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Reviews and Feedback

Assorted letters, with short replies from Spider, including a Future Tense article from THE GLOBE AND MAIL.


I've been sporadically working my way through your books, and would first like to compliment you on an excellent ability to capture what remains hopeful in the human spirit.

More importantly, I'd appreciate your base recipe for God's Blessing. I've never tried it yet, and your (repeated) description of the people of Callahan's universe enjoying it have inspired me to go out and purchase a bottle of Black Bush to start things off. I have to admit that I am not a whiskey drinker, but I just popped the bottle, and tried a bit straight up, and it is *good*!

So I'm not sure the best place to go from here, and figure that perhaps you could let me in on Callahan's recipe.

Best Regards,
Scott Meninger
(new member of MIT's grad student release program)


Aw, there's nothin' to it. Almost literally. You just brew the best biggest mug of coffee you can, sugar to taste, stir, then add a shot of the Bush, and slop whipped cream on top. Easy as falling off a wagon. The stimulant and the depressant then play tug-of-war with your brain.

Thanks for your kind and thoughtful words. Hope is what I'm trying to grow and nourish, alright. Letters like yours are one of the things that nourish MY hope.

Back to work on VARIABLE STAR. Not easy working with Robert Heinlein. The Moon-man is a harsh master...


Antimony (which I wanted to describe to a friend in most Spiderean terms), is best explained by Spider. I googled it, then I googled 'Spider Robinson' and found your website. Forget antimony, I can do that (poorly) by myself. I found your fours of seven bday letter to Terri. Then I read her response. Then I wept. I am a 53 year old (late starting) dad, with 6.25 and 4.5 yr old boys. I have been reading you for more years than (a) my boys combined ages add up, (b) and plus also the years I have been married, and (c) not soon, nor long enough, because, ANY Dad who gets this:

"Thank you for everything daddy. You’ve taught me so many wonderful and valuable things in my 28 years…when writing, always hook the reader with your first sentence…in love, never settle…value yourself first and this will help you to value others…life is short, so enjoy it to the fullest…everyone in the world is different, and that’s ok…"

from their child(ren) can always teach me more about how to be a good Dad! Again, and again, and for all that which you have given to the world, I thank you from the bottom of my Starman Jones first 'real' book heart.

to a man whom I don't 'know', and don't, and do, Love,



Like many others, I've been a fan of Spider's since his first "Callahan's" story appeared in Analog umpteen years ago. (Somewhere, I even have the note he wrote thanking me for the copy of "The Phantom Tollbooth" I sent him and Jeanne for their daughter.)

Unlike many others, though, I'm also a member of the Washington (D.C.) Ethical Society; we're a humanistic religious community, similar to a Unitarian-Universalist church, but part of the American Ethical Union that's grown out of the New York Society for Ethical Culture founded in 1876. And a month ago, I gave a "platform address" (our term for "sermon") at WES on the subject of Spider's work and the ethical themes running through it. My main point was that the many of his stories (notably "Time Pressure" and the Callahan's and Stardance books) present science-fictional versions of the ideal state of being that WES folks call the "ethical manifold." (Hence the title of my talk: "Imagining the Ethical Manifold: The Science Fiction of Spider Robinson.")

Anyway, I'm writing because I'd like to send Spider a copy of the talk, partly just to let him know, and partly to offer any necessary apologies if I inadvertently violated copyright--and more grievously (or so it feels), for giving away most of the ending of "The Magnificent Conspiracy." If necessary, I could just email you the electronic file (in its native WordPerfect, or converted to some other format of his choice). But my preference would be to mail you a hardcopy, along with the WES bulletin for that day and a cassette tape of the whole service. That way, Spider could hear not only my talk, but also the music (guitar and voice, appropriately) and the comments during the "community response" period--like the one from the guy who told the story of how he and a friend, traveling in Nova Scotia back in the seventies, met Spider and Jeanne just by showing up at their door one day.

If that's acceptable, please send me the appropriate address, and I'll put the envelope in the mail to you. And if not, let me know whether I should translate the file into some format other than WordPerfect. In either case, thanks in advance for your time.

Perry Beider

I began reading with RAH - he kept me sane during my youth. Then, along with Stranger in a Strange Land, came the revolution and it was ok to feel as I did.

