Friday, October 26, 2007

JJ Sutherland, Donations

I mentioned JJ and I talking about an Iraq novel based on his experiences there -- I didn't think any of the pieces he'd sent me had ever been made public, but he said in the comments that two of them had. Here they are:, April 3, 2006 · NPR Baghdad producer JJ Sutherland sends this dispatch from the dark side.

I get a call the other night. They've found four more bodies in western Baghdad. They're bound, hands and feet. They're blindfolded. They've been shot in the head. Their bodies bear wounds from beatings and electrical burns, and someone has used a drill on their flesh. That's just one phone call. I get a few more. Every night it seems, dozens of bodies turn up, both Shiite and Sunni, often killed in the same fashion.


And this one:

The 'Hunters' of Afghanistan
by JJ Sutherland, July 7, 2006 · News out of Afghanistan is often overshadowed by the horrible stories of bloody conflict in Iraq. But Afghanistan is no party either, with armed terrorists hoping to take down the fledgling government and American troops still patrolling the country. But, unlike Iraq, Afghanistan is at least safe enough for a war zone reporter and producer to venture out among the people. As evidence, I relay to you this lovely epistle, sent from blogger #1 JJ Sutherland, currently in Afghanistan:

I spent today in Kabul's bird market. A 10-foot-wide packed dirt alley walled by two-story mud shacks. The first floor is the store. There are birds of every type and color. Canaries, finches, doves, fighting cocks, quail... the ones with the needle looking feathers... the ones that are the size of your thumb... the ones that I can't even describe, let alone know the name of.



Jeff Smith wrote me (nice letter Jeff, thank you) asking when I was going to put a donate button up on the blog. "When I get around to it" is the answer (possibly this weekend, but no promises) ... but if anyone is really dying to donate and can't wait, using the yahoo domain account danmoran909 will work ... and thank you to everyone who feels this way. Unless someone tells me not to I'll post the donations, who from and the amount, and donations will be fed back into literary-related expenses.

It's genuinely touching to me that people are still hanging onto this material after all these years.

Amy and I are going to a concert tonight but I'll try to get her to read the 1st half of AI War over the weekend, and will send it on to proofers once she does.
Almost forgot -- Jodi's agreed to let me post "Devlin's Razor." It's a really fun book about the Prophet Harry, referenced repeatedly, that she wrote 15+ years ago herself. That and "Terminal Freedom" should go up within the next few weeks -- gotta get them both out to proofers as well. Anyone to volunteer and actually proof will get a shot at the AI War proofing as well....

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Feedback Loops

I wouldn't want to own a bar. In most businesses, your continuing customers are the ones for whom you're doing some good, providing a service. With bars, your best customers are the ones drinking themselves to death. Beyond that, there's a history of alcoholism in my family, and just being in bars for any length of time is depressing to me.

But if I were to own a bar, I'd want to institute a simple feedback loop -- you enter the bar, you stick your car keys in a device that combines a thumbprint recorder and a blood alcohol level test. To get the keys back, you get your thumb scanned and blow into the machine -- and if you're legal, it returns them to you. If you're not, it hangs onto them. (If I owned a restaurant that served alcohol, and it's not outside the realm of the possible that someday I might, I'd institute a 3-drink maximum per person. That might fly -- at least, dining there, you'd know that your fellow patrons were less likely to smash into you on your way out of the parking lot.)

The bar scheme wouldn't work. Any bar attempting to institute it would go out of business. People getting falling down drunk is what keeps bars in the black, and the drunks would move onto a bar that didn't care who they killed on the way home. It might work if all bars in a given region were required to install such a feature, though -- I'm liberal enough to think that's not a bad idea. Try it in one city and see if the death and accident rates from drunk driving decline.

What responsibility you have to your customers is an interesting question. I think alcohol should be legal -- I think heroin should be legal, for that matter, and marijuana and cocaine and speed and what have you; adults should be permitted to stick whatever they want to into their bodies, no matter how stupid I may think their conduct. As long as they meet their obligations otherwise, it's a personal matter and not properly a subject for public policy. And it's dangerous to get too self-righteous ....

Let's say that people who own bars are on questionable moral ground. (I'm not saying that, though I am saying I wouldn't care to own one myself.) But let's say ...

OK, obviously people who sell alcohol in other venues are on shaky ground. Ditto tobacco. And restaurants who sell milkshakes and cheeseburgers. Now, I'd like to own a cheeseburger shop some day -- "The Cheeseburger Factory: The World's Best Cheeseburger Technology." (My son Bram suggested "Cheeseburger Factory." I came up with "The World's Best Cheeseburger Technololgy.") Maybe in my old age, after I've put my last kid through college -- Connor will have his bachelor's degree about the time I hit 60.

Am I responsible for serving a cheeseburger to a fat guy? When he falls over and dies from a massive coronary, are my peanut butter shakes and medium-rare burgers with Tillamook Cheddar to blame?

