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HE WALKED AMONG US by Norman Spinrad

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"This RTF file, the complete unabridged text of HE WALKED AMONG US, originally published in 2002 by eBooks and copyright © 2002 by Norman Spinrad, is shareware. You are encouraged but not obligated to send as much or as little payment as you like to the author, Norman Spinrad. Since downloads have sold for about $7.00 and the trade paperback for $25, I suggest $5.00 as a fair amount, though more will be gratefully accepted and less will not be scorned. I am doing this as an experiment because I believe HE WALKED AMONG US should have as wide a readership as possible and because the previous experiment with print on demand and pay for download editions provided inadequate results. Payments can be made via PayPal,going to the pay section, and using my email address, normanspinrad@hotmail.com, for those who have PayPal accounts, or by mail to: Norman Spinrad 69 West 9th Street, apt 4B New York, NY 10011 USA Cash would be preferred for mail payments, but checks in dollars or euros or pounds sterling can be processed and would also be gratefully accepted. Permission is hereby granted to copy and send this file as an e-mail attachment to any interested party and to post on any web site or in any newsgroup provided that this file is reproduced in its entirety, including this notice, and you are enthusiastically encouraged to do so. All other rights including but not limited to world volume rights are reserved, and except for German rights, are free and available for conventional publication. Additional copies of this file may be obtained by e-mailing me at:normanspinrad@hotmail.com, or through the e-mail link at my web site: http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/normanspinrad NOTE: This is an experiment of a kind which has never been done before to my knowledge, at least not in this open distribution shareware manner, and if it works many multiple copies of this HE WALKED AMONG US file will exist in cyberspace more or less permanently. So if you wish to send cash or a paper check after, say, 2006, go to my website above, where any address changes will be posted. Norman Spinrad HE WALKED AMONG US by Norman Spinrad For Timothy Leary and Gene Roddenberry "Why, you shall say at break of day: Sail on! sail on! sail on! and on!" --COLUMBUS, by Joaquin Miller 1. "Have fun saving the world, Dex," Ellie said dryly. "But do try not to get too beered out." "Must you rain on my parade?" Dexter Lampkin muttered sourly. "Who am I to deny you a little fannish fun?" said Ellie, her voice softening with a certain gentle self-mockery. She pecked him on the cheek. "I just don't want you to wrap that damned thing around a tree, is that asking too much? Peace?" "Peace," Dexter grunted and closed the door behind him, feeling like Dagwood having received a patronizing pat on the head from the Little Lady. He had been going to these first Wednesday things for, what, close on three years now. A dozen or so fans of his out-of-print novel, drinking beer, sneaking the occasional joint, calling themselves "Transformationalists," and convincing themselves that they were somehow going to save the world in the process. Each first Thursday, he swore he would never go to one of these things again. Each first Wednesday, he went anyway. Why? Because a few of these people were real scientists? Because they believed in Dexter D. Lampkin even though he found them ludicrous? Or because, God help him, some part of him still believed in THE TRANSFORMATION too? Out in the front yard, the Santa Ana wind rattled the sere skeletal palm fronds, set dusty swirls of dead leaves dancing, and dried the back reaches of his throat. Your average Angeleno professed a loathing for the Santa Ana, which ripped shingles from your roof, whipped brush fires up into roaring infernos, and supposedly brought out the homicidal crazies. But Dexter took a great big honk as he walked across the yard to the garage. Dexter loved the Santa Ana. He loved those negative ions sweeping in off the desert, stoking up the old endorphins, tingling his dendrites with norepinephrene, boosting the middle-aged biochemical matrix of his consciousness into hyperdrive. He loved the way the hot desert wind blew the Los Angeles basin clear of smog, perfumed the air with bougainvillea and chaparral instead of undead hydrocarbons, the technicolor blue daytime skies and the nights like this one--crystalline, heated to the temperature of twenty-year-old pussy, redolent with the musk of the California Dream. And if the acrid tang of far-off smoke all too often spiced the Santa Ana, well, hey, despite Ellie's endless urging, Dexter hadn't fallen into the real estate trap, now had he? As he kept telling her, any writer who sunk his freedom money into a house and a mortgage was a prize schmuck. And anyone who thought it was a cagey investment to do so in a venue famous for earthquakes, brushfires, and mud slides, where affordable insurance usually covered