June 30, 2016
Our longtime friends Jeri and Mike Bishop came in from western Georgia this week. Mike had arrived to deliver a pair of presentations Tuesday the 28th at the libraries here in Brunswick and on St. Simons Island.
He introduced the audiences to his current YA novel, Joel-Brock the Brave and the Valorous Smalls, and also talked about his recently reprinted 1994 Brittle Innings. He described the sheer pleasures of a professional writing career, and discussed why literature is so important in our lives. Mike is an exquisite speaker. His comments are rife with insights and humor and analyses of why fantasy and SF have been able to capture and hold a wide audience.
Mike's work has attracted attention since the start of his career. He's won numerous awards, including two Nebulas, and I've never gone near anything of his that I haven't enjoyed. So when his production slowed over the last few years, I started rooting for him to get back on track. Consequently the arrival of Joel-Brock is encouraging. I came away with a copy yesterday. I haven't had a chance to read it yet of course. Brittle Innings, which I dove into shortly after its publication, remains one of my all-time favorite novels, and the only one I can think of which can be classified as either SF or baseball. In reality, it's a great deal more than a genre work. A famous literary character shows up as a first baseman for a minor league team in the South during World War II. Mike declined to identify the character to his audiences, so I won't pull the curtain aside either. But anyone who hasn't read Brittle Innings would find it an intriguing ride.
Mike lives in western Georgia and has an almost spiritual connection with the state. It shows up in his books, where Georgia is frequently the setting for the action. It is present in the behavior of his characters. And we see it also in unexpected inserts. Joel-Brock is a Kudzu Planet imprint.
Our time with Jeri and Mike was thoroughly enjoyable. We got out to eat with friends, laughed and talked for hours, and took time to watch the Alec Guinness British comedy, The Ladykillers.
It probably won't come as a surprise to anyone that titles have always given me problems. I've tossed Trail of Stars overboard, and if I'd had my wits about me, I'd have gotten Mike to come up with something for the new Priscilla novel. The titles for Mike's novels and collections have always blown my mind: And Strange at Ecbatan the Trees is one of my top two all-time favorites. (The other is Nancy Kress's Out of All Them Bright Stars.)
Other Bishop titles: A Funeral for the Eyes of Fire (1975); No Enemy But Time (1982); Blooded on Arachne (1982); Close Encounters with the Deity (1986); Philip K. Dick Is Dead, Alas (1987); Count Geiger's Blues (1992); Brighten to Incandescence (2003); and The Door Gunner and Other Perilous Flights of Fancy (2011).
I couldn't resist showing Mike my collection of Jean Shepherd books. Shep is also a master of the off-the-wall title. E.g., In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash (1966); and Wanda Hickey's Night of Golden Memories and Other Disasters (1971).
Maybe Lost in Transcendence would work for Hutch. Or Dark by Night Is the Event Horizon.
Well, maybe not. Not sure why I can't get away with these things.