Pixel Scroll 4/1/18 Oh Lord, Pixel Let Me Be Misunderscrolled

(1) OKORAFOR INTERVIEW. In the Chicago Tribune, “Nnedi Okorafor talks words, career, ‘Black Panther’ and C2E2”.

Q: You write for adults, the young … is there anything you can’t do?

A: I can’t write poetry.

Q: What does your Google search cache look like?

A: (Laughs.) It looks very eccentric, wide and broad — it can go from looking at political issues and looking at the violence of the herdsmen in northern Nigeria to looking up butterflies. I use the internet, and I enjoy it. I feel like it’s having another brain. So anything that pops into my mind, I’ll look it up, even the slightest thing that I’m curious about. If I’m looking at the rug and wondering what kind of dust mites live in the shade of my vent near the window, I will look that up. The internet is amazing.

(2) STRETCHING FOR DOLLARS. The Dark Magazine hit its Kickstarter goal to fund the zine’s next two years – now they’re shooting for the stretch goal.

And we funded! (Wow). With 61 hours to spare! Now . . . do you think we can hit the first stretch goal in that time? It’s just $882 to get a monthly podcast, pay Kate Baker more, and do an one-off Spanish-language edition . . .

(3) SOUTH PACIFIC. “China’s Tiangong-1 Space Station Has Fallen Back to Earth Over the Pacific” reports the New York Times.

A Chinese space station the size of a school bus re-entered Earth’s atmosphere at about 5:16 p.m. Pacific time on Sunday, scattering its remaining pieces over the southern Pacific Ocean, according to the United States’ Joint Force Space Component Command.

The demise of the station, Tiangong-1, became apparent when radar stations no longer detected it passing overhead. There were no immediate reports of damage or injuries; the likelihood that pieces would land on someone was small, but not zero.

The station may have landed northwest of Tahiti, Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, said on Twitter. That location is north of the Spacecraft Cemetery, an isolated region in the Pacific Ocean where space debris has frequently landed.

(4) PROBLEMATIC PRIZE. Brian Keating, author of Losing the Nobel Prize, will appear April 25 at UCSD’s Atkinson Hall Auditorium beginning at 5:30 p.m. Free ticketed event/RSVP here.

Presented by the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination and the UC San Diego Library

Please join us for a profound discussion that explores the perils of science’s highest honor with astrophysicist Brian Keating and celebrated science fiction writer David Brin… A book signing and reception will follow the talk; books will be available for purchase from the UC San Diego Bookstore.

…Keating’s book tells the story of how the Nobel Prize, instead of advancing scientific progress may actually hamper it, encouraging speed and greed while punishing collaboration. Keating offers practical solutions for reforming the prize.

Keating is a professor of physics at UC San Diego; a fellow of the American Physical Society; and co-leads the Simons Observatory. He’s the author of more than 100 scientific publications and holds two U.S. patents. In addition, he’s a recipient of a NSF CAREER Award and the Presidential Early Career Award.

(5) HAL 9000. So should we say Martin Balsam was HAL 8999, because Douglas Rain ended up being HAL 9000? “The Story of a Voice: HAL in ‘2001’ Wasn’t Always So Eerily Calm” from the New York Times.

The story of the creation of HAL’s performance — the result of a last-minute collaboration between the idiosyncratic director Stanley Kubrick and the veteran Canadian actor Douglas Rain — has been somewhat lost in the 50 years since the film’s release in April 1968. As has its impact: Artificial intelligence has borrowed from the HAL persona, and now, unwittingly, a slight hint of Canadianness resides in our phones and interactive devices.

… But artificial intelligence was decades from a convincing facsimile of a human voice — and who was to say how a computer should sound anyway?

To play HAL, Kubrick settled on Martin Balsam, who had won the best supporting actor Oscar for “A Thousand Clowns.” Perhaps there was a satisfying echo that appealed to Kubrick — both were from the Bronx and sounded like it. In August 1966, Balsam told a journalist: “I’m not actually seen in the picture at any time, but I sure create a lot of excitement projecting my voice through that machine. And I’m getting an Academy Award winner price for doing it, too.”

Adam Balsam, the actor’s son, told me that “Kubrick had him record it very realistically and humanly, complete with crying during the scene when HAL’s memory is being removed.”