everything else but, deserved what he was sooner or later going to get. For truth be told, Dexter also loved the Santa Ana just because loving the Devil Wind was somehow a finger held high in the air to the face of LA. Not that Dexter hated Los Angeles with the provincial chauvinism of his former Bay Area compatriots, who believed anything south of the fog-bank they were so cleverly fortunate to have chosen to inhabit was nothing but Orange County roadside ticky-tacky and braindead airhead yahoos. Indeed one of the charms of Los Angeles was the very lack of a local equivalent of that smarmy Northern California boosterism. While the Bay Area brooded endlessly over its supposed rivalry with La-La Land, people down here were only dimly aware of San Francisco's existence, crappy climate but great Italian and Chinese restaurants, right, ought to fly up for a three-day weekend sometime, we get a chance, babes. The Bay Area took itself far more seriously than anyone else did. LA didn't take itself seriously at all. In place of chauvinism, what was required of Angelenos was attitude. The attitude that expressed itself in hot dog stands in the shape of hot dogs, houses built to resemble the Disney versions of Baghdad or Camelot, the Chinese and Egyptian theaters, and indeed the Hollywood Sign itself, an enormous emblem proclaiming the obvious in towering pharonic letters a few molecules thick. On a personal level, one knew one had achieved the proper LA attitude when, what else, one had found a soulmate of a car. Dexter flipped up the garage door and smiled a silly boyish hello to his. When Dexter and Ellie were living in Berkeley, they had had a fairly new Toyota and a late middle-aged Volvo, and neither could really be said to be his or hers. Down here in Fairfax, however, their two-car garage contained, in addition to cartons of Dexter's author's copies and moldy manuscripts that surely would be worth big bucks as collector's items some day, Ellie's two-year-old Pontiac Firebird coupe, bought new and still under warranty, and Dexter's ancient red Alfa-Romeo convertible. By any rational automotive standard, the Alfa was an unreliable piece of shit. Its leaky gaskets caused it to slurp oil at the rate of a pint every thousand miles, the gearbox made ominous noises and the shift lever now had to be held down in second, and the electrical system had been rewired so many times by amateurs that even new heavy-duty batteries mysteriously died at the usual inopportune moments. But Dexter loved the Alfa. Not for its all-too-obvious flaws, but because it was indeed an authentic red Italian sports car that whipped around the curves as if on rails, snapped your head back in a satisfying manner when you came out of one and stood on it in second, and in general was a hoot to drive back and forth to the mechanic, which was often. Was it juvenile for a forty-three-year-old professional writer with an expanded middle and a wife and kid to support to chunk out north of three thousand bucks a year in insurance, repair bills, oil, and expensive imported Italian parts to maintain this decrepit automotive wet-dream? Ellie was certainly of that opinion. "It's pathetic, Dex, it's your mid-life crisis on wheels, when are you gonna dump the thing and get a reliable second car?" "The upkeep on the Alfa's less than the monthlies on another new car," Dexter would point out logically. "I saw a decent four-year-old Celica (or Civic or Plymouth or whatever) going for thirty-five hundred," she would say, "and you could probably talk it down to an even three thousand in cash. You piss away half of that every year in repair bills and oil." At which point, Dexter would give her the ghost of the very leer that had lured her once tasty young bod to him across a crowded room a decade ago, the glamorous cocksman's leer of the thirty-one-year-old Dexter D. Lampkin, of a risen young star along the science fiction convention circuit. "Cheaper than a mistress in a tight dress of the same color," he would say. It was an old joke that had long since ceased to be funny, and an old threat that had long since ceased to have bite. Ellie knew that he would cop one of the readily available quick ones at a science fiction convention from time to time when she wasn't around to stop him, but she also knew that he was not likely to screw anyone at such scenes that he would care to contemplate in the morning, and he knew that she didn't really care as long as he respected her need not to know. Both of them knew all too well what on between writers and fans at these conventions. Both of them knew what it was to be the belle and the beau of such a masquerade ball. Which is what they had been when they met at that publisher's party at the Seattle Westercon. Dexter D. Lampkin had won the Hugo for best science fiction novel the year before, a silvery rocketship admittedly awarded by the fans who staged these conventions rather than his literary peers, but an appropriately phallic trophy for someone not entirely above using it to add to his reputation as a convention cocksman. This was