Friday, March 28, 2008

Me and Science Fiction

Cover of the first magazine to publish
my work (What is Posat?)

My first published stories - way back in 1951 - were in science fiction magazines. I was 30 years old at the time, with four small children, and , frankly, I don’t know how I could have found the time to hunt and peck out publishable stories on my old typewriter. But I had always been an omnivorous reader, science fiction had become suddenly fashionable (readership of the top magazines in the hundreds of thousands), and I was the grown-up little girl who had wanted to be both both astronomer and space traveler. I remember sitting on the front steps, looking up at a starry sky and saying to my mother, “Oh, I want so much to go to Mars!”

To which she replied, “Oh, don’t be silly!”

As this post will disclose, if you didn’t know it already, Granny Smith’s full name is Phyllis Sterling Smith. My first published story was in the same 1951 Galaxy Magazine as the first installment of Robert Heinlein’s The Puppet Masters. The title of my story was What is Posat?

I never wrote space opera. Most of my stories were solidly tied to earth, and were either stories of a future that might be an outcome of current trends, or were stories of alien visitors. Some of these were humorous, such as The Best Policy which postulated aliens who took human form, landed in the midst of a burlesque show, and - and this is the twist - were unable to tell a lie.

Alien Space Ship landing in midst of
burlesque show.

My favorite of my sci fi stories is The Quaker Lady and the Jelph, which was dramatized on a national TV hour-long Science Fiction Theater as “The Quiet Lady”. I think the network was CBS, but we had no TV set in our house yet in those days and had to view it at the home of a friend (who was also a Friend i.e. Quaker). It was also anthologized several times. It, of all my stories, best dramatizes some of my own feelings about alien incursions from space - that we should give aliens the benefit of the doubt before assuming that they should be eliminated. After all, they would have evolved a society advanced enough to develop space travel before destroying themselves by warfare! And they might be altruistic enough to risk their lives to save the lives of this primitive earthly society, as did the Jelph of this story.

First page of story.

Enough said. These few faded pages of old magazines are what remain of my science fiction days. I no longer want to go to Mars, but am happy that little robots wander the Mars landscape sending back pictures and information that I can access on the inter net that none of the science fiction writers of the 50s imagined in their stories of the future.

And I look with an ever-increasing sense of delighted wonder at the night sky and a universe or universes that scientists think to be ever more infinite and complex. And maybe - just maybe - we will understand more of it before we self-destruct.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Come again!

I just want to call your attention to what I posted just a few moments before Sunday Scribblings (the one with the image of the peace-symboled earth). I had just posted my little celebration of spring (Spring Is Here) when I found that Sunday Scribblings had posted an early (Thursday) prompt, and I immediately got busy on "Why Can't I Go There Anymore?"! If you enjoy pics of spring flowers, I think you might enjoy these California ones if you skipped the original post.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Why Can't I Go There Anymore?

(Sunday Scribblings prompt is "I don't get it)


I thought the world was mine.
I thought that I could swim in any ocean.
Clouds below were my familiar landscape.
How could I know that wings that carried me
would be landlocked,
horizons shrink and borders close forever?

Oil executives
I object!

It’s my life that you circumscribe.
I miss my world!
Your oil is running short; so too my years
and I am bitter with thwarted expectations.

I know that somewhere children starve.
Their eyes rebuke my selfishness.

But oh! I want my steaming jungles, jangle
of unknown tongues, smells of roasting coffee,
lights of a city never seen before that mark
a thousand homes, in each of which
I live a lifetime
for a moment.

For a little more cheery subject, go to my previous post to see some pretty spring flowers. Just erase everything in the above URL that is beyond, press enter and scroll down below this post. (This is information for new bloggers, not an attempt to insult you old-timers!)

Spring is here!

cherry blossoms in neighbor's yard

It's official! This is the first full day of spring! Actually it arrived yesterday when we weren't looking, just sort of sneaked in last evening. But these flowers were already blooming in my neighbors' gardens when I walked a few houses down the street from our house, camera in hand.

blue primrose

yellow primrose

golden primrose

pink and white primula

This must have been several small plants
clumped together and planted. ???

I always think that whatever season is current is my favorite season. Spring is special, though, because it is the season of JOY. I don't mean simple happiness, but that rare flash of radiant emotion that makes one want to sing, shout and dance, kick up one's heels like the gamboling lambs and calves on the green hills.

This following poem I pull from my files every spring, and I have posted it once - last April, I think. I was in that that rare joyous state when I wrote it several years ago.