Then the director changed his mind. “We had some difficulty deciding exactly what HAL should sound like, and Marty just sounded a little bit too colloquially American,” Kubrick said in the 1969 interview. Mr. Rain recalls Kubrick telling him, “I’m having trouble with what I’ve got in the can. Would you play the computer?”

Kubrick had heard Mr. Rain’s voice in the 1960 documentary “Universe,” a film he watched at least 95 times, according to the actor. “I think he’s perfect,” Kubrick wrote to a colleague in a letter preserved in the director’s archive. “The voice is neither patronizing, nor is it intimidating, nor is it pompous, overly dramatic or actorish. Despite this, it is interesting.”

(6) CONNECTING WITH NONHUMANS. Into the Impossible, the podcast of the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination, resumes with Episode 16: Alien Contact: Part 2

We’re continuing our conversation from episode 14 about alien contact by focusing on language barriers: barriers between humans and aliens, humans and animals, and, in what some consider the most alien encounter of all, between scientists and artists. With acclaimed science fiction writer Ted Chiang, dolphin researcher Christine Johnson, and visual artist Lisa Korpos.

(7) BOCHCO OBIT. Before he showed a golden touch with his famed cop series, Bochco wrote the script for SF film Silent Running: “Steven Bochco, creator of ‘Hill Street Blues,’ dies at 74”.

Bochco once recalled a fan telling him that “Hill Street Blues” was the first TV series with a memory.

“That’s what I always thought of myself doing in the context of TV: craft a show that over time would have a memory,” he told The Associated Press in an interview two years ago. “I sensed that very early in my career. It just took me another 10 or 12 years to get to the point where I earned the right to take a shot at it.”

Bochco grew up in Manhattan, the son of a painter and a concert violinist. On arriving in Los Angeles after college, he wrote for several series at Universal Studios. Then he got a big break: writing the screenplay for the 1972 sci-fi film “Silent Running.” But Bochco said the disrespect he confronted as the writer soured him on writing for the big screen.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Rich Lynch found April 1st’s Non Sequitur theme suitable for the date.

(9) GAME ANIMALS. I think my main reason for running this is that I recognized the Animal Crossing reference — my daughter used to play it by the hour: “Mineko’s Night Market is a cat-filled spin on Animal Crossing”. The rest of you will like it because the game involves cats.

The world of Mineko’s Night Market is one obsessed with cats. Felines roam freely around its cartoony, cutesy island. Mini-games make sport of their adventures, and occasionally they’ll trail after you like ducklings behind their mother. On Mount Fugu Island, inhabitants even worship cat deities — specifically, the Sun Cat, a portly, upright creature called Abe. Developer Meowza Games has made no secret of its love of one specific animal, but the pleasing aesthetic of its upcoming game only lends to the friendly, approachable atmosphere of it all.

Mineko’s Night Market, launching this year, follows a girl named Mineko who’s recently moved to Mount Fugu Island. She currently runs a market, but it’s been in a financial pinch as of late. Players spend their time collecting weird items and crafting, as well as selling their goods around the island. Brandi Kobayashi, half of the team at Meowza, says the game draws from folklore and aims to be a more narrative adventure than one built around resource gathering. Part of Mineko’s journey will involve unraveling the mystery around Abe, who’s been spotted around the island as of late.

(10) FILERS IN NEW ZEALAND. Hampus Eckerman says, “This is me and Soon Lee at our filers meetup in Auckland. File 770 is really great in creating connections all over the world!”

Soon Lee and Hampus Eckerman

(11) BUILD A BETTER QUBIT. The future of computing is nigh: “Microsoft gambles on a quantum leap in computing”.

In a laboratory in Copenhagen, scientists believe they are on the verge of a breakthrough that could transform computing.

A team combining Microsoft researchers and Niels Bohr Institute academics is confident that it has found the key to creating a quantum computer.

If they are right, then Microsoft will leap to the front of a race that has a tremendous prize – the power to solve problems that are beyond conventional computers.

In the lab are a series of white cylinders, which are fridges, cooled almost to absolute zero as part of the process of creating a qubit, the building block of a quantum computer.

“This is colder than deep space, it may be the coldest place in the universe,” Prof Charlie Marcus tells me.

