So Long, Ursula

I’m sorry to say that beloved SF author (and fellow Portlander) Ursula K. LeGuin has died.

I did not know her in this life. If I was Phil I did know her but it was a fraught friendship of which I remember nothing.

And yet in this life, I owe her a great deal more. A preeminent voice in american SF, she raised the bar for women in the genre. Pick nits all you want about whether I’m a “real” woman (I get that nonsense all the time), but I’m real enough that the world, by and large, sees me as one, treats me as one, and addresses me as one. I’m real enough to see how the SF genre isn’t always very friendly to female authors, and often presents women as dated stereotypes, mere accessories to male characters, or as flat, superficial representations. Ursula was one of the writers that helped make it easier for writers to present well-developed women in their work.

One of her criticisms of Phil was that his female characters weren’t well developed, and this was a fair and accurate criticism. In my current work I have something to work from, some experience, some insight, that has helped but if it wasn’t for authors like Ursula, I would be under pressure to cater to the male gaze. Special interest factions like the Sad/Sick Puppies are still trying to turn back the clock, but they never will. What’s done is done. Thank you, Ursula. Today I remember your feminism with joy and gratitude.

I should also add, her book “The Lathe of Heaven” was a major influence on my latest novel (the one I finished in October and hope to release by April). In her honor, here is a 1980 film adaptation.

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Not Sure What To Make of This

On the one hand, I still haven’t completely given up on the prospect of having been Philip K. Dick in my last life.  The semblances in personality are pretty uncanny, as I’ve prattled on at length about over the last two and a half years.

Lately though, I’ve been getting flashes of another life in England that I believe may have ended some time between 1940 and 1955.  Very brief ones, and only two so far, both featuring a beautiful woman.  I believe I was a man of some means, refined, passionate, and suave, but died in my prime.

This is problematic because this is an awful lot like one of the characters from my most recently published book.  I’m reluctant to believe anything that too closely resembles the suave, dapper, debonair mid-century British aerospace engineer I conceived in my book, who was born in 1901 and has a vision in 1946 that reveals that he will die in 1957 (a bit longer than the life I keep seeing, but only by about 14 years).  On the other hand, the character was so convincingly written that I may well have been drawing from a deeper well of personal experience.

Maybe it’s nothing.  The woman I saw looked a little too much like some fantasy from a Hollywood movie, wearing this sleek 40s high fashion dress and coming out of the fog as I listened to Jussi Bjorling’s rendition of “Nessun Dorma” from Puccini’s Turandot, a song that could very well have been the soundtrack of a Hollywood movie.

None of this has the feel of verisimilitude I got when I tried on Phil as a past life identity.  It feels like the creation of my own romantic mind, and not the sad, painfully ordinary and constantly fearful man I saw myself as, peering fearfully through blinds at unmarked cop cars in the early 70s.  There was nothing romantic about being Phil as I remembered it, and anything that smacks of more romance than the life of an impoverished writer- the only reality I’ve known in my present adult life- seems both presumptuous and wishful thinking.

About the only reason I have to give this latest flash of the 20th century the benefit of the doubt is because I hadn’t actually been trying to dig up past life memories lately.  I felt like I was trying too hard and I had walked away from it.  This flash was spontaneous and unexpected.  Still, something about it doesn’t pass the smell test.

Back to the Bay

In 2013, I released a fantasy novel I had written in San Jose.  I had no idea just how close to Berkeley I was and I hadn’t yet remembered any of Phil’s life, plus the book was straight-up fantasy.  I stuck within a small block of downtown San Jose and didn’t really get out at all, which in hindsight I really regret because I was so close to Berkeley.

Next year, I may be releasing the sequel to that book in the same city, and this time I will cherish the fact that I’m alive, active, and releasing a Fantasy/Sci-Fi crossover in the Bay Area.

Keeping to my vow of not promoting my work here I won’t give any specifics of when, where, or which book, but that’s not important; I just wanted to say there’s a good chance I’ll be there, and that you all cannot fathom how much this means to me.