listened to an audio book of it, which must have taken about six months to listen to) and so she wanted to read it herself. Wouldn't think it would be her thing. But she borrowed my copy. Haven't heard back yet on how it's going.

Now I am 206 pages into another thick read, Samuel Delany's long-awaited Through the Valley of the Nest of Spiders, and I have somehow managed that number of pages in just a few days. Yesterday I glanced over at Jo Walton's review of it on and I felt that I share some of the  reviewer's sentiments: it's really hard to enjoy it at first (Christopher is not at all into the lead character's obsession with nose-picking and snot-eating!), but then it sets its hooks in. I think I am going to love it, even though I occasionally have to avert my eyes a bit at an especially squicky passage. Before I glance back it at it and really read it anyway. Delany's a favorite author for me and I love having this thick new volume. For someone who hasn't read Delany before, however, and wants a sense of his whole body of work, this may not be the book to start with. It revisits a lot of the sex aesthetic of a much earlier work, Hogg, and like that earlier work, fuses "Literature" with some of the dirtiest (literally) hardcore pornography that I can recall ever having read. But this new book is not the gruesome and nearly altogether hopeless horror story that Hogg is. It seems like it's coming from a much brighter place. And it's got a character that I am falling in bookworld-love with, its young protagonist Eric who gets more awesome chapter-by-chapter, even when he is making boneheaded decisions (please finish high school, honey!). But then I consider his rationale, and I wonder who I am to say he's not making a good choice. He's going to be another Delany character that lingers with me for a long time after I have finished reading the book. As the story opens, he seems to be in a role somewhat analogous to that of silent Cocksucker in Hogg but with much more free will, and not nearly so much the receptacle and void of corruption that Hogg's lead was. But as the story has gone on, Eric has turned into something else entirely. He is going to stay with me like the fractured Kid and  the sweet Denny from Dhalgren, and the other very scary Denny from Hogg, and Rat Korga from Stars in My Pocket Like Grain of Sand, and Comet Jo from Empire Star. I'll report back on this book later.

Other Junk!:

1) I was greatly victorious at the June installment of the monthly wine dinner that I chef at the Botanical Garden. It was themed to go along with the Chinese Lanterns Festival in progress there now (San Francisco-accented Chinese food with Napa wines). Everything about it--the specific venue within the Garden, my menu, the makeshift kitchen, etc.--conspired against success, but we totally dominated. It was hard as hell, but when it's that difficult and it all goes perfectly, then that's what constitutes triumph.

2) I am looking ahead with some dread at Jeff's impending vacation to New Mexico to visit a friend. I can't go with him due to work this summer, and I just realized that I have never once spent more than a couple hours at a time alone in our current home and have a hard time imagining its emptiness when he is not here for days. It's gonna freak the cats.

3) Of late, I find it difficult to get out of my head Justin Bieber's "Boyfriend" song. Once any portion of it is heard, it replays in the background of my mind for a long time. What's annoying about this is that I probably would never have been aware of this tune were it not for the fact that the staff in my production kitchen at work constantly listens to a top-hits pop station on radio (later in the morning after they rebel against my selection of the local NPR affiliate) that only has eight or ten songs in its rotation, and one of them lately is this insidious Justin Bieber song. But what's really kind of fucked-up about the whole situation is that I don't really mind! I actually totally love this song! I think I am going to spread the contagion even further now:

4) An upside to having come down with the above-described affliction: I recently had a dream that Bieber was cast as Feyd-Rautha in a new Dune film, and in the dream context this seemed like a totally awesome idea. It still kinda does. Maybe I am still dreaming.