Maybe I can help out. Maybe I can stick a feedback loop into the equation. Instead of having a drive-through, we have a walk-in restaurant ... with skinny doorways. Then you're tempting the Winnie-the-Pooh-problem .... sneak through on the way in, too fat to get back out again. Of course, that's its own sort of feedback loop, isn't it? We stick a treadmill by the door and charge by the hour ...


Had a pretty good conversation with Bill Stewart (copyright holder of The Ring) a couple days ago. It's many months down the road before I'm going to do anything with that material, but it may be that there's room to produce something that's acceptable to both of us. (Apparently I had harsh words about Bill Stewart at one point, and he asked me about it -- I have no recollection of having said anything about him, but I remember pissing off Lou Aronica, the publisher at Bantam at the time. That project, the book portion of it at least, was screwed up from Day 1, and I'd be hard pressed to say who made the worst decisions regarding it. (Well, besides me, for agreeing to do it.) But after me, it was some combination of Amy Stout, Lou Aronica, and Bill Stewart. I haven't spoken to Lou Aronica in years (no hard feelings at all, just haven't ever run into the guy) -- and as I noted, I ended up married and having children with Amy. So I think Bill and I are cool. He's a blunt guy, he'll let me know if we're not. :-)

I look back on that project, and for all the big brass cojones I had as a young man, The Ring was dumb even for me. It's based on Wagner's Ring of the Nibelung -- which I knew almost nothing about and had never seen except in bits and pieces. (The full run is 4 nights long.) I've been to two productions since -- a full run once, and the concluding night of another production -- but at the time, I had a fairly long screenplay, a $6,000 advance (I think), and three months. I missed my deadline by a month -- and ended up with a very long book written almost entirely in stream-of-consciousness first draft. And Bantam published it that way. A chance to repair that misadventure would be nice.


Talking to JJ Sutherland, intrepid NPR producer/reporter, about a novel based on his experiences in Iraq. He seems interested, and I certainly am -- he's been sending dispatches back from Iraq, to a private list, since the war began -- I don't know if I've mentioned those posts here, since every post has contained the request that his words and observations be kept private, which, for a journalist in a war zone, is an incredibly reasonable request. But it's astonishing, wrenching material. I think he's got something there, I do.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Last Dancer is at Immunity ...

Click on the link to the right. Bryant Durrell create the .pdf file for me, since my main system was having seizures.

We're probably a couple weeks away from the 1st half of AI War going to proofers, and a couple months away from the 2nd half, but progress is being made.

When I took this blog live several people requested a donate button. Now that the published CT novels are up, I'm going to go ahead and add one. If you feel inclined to donate, bless you, but there is no quid pro quo going on here -- you're welcome to download and share the books regardless.

Terminal Freedom should go relatively soon.

God help me, I'm talking to Bill Stewart, copyright holder for "The Ring." I'm not going to re-publish it the way it is, but if he's open to revisions, there may be a verson of that novel that I'm not embarrassed by, some day. I had ideas at one point for an expanded version of that novel -- Caine's rebellion followed by the bulk of "The Ring," told in more or less chronological order -- don't know if we'll get there or not.

Neither Bill nor I ever liked that book, but I'm unclear to what degree we agree on what we disliked. We'll find out.

Somewhere down the road "A Freeway in My Back Yard" will be published. It's a collection of essays and short fiction, including pieces that have never seen the light of day anywhere.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Al Gore

A little belated, this, but I don't want to let Gore's Nobel Peace Prize pass without comment. I've always admired Al Gore -- even more than I disliked Bill Clinton.

I've been a fan of Al Gore's for a very long time. Back in the day he wrote an article (at least one, maybe more) for Byte Magazine, on the "information superhighway" -- not a surprising phrase from him, since his father, Senator Al Gore Senior, was a big backer of the actual interstate highway system that's now one of the backbones of American commerce. We corresponded briefly about that time, and I recall thinking that this was one of the rare politicians who really got it. He got a ton of crap (most of it dishonest) for his phrase about "taking the iniative in creating the internet" -- which was badly phrased, but as much as anyone in government pushed for the modern internet, Gore did.

He's been out in front on Global Warming. Global Warming as accepted science has followed pretty precisely in the footsteps of the "disputed science" over tobacco being carcinogenic, and CFCs causing the Ozone Hole; long after any fair-minded person could see the truth of both tobacco and CFCs, business interests kept pushing contrary science, and that's where we are today with Global Warming -- and, as with the internet, at least as far as any politician out there, Al Gore was right first. He was brave at a time when George Bush had a 70% approval rating, in speaking out against the Iraq War -- at a time when Hillary Clinton and John Kerry and other spineless politicians were providing political coverage for George Bush. The arguments since then -- over Bush lying, missing WMD, and a variety of other issues -- almost obscure the core fact: the war in Iraq was the wrong war at the wrong time. (I was behind the Kosovo action, I was behind the war in Afghanistan: I am not a pacifist. Pure Gandhi-ist pacifism is either a brutally immoral philosophy that asserts that the rights of the innocent are worth less than the rights of abusers and murderers, or it's cowardice seeking cover. I admire Gandhi, but cf Turtledove, he'd have had a bad time of it had Nazis rather than Brits been running India during WWII.)

