Goodbye, Champagne Charlie

Memory Lane

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Leon Redbone, one of my all-time favorite vocalists, died about a week ago at the age of 69. I first heard his voice when I was a teenager, and my friends and I thought he was the greatest thing since peanut butter and jelly.

Redbone enjoyed a cult celebrity throughout the 70s and 80s, appearing often on Saturday Night Live and the The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. He was a true oddity in the pop era I grew up in, bending and twisting the musical styles of ragtime and the 20s and 30s into something all his own and strangely enchanting. He found a dedicated following of fans who kept him performing right up until a few years ago, when he retired for health reasons.

He was truly a mystery man. Very little is known about his life or childhood beyond his “discovery” by Bob Dylan at the Mariposa Folk Festival in 1972. I’ve added a link to the documentary film about Redbone, Please Don’t Talk About Me When I’m Gone, a 15-minute treasure from Riddle Films well worth watching, and a link to some footage of him strumming through “Shine On Harvest Moon” in Nashville, TN, 2014, near the end of his career. 

If you’ve never encountered Mr. Redbone, you’ll likely be somewhat flabbergasted by his music and performance style. I’m the first to admit he’s an acquired taste. But once acquired, you’ll want to listen to everything he’s ever recorded.

I’m sorry that I must say goodbye to this unique talent, who taught me so much about art, style, and voice during my impressionable youth. His passing leaves me with the hollow sadness one feels upon losing an old friend you wish you’d gotten to know better. I tip my hat to you, Champagne Charlie.

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Iris Murdoch on love, justice and truth

Nick-Di-smI love it when philosophy and literature walk into a bar together, and I’m a great admirer of the existentialists. I don’t know a lot about Iris Murdoch, but I look forward to reading this book, especially her take on Plato.

Phil Ebersole's Blog

I recently read Existentialists and Mystics: Writings on Philosophy and Literature, a collection of philosophical writings by the late Iris Murdoch from 1951 to 1986.

I bought the book because I enjoyed her novels, although I admit don’t remember the plots of any of them clearly, and because of praise of her by Matthew Crawford, author of The World Beyond Your Head, which I admire and which I am re-reading as part of a reading group.

I admire Murdoch as a thinker, but there is much more in her thought than I could absorb in one reading.

What follows are ideas I took away from reading this book, which may or may not represent her thought.

One idea that, in order to perceive reality as it is, you must cleanse your mind of egotism and wish-fulfillment fantasy, which are the source of illusion.

This is true not only of…

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New Nick Story in March 2019 Galaxy’s Edge

NickGE3-19I’m happy to announce that my short story “The Sin-Eaters” has landed in the March 2019 issue of Galaxy’s Edge. This is another original Italian folktale in my Il Villaggio di Ombre series.

For a short time, the story is available online, along with great fiction by Orson Scott Card, Joe Haldeman, and others, and columns by Gregory Benford and Robert J. Sawyer

Thanks to the fine folks at Galaxy’s Edge — Mike Resnick, Taylor Morris, and Shahid Mahmud — who have consistently published a fascinating mix of science fiction and fantasy stories every odd month since 2013. You can purchase digital or paper subscriptions and buy individual issues directly from the Galaxy’s Edge website. Enjoy!

And remember, Reading Is Fundamental.

One Last Quickie

From the Department of Misleading Headlines

I wanted to write one last blog before the end of the year, so in the spirit of our shrinking 2018 timeline, I’ll make it a quickie.

First, for those of you who love short fiction as much as I do, my last literary journey of the year is Ottessa Moshfegh’s Homesick for Another World. It’s a fabulous short story collection filled with quirky characters in search of their own perfect worlds. The stories are often as odd as the people who inhabit them. I love how creepy the author makes me feel inside my own skin as she explores the inner workings, troubled minds, and secret longings of her characters. Fans of the bizarre hiding inside realism will quiver with joy.

(Rating: Forgettable Title but Great Book!)

One for the Road

If you read my short story “The Baron and His Floating Daughter” in the Nov/Dec 2018 Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, you might be interested in checking out the interview F&SF posted a few days ago on its blog site:

(Rating: Happy New Year, Friends!)

Winter Wonders and Spiritual Blunders

Discover (or Rediscover) the Joy of Wonder

This month, I invite you to celebrate your sense of wonder with one of the best books I’ve read all year, Jeff VanderMeer’s Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction. In fact, it took me all year to read it. Not because it wasn’t wonderful. It was! But rather, it’s one of those books that taps so deeply into the creative process you’ll want to read it slowly, in bits and pieces, and not necessarily in chapter order. This book is far more than an instructional manual for writers. Its highly visual presentation celebrates the writer’s wandering and wild mind and our need, as imaginative thinkers, to be both artistically free and disciplined. In keeping with the holiday season, I’ll call it a nutcracker for the analytical brain. A great Christmas gift for yourself or the creative writer in your family. Or me, for that matter, since I borrowed it from a friend, and now I have to return it. Interesting note: By the time I finally finished reading the book, the publisher released a revised and expanded edition

(Rating: Delightfully Mind-Blowing!)

Upstate NY is a Great Place for Stark Landscapes and Bleak Stories

I oughta know. I grew up there. And Christmas is a fine time of year to perseverate over God, religion, faith, what we believe in, and why we believe it. So, in the spirit of self-examination, I’m recommending a super depressing little indie drama called First Reformed, released earlier this year, starring Ethan Hawke and Amanda Seyfried. I loved the way the movie began as one thing, stumbled into something weirdly awkward, and then rolled headlong into the entirely unexpected. Hawke plays the reverend Ernst Toller, a deeply troubled man, running away from his tortured past, only to discover that his past and God are both conspiring to destroy him. It takes a perfect storm of inner and outer conflict, and a fair bit of coincidence, to trip this guy’s wire, but it’s a helluva trip. This is not a holiday movie by any means, but I invite you to take a step back from the consumerism of the season and watch this film. Think about where you fall on the spectrum of hope and despair, which I think is what this movie is really all about. You can view it for free on Amazon Prime. Interesting note: Don’t be too disappointed that Hawke’s stylish movie-poster goatee does not appear in the film. 

(Rating: Break Out the Jim Beam!)

Austin Write-In

Austins2018

Thanks to my pals in Bee Cave, Texas, just outside Austin, for hosting a weekend write-in. Great friends, food, wine, conversation, time and space to be creative, and several glorious days with nothing to think about but a few of my favorite things in life. Photo snapped at the Grove Wine Bar & Kitchen in nearby Lakeway. Love you guys!

Nerding Out at MegaCon TB

MegaCon Tampa Bay 2018.

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With fellow fantasy panelists and authors Jeff Morris, Jen Paquette, and Sarah N. Fisk.

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Me and Tiffany Razzano, the energetic brain behind Wordier Than Thou,

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With way-cool artist John Giang of Orbital Harvest.

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Trying to look James T. Kirk-serious on the full-scale Enterprise bridge from Stage 9 Studios.