5) Got some new writing done yesterday, about 2000 words of it. This is best one-day achievement in many months. 
I said I'd not say much about tomorrow's exercise in representative democracy (plus a bunch of dumb-ass ballot measures) but I was amused and delighted by the following, a quotation from the letters of H.P. Lovecraft (thanks to writer Mark W. Tiedemann for putting it in a Facebook update):

"As for the Republicans—how can one regard seriously a frightened, greedy, nostalgic huddle of tradesmen and lucky idlers who shut their eyes to history and science, steel their emotions against decent human sympathy, cling to sordid and provincial ideals exalting sheer acquisitiveness and condoning artificial hardship for the non-materially-shrewd, dwell smugly and sentimentally in a distorted dream-cosmos of outmoded phrases and principles and attitudes based on the bygone agricultural-handicraft world, and revel in (consciously or unconsciously) mendacious assumptions (such as the notion that real liberty is synonymous with the single detail of unrestricted economic license or that a rational planning of resource-distribution would contravene some vague and mystical ‘American heritage’…) utterly contrary to fact and without the slightest foundation in human experience? Intellectually, the Republican idea deserves the tolerance and respect one gives to the dead."
-- Letter to C.L. Moore, August 1936 quoted in H.P. Lovecraft, a Life by S.T. Joshi, p. 574
Don't anyone even think about bothering to inform me by way of comments that Lovecraft also held a lot of other views with which I would disagree. I know he was a racist and anti-Semite, but so was nearly every other WASPy person in New England in the early twentieth century, and few WASPs seriously questioned the innate racial superiority of WASPs in those days, so HPL was in no way outside the mainstream of his society and time period in that regard, whatever we may think of it now. I know all that already. But what I dig about the above passage is how it remains such an appropriate assessment of the modern GOP even coming from such a different time. Things really have not changed that much. Indeed, if HPL returned from the dead now and assessed the current nature of the Republicans, he'd probably be even more disgusted. The alliance between the GOP and the religious loons happened decades after HPL's time, and I wonder if he would have imagined that such nuttiness could survive so far into the future. After all, while he had strong views on issues of the day, he also held that human affairs are important only the human scale and that really, on the scale of the universe, we don't matter at all. I suspect that he would find the prevalence of religious fundamentalism and its close alliance with kooky political regimes in the 21st century to be quite disgusting. And he'd probably say something very much like his words from 75 years ago.

Apropos of nothing, the image below is one I snagged in a random Google search. These rather attractive turn-of- the-20th-century youths are evidently HPL's high school class. But I can't say with certainty which, if any, of them are the man himself, though one in particular looks like him (he supposedly skipped school a lot and may have missed picture day). I like how their uniforms say "HOPE."


For close to a year I have been talking about publishing a fantastic book, including two novels published back to back, in the style of the old Ace Doubles. Gradually, I have cleared away the obstacles to bringing this dream to fruition. First, I needed to figure out how the hell, on my computer, to flip half the book's pages upside down (the two halves of the double are compiled in a tete-beche design, each upside down in relation to one another, a book with essentially two front covers, and I didn't want to pursue the project until the formatting issues were understood). I solved that problem.  Next, I needed two fantastic short novels of beautiful quality and compelling storytelling. These came to me in the form of The New People by Alex Jeffers and Elegant Threat by Brandon Bell. Alex and Brandon are two of my favorite writers--not just of writers that I have met and worked with as a result of M-Brane SF, but in general. They are both craftsmen of finely-wrought thought-provoking fiction. Their stories forthcoming in The Double will delight and astound readers and make everyone want to read more from them. A lot of luck surrounded acquiring these stories, too. Alex submitted his to the general M-Brane slush, with the comment that he was taking me at my word that there is not an upper word-count limit for submissions to the zine. As I started reading The New People, I understood that I had the first half of my Double. Then, not hopeful of a favorable reply, I asked Brandon if he happened to have any short novels lying about that he might want to submit for the Double. He surprised me by offering to finish his in-process Elegant Threat or write on the fly an entirely new thing set in the Aether Age universe. Either sounded great to me, and he soon presented the beautiful item that the world will soon read.