When I corresponded with Gore I urged him then to run for President (1990 or so) -- Gore had run once already. I volunteered to work on his campaign -- I hadn't done much politically at the time, though I ended up volunteering on two of Dianne Feinstein's campaigns. (I had written a draft of a speech for Gary Hart back in the late 80s -- he used almost exactly one line of it, about the lack of a real energy policy inevitably leading to American soldiers dying in the Middle East. Ironic, that.)

At any rate Gore passed, despite the once-in-a-lifetime chance to employ Dan Moran -- his son had been in an auto accident at the time. Instead a while later he ended up as Bill Clinton's running mate. I can't help but wonder what would have happened had Gore run in '92; he lacks Clinton's charisma, but he also lack's Clinton's many, many failings as a person and leader. Modern politics wouldn't be much less divisive today regardless, but we might all have been spared talk of the blue dress.

Hundreds of years from now Al Gore is likelier to be remembered than either the guy he beat in 2000, or the guy who dripped slime on him for the previous eight years. An Oscar, an Emmy, and a Nobel Peace Prize ... must be great to be Al Gore, right about now.

Congratulations, Al.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Backup Bear

Connor peeked around the door to Sam's office. "Sam, have you seen Fluffy?" Fluffy was Connor's teddy bear.

"I have not."

"Can I check if he's in your room?"

"Yes, but then straight to bed."

Connor darted into Sam's bedroom. Sam heard him moving about ... a few minutes later Connor trudged back out into the office. "He's not there. I can't find him."

"Well, go to bed, and tomorrow we'll look for him."

"OK." Connor brightened. "I guess I can cuddle with my backup bear."

FatSam looked away from the screen. "Backup bear?"

"You know, like something that's not as good as something else is a backup. I'll cuddle with my backup bear and I'll be OK, and we'll find Fluffy tomorrow."


I don't know if it's related or not, but I had ridiculously large .pdf files being generated for Last Dancer, and incredibly slowly at that, on my main system; then Thursday evening the main box refused to boot. I've got the doc backed up elsewhere, so at a minimum I'll send the .rtf file out this week, and maybe the .pdf too if I can get around to setting up the notebook to generate .pdfs.

The .rtf file is the right size, anyway.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Been Busy ...

Just catching up; we've been busy with various things -- legal among them, we were in court last Monday. It's going about as well as could be expected -- down the road I'll have more to say on all of this; I'm working on a book about our experiences in Los Angeles Family Court. It's an interesting institution and there are some great stories in all this. (One of the custody evaluators at LAFC -- not the one assigned to us at this moment -- wrote an it's-all-true book about alien abductions. That's the guy you want deciding who's a good parent, let me tell ya ....)

Not fun to live through, but great material.

My oldest daughter turns 18 in March. She's spent the last decade of her life in court and isn't intimidated by it in the slightest -- she would make (and may make) a great lawyer. She had some really intriguing observations about what's happened to OJ Simpson, recently.


I've generated the PDFs for Last Dancer and it'll go to Immunity today, though maybe late -- I've got to go out for a couple hours, and I want to see it render correctly on my & my son's handhelds before I send it. It's a much bigger file than it seems it should be, even with font embedding.

I've locked down the first half of AI War; I'm not touching that text any further. AI War at various times has had 2 to 5 differerent sections -- it's going out the door with the following:

1. Trent the Uncatchable and the Temple of Toons
2. The Big Boost
3. Live Fast and Never Die
4. The AI War

There was a lengthy chunk at one point about Mohammed Vane and his wife Selena -- it was most of a section called "The Lay of the Rose." Most of that's been ripped out. The material made Vance look bad -- and I've gotten more sympathetic to Vance as I've aged. (Always was somewhat sympathetic to him.) He's not a "good guy" in this draft -- he still does terrible things -- but he does them because, plausibly, he thinks they're the correct things to do, not because he's angry, which was what drove him in earlier drafts of this material.

The soldier fighting off the approach of Chaos is, unsurprisingly, a lot more sympathetic to me in middle age than when I conceived of him ... and this quote, which always seemed meaningful to me, seems more so, these days:

"Players"—the child, the actor, and the gambler. The idea of chance is absent from the world of the child and the primitive. The gambler also feels in service of an alien power. Chance is a survival of religion in the modern city . . .
-- Jim Morrison

Read what little there is of "Crystal Wind" for the first time in years and years. It sucks less than I'd feared. :-)

Dvan meets Trent ...

"Why did he keep calling me Clark?"

Jodi Jodi just looked at him. "You're bigger than ordinary men. Stronger, faster. Glossy black hair. Able to leap tall women in a single bound. And you're a newsdancer." She smiled. "You're a newsdancer from another planet, man. What were you expecting?"