The value of civility: me and Gene Wolfe

Gene Wolfe and I had a long and rather odd friendship, beginning in 1991 when I invited him to be special author guest for Chimera 2, a tiny sercon I ran in Chicago. I hit it off pretty well with his wife Rosemary, and to some extent with his daughters. Maybe that’s why Gene began inviting me and my husband to lunch with him and Rosemary, and we returned the invitations. Soon we were lunching nearly every month. Often it was just him and me, driving to meet at some restaurant in the vast suburban no-man’s-land between his place in Barrington and mine near the city.

No-man’s-land describes our meeting space pretty accurately, in fact. Gene came from a place one might say was diametrically opposed to my place of origin: He was a Catholic convert, a war veteran, politically quite conservative, and by upbringing a member of the generation born before WWI, although in years he was younger. I’m an animist pagan, a die-hard feminist and lefty, a protester against war, born just barely too young to participate in the 1960s but spiritually of that generation. He grew up in rural Texas, I in the Chicago suburbs. We grew up destined to be not merely alien to one another but enemies.

Our meetings smacked strongly of those wintry scenes one sees in Cold War spy movies, where a man stands at a gate guarded by soldiers with machine guns, looking down a long, high, narrow concrete bridge fenced and over-arched with barbed wire coils, at a distant figure behind a similar gate. The gates open simultaneously. Each walks between the fences to the middle of the bridge, keeping his hands where everyone can see them. Out on the bridge are two hard folding chairs and a little table. One man takes a bottle of vodka and two glasses out of his coat pocket, the other produces a large sandwich wrapped in waxed paper. They sit, share a meal, talk. An hour or two later they return to their separate ends of that long narrow bridge, back to the bosoms of their armies.

Gene and I were terribly careful during our meals to talk of authory things, and tell stories of our pasts in an anecdotal fashion, avoiding every opportunity to touch upon our points of difference. If he referred to a painful event or relationship in his past, it was delicately, with the formality of a member of that lost generation. If I passed a bitter remark about my own past it was with humor. I deferred to him with all the ceremony of the way, let’s say, someone born in 1928 would defer to someone born in 1904. He treated me like a lady, which I most emphatically am not. Mostly I behaved like a lady with Gene. I was raised that way, after all. Continue reading


Owning the Place You Grow Up

My younger daughter, 24 as of last week, came up for a flying visit on her way to a volunteer program she’s doing in upstate California next week. She’s an interesting kid (well, I’d say that anyway, wouldn’t I?) and hanging out with her is always fun. I caught her on her way out from BART (see left) and, after a little bit of administrivia (going home to feed the dog and drop her backpack) we went off to have movie popcorn and see Frozen II. Which is not as good as the first Frozen, but entertaining and sweet-tempered.

And then the kid wanted to go down to the Embarcadero in Sn Francisco and drink wine and watch the sunset. So that’s what we did. Went downtown, bought two cans of wine (honest to God, pull-top cans with a quite drinkable rose) and sat out on the Bay, talking about everything and everyone Continue reading


Meanwhile in Australia

We were all so sane and calm and efficient until now. An exemplary people doing amazing things in a terribly trying time. My friend Conor, who visited his parents for Christmas and spent the early part of the year defending … Continue reading


An Interesting Saturday

That’s what we did last Saturday—something interesting. For something to be interesting, it doesn’t have to be a happy experience. I think things that one does rarely, or goes through for the first time—like the death of a friend, or jury duty, or a trip to South Africa—can be interesting because they are new.

The husband and I sadly, recently lost one of our favorite cats, the last cat, the oldest cat. It was not unexpected, but it wasn’t easy, either. Now, this is not interesting, it’s terrible, and I’ve been here before, many times. However, after a period of mourning and missing that is not quite over, I opened AdoptaPet online and started placing adorable kitties into my favorites list.

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The Rambling Writer Returns to Crete, part 14: A Tour of Knossos, concluded

After a break for a drink in the shadewe’re back to finish our tour of the labyrinth!

NOTE: Of course, Thor and I had to make another trip to Greece, as he’s fallen as much in love with the islands as I am. This time, in addition to other island-hopping, I wanted to return to Crete after 37 years. My first months-long trip was as a hippie backpacker, camping in the ruins and falling under the spell of the mysterious, vanished Minoan culture. This time, I got to introduce Thor to “glorious Kriti” and research more settings for my novel-in-progress, THE ARIADNE DISCONNECT. This new blog series started October 19, 2019, and will continue every Saturday.

If you were with us last Saturday (Jan. 18), we took a break after viewing the dramatic “charging bull” fresco. Ready to pick up Ariadne’s thread and find your way with Thor and me through the twists and turns? Continue reading


New Worlds: Poison

(This post is part of my Patreon-supported New Worlds series.)

It might seem odd to bundle a discussion of poison in with our exploration of medicine, but as the sixteenth-century Swiss physician known as Paracelsus said, “All things are poison, and nothing is without poison; the dosage alone makes it so a thing is not a poison.”

Paracelsus was a pioneer in the use of chemistry in medicine, and the idea that physicians ought to understand the basics of that field. His ideas weren’t completely modern — he leaned heavily on the principles of hermeticism, too, developing them into his own equivalent three-humor framework — but he believed in the importance of antisepsis (rather than assuming that infection was a natural and even desirable part of the healing process), and he understood that not only could poisonous substances sometimes have benefits, but beneficial substances could also be dangerous.

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Here’s what really bothers me as I follow impeachment, the Senate trial, and other political shenanigans in Washington, DC, right now: Aren’t any of these people protecting Trump thinking about their legacies?

Make no mistake about it: Even if Trump and his minions and enablers are successful in destroying democracy and making the U.S. into a haven for oligarchs, history is going to eviscerate him. And them.

I don’t know if our country will ever come back from the damage they’ve done. Like most people, I’m hoping the 2020 election saves us. But even if it doesn’t, even if these people keep winning, their legacies are toast.

I studied a lot of history. You see this over and over. I mean, what do you know about Caligula or Nero? And that was 2,000 years ago. Continue reading


Book Quote Wednesday – Celebrating Gina “Tinkerbell” Miyoko

I’m celebrating the February 11 release of the trade paperback edition of THE ANTIQUITIES HUNTER starring the inimitable Gina “Tinkerbell” Miyoko, private eye. In Book View Cafe’s online bookstore, the prequel novelette, “Tinkerbell on Walkabout” is on sale for $1.99 if you purchase it directly from

“What’d he look like?”

“Like I could tell from that distance?”

I kept my narrowed eyes on her face.

She closed her eyes. “Dark hair, I think. He was wearing a baseball cap and dark glasses. Uh . . . well-tanned or dark-skinned. Slender. Tallish.”

“Ish?” Continue reading


BVC Announces Lightning in the Blood by Marie Brennan

Lightning in the Blood by Marie Brennan
Lightning in the Blood
Varekai 2
by Marie Brennan

Once she had nothing: no name, no memory, no purpose beyond the one her master bound her to fulfill. Now the wandering archon known as Ree must walk an unseen path — one that will lead her toward the untold story of her origins. But the road to the truth is paved with blood . . .

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