"When faced with a problem you do not understand,
do any part of it you do understand; then look at it again."
~(Robert A. Heinlein - "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress")

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Monday, July 25, 2011

Bimbos of the Death Sun ...

... with apologies to Sharyn McCrumb.  (Updated below)

I hope she will forgive my use of the title of one of her novels, as this post will concern itself with same.  I used it because I think a good title should be a "grabber", and if that one doesn't qualify, then I'm damned if I can figure what would.

My previous post, on the pending demise of Borders Books, was announced by email to various friends and acquaintances, one of whom used "Reply to all" to comment, suggesting that E-books helped to do them in.

This prompted another "Reply to all" from the Goddess Bloggess Foxfier ( Head Noises ) mentioning other ways in which Borders may have brought this down upon themselves and also noting...

E-books probably didn't help, nor the way that I couldn't find a single book I wanted in the nearest big store, but could find a lot of over-priced toys. (What I went in for: Kipling's collected poetry, the Just So Stories, some of Tolkien's essays, a fantasy paperback that wasn't a freaking supernatural romance with a Buffy-bimbo on the cover, some book under $10 for a friend's five year old.) Contrast with the used book store on the way back, where I came out with a stack that I actually needed a bag for. (Although I still haven't found the Kipling or Tolkien.)     (Emphasis mine)

So, from the part that I emphasized, I'm guessing she probably wont  be scouring the book stores in search of ...
But, Foxfier:  assuming you haven't already come across it, it really is  worth hunting up and reading, as is its sequel "Zombies of the Gene Pool".

This is a fun murder mystery set at a fantasy con and, upon finishing it, my first thought was, "Did Harlan Ellison write this under one of his many pseudonyms?"

Nope!  It turns out that Sharyn McCrumb is not  one of Harlan's incarnations, but is a real live person, best known for her "Ballad" series of novels (set in Appalachia; only two of which have "Ballad" in their titles).  The only one of this series I've read is "Ghost Riders".

Why is that the only one I've read?

Well, LIFE has this hilarious way of intruding sometimes, and boy did it ever this time!  When I finished it, the intrusion was a very long and painful period of unemployment.  Trust me, something like that will distract you.

In this post I was going to say that the writing style I saw in "Riders" reminded me a bit of Flannery O'Conner (if you are interested in a truly southern horror story, starting out funny and then shifting to horrific, not as an unexpected "gut punch" but as a dawning realization and dread  of coming doom, check out O'Conner's "A Good Man is Hard to Find".  It is bone-chilling, in the inevitability of what's to come.).

But a re-reading of both "Riders" and O'Conner's "A Good Man" shows that McCrumb's style is lighter and more romantic;  I'm overdue to get back to her work.  Until Foxfier reminded me with that "bimbo" reference in her email, I'd forgotten that I still had it.

Ironically I read somewhere that the author who may be the spiritual heir to O'Conner is James Lee Burke with his Detective Dave Robicheaux novels.  The irony part is that "Ghost Riders" concerns Civil War re-enactors who's activities on old battlefields may be re-invoking the spirits of those who originally fought there (in the spirit of a line from Faulkner: "The past is never dead. It's not even past."), and one of Burke's novels ("In the Electric Mist with Confederate Dead") covers very similar ground.

So, there really is  a tenuous connection between McCrumb and O'Conner; just not in a way I would have ever imagined.

So, I need to get re-acquainted with Sharyn McCrumb's work.  And, if you've never read her, give her a try.  I don't think you'll be disappointed.

I hope that she and Harlan Ellison (if he ever hears about this) will forgive me for initially wondering if they were one and the same.  I'll be very surprised if they don't know each other.

Doing a recalculation of a series of assumptions made by Robert A. Heinlein in the mid seventies;  of the roughly 300 million people living in the U.S., probably fewer than a thousand make a full-time living from free-lance writing. Thus, the community is small and probably most of them know of  most of the others, and a rather large percentage probably are closely acquainted.

Finally, one of those that endorsed "Bimbos"  was author Robert Silverberg, known  as a close friend of Harlan Ellison.  As for the possibility that he never brought her to Ellison's attention -- as the robot from "Lost in Space" would have put it ...
   "That does not compute!"

Update - 27 Jul 2011 - Sharyn McCrumb (to whom I sent an FYI about this post) sent to me an email, which she graciously allowed me to include here, stating ...

... And yes, I met Harlan Ellison at the awards banquet in New York at which we both won awards. It turns out that people had been inundating him with copies of the book, because everybody recognized him, and everybody thought they'd be the only person sending him a book. Perhaps because I was eight months pregnant at the time, he did not beat me to death with his trophy.

