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A Night with Dr. Charles Johnson and Steven Barnes


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TRANSCRIPT - my thoughts in the comments

0:28
all right good evening my name is Dr Jason ockerman
0:34
I'm a faculty member at the uh in the IUPUI School of liberal arts
0:40
and I'm the director of the Ray Bradbury Center what is the Ray Bradbury Center it is a
0:47
one of the larger single author archives in the United States it's also a small Museum we have
0:53
recreated Ray Bradbury's basement office with entirely original artifacts and we do offer tours to the public on
1:00
occasion so please follow us on social media if you'd ever like to come and see the collection
1:06
on behalf of the Bradbury Center and the school of liberal arts I want to welcome you to our literary Festival Festival
1:13
451 Indy we have events throughout the month of September to celebrate our literary
1:20
Heroes two of mine are going to be taking the stage uh in in just a moment to encourage people the festival
1:27
encourages people to cultivate an active reading life and to celebrate the humanities our
1:33
Festival references Ray Bradbury's most famous work Fahrenheit 451.
1:38
a cautionary tale about the consequences of the cultural devaluation of literacy
1:45
his words you don't have to burn books to destroy a culture just get people to
1:51
stop reading have only become more poignant and relevant today
1:56
that's why we felt that a festival like Festival four or five when Indy was necessary so thank you so much for for being here
2:04
tonight and being part of it hopefully you picked up some note cards
2:10
as you're listening to the speakers today please write down your questions and I think these two aisles here if I'm
2:18
wrong somebody will correct me okay I got the thumbs up from the boss so these
2:23
two aisles here you'll be able to approach a microphone and address your questions so please stick around for the Q a sometimes that's the best part
2:30
although I think everything about tonight's going to be great we also want to thank the aw Clues foundation for sponsoring tonight's
2:36
event and for sponsoring the entire Festival um that lasts the entire month of
2:41
September their generosity made this Festival possible uh in your programs
2:47
tonight there's a short survey if you could fill that out and turn it into one of our team members at our information
2:53
table uh in the lobby that would be super helpful for us we do have to do a grant report for Clues and your your
3:01
response to the event tonight would go a long way in helping us craft that report we definitely appreciate it
3:08
before introducing our speakers I want to share a brief land acknowledgment
3:13
IUPUI acknowledges our location on the traditional on the traditional and
3:18
ancestral territory of the Miami padawatami and Shawnee people
3:24
we honor the heritage of native peoples what they teach us about the stewardship of the earth and their continuing
3:31
efforts today to protect the planet founded in 1969 IUPUI stands on the
3:39
historic homelands of native peoples and more recently that of a vibrant a vibrant black community also unjustly
3:47
displaced where we sit tonight Madame Walker theater is one of the last vestiges of
3:53
that Vibrant Community as the present stewards of the land we honor them all as we live work and study
4:01
at IUPUI today people in this state who teach about the
4:07
injustices of the past are under attack and I want to affirm tonight that we
4:13
stand with our public Educators our public libraries and librarians
4:18
we honor their expertise we will never correct the injustices of
4:24
the present if we fail to acknowledge our past especially the parts that make us uncomfortable
4:30
if there are Educators and Librarians in the art in our audience tonight would
4:35
you please raise your hand so we can honor you [Applause]
4:46
thank you thank you for what you do um you know tonight in part we honor Ray
4:53
Bradbury a great author who spent his life standing up for public libraries because knowledge
4:59
should be free and accessible to everyone no matter what
5:06
we stand against any attempt to whitewash our history the old adage that
5:12
those who refuse to learn history are doomed to repeat it rings true but I would add it seems clear that
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those who actively try to prevent history from being taught intend to
5:23
repeat it we will not let that happen so tonight the red Bradbury Center is
5:29
thrilled to partner with our friends at the center for Africana studies and culture and presenting a night with two
5:35
legendary authors Dr Charles Johnson and Stephen Barnes
5:41
tonight's event will be moderated by my dear friend and colleague Dr lasatien
5:47
executive director of the center for Africana studies and culture Dr Les the stage is yours my friend
6:02
good evening good evening good evening everyone thank you for coming out um a little little housekeeping before
6:08
we get started because we are breathing rarified air here tonight so I want to
6:14
acknowledge uh in in right in the front here to also legendary writers uh Ms
6:21
Sharon Skeeter and also miss Tanner nariev do right here in the front
6:29
and big thanks to to Jason uh and the the staff and and Folks at the Bradbury
6:36
Center for putting this on and also giving us an opportunity to play a role in it um some colleagues from Liberal
6:43
Arts are sitting right there shout out to y'all hello um and also our Dean
6:49
um let me say oh and look Rob Robbin uh our other colleague but our Dean is also
6:55
in the house here tonight as well uh Tammy Idol so I'd like to bring up uh Mr Barnes and Dr Johnson if they could hear
7:02
me to come on up and we'll get started let's give a round of applause
7:17
you wanted the right I'm gonna go to the right thank you
7:24
all right welcome welcome welcome thank you thank you both for being here greatly appreciated I think it's um it's
7:33
always good uh to introduce uh folks uh to who we have this August panel that
7:40
we're in here tonight so if you wouldn't mind if we just get started Jump Right In but also I think there might be
7:48
people in the house that would want to know uh about uh who we are are sitting
7:54
with tonight no I'm always curious about who I'm sitting with especially when I'm sitting
8:00
alone in a room exactly okay there we go so you know what I forgot to say what
8:05
did you forget to say we have Mr Maurice Broadus in the house tonight as well yay
8:10
foreign yes that's right yes yes so if you don't
8:17
mind I will start with uh the youngest of us um
8:23
[Music] okay if you don't mind um because uh you know uh I think it's
8:29
it it's it's very important for us to understand um the value uh in in the work you've
8:35
done uh in the literary World um but also you know in Academia and and
8:42
it's you know and some of these other other places if you don't mind just giving us giving a brief brief bio a
8:48
little bit about yourself okay uh you got 30 minutes
8:54
um first I want to say this is a joyful occasion for me to be on the stage with
8:59
this gentleman but especially that gentleman on the end we have collaborated on any number of projects in the past
9:07
most recently the Eightfold Path yeah uh which is uh award-winning as it turns
9:13
out uh graphic novel all of it all the credit goes to Steve they're all of his
9:18
stories okay I came on and I I you know I took
9:24
the ride with you and it was like anything we do together um a great pleasure we have a lot of
9:30
overlap you know I did a book in 1988 called
9:36
um being in race black writing since 1970. and in the last chapter it's a
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survey of black writers uh up to 1970 in the last chapter I I mentioned this guy
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I keep running across um his you know he's a martial artist and he writes science fiction
9:58
um he's a black dude too I'm thinking that's me that's me but then I really no
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it's this character over here Stephen Barnes who um has been my hero for a
10:09
very long very long time um my history my journey
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and to creativity had it was truly influenced by the man who did this book
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he was in and the Art of writing uh brave adverry but I come to this
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from being a journalist and a cartoonist that
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was my first love my first Passion was drawing in high school I became a
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professional illustrator when I was 17 I did some illustrations for a magic Company catalog in Chicago and
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um I saved that dollar by the way too that I got paid it's framed and there were times I was I was gonna
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use it because I was so broke in grad school but I started out as a as a Cartoonist and a journalist
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and along the way read you know voraciously of course you know cartoons
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do read a lot so we can get ideas from all kinds of different you know sources and it was around the time when I was 18
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I got exposed to philosophy and decided one of these days I I have to get a
11:20
doctorate in philosophy I just have to and one of the lights I discovered is
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how much Bradberry admired Socrates and Marcus Aurelius you know among the uh
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the stoics right so so my journey took me from drawing to to scholarship and
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then to writing at a certain point uh you know novels and short stories and
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essays and and other things uh one of the things I want to emphasize which I'm sure most of you know already but I have
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to remind myself of it repeatedly is all of the the liberal arts in the
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humanities are interconnected one thing will lead you to another thing
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you know if you might want to get up one day and draw but then the next day you
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might want to get up and start a short story and the third day you might want to get up and write an essay on a
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question that's been troubling you about the mind-body relationship there is no reason why any of us should have to
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allow anybody to put us in a little box and say this is all that you do you know
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if you see my name crop up with something it'll be Charles Johnson novelist but that's not the only thing I do so all of these Arts feed each other
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you know create creatively and I when I was young looking at Bradbury's movies reading his short stories I felt that
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Spirit you know of openness and the excitement that just comes from doing
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something not as Bradbury said for money or fame first is for the love of doing
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it you get money in Fame later if you get it well that's fine but that's not your motivation your motivation is the
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fact that when you create you're creating yourself
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with every canvas with every novel with every story with every poem you're
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realizing your own individual inherent potential as a human being who can
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through craft give a gift to the world of beauty goodness and Truth goodness and beauty
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that may enrich the lives of others that's why I think we create and why we
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honor this guy now shut up [Applause]
13:45
goodbyes if you wouldn't mind just no I was uh relatively poor kid grew up in a broken
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home in South Central Los Angeles and I knew that the world that was presented to me was not the real world I knew that
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there were some things that were said to me about who I was and what my potential was and what my people were that was not
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accurate so I as many people did I think a large number of people in the science fiction fantasy fanish Community are
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people who grew up feeling like the world was not the world inside them that they connected with was not the same as
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the world that they saw and that they looked to the Stars they looked to the past they looked to other worlds and
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other winds to get a sense of in some ways what might be truer that science
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fiction is a fiction of ideas and Concepts that you know what if if only
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if this goes on often anchored to physics but sometimes about
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the human heart but usually if there are two questions that are Central to philosophy those questions are probably
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who am I and what is true what is it to be human and what is the world that human beings perceive and science fiction approached it in one way fantasy
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approaches it in another fantasy is not about the world of physics it's about the world of symbols and the human heart
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and the way these things interact it's about the Poetry what's happening kind of between the atoms kind of between the
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events so whereas science fiction has to be both internally and externally consistent connected to physics as I
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said fantasy has to only be internally consistent that within this we're
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talking about human heart human perception and what are we and how do we feel this
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Bradbury Drew my attention I was reading voraciously at that time because I was
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looking for you know that question who am I and what is true so am I slept in a
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bedroom with the walls aligned with books and Ray Bradbury was interesting because he
