This year at Boskone, there were some interesting panels, great painting demos by Bob Eggleton and Omar Rayyan, and a nice gallery of paintings from Boskones past and present alongside works by the Artist GOH, Dean Morrissey. Anthropology, SF, and Chad Oliver The first panel I attended was on the works of Chad Oliver, the great anthropologist / SF author from Texas. Amy Thomson, whose work on the encounters between humans and aliens (and between robot girl and humans) remarked that, in fact, she was not influenced by Oliver before writing the Color of Distance and Through Alien Eyes, and only came to appreciate the anthropological aspects of Oliver’s science fiction in retrospect. George Zebrowski told of his long working relationship with Chad Oliver. When he worked with Crown Books as editor for their Classics of Modern Science Fiction series in the mid-1980s, Zebrowski was asked what the first ten volumes should be, and he told them that the three of those ten should include Chad Oliver’s novels: Shores of Another Sea, Shadows of the Sun, and Unearthly Neighbors. Three out of ten? By the same author! Was Zebrowski out of his mind? But, in fact, Crown ended up supporting the suggestion and those novels did appear as the 3rd, 8th, and 9th volumes in the series.
Okay, it’s not exactly a panel, but it is sort of weird… And it did clue me into the some arcane tidbits of film history. For example, I didn’t even know about the fifteen part-serial Nyoka, the Jungle Girl (1941), which claimed to be based on an Edgar Rice Burroughs 1929 novel, Jungle Girl, even though ERB’s book takes place in Cambodia, and Nyoka (“snake” in Swahili) is clearly set in the Hollywood mythos Africa.
Having searched high and low for my fine friend, John C. Pray, aka Sanjuro, I’ve just about given up hope of finding him. Repeated scourings of the net turn up no hits, so I’ve decided to provide some of my own in the hopes that he might find me one of these days. Sanjuro was a real one-of-a-kind. Surrealist, Haiku poet, social critic, Japanophile, former alcoholic and all-around gonzo journalist of the dust-blasted Albuquerque desert. We met as mutual wage slaves of the Dayton-Hudson Corporation, which owned B. Dalton Booksellers, the Albuquerque branch being New Mexico’s largest bookstore back in 1983. Our co-workers were a bunch of practically (if not verifiably) insane people, including Hugh Callens, Rachel “Moonbat” Dixon, Miss Piggy, Charles Vane, Ben Porter, Walt Carpenter & Marty Dusty Rose Snapless Bird. We all lived on the nervous edge of the 70s, which had not quite been extinguished down in New Mexico, apprehensive about the technology that seemed to be creeping in from the periphery. B. Dalton installed modems to send all the sales information to HQ up in Minneapolis every night, which seemed pretty futuristic to me back then. Charles Vane was given a primordial beta testing version of the original Macintosh computer, something like a bastard cross between a toaster and mini-tv set. I drew a doodle on it using MacPaint. Sanjuro and I frequented the happy hour at Japanese Kitchen which was barely fifty meters from the bookstore. We swapped tales of motorcycling, writing, psychedelic experiences and journalistic feats of derring-do. Sanjuro’s famous incident was the statewide media scoop of Patty Hearst’s capture in 1975 on KUNM radio. “Out of my way!” he shouted, thrashing the DJ onto the floor and sweeping the needle across the turntable with a fistful of teletype paper. “Breaking News! Patty Hearst, captive of, or conspirator with, the Symbionese Liberation Army, has been captured in Los Angeles.” What a moment! And how many gin fizzes, tequila sunrises, and straight up shots of Wild Turkey followed… as the years rolled by and the realization sank in: nobody gives a damn about politics, about revolution, about savage covert operations taking place in forsaken backwaters of Central America or in the fetid jungle swamps of American corporate boardrooms. Another round of bourbon whiskey and let it all ride on the twitching pony with the green nostrils and pupils as big as bowling balls! Because, damn it, if this flea-bitten horse can’t win a race at the State Fair in New Mexico, then it will have to be beer at Okie’s and green chile pizza at Jack’s for the rest of our stinking lives! What a treasure it is to have a political junkie, poet, and Master of Art History as a drinking buddy! Of course the alcohol nearly did him in and he had to kick it, but not until he had filtered a decade of hard stuff through his kidneys. And no thanks to the Hawaiian bartender at Japanese Kitchen who was always giving him freebies! For reasons of my own I had as much of a drinking problem as the next guy, but then again, I was already a haggard minimum wage-earning father by the age of 22, whereas John C. Pray was a single guy who managed to invent his own kind of drunken bushido.