Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan
  • My Two Eclipses

    In the very early hours of February 26, 1979, I was on the road with some friends, heading north from Eugene, Oregon, in a driving rain, hoping to see a total solar eclipse. We had our maps and I had my nice little 4-inch refracting telescope in the car, but the odds seemed against us. It was really pouring, and the forecast was not good. We pulled into the little town of Goldendale, ... Read more »

  • 2,000,000 Stars

    Whenever I’m tempted to think that humans will someday create a “galactic empire,” I take a look at this. This is the nearest 2,026,095 stars in our galaxy. Bear in mind that the galaxy is estimated to contain between 100 and 400 BILLION stars. This is just the local neighborhood, just our freakin’ back yard. There are between 50,000 and 200,000 other neighborhoods. ... Read more »

  • Utopiales Festival

    Last year I accepted an invitation to participate in the Utopiales Festival in Nantes, France, from November 1 to November 6 of this year. I had hoped to be informing everyone of our travel plans around this time. Unfortunately, due to several factors beyond my control, it will not be possible for me to attend. I would like to publicly apologize to the organizers of the Festival. I should not ... Read more »

  • ZOOM!

    When I was about in the 9th grade a book came into the school library titled COSMIC ZOOM. It was a thin volume, and it set out to describe the universe as we then knew it, from the smallest to the largest. I went through that book over and over, awed by the scale of it. It began with a shot looking down on a girl sitting in a chair and holding a cat. Each picture after that was ten times ... Read more »

  • Homeo, Homeo, wherefore art thou Homeo?

    Something I just had to pass along. For the last year or so I’ve suffered, off and on, from itching in my left ear canal. It can be maddening. The sensation is of a little bug crawling around in there. My doctor has examined it several times, and there is no bug, no hair, no excess earwax. It’s entirely a nerve phenomenon. So I got some earache drops. They seemed to help, after ... Read more »

  • MileHiCon 48 Report

    We boarded United Flight 830, non-stop from Portland to Denver, and took our seats in the first class section. Leg room! Elbow room! I leaned back and refreshed myself with the steaming hot towel brought by the flight attendant and watched the proletariat in their threadbare clothes stumbling by on their way to steerage, their ragged children staring longingly at my Diet Coke. On their way to ... Read more »

  • MileHiCon 48

    The good folks at MileHiCon 48 have invited me to be one of their author Guests of Honor! It will be held October 28-30 in beautiful Denver, Colorado. You can find all the information here at their website: MileHiCon 48 I will be appearing on quite a few different panels and other events, such as: Friday at 2 PM: Romance in Genre Fiction. No idea what that will be about, but I’m all in favor ... Read more »

  • The Phantom of Kansas

    Back in our Bicentennial year of 1976 I wrote a novelette titled “The Phantom of Kansas.” I was pleased with it, and even happier when it made the final Hugo Award ballot. There it lost to, appropriately enough, Isaac Asimov’s “The Bicentennial Man.” It has been suggested by some that my story would have won except for A) the fact that I had two stories on the ballot in that category that ... Read more »

  • Visit the Historic Hanoi Hilton!

    I’ve often wondered how a family can afford a trip to Disney World that may last for a week or more. That’s how long it takes to see much of it. (But not all, that would take a month, probably.) I mean, what with hotels and airfare and everything else, it can come to a several thousand dollars. But it seems that a fair number of people make one hell of a lot more money than we do. I followed ... Read more »

  • Single Payer, Please!

    Trump scares the shit out of me, so come November I’m voting Democrat no matter who’s on the ballot. I’m hoping Hillary will change her mind about single payer health insurance. Lee calls it the unAffordable Care Act. No shit. The bills just came in for my three-day stay in the hospital last February after a routine colonoscopy turned bloody. The hospital copay was $600; the doctor, $433. ... Read more »

  • Balticon 50

    Big surprise! The people working for Balticon 50 wrote me last year saying they intended to try something no con has ever done, which is bring back all living previous Guests of Honor, expenses paid. This was a formidable fundraising task, and it seems they have done it! Lee and I were told there will be two airline tickets for us, and a hotel room for the duration! It has been a long time ... Read more »

  • Oscar Nominated Shorts 2015

    Seeing these films that hardly anyone ever sees either before or after the Oscars has become a yearly ritual with us, since we began seeing them at the Academy Theater in Beverly Hills. Here in Portland they are shown at the non-profit Hollywood Theater. We both agreed that this year’s crop was not quite up to the high standards we have come to expect. Animated Bear Story (Historia de un ... Read more »

  • I won a Prometheus Award!