Spring is not allegory. It is weighed
in density of sound from drunken bees,
intensity of sky, contrast of shade
and glinting leaf, the whisper brush of breeze
against my sleeveless skin; and it is seen
in swooping jay’s blue stitchery that sews
pure cherry blossom white to tender green.
Spring is the sun-baked boards beneath bare toes,
strawberries tart on tongue, the first warm night
that lilac scent, as thick as honey pours
through opened windows, moths around the light
and filmy dust of pollen on the floors.
Don’t try to find a meaning or define,
For spring is real
and here
and now
and mine!
Have a happy springtime in whatever manner you celebrate it!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Memory of Quitandinha (Sunday Scribblings)

This photo was lifted from Google Images

Sunday Scribblings gave us a choice of past prompts, and I chose Hotel Stories.

The year was 1954, and we had been in Brazil, a country still new to us and glamorous to us, for only a few months, when we first saw this grand hotel in Petropolis. The story we were told at that time (which I find no hint of in their current web literature) was that it had been built by the Brazilian government as a casino, and that, shortly after completion, the Brazilian government had outlawed gambling! It was (and still is) a magnificent hotel. One difference that I noted in current photos is that the facade of the building is now flood-lighted at night. That was not the case in 1954, when only a few lights reflected on the lake, leaving the rest to darkness and the stars.

The room rates were such that we could barely afford three tiny rooms for ourselves and our four children. The hotel had dining halls and ballrooms, breakfast rooms and art galleries, conservatories and libraries. What it lacked was a swimming pool. The lake in front of it was lovely but undeveloped, reedy at the edges, with a small dock for swan boats - those two-seated pedal craft built to look like swans. In truth, the boats didn't seem to bother the real swans, who floated majestically among them. The lake was NOT intended for swimming, but the day had been hot, and Otto and I craved the relief of cool water. With the children asleep in their two rooms (daughter Candace responsible enough to take care of any emergency) we sneaked out of the hotel and down to the lake.

This is my memory in informal verse:

A Memory of Quitindinha

The water of the lake
by day opaque and wearing swans
was ink at night
the southern cross
afloat upon its skin.

Our bodies bare
to warm grass-scented air
we pushed the stars aside
and ruffled constellations
as we waded in—
our limbs grown clumsy
in the unfamiliar element
you and I
still tied to earth
by mud that oozed between our toes.

The tepid water rose
past ankles, waists
until we stood neck deep
then lying back as though to sleep
our knees bobbed to the surface
our backs arched upward and we floated—
water's whisper against our eardrums
hair waving from scalps like seagrass
and all our tethers broken.

Our arms drifted outward
until our fingers touched
and were our sole solidity—
all else defined
by gently rocking water that upheld us
and by the dark infinities above
cold, remote, and glorious with stars
whose reflected fragments
shivered near us.

in our rented bed
under the slanting eaves
we touched again
we were buoyed up
gently rocked on primal seas
and the stars were glorious

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Error in Order!

My last post, which I had saved as a draft, is posted below my Sunday Scribblings! Please go to it for a post finalized today, Tuesday, March 11. Someday I'll learn all the little tricks on Blogger, but I never realized that if I started a draft before publishing another post that it would flop down to second place on my blog. Now I've learned!

Friday, March 7, 2008

Word Games (Sunday Scribblings)

I’ll admit it. I’m a word junkie. My favorite games are Scrabble and Boggle. I work and even create crossword puzzles. Beyond that, I love to play with individual words, twist them, slap them into new forms, wring them out for new meanings.

Whereas others may put themselves to sleep by counting sheep, I do so by counting the number of words that I can make from the letters of a single word chosen at random. I do mean at random. Sometimes I choose it by focusing on the spine of a book in my bookcase. Sometimes it just pops into my head. Sometimes I am frustrated, as when the word that popped into my head was Mississippi. Try as I might, I could only come up with the following words: sip, pips, pip, miss, sips, piss, pimp, pimps, imps, imp, simp (slang) and simps. When, as I sometimes do when I run out of other possibilities, I tried to compose something from these, it turned out to be indecent.

Last night the word for courting slumber was multiplications. I should explain my self-imposed rules. I only use letters to the extent that they occur in the original word. Therefore, from the word above, I could make action but not inaction, since the latter has two ns and multiplication has only one.

It put me to sleep last night, but not before the richness of its harvest imprinted itself on my mind to the extent that I expanded my word search into today. Then I tried to use the new words to compose a piece. What is it? Poem? Lecture? Diatribe? You decide.

Call up an atoll,
a tall atomic mist,
as small mutations cast a pall on millions.
Mull on impact , on implications
as an oil scion claims soil to tap for oil,
as compliant oilist toils to plant
panic imputations,
put out an illicit call-up to all,
to a son to sail into action
to implant on locals an unlocal plan,
to still complaints --
son lost at an action station
in pain to taint a soul,
slain in oil silt,
lain so still!
So still!

Oust a scamp!
Opt to call a recall poll!
A plain stipulation:
Stamp out atomic multiplication,
its toll on trust!
Cast out oil pacts!
Split past oil until
sun, not oil, can act!
Stop oil action,
its oil spill, oil spoil.

