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April 2006

 

Intensive Care & Recovery, White Odyssey, Writer's Reward, Death Dreams, Book Report, Fashions, and more.

This newsletter appears monthly around the first of each month. Past newsletters are archived at the web site where you are now www.darrellbain.com

Intensive Care
This has been a very interesting month, if a somewhat scary and at times extremely uncomfortable one. Originally I had a lot on my schedule, but toward the last of February I began feeling ill and it got progressively worse. I won't bore you with a rendition of all the complications, but suffice to say I wound up in the ICU unit of one hospital, then my doctor transferred me to the ICU unit of another hospital. In the meantime I lost a lot of blood and had to be transfused with 6 units before the correct diagnosis was made and the problem corrected. I spent my entire hospitalization in intensive care.

During the worst of the crisis I was receiving lots of morphine, then another narcotic, and they provoked a surreal experience of thinking I was sent to the good place, but they told me I was too bad to be admitted. I went to the bad place and they told me I was too good to stay there. While I was wondering where to go next, Betty grabbed me by the ear and told me I wasn't going anywhere unless she said so and that was that. I blinked and I was still in my hospital bed. Shucks, me and everyone who knows her thinks Betty is an angel and that ought to prove it.

During the whole crisis, every time I saw Betty entering my room, or woke up and saw her sitting beside my bed, I felt as if a warm, bright glow had been triggered in me. As if she had turned a switch on me somewhere that lit me up and made me feel about ten degrees warmer and suffused my whole being with her wonderful, caring presence. I guess that's love, huh?

I'm writing this the middle of March. I've only been home for two days and I'm still so weak I can hardly get around. I stay up an hour then have to go back to bed. But it certainly beats how I felt in the hospital, and I'll slowly regain my strength. As I said, I had lots of things on my schedule for the month but I doubt if I'll be up to any writing other than this newsletter and answering mail for the next three weeks or four weeks. After that, I fully expect to get back to work.

Just one more note: Betty and I are extremely grateful that my doctor was so astute and so persistent in getting me properly diagnosed and the condition corrected. In fact, he just called to see how I was doing at home and reminded me to be sure and come in Monday and have my blood count checked.

White Odyssey
My newest novel, White Odyssey has just been released in e-book edition, with print to come later. It deals with a future where whites are on the bottom tier of society. It's sort of the opposite coin of my book The Melanin Apocalypse, where an attempt is made to wipe out the black population of earth. The theme of White Odyssey has been done before, as with Heinlein's "Farnham's Freehold", but as usual, I've taken an old theme and given it sort of a new twist. Neither of my books are related in any manner; they just deal with two faces of the same coin. I do hope you enjoy reading them, and comments are invited. Prejudice is a subject that's going to be with us, in one form or another, so long as we're human. I think the best we can hope for is a gradual sublimation of the impulse as we as a species gradually become more knowledgeable--by which time some other contrary feature of human nature will rear its ugly head. We are a weird species, that's for sure.

Writer's Reward
I get quite a lot of fan mail these days, but I've never been so emotionally moved as I was by the letter I received a few weeks ago. It brought tears to my eyes and put a lump in my throat at the revelation that something I wrote could so influence someone else's life, in such a positive fashion. It's letters like these, not the money, which are an author's real reward. Parts of the letter are excerpted below, in a manner so that the one who wrote it can't be identified.

"...did 2 years in Nam...., spent too much time outside Saigon,
saw too much, became a rabid feminist - couldn't be spoken to for years
- finally calmed down enough to earn a living and retired last month.
In all those years I couldn't revisit Nam in any way until your "Medics
Wild" turned up on Fictionwise, and that took a month or so to get
through, even though it's a trance read. It's real but let me laugh, and
put some of my own ghosts into the past. I'm grateful to you...
Thanks again for Medics Wild."

What more could a writer ask?

Death Dream
Have you ever dreamed you're dying? While I was in ICU, I did. I flailed my arms and legs at first, knowing something was dreadfully wrong with me. Then the flailing died down to where I just lay there twitching and then realized I was dying. It went on and on and I remember in my dream I was thinking, "When is it going to be over? I'm tired of dying. Get on with it!" And then I woke up, still in ICU, attached to my bed with a spider web of tubes and wires. Isn't the mind funny? Aren't dreams funny?

Book Report
I was too sick to read much before going to the hospital and once home, didn't have the energy to tackle anything new. However, reading is about all I felt up to, so I re-read some of my favorites.

I read Tarzan and The Return Of Tarzan again. Burroughs was quite a writer. There's no accurate count of how many copies of his books have been printed world wide, but it probably approaches a billion. I enjoyed Tarzan just as much as ever, but it is interesting to compare the restrictions a writer faced back then. No sex. No mention of elimination of body wastes. There's many others, too. I wonder if writers back then actually felt constrained or whether they even thought much about it. Perhaps the constraints were so much a part of the culture back then that not mentioning so crass a subject as going to the bathroom, for instance, never occurred to them.

Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn are two more old favorites. And to think that Huckleberry Finn, in particular, was dismissed as "vulgar" and not suitable for print, and later on, vilified for mention of words like nigger, etc. I'm sure in my own mind that Mark Twain was just trying to tell a good yarn and didn't give much thought to what the critics might think.

