Written for Lan's Lantern
appeared in Fosfax
republished with permission
First published For Challenger #30 republished with permission
by Mike Resnick
I wrote The Branch after taking a 11-year-old Laura to see her first James Bond movie. When we got back home, she began karate-ing (is that a word?) all the furniture, and in the process broke an antique chair.
We were living in Libertyville, Illinois at the time, and I checked the phone book and dropped the chair off at the closest place that repaired antique furniture. An assistant took it, gave me a receipt, and told me what day to pick it up.
First published @ Argentus republished with permission
I’ve written a number of alternate history stories about Theodore Roosevelt. Some were Hugo nominees; one was a Nebula nominee; one was read professionally by William Windom; one was optioned by Hollywood; all but one have been resold many times.
So naturally the one with no awards, no award nominations, no movie options, and no resales is the one that I think is the best of them, and perhaps the best un-nominated story I’ve written to date.
It began back in the 1960s, when Paul Neimark, who later wrote She Lives, and I were laboring in what has come to be known euphemistically as the “adult field”. One or the other of us would get a book assignment, and since we both hated writing these novels we’d collaborate. We’d flip a coin, and the loser had to do the sex scenes that conprised 25% of the book, and the winner got to write the 75% that contained the plot and characters and all the other stuff that our particular readers weren’t interested in.
It's hard to imagine it today, but 40 years ago Edgar Rice Burroughs was considered a children's writer. Only a handful of his books were in print, eight or nine Tarzan titles, and they were published as a matched, cheap ($1.00 apiece) set of hardcovers by Grosset & Dunlap. The only place you could find them was in the Juvenile or Young Adult section of your local bookstore.
Mars? Venus? Pellucidar? If you were born after 1940, there was an excellent chance you didn't know they existed. Yes, ERB Inc. reprinted the Mars and Venus books, but their distribution was dreadful. For example, in Chicago, where I grew up—the second-biggest city in America—only one establishment, Carson Pirie Scott (a department store, not a bookstore) carried the ERB reprints.
He had a thick shock of hair as white as new-fallen snow, a jaw that Bob Kane would love to have drawn on the Batman (and frequently did), and a gravelly voice that sounded like a wire-haired terrier being combed against the grain.
He was my friend, the legendary Lou Tabakow, founder of First Fandom and God Emperor of CFG (Cincinnati Fantasy Group), and I'd like to tell you a little about him.
What kind of man was Isaac?
Let me tell you a story that took place in 1987.
I was in Westchester County, New York, to toastmaster a convention known as Lunacon. I got there a day early, and walked to the train station, where I planned to take a train to Manhattan, do a little shopping, meet my friend Barry Malzberg for a late lunch, and get a ride back with him.
Problem was, there were dozens of trains to choose from, and no one had given me a schedule. A little old lady—she must have been in her seventies—took pity on me, asked me where I was going, and since it turned out we were both waiting for the same train, she offered to ride with me and let me know where to get off.
We got to talking during the train ride, and I mentioned the reason I was in town, and she replied that she didn't know much about science fiction, but she had always wanted to meet the world-famous Isaac Asimov. And, without even knowing for a fact that he would be there, I told her that if she showed up on Saturday night, I'd be happy to introduce her.
He was a clown with a difference – when he wasn’t busy amusing the press, he killed some 300,000 of his own people and invaded a neighboring country. Even the war had aspects of a circus.
He was Idi Amin, of course. As a young man he had enlisted in the Kenyan army, and had actually become its heavyweight boxing champion. When he returned to his native Uganda, he rose rapidly in the military, and when he could rise no higher, he overthrew Dr. Milton Obote, who was no Lincoln-in-the-making, and became President in 1971.
Obote fled next door to Tanzania, where the President of that nation, Julius Nyerere, gave him sanctuary – and when Amin decided it was easier to kill off his political opposition than win them over to his side with compelling arguments, Nyerere also offered sanctuary to some 20,000 Ugandans who were fleeing for their lives.
All this took place during the first two years of Amin’s reign.
Amin, for reasons a lot of us have yet to comprehend, was the darling of the Western press – at least for awhile. But in bits and pieces, Uganda’s darker secrets began coming out. He turned government buildings into mass torture chambers. He began committing genocide on any Ugandans who were not from his own tribe. He erected a statue of Adolf Hitler in the middle of the capital city of Kampala, declaring the Fuehrer to be his hero. Though Uganda’s economy was pretty much run by, and dependant upon, Indians, Amin kicked them all out of the country. Then, when the economy tanked and inflation skyrocketed, he invited them back – only to kick them out (and appropriate their property and their businesses) a second time. He couldn’t afford to feed his army, so he allowed them to poach their meals in the game parks. It’s said he even practiced cannibalism on his own infant (or unborn; the accounts differ) son.
by Mike Resnick
Let me start by saying that I love books and magazines. I like the heft and feel of them. I grew up with the printed page. I can’t remember ever having a house where most of the wall space wasn’t covered by overflowing bookshelves. I don’t especially like reading my science fiction off the computer screen.
But as a science fiction writer—and one who has to pay the bills with his science fiction—it’s my job to look ahead and see what’s coming, and whether I like it or not makes no difference. It is not a matter of Good or Bad, but rather of True or False. And the truth is that we’re not going to be pulping as many forests in the future.
Twenty years ago, when the Internet was just taking off, just about every established science fiction writer was approached by start-up publishers. The pitch was always the same: give me something for free today and I’ll make you rich tomorrow (or maybe next week, or possibly in 17 years, or conceivably in . . .) Every one of them went belly-up.
Copyright (c) 2000 by Mike Resnick.
Just saw Van Helsing. I have to preface this by saying I thought Stephen Sommers' The Mummy was a better film than any of the Indiana Jones films, and that the sequel, though flawed, was at least enjoyable.
This one isn't quite as dumb or as bad as The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, but it comes mighty close. An hour into it Carol, who never leaves a film or a play, turned to me and whispered that she was ready to walk out if I was. I couldn't believe it wouldn't get better, so we stayed. I was wrong. It got worse.