But one piece of the project remained: this book demanded two lovely pieces of cover art that would not only evoke the tone of the stories but which would hearken back to the era of publishing that I am trying to honor with the Double format itself. I don't quite remember how the thought/decision process played out, but several months ago it became clear to me that the Double's cover artist needed to be my partner-in-all-things, my boy, my #1 crush, the artist known as J, my Jeff. He does not recall how or why he agreed to this. I assume it was a drunken boast to which I then held him accountable. Jeff is very talented visually. If such things run in families, it would make sense since his late father was a commercial artist and a fine artist. Jeff would be horrified that I am posting these comments on the internet, but he never reads my Live Journal, so I can rest assured that he will never know about it (it's like hiding in plain sight). 

In the month's since he agreed to create the Double covers, Jeff mostly fought against it tooth and nail, even occasionally denying that he had ever said he would do it. To which I would insist that he had committed in an irrevocable iron-clad fashion to deliver two book covers to me on time. Then he would occasionally acquiesce and act like he was about to start work on them. He would ask me for visual prompts, doubting his own mind's-eye impression. He kept saying, "I don't know sci-fi. I'm not a sci-fi artist." To which I would say, "You don't even know what 'sci-fi' is. But you know how to draw stuff." His process (which I have seen on a lot of other projects, art and otherwise), is to fight, stall and resist until somehow, suddenly, the moment is right. He does not respond pressure on anything (not just talking about art here). But when he decides he sees what he wants to do, then it's suddenly done. In both cases with these cover pictures, he set aside most of the suggestions that I made or that I passed onto him from the authors and went with a subjective impression of the overall attitude of the stories. The New People image catches some literal detail--a faint suggestion of a space elevator cable vanishing into the sky, smoke rising above a city--but does not depict any actual scene from the story in a direct way. The Threat cover is rather abstract in design and depicts no specific event but it feels to me--as one of the few people who have read the story so far--like something of that world. The two together match very well as being two covers of the same book. While they are quite different images, their color palettes and the emotion that J somehow imbued into the paper make them seem like two sides of the same basic thing.

J is very unhappy with the way these images look on the computer, as above. For the actual print book, however, I will be using high-resolution scans of his pictures and they will be nearly as lovely as the hand-made originals.  I'll be starting a pre-order special on the book soon, and we estimate December 1 as release date.
I posted on the M-Brane blog a bunch of links to other people's posts remembering the late Jamie Eyberg, writer and friend to writers.
I haven't posted  a new "Dream Journal" entry in a while. My dreamscape since the move back to STL has been fairly prosaic and literalistic without a lot of weirdness that's worth noting. This is not necessarily a bad thing. It may just be a symptom of a generally more balanced, even-keeled, calm mental state in recent weeks.  But I did experience this sleep-borne oddity last night:

I was in an electronics store, like Best Buy. And I was tasked with assisting none other than Isaac Asimov (the late author, if somehow you didn't know) in selecting a television to purchase. He looked much as he does in this picture:

As we considered various models of TV, I somehow became uncomfortably aware of the fact that Asimov might not have enough money to buy any of the TVs that he was considering and became concerned that I might need to find a way to gracefully and discreetly cover the cost of it without embarrassing him. Why Asimov was broke in this dream, I have no idea. I also had the sense that he wasn't all there mentally either, as if he were displaying symptoms of the onset of Alzheimer's. A salesperson approached us and I found myself under great stress, thinking I needed to protect Asimov from people finding out that he was shopping with no money and was in mental decline. To make matters more uncomfortable, Asimov insisted that he wanted to look at a "gas TV," and neither the salesman nor I knew what that was. [ Waking world note: could he have meant a plasma screen? I remember my father considering whether to get an LCD or plasma TV a few years ago, and he said he had heard that the plasma models have some kind of gas that can leak out--whether this is true, I have no idea, I still own a cathrode ray tube TV.]  My discomfort increased as Asimov started getting agitated over our ignorance of the gas TV, and I felt a flash of anger when I realized that the salesman seemed to smirking and chuckling at the old man's behavior.  I'm not quite sure how this ended, but that seems to have been the end of it, and I woke up much pleased to be done with that situation.

