Thursday, February 21, 2008

Me Writer — Again, Finally

Okay, so today's copy of Asimov's magazine which came in the mail says ... "coming soon ... after too long an absence ... a story by S.P. Somtow".... now, I haven't seen that in an issue of Asimov's for a very long time. Am I making a comeback in science fiction in my old age? Perhaps. The story deals with the same issues as The Thirteenth Utopia, which was my first professional sale, to Analog, in 1979.

Meanwhile, I am going back into the concert circuit, and I'm even going to give a piano recital consisting entirely of works by John Cage. You can probably imagine what work I will play for five or six encores....

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Where does it come from?

So, I've been having new auditions for my orchestra, the Siam Philharmonic. You don't know what to expect with such things; anyone could come in the door. This kid shows up. He looks about 13, but I find out he's about three years older. And he starts to play. He's very very musical, plays with good style, has a few wonky technical problems, and, after a false start sight-reading, goes on to read the beginning of a Mahler symphony with real panache. He must have been studying since the age of 2, I figure, like all the other Suzuki babies. He's a nice kid, though, so we all tell him to hang out for a while, after I note down that he's definitely a yes for the orchestra despite his youth.

After the auditions are over, his stress level goes down and he starts playing for fun. Almost any piece we suggest, he knows well enough to at least fake. He can play almost any concerto (at least the first five minutes of it). And with incredible passion, and astonishingly in tune as well.

Then I start to find out more about him. He hasn't really been having proper lessons, just learning from whoever agrees to teach him from time to time. In fact, he hasn't been studying that long, and he helps to play his family's bills by busking at the Chatuchak market on weekends; indeed, I found a youtube clip of him (see below) put in by some tourist, where he does a bit of Vivaldi followed by the theme from Doraemon! Ok, it's not Paganini. But what you can see is a door in a dark room, cracked open a hair, and behind it a brilliant light. (There's also a bit of the "One Froggy Morning" syndrome; he's still a bit too shy to really play out, except in private. You won't see him play the Tchaikovsky concerto on youtube, but I've seen a pretty good approximation of it in my living room.

His parents couldn't afford to buy him a violin when he was 12, so he bought a lottery ticket and won just enough to get one. He got his next violin by winning a TV quiz show. Is there a pattern here? Sure, because after hearing his story I've decided to send him at my own expense to one of the best violin teachers in Bangkok. That teacher said only one short sentence: "Kid's got a future." That is high praise coming from this man. (He also said he'll have to unlearn a number of bad habits.) It's perfectly clear that despite the lousy hand he has been dealt, someone "up there" wants him to be a violinist.

My next quest, if he really shapes up in six months, is to get the kid a proper instrument. If anyone reading this blog has any ideas, let me know.

So, where does "it" come from? I'm sure we would all like to know....

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Zombies in the Night

Zombies have been paying some of my rent for years (though vampires and werewolves paid more of it.) Last night, thousands of them visited my dreams, perhaps trying to get something back for all the cash they've given me. As I've said in this blog before, the Thais believe that seeing the dead in dreams brings fortune and, most especially, money; but I am not sure whether the living actually count.

In this dream, several of us are trapped in a huge high rise in a world that seems to have been taken over by the George Romero creations. Well, strictly speaking, as I discover later, these are the Lucio Fulci zombies familiar from the late auteur's 1980s masterpieces. Among the people with me are Now, the manager of the Siam Philharmonic Orchestra, and several other music people.

I am trying to convince people that the world has been taken over by zombies and that we must fight. My impassioned pleas make no difference, however, so I finally take everyone down to a lower apartment, where a zombie party is in full swing. The zombies (a la Fulci) move slowly and don't actually notice us as long as we don't attract their attention. No one believes they are zombies. "I'll prove it," I say.

On the sofa, between zombies, sits famed science fiction author Tim Powers. "I'll prove it!" I say again. "I'll have them eat Tim Powers."

I prod them into action and presently one of them lunges onto Powers' lap. biting down into his guts. Tim doesn't notice for a moment (or maybe he's in shock) but presently begins to howl and shake his fists at the ceiling ... but now we are in a primaeval forest, and it's a werewolf he's becoming, not a zombie.

Now, it is true that Tim Powers played a zombie in my 1988 splatter feature, "The Laughing Dead," but I haven't thought of that it a while ... come to think of it, in my dream, he was wearing the same lumberjack shirt....

Sunday, February 10, 2008

A surprising email

I received the following email today and it gave me a powerful feeling that my life is not entirely without purpose....

>>>>Hi Somtow,
I know you would have no way of remembering me but I just wanted to know you had a very positive influence on my life. I was a student in Virginia, USA at an episcopal junior high school called St. Stephens back in the 1980s. I believe it was my classmate Chris Baer who had asked you to come in to speak to our class in the library about your book Mallworld. I was browsing the internet today and your name popped up in my head since I am researching for my book in the field of sociology and anthropology. I was very impressed as a youth with your creativity. It has inspired me to do so myself.I went to your website and was rather impressed with all that you have done since I saw you. I just wanted to write you to complement you for all of your successes.

By the way, the above is not my conducting outfit.