Back in the fuzzy days of my pre-adolescence, when my reading matter was often chosen as much for titillation as for intellectual stimulation or entertainment, I stumbled across a rare find. Down in the basement of the Historic Irvington bungalow my father and stepmother inhabited were many a cardboard box of books, books of every sort, from the fundamentals of theatre to children’s classics. And above all, there was fantasy and science fiction. Boxes upon boxes of paperbacks both slim and fat, from every genre of science fiction and fantasy there was in the Seventies and Eighties. And on hot summer days, my little sister and I would duck into that cool vault and sort through the treasure trove of books we found.
I hated to be told what I could read and could not, so I would always have to hide my finds, sneaking them upstairs and reading them on the sly; my prurient pre-adolescent mind gravitated toward the naughty, and I dreaded being found out and having my precious books confiscated–which had happened before and which would happen again. And one hot afternoon, I happened upon a promising book. It was called Callahan’s Lady, and in it, I found a place where I wanted to belong, Lady Sally’s House. Yes, it was a brothel somewhere on Manhattan Island, but it was also a place where decency and good manners were respected, and where people could have fun and be accepted for who they were–whether they were in fact people, freaks, aliens, or even genetically-engineered German Shepherds. Instead of simple titillation, I found in Callahan’s Lady commentary on the human condition (as is found in the best science fiction), good humor at its worst (those puns!), and a new Heinlein (to whom my father had already introduced me).
I kept Callahan’s Lady (don’t tell my dad where his copy went), and I bought the sequel The Lady Slings the Booze, as well as the first Callahan book, Callahan’s Crosstime Saloon. I checked out other Spider (and sometimes Jeanne) Robinson books from the library, and I was a total SF nerd. And I loved it. In turn, I passed those books on to others, like my eldest sister Heather and some of my friends, and every one has loved them. Spider Robinson also has written some fantastic essays, including an amazing defense of Robert A Heinlein for People Who Just Don’t Get It. (And I would love him for that, if nothing else, because I do adore RAH.)
I learned a lot from those books in the way of basic civilization: Live and let live. Let well enough alone. Vengeance is counterproductive–and it gets your soul all sticky. Placebo !/= spaseeba. Pain shared is lessened, while joy shared is multiplied. Treating people as you wish to be treated is the best way to achieve that goal. And I had a lot of fun.
Just over four years ago, my mother died from metastasized breast cancer, and it’s a pain I live with every day. I would do anything to keep someone else from having to go through what I and my sisters–and tutu and aunts–have suffered, the pain we live through every day, and that’s why I’ve written this post. Jeanne Robinson suffers from a rare biliary cancer that has already taken her gall bladder, bile duct, and most of her liver. She and Spider are having a hard time affording the treatment she needs, and I would dearly love to pay them back in any way possible for the hours of amusement, entertainment, and thought I’ve had thanks to their work. If you’re interested in their work, buy it from Amazon through Spider Robinson’s site. There are a few Ebay auctions for her benefit. Also a benefit site with other options.
And perhaps best of all, this gent came up with a way to benefit Spider & Jeanne with ANY Amazon purchase! I just bought a couple of books last night, but I will happily do some early Christmas shopping this way to help them out. Even if you aren’t interested in their books, you can send a little their way with any Amazon purchase.
Maybe I’m a shill, I don’t know. What I do know is how much I have suffered without my mother thanks to cancer, and how much enjoyment I’ve have from a few printed words that Spider Robinson happened to write. And that I started to cry when I first learned what was going on, and I’m still tearing up now. I’d rather not, but I suppose that can’t be helped. I might not be that fond of sherry, but I’ll take any port in a storm.