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Authors: David Gerrold

In the Deadlands

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In the Deadlands

Stories

David Gerrold

BenBella Books, Inc.

Dallas, Texas

Copyright © 2014 by David Gerrold

“Foreword: The Inevitability of Envy” copyright © by Adam-Troy Castro

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.

BenBella Books, Inc.

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Suite #530

Dallas, TX 75231

www.benbellabooks.com

Send feedback to
[email protected]

First e-book edition: January 2014

ISBN 978-1-939529-5-03

Distributed by Perseus Distribution
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To place orders through Perseus Distribution:

Tel: 800-343-4499

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Significant discounts for bulk sales are available. Please contact Glenn Yeffeth at
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Copyright Acknowledgments

These stories, some in slightly or substantially different versions, have appeared in the following publications:

“With a Finger in My I” was previously published in
Again, Dangerous Vision
, copyright © 1972 by Harlan Ellison;
With a Finger in My I
, copyright © 1972 by David Gerrold

“All of Them Were Empty—” was previously published in
With a Finger in My I
, copyright © 1972 by David Gerrold

“Oracle for a White Rabbit” was previously published in
Galaxy
Magazine, copyright © 1969 Universal Publishing & Distributing Corporation;
With a Finger in My I
, copyright © 1972 by David Gerrold.

“Love Story in Three Acts” was previously published in
Nova 1
, copyright © 1970 by Harry Harrison;
With a Finger in My I
, copyright © 1972 by David Gerrold

“Yarst!” was previously published in
With a Finger in My I
, copyright © 1972 by David Gerrold

“Afternoon with a Dead Bus” was previously published in
Protostars,
copyright © 1971 by David Gerrold

“An Infinity of Loving” was previously published in
Ten Tomorrows
, copyright © 1973 by Roger Elwood

“Skinflowers” was previously published in
The Berserkers
, copyright © 1974 by David Gerrold

“Battle Hum and the Boje” was previously published in
With a Finger in My I
, copyright © 1972 by David Gerrold.

“How We Saved the Human Race” was previously published in
With a Finger in My I
, copyright © 1972 by David Gerrold.

“This Crystal Castle” was previously published in
With a Finger in My I
, copyright © 1972 by David Gerrold.

“In the Deadlands” was previously published in
With a Finger in My I
, copyright © 1972 by David Gerrold

For Harlan and Susan Ellison,

with love.

Contents

Foreword: The Inevitability of Envy

Introduction

With a Finger in My I

All of Them Were Empty—

Oracle for a White Rabbit

Love Story in Three Acts

Yarst!

The Cure

Afternoon with a Dead Bus

An Infinity of Loving

Skinflowers

Battle Hum and the Boje

How We Saved the Human Race

This Crystal Castle

In the Deadlands

Foreword: The Inevitability of Envy

There's nothing I can tell you about how great David Gerrold is that he isn't perfectly prepared to tell you himself.

Wait.

That came out wrong.

That makes him sound like a conceited ass.

It's not what I meant.

To be sure, anybody who knows David understands that this healthy self-confidence comes from a few decades of excelling at his craft, and over the years I have heard this fan or that fan— all belonging to that subset of the audience that enjoys creators being put on pedestals because it's easier to fling mud at such a target—complain that the man thinks his shit doesn't stink.

This is a nonsensical charge in that he is perfectly aware that his waste products are equipped with an unpleasant odor; a primal bit of self-awareness that keeps him respectable on social occasions.

David is fully aware that he is a good writer. He has to be. It is impossible for anybody in this profession get up in the morning and stare at a blank page, ready to create something from nothing, without a core of belief that once the task is done something will have been summoned that has never before in the history of humanity ever existed in this world. It is further an act of incredible self-confidence to embark upon this endeavor thinking it will be something worthy of occupying the imaginations of others. What those grousing fans really mean, in their bitching and moaning, is that David has the colossal bad taste to not cloak what he has in false modesty.

