Posts tagged ‘Laurie D.T. Mann’

Robert Silverberg, me and Betty Anne at ConJose in 2002. (Photo by Laurie  D.T. Mann.)

Robert Silverberg, me and Betty Anne at ConJose in 2002. (Photo by Laurie D.T. Mann.)

Robert Silverberg has been a good friend for a pile of years, but “good friend” doesn’t quite describe some of the more disconcerting parts of our friendship.

Along about the early 1960s, while I was just getting comfortable as the new editor of Galaxy and its companions, Bob Silverberg was sending me almost a story a month according to our agreement, and Earth was fair beneath our feet. Agberg, as he had taken to calling himself (Ag being the scientific abbreviation for “silver,” and if you don’t already know why that is, there’s no particular reason for me to burden you with it) seemed happy with our contract, as I knew I was, and it never seemed particularly spooky to me until I got another of those letters.

“Dear Fred,” it said, “have you noticed how your life and mine are playing a fugue across the calendar?”

They were, too. I bought a big house in Red Bank, New Jersey; Bob bought a bigger one in Riverdale, New York. My then wife, Carol, and I suffered one of the worst blows any couple has to live through when our first-born son died in infancy. Not long after Bob and Barbara Silverberg lost a newborn baby of their own.

Our home in Red Bank caught fire when a neglected electric blanket malfunctioned, and missed total destruction only because the local volunteer fire department happened to be holding its monthly membership meeting just then in their firehouse a couple of blocks away. And then the Silverberg house in Riverdale caught itself on fire and barely missed its own total destruction.

So Bob wrote me, “It’s obvious that every disaster in your lives is going to be copied by a facsimile in ours. So, Fred, here’s the thing. Will you be good enough to give us a little warning before the next catastrophe so we can get a head start in preparing for ours?”

As it happened, Carol and I weren’t intending — or experiencing — any significant life-style changes around then. Not true for Bob and Barbara, though. No sooner did they see the repair work completed on their house — and there was nothing “sooner” about it: you have no idea how drearily long it takes to put a partly burnt-out house back into the immaculate shape it had when you bought it; you couldn’t imagine how long unless you were unlucky enough to live through a rebuilding of your own. Anyway, no sooner did they get it done than they put the house on the market, found a buyer, and immediately changed their whole lifestyle. No more New York grandee. Now they were California sun worshippers, putting down new roots up in the hilly countryside across the Bay from San Francisco.

You understand that I’m not criticizing them, exactly. Indeed, I sometimes wonder why I didn’t pack up and move to California myself — or to Florida, or Hawaii, or maybe Tahiti. I mean, I’m a writer. I don’t have to go to an office. I can live anywhere, and I truly, bitterly, unforgivingly HATE cold weather. (Heat doesn’t bother me at all. I attribute this to having spent the first year of my life in the Panama Canal Zone, where heat is all you ever get, so you get used to it. But whatever the reason, come every Thanksgiving I begin berating myself for not moving to where you spend the holidays at 80 degrees instead of 8.)

I did, however, wonder what Bob and Bobby had traded in that fine Riverdale mansion in for. (Riverdale, remember. That’s actually a part of the Bronx, but you must never remind any Riverdalean that that is true. They may cry.)

I can’t say I really envied the Silverbobs their semi-palace. Any more rooms than the thirteen I already owned would have simply been showing off, and I had a full acre of land, with a pretty little river flowing along two sides of it, compared to their approximately two and a half square feet of grounds, bounded by city streets all over. But, ah, that library! Their house had been owned before them by a couple of New York celebrities, and although I’ve forgotten their names, they must have been great readers. The house’s library room was nearly the square footage of my living room and dining room combined, and it was two stories high! With bookshelves going floor to ceiling on every wall! And those roll-away stepladders everywhere, too, so if you wanted to read selections from half a dozen volumes you were probably going to be getting in your day’s exercise at the same time, too!

So you understand that I wanted to see what the Silverbobs had traded in that sort of high-tech bibliotechnology wonders for. That was easy enough to arrange. Next time I was on the West Coast on my publisher’s expense-account dollar I gave Bob a call. “Sure. Come on up and see us,” he said. “Don’t come in the main entrance, though. We’ll be in the pool. Go left about a hundred feet and there’s another entrance. We’ll let you in there.”

So I did as directed, and Bob did as promised, and there they were, Bobby and Bob and their very nice pool, about the same size as my own, but surrounded by much nicer plantings and in a much nicer climate and, when you came down to it, missing only one thing. Clothing, that was. The Silverbobs weren’t bothering with bathing suits that year. Didn’t need them, either. The two of them had those diet-watched, exercise-unskipped bodies that I — well, that I didn’t.

They invited me to join them for a dip, but I declined. It wasn’t modesty that made me say no. It was mostly that I just wanted to get back on the bars and the rowing machines for a while first.

A while later my wife Carol and I agreed to disagree and she left the big old house on Front Street for diggings of her own. When I mentioned this to Bob in a letter he replied, “Huh. You starting up that fugue thing again? Bobby moved into her own place a week ago.”

It’s all right, though. I promised Bob I wouldn’t do anything like dying, going bankrupt or contracting a loathsome disease with first warning him, And so far I haven’t.

Related posts:
Robert Silverberg

From the blog team:

Fred wins!

Robert Silverberg accepts the 2010 Best Fan Writer Hugo Award on behalf of Frederik Pohl at Aussiecon 4. (Photo by Laurie D.T. Mann.)

Robert Silverberg accepts the 2010 Best Fan Writer Hugo Award on behalf of Frederik Pohl at Aussiecon 4. (Photo by Laurie D.T. Mann.)

2010 Hugo Award Winners

Best Fan Artist
Brad W. Foster

Best Fanzine
StarShipSofa, edited by Tony C. Smith

Best Fan Writer
Frederik Pohl

Best Semiprozine
Clarkesworld, edited by Neil Clarke, Sean Wallace and Cheryl Morgan

Best Professional Artist
Shaun Tan

Best Editor, Short Form
Ellen Datlow

Best Editor, Long Form
Patrick Nielsen Hayden

Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form
Doctor Who: “The Waters of Mars,”
written by Russell T. Davies and Phil Ford, directed by Graeme Harper (BBC Wales)

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form
Moon, screenplay by Nathan Parker; story by Duncan Jones, directed by Duncan Jones (Liberty Films)

Best Graphic Story
Girl Genius, Volume 9: Agatha Heterodyne and the Heirs of the Storm,
written by Kaja and Phil Foglio; art by Phil Foglio,
colors by Cheyenne Wright (Airship Entertainment)

Best Related Book
This Is Me, Jack Vance! (Or, More Properly, This is “I”)
by Jack Vance (Subterranean Press)

Best Short Story
“Bridesicle” by Will McIntosh (Asimov’s Jan. 2009)

Best Novelette
“The Island” by Peter Watts (The New Space Opera 2, Eos)

Best Novella
“Palimpsest” by Charles Stross (Wireless, Ace, Orbit)

Best Novel (tie)
The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi (Night Shade)
The City & The City by China Mieville (Del Rey; Macmillan UK)

John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer
Seanan McGuire

Congratulations to all the winners!