So...what the hell's up with that? That tendency to want to guard the feelings and dignity of an elderly person who isn't functioning very well is very natural to me, so that part makes sense, and the dream felt very realistic in that way. But why Isaac Asimov? My mind could have dredged up a lot of older people that I actually know to play out that same scenario, so why an author who's been dead for a couple of decades and whom I never met? I wonder if the reader/literary part of my subconscious was puzzling over something to do with the literature or generation of writer that Asimov represents. Very, very odd, whatever it's about.

While I never met Asimov, I was very proud as a teenager to have received a handwritten note from him in response to a letter that I had written to him. During the period when I was publishing my Star Trek fanzine, I did some coverage of a campaign that a bunch of Trek fans were running to induce the Postal Service to issue a stamp with the starship Enterprise on it. Back then, they generally didn't do stamps with media images like that, so it was an uphill battle. Someone in that stamp committee claimed that a lot of notable sf folks were backers of the Trek stamp campaign (and some indeed were), and that one such supporter was Asimov. So, wanting to get first-hand quotes for my article, I wrote to Asimov asking if he'd care to comment on this effort. In the margins of my letter, he wrote, "I am afraid I have no knowledge of the stamp campaign." For a long time after that, I'd pick up that letter and look at it, dazzled that the man who had written Foundation put pen to my piece of paper!
I get a lot of my writing prompts from dreams. Both novels that I have attempted to write in recent times (my sf novel tentatively titled Shame and my NaNoWriMo novel Days of the Dust and the Diane Rehm Show) both originated out of events that happened in dreams, as have several short stories. So I should probably do a better job of documenting interesting dreams when they happen in case something useful happens during them. So I might just do that here in my LJ instead of trying to start a separate dream journal that I will forget exists and not bother returning to often enough for it to be useful.

Early this morning shortly before I woke for the day I dreamt the following:

I was in some sort of college setting that was compiled out of elements of Grinnell College (where I was student from 1989 to 1993) and the Saint Louis Art Museum (where I was executive chef from 1998 to 2003). Speculative fiction writer and well-known blogger K. Tempest Bradford was conducting a film/lecture series that consisted of episodes of Original Series Star Trek and the Planet of the Apes movies. I attended a screening of Return to the Planet of the Apes. During the film there was blurry sequence during which I had a quick, breathless sexual encounter with a dude who used to work for me as a busboy during the Art Museum days. Then events transitioned away from that and I was standing in a lobby outside the screening room speaking with Jeff. We were scheduled to attend a class taught by author and professor Samuel Delany. I told him that I had invited Tempest Bradford to come to the class as a guest speaker because she had a very interesting analysis of Return to the Planet of the Apes and the Star Trek episode "The Lights of Zetar" and I was sure that Professor Delany would be interested in hearing it. Next, we were seated in our "classroom," though it was located outdoors on the campus grounds in an area that looked like the central campus area in front of the Forum at Grinnell during an autumn morning. In this outdoor space, we were seated around the briefing room table from Star Trek, complete with the view screens as in this image of Kirk sitting at that same table aboard the Enterprise:

So we sat at the table and waited. I somehow knew that Bradford would be delayed. Professor Delany and my classmates (who were Jeff and my long-lost friend and co-worker Jimi from the Museum days) seemed impatient with the delay and I felt very much under pressure. I felt as if I were being regarded as a fool for having sidetracked the class with this Planet of the Apes/Star Trek business. Jimi kept looking at a pocket watch and fidgeting. Jeff looked at me with some amusement at my discomfort. Delany, however, did not seem to mind and made some remarks about Star Trek, including referring to some "lost episodes" (this is a perennially recurring thing in my dreams: ever since I was young teenager, I've dreamed that there exist lost episodes of original Trek that will one day resurface, and I am always very disappointed when I awaken and know it's still not true). Jimi seemed increasingly impatient for the class to end, and I pointed out that it was scheduled to last for another hour anyway whether or not my guest speaker ever showed up. "It's true," Delany said. Then I guess I woke up.

