Liberty Bell 7, Gemini 1, and Apollo 1

Two days ago was the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 1 fire. Over on FaceBook there were a number of posts commemorating that event and honoring the three men who died in it.

As a result I was reminded of the movie “The Right Stuff” (I’ve never read the book, party because of what I’m about to say about the movie).

The movie was pretty much a hatchet job on Grissom. The implication being that he panicked and blew the hatch, then, still or again, panicked in the water. And the bit about not getting to visit the President (which his wife complained about) was implied to be a result of that.

Let’s leave aside that Wally Schirra, in his autobiography, pointed out that when he blew the hatch on his flight the actuator “kicked back” and cut his hand. No such wound was present on Grissom’s hand. Let’s leave aside that Frank Borman in his autobiography, pointed out that an after-action review showed a number of ways the hatch could have been blown by accident (leading, I would imagine to an “oh shit!” moment at the thought of that happening in space).

No, consider instead that Gordon Cooper was forever grounded from the space program for hot-dogging in a jet after his own Mercury flight. Schirra, Eisel, and Cunningham were forever grounded from the space program for essentially saying “enough” and staging a “sit down strike”.

If Grissom had really screwed up the way he was portrayed as doing in that movie (*hack* *spit*), would he have been slated as the commander of the first Gemini mission, then again for the first Apollo mission? I don’t think so.

And while I might have liked the rest of the movie, this one bit completely ruined it for me. I get too angry over that one sequence to be able to consider the rest of the movie fairly.

There is, perhaps, a lesson there, but I’m not entirely sure what it is.

Grist for the mill. Memories

When I was very young we would often visit my great grandmother’s house.  It was a big, two-story place in Portsmouth Virginia (where we lived, along with a lot of extended family.  Well, Portsmouth and Chesapeake).

I remember her baking biscuits from scratch.  She’d roll out the dough and use a glass to cut the rounds.  Instead of re-rolling the odds and ends and cutting more rounds she baked them “as is”.  These odd-shaped biscuits were called “goosie goosie ganders” (no idea why) and were for the kids (including me).

One memory that stands out dramatically from that period was the big (or so it seemed to me at the time) pot-bellied stove in the kitchen.  Oh, she had a gas range to cook on, but that pot-bellied stove provided heat and one could cook on it.

I want one.  I want one badly.

I remember how toasty warm that house was on cold winter nights.  I remember going there for the Christmas holidays.  I remember playing with the “cooties” game (not playing the game, just building the bugs). And, yes, that game is still available:

I remember gathering there with more of my extended family, with my mother (divorced, single mother), with Aunt Pauline and Uncle George, sometimes with my grandparents, but not often with them.  My grandfather was retired military and “double dipping” with a State Department job and they were usually stationed in various other parts of the world–Nigeria, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, many places.

Those people are all gone now.  Of the group who spent so many happy hours in that house only my sister and I remain.  But that image lives on, an image of comfort and home, an image of happiness.

And it’s what a lot of my characters are trying to achieve for themselves, even if they don’t know it.

"Oruk Means Hard Work"

Just typed “The End” on a new story.  Original working title as a concept was “Dances with Orcs”, then when I actually started writing it, the title was “Elara of the Elves”, then once the story actually started to gel, I changed the name to “Oruk Means Hard Work.”

Now it goes into the letting it sit and gathering feedback from “beta” readers, then a round or two of revision before I start looking for a home for it.

The Writer in Black now on DeviantArt

In addition to writing, I also do some artwork (although as an artist, I make a pretty good truck mechanic).  Still, I try and it’s something I enjoy.  To showcase some of my art (mostly figure studies for the moment), I’ve activated an account I’ve long had over on DeviantArt.

I’d originally created that account to be able to look at art that others had posted that were hidden behind mature tags and the like as, at the moment, is mine.  While I don’t consider “art nudes” to exactly be “mature content” it would appear that DeviantArt does so there we are.

In any case, here’s one of my pictures.  If nudity offends you….

As you can see, I’ve got a long way to go before becoming anything like a real “artist” but, as I said, I try.

"Wolf and Iron" and Human Wave

I’m going to toss out an idea here. Gordon R. Dickson’s book “Wolf and Iron” (linked below) is a remarkably dark view of a post apocalyptic world. In that world the apocalypse consisted of a widespread economic collapse leading to a breakdown in various “services”. Communities become more “insular” as larger organizations fail, with individual neighborhoods practically becoming independent city-states. Roving bands of bandits complete the breakdown of rule of law, particularly when combined with any traveler or travelers not strong enough to protect themselves is seen as prey by those in more settled circumstances.

It’s very grim and very bleak, at least in the story’s short term. But it’s also got an upbeat component. Jeebee, the protagonist, is the sole surviving (so far as he knows) repository of a brand new field of “computational” social science, one which actually predicted the collapse although in true clueless intellectual fashion he never personalized the results of his work until it was almost too late. And, so, he works to preserve that knowledge so that when the world recovers from the current collapse it can be extended and, it is to be hoped, used to prevent such collapses in the future. There’s a strong undercurrent of “no matter how bad things seem now, we’ll get through this and we’ll make things better down the road”.

That undercurrent I believe makes this book “Human Wave” and so Wolf and Iron illustrates that “Human Wave” does not have to be all sweetness and light. It can be quite dark and still be Human Wave.

Wolf And Iron