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by Rick Klaw

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An April Fool

"Long live democracy, free speech and the '69 Mets -- all improbable, glorious miracles that I have always believed in."
Tim Robbins
I look out my window and I don't see a pretty picture. A war in Iraq, an economy that is spiraling out of control, more civil rights disappearing every day, a world that despises us. George W. Bush's approach is best summed up by the immortal words of Bob Dylan:
"How many times can a man turn his head
And pretend he just doesn't see?"
--"Blowin' In the Wind"
Entwined in all these worldly concerns are matters of a more personal nature. Recently, I was called to testify at a trial. A former boss/friend murdered her lesbian lover's husband. The lover was brought to trial for masterminding the murder. I was glad to do it, since I thought she was guilty as sin. (This is just a quick summary. Trust me, this one has it all. Love, sex, drugs, greed, betrayal... the true crime books will all have at least "sixteen pages of shocking photos." I'm sure a TV movie is in the works even as we speak.) Since Shoeless Joe the close of the trial, 48 Hours, Court TV, People, and at least two different authors who are working on books have asked me for interviews. All very tiresome and intrusive, but it did give me the chance to be snarky with a reporter from People.

Then there is this whole Bull Durham fiasco. Bull Durham is the greatest baseball movie of all time. I know that many of you non-baseball fans out there are snickering, "How many baseball movies could there be?" Quite a lot, actually. More films exist with baseball as the theme than any other sport. And many of them are masterpieces: Pride of the Yankees, The Natural, Damn Yankees (a great Faustian tale of a Washington Senators' fan making a deal with the devil so his team can at long last beat the hated Yankees. It's a musical to boot!), and Field of Dreams are just few.

This summer is the fifteen anniversary of Bull Durham, and The Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY was planning a special celebration with writer-director Ron Shelton and star Robert Wuhl in attendance. This lovable romantic comedy featured the talents of Kevin Costner (his best role in easily his best film), Susan Sarandon, and Tim Robbins. Sarandon and Robbins met and began their longtime relationship on the set. They are at the center of the controversy. Due to their very strong and very vocal anti-war sentiments, Dale Petroskey, president of the Hall of Fame and former White House assistant press secretary under President Reagan, decided to cancel the festivities, citing that their remarks "ultimately could put our troops in even more danger." (Ain't that a load of crap.) Robbins' response to Petroskey says it all. "You belong with the cowards and ideologues in a hall of infamy and shame."

Brittle Innings All these things would ruin just about any other month, but not April, my favorite month. As a child in New Jersey, April was the time when you came out of your long winter hibernation (well, except for those rare April blizzards) and could enjoy the outdoors once again. Later in Texas as a teen and adult, April was your last opportunity for hospitable weather before the long reign of summer heat. Also, the wildflowers are in bloom, making Central Texas one of the most beautiful places in the world.

Far more important, my long off-season of replaying and rehashing last year is over. My anticipation is at last rewarded. Baseball is back! Instead of spending my time reading about the king of all sports, I can actually watch it. No single thing captivates my attention like baseball. And that has leaked over into my other interests. Luckily for me, baseball and science fiction have had a long and interesting history together. (And you thought I forgot this was an SF site. I can read the masthead, ya know.)

If I Never Get Back Here's a few of the highlights (these are in no particular order):

If I Never Get Back by Daryl Brock
A fascinating time travel novel about a guy who travels back to the 1860s and plays with the Cincinnati Red Stockings, the first professional baseball team. A very fun book that recently came back into print.
Brittle Innings by Michael Bishop
Bishop has always been an interesting writer who has written many fantastic stories, but nothing as fantastical as this one. Jumbo Hank Clerval is just your typical seven-foot first baseman in the minor leagues during World War II. Or is he something far more complex? What is the horrifying secret of Jumbo Hank Clerval? My favorite Michael Bishop book.
The Unnatural by David Prill
Not technically a baseball novel, Prill uses the framework of the American pastime to introduce another American pastime: competitive embalming. Sadly, this chronicle of the American fascination with death is out of print. Luckily, for you and others, it was reprinted at RevolutionSF.
Slippin' Into Darkness by Norman Partridge
Another book that is not really a baseball novel but the sport permeates this impressive first novel. Starting with baseball in a cemetery, this one begins in overdrive and never quits. And you guessed it, this one is out of print as well.
Shoeless Joe by W.P. Kinsella
Not only is this the single finest baseball novel ever written, but also is one of the greatest fantastical works of all time. The basis for the film Field of Dreams, this charming fantasy of man making peace with his long dead father is pure literary magic. Shoeless Joe exemplifies every thing that makes baseball the sport of dreams. Just thinking about this book brings a smile.

Slippin' Into Darkness

As if this weren't enough, an event occurred just over two years ago that guaranteed April's number one ranking. On April 1, 2001, I married Brandy Whitten and never looked back. With each passing day, I am reminded why I made the right decision. Just the other day she told me that we should see X2 during the opening weekend. Months back, she disappeared for a few hours and returned with two new floor-to-ceiling bookcases. During our first Christmas season together, she got me a vintage King Kong movie poster! How could a geek not love her?

I should have known that things would work out. Beyond that, I think I loved her from our first meeting at Book People (she worked there as well), she is a science fiction and fantasy fan. When Brandy learned of my expertise, she asked me about a book that an ex had absconded with and she had never been able to replace it: Colin Wilson's The Mind Parasites. Most people she knew had never heard of the book, never mind read it. Not only had I heard of and read it, but while I was managing editor at MOJO Press we attempted to negotiate a comic book adaptation. Boy was she was impressed. We hung out a lot for the next eight months, but just as friends. Then something changed all that. Brandy came over to my place so I could give her a Solstice present. When she tore off the wrapping and saw the trade paperback of The Mind Parasites, she practically leaped across the room into my arms. We've been together ever since.

Every once in a while, I run across a copy of The Mind Parasites and smile. It changed my life, and not in the way Colin Wilson had in mind. No matter how bad things look out my window, I can turn around, look into Brandy's sparkling green eyes and smile. April will always be special.

Copyright © 2003 Rick Klaw

Not content with just being a regular columnist for SF Site, Rick Klaw decided to collect his columns, essays, reviews, and other things Klaw in Geek Confidential: Echoes From the 21st Century (available September 2003 from Monkey Brains, Inc). As a freelance editor, former book buyer, managing editor, and bookstore manager, Rick has experience with most aspects of the book business. As he writes this, his beloved Astros are in first place.


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