I don't know if any of the elements in this dream have any particular "meaning" beyond just being the usual subconscious clatter of memories and desires, but I wonder if the relatively comforting thought of being back in college surfaces in dreams because of mounting real-world stress about what the future holds for me vocationally. I wonder if there's any way I could go back to grad school? Would I even want to? We're moving away from OKC soon, and even though I badly want to get out here, I think I am very worried about the next phase.
I just read in Samuel Delany's book About Writing an interview that he did in 1999 for the St. Mark's Poetry Project. The first question was, "What form/shape will writing of the twenty-first century take?"

Delany's response, in part: "I can't believe that you're really frivolous enough to think, because I am a science fiction writer, I have some privileged, informed or even interesting take on the future, more than do ditch diggers, dry cleaners, insurance salesmen--or, indeed the run of the mill poet or novelist...Once, about twenty-five years ago, some people in Missoula, Montana, flew SF writers Frank Herbert (Dune), Frederik Pohl (Gateway), and me to take part in an audience-packed, Saturday-night panel that addressed the question, 'What is the future of Montana geological study and mining?' They were incredibly impressed with their own cleverness and originality in inviting some science fiction writers along with the geologists and mining engineers who were the program's other participants. The organizers were quite convinced no one had ever done such a thing before. We were each paid five hundred dollars for our appearance...But I'm doing this interview for free. Therefore, you have to compensate me with intelligent and reasonable questions about which it's possible to say something interesting, based on something I might conceivably know." (p.299)


Though I would hate to be the person on the other end of that, the more I read by Delany, the more I think he might be the coolest dude EVAR.
The most recent This American Life (PRI/Chicago Public Radio, carried on most NPR affiliates, podcasts available as well) was a rebroadcast of “The Book That Changed Your Life,” and featured a hilarious segment by David Sedaris describing an event from his youth when he and his sisters came into possession of a trashy, pornographic novel full of incest and depravity going on in some kind of suburban setting. During the days of this book, as it was passed among Sedaris and his siblings, they came to suspect that under the thin veneer of life as they thought they had known it, there was a world of rampant, insatiable and bizarre sexuality, involving everyone that they knew.

This story reminded me of some books that had what might be called a life-changing impact on me. Well, that might be a bit of an exaggeration, but these particular books I have in mind certainly occupied a good deal of my attention for a fairly long time.  They were items from my mother’s secret stash of sex books, such things as the Art of Sensual Massage (replete with black and white photos of naked hairy people massaging each other); a couple of books by Xaviera Hollander (the so-called “Happy Hooker”); and, towering above all the others in its significance (and erection-inducing capacity), Nancy Friday’s stunningly frank anthology of male sex confessions Men in Love, a real classic of the genre to this day. Sure it was vaguely interesting (and a bit creepy) to examine the naked photos in the massage book. Yeah, my jaw hung open in astonishment at Hollander’s perky account of how she took a fourteen-year-old boy’s virginity while his still-younger brother was left to pout in the next room. But the real shit was in Friday’s book.

A thick tome, hundreds of pages of sex and sex and more sex, Men in Love was a major project for me for…I don’t know, a while. Months at least. The content of it is simply one first-person account after another of sexual experiences and sexual fantasies, which I believe she gathered simply by having guys write to her. These stories, accounts, confessions are organized into categories such as masturbation and homosexuality…and some categories that I found incredibly bizarre, such as the “Oedipus complex” section. My immersion in this book at a quite young age seems to have done two different things: 1) I did not really understand that a lot of what I was reading was likely sex fantasy and probably not necessarily real accounts of actual experiences, and so I had a period (similar to what Sedaris describes in his story) of imagining that the world of sex was far, far more varied and interesting and weird than it usually actually is, and that most people are probably secretly involved in some rather kinky activities; and 2) It may have contributed to the fact that I passed through puberty and my teenage years being (at least internally, privately) quite comfortable with things like samesex and opposite-sex interests and impulses because (if Men in Love was to be believed) practically everyone was having similar feelings, or even “weirder” ones. Like enjoying the drinking of urine during sex. Also, masturbation was totally non-controversial to me because I knew from my earliest days of it that everyone was doing that, too, whether they wanted to admit to it or not, and a lot of my evidence for this was contained in Men in Love.

