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My romance with science fiction began when I was quite young.  A customer left a bag of books in a booth at the restaurant where I worked.  I put them behind the counter and when he did not come back, I took them home.  I have never been able to throw a book away.  Not going to happen. No way, no how!  Yes, I have an ungodly number of books.  If only I could find that customer today, I would smother him with kisses.

The bag contained Asimov’s Foundation, Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Zelazny’s Nine Princes in Amber, Herbert’s Dune, Niven’s Ringworld, Silverberg’s Tower of Glass, Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness, Anthony’s Macroscope, Harrison’s The Stainless Steel Rat, Norton’s Witch World and McCaffrey’s Restoree.  How do I remember so clearly the authors and titles?  I have them still and have read them all many, many times through the years.  Those of you that are fans of the genre know these are the giants.

I love them all, but there is one I felt a special bond with.  One that I came to love and feel, over time, that I knew.  Her signature quote was:  “My hair is silver, my eyes are green and I freckle; the rest is subject to change without notice.”  She was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts; lived in Ireland; sewed, embroidered and knitted; cooked (well by all reports); was an amateur singer and actor; played bridge; raised three children; was divorced; struggled to support her family; and loved her pets, especially her horses.  She looked like my grandma.  She was an unlikely literary giant.  She was Anne McCaffrey.

Anne wrote prolifically throughout her life.  She was the first woman to win a Hugo or Nebula Award.  She was one of the first science fiction authors to make the New York Times Best Seller List.  She has been inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame and named a Grand Master by the Science Fiction Writers of America.  Most importantly, she won the hearts of readers everywhere.  Mine was one.

Her feminine characters were strong and fought for themselves at a time when it was not “fashionable” for women to stand up or fight.  She is supposed to have said, “I was so tired of all the weak women screaming in the corner while their boyfriends were beating off the aliens. I wouldn’t have been – I’d’ve been in there swinging with something or kicking them as hard as I could.”  I’ll just bet she would have and that’s what her heroines did.  They were role models for a generation of female readers.

She created worlds were dragons fill the sky and dinosaurs still live.  Her ship sings as do her crystal miners.  Telepathic and telekinetic talents hold her universe together and humans learn they are not as technologically advanced at they think.  She wrote of an old soldier protecting a planet from corporate exploitation and human slaves joining with their alien abductors to combat a greater evil.  Her little unicorn girl grew up to be hero and a New York librarian helped defeat a planetary scourge.  I for one loved every word.

Anne was a “real” person through it all and that speaks to the character of the woman.  When unable to attend Dragon*con this year, she apologized by saying, “Sorry that old age came up and bit me on the ass.”  Now that’s a lady I can admire.  She will never truly be gone.  She will still sit on my nightstand and reside on my bookshelves.  She will live on in every word she ever wrote.  Thank you, Annie!

This post was written for The Mindslam Write Wednesday – If you could be friends & hang-out with any actor/celebrity…who would it be?  I learned of Anne’s death when I googled her name to find a picture for this post.  I still would have liked to be her friend and just hang out with her.

Phoenix Jones, the Guardian of Seattle . . . Honest!

There is today an underground movement sweeping the globe.  Real life superheroes are taking to the streets around the world.  Ordinary people are donning masks and costumes to perform “heroic deeds” of every sort.  France has Captain Ozone crusading to save the environment.  Mexico’s Superbarrio organizes labor rallies, protests and files petitions.  Angle-Grinder Man in England is using his super powers to remove wheel clamps from illegally parked cars in London.  The list goes on.  Here in the Northwest US, we have the preeminent Real Life Superhero (RLSH) . . . Phoenix Jones, the Guardian of Seattle and here’s why.

  1. The Handle – According to the man himself, he selected Phoenix because it rises from the ashes and Jones because it is one of the most common surnames.  Ergo, he is the common man rising from the ashes of society.  Pretty clever and you have to respect the analogy. It makes for one formidable, superhero identity.  But it doesn’t stop there.  All the really awesome superheroes have a descriptive phrase after their monikers, i.e., Superman, the Man of Steel and Batman, the Dark Knight.  There’s no slacking on that either . . . the Guardian of Seattle.  Come on and admit it, the name rocks! 
  2. The Outfit – Any really hip superhero has a bitchin’ suit.  My RLSH has a costume which consists of a bulletproof vest, stab plating, full head mask, even a codpiece and it’s sculpted with muscles, a six pack and everything.  This is serious superhero stuff here.  You can’t overlook the kickin’ black with gold design either.  My man doesn’t run around the city in some painted ski mask and a trench coat.  Hell, he fights crime in full superhero regalia.  Just take a look at the picture.  Spiderman and Green Lantern ain’t got nothing on him.
  3. The Posse – Superman has the Justice League.  Mr. Fantastic has the Fantastic Four.  Phoenix Jones, the Guardian of Seattle has the Rain City Superhero Movement.  Yeah, that’s right.  Man’s got a crew.  He’s not out on the streets alone.  Thorn, Buster Doe, Green Reaper, Gemini, No Name, Catastrophe, Thunder 88, Troop, Pitch Black, Red Dragon, Blue Sparrow, and Penelope have my crusader’s back.  That’s not all.  There is, of course, a sidekick . . . Purple Reign.  And get this, she’s his wife in real life.  Now, beat that!  I dare you.
  4. The Secret Lair – We all know about the Fortress of Solitude, the Bat Cave and Xavier’s Combat Room.  In true superhero-style, Phoenix Jones, the Guardian of Seattle readies himself each night in a secret room in an unnamed comic book store somewhere in the Puget Sound.  That’s right . . . a comic book store.  Really!  I can’t make this stuff up.  I can only imagine all the nifty superhero gear stashed in this clandestine hideout.  I sure hope my man has a spare costume in reserve as the Seattle Police reportedly confiscated the super suit recently.  How could they?
  5. The Crusade – Phoenix Jones, the Guardian of Seattle doesn’t condone just anyone doing what he and his posse do.  All the members of the Rain City Superhero Movement are said to have special, superhero skills.  My RLSH has been stabbed with a knife, shot with a gun and even had a thug break his nose, but as any good superhero will tell ya . . . it’s all in a day’s work.  He claims to have stopped car thieves, foiled the theft of a bus, and prevented a drug dealer from shooting a man all between breaking up bar brawls and generally keeping the streets safe(r?).  As he says himself, he’s not handing out sandwiches, he’s fighting crime.  Evil-doers better beware! 

I’ll put Phoenix Jones, the Guardian of Seattle up against any real life superhero out there.  That is as soon as he gets out of jail.

Disclaimer:  The author does not encourage this behavior and would have the reader note that such conduct has been known to result not only in jail time, but the possibility of a visit from men in white coats.

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June 2023