Wrote a story based on JErome Bixby’s “It’s A Good Life”

Hello friends. Typing once again on my electric typewriter gadget. Haven’t used it in a minute, but it is actually good for blog posts. Am reading a lot of poetry these days. Have been making my way through the Penguin Book of Twentieth Century American Poetry. Lots of good stuff. Odd to read it in juxtaposition with the book of Renaissance poetry, since the latter is largely metered while the former generally isn’t. And yet as poets never tire of telling us, unmetered doesn’t mean that it has no rhythm. I’ve been using the book to see which poets I want to investigate further.

You know what I love? Books of Selected Works. God save me from Complete Works. Why would anyone, with the exception of a scholar, want a poet’s Complete Works? There must be so many bad poems in there! Anyway, it’s been perhaps a shopping spree, but I have many, many Selected Works waiting for me.

Writing is going well. I’ve turned our bedroom into an office (Rachel works out of what used to be our storage closet. It’s so claustrophobic in there, but she seems to like it). I have covered one wall with post-its, detailind random to-dos and notes to myself. It’s great. And I have a little bookshelf where I store my various devices. And there’s a yoga ball where I sit when my back isn’t doing too well.

Back pain remains the major problem with working from the bed. I keep thinking I’ll find a solution, but there simply isn’t one: I just need to shift positions regularly.

I got notes back from the editor for a story I have coming in a YA LGBT speculative fiction anthology. My story is called "Nick and Bodhi". It’s like if the cartoon show Rick and Morty had an episode based on Jerome Bixby’s short story "It’s A Good Life" (where a seven year old with magic powers takes over this town and enacts his will without scruple or limit, and the townspeople, to survive, need to pretend that they like it). In my vision, the surviving members of a school’s queer student organization do their best to survive until graduation in a school that’s been taken over by a teenage genius.

(Sidenote: The Bixby story was also the basis for an episode of the original Twilight Zone)

As I get back into writing science fiction stories, I find myself going back more and more to the classic SF stories I read when I was first getting into the field. I went through a period where I was constantly hunting down old anthologies and compilations. I think it’d be not unfair to say that I’ve read most of the influential stories that came out between 1926 and 2000, and it shows. My most recent story in F&SF, "The Leader Principle" was clearly based on Heinlein’s "The Man Who Sold The Moon" and I have a story in circulation that’s based on Robert Silverberg’s "Dying Inside".

I have no idea whether any of these stories hold up. I suspect they do, but I am not going to reread them to find out. Even twenty years ago, it wasn’t really in vogue to read Golden Age (or even New Wave) science fiction. Now it’s really not in vogue. I think that’s sad! There’s a lot of great stuff there. And I say this fully aware of the hit some of these authors have taken for their various stances. Heinlein supported the Vietnam War (in 1968, sheesh) and Robert Silverberg, who is to my knowledge the only major Golden Age figure who’s still alive, got into a very recent online controversy.

Speaking of which, you know who I’m gonna bring into vogue if I ever have the power to single-handedly bring artists into vogue? Cordwainer Smith! His massive shared-universe collection The Rediscovery of Man is so brillig. I reread it so many times in high school and college. Actually now that I think of it, a recent story I wrote (not yet out on submission) is directly based on his first published short story "Scanners Live In Vain"–about a guild of spacefarers who have to electrially suppress their emotions to do their job, and about their resistance to innovations that might make their sacrifices moot. I think about that phrase all the time "Do scanners live in vain?" Meaning, were all these sacrifices worthless? Did they give up everything, give up their humanity, for nothing?


As a minor point of trivia, Cordwainer Smith was the pseudonym of Paul Linebarger, an expert in psychological warfare who trained CIA agents, and he is also rumored to be the subject of a classic psychological case study about a sci-fi writer who’s lost touch with reality. I once began so interested in Cordwainer Smith that I actually hunted down a copy of that case study, in a book called the Jet-Propelled Couch, but I no longer have much memory of what was in it.

golden temple near water in evening
Photo by Nav Photography on Pexels.com