Adam’s Stepsons: The Professor and Sam Adams

beerfridgeThe main character of my new SF novella Adam’s Stepsons, Dr. Johann Heimann, was modeled after a professor at my undergraduate college named…ah…let’s name him Professor R. He had the biggest office on campus, and he kept Sam Adams in a small fridge tucked under his desk. And he shared them liberally with students who stopped by. And he told great stories about Chevy Chase. A perfect model for a fictional scientist.

Prof. R. was a teacher of social economics. Which is why he spent all his free time keeping careful track of tiny pieces of paper from the 17th to the 19th century detailing who was responsible for maintaining what part of what county and state roads in nearby towns.

By “careful,” I mean of course hundreds of cardboard boxes haphazardly stacked around his office and often mislabeled or labeled with handwriting so cramped that medical doctors would be proud. Couldn’t help wondering if Sam Adams were to blame. Continue reading

Adam and his stepsons: Raising Seth

AS-FinalFrontCvrIt’s been a productive couple of winter months. I got over my sickness (contracted from my daughters), finished the academic year (classes end in mid-January here), brought a group of students on a study abroad trip to Hawaii, and completed editing my long-awaited novelette/novella, Adam’s Stepsons.

Long-awaited in the sense that the nucleus of the story was written in 1994. So if anybody complains, “This has been done before,” you can tell them, “Yeah, but he did it first.”

Clones are nothing new in science fiction. In fact, the idea of creating human-like beings dates back literally thousands of years. The concept of the golem influenced ideas in Adam’s Stepsons; golems have been made famous in popular culture through D&D and fantasy games, but originally stem from Jewish mysticism. Continue reading

Winter: A Time to Read

Since becoming sick this past November (first a momentary, sudden illness in the pit of my stomach…), I’ve found it difficult to stay 100% healthy as winter has well and truly set in. It’s not terribly cold where I live (the middle of Honshu, the main island of Japan), but the up-and-down irregular temperature pattern this year has made it easier to catch colds, influenza, and other upper respiratory sicknesses.

So while down in the dumps with the mumps (which I contracted over New Year’s from my two children, despite having been vaccinated against it as a child…different strain here, perhaps), I’ve tackled a reading book list compiled from last summer. Even managed to finish one or two! Continue reading

Thoughts on the eve of tomorrow

As I sit here in front of my computer late at night, on the verge of the 2016 US presidential election, I’m struck by the choice I had to make. Two different versions of a future US society: one that invites multidiversity and multiethnicity in all their chaotic, unpredictable combinations, and one that shuts the door and preserves a traditional us vs them, insider vs outsider mentality.

By all rights, I should support the latter. I’m from a small town of less than 3,000 inhabitants, close to 99.99% white, deep in the heart of Upstate New York. I grew up surrounded by people who basically looked like me, enjoyed camping and hiking, canoeing and fishing, playing baseball and football and video games. Driving. A lot. I did yard work when I was old enough to get my working papers (back then, you didn’t get your social security number until you applied for it after age 14). In the spring, I helped my father in the garden. In the summer I mowed lawns. In the fall I raked leaves. In the winter I shoveled driveways. In high school, I had a part-time at a local pizza place, then at McDonald’s, then washed dishes in a nearby town. All our customers were white. All of them spoke English. It was all just fine, everybody looking the same and acting the same. Everybody just like me. Continue reading

Stories from next to the grave

img_0719In April, my grandmother died. She was my last grandparent.

In August, I was finally able to visit her grave. Anyone who is living overseas for an extended period of time (or permanently, as I probably am) will tell you how difficult it is to have a sense of closure at the death of a loved one. Particularly a close family member.

But as we were standing there, gazing down at the names of my great-grandparents (whom I had barely known) and my grandfather and grandmother (whom I had known very well from a young age), it wasn’t just a sense of closure I was seeking.

It was a sense of history. Of stories.

When the three cars of relatives arrived at the cemetary — myself, my wife, my two daughters; my parents and one younger brother and sister (I have eight siblings in total), one of my aunts and uncles (I have at least twenty…yes, it’s complicated…) an interesting thing happened.

We all started telling stories. Maybe it’s the Irish in us (Bushnell, Connally, O’Leary, and Dougherty, among others). But telling stories has always come naturally to people in my family, as natural as eating and breathing.

My uncle started it. Stories about my grandfather when he was in the Navy during World War II (he never left Florida).

My aunt followed. Stories about my grandfather when he was growing up. Stories about my grandmother when she was the same age as my cousin. (A recently discovered photograph showed her to be almost identical in appearance, too. Scary, that.)

My father continued (with a little prodding from me) with a story from when I was a child. (This is how I found out that the United Methodist Church-owned apartment building I had lived in as a young child had been and has been occupied by family members for at least four generations.)

When I mentioned my intention to write a book of non-fiction about my grandparents and their generation — I’m thinking of calling it “My Three Grandfather” — the stories came fast and furious.

Right next to my grandparents’ grave.

There we were, in the middle of the afternoon, in the middle of a centuries-old cemetary overlooking the Hudson River Valley (near HVCC, as a matter of fact), telling stories about the dead, with the dead. With the living.

Stories aren’t just all that’s left. Stories are what we always had, and have, and will have.

Eat your heart out, Washington Irving.

Freebies and previews

Bunny-coverFinally, a post after two and a half months! Yes, I was/am/will be busy. And so it goes.

As requested, I have finally managed to put some previews of my work online. The new page of “Freebies” has one short story so far (The Lost Bunny Shrine of Annandale), which is currently available as a .mobi download for Kindle. One commenter on Goodreads complained that it was about a bunch of drunken college guys.

Yep. And a bunny shrine is, of course, involved. The horror…

I don’t view that as much of a criticism, to be honest. It is what it is. Check it out for yourself!

I can make other formats available (maybe, if I can figure out how to convert it) if people ask. Other stories have a pic but now file right now. (Coming soon!)

Continue reading

1000 Isles

Some people have asked me on FB for some previews of Notes from the Nineties. It’s difficult to prepare excerpts from short stories (which are already short). So while I’m thinking of what’s appropriate as a teaser, here’s another poem from the volume. It appears right after the story “Boys Will be Boys” together with the poem “Grandmother.”

 

1000 Isles

 

Summers of my Upstate youth were spent

in the family station wagon, the six of us, or was it seven,

traveling to the great St. Lawrence

Seaway of a thousand islands.

 

The first time we stayed one night at Mosquito Heaven,

sleepless in a brown canvas tent,

and four nights on the biggest island—

half in the US,

half out.

 

I learned how to gut a fish, how to swim,

how to roll up a sleeping bag,

and where to buy fireworks—

I mean sparklers.

 

On my 12th birthday, I got a wallet,

put in a year’s allowance,

then when I forgot it in the campsite bathroom,

got advice in return the next morning—

“I told you so.”

 

Looking back, it makes sense

to me now

that I hate dressing.