Philip Roth

Philip Roth’s recent death brought this to mind.

I wrote a story, Princess of the Night, as an exercise in a class I took during a workshop in Prague. On the plane to Prague, I read a novel by Philip Roth and his fascinating style was in my mind when we were given an assignment. So this story owes its life to Roth. Little did I know that my instructor, Arnost Lustig, a well known Czech writer, was a personal friend of Roth. My paper was met with modest feedback. I never claimed to be as good as Roth!

You can read it here: Princess of the Night


There is an interesting article in the June 2018 issue of Harper’s “Suspicious Minds” by Ava Koffman looks at efforts to apply AI to public surveillance. The article considers emerging AIs that can watch our streets for suspicious activity. The privacy and automation bias issues are ones I am exploring in More Uncertainty. This subject is rapidly evolving.

Monitor in Print

My short story, “Monitor” is now in print in Black Ice Magazine Vol. 2. There is a little backup to the writing of this story on my web pages at Publications.

Comment by the Black Ice editor: “You had me at ‘religious fanatics redirecting asteroids to Earth.’ A great blend of dry absurdity and speculation.”

More Uncertainty the sequel to Nano-Uncertainty is now at 60,000 words in the first draft. The characters have taken the story to places I didn’t foresee. I love it when that happens.

Sales of Nano-Uncertainty on Amazon are increasing. Not as fast as I’d like, but up 10% to 15% per month. Getting a few reviews on Goodreads.


IQ Contagion

I read a post by someone who felt that they had been made dumber by listening to Trump. His Babbleness was ranting at the CPAC conference the next morning. I listened for only a few minutes before I felt brain cells dying. With as many as I’ve already lost, I figured I couldn’t afford to lose anymore and turned it off.

If I went to a Trump rally, would I forget how to tie my shoes? Subjected to political speeches every day, do congressional pages have to be placed in supervised facilities after a few years in service? I was relieved to find out that the page program was ended. What about reporters! Has daily political speech already made them driveling idiots? You judge.

But perhaps this is the wrong metaphor. Exposure to farm animals at a young age gives children better allergy resistance. Is exposure to the crazy discussions about arming teachers inoculating a generation of teenagers against Fox news infections? Imagine a citizenry that could tell the difference between reasoned discussion and propaganda. Dream on.

Trolls and Bullies

Where did we get the idea that Internet communications should be anonymous? The Internet registration authority, ICANN, requires that all websites and IP addresses have real contacts, but once you get into a system like Twitter or Facebook, accountability disappears.

It is not enough that when an anonymous person bullies someone, disparages someone, or publishes lies that the person attacked gets to complain to the manager of the system who may or may not punish the offender. A bully’s penalty is have their Twitter account closed? In the world outside Twitter or Facebook, a bully is shamed for their actions. Someone must consider consequences when on stands up in a public forum and tells lies or disparage someone. In Facebook, the bully or propagandist is protected, but the bullied has little recourse.

I think we have to require that Internet services know who their users truly are and those identities should be public. These services are not small anonymous chat rooms anymore. That was the model in the infancy of the Internet, but the Internet has to grow up and foster responsible communications.

Master Class

I wanted to share my joy at being accepted into the Master Class workshop at Mendocino Coast Writers Conference this year – MCWC. I participated in the Master Class last year and, like many of the activities at MCWC, forged a bond with the other writers. We keep in contact and encourage each other. Several of us have had stories, novels, and poetry published since the workshop, and many are still working on the goal we set for ourselves: one hundred rejections.

I have been going to MCWC on and off for several years. I don’t know how unique it is, but the non-competitive, encouraging atmosphere is truly amazing. I like to think it is a result of the work of Suzanne Byerley, who was co-director when I first attended the conference. She was so encouraging. She made me believe that it was doing the work that counted. If you worked hard, shared what you discovered, and helped your fellows, good things would happen.

As she has for the last three years, my daughter, Samantha, will be joining me. She is working on the second rewrite of her memoir, Raver Princess. Like me, she has found the conference encouraging.