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wrote he was published in science fiction magazines but he was not writing about what if in that way it wasn't
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interested in the physics of the situation he was interested in the Poetics of it as if he were a fantasy
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writer he was about where is the human heart in all of this so the Martian Chronicles were not it was not what
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Voyager landed on or whatever it was that were our first Rovers I forget what the name of was he was interested in
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Edgar Rice Burroughs Mars he was interested in barsum you
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know he was not he was interested in the Poetics of Science and because of that
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he touched my heart he was a poet writing science fiction stories being published in science fiction magazines but you weren't going to learn anything
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about science by reading Ray Bradbury which you were going to learn about was what is it to be human what is it to see
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the stars what is it to yearn for a meaning to our lives you know what what
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are we in the vastness of the universe and that really touched this young kid
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trying to figure out who he was that the vision of the universe in that sense was so large the individual political or
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philosophical differences that that deviled us on Earth are meaningless once
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you start backing up you know when astronauts talk about how when they were in orbit they looked down at the world
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and there were no divisions of Nations and they had a spiritual experience where they said the first day everybody
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was pointing out the city they came from you know the next day when they were talking about the the the the
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International Space Station they were talking about what nations they came from the next day after that they were
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talking about the continent and then by the fourth day they're just looking at the world and those individual
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differences dissolved when you look at the world in terms of a sound of thunder
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going back 100 million years or forward into the future the problems that we
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have right now politically or in terms of nations in the in the the the joining
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together of just different groups of people who've been separated by large amounts of geography
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all that stuff disappears the question of what is the difference between this civilization and that Civilization
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it might be a thousand years of development but a thousand years of development is
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nothing in terms of the 13.7 billion years that this universe has existed
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it's nothing at all those differences dissolve and when that was the world
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that I wanted to live in a world in which those differences that were necessary because the human mind works
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in terms of what is similar as opposed to what is different we're very that dualism created a lot of our science and
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so forth and so on but ultimately getting caught in the middle of that you are not this because of that you are
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this because of this if you feel caught in that then taking that larger perspective can feel like taking a
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breath of fresh air for the first time of stepping outside anything anyone ever said about who you were or what your
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potential was and being lost in the Poetry of experience so my connection to
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Bradberry was that I sought The Poetry in the mundane the the unusual in the in
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the daily and he went went there every time he went there from his earliest
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stories which were often what are called biter bit stories where somebody does a
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bad thing and they are destroyed by the consequences of their action in these old you know uh pulp magazines you know
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and stories of ghastlys and murderers and ghosts and goblins I just ate that
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up because I I would read him and I would read other people wrote the same thing but Bradbury was always about
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something more than the events and the actions there we go absolutely absolutely so you know who I am growing
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up in the shadow of giants one of whom was the man that we come here to honor today
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is a kid who grew up in South Central Los Angeles wanted to be a science fiction writer found a great mentor in
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Larry Niven who's one of the great science fiction writers of the 20th century took me under his wing showed me how to do it gave me opportunities I was
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able to build a life I published over three million words and you know the New York Times bestseller list in this award
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and that one that's all fine but the important thing is I got to spend my life doing the thing I dreamed of as a
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kid that was the reward just to be able to do that to be able to every day talk
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to the little kid inside me and say I've kept the faith and for him to look at me and say Dad you sure did that is worth
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you there is nothing I would exchange that for and and Ray Bradbury was one of
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The Shining lights that said it was possible to get all the way there and never sell yourself out yeah can I add
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something to that of course um one of the things Bradbury gives us it
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gave me as a young person I hear you saying Brad baby gave it to you too as a
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sense of mystery and wonder about this existence in which we find ourselves the whole thing with the view
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from The Sciences right from the solar system moving all the way out to galaxies as our problems seem so
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infinitesimally small and trivial and race so small and trivial when we you
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know take that perspective um so science fiction has an intellectual discipline
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um allows us to dream you know one of my colleagues um the late Joanna Russ
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once pointed out that the female man yeah yeah
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um and at UW University of Washington she she once wrote that a woman wrote to
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her um about why she loved science fiction she lived in a in a kind of ordinary
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town you know very very boring and conformist but science fiction what she
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really found appealing were the Landscapes the
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landscape's so different from the ones that she was living in right it opened up the imagination science fiction has
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always served that purpose I think well you know Ray Bradbury if I if I may add to what you're saying is that he might
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quibble with something that you said there it isn't about developing your ability to dream it's about remembering it that we we go we all go quietly
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insane every night but we forget that and that creativity
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to a certain degree is simply opening up a pore between our unconscious minds that dream every night in the conscious
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mind that that performs it does the performative part of our mind the part of us that says I am uh and the child
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has that and life keeps telling the child be practical right stay here and
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we'll start shutting that down Ray Bradbury never lost that thing he never
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lost that connection with the child and their people will say that all there is of Genius is maintaining the creativity
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of a child with the disciplined knowledge of an adult that if you can do that if you can maintain a connection
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there you are going to be performing at the highest level that you are capable of performing it isn't it isn't
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gaining something that you don't have it's remembering how you started it's
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remembering the creativity and the aliveness and the sense of wonder that sense of Engagement that every child has
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that gets squeezed out of us by the adult world yeah I know I know and
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that's what we want to keep alive yes that child um Bradbury also put a lot of emphasis on
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the importance of the subconscious too so I'm glad I'm glad you pointed that out
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um you know we we always have to I think of you know think how do we get back to to
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that innocence that that openness that we had as children before the world beat
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it out of us or before critics you know beat it out of us um and and so what's that's one of the
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reasons that uh Sharon skies are there and I are both practicing Buddhists
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um our my practice at least gets rid of an awful lot of that conditioning
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from childhood on from parents and field teachers so that I can experience the
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world where that sense of newness and wonder and mystery you do have that I've
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I've commented to people that one of the things I love about you is how easily you are astonished
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that it's like you're constantly rediscovering yeah so you just you see it right there
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oh the world is here still have that you're not numb it
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hasn't been it hasn't been scabbed over your nerves are alive you're strong enough that you're not afraid to feel
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okay and I think that when we lose courage you know fatigue makes cowards of us all often as we age or as we get
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tired or as we shape our egos to fit into the different molds that people want us to shape into we start
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forgetting who we are and and that we started this life to enjoy it that that
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we want that sense of joy and instead of that we sack we settle for not being afraid if at best
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yeah we can't lose that you cannot yeah a human being cannot lose that and still be fully Alive one of the things I would
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like to think is my capacity one of the things at least in my work as a
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philosophical novel is I think that literature should liberate our perceptions liberate our perception you say
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astonishment I would like to be able to look at some look at you know look at
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something as if I've never seen it before it's often been said or very creative people they look at something
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strange as if it's familiar and the familiar is if it's strange right so we're constantly working with
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Consciousness and our perception and here every moment that we're alive is new
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every single moment is alive the past I've written a lot of historical fictions and so forth but the past has
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passed in the future I'm not going to worry about it because it ain't come and it never will because that's a horizon the
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future that we can never reach the only moment we have right here with each other is right here right now
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before I came over here I sat for a little bit of meditation I always do that I would not meet a group or a crowd
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or do anything in public and so I had that chance to sit if only for 10 or 15 minutes so that I can be
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here right here with all of you right now and the only moment that exists in
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time not worrying about what am I going to do when we're done with this or what what was the flight light getting us
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here with no sleep you know from Seattle right here right now new never like this
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moment before you get up in the morning why wash your face you got the soap you know okay that has never happened before