(12) APRIL FOOLS. Foreign Policy provides analysis of The King’s Speech (think Chadwick Boseman, not Colin Firth) in “Wakanda Shakes the World”.

It’s been six weeks since the “Wakanda speech,” and the world is still reeling. The announcement by King T’Challa at the United Nations General Assembly that the Kingdom of Wakanda is not a developing nation of textiles, farms, and shepherds — estimated in the 2016 CIA World Factbook to have a GDP per person of approximately $760 — but a technological superpower has left global leaders and analysts stunned. The term “uber-developed” nation has been coined to describe the country’s widespread use of advanced magnetic levitation trains, flying vehicles, opaque holograms, and spinal cord-healing beads.

“Welcome to the Future,” an introductory film produced by Wakanda’s newly founded Ministry of Foreign Affairs, is now the most watched video ever on YouTube. T’Challa himself provides a voice-over describing the country’s semi-mythical history, tracing back to the impact of a vibranium meteorite, and the subsequent foundation of the country by five tribes, giving it the name “Wakanda” — “The Family.” As a camera swoops over brush, the trees themselves seem to glitch, and a futuristic skyline resembling a mixture of New York, Timbuktu, and Cairo appears. The video goes on to detail Wakanda’s claimed hyper-achievements: nanotechnology that allows for replicable organs, an average lifespan in the 100s, and a quality of life for the ordinary citizen that surpasses that enjoyed by the top 1 percent in the United States.

(13) APRIL FOOLS REDUX. Jabba the Sushi?

(14) HISTORICALLY MEMORABLE HOAXES. And if you need any more – “The Top 100 April Fool’s Day Hoaxes of All Time”.

We’ve researched the entire history of April Fool’s Day and selected its top 100 hoaxes ever, as judged by creativity, historical significance, the number of people duped, and notoriety. The first version of this list was created in the late 1990s. Over the years it’s been revised a number of times, based upon reader feedback and ongoing research. The most recent major revision occurred in March 2015.

(15) ZOE QUINN INVITES TINGLE. This is not an April Fools, so who knows, maybe it will happen.

[Thanks to Steven H Silver, Cat Eldridge, Arifel, JJ, John King Tarpinian, StephenfromOttawa, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, Mark Hepworth, Chip Hitchcock, Hampus Eckerman, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kurt Busiek.]

55 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 4/1/18 Oh Lord, Pixel Let Me Be Misunderscrolled

  1. (10) FILERS IN NEW ZEALAND

    Whoa, I’m a pixel now. #achievementunlocked

    (It was wonderful meeting the charming Hampus. The conversation was easy, rambling and fun, covering topics from fandom to food. Would happily do it again.)

  2. Supposedly, last year Mary Robinette Kowal was going to do an April Fool’s joke that she was Chuck Tingle. I’m not convinced that “joke” isn’t the truth.

  3. 10: Unfortunately I’m currently (normally in Auckland) as far south as I’ve been in years – I attended the Warbirds Over Wanaka airshow, and am now in a brew bar in Dunedin! Otherwise I would have put my hand up when I saw Hampus was visiting.

  4. Question for the collective mind of the File participants.

    in John Varley’s 1986 short “the Unprocessed Word”, he cites three other authors whose work in longhand and/or typewriter proves that you don’t need a word processor. These are: SK in Maine, SR in Halifax, and DT in Oakland.

    SK is Stephen King, SR is Spider Robinson. I asked Varley who “DT” is supposed to be, but he doesn’t remember. Any ideas?

    (I’ve already asked on Stack Exchange, to no avail)

  5. Tick.

    I’m currently in the early chapters of Under the Pendulum Sun by Campbell finalist Jeanette Ng. Before this, my last two books were the Essex Serpent (gothic historical) and Impostor Syndrome (fairies), so this gothic historical book about fairies already feels rather familiar…

  6. Danny Sichel: I asked Varley who “DT” is supposed to be, but he doesn’t remember. Any ideas?

    My thought is Dalton Trumbo — right timeframe and prolificity — but I don’t know that he ever lived in Oakland.

  7. Yay, had a great time with Soon Lee! Visited a hill with a tree where there was no tree, a nice beach place and a fabulous restaurant. Fandom! Comics! Annecdotes! And foodtalk!

