GBR #16: Joe Haldeman

imageJoe Haldeman is an artist, poet, teacher, and amateur astronomer who has also been writing science fiction for rather a significant number of years (his first Worldcon was 1963). He’s living in Gainesville now. I’m not sure why this startles me, to find him so relatively near, but I am unreasonably delighted by this, and to learn that he takes part in a weekly life drawing class. He works with ink, watercolor, pastels, and oils. In addition to, you know: writing. He’s got multiple projects in the works. Reading his blog revealed that he does this writing with a fountain pen. And not even a cartridge-filled fountain pen!

(No, I’m not even tempted. Open bottles of ink and I have a long history of … let’s call them mishaps.)

Why does this matter? Well, if you join me in reading his award-winning novella, The Hemingway Hoax, you’ll understand the hint I’m making about the nature of parallel universes, and the very faint question of if the ones in which I read that story might result in my attempting to forge create a pastiche of a Haldeman book, in which case I’d need to know about that fountain pen. The book is set in Key West, and quite captures the air of the place. Haldeman’s experience as a veteran wounded in action adds an intense realism, which is useful groundwork before playing fast and loose with the universe as we know it. It revolves around the proposed creation of counterfeit Hemingway texts, and the complex human motivations surrounding such an attempt.

The layering of multiple universes is complex; I’m not going to attempt a plot summary, as that’s not my job here, and I can’t do it without spoilers. There are Large Questions in this short book. It’s not a work to read without time to think. Characters both develop and become more fuzzy. The plot progresses, and doesn’t, and shatters, and what you think is happening is not what is happening. Sometimes, saving the world is not the desired outcome. Or even, perhaps, possible. This is a fascinating, sometimes dizzying, read. Please, nobody press me to describe it in three sentences, because that’s when someone surely will take a video of me gibbering for several minutes. Let me just point out that this book picked up both a Hugo and a Nebula. If you want to stretch your brain in interesting ways without pharmaceuticals, this book will do it. (Not one for the wee kids.)

While I chose to read an older book, Joe Haldeman is still an active writer. He keeps a daily diary, so you can keep up with his publications and other doings.

Cat status: undetermined, although his well-known Forever War includes a calico ship’s cat, initially hated by the dog-preferring protagonist (but dogs can’t adapt to free fall), that does end up purring in his lap at one point. Spoiler alert: don’t get too attached.

 

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