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you might think I'm doing a routine thing no not that soap not that water
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not that moment and not that version of you and not that version of me you're
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right you can't step in the same piece of water twice because your foot is never the same and the water has changed
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that's right so it's it's that awareness that the sacred is in the mundane that
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it is in this moment it that what I try to do is to Center myself and then ask
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myself what is the task to do next it task may be to get out of bed and have breakfast it may be to embrace my wife
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it may be to counsel my son it may be to play with the cat it might be to answer an email it might be to write a story
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but all those I'm not different people when I do those things I'm the same person playing different roles so let me
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be appropriate the question is can I be appropriate in this moment can I be here with this moment and the demands of this
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moment with the story that I'm writing or the person that I'm speaking to or the task that I have to do be here
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totally right now yes 30 of yourself isn't trapped in the past remembering
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regretting 30 is not projecting into the future what you're going to do you bring back all of yourself 100 to this moment
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right now whether it's writing whether it's talking to your your son or me
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talking to my grandson uh you're here totally right at this moment so one of
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the reasons why the martial arts have are such a great tool for learning
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that because one second of not thinking about right here and you get hit in the head that's right you know so there's
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nothing like a smack upside the head to wake you up no I better be here now you know you better forget about the
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hamburger I had yesterday or what my wife's gonna say when I get home this guy's Gonna Knock my head off right here
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right now in this instant there is no more other moment in time there is no other moment that that's it and that
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that sense of being there is consistent across all arts and so this conversation
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concerning getting hit in the head it's like an athlete in the zone yes in the
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zone right yes so go on well no it's the dissolution of the subject object relationship there is not a you and it
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there is there is a there's something that is happening here and you're not observing yourself doing it because when
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you're observing yourself some of the energy that you would have put into that moment is put into creating a self to
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observe and what's even worse is when people observe themselves observing themselves now you're two steps removed
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yes and you've lost all the energy you need to liberate your true self so in
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one sense Society will try to keep you in the place of observing yourself and judging yourself because that way you
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become dependent upon Society to say that you're okay because if you're in the moment you you know you're okay
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you're always okay when you're in the moment you're you're not okay once you observe yourself and start judging
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yourself but when you're there and it's just happening that's when you're totally alive and that's what we look
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for in sexuality in driving on the freeway in in heavy traffic in the rain
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in fighting in in writing in Reading is the sense of total engagement in the
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moment the eye is not observed it is it is
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subsumed in the process of the interaction that that thing of the page
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opening up and you fall into the page can happen only once this component skills have been
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reduced to unconscious competence right right as you can tell we we've talked a lot together [Laughter]
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and we have long conversations like this but this gentleman here may have I was
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going to say that this is the easiest job I've never had if they were paying me
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man I you know um and uh I I definitely the interesting
30:55
thing is you know the the one I think it was like the one time I got a chance to I think Jason and I were on a zoom with
31:02
you in a similar conversation happened and we were like in the chat like hey man let's just stay here they don't
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notice us let's just listen and and get it so that's what I and I also would be remiss if I didn't mention that I am a
31:14
fill-in uh Dr Rhonda Henry uh was uh ill and could not make it she would have
31:20
been the person here today uh so I didn't want to lift her up and mention that as well
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um so thank you first of all thank you for for that first that opening sound thank
31:32
everybody for coming see you later oh no we're still we got one more got one more so I do have one more uh thing and and
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this is more specific uh you you've certainly touched on it you you showed us uh these were uh yeah yeah these uh I
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I purchased uh some years ago of a complete line of Planet stories
31:53
from the late 30s to the early 50s these are the original issues and they have Brad Barry's Original Stories in them
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and a lot of other people too who became famous because this is this is where he
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began you know with the pulse I wanted to have the actual feel of that
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um underneath my fingers see one of the beautiful things about Bradbury and the
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pulp Riders to me they're prolific they they were not worried about am I
32:23
writing something that will last for the ages no Bradbury is getting 20 to 40
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dollars per story he's making himself right a thousand words a day a story a
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week he's got to sell um to a month in order to pay his bills
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okay he is immersed in the moment these precede comic books okay by a few years
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and the comic book artists were the same people you know you you were not looking back you were immersed in the moment of
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creation you had a deadline to meet that's right um and and you produced all
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this stuff not thinking that this might shape called culture that the characters that you're creating from Edgar Rice
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Burroughs to the Marvel characters that these would be installed in popular
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culture 50 cents uh you know 50 years later so that even my grandson knows
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these characters right um I I admire artists who work like that
33:20
who don't think that what they're doing is precious but what they're doing is absolutely everything they can do at the
33:27
present moment yes and then you let it go and you go on to the next one yes and you go into the next one and you're
33:33
blessed to be able to have the opportunity to do that and and that certainly was going to be you know kind
33:40
of the next question I wanted to throw out there very open-ended of course but just the idea of you know Bradbury's
33:46
influence I know you've touched on a little bit but just maybe if there was any any particular specific oh I
33:52
absolutely can but yeah go you can go first or you know I can go there or whatever whatever is appropriate I want
33:58
to hear your stories about bravery okay anybody want to hear my stories about rape River okay
34:04
because he was very important in my life and I did not write this out because I know for a fact that I'm going to get
34:11
choked up so get ready for that um and I wrote down some dates just so I
34:16
could I could get as precise as I could but this is not a formal you know
34:22
scholarly thing so if any of the dates are wrong you know apologies in advance so
34:28
I I grew up and I had a dream of being the science fiction writer it was a thing
34:33
that I I really loved to do because I didn't understand math well enough to be a scientist so I did the other thing I
34:39
could wrote write poetry of the sciences and so I was a little kid growing up South Central L.A and had dreams of
34:45
being a writer and I was writing as much as possible and everything around me told me that I could not do it you know
34:51
my mom my dad was a backup singer for Nat King Cole and I was in the studio when they did the the background vocals
34:58
for Ramblin Rose yeah just watching dad and every time it's on the radio I hallucinate that I can hear my dad's
35:05
baritone and my dad's singing career ultimately floundered and
35:10
it led to a divorce and so my mom was terrified that if I followed the Arts that I would have a similar failure and
35:17
she used to tear my stories up and burn them because she was so scared that I would go down that path but I you know I
35:23
just kept going and kept going and kept going and by the time I got to college I had
35:31
um tried I knew my mom wanted me not to write and so I tried to step away from
35:36
writing I would but I was tricking myself I'd take all kind of other classes I would take you know drama and
35:43
composition and English and speech and stuff like this work in the radio station I think things adjacent to
35:49
writing without writing and then finally they had a contest a writing contest on campus
35:56
where the winner would read a story to the to the alumni and I won the I won
36:03
the contest and I read the story to the alumni and I watched them react to me
36:09
and I realized this is who I'm supposed to be that there is I would rather fail
36:15
as a writer than succeed at anything else so I dropped out of college my girlfriend at the time who later
36:23
became my wife and are living together she was an artist and I was a writer and I was taking jobs adjacent to Hollywood
36:29
trying to work my way and I was also writing stories and I was starting to send them out and I was you know getting rejected and rejected and rejected and I
36:36
I think that at some point I started getting like a fifth of a cent a word and you know getting paid in
36:42
contributors copies but I think before my first sale uh I wrote a story a
36:47
Halloween story called trick or treat about a guy who it when he was a kid he
36:55
his candy is snatched by the kids in the neighborhood they were bullies and when he becomes an adult he starts you know
37:02
the kids in the neighborhood he's living in the same house they're playing tricks on him so he plays tricks back and the
37:08
next year they play a nastier trick and they asked that he plays a nastier trick on them and it goes back and forth and
37:13
back and forth until one year he plays a trick and the kids he accidentally kills a kid and he knows it next year they're
37:20
going to kill him and so this story is called trick-or-treat and I found out that Ray Bradbury was doing an
37:28
autographing at a bookstore and so my girlfriend was an artist and I created a
37:33
a a Halloween card that contained the story and artwork and we went to his
37:39
signing and we gave it to him in an envelope that had my address on it and about six weeks later I got a letter
37:45
back from Ray Bradbury saying he loved my story and this was the first time a
37:51
professional human being a person who was doing the thing that I wanted to do let alone somebody who I admired so much
37:57
had said yeah kid maybe you've got what it takes it meant more than I can
38:03
possibly say and inspired me to keep going so I kept going I'm writing and I'm trying to do this I'm trying to do
38:09
that I'm still not succeeding very much but I was starting to make a little bit of progress my mom
38:15
who had always been terrified finally realized that there was no way I was going to give it up and so she kind of
38:21
got on the bandwagon and she found a course that was being taught at UCLA
38:27
extension by Robert Kirsch who was the literary editor of the LA Times in about
38:33
1980 let's say 1975 1975 and
38:39
uh no no this is about about 1980 about 1980. uh and so I took a class from
38:46
Robert Kirsch and it was a strange class you know it was the little blue-haired lady writing astrological poetry and it
38:52
was the guy writing this going and I was writing these strange stories and I wrote one very strange story called is
38:59
your glass half empty about a compulsive Gambler who Hawks his pacemaker and he
39:06
Kirsch looked at me and he didn't know quite what to make of the story and he said
39:11
I've Got a Friend I'd like to show this story to would you mind if I did that and I said sure go right ahead and about
39:17
six weeks later I got a note I got a letter from Ray Bradbury who was Robert kirsch's friend writing telling me again
39:24
he didn't remember the earlier story he just said hey you know kid you know this is this is good you know this you know
39:30
that you've got something go for it don't ever give up doing that Ray Bradbury inspirational thing I kind of
39:35
said I got two letters from him you know this is this is cool so let me keep going
39:41
I eventually met Larry Niven and began working with him and started getting my
39:47
career going and in about what year did you publish your first story I published
39:52
my first story in probably about 1980 1981 somewhere in there maybe 79 to 81.