  8. @David Goldfarb

    Having Tingle turn out to be an existing SF author would just be too big a coincidence…but if it was then MRK would be very high on the list of suspects. She certainly has the wicked sense of humour for it – her April fools this year was to slowly work a rickroll into her tweets.

  9. Hampus: I thought there were several trees there now (they will decide which to keep later). Sadly my dog is now too old to talk up there, so I haven’t been for a while.
    ObScience: Did you wave at the Observatory?

  10. We passed the observatory, but didn’t know I was supposed to wave! Yes, there was a bunch of tree-wannabees in a bunch there.

    EDIT: What else would they be in?

  11. I got to see Quinn speak at Politics and Prose in DC for her book tour, and it was pretty good.

    The thought of a panel with Quinn and Tingle at Worldcon might be enough to convince me I need a plane ticket and a con ticket.

  12. Today’s birthdays in the genresphere today include include Scott Lynch, and Shanna Germain (of Monte Cook Games, she also has a couple of novels set in the Numenera-verse and SFF stories to her credit)

  13. @6: HAL with emotions and a Bronx accent? The mind boggles; it seems totally out of keeping with the cool abstraction of everything aboard the Discovery.

    @13: But who would want sushi with sand all over it?

    @David Goldfarb: neither am I, considering that her pastiche of John Norman fooled (IIRC) over 80% of the audience at a Kirk Poland some years ago (2012?)

    @JJ: Wikipedia does mention Trumbo (as shown in a hometown (Colorado) statue) writing in a bathtub, but it’s not clear that’s longhand; was it shown in the movie? ISTM that “right period” is unclear — Trumbo ~flourished a couple of decades before the others — and that the covert interactions would have required living near Hollywood (W also mentions him working in an LA bakery while taking college courses at USC, before hitting it big as a writer). OTOH, I can’t think of anyone else and don’t find a match in ISFDB (to go with genre-ness of the other two).

  14. (3) SOUTH PACIFIC

    Some enchanted evening,
    You might meet a station,
    A flaming space station,
    Across a starry sky….

    I’m gonna wash that hydrazine right out of my hair
    I’m gonna wash that hydrazine right out of my hair
    I’m gonna wash that hydrazine right out of my hair
    Before it burns away

    Tiangong-1 may call you
    Any night, any day
    In your heart, you’ll hear it call you:
    “Stay away… Stay away.”

    (sorry)

  15. When Rothfuss joined Twitter, he created six accounts and had a week of five other people running the other five accounts. He had a contest to guess which was the REAL Rothfuss.

    Mary Robinette Kowal imitated Patrick Rothfuss so well, Twitter kept verifying her account.

  16. Literally the ONLY thing that stops me from guessing MRK is that I am told early Tinglers suffered some grammar/spelling issues, which improved over time. (I don’t know if this is true and have not independently verified.) If true, though, I can’t imagine MRK would flub that, even for verisimilitude.

  17. Trumbo died in 1976, and this story was written in 1986. So, probably not him. The ISFDB has a very noisy list of authors with those initials, but biodata aren’t available for all +300 of them.

  18. Meredith moment: e-book version of Jeffrey Ford’s Well-Built City trilogy currently $2.99 on Amazon, B&N, Kobo, etc.

  19. In honor of DT, whoever ee is:

    Do not scroll gentle in that good file,
    Pixels should burn and rave at end of thread,
    Tick, tick, lest comments not compile.

  20. @Chris Barkley: Completely unbelievable! “Potential new Avengers members, including Spectrum, Moon Knight, Northstar, Brother Voodoo, Paul Wolfowitz, and Quasar, could all add new assets and capabilities to the Avengers team.” Paul Wolfowitz? Get real!

  21. @John A. Arkensawyer

    Paul Wolfowitz? Get real!

    Since Galactus transformed into the Lifebringer, he chose Paul Wolfowitz as one of his Heralds. I think.

  22. John A Arkansawyer on April 2, 2018 at 1:17 pm said:
    Apparently, the Barkley Marathon has something to do with tearing up books.

    Amongst many other quirks, yes. The documentary about it, The Race That Eats Its Young, is an interesting watch because that event is bonkers in many ways. For starters, it’s the Barkley Marathons. To be counted as a finisher, you have to do five laps of a route that is far tougher than a marathon.

