Author August: Lewis Shiner

Finally, an author I can make an actual comment on!

I met Lewis Shiner, briefly, in Boston in 1989. He was at NoreastCon, which was WorldCon that year, and so were my husband and I. In fact, I met him at the same time I met Connie Willis, and while I doubt that either of them remembers one fangirl among hundreds, it was a big deal for me.

I’m not quite sure how “Glimpses” and “Deserted Cities of the Heart” had found their way into my reading stack, but I’d loved them both. They were unlike anything I’d ever read at the time. The Library Journal described “Glimpses” as “… the first rock n roll time-travel novel. Ray Chackleford is a self-employed electronics repairman whose marriage is foundering and whose father has recently died. … In the midst of this emotional turmoil, Ray–a rock drummer during his youth in the late Sixties–begins to hear in his head and manages to transfer to tape legendary unfinished recordings by Jim Morrison, Brian Wilson, and Jimi Hendrix. This music is accompanied by “journeys” into the troubled lives of these rock musicians.”

I just remember how real it felt to me, at that time. This was the ’80s, and the ’60s were well on their way to becoming the mythic land of our youth. “Glimpses,” for me, is a kind of electric koolaid acid test mixed with the sweet, honest sentiment of “Field of Dreams.” Maybe we really could have made a difference. Maybe we really could have built a better world. Instead, many of us turned into Republicans and Shiner’s writing hints presciently of that loss.

“Deserted Cities of the Heart” brought Mayan culture to my attention. And skateboarding. Yes, in the same book.

My favorite Lewis Shiner book, though, came out after that notable WorldCon meeting. It’s called “SLAM.”

Again, I can’t do the short synopsis thing any better than the Library Journal. “Realism, idealism, and fantasy are skillfully interwoven into a novel of personal adjustment and rebellion. Dave Stokes is a product of the 1960s who is trapped in a personal time warp. While his friends have compromised ideals for professions and families, Dave at 39 is newly released from prison after serving time for income tax evasion. Living on the fringes of society, associating with runaway teens, a down-and-out evangelist, a prison escapee, and other social discards, he finally makes peace with himself and his world…. As an anti-hero, Dave is ethical and likable; the secondary theme of skateboarding is unique; and the tension derived from peripheral drug deals, arson, and other illicit acts is riveting.”

“SLAM” was the strangest, most utterly cool thing I’d ever read at that point in my life, and I absolutely loved it.

Shiner kinda drifted out of sight on the SF after a while, but thanks to our friend Wiki, I see that he moved into writing more mainstream-type novels and also into providing his work online. His “Fiction Liberation Front” offers almost all his work, in PDF and HTML format.

Shiner really deserves more recognition than he gets. His “Hunter Thompson goes on a road trip with Carlos Castenada set to an awesome ’60s soundtrack” manner is mind-strippingly original. He also lets you remember skateboarding when skatepunks were cool rather than threatening.

Go forth and read some Lewis Shiner. I bet you’ll enjoy it!

1 Comment

Filed under media consumption, personal

One response to “Author August: Lewis Shiner

  1. pecooper

    Thanks. I will. I was the one who nominated Lewis Shiner over on the Science Fiction board. I had lost track of him years ago and had just found him again through his “Collected Stories” and I thought he would be interesting to talk about. You have said more about him than I could, and said it better. Thank you.

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