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Spider's Online Diary

Much more detailed, and much less frequent than a blog, every few months Spider writes a Diary entry to let us know what's on his mind. Great performances he has seen, great albums he has discovered, exciting events and personal recollections are all grist for the Onilne Diary.

9/14/13 -- Serious as a Heart Attack

Long past time this home page was updated. Long past time I posted a podcast. Long past time a lot of things. The hurrier I go, the behinder I get. Well, at least my excuses keep getting better....

I used to think I was complimenting my Jeanne when I’d say that she did ten times the work I did, in ten percent of the time. Now that I’ve replaced her in all areas, I see at once that I vastly underestimated her accomplishment. I was far luckier to have her for 35 years than even I ever suspected.

I’m working on the podcast part. I have several backed up in my head, awaiting time and technology. My recording software needs some tweaking, and the necessary wizard is busy at the moment. Soon as I can, honest.

The novel ORPHAN STARS too has been moving forward, albeit slowly, and I like what I have so far.

Far more pressing than all that, however, is to tell you all the good news I’ve had lately. I might as well start with my heart attack.

No, I’m not kidding. I wish I was. At the end of August, I began experiencing an odd sense of queasiness. It didn’t interfere with appetite or digestion, and was only annoying, but it wouldn’t go away. After three days, on August 31, a Saturday evening, the queasiness intensified and changed, moved slightly up my torso, and became more like chest pain.

But not very bad chest pain—perhaps 5 or 6 on a scale of 10. I very nearly blew it off, took a couple of Tylenol and called my doctor in the morning. Good thing I changed my mind: I would unquestionably never have awakened.

Instead, with great reluctance, I called Dr. Susanne Schloegl at home. She saved my life with four words. “Call 911. Right now,” she said.

So I did, and less than three minutes later, kind strangers wheeled a gurney in my front door.

Then things accelerated for a while: a water taxi ride to the mainland at near hydroplaning speed, followed by two high-speed ambo races through a town full of drunks on a Saturday night, first to Lion’s Gate Hospital, where heart attack was confirmed, and then immediately to St. Paul’s in downtown Vancouver, which happens to have one of the best heart units in the country. I have nothing but praise for the emergency-response system that serves Bowen Island; by their haste, they did as much to save my life as anyone else. If the water-taxi had been out of service, they had a chopper ready.

Then things slowed down again for awhile. My left anterior descending coronary artery was found to be completely and totally blocked. So a Dr. James Wood, whom I have not yet met socially, sent a tiny videocamera in through my femoral artery, kept pushing until it was inside my heart, and fixed matters from there, re-opening the shut artery and installing a stent to keep it open. I was awake the whole time, blindfolded, and never felt a thing. Hell, I didn’t even miss Breaking Bad the following evening. A week later, I could no longer find the mosquito-bite sized mark that was the only sign left by life-saving cardiac surgery.

On Saturday September 7, they sent me home, where I’m typing this, acutely aware that I am very lucky to be doing so. They said if I’d arrived at St. Paul’s as much as half an hour later, the consequences would have been catastrophic; instead, I am expected to make a full and complete recovery.

So that’s my own good news. Then there’s my daughter’s, which makes mine seem a comparatively small thing. Hers is a no-foolin’ miracle.

First, I cannot tell you how much joy it gives me to announce that, for the time being anyway, Terri, uh….well….she doesn’t seem to have breast cancer anymore. It went away. For now, at least.

Don’t bother telling me that’s impossible, because I already know it. When you’re Stage IV, it’s way too late to hope for much but a merciful end. Established metastases don’t just….ungrow, not ever. Certainly not in several widely separated locations, all at once.

Make that hardly ever.

Hers all went away someplace, leaving only the original two tiny tumors in her portside breast, and after a pause to recover from the shock, her doctors gradually realized there was now a point to a mastectomy after all. That was done, and now the last of the reconstruction surgery is finally over with and recovered from, and she looks and feels great. For further info, see Terri’s superb blog at

They’ll be testing her at regular intervals for the rest of her life, of course. Fingers crossed. But the shadow has passed from that house for the time being, and all rejoice.

The more so because the household itself has moved east, to within easy driving distance of both her and Heron’s beloved New York (where they met), and lower Massachusetts where Jeanne’s loving family all swarm. Heron’s ship too picked this most opportune moment to come in, bringing him a new and better job with more money, more exciting work, and more congenial co-workers than the job he had in Ohio, and it called for a move to Connecticut.

They have literally just moved in as I type this, and so far, they love everything about their new home. It is very near to Mystic, a town with which my own mother Evelyn always had a deep spiritual and emotional connection. I like to think that part of her spirit wlll be nearby to watch over them, and cherish little Marisa.