  23. @Danny Sichel:

    in John Varley’s 1986 short “the Unprocessed Word”, he cites three other authors whose work in longhand and/or typewriter proves that you don’t need a word processor. These are: SK in Maine, SR in Halifax, and DT in Oakland.
     
    SK is Stephen King, SR is Spider Robinson. I asked Varley who “DT” is supposed to be, but he doesn’t remember. Any ideas?

    Thinking about who I would think would have been using a typewriter in 1986, the first name that comes to mind is “Harlan Ellison”. Which I realize does not answer the question, but there you go.

    A couple more names (where I am not sure they were still only using typewriters) are Isaac Asimov and Ray Bradbury.

    A question raised by checking WikiP: Did the story mean “typewriter” to mean “manual typewriter”, or was something like the IBM Selectric also intended?

    Could “DT” be a typo or pseudonym?

  24. I saw an sf bookstore display of a computer labeled as the one Asimov had used for word processing, but I don’t remember anything about the machine’s vintage, or even when I saw it on display.

  25. Speaking of Stephen King, I learned something new today:

    A fellow named Richard Bachman wrote Blaze in 1973 on an Olivetti typewriter, then turned the machine over to Stephen King, who used it to write Carrie. Bachman died in 1985 (“cancer of the pseudonym“), but in late 2006 King found the original typescript of Blaze among his papers at the University of Maine’s Fogler Library (“How did this get here?!”), and decided that with a little revision it ought to be published.

    I may need to talk to an oncologist about this worrisome and hopefully exceedingly rare cancer.

  26. (5) According to Keir Dullea in an interview I attended, HAL’s voice on the film set was neither Rain (which hadn’t been recorded yet) nor Balsam, but to cue the live actors his lines were read by the assistant director.

    That is why, Dullea said, his mental idea of Hal’s voice has always remained deepest Cockney. He gave us a few of the lines as he had heard them; it was pretty incongruous.

  27. Definitely not Harlan – he’s mentioned separately in the story. And “DT” is mentioned more than once, so it’s not a typo.

    And ‘typewriter’ is not limited to the manual devices.

    (the story’s in his ‘Blue Champagne’ collection if you want to see it yourself)

  28. (7) BOCHCO OBIT. Oh, wow, I’m sorry. Sure, I watched “L.A. Law” on and off for a while, but “Hill Street Blues”! I watched that a ton in high school; it was incredible, or so I remember, anyway.

    (8) COMICS SECTION. Hehehe. 🙂

    (10) FILERS IN NEW ZEALAND. Yay, a Filer meetup of two! Boo, I missed it ‘cuz I was on the other side of the planet! Glad you had a good time. 😀

  29. @Mark and Chip: I read “Space Raptor Butt Invasion” and was not impressed by it, and then of course there are the semi-literate tweets…but Tingle’s entry for Best Fan Writer in the packet last year was elegantly written, by someone who has thought deeply about fiction in general and science fiction in particular. (The tweets are an act. Nobody who naturally expresses themself like those tweets could possibly have written the packet entry.)

  30. Trump doesn’t even read the books with his name on them.

    Not to mention that he wouldn’t be identified with Oakland in 1986. Or ever.

  31. I had the good fortune of talking to Marv Wolfman at Dallas Fantasy in 1984, and asked him about Herbie right off. I knew him to be a fan, not only for the occasional reference to “hard to get Cinnamon” or whatever, but because in HERBIE #5 he is listed as third-place winner in a story-writing contest the comic had run.

    I first asked if there was any chance DC (where Wolfman was working at the time) would pick up Herbie and do a new series. Answer: The legal rights to the title were so thoroughly confused and confusing that the only way to find out who really owned it was to publish and see who sued.

    Then I asked if any of the original team was still around, and he told me that Ogden Whitney (if I have this right) was still alive, but in no shape to do any sort of work. I later learned that Whitney, one of my favorite artists in comics, was suffering the effects of years of alcoholism. And what about Shane O’Shea? Here’s where the tale got interesting (and even relates to earlier conversations in this thread).

    O’Shea was a pseudonym used by Richard Hughes, he told me. Hughes was a one-man comics factory who wrote every story in every title at ACG (at least by the time of Herbie). He wrote the stories in Herbie. He wrote the fillers in Herbie. He answered the letters to Herbie. He even wrote some of the letters to Herbie.