I remember Huckleberry Finn in particular because my fifth grade teacher read the class the whole book aloud that year. We were mesmerized with it and could hardly wait until it was time for her to read every day. It's sad when I think it couldn't be done these days. Political correctness has gone way too far.

David Weber is a great writer, especially in the realm of future military action, but he puts so much feeling into his characters that the fighting and violence is secondary. I re-read the trilogy, "Mutineer's Moon," "Armageddon Inheritance" and "Heirs of Empire." It's a wonderful series and a pure nail biter besides. I would recommend him to anyone, regardless of what type of literature they like.

"CyberTerror" by R.J. Pineiro was a re-read. It's surprising to me that we haven't seen more cyber terrorists. I hope it's not still waiting in the wings. A terrorist could probably do more harm with computers than bombs, and probably will. Our society is totally dependent on computers today. Take them down and you take down our civilization. Brrr.

Heinlein is always good for relaxing and enjoying myself. I read "Friday" and "Starman Jones" again. Heinlein's young adult titles are still his best work, I think, but I never have considered them to be young adult. To me they are just great stories, told as only Heinlein could do.

"Manhattan South" by John Mackie is a great police detective novel. Very exciting.

"Virus" by Graham Watkins sort of reminds me of what the reviewers are saying about Stephen King's "Cell" (I haven't read it yet). "Virus" is a story of a psychological virus contacted from computers. Scary and extremely satisfying. I loved it. I hope Graham Watkins does more like this one.

"Under Cover of Darkness" by James Gripando covers cults, serial killings, emotional discoveries by the protagonist of his own failings as a father and husband, and uses a rookie FBI agent to good effect. I liked it.

I read Keith Laumer's Worlds of the Emperium series again. I almost always enjoy novels of alternate worlds. Maybe the appeal is to the human longing for new frontiers? After all, our species spread from Africa all over the world using little more than stone age technology. There must be something in our genes that makes our feet itch--and these days our minds.

I like Eric Frank Russell, and I never get tired of his work. I re-read "Three To Conquer" again (this one is in tatters from re-reading). If any of you younger readers haven't tried him, he's really good and never minds goosing the powers that be.

When I couldn't decide what else I wanted to read, I took a few of my own books and read them. It never hurts an author to read some of the stuff he's written in earlier years and see the mistakes he made. It is kind of embarrassing sometimes, though.

Fashions
I was able to read the newspaper each day, even while feeling bad, and as always, the fashion pages are good for a chuckle at the very least, if not all out belly busting laughter at the idiotic fashions being displayed. Seriously now, how often do you ever see a woman wearing those bizarre concoctions displayed by models who look as if they're mad at the whole world and can't wait to get out sight? I remember how often I've seen them on a normal person. Once. That was back in the early seventies (I think) when there was a brief flirtation with the "Goucho" look, a take-off of the Brazilian and Venezuelan cowboys. This young woman came in wearing a flat brimmed hat with dingly things on it, a wide calf length skirt, calf length leather boots (in the middle of summer) and a bolero type jacket. It was all I could do not to fall down on the floor and laugh my head off.
[Note: Two days after writing this I saw an ad for gaucho fashions. Am I going crazy? I don't think so, because they still make me laugh.]

Does anyone know what the purpose of these displays of fashions no woman in her right mind would ever wear is? If so, I sure wish you'd pass it on to me because I am utterly puzzled. No, wait. Don't tell me. If I knew, it would only spoil my thrice weekly bout of relaxing laughter I get from seeing them in the paper. Or maybe that's the purpose: to amuse the readers?

Super Spokesman
Anyone who watches much television must have seen the AllState insurance advertisements that have been broadcasted the last month or two. The ad for AllState is done by a tall rangy fellow with skin colored like mahogany, a craggy face with the flared nostrils characteristic of African Americans and a speaking voice and manner that any politician would cheerfully commit murder for. He has a special, forthright honesty about him while talking that makes you want to believe everything he says. In fact, every time I watch him, he makes me want to rush right out and change all my insurance to AllState despite the fact that I've been with another company for 25 years. I have seldom seen such an overpowering presence of a single person in a televised ad. He generates such a good feeling about Allstate that whatever they're paying him, it can't be enough. It makes me wonder: could he possibly be simply acting? I would hate to think so. It seems to me that he almost surely must believe strongly in the product he's the spokesman for. I don't know how such obvious sincerity is possible otherwise. Whatever, it's nice to see an ad that grabs my attention with such force. Most of them are so inane I can hardly bear to watch, and don't most of the time. Wow! I wish I could write as well as that man can talk!

Like Varley
Betty gave me a really nice compliment the other day. I had recently given her John Varley's "Red Thunder", and his most recent, "Mammoth" after I finished them. When Betty finished reading Mammoth, she said, "I know why you like this guy so much. He writes just like you." Wow! He writes like me! Varley turned science fiction upside down when he first began writing, sort of like Alfred Bester did. To have my favorite person in the world compare my writing favorably with Varley really made me feel good. So good, in fact, that I think I'll write John Varley and tell him about it when I get to feeling better.
[Note: I did, and he answered me, a very nice letter. And he must be a nice man because he didn't complain about being compared to me.]

Well, I think this is enough for the April newsletter. It's a little ragged, but bear in mind I haven't been at my best this month.

Darrell Bain
Shepherd, Texas
April 2006

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