I don’t actually own a copy of this book, and never have. I only read it during sessions of sneaking it out of my mother’s hiding spot when no one was home. If I were to happen upon it in a used bookshop, I might be tempted to bring it home and see if it still contains any of its kinky magic. Somehow, I doubt it would be the same. But it would be fun to page through it again and see what it makes me feel like all these years later. 

A moment of serious  geekdom:  The other day, I noticed that I and a few other people were included in a Twitter #followfriday shout-out from writer Dayton Ward. He is probably best known for his Star Trek tie-in books and is generally a cool dude. He is someone whom I follow on Twitter and with whom I exchange some Twitter dialogue once in a while, and I frequently recommend him to other tweeters. So there’s nothing unusual in the fact that we would mention one another in #followfriday recs from time to time. But what jumped out at me this time was the fact that one of the other people mentioned in that same tweet along with me was Bob Greenberger.

About 23 years ago (goddamn, saying that makes me feel old), I was a fifteen-year-old publishing a Star Trek fanzine. I was also a big fan of DC’s Trek comic book series. Greenberger was the editor of that title at the time. My co-editor and I decided that it would be a spectacular coup if we could manage to get an interview with Greenberger to publish in our zine. Our process of getting such interviews was to write to Trek luminaries and ask them if we could call them on the phone or send questions for written response--remember, this was the mid-1980s, there was no web or email, so this was all done on paper and by the US Postal Service. Usually we would get no reply at all, but occasionally people would respond. We had already done such interviews with authors David Gerrold and Vonda McIntyre by this method (Gerrold over the phone and McIntyre on paper). So I was delighted to get a reply from Greenberger’s office, which seemed favorable toward granting our interview but requesting that we first send a media kit to his assistant (we didn’t know what that was and had to research it), and then arrangements would be made. So there was correspondence and even a couple of phone calls to Greenberger’s office...and it seemed somewhat a hassle to get through the official hoops and actually get the interview scheduled. Then, to my horror, my co-editor, who was getting impatient to get this article done, called Greenberger’s office and left a rather rude message complaining about his assistant and what a pain she was to work with and couldn't we please just bypass her and get to business? Thanks!

I did indeed get a phone interview with Bob Greenberger, but first I had to issue a very embarrassing phone apology to him and his assistant for our zine's rudeness. Looking back on it, I think he understood that we were dumb kids and perhaps had some sympathy for us. He did give us the interview, after all, when he probably should have just told us to fuck off. So anyway, after I saw the Twitter handle @bobgreenberger in Dayton’s tweet along with my own @mbranesf, I think I gasped a little bit. I know I thought to myself, “Could that be the same Bob Greenberger that I am thinking of?” I checked his profile and, sure enough, it was the same guy. My next thought was, “Damn, I hope he doesn’t decide for some reason to look at my profile and somehow figure out that I am that dumb-ass kid who bungled into an interview with him over two decades ago.” I realized that I was a still (quite irrationally) very embarrassed over the details of my encounter with Greenberger all those years ago, so much so that it actually seemed plausible for a moment that he would still remember any of that!  Or care about it!  When in fact I’m sure he forgot all about it immediately after it was finished, and even if I were to speak to him again now and recount all these details, I am certain that he would have no idea what I’m talking about.

Once I realized how silly my initial reaction was, I felt better about it. Indeed, I felt rather pleased, in a very geeky way, to be mentioned in the same Twitter-breath with someone of that stature and someone so well remembered from my Star Trek fanboy past.

[The image is of an issue that was written by Walter "Chekov" Koenig. I had a copy of it.]

