2021 is here, and, so far, I’m not impressed. But, as the year laughs at my meager expectations for it, throws them down in the mud, stomps on them, urinates all over them, and then flips me the bird for good measure, I press on. 2021 is a petulant child, and perhaps a lot of encouragement and a few timeouts will train it up into an acceptable adult.
And let’s not rule out spanking. I will put this year over my knee if it pushes me too far, no matter what Psychology Today says about the damage to Baby New Year’s tender self-esteem.
I believe I’ve mentioned that I haven’t been writing. Or have I? In case I haven’t mentioned it, I haven’t been writing. But then you know that, don’t you? If I had been writing, you’d be reading about it here.
In an effort to get myself back in touch with the writer within, who has taken to living in a shack with no central heat or running water somewhere in the uncharted wilds of my cerebral cortex, living off Squirrel meat and hoarded cases of Key Lime LaCroix, I have been revisiting opuses past. (Opii?)
To wit, I’ve been reading and gently correcting (which involves neither timeouts nor spanking) my fan fiction, written between 1982 and 1996. I’ve also been sharing it on AO3, as I’ve been sharing some of the works of my late mother-in-law, Bev Volker, and her sister, Nancy Kippax.
Writing characters not your own in universes you didn’t create can, if approached with care, but a stimulating mental exercise for the writer. Going back and reading those exercises can be pleasantly nostalgic. It can also be cringe-worthy. If you’re honest, it can give you a glimpse into who you used to be and how you got where you are.
And, at the end of the exercise, maybe—just maybe—you’ll feel up to doing original writing again.
In the meantime, if such appeals to you, my Fan Fic page has been updated with more links to the works that jump-started what we laughingly call my career. (And if you look closely, you’ll see that one more fan fic slipped out of me recently.)
I got the notion to watch an old favorite a week or so ago. Back when it aired in 1993, I was a huge fan of seaQuest DSV. I liked its dynamic of an older Captain leading a young, energetic crew. It was the unfulfilled promise of The Wrath of Khan, and, you might have noted, the format I picked for my own SF series, The Arbiter Chronicles. As I do when I touch on something I haven’t seen in a while, I poured over the Internet to see if there were new articles, any new merchandise, or even still a fandom that appreciates the property in question. There were all of the above, in this case. I joined a very active fan group on Facebook, and met the fine people who put together The seaQuest Vault. When I introduced myself, they asked me to contribute a piece for their site on the day Renee and I spent many years past with one of seaQuest’s most renowned cast members, the late Jonathan Brandis. So here’s my account of that, and check out their site while you’re there. If you’re a fan of the show, it’s worth your time.
If you’ve found this piece because you want information on The Forsyte Saga, you can skip my personal ramblings by clicking here.
Those of you who have kept up with me recently (that’s enough of you to count on two hands and allow for some digital amputations) know that I’ve pretty much gafiated from science fiction fandom.
For the unenlightened:
To drop out of fandom community activities, with the implication of “getting a life”.
I don’t know about the “getting a life” bit, because being part of SF fandom has been quite a life for most of the last 40 years. But my relationship to the community has, as Robert A. Heinlein once noted about dying relationships, begun to stink like rotten fish. I won’t go far into the details. I’ll just say that I feel like a misfit in fandom, the place one used to go to be a misfit and still be accepted. Alas, now it’s just a community of like-minded and judgmental cool kids, like any other clique.Continue reading
July 30, 2019
I have spent the last 82 days writing and editing a single letter to you. By the time this sees print, it will have appeared, chopped up into six pieces. It was all about the history of your time as a victim of scams.
So, while I feel that I’ve spent the past six months—maybe even the past year—getting very little done, especially at your house, I guess it’s time to catch you up on a few things. To start with, Howard County has had two tornadoes—and more tornado warnings—since May.
The second one did not touch the Clarksville area at all, although my co-workers and I spent about half an hour sheltering in the basement of our office building in Marriottsville while it passed us.Continue reading
It wasn’t long after that that I convinced the rest of the family that it was time to take you in for evaluation for dementia. You had left plenty of evidence lying around to support my case—empty express mail envelopes that probably had contained cash, withdrawal slips for large amounts of cash that had vanished, mysterious notes about conversations with people we didn’t know, laced with terms like “handling fee,” “tax payments,” and the names of various luxury cars, canceled checks to random strangers… In the span of five days, you had written checks totaling over $4,500 to people we did not know, and neither did you.Continue reading
And, of course, after all of this, you filled out one of those damned sweepstakes forms that arrived by the dozens every day. You faithfully put your new phone number on it, even though we had told you never to do that. In fact, I hadn’t wanted to give you the number, but Mother insisted. She said you had to have it. I assume that was so, if ever you were out running “errands” and needed help, you could call us on your missing cell phone with the dead battery.