39:58
somewhere in there and it was like a fifth of the center word you know and then I finally the first story that was
40:03
published in a professional magazine was called uh it's called endurance vial about an
40:12
athlete who accidentally discovers a meditation that triggers his ability to
40:17
be more of an athlete and he starts running and he can't stop you know so that I think that was my first my very
40:23
first publication and I was working with Larry Niven and I had the balls to walk
40:29
up to Larry you know at the Las Vegas science fiction thing and I said hello Mr Niven my name is Stephen Barnes and
40:35
I'm a writer and he looked at me and said all right tell me a story I I found out that from the way I'd come
40:40
on to him I had about 10 seconds to prove I wasn't an luckily I just put that story is your
40:47
glass half empty into the mail that morning so I was able to stumble out you know I
40:53
think and that led to us eventually working together in my CR in my working he gave me a chance to work on an
41:00
earlier story of his that he hadn't been able to finish to his satisfaction called the locusts which was about a
41:06
group of space colonists who go to a planet and their children begin to devolve to australopithecines and they
41:13
don't know how to deal with it and if the problem in this story who would right if the problem of the story had
41:19
been biology or a cryptozoology or
41:25
physics or astrophysics I would have been lost but luckily the problem in the story was the psychology that Larry did
41:33
not understand group psychology as well as I think he could have such that he did not understand the impact that would
41:40
have on that little Colony if these things happen he was underestimating the emotions involved so that gave me an
41:47
opening a way that I could contribute something this story and it led to a Hugo nomination and my first real
41:54
publication you know with lyrics it was like you know wow this was you know I'm on my way so one of the things that I
42:00
was asked to do in this process was there was something called the planetary society in which I was asked to be a
42:07
presenter to be an announcer so I introduced several luminaries that were there astrophysics I mean there might
42:14
have been an astronaut so forth and one of the people was Ray Bradbury so Ray walked up on stage and before he walked
42:20
up on stage I told my story about how I was he was responsible for my me getting published by giving me inspiration at a
42:28
time when I was getting rejection after rejection after rejection started to question myself and he walked up on
42:34
stage and gave me a big hug and it was just a great moment everybody applauded it was very nice about eight years after
42:40
that um I was teaching a class at UCLA
42:45
and it was a a symposium and every week we had a different notable come in one
42:51
week it was Ray Bradbury so when I went to Ray's house came to class he came to
42:56
yeah he came and talked at the Symposium he was one of the I think seven notables that we had coming there
43:03
um and before the class I took him to dinner at in Westwood and
43:12
Larry Niven had asked if he could keep me but before Larry got there
43:17
ah I for 20 years I was the only black male
43:24
science fiction writer in the world so far as I could determine chip Delaney had left the field he'd gone into
43:30
Academia and queer fiction because he couldn't make a living in science fiction I survived largely because of my
43:37
partnership my mentorship with Larry Niven because I would I do collaboration with him and I'd make enough money to be
43:43
able to keep food on the table in the roof over our head but I was starting to wonder was I losing myself
43:49
was had I sold myself out was I losing
43:55
my art and I remember I had dinner with Leo and
44:01
Diane Dillon who we were just talking about in in Greenwich Village and they
44:06
are they were the essence of art it was like we're one they work they did Art together where one would start a line
44:11
the other one would finish it and back back so far and I was sitting at that table talking to them about the career
44:19
of an artist thinking I'd get some tips for my wife who was interested in being a professional artist and I suddenly realized that I didn't care about that
44:25
but I wanted to know was had I sold myself out had I sold out
44:31
my heart and I sat there and I just poured my eyes out and I just started crying finally I realized because I was
44:38
in the presence of real artists here this this was this was for real and I felt like a fraud I felt like a phony
44:44
and I was I just you know I poured my heart out to them and I finally said it is it too late for me
44:51
and they looked at each other and Diane looked at her husband and then she reached across the table and she took my
44:57
hands and she said Steve if you can even ask that question it's
45:04
not too late well that helped but I'm sitting at the table
45:11
with Ray Bradbury my childhood Idol who somehow I had choreographed an
45:16
opportunity to to be with him and and break bread with him and speak with him and I it was pretty much the same
45:23
question it's like you know I I've been hiding behind Larry Niven and his partner Jerry Purnell I'm writing these
45:29
things and I've gotten these Awards and made this money and so forth but I feel like I don't know have
45:36
am I broken you know is it too late for me is it can I can I still touch that
45:42
part of me that that is that's sacred and he asked me of course
45:48
he said have you published and I said oh yeah I published all these
45:53
stories in about six books and this that he just started laughing he just laughs oh you are going to have no problem at
46:00
all and hearing that for the second time is what made the difference I was able to see
46:06
that that I was just on this road I did not see Rey again
46:11
for many years and then in maybe the end of 2011 or the
46:18
beginning of 2012. I would I was asked if I would make a presentation at a more
46:24
at a at a acknowledgment dinner for Ray Bradbury who was very ill he could barely speak
46:31
he was in his wheelchair and it was held at the Universal Sheraton Sometime Late
46:37
2011 or early 2012. and I got up on the stage
46:44
it was so good to see him and he was so diminished physically but
46:49
the child self was still so alive in him his eyes were still still alive and I I told the
46:57
story of how he had reached out to me when I was getting started and he'd
47:03
written these letters giving me hope ing me believe that maybe it was
47:09
possible for me to have the life that I wanted how grateful I was for a chance to say
47:16
thank you to this great man and after I finished he held out his arms and he
47:22
gave me a hug and I went home and six weeks later I got a letter from him
47:32
telling me thanking me for the words I'd said
47:38
and how it had reminded him of his own path and his own Joy in his gratitude for the life that he
47:46
had had and the fact that he'd been able to touch others in the last words in that letter were
47:53
some of your tears are my own Ray Bradbury
47:58
and about six weeks after that he passed away and I just
48:05
wanted to say there's is no greater gift in life than
48:12
being able to take a look at the child you were and the truth and the dreams that they
48:18
had it realized that you were actually able to live that life
48:24
and that there was no possible way that you could have done it alone and that being able to talk to other
48:31
people along the path who say you know you're not remotely at
48:37
their level not remotely but they don't care all they care about is are you
48:43
writing are you reading are you teaching where are you what does the territory
48:48
look like from where you are and I just wanted to say that everybody in this room
48:55
has walked a path that others wish they could walk has answered questions that other people can't even formulate yet
49:02
and you never know what a kind word or a kind act is going to mean
49:09
his actions meant the difference between life and death
49:16
for part of my soul and I could not be who I am we're not
49:22
for people who had been kind to me who saw me and saw some potential Within Me
49:31
it reached out their hand and said you're going to have no problem at all
49:38
and I think you for the chance to come here and say
49:44
publicly how much I owe those people in one specific man one great man
49:53
Ray Bradbury who changed and saved my life
50:11
I'm going to pick up on like two things that you said Steve I know in my life there were individuals
50:18
who encouraged me when I couldn't get that encouragement from anywhere else
50:23
and when you're young you're tender you know you're in your teens and um
50:30
you know I'm not gonna belabor you know and bore you with those individuals who
50:35
did that for me but that's an extremely important thing for a young person an
50:41
old person too to have somebody who gives you permission
50:46
to go that route and to trust yourself and to trust your passion that could be
50:52
a teacher you've also written about a teacher in high school who um you know
50:58
positively gave you reinforcement yes so those those teachers are
51:04
extremely important um in our lives and I've had a a a several you know uh when I was a
51:12
cartoonist and then the novelist John Gardner when I started writing novels
51:18
and he led me into the book World which I knew nothing about and then later you know when I was in philosophy with my
51:25
dissertation director who became a dear friend who's actually passing away right
51:30
now but those teachers are extraordinarily important but there's something else you said I'd like to know
51:36
I'd like you to say a bit more about you've worked with Niven yes collaboratively yes and you're wondering
51:43
what's happening to me you know where am I you know so is that the opening that
51:50
question that led you to and to Nana Reeve to afrocentrism
51:56
is that how you found your way there well okay afrofuturism yeah I'm sorry yeah
52:03