Anyhow, that was many years ago. I grew up, and I assure you that I am not a mystery writer, and Ghost Riders and all my later works are serious literary novels on which people write masters theses, so you were wide of the mark with both Flannery O'Conner and James Lee Burke. I belong in the parish with Lee Smith, James Dickey, Charles Frazier, Ron Rash-- Southern lit., but mountain rather than deep South-- or with the magic realism writers, such as John Nichols. (See biographical summary below),
 http://www.amazon.com/Race-Storytellers-Essays-Ballad-McCrumb/dp/0865548935

Thanks for the memories from 1988. When I wrote that book, a young actor named Tom Hanks was starring in a network sit-com called "Bosom Buddies" (in drag.) For precisely the same reasons, neither Tom nor I are ever going back.

All best wishes,

Sharyn McCrumb


--

So, I stand corrected.

(Although, on the other hand, what would she know?

I'm flashing back to the only Rodney Dangerfield movie I've ever watched: "Back to School", from the mid-eighties. In it, to provide moral support to his son, he enrolls in the same college. Being a rich, obnoxious jerk who can solve most of his problems with money (before later growing up a bit and getting serious), he hires people to handle his college assignments.

When assigned to write a report on author Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., he picks up the phone. The next scene shows him responding to a knock on the door, which he opens, revealing Kurt Vonnegut himself reporting for duty.

This sets up a punch-line for when, during a later argument with his teacher (Sally Kellerman) over his attitude and way of doing things, she ends the discussion with a parting shot, "By the way. Whoever you paid to write that report doesn't know the first thing about Kurt Vonnegut!"  :-)

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8 comments:

Foxfier said...

The description was at the top of my mind because of both that book, and because of this song.

Also because the F/SF section has been invaded by Buffy without the humor and good writing. I don't mind that some have romance, it's the shoe-horning it in with characters that make Superman look balanced and well-developed that bugs me.

(It's a little depressing-- I've been re-reading some of the books I loved when I was in my teens, and am startled how many of them are so thick with acceptable bigotries [and so hypocritical in it] that I have to wonder if it was on purpose, kind of like how the Anita Blake books have all ended up well into and past where her parody of the Catholic Church said she'd head go if she kept doing her zombie raising.)

Foxfier said...

I hate using "reply-all" for a list that big, but I hate leaving stand an "everyone knows" that probably isn't so. Since Borders flatly announced that their associate program was the big drain on their budget, I didn't want ebooks getting more blame.

Especially not since the e-version of most books big stores carry is incredibly expensive for no good reason-- I don't mind folks making a profit, but I'm not going to hand a publisher several times their usual profit margin for the privilege of not having paper.)

I expect the attacks on ebooks to pick up as the industry (bumbumbum!) realizes that a lot of folks won't need them anymore. (Heck, even James Lileks is doing some digital publishing, and he's already published on dead tree.)

Paul Gordon said...

Thank you, for that link.

I now have a new project; checking the used bookstores for a copy of Michael Flynn's "The Forest of Time", entirely because it's supposed to include his epic poem "There's a Bimbo on the Cover" (his own words; what more do I need? :-)

If I don't find it, then I'll just pony up the $9.99 for the Kindle version.

As I'm cheap, this should hint as to how much you inspire me.
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Paul Gordon said...

I hate using "reply-all" for a list that big

Don't worry about it. If I was bashful about passing on vital information to a multitude, then I probably wouldn't be blogging.

And, sometimes you get info from people you don't know and would probably never have met.

The guy who replied with "You may want to look at ABE Books (www.abebooks.com)" is an Air Force buddy of mine (from the days I mentioned in "The Anvil of Life" and "Just 50 years ago today ...") that I haven't seen in half a century.

If you've managed to put something interesting in a "reply-all", who knows where it might lead? :-)
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Foxfier said...

*grin* Cheap is good. "Thrifty" is nicer, though. ;^p

Paul Gordon said...

Ok!

Know then, that had we ever dated, you would have later told all your friends,
"He's the thriftiest guy I've ever met!"

(Or something like that. :-)
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Foxfier said...

Re: update.

I love the internet.....

Paul Gordon said...

I love the internet...

...and the things one can learn there.

Of course, as to the value of that knowledge, I'll always remember a co-worker's response to some little factoid I regurgitated during a conversation a long time ago ...

"Paul: You are a mine of useless information!!!"

:-)

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