Missing Mike

April 29, 2014

Clarion West 2014 will begin soon. It’s at times like this that I think about Mike the most.

Early morning. first Saturday. Clarion West 2010. I was among the first to arrive and drew door duty, helping arrivals deal with the house’s combination lock.

The weather was glorious, the sort of June Seattle day that makes you glad to live in the Pacific Northwest. I had the door propped open and sat just inside. Beyond the back fence I heard car doors slamming, heard voices, male and female. The gate opened. Two young women and an older man came through, all dragging luggage. I took the older man for a father, come to help his daughter settle in. And I figured it was time for a bit of fun.

“What is your name?” I demanded, in my best English accent.

The two women stared at me, wondering, I suppose, who this crazy woman was. But the older man drew his shoulders back and snapped to attention.

“Sir Lancelot,” he said.

I was expecting the women to be fellow Monty Python fans, not the older man. Even so, I plowed on. “What is your quest?”

He grinned. “I seek the Holy Grail.”

Okay. I threw out another line. “What is the average air-speed of a swallow?”

“African or European?” he demanded.

That began my thirty-month friendship with Mike Alexander, my fellow geezer of the 2010 class. Actually, friendship doesn’t come close to describing the bond Mike and I formed. We discovered we had had the same sort of adventures, growing up. Both of us were old school, addicted to the same authors. Not only had we read the same books, but we had had the same dreams of someday writing science fiction.

Life had gotten in the way for both of us. Jobs. Marriages. Family. Even so, neither of us had ever given up the dream. Now, in our mid-sixties, the time had come. Afternoons, after the critique sessions, we sat and talked about our philosophies of story. We dissected plots, discussed character development; even began to talk about a collaboration. It was a manna that sustained us through a grueling six weeks.

Mike liked to tell people he was my younger brother (six months) from another mother. I’d smile and nod. I liked the notion of a brother who shared my passion for reading and writing science fiction and fantasy.

Life is full of complications, though. Mike had cancer, and although it was managed, it hadn’t gone away. Even so, life went on. We finished Clarion West and went back to the real world. I live in Seattle. He lived in Oregon, two hundred miles away, and neither of us survived travel the way we used to. Even so, we found ways to stay in touch. Telephone. E-mail. Skype. We told each other awful jokes, critiqued each other’s work – and began to make plans for that collaboration.

Over the months, then years, I met Mike’s wife, Sheila; Mike and Sheila met my wife, Rachael. We hung together at conventions – Rustycon, Norwescon, and Orycon. Went to dinner now and then. And the collaboration grew.

It would be set on the Moon in the late 1970s. An alternate world where the United States hadn’t given up on space. The notion grew, turned into a trilogy of novellas that we planned to pull together into a novel, after all three had been published. The first story became a murder mystery, set in work colony that supported the construction of a Mars-bound vehicle being built in lunar orbit.

We weathered setbacks. He fought the thing growing inside him and I dealt with coronary problems. But paragraph by paragraph, the story grew, and then, at eighteen thousand plus words, The Moon Belongs to Everyone was finished. I told Mike it was a winner, that Stan Schmidt at Analog was sure to buy it, that it would be a cover story.

Mike humored me. “You can’t know that,” he said.

In mid-March 2012, we sent it off to Stan. He replied a day later. “I just saw The Moon Belongs to Everyone in my in-basket and look forward to reading it.” Two months later, this arrived. “I’m buying The Moon Belongs to Everyone. Expect the December 2012 issue.”

We received our author copies of the magazine in late September 2012. Our names were on the cover, top billing, and The Moon Belongs to Everyone was lead-off story with gorgeous two-page art.

“How did you know that?” Mike asked me, via telephone.

“I just had a feeling,” I replied.

We celebrated together in early November 2012 at Orycon 34 in Portland. Mike and I jabbered all weekend about the second novella, Pie in the Sky, which we had started. Rachael had to work that weekend, but Sheila looked on, smiling and knitting the whole time.

Less than a month later, December third, Sheila called. “Mike’s not doing well,” she said.

I had another of those feelings. “I’ll be there soon as I can,” I said.

Six hours later, I arrived in Oregon. Mike grinned when I walked in. We talked for a couple hours, Me, Mike and Sheila, and some friends of theirs. Then Mike grew tired, and the friends left.

I sat up with Mike most of the night, while Sheila grabbed much-needed sleep. And I was there, with the two of them, next morning when he died.

Mike Alexander was the kindest, gentlest man I ever knew. He was generous and funny and saw the best in everyone. And he fought one hell of a battle against that bastard, cancer. It’s been almost eighteen months, but. I still miss my friend so very much. I miss our chats. I miss the jokes, and I miss the stories we’ll never write.

Most of all, I miss my little brother by another mom.

Recent Good News

June 7, 2013
  • Sam Bellotto Jr., editor of Perihelion Science Fiction, has purchased my short story, Portraits Hung in Empty Halls. He called it “a snortin’ good time travel adventure.” and I heartily agree. It’s my sixth, and final, Clarion West story to sell, my favorite, and I’m pleased it’s found a home at Perihelion.. I’ll post a link when the publication date is set. Meanwhile, thank you, Sam.
  • Elsewhere,, the editor of a major fantasy market, requested a minor rewrite on my novelette, Sweetwater Notion and the Hallelujah Kid. I’ve very excited about this opportunity. It’s a market I have hoped to sell to for a couple years. I’ll post more details on this one if and when the story sells.
  • The paper and electronic versions of my non-SF novel, Lifting Up Veronica, were released May 24 by Every Day Publishing. The hard-cover copy is a handsome book. For those of you who may be interested, it’s available from Amazon,  Amazon Canada, Amazon UK, Barnes & Noble, and IndieBound. Lifting Up Veronica was originally serialized online by Every Day Novels.  Camille Gooderham Campbell edited Veronica and has gone above and beyond. Thank you, Camille, for all the hard work and love you have poured into this book.
  • My short story, A Quiet Little Town In Northern Minnesota, is available to read in the July/August 2013 issue of Analog. It’s on the newsstands now. A Quiet Little Town is my third story to appear in Analog, the first since Trevor Quachri took over as editor. Thank you, Trevor!

Coming at Analog

May 30, 2012

I’ve had four or five small sales since I last posted in November 2011 but the big news is that Mike Alexander and I sold our collaboration, The Moon Belongs to Everyone, to Analog.  It’s alternate history noir set on the Moon in 1979.  The “what-if” of the story is what if America hadn’t backed away from the Moon after Apollo 17 in 1972?  Look for it in the December 2012 issue.

Cover art for Lifting Up Veronica

November 30, 2011

                                             by Nico Photos / copyright 2011

At Every Day Fiction

November 28, 2011

Got e-mail from Every Day Fiction this morning. They’ve accepted a piece of non-SF flash from me.  First Time is a peek at daughter-father relationships and a take on growing up. I love writing flash fiction. It has an intensity that’s often missing in my longer stories.

In my hands

November 14, 2011

Tod McCoy of Hydra House Books delivered an ARC of Snapshots from a Black Hole and Other Oddities to me last night. Publication is set for January 23rd, the day after my birthday. Launch will be at Rustycon, here in Seattle. The book looks great!

At Big Pulp

November 4, 2011

I sold This Little Piggy to Big Pulp today.

It’s a tongue-in-cheek short-short, a story George Orwell and E.B. White might have cranked out in collaboration, if they had met on an ocean crossing. It’s also one of my personal favorites. I’m pleased to see it’s found a home.


And in other news, got a chance to look at the preliminary sketches for the Lifting Up Veronica cover by artist Nico Photos. It blew me away, can’t wait to see the finished product.


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