After growing up, there were new Heinlein books but one day, I read a Callahan Book and loved it. But the real salvation was Telempath and Night of Power. By then I lived in a third world country in the middle of Alabama's Black Belt. The black/white ratio is something like 80/20 in favor of our darker brothers. The real illiteracy rate is above 20% but the functional illiteracy rate has been guessed at from 40-60%. I was involved with trying to interest many young Black kids in reading and had fallen short. However, the two books mentioned above were a great help. I won't try to insist that initially the kids began to read them, but I read aloud from these books in afternoon tutorials and the kids began to realize that perhaps reading could contribute something if only a few hours genuine pleasure. Also these two books by a non-black helped me reinforce the ideas that intelligence knows no color - that there were people in the larger world who did not consider darker skin a permanent disfigurement. By the time Free Lunch came out, I actually had kids who not knew what TANSTAAFL meat but could apply it to their own lives and who were finally ready for the joys of Callahan (up untilthen, most of them did not understand puns because their command of language was so low that stories which involved a play on words was merely gibberish.) Oh they got the idea of pain shared was halved and and joy shared was multiplied, but the wonderful zeny puns just flew out the window.

Now I have several kids who are eagerly awaiting Robert Heinlein's Veritable Star by Spider Robinson and can tell you how important both writers were and are to American literature.

Long may you wave, Spider.


Mixing Margaritas In The Military

I have been a fan of Spider Robinson ever since about the third page of "The Guy with the Eyes" back in 1971. His writing has resonated with me for years. Just as an aside, he has a very respectable fan base in the U.S. military--folks who never read SF, folks who rarely read for pleasure at all--will search bookstores for more Callahan's stories. At first blush, this is very strange, since Robinson's stuff is about as far from the stereotypical idea of a G.I. as you can get. But the fact is, I have seen dog-eared copies of his books in missile launch centers, in A.L.C.E. packs in Bosnia, aboard S.A.C. bombers and aboard Navy submarines.

Seems like I recall him advising his readers to "never show this to anyone above the rank of corporal" but I know of at least one U.S.A.F. Brigadier General that has a shelf in his office that is "strictly Spider."

But now Callahan's has moved to the Keys. I have this terribly disturbing thought of Robinson teaming up with Jimmy Buffett to collaborate on a book and an album. Be still my heart, this ugly world would never allow something that good to happen.

Edward C. Stalker

From: "Sarah Young"
Subject: fanmail for Spider...
Date: Tue, 12 Mar 2002


I just finished CALLAHAN'S KEY, and I feel a deep need to tell you:

Your writing, starting with a battered copy of TIME PRESSURE, found at a library booksale when I was 14, doesn't make me "happy". It brings me joy to the point of tears, and hope that makes me feel like my heart might burst. That's the most beautiful gift you could ever give a complete stranger. "Thank You" doesn't begin to cover it, but I hope that the fact that I take that joy out into the world, and try to make a difference with it, might.


From: "Lux Lucre"
Sent: Thursday, January 10, 2002 10:14 PM
Subject: Collaboration with L. Neil Smith?

Salutations Mr. Robinson!

I'm a fan of your work and am writing to propose a perhaps unusual collaboration.

There was a discussion among some of the online fans of both yourself and of L. Neil Smith ( as to whether you might consider co-writing a novel or some other length of fiction with Neil?

In the past few years Neil has co-written two novels with Aaron Zelman and is currently working with Rex F. May (better known as cartoonist "Baloo") on a humorous alternate-history western novel.

I'm not sure, but it may be that Neil and yourself differ in some of your political ideas, but I think you are both "sons of Heinlein" and could come up with some really fine stuff that would reflect both of your unique styles.

Understand, this is just one fan taking a shot in the dark, Neil does not know I'm doing this. I live in Richmond, BC too so I'm nearby.

Does the idea sound at all attractive to you?

A fan, Kerry Pearson

Interesting notion, Kerry. But my experience with collaboration so far has not been readers of THE FREE LUNCH are already aware. (My second collaboration with John Varley, mentioned in the forematter of TFL, has turned out no better than the first: it should be out from Ace sometime this year as a solo novel by him called RED THUNDER.)
This business is hard enough to do solo. So far the only time I've enjoyed collaborating was when I was sleeping with my collaborator. Fortunately we were married--to each other--at the time.