more a matter of getting stoned and/or plastered enough quickly enough to lose one's sense of sexual esthetics than honing one's jejune skills as a seducer. Any published writer who bathed monthly and weighed less than three hundred pounds, and some who didn't, could get laid at these things. The question was, by what? Why did science fiction fans of both sexes tend to be so overweight? Why did they tend to be pear-shaped and look strange about the eyes? Why did masses of them crammed into convention hotel room parties exude such clouds of anti-sexual pheromones? The story that Norman Spinrad told Dexter at some con or other had the awful ring of scientific truth. "My girlfriend, Terry Champagne, had a theory which she took quite seriously that allegiance to science fiction fandom is genotypically linked to a minimal distance between the eyes, narrow shoulders, and enormous asses. One time, we were going to a convention in some horrible fleabag on Herald Square in New York, crowds of people going into the subway, Macy's, Gimbles, movie houses, your bell-shaped general population curve on the random hoof. As a scientific experiment, we stood across the street from the con hotel trying to predict who would go inside. Terry scored better than seventy-five percent." Ellen Douglas, however, would have gone undetected as a science fiction fan by the genetic criteria of Spinrad's former girlfriend. True, Dexter had known of her by reputation before he ever set eyes on her, for Ellen was what was known in the science fiction world as a Big Name Fan, what in the rock biz would have been called a Super Groupie; someone, in other words, who was famous for being famous. In the world of science fiction fandom, however, one did not generally achieve such status by screwing stars like Dexter D. Lampkin. One got to screw the stars, such as they were, by achieving the status of Big Name Fan. This might be accomplished by serving on the committees that put on the conventions, publishing an amateur fan magazine or writing for such fanzines, entering work in convention artshows, making a big splash in masquerade costumes, starring on "fan panels" at cons, or any combination thereof. By reputation, Dexter knew Ellen Douglas as a con organizer, fannish panel personality, and fanzine gossip columnist. She was also reputed to be a great beauty who knocked 'em dead at masquerades in famous minimalist costumes, but, fannish standards of pulchritude being what they were, Dexter had given this a heavy discount for hyperbole until that moment when their eyes met for the first time across that sea of flabby flesh in Seattle. All right, so this lady might not be quite movie starlet material, but oh yes, she had it, particularly in the usual convention context, and oh boy, did she flaunt it! Natural blond hair permed at the time into this incredible afro, regular features, big green eyes the regulation distance apart, and this wonderful ripe body artfully barelycontained in a tight low cut thigh slit black dress, the whole effect something like that of a zoftig surfer-girl Vampira. It had been a magic moment, and a hot night, and a wild weekend, and a kind of frantic slow motion cross-country romance, as Dexter and Ellen fucked their way from convention to convention for about six months, before she finally gave up her place in St. Louis and moved into Dexter's little apartment in San Francisco, and soon thereafter into the house in Berkeley. For two or three years they were the Golden Couple of the Greater Bay Area CoProsperity Sphere, the circle of science fiction writers, their significant others, their significant other's significant others, and the surrounding cloud of fans, hangers-on, fringe scientists, and Big Name Dope Dealers to same who formed what was the largest science fiction community in the United States. Those were the days to be young, and in love, and a science fiction writer in Berkeley, and Dexter D. Lampkin! The science fiction genre had completed the transformation from lowly pulp publishing backwater, where for a quarter of century 5 cents a word for short fiction and $3000 for a novel had been considered hot stuff, into what was soon to be known as a "major publishing industry profit center." Meaning that a hot young talent like Dexter D. Lampkin could command thirty or forty thou for a novel. Those were the days, my friend! Dexter could take six months or even a year to write a novel. He could afford literary commitment and social idealism and enjoy a life of relative bourgeois ease at the same time. He could even believe he could change the world. A lot of science fiction writers did, and, for better or worse, some of them demonstrably had. Arthur C. Clarke had inspired the geosynchronous broadcast satellite, the Apollo astronauts credited science fiction with putting them on the path to the Moon, DUNE and STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND had created the hippies and the Counterculture, and L. Ron Hubbard had turned an idea for an sf novelette into a multimillion dollar real-world religious scam. Dexter