for future futurism um well all that happened is that I worked with Larry Niven and his partner
52:09
Jerry Purnell and um I learned the basics of my craft and
52:16
I already had the basics of my craft I came to them with a certain amount of skills that were developed but then they
52:21
took me to being professional I remember you know Jerry I never I don't know how many writers in world history have ever
52:27
had the experience of two world-class writers best-selling writers award-winning writers sitting on opposite sides of the room tearing apart
52:34
their work at the same time because I was working on a book with the two of them and Cornell was taking great
52:40
pleasure in this how Burns we're ripping apart barnes's precious Pros Barnes was your mother
52:47
scared by a gerund I mean he would take he took such Glee in ripping me a new
52:55
one every single time I would drive home from working with them crying sobbing
53:01
because you know just taking this battering but it was like it was like being asked to spar with the black belt
53:07
class you got your butt kicked every night but you would crawl off the mat
53:12
but you'd know if I can survive this I'm going to be a fighter so I knew if I
53:18
could survive this I will learn things that are taught in no school in the world now one of the things is that
53:23
Jerry wrote stories that Jerry wanted to read Larry Niven wrote stories Larry Niven wanted to read so in order to be
53:30
like them I didn't it wasn't writing like Larry nibbon or Jerry Purnell I had to write stories that Stephen Barnes
53:37
wanted to read what were those stories into a huge degree
53:42
there is that question what was missing from the field and what was missing was people who
53:48
looked like me right and it wasn't passive it was active insult Edgar Rice
53:54
Burroughs would write stories you know in which in which uh the
53:59
Enterprise Burrows stories were the the core of Tarzan was specifically racism
54:05
specifically the idea that a British that an English Lord gentleman raised by Apes is still a gentleman and he made
54:11
racism specific in one of his stories in the jungle Tales of Tarzan where he says
54:16
white men have imagination black men have little animals have none I mean that was specifically so you can't get
54:23
away from it but I needed those stories because I was trying to Define myself as a man where I
54:29
am in the universe so as I once said to a group that I I sacrificed my melanin
54:35
on the altar of my testosterone I mean I I wanted to be a man more than I cared
54:40
about being black I would I would add something you brought something to Parnell and and Niven that they didn't
54:46
have yes from your perspective in your history they did not have the black orientation any of that no but but I
54:52
don't know if that worked into the books not that much I mean Jerry was was by
54:58
his own uh statement took politically to the right of Attila the Hun so it was
55:05
difficult to navigate that territory but one of the things I learned was how to argue with somebody smarter than you because Jerry was just smarter than me
55:11
just you know he's you know Jerry's brain had a rocket attached to it Larry's brain had a transport a
55:19
transporter attached to it whereas I could understand how Jerry would do stuff it was just an ordinary brain with a lot more information working a lot
55:25
faster but Larry would dematerialize and materialize someplace I was just like I don't even know how you got there so
55:33
taking their lessons and then writing my own stories demanded that I write for my
55:39
own experience so I'm then dealing with the fact that you know my my first book
55:45
was a book with Larry my second book was a book with Larry my third book was a solo book and I wrote a black character
55:53
I specifically wanted to create a black hero that was Street Lethal yeah but the
55:59
book company Ace put a white guy on the cover he's very clearly described as being as dark
56:05
as Zulu and they put a white guy on the cover and my poor editor called me up and she's in tears you know Beth Meacham
56:13
is her name very nice lady not her fault she said that they had done this Susan Allison who was the head editor I don't
56:20
have as good a feeling about her because she kind of blew it off she wasn't upset well it's one of those things that
56:26
happened it was the marketing department and I talked to the marketing department oh no it's the advertising it's the art
56:32
Department I talked to the art Department the art Department said well it's the sales department and the sales
56:39
department said well the truck drivers who are going to put the books on the stands would think that this was shaft
56:45
in space and so I realized at that point I can either hate white people I'd
56:52
rather not do that did I say that out loud no
56:57
I could either hate white people or I consider that what's going on here is an
57:03
example of how human beings think that human beings feel protective of their
57:08
tribe and almost all human beings are tribal they happen to have that power Everybody wants to rule the world
57:13
everybody wants to feel that the world reflects who they are in the mirror so this is I'm just at the an unfortunate
57:21
unfortunate effect of this what do I do with it I can either use this and say
57:27
the world kicked my ass or I can say this is where we are right now my dad
57:35
working with Nat King Cole performed in in hotels in Las Vegas where he could
57:42
not stay the world has gotten better than that
57:47
it's just not as good as I would like it to be how much longer will it take and I
57:54
projected trend lines in my mind I thought it might take two generations it might take two generations it might
58:00
take another 30 to 40 years before the world is ready for the stories that I want to tell
58:07
can I survive long enough to do that and so I started a program of I am going I'm
58:14
going to stay in this field and I'm going to create my stories and I'm going to do everything I can do
58:20
because I'm going to make it first of all I'm going to write stories that the kid who started this path would have
58:25
wanted to read and I'm going to create a career path so that other people coming in will have an
58:31
easier time than I have an Octavia Butler and I were the only black people working in the field we had many
58:37
conversations about this we lived walking distance from each other and Octavia was a level above me as a writer
58:42
she was often not happy with what I wrote Because she felt I was not living up to my potential
58:48
she would write and they put green people on the covers of her books but they wouldn't put black people you know
58:53
so we had lots of interesting conversations about that what do we feel about it what are we going to do I felt
58:59
I if I can stay in here and write the stories that I want stories that would
59:05
nurture the younger person I was that no matter what happens I've not been beat
59:10
and then I found out one day that there were Scholars studying something called afrofuturism and I was considered to be
59:16
an afrofuturist I didn't try to be one I was just trying to write Stephen Barnes stories
59:21
casually said that you lived walking distance from Octavia but I want to point out oh yeah you know we
59:27
used to come over for dinner and I'd go over her place and then we would just sit and we'd talk writing in life she was like my big sister I was wondering
59:33
you know um you go back to what is it the 20s the 30s and you've got black no
59:39
more that that early yes um and then you fast forward a little
59:44
bit and you got chipped Delaney and yeah you he said he couldn't make a living so
59:50
he moved on incredibly um once again elegant Pro stylist amazing and and then
59:56
you have October Xavier Butler and then there's you yeah that's about it and now
1:00:01
we have a lot of people tons of sci-fi can't even count them yeah but you guys are the best you guys were the pioneers
1:00:09
you seriously you were Pioneers um which is really quite incredible when you think back about it remember Pioneers
1:00:16
get arrows in the butt you know I was just trying I was just trying to
1:00:22
be the best writer that I could be in trying to survive trying to take care of my family and trying
1:00:28
to to survive in Hollywood and I made mistakes I made mistakes I betrayed that
1:00:34
little creative spark inside me a couple of times and it hurt I mean I was just
1:00:39
you know you can only sell yourself out so much yeah you know what's even worse is if you try not to sell out and then
1:00:46
one day you sell out nobody's buying you know so that's even worse but I remember
1:00:52
one of my agents I lost or walked away from one of my agents in Hollywood because I walked in there with my heart
1:00:59
on my sleeve and I said you know I don't know what's going to happen in my career but when I leave Hollywood I want to
1:01:06
leave with my sense of Honor intact and he looked at me and he said you'll be the only one and I realized at that
1:01:13
moment he and I did not understand each other at all I need to find a new agent because I'm not going to sell my soul to
1:01:20
do this I'm going to do everything I can and I will not sell out but I will rent myself
1:01:25
you know and I will stretch as far as I can but I'm always going yeah I'm I'm I'm kind of a hoe but
1:01:36
enjoy my work
1:01:43
if I write an episode of Baywatch and I have I wrote four episodes of Baywatch
1:01:48
people say that's not science fiction I said you ever see those silicon life forms running around on the beach
1:01:53
um I found something in every episode that I could actually care about and there's
1:02:01
another story I can go into that I might tell another time where the producers did eventually end up turning on me but
1:02:07
I got revenge but that's another story that's
1:02:13
um let's let's we'll uh well first okay before I think we can open up to a
1:02:22
little bit of a q a um but before we do that of course we want to just really thank you for your
1:02:27
words and Candor have you have you said everything you wanted to see you came prepared with some comments you came