From: "Jerry Stearns"
Sent: Friday, January 18, 2002 7:12 PM
Subject: Spider audio

I was Spider's liaison when he was a music guest of honor at Minicon in the late 80s. He did a live concert there, which I taped. I still have the master tape of that concert.

I also produce audio science fiction, and also in the late 80s Spider gave us permission to produce two of his stories for our local radio program. He allowed us to air them twice, which we did long ago. But I still have the master tapes of those programs, too. I have been considering digitizing them, or, alternatively, producing them again now that we all have access to much better audio gear and better actors. But I have to ask Spider about all this. It's up to him whether I pursue it.

At the least, I wouldn't mind having permission to put those two stories on the air again. They were pretty good, even for us (at the time) amateurs.

It would be cool if you could pass this on to Spider, remind him of the All Beatles music session at a Minneapolis convention in the 90s, and have him contact me.

If you want to see what else we have done in audio, you can hear samples on our website at:

Jerry Stearns
Producer, Sound Affects: A Radio Playground
KFAI-FM, Minneapolis, MN.

Well do I remember Jerry Stearns, one of the first friends I made in fandom, and a most talented dude, too seldom seen. And the all-Beatles session he mentions is one of my happiest memories. Jerry, permission to reuse those stories is hereby gladly given for the next five years...and I'd love to hear a copy of that concert recording.

In other than mere words, for being able to share these... I want to find the words that mean more than simply stories. However I can't seem to produce anything that resembles a Thank You large enough to cover how I feel. Does this make ANY sense? I am fortunate enough to have a friend that introduced me to his Callahan series. I have a few in my own library now, with the intention of eventually having all of them. Read the online of Callahan's Lady. And now I'm getting too wordy.

Thank you Spider, for sharing your version of the world with all of us. And thanks to those that inspired him to do so.

Mike Connors

Makes sense to me, Mike. You're welcome, and thanks right back at you.

I just wanted to thank Spider Robinson for another lovely novel. This novel reminded me that altruism can become as great a need as food or shelter. Maybe there is such a thing as a free lunch after all.

Thank you,
Hope Evey
Greensboro, NC

I sure hope so, Hope...'cause I seem to have left my wallet in my other pants.

==========[FAVORITE LETTER OF 2002 SO FAR:]==========


Hope costs. Spend big.

Torben Vang

You're welcome, Torben. Wilco.

From: Ross Murker
Sent: Friday, January 18, 2002 3:10 PM
Subject: Closure?

I have read all of the Callahan's stories I can get my mitts on: In several of them it mentions the closing of Lady Sally's House. (Sad, but necessary) I can't find the novel in which this actually happens!!! Seems to me it would make at least as good a tale as the nuking of Callahan's, and certainly better than the way Mary's was shot down (No, not Duck's exfoliated plumage, nor an order to drop a drink... sigh)

You won't get an argument out of me, Ross. Sadly, publishers are the only people on earth who don't feel as you and I do. They're all convinced that sf fans are terrified of sex and won't buy any sf book with overt sex in it. They can even prove it: the original publishers released CALLAHAN'S LADY and LADY SLINGS THE BOOZE with maximum reluctance and minimal promotion, let them fall out of print as soon as possible....and by Golly, they were right: sales were indeed off, by comparison with other Callahan books that weren't deliberately buried. The first book is now finally back in print, and the second is on the way back to the shelves again...but it was a long hard fight. And in twenty years I have not found any editor willing to buy the third and final Lady Sally book.
Me, I always thought Callahan's Place plus sex was an obvious winner. But what do I know? I've only been doing this 30 years.
[ED NOTE: Three sample chapters of CALLAHAN'S LADY are available free at the Baen Books website.]


I was browsing through the new Joni Mitchell biography, "Shadows and Light" by Karen O'Brien, when I found a passage quoting Spider (about an early concert) - but although the source ("private interview", I think) was listed in the references, Spider is not listed in the index, so I couldn't search for any other quotes. OK, I know I should buy the book, but maybe Spider would like to jot down a few comments about this mysteriously unlisted interview. Or not, of course.