    My favorite small detail in all this is that one of his pseuds—and I remember seeing this name on one of ACG’s off-kilter and fairly mild horror stories—was named after his typewriter: Greg Olivetti.

    WE BELONG, WE BELONG, WE BELONG, WE BELONG
    TO THE PEERLESS PIXEL SCROLLING SOCIETY!

  32. Could DT be film critic David Thomson who has written many books, both in that relevant time period and since, and who is listed by Wikipedia as living in San Francisco?

  33. I can see someone saying “Oakland” to refer to some of the nearby cities (e.g. Poul Anderson lived in Orinda, which is on the northeast border of Oakland), but not if that nearby city was San Francisco! 🙂

    My best guess is that Varley had a non-genre writer in mind.

  34. I thought it was plausible that someone who now lives in San Francisco may have had an Oakland connection 30 years ago and I wondered if anyone else here might know about David Thomson’s connection to Oakland. He may not be Varley’s ‘DT’, but he is a prolific author from the right period of time, so I wanted to offer the suggestion.

  35. I’ve lived in the Bay Area longer than 30 years, including a few years in Oakland, but I don’t remember any DTs. I went poking around in Goodreads and found (a) a list of ’80s spec fic (included a lot of Stephen King, a little Spider Robinson and nobody with initials DT) and (b) a list of “forgotten” science fiction, which gave me nostalgia spasms since I remembered about a dozen of them. No DTs there either.

    (I’m sure that lots of you are thinking just what I’m thinking now … book from a portal universe? … time traveler DT’s estranged ex-wife unconceived him in a fit of rage? … DT: the writer everybody stopped talking about for a Very Good Reason?)

  36. I finally gave in and tracked down the story.

    It’s a lot more tongue-in-cheek I thought it would be. John Varley writes to his editor at Berkeley about how bad wordprocessers are, and he wants use the fact that his novels are typewritten as an advertised selling point. He even goes so far as to create a new corporation, VarleyYarns, Inc, with trademarks, VarleyYarn®/VarleyYarns®. His editor writes back, co-operative at first, but increasingly exasperated.

    Also, Danny Sichel’s description is confused. SK, SR, and DT are using computers; that’s the point. SR, at least, is saved by old-school tech.

    Note that there is the implication that electric typewriters are “old-school”, to answer my own question above.

    VarleyYarn® words go directly from the writer’s mind onto the printed page, with no harmful intermediate steps. At night, when the typewriter is turned off, they repose peacefully in cozy stacks of paper on the writer’s desk, secure in the knowledge they are cherished as words.

    Here is the lead-up to the testimonials, and the testimonials themselves:

    Fact #2: Writers come in two types–compulsives, and procrastinators.

    The Type A writer will labor endlessly without food, water, or sleep. His output of fiction is prodigious. Many claim they would write fiction even if they were not being paid for it–a sure danger signal.

    Type B writers live to sharpen pencils, straighten their desks, create elaborate filing systems, and answer the telephone and the doorbell. A productive day for the Type B writer consists of half a paragraph–which may end up in the wastepaper basket at the end of the day. This writer will work only under deadline pressure. Any excuse to leave the typewriter is welcomed.

    Conclusion: The Word Processor is precisely the wrong tool to put into a writer’s hands!!

    If you don’t believe it, listen to these unsolicited testimonials from some of the most pitiful cases of computaholism:

    “SK,” Jerusalem’s Lot, Maine

    I was one of the first writers to get a word processor. My God, if only I had known… if only… I was always prolific. I write every day but Guy Fawkes Day, Bastille Day, and the anniversary of the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. When I got my computer my output increased dramatically. My family didn’t see me for days at a time… then weeks at a time! I was sending in novels at the rate of three a month… and in addition, was writing and selling dozens of short stories every day. Thinking of pseudonyms became a major task in itself, a task I faced with a deepening sense of horror. Have you ever heard of John Jakes? That’s really me! And what about Arthur Hailey, I’ll bet you’ve heard of him. That’s me, too! And Colleen McCullough, and William Goldman, and Richard Bachman… John D. MacDonald really died in 1976… but nobody knows it, because I took over his name! Soon I was writing movie scripts. (Have you heard of Steven Spielberg? That’s me, too.) In 1980 I began writing the entire line of Harlequin Romances. I was making money faster than General Dynamics… but my kids didn’t know me. As I sat at my Word Processor, a strange change would come over me. I would become these other people. Friends would mistake me for Truman Capote, or J. D. Salinger. But I could have lived with that… if not for the children. I can hear them now, crying in the kitchen. “Mommy, mommy,” they weep. “Who is daddy today?” If only I could save another writer from this nightmare… if only… if only…