1:02:33
prepared with some comments have you expressed what you wanted to express I came prepared with you no you had some
1:02:39
comments you were almost going to write a talk to do this but instead of that you prepared some comments I just wanted to be sure that that Charles has had an
1:02:46
opportunity to express himself no no no no I'm fine okay I think it's probably a
1:02:51
good idea if you want to move to that next question yes but before we did that look at this beautiful let's thank these
1:02:57
uh these these wonderful discussions
1:03:04
respect just trying to be like you no you don't want to believe me so uh
1:03:12
what what we could do um is you know
1:03:18
the the aisles could be your your pathway or if you so choose you could
1:03:23
just kind of raise it I can't see you because of the lights so perhaps you might want to stand up over okay that
1:03:29
they just raise the house lights yeah they just did so I could see folks so if
1:03:34
you have a question if you have a comment please just raise your hand and uh I will uh
1:03:39
catch you not everybody at once there we go Tumbleweed we got one yeah
1:03:47
and you'll have to project because I don't think we have a walking mic you're a big boy oh it's over here there we go
1:03:53
okay
1:03:59
no they were right even better
1:04:07
okay so they're gonna they got questions on index cards oh I see that people wrote already yes all right all right
1:04:13
good this is good because I can read them all okay come on yeah I just get them all at
1:04:21
once
1:04:29
don't do it all right
1:04:36
all right I'm gonna start here okay we're ready okay so I think this one is
1:04:41
for both of you and so this person says that they want to say that they appreciate uh that you both came out to
1:04:47
speak with us this evening and they love hearing your story um the question is is there a book that
1:04:53
you wrote that holds the most significance to you um if so would you be okay with sharing
1:05:00
your thoughts on the story um and then there's a little statement uh
1:05:06
at the bottom it says on the day when life seems to be too much to handle with all that you do okay that's the second
1:05:12
question so just go with the first question is there a particular book that you wrote that holds the most significance to you
1:05:19
um and if so uh would you share your thoughts on the story I can do that easily okay uh most significant book for
1:05:25
me was my second novel called oxygen tale which was rejected two dozen times nobody understood it my own Mentor
1:05:34
um John Gardner did not understand it and actually was afraid of the Buddhism that was in this
1:05:41
novel which is in the form of a slave narrative philosophical novel no form of a slave narrative with access to Western
1:05:48
and Eastern philosophy and my editor didn't understand it for my first book and um but that was critical
1:05:54
had I not done that book all the other books that I've done 26
1:06:00
after you know total 27 I would not have done it I had to do that book and once I
1:06:07
did that book I understood some things about myself I wrote the book to free myself of my
1:06:15
passion in reading of Eastern philosophy and Buddhism from my teens so I'm going to write this book you know and I'm
1:06:21
going to be free of it got to the end of the book I realized no this is the beginning for me so everything I've done has been in a
1:06:28
way referenced back to Oxford and tail which has a Bradbury connection because there is a soul catcher a slave Hunter
1:06:35
and Coors of Adam who has tattoos all the black people that he captures
1:06:42
are killed he gets tattoos on his body that where where is that going to come from except the Illustrated Man right
1:06:48
we're not which I read when I was younger so that that was a critical book for me I'll say that much
1:06:55
um yeah so that's mine for me it would almost certainly be
1:07:01
lions blood which Lion's blood you know which uh was my statement on race
1:07:08
relations in America uh basically it was it took me six years of research and I
1:07:14
basically created an alternate history which was an alternate America that was colonized by Islamic Africans bringing
1:07:20
in this particular instance Irish slaves here and so the story it deals with a
1:07:26
young Irish boy named Aiden Odair who is kidnapped by Vikings and sold to the Moors in Spain in andalus the word
1:07:32
perspective and brought to balalistan the United States to the province of nujibouti Texas where he becomes the
1:07:39
foot boy slip of Kai ibiz who is a young Islamic nobleman and the
1:07:46
story covers their friendship for about eight years from childhood to the beginnings of adulthood and um that I
1:07:53
don't know if I'll ever work that hard on a book again I probably will not I remember what you said you invited
1:07:59
Scholars to a party yeah to ask them questions yeah I basically knew that I could spend a hundred years researching
1:08:06
and still not touch one percent of what I needed to know so I did one of the smartest things I've ever done it's probably one of the 10 smartest things
1:08:12
I've done in my life I invited a room full of the smartest people that I knew and people came from from hundreds of
1:08:18
miles in addition to my invitation and we had a pizza party all day long I fed them pizza and beer and I had graph
1:08:25
paper and butcher paper on the walls and I passed out notebooks with the basic
1:08:32
premises of the world you know the politics and the economics and so forth of this alternate universe and I had a
1:08:39
videographer following people around and all day long we theorized about this
1:08:45
world that I was trying to create and they showed me everything they showed me so many things that I had not thought of
1:08:50
that by the end of that single day I had enough research to begin the writing process that I'd done six years of
1:08:57
research before I did that party so I my attitude is you want to know enough to
1:09:03
ask the right questions of experts and if you can ask an expert the right
1:09:09
question and they say oh yes well that's you know and they go off then you know enough to write your story you this is a
1:09:15
perfect example of what they call World building yeah World building and you went on to do a sequel or at more than
1:09:22
well I I did two of them Lion's bullet in Zulu heart Zulu heart yeah
1:09:27
all right and so we have we have a good number of questions I think we can okay I'll keep it shorter no no but we're
1:09:34
good I think everybody here is enjoying uh being able to hear is this okay guys I think we're all right this is what you
1:09:40
came for it's all it's all about you you can't get you can't Prime me out of the house but once I'm out of the house I really
1:09:47
do want to serve whoever brought me out so this is your chance okay and then for anyone out there if I misread anything
1:09:53
feel free to correct me um uh given that we celebrate uh
1:09:59
creativity originality and the process of fantasy is naming things a reductive
1:10:05
Act
1:10:11
is naming things a reductive Act well that's a big epistemological
1:10:18
question of course I mean how would you answer that um to name something is given of nature that's one way you could
1:10:24
talk about this to name something is to limit it uh to whatever name you you've given it uh given to it I there's a lot
1:10:33
of ways you could take this but but naming can be extremely important um guys how to talk about I guess people
1:10:41
who are Chinese have four or five different names you know a birth name and it it I'm going to let you you feel
1:10:48
that one um it is reductive but then again all language is reductive all language is a
1:10:55
reification of of something all language is a symbol and it's possible to mistake
1:11:00
the menu for the meal you know if you go you know kind of stepping into my core zipski for a second
1:11:06
um but language is all we have you know we're communicating with people
1:11:12
he said when you go in the other room and get what do you say you know the the salty thing you know it's all you know
1:11:19
the thing that makes things taste sharper you've just use labels for things the the concept of taste you've
1:11:26
used the label for the concepts of something that is bitter as opposed to sweet as opposed to Salty all those
1:11:31
things are labels all words are nothing more than that and
1:11:37
what you do with language I remember chip Delaney in his book The Jewel hinge jaw on writing he talks about the fact
1:11:44
that every word creates an impression you know the okay is this definite article the boy okay we
1:11:51
getting a noun in here the boy ran he got a the boy ran from oh okay now we're getting a sense of direction that that
1:11:57
just as music is what happens between the notes poetry is what happens between the words
1:12:03
as you hear a word and your brain does what's called a transderivational search for the meaning of that word it's the
1:12:10
journey that people go on between the words that creates the impression of art it's like you know this note followed by
1:12:16
that note what happens in between there the negative space is what an artist is manipulating or it's the thing that we
1:12:23
don't see we see the words but we don't see the space between the words let me see the tree the trees but we don't see
1:12:28
the space between them but it's a space between them the trees punctuate that space to create a forest so the labels
1:12:35
that we use we use not necessarily to Define things but to guide Consciousness you know think about this now think
1:12:42
about this now think about this what is the journey you go on between the words that's the thing that the artist plays
1:12:49
with that people do not see and that is in some ways the most important thing and you only learn to get there by
1:12:56
concentrating on the words and then at some point you see the forest that you have created with the use of those words
1:13:03
it's one of the reasons why the first draft it's so important it just as far as I'm because it just vomited out your
1:13:09