    … in 1999, and I’m just learning it. There was a story about the Prometheus Hall of Fame, which is awarded to classic works of “Libertarian fiction” (whatever that is). They also give out an award for the best novel published each year. I wondered about past awards, so naturally I went to Wiki, where I found this. If you scroll down you will see that my novel THE ... Read more »

  • “Transforming”

    Oh, is that what they’re calling plagiarism in this age of sampling, mash-ups, fan fiction, and ignoring copyright? Have you read about this incredible fraud Laura Harner, who has written and published SEVENTY-FIVE NOVELS in just five years? That alone should have been cause for suspicion. But it works okay if you’re just typing. Here’s now she describes it: In transforming ... Read more »

  • Nailed it

    I was going to write something about the shootings in Roseburg, pointing out that it’s become a generic news story now, just fill in the blanks of how many dead and where. Kindergarten? High school? University? Senseless tragedy, gun control, mental health, now is the time, now is not the time, armed guards, come together, community healing, president reacts, blah, blah, blah fucking ... Read more »

  • … in other religious news

    Yesterday the Catholic Church canonized a man who was responsible for the enslavement and deaths of thousands of native Californians. St. Junipero Serra founded the chain of missions that stretches from San Diego to Sonoma, built with slave labor. The slaves are buried in unmarked graves. Lee and I love the missions. We visited all twenty-one of them (here and here) when we lived in ... Read more »

  • Balticon 50

    The good people at Balticon 50 (May 27-30, 2016) have come up with a fantastic, not to say crazy, idea. Here is the Balticon 50 website. They hope to bring back all Guests of Honor from the 49 previous Balticons who are willing and able to attend. The usual terms: Airfare for two and a room paid for. This is an astonishing undertaking. Please take a minute to visit the Balticon entry on Wiki. ... Read more »

  • Rainier Beer

    A few days ago, completely by accident as these things tend to happen on the Internet, I stumbled across an old TV ad for Rainier Beer, starring Mickey Rooney. Oh, man, did that take me back! In the 1970s and into the early ‘80s, in the Pacific Northwest, Rainier was responsible for what I believe is the most outrageous and inventive ad campaign in the history of television. The spots were so ... Read more »

  • The REAL Solar System

    I’ve seen a thousand models of the solar system, but never one that is REALLY accurate. This one is. If you scroll by pressing the arrow on the right, it will take you much of the day to get to Pluto. Even if you scroll by clicking on the bar, so that it goes by one screen at a time and you can read the comments he has strewn through empty space, it will take you a while. I’ve ... Read more »

  • The Congo, and Some Science Fiction Poetry

    A weird happened to me last night. I woke up with a poem moving around in my head. “Fat black bucks in a wine-barrel room …” I immediately recognized it as “The Congo: A Study of the Negro Race,” by Vachel Lindsay. Holy racism! We actually studied this when I was in the seventh grade! Lindsay was a proponent of what he called “singing poetry,” where ... Read more »

  • Lithobraking

    NASA’s Messenger spacecraft should be lithobraking just about this very minute, as I write this. In the annals of euphemisms, I think this word ought to have a special place. Maybe they just got tired of writing “crashing into Mercury.” Sounded too negative. The definition seems to be “coming to a stop by using rocks to slow down.” Right. By scraping along those ... Read more »

  • Gift from Korea

    Writing prose is essentially a lonely occupation. One thing that helps with that is now and then hearing from people who have enjoyed my work. Then every once in a while someone does something extra special, and I want to give a big thank you to one of them right now. Mr. Kim Tae-jin recently bought the rights to four of my stories and has now printed them in two very handsomely produced ... Read more »