“Jeff Williams” was back soon enough. By July, 2013, he was telling you to deal with his attorney, Arlene Friske. He renewed his claim that he was actually an FBI agent, investigating money-laundering. He asked for the routing and account numbers for your checking account, which he needed for “the investigation.” I don’t know if you turned those over, but you did write a large check to Arlene Friske, which the police investigated. You may have believed that this was part of getting a cash prize. Or you may have believed you were paying a cash settlement in order to avoid legal action. In any event, you wrote it against your own credit union account, which didn’t contain nearly enough money to cover it.Continue reading
I began to work with our local Office on Aging, trying to identify mental health services that might reach out to you. I had been told by a social worker that they had an elder mental health officer who might be able to evaluate you. But I knew age was only part of your mental state. You were also traumatized by the threats and harassment.
You still refused to have the phone number changed, even after all this; but after one of the shouting matches with the Jamacian, you asked Mother to please turn off the phone and leave it off.
This was a refreshing change from the night I came in and found you on the couch, in a lather, with about six cell phones in front of you. “Which one of these damn things works?” you demanded to know. I asked where they had come from. You said you had bought them. Most were un-activated pay-as-you-go phones. I wasn’t about to tell you how to activate them! “I have a working cell phone!” you insisted. It was true, you did. You kept it in your truck, the battery never charged, in case of emergencies. It was gone from your truck. We never found out what happened to it, but my reading had told me that the sudden concern over having a cell phone was because the Jamaican had convinced you that he needed a more private way to contact you, without your family knowing. Case histories said that these scammers often convinced their victims that the reason families were so alarmed by the scam activity was that wives and children wanted the money for themselves. So they gas-lighted the victim into setting up secret methods of contact. You reinforced this belief by growling, “None of your damned business!” when I asked why you suddenly needed a cell phone.Continue reading
After the go-round with the phone number, things were quiet again for about six months. You stopped answering calls coming from 876 area codes. Mother and I thought things were done, now that you told them you wanted to be left alone. Without a willing participant, they can’t get money. We thought that, eventually, they would give up.
We thought wrong. One day in May, 2013, you answered one of the half-dozen calls you were getting daily; and it all resumed. Once they’d heard your voice again, they became like sharks tasting blood in the water. They swarmed. They called ten times a minute. You couldn’t resist answering. One of them told you he was a Federal agent investigating you for money laundering. You stopped sleeping, we couldn’t stop you from answering the phone, and you started sending them money again. You were still driving, at this point, and you would leave the house unannounced on your quests to purchase VHS tapes at Wal-Mart (the only place retro enough to still sell 10-packs of VHS tapes in 2013) and to send money to Jamaica via Western Union. You just wanted them to leave you alone, and you thought that one day they would have enough of your money that they’d grant you that wish. You didn’t know what I was reading in the papers, that people your age had paid as much as a half million dollars to these scammers, in that same hope of ending the harassment, and still achieved no peace.Continue reading
The officer investigating informed me that the Department took calls about cases like yours every day. He wished there was more they could do to help, but there really wasn’t. The number traced back to a Jamaican account with no subscriber information. Via newspaper articles, I learned that the scammers lived in cardboard shacks in Jamaica, bought pay-as-you-go phones by the dozens, and murdered each other to get hold of the lists of phone numbers of seniors in the U.S. that they could call to scam.
And, boy, were you on lists! You received several pounds of mail each day, 95% of it fake sweepstakes offers, letters from alleged attorneys offering you money, and, of course, checks that you were not supposed to deposit until you called Bob or Jason or Melanie.
The Jamaican called you later that evening, after both the police officer and I had left. He was now offering you 2.5 million dollars and a car but wanted to know why you had called the police.Continue reading
MAY 9th, 2019
I still find them occasionally, as I clean up a corner in the house, or go through a box of papers. Most of them try hard to look like official communications from some government office, or legal documents from an attorney. They often have addresses in New York– God only knows how often I’ve looked up those addresses on Google Maps, to see what was actually there!–and they often have checks inside them, made out for obscenely large amounts.
It’s time to talk about them. It’s time to talk about the scams.Continue reading