first draft should be trash just get it out there what what Bradbury referred to as running Barefoot through the grass
1:13:16
let your first draft be done from Pure Love then
1:13:21
the rewrite process is where you're adjusting and playing with it but just
1:13:26
get that first draft out there don't try to make your first draft meaningful they'll try to make it good don't try to
1:13:32
you know make the work of the Masters just write down the music that you're hearing and adjust it later
1:13:38
and then rewrite and rewrite and rewrite and rewrite and rewrite that's right that's right
1:13:45
okay and uh so um you keep mentioning trials uh Delaney
1:13:51
uh Samuel I'm sorry okay I don't know I'm well enough to you know I know who he is
1:13:58
I've read his work but I don't I don't know him see I know you know you just casually mentioned Octavia Butler so I'm
1:14:04
sure you know chip Delaney wasn't enough to come to anyway I'm stop joking around here um so this question is about uh Mr
1:14:11
Delaney why is Delaney out of fashion and the person mentioned that they loved
1:14:17
reflection of light in water I would say it's simply because different styles of writing go in and
1:14:24
out of fashion chip Delaney came into the science fiction field in the 60s was called the new wave where
1:14:30
people see the first generation of Science Fiction were people who knew science and literature you know Jules
1:14:35
Verne and H.G Wells and so forth the next generation of Science Fiction Olaf Stapleton and people like that knew the
1:14:42
work of wells and and the the Next Generation after that people like uh
1:14:47
Robert Heinlein they knew the Olaf stapletons and so forth and they were doing the same thing but by the time you
1:14:52
get to the 60s there was enough science fiction literature that it actually started coming back around instead you
1:14:59
know the that science fiction of the 30s and the 40s was justifiably mocked by
1:15:05
literary establishment because it wasn't interested in literary qualities it was interested in ideas Big Ideas you know
1:15:11
back it up to yeah to the first science fiction magazine which is what
1:15:16
if uh analog astounding uh no no it's
1:15:22
even earlier than that something planets or something the whole purpose of it was to teach young people science you talk
1:15:29
about Hugo guernsbach gernsbach gertzbach okay yeah yeah the grinsberg and that's where you get the term
1:15:34
science fiction it was to teach and be didactic right however the earlier guys
1:15:41
if I don't mischaracterize them would give us a science but they really weren't good with certain things like
1:15:47
characterization yes and and the virtues that go along with literature by the time you get to the 60s you see
1:15:55
the shift from the hard Sciences physics you know and in chemistry and all that kind of stuff to the soft Sciences yes
1:16:02
that is to say sociology and anthropology and blah blah blah so you
1:16:07
and my colleague Joan Russ was was part of that I interviewed yes she was I interviewed her and Chip Delaney because
1:16:14
we did a special issue of the Seattle review which I was at fiction editor of for 20 years devoted to science fiction
1:16:20
so I interviewed them together in the office at the University of Washington
1:16:26
um so so I want you to finish this off what happened to chip Delaney what happened to chip Delaney is that in the
1:16:33
new wave people like him and Ted sturgeon and Harlan Ellison were playing with language
1:16:39
they started playing with language and deconstructing the the relationship
1:16:45
between language and Consciousness to create effects in their work so they weren't telling you know uh
1:16:51
straight forward stories Bradbury was an early person who was grounded in the
1:16:57
pulps but used that manipulation of negative space emotionally and
1:17:03
artistically to create an effect you would put down one of the stories and say this wasn't science fiction but somehow you know I want to look at the
1:17:09
stars okay chip Delaney was in some ways well there were ways in which he was
1:17:15
limited from writing about what he really wanted to write about which was his sexuality and race and he could not
1:17:20
write about those things at that time so he would deconstruct language in concepts of race and Consciousness and
1:17:26
so forth and he was friggin brilliant he was one of the very first if not the
1:17:31
first black writer that John W Campbell who was the editor of astounding which
1:17:36
became analog would published because Campbell was a racist I mean he right there he would I know two people who
1:17:42
have letters from him where he stated straight out you can't write about an advanced application of civilization
1:17:48
because Africans aren't smart enough to create one that was and he was one of
1:17:53
the foundations of the field so Chip Delaney had to hide who he was in order to write so he hid in the world of the
1:17:59
intellect I will be so brilliant I will people when people think chip Delaney
1:18:04
they will not think black they will think brilliant he he deliberately expressed his intellect so that people
1:18:11
wouldn't notice his skin color but that where and that's my interpretation
1:18:17
that's nothing he ever said directly to me about it but that wears on you how do
1:18:22
you write stories for people and you feel in your heart they don't want to know who I really am they if they
1:18:28
acknowledge my intellect they're making me an exception oh if they were all like chip Delaney we wouldn't have a problem
1:18:33
that that eventually can turn to ashes in your mouth and lead to you asking
1:18:39
questions of Ray Bradbury and Leo and Diane Dillon um and he at some point got out of it
1:18:46
but the field moved on that the 60s broke the box that Olaf Stapleton and
1:18:52
Robert Heinlein and Arthur C Clarke and Isaac Asimov created by asking us to you
1:18:57
know the 60s were a time of experimentation and drugs and love and peace and so forth and so on
1:19:03
the generation that came after the 60s took all of that for granted and they began exploring Science Fiction with
1:19:09
simultaneously a sense of the Aesthetics that lead to literature and by the 80s and the 90s you actually
1:19:17
had a body of Science Fiction where the best of the best had both mastered storytelling and the sciences and the
1:19:24
capacity to create art and so Chip Delaney was forgotten to a degree because we no longer needed
1:19:32
what it is that he had brought to the field there was a recent issue of a magazine National magazine I can't
1:19:39
remember what it was a friend told me about it I didn't read it was a long piece on Delaney it's a long piece under
1:19:45
like a genuine genius huh Delaney was a genuine genius no question about it he
1:19:51
was one of Octavius teachers okay and you know so to act to him he Octavia is
1:19:57
insane Octavia she's a good writer sometimes better than others and so for you know and he's for real you know he
1:20:02
really means that um and both of them are above my level
1:20:08
but they what they were
1:20:13
helped make the field what it is they were foundational so let's get we got
1:20:20
four more I think we could get through them we will need to potentially move a
1:20:26
little quicker a little quicker okay I'm sorry because I'm I'm getting the signs but I don't want to disrupt the flow of
1:20:33
what's Happening Here so this person says growing up reading comics there was plenty of violence but now graphic
1:20:39
novels have the power to push out I believe it's saying out peace what are
1:20:45
your thoughts on that if you could push out peace I don't even know what that means if they mean that art is going to
1:20:52
make the world more violent I disagree with that wholeheartedly okay I think that that violence comes from being you
1:20:59
know it's like the Billy Budd syndrome you know the the greater your vocabulary and the more ideas you can express
1:21:04
through language the less you have to hit people there is an inverse relationship in prisons between the size
1:21:09
of vocabulary and the violence of the crime it's been noted many times by sociologists so the people who can play
1:21:15
with ideas don't need to stab you okay okay [Laughter]
1:21:25
moving at a steady clip we're gonna get there um thank you Elders for sharing your wisdom uh with your stories and the
1:21:31
question is how do you uh nurture the connection between your adult self and your child's self
1:21:40
how do you nurture the relationship between your adult self and your child
1:21:46
self you know I'll give you a meditation that I've seen other people use I don't know
1:21:52
if anybody here meditates but you can visualize this visualize yourself
1:21:58
as your younger self what what if you had a time machine and you could this has been done in movies
1:22:04
go back and talk to your younger self on a bad day when he or she just everything
1:22:10
went wrong getting beat up and so forth visualize yourself giving yourself that
1:22:16
kid you were a hug and holding that kid for you know a
1:22:22
breath or two and telling that kid you know it's pretty bad right now
1:22:28
but you don't know what's going to happen in the future that I do and it's going to be good
1:22:33
see that's perfect you know in in my system you know our pedagogy we teach we
1:22:39
have a podcast you know the life writing podcast and www.lifewritingpodcast.com and we talk
1:22:46
about a technique called the ancient child what the ancient child okay it is
1:22:51
a technique and it's like you imagine that at one end of a string is the child
1:22:57
that you were at the other end of the string is the old the Elder you're going to be on your deathbed you know just
1:23:02
just you're gonna die tomorrow be on all ego Beyond any need to look good or any
1:23:08
of that nonsense and all you're trying to do is move with Integrity between the dreams of childhood and the knowledge of
1:23:15
what values are real that you will have on your deathbed on the other side of ego and if you use a meditation like you
1:23:22
just suggested and you visualize the child self you can ask the child what it wants you to do
