Dorothy Wright, 1962-2010

     My friend Dorothy died last week, apparently a suicide.  Born in Canada, a naturalized American who grew up in Pennsylvania, she’d lived for many years in London.  She originally moved there to pursue a PhD in biology or biochemistry.  She was close to completing it when she dropped it and took up a career in information technology.  She’d worked for nearly nine years for the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.  She was my friend and more for over twenty-seven years, and she will always be a part of my life – a part of me – even though now she’s gone. 

     I met her in 1982 near the start of the fall semester at UNC-Chapel Hill, when she transferred there from Northwestern.  She showed up at a meeting of either the science fiction club or the astronomy club, wearing a Narnia button.  By the end of the semester we were dating, and soon I asked her to marry me.  We were engaged for about two years, but it didn’t last.  We broke up as a couple for good in the fall of 1985.  That was her decision.  Those two years and that awful sundering were more influential to the course of my life than anything else that happened in it up to the birth of my children.

     She was intense, vibrant, and interested in everything.  I loved science fiction and science, and so did she, but she also loved, and helped to introduce me to, theater, poetry, and classical music. Being with her and around her family – father from England and mother from New Zealand – made me feel more intensely alive and a part of the world than anything else:  more than leaving home, more than being at a large university, more than getting to know the many writers and artists and fellow fans that I began to meet around that time through my involvement with the SF community.

     It’s not possible in a few paragraphs to describe the intensity of that time or of her, or to summarize the many years of long-distance friendship that followed.  She wasn’t perfect.  She craved attention and longed to be part of a larger group, and was willing to sacrifice personal relationships to that longing.  But I don’t think she ever found a group that she could belong to for more than a few years before she either moved on or was, basically, asked to leave.  She could be jealous, envious, and paranoid, features not conducive to healthy group or personal dynamics.  That didn’t matter to me.  I loved her unconditionally.  I don’t know how long I could have held on if we’d stayed together.  Her intensity would have eventually, I’m sure, driven me away.  She held on until April 19.  I’m saddened beyond measure that my luminous, mercurial, exasperating friend is gone.  She helped me become me, and so will always be a part of me.  And I will always miss her.  A paradox.  Nothing could be more appropriate for Dorothy.

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    sad sad

"manned space flight" becomes an oxymoron

I have mixed feelings about the proposed NASA budget that effectively removes manned space flight from the agency's agenda, but that also would boost NASA scientific programs tremendously.  Logically, it makes great sense, but the old science fiction fan in me can't help but mourn over the increasingly high probability that I won't live long enough to see a manned expedition to Mars.  It remains to be seen whether private enterprise or another country, China being the most likely one, will eventually have the means or incentives to ever send people beyond Earth orbit.  Pretty good opinion piece on this here -- -- by Steven Weinberg, someone whose opinion I respect a lot.

success is in my own f---ing eye

This quote from Ricky Gervais has parttimedriver written all over it:  "David Bowie said that after Let's Dance, which is his biggest album ever and obviously not his best, he was doing these stadium gigs and looked out at the audience and suddenly realized that he had Phil Collins fans instead of Iggy Pop fans. And that's how I feel about everything I do: I want Iggy Pop fans."

Nancy Kress

For years I've had a love-hate relationship with the stories of Nancy Kress.  Note that I said "the stories of."  Nancy herself is a sweetheart.  And she's an excellent writer; I wish we had more that were as talented and dedicated.  But with many of her stories I'd find myself positively *hating* something about them.  No need to go into details here, but: "Flowers of Aulit Prison"?  Ruined on page two.  "The Price of Oranges"?  A really pretty good story--but oh, that one damned slip, like stepping into a pothole you didn't see.  "Trinity"?  Don't get me started.  "Beggars in Spain"?  Well, I hear the novel's better and actually does address some of the things I disliked about the story.

So, yeah, there's a lot of her stuff I don't like.  Probably more, percentage-wise, than about anyone else whom I continue to read.  Yes, I continue to read her, because she's still *that* good.  It's actually become something of a thrill, picking up a new (to me) Kress story and wondering if there will be something in it that grates so hard that I'll remember it for years.