And finally, they now live very near an ocean beach, which makes them all happy campers. There are no natural bodies of water of any sort in Ohio.

So: good news is everywhere, and once I’ve finished my recovery process, I will once again be trying to complete my novel ORPHAN STARS for you. At least I now have a partial explanation of why progress has been so slow: for an indeterminate time, I’ve been working my way toward a heart attack, receiving inadequate oxygen to the brain, feeling exhausted after an hour of typing. That should slowly improve.

The hour-shortage I mentioned above will still be a problem: for 35 years I was able to sit staring into space for 4-6 hours and then type nonstop for the next 5-8 hours before crashing. Meanwhile Jeanne took care of everything else, from the mail to the mortgage to the shopping to the cooking to putting gas in the car. Doing both parts would be impossible even if I were her. Which I am far from being.

But I’m on the case. I want the book done more than you do, believe me. And in the meantime, there are a few small things to keep you occupied.

Thanks to the astuteness and hard work of Kristina Bell at the Spectrum Literary Agency, the second Callahan’s Place book, TIME TRAVELERS STRICTLY CASH, has just (at last!) been made available as an e-book. (Joining CROSSTIME SALOON and THE CALLAHAN TOUCH.) I finished proofing it recently, and it pleased me. It contains four excellent Callahan’s yarns, and some of my best non-Callahan short stories, “God Is An Iron,” “Local Champ,” “Serpent’s Teeth,” and “Soul Search,” plus the very first book review I ever published in Jim Baen’s Galaxy. And if that weren’t enough, it also contains a fairly notorious essay which has won me a fair number of both friends and foes over the years, “Rah Rah R.A.H.!,” in which I took on and did my best to rebut some then-commonly-heard criticisms of Robert A. Heinlein. If I had never published that essay, I doubt I would have been asked by Robert’s estate to complete VARIABLE STAR.

Coincidentally, Catherine Book, who used to have an excellent fan newzine called ConNotations, has recently started reviewing the earlier Callahan books at a very interesting fan webpage she now co-edits called The Nameless Zine, whose url is (I guess it really is nameless!) and you can find some of those reviews here: Among them, she covers TIME TRAVELERS STRICTLY CASH.

Even better, another Robinson e-book is just being released, and while it may be only half the length of an average novel, it is of proven high quality: it is the original 40,000-word novella version of “Stardance,” for which Jeanne and I were awarded the Hugo and Nebula. That novella was written for the express purpose of earning us our fare from Massachusetts back home to Nova Scotia, and it not only succeeded at that, it made Jeanne the first woman ever to win a Hugo and a Nebula with her first published work, and many years later was directly responsible for her being invited to dine with the President and First Lady at the National Book Festival in Washington. (I was there too, but had been invited separately, for a different book, VARIABLE STAR.)

We later expanded it into a novel also called STARDANCE, which birthed two sequels, STARSEED and STARMIND, and you can still obtain all three in a large hardcover volume from Baen called THE STARDANCE TRILOGY.

But re-reading this original novella version, which was never intended to become anything larger, was a very interesting and nostalgically thrilling experience for me, and I hope you’ll enjoy it too. As I read it, I was carried back in my mind to my mother-in-law Dorothy Rubbicco’s basement in North Dartmouth where I sat and wrestled with that story….until Jeanne blessedly came downstairs with coffee, and paused to show me how to make the story, and the zero-G choreography, work. One of my most glorious memories that don’t involve nudity.

Oh, and if you have access to a great deal of money, and a hankering to be the executive producer of an Oscar-winning film, Jim Sposto and David Gerrold have a screenplay you ought to read, also called “Stardance.” Jeanne read an early draft before she had to leave, and gave it her thumbs up. Contact Jim at

Before I let you go, I should mention that the above-mentioned Catherine Book is now running a Callahan’s Bar trivia contest, the winner of whom gets her personal Callahan’s collection. She says the boxes of books are taking over her house, and I quite know the feeling. If you would like a crack at a Callahan’s Place collection, try your luck and memory at Catherine’s Crosstime Trivia Contest here:

That’s about all the news I have. My health is improving, my spirits are good, my days are full, my family is healthy and happy, and if I could just learn how to write in short spurts instead of all-night marathons, I’d be the happiest bug in the jungle. I’m workin’ on it. Meanwhile the weather in B.C. is unreasonably good, and I’m trying to take what advantage of it I can.

A happy Fall to us all!

Here, for lagniappe, is a short (three-minute long) video of me, in my kitchen, singing an abbreviated version of the song “Ballad Of The Sad Young Men,” by Fran Landesman and Thomas J. Wolfe Jr., accompanied by my guitar Lady Macbeth.