  • How Big the Universe Is

    I don’t think it’s possible for our minds to really visualize just how big the universe is, or even how big our own galaxy and our nearest neighboring spiral galaxy (2.5 million light-years away) are. But here’s a visual aid. As we zoom in on this, the largest picture ever taken, remember that each of those tiny, tiny, tiny specks of light is a star, and at this distance ... Read more »

  • Overwhelming

    I came across this while looking for something else, as happens so often on the Internet. The European Extremely Large Telescope is being built right now in Chile, up where the air is clear and thin. First light should be in a little less than a decade. Now scroll down about halfway. Off to the right is a diagram of “Comparison of nominal sizes.” Click on that, and then click on it again ... Read more »

  • There Will Never Be a Genius in the SAE

    WARNING: There is a certain ugly term that society has universally decided can no longer be quoted in print and must be bleeped from sound recordings. The term is commonly referred to now as “The N-word.” I am going to use that word in this little essay. If you feel your head will explode from seeing the word, you should stop reading right here. A few days ago a busload of fraternity boys ... Read more »

  • My Favorite Action Scenes

    Part One: The Early Years I’ve been thinking of making this list for a long time, and wondering how long it should be. Top Ten? Not enough. Top Twenty-five? Sounds better. In the end, I just decided to list all the ones I thought were the best. I’m not even going to count them. Rule: Only one scene per movie. If a movie has more than one really, really good action scene, I may make note of ... Read more »

  • The War Is Over!!!!

    I think it’s time for a celebration. Today officially marks the end of the war, the end of the longest war in American history. Don’t you think that’s a cause to hit the streets? Don’t you think we should be painting our banners and hoisting our flags and getting drunk and dancing wildly in Times Square and on the Washington Mall and wherever your community gathers to celebrate long-awaited ... Read more »

  • Charles N. Brown: 6/24/1937 – 7/12/2009

    When I heard Charlie Brown had died I knew I would have to write something, but it’s so hard. I’ve known Charlie as long as I’ve known anyone in the field. It must have been 1975 or ’76 when I met him at one of the first conventions I ever attended, and the next thing I knew I was spending the night at his wonderful house in the Oakland hills. I’d never seen so many SF books, nor heard so ... Read more »

  • Our Second Earthquake

    Before Earthquake About seven years ago we were parked in an RV at Pismo Beach when a 6.6 earthquake struck the area, centered very close to San Simeon, about 60 miles north of us. The RV shook and we got outside and watched the trees swaying back and forth. There was a crack in the road 100 yards away from us with a gap of about 6 inches, and all the stock in the little liquor store down the ... Read more »

  • Old Dogs

    I recently read a story about the death of what her owner had proclaimed to be the “World’s Oldest Dog.” She was a 21-year-old wire-haired dachshund named Chanel, and for a while she’d been quite the celebrity, awarded a certificate by Guinness, appearing on television shows, the subject of a large number of newspaper articles. I thought, “Twenty-one? That doesn’t sound that old.” It sounded ... Read more »

  • Paul and Me

    A few days ago we lost a great American. Entrepreneur—seller of salad dressing, pasta sauce, lemonade, popcorn, salsa, and wine among many other things—philanthropist, devoted husband, father, and grandfather, race car driver, owner, and sponsor, founder of a dozen camps for severely ill children … and, oh yes, he acted a bit. I’m speaking, of course, of Paul Newman. His Newman’s Own brands ... Read more »

  • Hard Comparisons

    Some of you may have seen this photo that’s been circulating on the Internet, purporting to be a 5MB hard drive from a computer in 1956: Don’t worry, I’m not going to bust any bubbles. I’ve verified it at Snopes.com, and it really is the hard drive from an IBM 305 RAMAC, one of the last computers to use vacuum tubes, in use until 1961. This little baby measured 60 by 68 by 29 inches, ... Read more »

  • I’m a Martian Citizen!