My day job (for the moment anyway) is located in a facility for people who, for the most part, are in late-to-end-stage dementia. The lives these people live, the way they are spending their closing years or months, and the great ignorance with the way people conduct themselves around them, is all too painful to contemplate, and I experience something heart-breaking every time I am there. I myself frequently have death on my mind as a possible near-term option. I probably won’t resort to that anytime soon, because I always emerge from the depression eventually. But if it ever happens that I end up with the choice of dying by my own hand, or perhaps with some help, or dying of Alzheimer’s, I know I will make the same choice that Terry Pratchett evidently has. (Usually this topic ends up causing me to go off onto a tangent and start ranting about embryonic stem cell research and how dumb I think the "pro-life" ideology is, but I'll spare everyone that today.)

I could just link to the original article, but I want to keep record of this remarkable item in my own journal. So I reprint here, in full, Terry Pratchett’s essay, with acknowledgement to Pratchett and the Daily Mail. Thanks, Sir Terry, for saying this and thanks to the Mail for spreading the word. If you would rather read it at the newspaper’s site (there are several photos accompanying), then the link is  , and it is preceded by an article summarizing Pratchett’s comments. I would skip down past that and get right to his own words.


We are being stupid. We have been so successful in the past century at the art of living longer and staying alive that we have forgotten how to die. Too often we learn the hard way. As soon as the baby boomers pass pensionable age, their lesson will be harsher still. At least, that is what I thought until last week.

Now, however, I live in hope - hope that before the disease in my brain finally wipes it clean, I can jump before I am pushed and drag my evil Nemesis to its doom, like Sherlock Holmes and Moriarty locked in combat as they go over the waterfall.In any case, such thinking bestows a wonderful feeling of power; the enemy might win but it won't triumph.

Read more... )


So the other other night, Jeff and I watched Erik Nelson's film Dreams with Sharp Teeth, a biography of Harlan Ellison. Here's a decent review of it if you want more information than what I'll probably provide. J and I suck at watching our discs from Netflix anymore. Fortunately I had the sense last year to downgrade our plan to the one where you only have one disc in the house at a time. This one had been sitting here for at least two months, forgotten about. But the reason I don't cancel Netflix entirely is because I don't want to cut off completely the possibility of getting a film at home like this one, a film that I would never purchase my own copy of (I do not buy DVDs ever anymore, both because I can't afford them, and because I think that owning hardcopy media for films is going to look silly in a couple years, and because if I need it badly enough, Netflix can send me the disc or in some cases stream it to my computer) ...and which I would probably not find at a video store should I ever resort to going to one (again, a thing I have not done since the advent of Netflix and cannot imagine doing anymore).

Strangely, it was J himself who remembered that we had this disc sitting around and suggested we watch it. I had assumed that if I ever saw it at all, I would be seeing it alone because J really doesn't (or rather didn't) know anything about Harlan Ellison and is generally not that interested in such subjects. As it turned out, he was fascinated by the film and very much enjoyed learning about this author of whom he had probably never heard other than whatever references to him that he may have absorbed osmotically from me over the years. Since I already knew a lot about the subject, the content of the film was much as I expected, except I was impressed at how well put-together it was, the way it carried its narrative from start to end, how sensitive it was in places. It also featured a lot of great guests such as Neil Gaiman, Peter David, Dan Simmons, Ron Moore and (oddly I thought) Robin Williams.  J was both intrigued and horrified by the interior of Ellison's house, which is shown in some detail. He keeps our place quite tidy and organized and would never go in for the sheer amount of crap that Ellison has stuffed into every nook and cranny of his place. But the more he saw of it, the more J appreciated its eclectic charm, and he could some small similarities between it and something that we might do if we had the space and resources. While he himself is not a big reader of stuff like that, J has always been positive about my substantial collection of books and has never taken the attitude prevalent on the home shows that books are clutter and that your bookshelves need to be filled instead with snow globes and gold-framed photos of your smiling children and plenty of shit from Pier One. I haven't counted my own books lately, and have not been able to buy very many new ones in recent years, but I think I have perhaps 1500 volumes. I know the total is over 1000 but certainly less than 2000 (including perhaps 150 cook books which sit in another room). Ellison's personal library is said to include over a quarter of a million books. So while I own more books than probably 98 percent of the civilian population--and have alternately freaked out and pissed off people with the mass of it over the years--my collection compared to Ellison's is a total joke, and as a book owner I am, compared to him, a mere [fill in Yiddish epithet].