1:23:28
and you can also visualize the child and the Elder simultaneously then just sit
1:23:33
back and listen to them talk to each other and they will express everything you need to live your life with Integrity I've got another variation
1:23:40
that might be interesting particularly if you have difficulties with your parents
1:23:45
with your mom or dad visualize them and also maybe when they were young yes
1:23:53
they give them a hug love it I hadn't thought about that I
1:23:58
love that that it's not original to me that's multi-generational healing yes that's great yeah no I I didn't invent
1:24:06
that it's it's a meditation that people do in in the Buddhist tradition but also
1:24:12
I do the one with my younger self every time I meditate I give younger me a hug
1:24:17
yeah I do that I've never done that with my parents though and I'm going to do that within the next 24 hours that's
1:24:23
great I love it thank you last two very quick because these are quick ones what
1:24:30
are you reading now or watching
1:24:35
um I'm studying a time and energy management system I'm not reading any well actually no I'm reading the new
1:24:41
Stephen King novel of Holly and I'm studying a time in energy management system okay thank you well on the plane
1:24:46
from Seattle which left at seven in the morning so we had to be up at four in
1:24:51
the morning and I didn't get to bed but nevertheless from Seattle to Chicago I
1:24:57
read the essays in this the uh sin and the Art of writing by Bradbury okay and
1:25:03
that that was it was great well from Atlanta to Indianapolis I read a story
1:25:09
by one of the greatest living writers a guy named Charles don't go there don't
1:25:14
go there him a story that I just finished two
1:25:20
three days ago that's right because it's about martial arts I gotta show this to Steve and you promised you'd read it on
1:25:26
the plane and you didn't I thank you yes I did thank you I worked and one word possibly one quick word yes and we're
1:25:33
gonna bring Dr ockman back up but one quick word for any aspiring uh graphic
1:25:38
novel novelists writers who that was one of the questions so I'm terrified okay if you told me for just a second I've
1:25:45
got something specific I like to say the six step process that we teach in life writing and we learned this from Ray
1:25:51
Bradbury and studying other people like this the first step is write at least one sentence a day every day just make
1:25:56
that commitment second step is right between one and four short stories every month the third step is finish those
1:26:02
stories and submit them the the fourth step is do not rewrite your stories
1:26:07
except to editorial requests once you finish them don't rewrite them go on to the next door the fifth step is you read
1:26:14
ten times as much as you write and the last step is repeat this process 100 times we teach this to our students and
1:26:21
not a single person who's following this advice has failed to publish by story 26. okay well I used to teach at the
1:26:27
University of Washington in 33 years and I give my students assignments but one of the things I got them to do that I
1:26:34
found extremely valuable is keep a writer's workbook do not let your day go by in which you
1:26:40
have a thought a perception an image that comes to you and you don't put it down in your writer support workbook you
1:26:46
see an article that you like clip it this these These are extremely valuable I have
1:26:52
writer's workbooks that cover three shelves and go back to the early 70s
1:26:57
they're like memory memory aids keep a writer's workbook blank pages put
1:27:03
anything you want to on it you know like just descriptive passages you see somebody that you run into and they're
1:27:10
dressed in a distinctive and interesting way oh they got an interesting tattoo that goes the world is yours to process
1:27:17
through perception and you put that these scraps into your writer's workbook
1:27:22
and I assure you that they will be of use to you when you're I go through my writer's
1:27:29
workbooks I see I've thought about and written something on every subject Under the Sun literally since the early 70s so
1:27:37
it triggers my memory and I see my younger self actually because what is it you're paying attention to in the 70s
1:27:44
different than the 90s it's almost like an archeology of your own Consciousness
1:27:50
what you're focusing on during a particular decade I just filled up one
1:27:55
and I was I was telling one of my friends here I'd like to go by the bookstore to see if I can get another
1:28:00
blank book because I have to have that during the course of the day put stuff
1:28:06
into it is my journal every day yeah yeah I mean writers have them if you
1:28:12
want great examples of what they look like look at Hawthorne look at Chekhov look at um no I'm not Starcher I'm
1:28:20
thinking of some of the great writers we have their workbooks they have plot
1:28:26
outlines for stories they've never written they have observations of people um it started writers and just keep it's
1:28:34
just for you not for anybody else I'd like to make one quick comment
1:28:39
that if you like the way we've been talking about writing here you might want to come to a screenwriting Workshop that my wife and
1:28:46
I are doing you can find out about it at www.hollywoodloop hole.com and what I
1:28:51
will say is ignore the price on there if you need a price where we just want good people we don't care if you can afford
1:28:57
the full price for people who we know just write us a letter and saying that you you need a break on the price we'll
1:29:02
take whatever you got what we want is people come on September 23rd and really
1:29:08
want to learn how to write and about screenwriting
1:29:13
www.hollywoodloopole.com all right and folks please uh
1:29:19
make sure you're going to the events for the the festival 451
1:29:24
um tomorrow at the cancan theater will be filming uh screening Horror in the
1:29:30
war with uh Tanana you do wonderful you have an opportunity for book signing in
1:29:35
the back here thank you thank you thank you
1:29:40
[Applause]
1:29:51
thank you all so much that was amazing that was amazing thank you thank you and
1:29:57
uh there is an opportunity to get your books signed by Steve Barnes Dr Charles
1:30:03
Johnson Sharon Skeeter antonina review there are four tables up here at the front please put on your note cards what you
1:30:10
would like them to write in your book to my left the aisle in the far left
1:30:16
your right we're going to line up over here we're going to pull the tables forward and we're going to to get your
1:30:21
book signed if you need to purchase a book in order to have it signed uh The Book Table is still up in the in the
1:30:28
foyer to the back there where I'm pointing and thank you all for a wonderful night thank you for such a a
1:30:35
stimulating discussion and uh we love you thank you [Applause]
 

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MY THOUGHTS AS I VIEWED

 

11:52 Johnson- all of liberal arts + humanities are interconnected ,no one has to be put into a little box
15:34 Barnes- Bradbury wrote martin chronicles not for sputnik but in edgar rice buroughs barsum, a poet writing science fiction.
20:11 Barnes- got to do what i wanted to do when i was a kid
22:41 Barnes- Bradbury never lost that connection to the imagination of child while having the discipline of adult
24:00 Johnson- how do we get rid of what critics or similar beat out of us
27:00 Johnson+Barnes - you never do anything routine, everything is new, you never step into the same water twice
32:25 Johnson- Bradbury and the pulp writers were prolific, they precede comic books
It wasn't looking back. You had deadlines and don't focus on their work being precious but working in the moment
34:04 Barnes- stories about Bradbury begins
35:04 Barnes- his mother would burn his work so frightened that he would be an artist, based on his father's artistic fate
39:01 Barnes- received two letters of inspiration from Bradbury
45:09 Barnes- Leo and Diane Dillon and Ray Bradbury keeping him believing in his imagination as an artist
47:33 Barnes- some of your tears are my own
48:30 Barnes- it is a joy , a treasure, to do what you wanted when you were a child and walked a path side others that those you feel are better are kind, even for a moment. 
50:01 Barnes- stories about Bradbury ends
52:03 Johnson- How did Barnes side Tananarive go into Afrofuturism
53:37 Barnes- reply- I have to write stories that Barnes wanted to see
57:34 Barnes- the world is better than my dad's time singing backup from nat king cole,so can I survive till the world gets better.
1:02:15 Barnes- I am a hoe but I like what i write
1:03:25 Questions from audience -wrote on cards
1:04:56  What book from either of you is the most significant to you
lions blood from barnes , Oxherding Tale from johnson
1:10:04 is naming something reductive?
language is  mandatory, reductive while necessary
1:14:15 why is chip delaney out of fashion
the history of the genre of science fiction from physics +chemistry at its origins with little character development, to the 1960s where philosophy with intricate characterizations occured. But Delaney style was fatiguing to readers, and the later writers embraced storytelling+science+imagination
1:21:08 Is anti peace being promoted in graphic novels or the arts?
One with more ideas has more ways to hurt you, not just a billyclub
1:21:50 How to relate child self to adult self?
meditation in buddhist tradition, multigenerational healing
1:24:35
what are you studying or reading?
1:25:37
any words for aspiring graphic artists + novelists?
Barnes - the six step process of lifewriting
1)write at least one sentence every day
2)one to four short stories every month
3)finish and submit them all
4) do not rewrite except to editorial request
5) read ten times as much as you write
6) repeat process one hundred times
not one has failed to publish by story 26

Johnson- keep a writers workbook
you can see your lifetime, put anything that peeks your interest. an archeology 
 

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