had even read a piece by some French intellectual who had opined that science fiction writers should get together, decide the optimal future for the species, and, by setting all their stories in that future, call it into being thereby. Given the difficulty any three science fiction writers had agreeing on how many letters made up a word at 5 cents per or whether to send out for Chinese or Italian, this kind of collaborative messianism did not seem entirely practical.... However.... Dexter wrestled down the top, looked under the car to see whether the size of the oil puddle demanded a look at the dipstick, decided it didn't, put the key in the ignition, and heaved the usual sigh of relief, when, after the usual catch and hesitation, the starter managed to turn the engine over. However.... The science fiction community did already accept certain truths as self-evident that had yet to penetrate the obdurate brain-pans of the so-called "mundanes," aka the rest of the species. First and foremost was that the Earth was merely the cradle of a future spacegoing humanity, and the obvious anti-anthropocentric corollary, to wit that in a galaxy containing hundreds of millions of stars similar to our own, it would be ridiculously arrogant to assume that our evolution was unique. And given the ordinary nature and average age of our star, the age of our species should lie somewhere towards the mean of the galactic bell-shaped curve, meaning that advanced space-going civilizations who had achieved mastery of matter and energy and long-term stability should abound. No less an intellect than Enrico Fermi had asked the obvious question: If so, where are they? Why haven't we detected them? Why haven't they visited us or at least sent a cosmic postcard? Unless you believed in flying saucers and the maunderings of Erik von Danniken, the answer was a good deal less than reassuring. Namely that the natural tendency of sapient species was to do themselves in before evolving to the long-term stable stage. After all, it was hard to imagine that any species could develop space travel without unlocking the Faustian fires of the atom. It was hardly guaranteed that any species would develop clean sources of power like fusion or space-born solar power before the necessary precursor technologies like fossil fuels and nuclear fission poisoned the biosphere. And these were only the most obvious means by which our own species seemed likely to expire. Different fatal strokes for other asshole folks did not seem beyond the realm of possibility. It came to Dexter one night during a long stoned bull session with several science fiction writers and one famous scientist that perhaps it was hubris also of a twisted sort to imagine that the human race lay anywhere but close to the mean when it came to the bellshaped curve of galactic assholery. It seemed logical to assume that we were only average dickheads, that the present crisis we had entered, say about the time of Hiroshima, was something that all sapient species must pass through, the historical moment, as Dexter put it, when the lunatics take over the asylum. Sooner or later any species that developed an evolving technology was going to get its hot little pseudopods on the power of the atom, long before which its activities would have begun doing unpredictable things to the biosphere, soon after which if not before it was going to crack the biologic code and start playing with designer genes, all of which was likely to occur long before it had the technology to escape the consequences by colonizing other planets. Or, if the foibles of the human race exhibited only average shitheadedness, before it evolved the necessary wisdom to transform itself into a civilization capable of surviving even another few centuries of its own history. Scary stuff. The human race was going through its transformation crisis right now, and judging by the lack of good news from outer space, the chances of negotiating it successfully seemed something like slim and none. On the other hand, Dexter's New York agent had little trouble getting him a $40,000 contract for a science fiction novel based on the 30 page outline he batted out around this material on a hot weekend with the aid of some excellent weed. Dexter put the Alfa in gear, pulled out of the garage, scraped something on the belly-pan he didn't care to think about as he turned out of the driveway and north on Curson, and headed towards his rendezvous with the rather pathetic latter-day fans of that very visionary novel, a novel which his agent still hadn't been able to get back in print. "Transformationalists," they called themselves. Their bible, Dexter D. Lampkin's exercise in science fictional messianism, the book with which he really thought at the time he was going to change the world, was called THE TRANSFORMATIO..."

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HE WALKED AMONG US by Norman Spinrad

The complete shareware text of the novel HE WALKED AMONG US. An experiment in viral distribution....
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