So anyway, Jeff liked the books in Ellison's house even if he was less sure about the general ambience of clutter and tumbling heaps of stuff.  And, of course, he thought it was "bugfuck crazy" that Ellison still works on that goddamned Olympia typewriter.  Actually he has several back-ups: in one scene he shows Robin Williams his storage shelves where he keeps his back-up Olympias and explains that he stores his ribbons for them in a refrigerator to preserve them for as long as possible since you can't get replacements anymore. While I cannot imagine working on a typewriter anymore, I have a bit of nostalgia for this because I taught myself my rather Ellisonian two-finger (but fast) typing style on a typewriter similar to his when I was a young kid and I used that typewriter to produce most of the text for my Trek fanzine during the high school years. 

Watching this film, with all of its vintage and 60s and 70s and early 80s footage of a younger Ellison, being all hip and very much of his era, must have laid a lot of imagery and tone down into my unconscious mind, because I ended up having a dream that night that had a lot of this old-style counter-culture vibe to it, and it actually looked like somewhat grainy, somewhat yellowed film or video footage from the 60s or 70s. Ellison himself was not in the dream, but the people who were in it (mostly real people that I actually know from various points in my life in different guises) were mostly wearing big tinted glasses and had that 70s kind of haircut that groovy guys like Ellison always had back then.  I don't remember all the details of the dream, but it was set mostly in my home and most of the other people there seemed to be involved in writing and zine-editing and things of that nature. Then at some point my attention was drawn to a device that someone at the meeting or party or whatever it was had brought and was suggesting that we all try out. The device is strange to describe. It basically consisted of what looked like a coffin-shaped block of water or vapor somehow held intact (forcefield maybe?). It was explained that this contraption was a device for sexual pleasure that could be used either alone or with a partner ( a dude with big tinted glasses and wavy too-long hair explained this to me). The method of using it was simply to get undressed and get inside it. Though it appeared to made of water or some kind of gas, once inside there was no difficulty with breathing.  Once inside, this machine (if it could be called that) created a sensation of being embraced literally all over every inch of one's body at once and an intense sensation of sexual stimulation that would continue and escalate  until...well, until one is finished. As things go in dreams, it was not considered unusual at all that I took this thing for a spin in sight of everyone else as they watched and commented.

But now here is where it gets weird and uber-geeky: while I was engaged in my test drive of the liquid sex coffin, someone else remarked that the device was originally designed by--and I quote exactly from the dream dialogue--"That dude who wrote that story in Again, Dangerous Visions. You know, the one with all the jacking off." I woke up shortly after, somewhat dazzled by what I had experienced in this weird dream and totally needing to find out right fucking NOW what that A,DV reference could be. So, bleary-eyed, I went into the library and got the book off the shelf and started looking at the TOC and then I saw it: Ray Nelson's "Time Travel for Pedestrians." It's an interesting tale as I recall, with a very long but interesting intro by Ellison, but I wonder how well it holds up in modern times--haven't re-read it yet, but I will.  Anyway, for those of you who have read A,DV, you may remember it as this story where--I think, my own memory fades--this dude somehow goes into some sort of hypnogogic state that involves something he is listening to on a tape and  something he is looking at on a wall or something (and maybe drugs, not sure, don't remember) while he simply lies on a bed jerking off. As he pleasures himself thus, he goes on some sort of fantastic time-traveling adventure. I really don't remember it that well, and I have a feeling that it might be very much a thing of its era, but since it was referenced in a dream, I will re-read it.

And, in conclusion, that's how big of a geek I am: while having a sex dream, I remember stories from old sf anthologies.