And to think that all this was found in that one word multiplications!

Yes, as you might guess from this, I have other obsessions: peace on earth, protection of the environment, world health and others. I’m sorry I couldn’t show my support of women by including a daughter as well as a son in this little piece. But she was not to be found in multiplications. Could it be that she prefers mathematics? If so, perhaps it’s because it has team items as its meat.

Yes, words can say things about themselves! I don’t know what this might mean in the case of Mississippi. I’ll skip New Orleans and the possible miss with a pimp. But I do remember a night in a motel on the Mississippi River when my husband and I bought bottled water so that, given the color of the water that flowed from our faucet, we didn’t have to sip piss from upstream!

Best Blogging Buddies Award

Jen at My Humble Opinion gave me this Best Blogging Buddies award. Thank you, Jen for the nice things you said about me.

Jen didn't say how many awards I could pass along. I'm going to limit my list to a special few, my reason being that if I went beyond that I'd have to choose among all my other dear blogging friends by playing eeny-miney-mo!
1. Mary Ann, at Peacock Blue, my first-found blogging friend, very dear to me and a joy to turn to daily.
2. Marianne, whose constant comments, humorous, quirky or flattering, brighten my day.
3. Tumblewords, poet and artist.
4. Inland Empire Girl at Gathering Around the Table, whose gracious invitation always draws me in.

Spring has been with us for several weeks, and is a joy for me to get out in it even though I still have to be very careful with my back. The pink-flowering plum along the streets has already dropped its petals and has tender new burgundy-clored leaves. Many yards are lush right now with Japanese Magnolia blossoms, and I had Otto stop the car a couple of times so that I could snap these photos (we were on our way to the grocery store - one of my first shopping trips in a long time!).

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Playing Tag

First I’d like to catch up on some things I’ve been wanting to post but haven’t gotten around to. Myrtle’s and Byron’s visit was a delight, and they spoiled me dreadfully with delicious food and good company.

Good things seem to come in threes! Mary Ann at Peacock Blue tagged me a while ago for a list of six things about me. Then, just today, Bella Mocha tagged me for the same thing! I will post my list today (see below), but I’d better hurry, since Bella Mocha was one of the ones I intended to tag! I’ll run out of tagees if this keeps up! Can it be that memes are the new spring fever going around? And Jen at My Humble Opinion has just given me that best blog buddies award that appears at right. I won’t pass it on today, since this post will be long enough!

Well here is my list of a few of my quirks and foibles:

1. I hum almost all the time. Nine tenths of the time I am unaware of it. There is always music playing in my head. Especially when I am consciously thinking of something else (which is most of the time) someone will call attention to it - in grocery lines, libraries, or at home when I will get stuck on one particular song. My family knows better than to say, “ Don’t hum!” They know I will only start again when I again become preoccupied with something else. Instead they say, “Please change the phonograph record.” My husband once wrote a song for me called Hum Sweet Hum.

2. Back when a slightly younger physique enabled me to walk to it, I often sneaked into the playground of a park at midmorning when the children were in school. My goal was the tall swing-set with long chains, the one intended for older children. There I would pump my swing
as high as I did as a child. Occasionally I would encounter another oldster engaged in the same clandestine activity.

3. Given a newspaper to read, I will turn first to the Sudoku puzzle and second to the Crossword puzzle. Then I read the funnies and only then turn to the news - which these days often makes me cry.

4. I can think up all sorts of good reasons to eat chocolate - I really need the calories, They say it’s full of anti-oxidants, It’s a holiday today, I need the caffiene in it ... And my husband serves me choclate-mint ice cream as a bedtime snack.

5. I love dragons. Not the actual creatures, of course, but pictures, stories, poetry and songs about them. One of my favorite movies is Dragonheart, the story of a brave and ultimately self-sacrificing dragon who deserves his place in the firmament. (Draco). I also like other reptiles. My first pet was a little garter snake.

6. My hero is my husband, who (at the age of 90) still works 12 hours or more a day on energy conservation, preventing global warming, and promoting peace and justice. I wish for the same things that he works so hard for. (And yes, that’s a dangling participal that I’m ending this list with!)

My tagees:

1. Josie (aka Jonstermom) at Jonster's Days. And this should to be about her, not Jon, adorable though he is!

2. Stan at Blue Heron in love with old cars and wife Dianne.

3. Dianne at The Rat's Nest a sweet, brave and busy lady with a sense of humor. Check out the URL on her blog!

4. Tealeaves, hoping that she has not already been tagged!

5. Daria at Daria's Day, journalist, photographer extraordinaire and she also has a couple of cute kids!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008


Move your mouse around this kitty. Than try the "more" at bottom right of pic. To stop playing with "more" just set it back again at lower right.