Wednesday, April 19, 2006
Giving You the Cordwainer Bird
Harlan Ellison is not dead. Just so you know.
We witnessed the passing of some bright spirits in the last few months, and barring the passing of Chris Whitley, none received any mention here; to be honest, I wasn't entirely sure that I was capable of composing panegyrics sufficient to explain why there should have been a national damn day of mourning when Chris died, or when Buck Owens passed (y'all, I am so thoroughly, completely, utterly through with explaining my abiding love for some classic C&W. You can either choose to incorporate it into your world views or you can, as my boy Luda is wont to say, roll out) or when Wicked Wilson Pickett shuffled off this mortal coil. I have frozen lattices of memory with each of those artists at a particular nexus, and one of the things that I will always thank Hiller for is putting Whitley track after Whitley track on his discount PartyPeople mix tapes until I.finally.got.it. And then I developed my own obsession and the next thing you knew, I was listening... lip deep in my own narotic prayer and seeing Chris in London, in Minneapolis, in Portland, and once, tantalizingly, almost in Charlotte, North Carolina.
I just don't have the words to express what those artists represent to my no-longer-young self.
But I am finally going to take some time to say some words about my girl, Octavia Butler. I managed to be ahead of the social curve for once and hear about an event in time to actually attend it, and so, about five years ago, Fergus and I went to hear her read and answer questions at the downtown branch of the Minneapolis Public Library. She was a commanding presence then, as ever, and although I did not bother to manufacture a question just for the chance to have her look straight at me, I almost wish I had done.
Do yourself a favor, and go read Kindred, and then read the Xenogenesis series, and then read Wild Seed, and then go back and read Kindred again, and then thank God that that irascible ass Harlan Ellison helped get her published.
Butler was one of handful of black SF authors, and one of only two that I read consistently (Sam Delaney being the other). Her work is stark and unsettling and deep. Tales to stop the blood, indeed.