Actual modesty, that he has. Get him started for thirty seconds and he will deny any characterization of himself as a great writer. (He is occasionally wrong about this, but we're talking about his attitude, not any attempt to rack up literature points like the score of some video game.) He will bend your ear with a list of writers he will not grudgingly concede, but broadly proclaim, as his superiors.

Case in point: I once exposed David to a particularly noxious fan who, sans any evidence but his own withered imagination, accused him of being jealous of another writer's commercial success. David snapped back, direct quote: ”I am jealous of great writing. I am jealous of Ellison's passion and eloquence. I am jealous of Spinrad's passion and eloquence. I am jealous of Sturgeon's way of making paragraphs sing. I am jealous of Pohl's ability to write about almost anything. I am jealous of Clarke's deceptively simple way of evoking the awe and wonder of the solar system. I am jealous of Heinlein's easyreadability and the believability of his worlds. I am jealous of George R.R. Martin's astonishingly large canvas, his skill with details, the vividness of his characterizations, and the way he continues to surprise. I'm jealous of John Varley's amazing worldbuilding. I'm jealous of David Brin and Kim Stanley Robinson and Harry Turtledove and Connie Willis and Ursula K. LeGuin. I'm jealous of Spider Robinson's beautiful storytelling and the way he continually recognizes and acknowledges the better impulses in all of us. I'm jealous of Neil Gaiman's skill with legends and comics. And I'm jealous of just about everything Terry Pratchett does. And more, so many more.Too many to list. I read their books and I'm inspired to reach for those same heights. So I'm glad I'm jealous of those authors. They make me want to be a better writer so I can stand unashamedly in their ranks.”

This is the way any writer not a total asshole thinks . . . because if a writer is any good, the stories that come from that talent's head are manifestations of whatever makes that writer an individual human being. A self-aware writer, even one with a healthy ego like David's, will read any terrific work by another and know, with a deep yawning sense of personal limit, “This could not have come out of me, not in a million years; I may be good, but I'm not the talent I'm looking at, not today; that's the product of a completely different set of neurons entirely.”

All of which I present to you at somewhat excessive length, because it's the on-ramp to this epiphany:

I envy David Gerrold's talent with an intensity that makes my molars ache.

This will no doubt make him feel older than Methuselah, because I've entered my late years myself, but those back teeth have been aching since Captain Kirk opened the wrong storage cabinet, since Harlie dabbled in poetry, since a guy folded himself, since Purple flew, since worms shouted Chtorr, and since the first novelette version of the Martian Child. I have envied his passion, his compassion, his skill with character, and his lack of tolerance for bullshit. If you promise not to tell him, I'll even admit I envy some of his puns.

This goes on with the contents of the collection before you today, only some of which were previously familiar to me.

I envy the throwaway line in his introduction, “the kind of people whose faces were hurting from the inside.” Dang, I think. I know exactly what kind of expression he's talking about; the ones who lips are not just pursed, but threatening to become an event horizon. I grin in total understanding, and move on.

I envy him the early stories he's not entirely proud of. For instance, I understand why he's moved to apologize for the final line of ”Yarst!”, because it's too easy to take as a cheap joke instead of the sneaky thesis he intended. And yet, it is still relevant, still a punch to the groin, even as the world still somehow manages to turn. There are a couple of other tales I won't name here— you need not worry about identifying them, because he will— that show the excessive earnestness of a young writer trying too hard to achieve given effects, because the very worst I can possibly say about them is that they aim high, and, even amid the clunkiest moments, feature phrases and passages and entire movements of sheer, heart-stopping beauty. This is even true of the one story where I happen to agree with David's negative appraisal of it; even that one contains jewels. (The temptation in saying so is, of course, to dissect them before your eyes, pointing out those highlights for you so they're properly ruined by the time you encounter them yourselves, and if there is a Heaven I hereby earn at least an afternoon there by not indulging myself.)

I envy the hell out of “Love Story in Three Acts,” a primal scene of a relationship gone stale that completely captures the phenomenon of passion turned cold, conversations gone forced, barbs flung more out of misguided self-protection than genuine malice.

BOOK: In the Deadlands
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