No other candidate in a democracy would say proudly -"i don't pay taxes because I'm smart" & "I take advantage of the laws" #PnPcbc
Mental health matters. We still don't do enough. But today we can do more. #BellLet'sTalk
In my book _Medusa's Web,_ there's a quote at the beginning, the translation of which is attributed to one "Fraxinus Beo." I believe that name translates, probably crudely, to "Ash Bless." I meant it to, anyway. Some of you have heard this story before, but ... when Jim Blaylock and I were in college in the early '70s, the school paper published poetry. It was all sappy stuff about rainbows and love and children playing on the beach, and one day in 1973 Blaylock and I decided that we could write poetry that was completely meaningless but sounded deep, and get the school paper to print it. So we got out a sheet of paper, and one of us wrote a line and passed it to the other, who wrote a continuing line and passed it back; and we soon had half a dozen "poems" composed in this ping-pong way. We decided that our imaginary poet should have one of those two-word names, like Longfellow or Wordsworth, so one of us came up with the word "ash," and the other with "bless," and we gave him the first name of our friend Bill Bailey, and thus our poet was "William Ashbless." We sent the poems to the paper, which actually published them. So we wrote some more. The only line of it all that I can remember now is, "Heavy on my brow sits the cold dog of the snows." Being college students and English majors, we of course attended the beer-&-pizza meetings of the college poetry society, and we began reading Ashbless' poems there; we explained that Ashbless himself was too horribly deformed to attend in person, but had entrusted us with these poems, and I recall that the assembled poets were offended on Ashbless' behalf when Blaylock and I would laugh while reading the things. And when Blaylock and I began selling novels we'd written, we both just naturally used the name William Ashbless for any crazy bearded poet our stories might involve, which somehow they often did. Ashbless was a character in my _Anubis Gates,_ which took place in 1810, and also a character in Blaylock's _The Digging Leviathan,_ which took place in about 1960, and Beth Meacham, the editor at Ace Books who received both manuscripts, wrote to Blaylock asking if he knew me, and why we used the same name for such chronologically separated characters. Blaylock said, more or less, "Powers used the Ashbless name in his book? I'll change it in mine." And Beth said, approximately, "No, why don't you guys make it the same character, but explain why he's lived so long." So we did that. In 1983 we had a ten-year birthday party for Ashbless at Blaylock's house. I remember that Poul Anderson and Dean Koontz were there. Dean stood on a table and read a poem he'd written for the occasion. And Ashbless has since had three books published by Subterranean Press -- _On Pirates, The William Ashbless Memorial Cookbook,_ and _Pilot Light._ Each of them is presented as a collection of Ashbless' writing, assembled by Blaylock and myself under the impression that Ashbless died in mysterious circumstances; and each has an angry afterword by Ashbless, who each time turns out not to have died and denounces our editing of his (as we thought) posthumous work. Somehow Ashbless has become a kind of good-luck piece for me -- I superstitiously include his name in every one of my books. And since I don't want readers to notice it ("Oh look, Powers put the name William Ashbless in here, as usual; heh heh; now what was this scene about?") I try to translate "ash" and "bless" into some other language. So if you should ever notice it, pretend you didn't.
I wrote this as a guest-blog for Tor.com, but somebody said I should post it here, so -- A number of years ago I happened to read that playing cards are descended from Tarot cards, and since both of those have particular intrinsic glamours and perils, I decided to see if I couldn't write a book that combined them. Poker seemed to be the most dramatically fruitful use of playing cards, so I dutifully set about learning how Poker is played. (At first I didn't know whether a flush beat a straight, much less what "blind bets" were.) Poker, I discovered, is sort of a sit-down version of fencing. Bets are feints and disengages and lunges and stop-thrusts, and merely having the best cards is no more a guarantee of winning than having a longer reach with your weapon arm. As in fencing, the play is largely a manipulative dialogue, probing for weaknesses and exploitable habits. I wound up reading way more about Poker than the book required -- Herbert Yardley's Education of a Poker Player, Frank Wallace's Advanced Concepts of Poker, Doyle Brunson's monumental Super System, and a dozen more. My wife and I drove to Las Vegas, where I got into a number of minimum-limit games. My first time, in a Seven Card Stud game, I was so busy trying to keep track of whose turn it was to bet, and what the bet was, that I forgot to look at my hole cards -- and when I finally did look, and folded my worthless hand, the other players clearly wondered what it was about the last card that had dashed my hopes for the hand. I tried, not very effectively I'm sure, to look as if I had some idea of what I was doing. I believe I do that a lot. I wrote the book, and through the efforts of a Las Vegas bookstore and a friend, Tom McEvoy, who has won four World Series of Poker bracelets, I wound up doing a book signing right in the midst of the World Series of Poker at Binion's Horseshoe Casino in 1992 -- tables get emptied as players are eliminated, and I was set up with a stack of books at one of the vacated tables. (I signed one for Doyle Brunson himself!) The price of the book was $20, but the bookstore owner made it $25, since lots of people had $25-dollar chips and nobody wanted $5 change. And one of my great memories is of the legendary grand old man of Poker, Johnny Moss, pausing beside my table; someone said to him, "Johnny, you should buy a copy of this book. You're mentioned in it." Moss squinted skeptically at me, then turned to his friend and said, "What the hell does he know about Poker?" It was like having Albert Einstein look at you and then say to somebody, "What the hell does he know about physics?" I mean -- who'd imagine that people like that would ever have occasion to ask? Poker still fascinates me. I watch Youtube videos of tournament games, awed by the way Daniel Negreanu and Phil Hellmuth and Annette Obrestad parry and feint and riposte, and I go to play in the low-limit games at the Commerce Casino in Los Angeles -- I know I'm playing at the very top of my game when I'm losing only ten dollars an hour. I'll never play it well -- I don't have the knack of deducing what cards opponents hold, nor the nerve to put serious money behind my conclusions -- but I do have a "final table" World Series of Poker 1992 jacket that Jack Binion gave me after that signing; I can't in all honesty wear it anywhere, but it's a fine memento to have.
I think I mentioned writing this, but this new novella (20,000 words, kind of a long short story) is now out from Subterranean Press (and I have no idea how the link I'm pasting in will behave). Link