By the way - still nicotine-free?

David Hodson -- this night wounds time

To answer your last question first, David, it's now been well over two years since my last puff of tobacco, and I've actually stopped missing it. All praise to Zyban, aka Welbutrin aka calcium bupropionate--nothing else I ever tried worked.

The Joni Mitchell bit is apparently (haven't seen the book) a misattributed reference to a column I published in THE GLOBE AND MAIL last year; text follows:

FUTURE TENSE #15: Night of the impolite Canadian
© 2001 by Spider Robinson; all rights reserved

I've been waiting over thirty years for an excuse to tell this story in print. But perhaps I'd better just get it told, because who knows whether I, or its protagonist, will wake up tomorrow? An hour ago I happened to hear someone make reference to the proverbial politeness of Canadians. It was easily the zillionth such reference I've heard. And it reminded me, as it always does, of the first Canadian I ever met, telling a crowd of admirers they were lower than weasel smegma.

I'm guessing it was 1968. In those days there briefly existed on this planet a phenomenon I despair of explaining to the modern consumer, called "folk music." Before it all blew over, it offered sporadic employment to people like Tom Rush, Tim Buckley, Phil Ochs, Fred Neil, Judy Collins, John Koerner, James Taylor and Bob Dylan, some of whom went on to become legitimate musicians.

One of the best songwriters in folk was Tim Hardin. He's not the above-mentioned first Canadian I ever met; he was American. His biggest commercial success was a song called "If I Were a Carpenter," a hit for Bobby Darin. He wrote the folk classic "Reason to Believe," and a haunting jazz ballad called "Misty Roses." He was one of the best performers of his songs, with a smoky, fragile voice and guitar-playing as crisp as breadsticks. He seemed poised to become one of those rare folksingers to earn a living. Then someone gave him some heroin.

By the time of which I speak, Mr. Hardin had already flamed out at least once--he'd actually fallen asleep onstage at the Royal Albert Hall. Now, chastened and fresh out of rehab, he was ready to try a career-reviving comeback. A tour was booked. A humble, low-key folkie tour: no smokebombs and lasers, just Mr. Hardin, and an unknown for a warmup act, another solo singer-guitarist-songwriter like him.

Why his management booked this acoustic double-bill into my university's main stage, I'll never understand. It was a large state university, with a concert venue--a quadruple gymnasium--so humungous that a more typical bill was the Who. I didn't care. I may as well confess this like a man: I was a folksinger myself, in those days. I've been completely rehabilitated through a 12-step program--swear to God--but back then, I was one of the first on line for Tim Hardin tickets.

Then, in the few months before the concert actually happened, everything changed...

Not for Mr. Hardin, but for his warmup act. Lightning struck, and set her ablaze. A shy folkie with the obligatory long blonde hair, hailing from some place so nowhere it wasn't even in America, she unexpectedly became a pop star, overnight. So when Tim Hardin's big evening finally arrived, the house was packed...but nearly everyone had come to hear this Joni Mitchell chick.

She was wonderful of course, held the huge crowd spellbound, in the palm of her hand, and when she was through, the standing ovation seemed to go on forever. Then Tim Hardin came out on stage, and Ms. Mitchell left...

..and so did a good quarter of the audience.

The doors of this dark gymnasium, enormous ones, were located on either side of the stage, and the lobby outside was brightly lit. So the policy was to keep those doors shut while someone was actually performing onstage. Otherwise you were shining a big light into the audience's face, wrecking the ambience. Those wishing to enter or leave were required by ushers to wait until the song-in-progress was over. This is good policy when only a few people want to go through the doors. When _many_ people try to leave at once, however, the result is large milling crowds on either side of the stage...

As far as they were concerned, the show was over. The star had already performed, and this blockage at the door was just some temporary screwup. They made no attempt to keep silent--didn't even bother keeping their voices down. Some shouted, the better to be heard over that guy up onstage nattering on about carpenters and tinkers. Cigarettes were lit, some containing tobacco; raucous laughter rose above the general hubbub.