So I just now finished a long story by Nancy that did, indeed, have something that grated.  And you know what?  It doesn't matter, not this time.  Because it's *that* good a story.  In fact, I think it's one of the best stories I've read in the past few years.  (Although I should admit that my story consumption is not what it used to be.)  I've been working my way through Kress's collection, Nano Comes to Clifford Falls and Other Stories.  I'm almost finished, and I've enjoyed every one.  They're not all great stories -- some are admittedly (by the author) fluff -- but neither are there any missteps, at least of the kind that screech my personal blackboard.  It's a solid showcase.

That particular long story?  "Shiva in Shadow."  Yes, it has some "ugh! fuzzy New Age stuff" in it (parttimedriver can explain the reference), but, you know what?  It didn't matter.  No--I take that back.  It did matter.  It needed to be in the story to help make it the excellent story that it is.  It also has crashing stars, black holes, shadow matter and uploaded personalities.  It all works.  Everything fits.  It's heart-breaking and wonderfully affirming.  Read it, and ask along with me:  "How did Nancy do that?!"

I'm not worrying anymore about the things I don't like in her stories.  There will always be stories, or things in stories, that just hit me the wrong way.  But I think I've decided that, with Nancy, this has more to do with my own angles and precipices than with her talent.  Of that, there is no doubt.


more twittering

I'm using Twitter more than I expected.  It has about as low a bar as you can expect for getting going.  I'm at  I'm going to try to start gathering and tweeting links to weird news stories out of North Carolina.  I do *not* plan to do that thing where your tweets get reposted to your (this) blog.  I find that annoying.  Blogs is blogs and tweets is tweets and never the twain shall meet.  Mostly.

Anyways, if anyone reading this happens across or knows of any weirdness out of NC -- UFOs, ghosts, cryptids (e.g. Bigfoot, lake monsters, sewer monsters), etc -- then please let me know and I'll tweet it with the #weirdnc hashtag.  I'm more interested in Forteana of a supernatural, paranormal or scientific nature, but might also stray into the occasional "news of weird"-type stories of extraordinarily dumb, lucky, or ludicrous people.  Direct message me here on LiveJournal or e-mail me if you know my address if you have any weird leads.

Hark! hark! the lark at heaven's gate Tweets

Could creating a Twitter account be construed as part of a mid-life crisis?  After all, I am a bit old and set in my ways, and anti-social, for all this social media stuff.  I mean, just look at how ofter you find me gushing here.  However, I'm tired of people asking me "What's this Twitter thing all about?" and my not being able to provide a coherent answer.  So, in order to keep up my techno-creds, you know, the ones I originally got by screwing around on Hazeltine terminals and Apple II computers, I present my Twitter account:

This also counts as my reply to Jay's nudge. So there.

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    garrulous, dammit

Trinoc*con is no more

Word's starting to get around that Trinoc*con has been canceled.  This is correct.  I've seen one posting that said Trinoc*con 2009 was canceled.  This too is correct, but it's my understanding that Trinoc*con in general, and not just for this year, is gone.  Unless someone comes along and starts up the franchise again, there will be no more Trinoc*cons *ever*.  If anybody knows that this is incorrect, please let me know.

I'm okay with this.  It was always a pretty good con, in my opinion.  Keep in mind that I was a founder and always closely involved with it except for last year.  But a large number of its experienced con runners moved away or had kids or just wanted to do something else, and with the economy in the crapper, it's no surprise that the con couldn't continue.  But it was good up until the end, and this way it avoids an embardassing and potentially fiscally devastating denouement.

My thanks to everyone who worked and helped out to make Trinoc*con, pound for pound, the best little con in the Southeast.

marry merry Mary

My son's first-grade teacher gave us a note she confiscated from him, apparently in the act of passing it to a girl.  The note read, "Can you merry me".  My son denied writing the note and said he wasn't passing it; instead, he was trying to find out who really wrote it.  Besides, he added, whoever wrote it didn't know how to spell "marry."  That's proof enough for me that he didn't write it.
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