    About an hour ago as I write this, NASA’s Phoenix Mars Lander successfully delivered my novella, “In the Hall of the Martian King,” to a soft landing near the Martian north pole. Oh, sure, there were other stories aboard by people like H.G. Wells, Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Theodore Sturgeon, and Carl Sagan. And if you want to get technical about it, I ... Read more »

  • Molly Ivins: An American Heroine

    Yesterday a great American died. I’m speaking of Molly Ivins, perhaps the greatest enemy pompous windbags ever knew. She was from my native state of Texas, and after apprenticing in the wilds of Minnesota she was hired away to the journalistic cesspits of the Big Apple by the New York Times, whose editors wanted to spice up their dull, gray prose with a little Texas-style ... Read more »

  • Rock ‘n’ Rock

    At about 11:13 yesterday morning UPS delivered a package to me here in the RV. I took it inside and opened it, saw it was a copy of a manuscript I’d asked for from Susan Allison at Penguin/Putnam. I was looking at the first page at 11:15 when everything began to shake. Our first thought, it being Condition Orange and all, was “Al-Qaeda!” Our second thought was: EARTHQUAKE!!!! We ... Read more »

  • Moy Mell

    New Years Eve, and the street is filling up with revelers. This is Pier Avenue, a four-lane road about 1/4 mile long, between Rte. 1 and the beach. Just before you get to the sand there is a kiosk where state park rangers collect the user fees for people wanting to use the beach. Both traffic lanes headed for the ocean are full, though not as bad as at Thanksgiving, when the lines stretched ... Read more »

  • Of Geese and Ghosts

    This is sort of a Lack of Progress Report. Getting out of Sauvie Island, Portland, and Oregon has proven to be a lot harder than we ever realized. We’re currently battening down to weather a wet winter out here on the island. Yesterday we wrapped the outside water hose that brings fresh water into the trailer with something called “heat tape,” which is not tape at all, as it ... Read more »

  • Laissez les bon temps rouler!

    Fred Meyer Our life out here is pretty simple. We get up early in the morning—quite a radical change for both of us—and work until about noon. Most days we drive into town for one reason or another. And at some point in the afternoon we re-enact the Bataan Death March. (Or, as Lee prefers to put it, “Take a nice little aerobic walk.”) This walk is usually about a mile out and a ... Read more »

  • Bob

    This story came to me third hand. Lee got it from Darlene, a bartender at the old Monte Carlo, and she got it from an accountant. I can’t vouch for all the details and there are a thousand more things I’d like to know and probably never will, and probably never should know … but the broad strokes of the story are reliable. We met Bob pretty much at the same time we moved into the ... Read more »

  • The Trailer At Sauvies Corner

    “Oh, bother,” said Pooh … … as he stripped off his little red T-shirt. When I was very young one of my favorite books had a map on the inside cover. It was probably the first map I ever looked at. It was of the Hundred Aker Wood, and it had place names like Owl’s House, Pooh’s Hunny Tree, Where the Woozle Wasn’t, and Trespassers W, where Piglet lived. We’re making our own map of ... Read more »

  • Blue Light Special

    Had to share this one with you folks … I was in the K-Mart at Jantzen Beach a few days ago. (I was looking for a pair of slip-on canvas deck shoes and happened to be there. Found a pair, too, for $19.95 … marked down to $1.50!) So there are 20 cash registers and exactly ONE is open. K-Mart, like most big retailers, has this thing for “point-of-sale,” which means the ... Read more »

  • You ask why I live here…

    Well, I woke up in the morning There’s frogs inside my socks Your mama, she’s a-hidin’ Inside the icebox Your daddy walks in wearin’ A Napoleon Bonaparte mask Then you ask why I don’t live here Honey, do you have to ask? ~Bob Dylan Woke up this morning, went to the shower, and found I was sharing it with a tiny green tree frog. I ... Read more »

  • Asparagus for Breakfast

    Sauvie Island is a bird sanctuary. Vees of Canada geese are always flying over, honking their lungs out, and ducks squabble pretty much all day in the little pond not far from our trailer. I’ve seen dozens of birds I can’t identify since we haven’t unearthed our binoculars yet. But the ones I’m in love with are the predatory birds. The raptors. Even a novice like me ... Read more »