It’s been a busy couple of weeks. I took a business trip to Atlanta and got sick in the middle of it, then when I got back, we fell into an opportunity to move into a brick Tudor Revival house that we have loved for years. So, for the last week, we’ve been frantically moving stuff from the old mobile home to the new house, and now that everything’s moved, we begin the process of unboxing and evaluating how much of this stuff we actually need.  (Yeah, I know, it’s a bit backwards, but we didn’t have a lot of time to go through things before moving.)

As always, there are casualties in moving. For me, the biggest casualty has been my signed first-edition hardback of Contact, by Carl Sagan.  It was destroyed by water damage while in storage at the old house.  The book is was worth a fair amount of money, but the sentimental value of the book was much greater to me because it was given to me by a writing group friend a decade or so ago.  There were other signed hardbacks in the same box, by authors like Dan Simmons and Leslie Marmon Silko, and my beloved trade paperback of Silko’s Ceremony was ruined as well, but none of those books held the same emotional attachment for me that Contact did.  Ah, well.

I received my preliminary schedule for MileHiCon 44 today, and will post that later, but for now, I wanted to take the time to just write something on this long-neglected blog.

Garage Sales & Source Enlightenment

Today I picked up a bunch of great books at a garage sale, including another copy of Ellison’s Angry Candy, Datlow’s Alien Sex anthology, several issues of Glimmer Train, a Leslie Marmon Silko book, the screenplay and director’s journal for Darren Aronofsky’s p(Pi), and Philip Toshio Sudo’s Zen Sex, the companion volume to Zen Guitar, which I reviewed on this website. My friend Dave also went to that garage sale, and purchased The Collected Stories of Philip K. Dick, Volume I. I saw him walking down the sidewalk, and asked if they had anything good at the sale.

“They did. But it’s yours, now. Happy early birthday present.” He handed me the book.

Thanks, Dave. 🙂

In the afternoon, I watched the Broncos-Rams game, glad to see that Brian Griese pulled through for the team. I get sick of the media hounding him, and it was nice to see him prove — again — that he’s a world class quarterback. During the game, I told my wife that I was going to either write or critique stories tonight, and that’s exactly what I did, after losing a close game of Literati to her. I beat her sister, though. (It’s strange to play a game over the Internet with someone who’s in the next room, but by doing so, we were also able to play with her sister in Phoenix. Pretty cool!)

I worked on “Chesterfield Gray,” getting into the swing of it by revising the three pages I had written before. I then continued for another page and a half, fact-checking WWII on the Internet as I went. I still didn’t know where the story was going, or why a WWII story was coming out, but I made a passing reference to Kamikaze attacks, and started exploring the main male character to see what made him tick. I decided that he had seen real death, and it had affected him deeply, and got to wondering which battles would be the most likely for him to have been in. I wanted it to be a battle where ships were known to have been directly hit by Kamikaze pilots, and the only ship that I knew off the top of my head had been hit was the U.S.S. Saratoga. She was badly damaged near Iwo Jima in 1945, with seven direct hits by Japanese aircraft. Three of those direct hits were Kamikaze strikes.

I know this because I dug out the obituary for my Uncle Wayne Johnson, who passed away in July. He was on the Saratoga on February 21, 1945, and was one deck below a direct Kamikaze hit. He spent the next ten days in a Hawaiian hospital, getting a glass eye and reconstructive surgery.

As I was reading the obituary, it hit me why I am writing this story. It’s my way of grieving for and paying tribute to my Uncle Wayne. Of course, the events in the story will only be tangential to his life, but I understand now why the story is coming out of me. I have a direction, now, and I can work on shaping the story into something worthy of his memory.

Wayne (sitting) and Lyle Johnson, brothers.  Cutter, New Mexico, March 2002
Photo © Stace Johnson, all rights reserved.