Tim soldiered on. He finished his first song, to a smattering of applause, watched the doors open and a flood of people race to escape his music. He began another song, watched more chattering crowds form at his left and right as he sang, and flee the moment they were allowed to. He started a third tune; same result...

He stopped in mid-song, unslung his guitar, leaned closer to the mike, said, very softly, "How would you like it if somebody pissed in your canteen?" and left. Some folks didn't even notice.

But they sure noticed when an avenging angel swept down from the bleachers, trailing blonde hair like fire. Ms. Mitchell sprang onstage, grabbed the mike, and for the next five solid minutes, she cursed that crowd. We were barbarians, pigs, reptile excrement; she profoundly regretted having performed for us, and would tell every act she knew not to come here because we didn't deserve to hear music; she maligned us and our relatives and ancestors until she ran out of breath, and stormed offstage. Leaving behind hundreds of baffled people...and a handful like me, cheering even louder than they had for her songs.

Mr. Hardin cut that tour short and went back to heroin. His performance at Woodstock the following year was cut from the movie. It took him another ten horrid years to die, at 39. At his final gig in 1979, they say he played one song--Hoagy Carmichael's "Georgia"--over and over, until he cleared the place. I mourn his loss still, and urge you to hunt his work on the Net.

But I've been waiting 33 years for a chance to thank the first Canadian I ever met for her magnificent rudeness--not to mention her astonishing command of invective--and now I've finally got it done. If there's ever anything I can do for you, Ms. Mitchell, I am yours to command.

The Marine at the end of the bar turns as he hears a voice he last heard at Darkover 97. "Hey Spider! Good to see you here in this instance of The Place. How about a Blessing?" he asks, dropping a few bills on the bar and indicating the bearded and fedora'd Author.

Bill Gawne, in Callahan's as in real life.
Astronomer at Large - Retired Master Sergeant USMCR - Nothing I post represents an official position of any organization.
On the web:

Done, Bill: consider yourself Blessed.
Incidentally, at press time I've learned that something VERY like The Machine, as described in my books, actually exists. Fanatic, gracious and insanely generous fan Daniel Finger of Berlin (whom Jeanne and I met at the Cannabis Cup last November) sent me one. It's called the Jura Impressa Scala Vario. You pour unground beans and a few gallons of water in one end, and you're done. Every time you ask it to, it grinds the beans, brews the coffee, delivers it, cleans itself (depositing the grounds in a pull-out disposal cup)..and at preset intervals it automatically descales itself. It has a steam hose for cappucino even accomodates perverts: it has a special input tube for instant or other powdered coffee. You can tell it exactly how big your particular cups are, with a rheostat-like dial. It doesn't add Irish whiskey or cream automatically, and there's no conveyor belt...but those aside, it's The Machine.
As soon as the current converter (German 220 to US 110) Daniel is sending along after it arrives, I'll be able to report how the coffee tastes...

kitten bounces over and offers spider a hug..."hey, it's nice to see you.

hard to believe it's been 4 years since you and your lovely wife attended our wedding at darkover (the spice are fine, and one of the guests at the wedding has married in since then. lady cheron of the t-shirt....)

take care...."

-- barbara trumpinski-roberts (smotu) ACES Library
Goddess grant me the senility to forget the people I never liked anyway, the good fortune to run into the ones that I do, and the eyesight to tell the difference.

Kitten refers to a lovely Wicca ceremony Jeanne and I were privileged to attend by invitation at Darkover, five years ago, in which three beautiful young people married each other. Now that they have a fourth, bridge games will doubtless be more fun.

um, hi.
i just need to tell you that fuck, you're good.
thankyou for reminding me that hope and laughter still exist.
thankyou for shining through the fog of my sad.
thankyou for the warm friendship of your words.
and thanks for being so goddamn cool.
so many lonely people, and you make us all feel okay.
you are appreciated.


hello there,

my brother-in-law keeps assuring me that spider has died. i haven't seen anything in the news, and there is no mention of his passing on your site so i'm hoping this is just a horrible rumor. so, is he or isn't he?


Dear Julie,

I'm a little tired, maybe. But I'm fairly sure if I was dead, someone would tell me. Or steal my shoes.

Thanks for asking though. Don't lend that brother in law any money, is my advice.