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    “SR,” Halifax, Nova Scotia

    I used to write with a pencil and paper–I never even used a typewriter for my first drafts… until the day someone convinced me to buy a Macintosh Computer, known in the industry as a Fat Mac. I loved it! In only three or four months I taught myself to type and wrote seventy or eighty letters. I purchased a MacPaint program, and soon was turning out wonderful dot-matrix artwork to amuse my friends. Then I brought a MacAlien program and had hours of fun every day eluding the space monsters that tried to eat me alive. (The MacWrite program still had a few glitches, but I knew I’d work them out… one of these days… when I got around to it… mañana… what’s the rush?) In the meantime, I was having too much fun…

    Well, you’ve probably guessed I’m a Type B writer. It was always easy enough to find an excuse not to write… and the Mac made it even easier! Now winter is coming on, I’ve missed a dozen deadlines, my family is starving, and bill collectors are pounding on the door.

    Thank God for the people at VarleyYarns®!

    When they heard of my plight they rushed over with a typewriter, reams of paper, and a package of pencils.

    I know it will be a long hard path back to sanity…… but with the help of VarleyYarns®, I think I can lick it!

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    “DT” Oakland, California

    Born Again!

    That’s what I told my friends when I finally “made the switch” to a word processor. The ease, the speed, the versatility… I began buying new programs as quickly as they came out. I even got to “road-test” a few of them, developed by friends in the industry, before they were available to the general public. I really liked the MacPlot at first. When you “Booted it up,” MacPlot would suggest alternate story lines… while at the same time conducting a global search of all stories written by anyone, anywhere, at any time, to see if an idea was “old hat.” Soon all my friends had copied it and were using it, too. Then came MacClimax!, which analyzed your prose for the “high points,” and added words and phrases here and there to “punch it up.” You’ve all heard how a word processor can aid you if you decide to change a character’s name in the course of a story. With MacCharacter, I was able to change a whimp into a hero, a Presbyterian into an alien suffering from existential despair, or a fourteenth century warlord into a Mexican grape-picker… all with only a few keys… all without lapses in story logic! Before long I had them all: MacConflict, MacDialogue, MacMystery, MacWestern, Adverb-Away. VisiTheme, MacDeal-With-The-Devil…

    Then I noticed a strange thing.

    I’m a Type A writer, like Mr. “SK/Bachman/Goldman/ETC.” I’m not happy unless I’m writing most of the day. And now, writing was so easy I could simply write a first line, punch a few keys, and sit back and watch the story write itself. It was so easy, I was miserable. Now, in today’s mail, comes MacFirstline, but I don’t think I’ll run it. I think I’ll kill myself instead.

    Now where’s the MacHara-Kiri suicide-note-writing program…?

    And one final follow-up, part of the last response from “John Varley” in the story:

    BUT BEYOND THAT, AS YOU MIGHT HAVE GUESSED FROM THE HOLES ALONG THE SIDE OF THE PAPER, I’VE BOUGHT A WORD PROCESSOR. (SORRY ABOUT THIS TYPEFACE: MY LETTER-QUALITY PRINTER IS ”DOWN” AGAIN. I’M USING AN OLD ”WORDSPITTER” PRINTER I BORROWED FROM THE ESTATE OF ”DT” IN OAKLAND.)

    It looks to me from that last bit that “DT” was a throwaway. DT “kills himself”, and the John Varley in the story gets his printer.

    (Also, somewhat awkwardly, John D. MacDonald really did actually die in 1986, the same year the story was published)

  37. “Fact #2” is of course nonsense (Cherryh and Pratchett are the obvious examples of generating a reasonable daily quota), but amusing; given the tone of the article, I can see the last case being made up. Kudos for doing the digging.

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