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Starboard Wine, An Author’s Introduction These baker’s dozen disparate pieces discuss the past and the future of science fiction, those violences committed on our reading of science fiction texts by memory (and remembering) and desire (and although we have no English word re-desiring, desire itself is so closely allied to repetition that Freud could identify the two). Despite their thrusts forward and backward, some of these meditations on practice and potential take off, especially in the last third of the book, from a present position of uncharacteristic rigor—that is to say, a theoretical rigor uncharacteristic of most contemporary SF criticism, fannish or academic, formal or informal. At the same time, especially in the first half, autobiography is rampant. There is some reason to believe that in other areas of our universe certain constants, such as the speed of light or the direction of time, may be quite different from what they are likely to be throughout our local galaxy. Because facts result from the encounter of consciousness with landscape, a fact too far removed from the landscape that produced it often becomes problematic, if not downright suspect. The social landscape is far more variable and volatile than the physical one; and science fiction, like all aesthetic productions, is a social phenomenon: the autobiography is here to ground the rigor, not to relieve it. With that as prologue, let me tell a tale. One late autumn afternoon some years ago, as I was coming down the stone steps outside my apartment building, I glanced up 82nd Street toward Columbus Avenue. In Central Park, two blocks away, the sun had found some leaves to snag on. It was cool, but not cold enough to button my jacket. And walking toward me (I didn’t stop; I didn’t frown; I kept walking toward him, a bigger and bigger grin catching up my face) was a friend I hadn’t seen for six years.1 1. Joseph F. Cox (1943–2002). xii Author’s Introduction Living in Connecticut now, he’d gotten my address from a mutual San Francisco friend; and on this, his third trip into the city, he’d come to look me up. As I was free for the day, and as it was the first time my friend had been in New York with someone who actually lived here, the afternoon turned into a round of Upper West Side, then Village, bars; then dinner in a downtown Indian restaurant with a pale gold Pakistani beer; at last a night trip across upper New York Bay on the Staten Island Ferry. At the deck rail, looking over the wrinkling waters at the heap of lights mounding the Staten Island shore, my friend pointed to some other lights out in the haze, within which, on the dark, one could imagine the turning tugboat that owned them. “You know what those lights mean?” “The ones on the mast? Yes,” I said. “Two lights on the mast and it’s a tug with one barge; three lights mean it’s a tug with two barges. Four, and it’s got three —” “No, I didn’t mean those lights,” he said. (When I’d last seen him, he’d worked as a salad assistant in the galley of a Matson Line steamship on another coast.) “I mean the other lights. Down there.” “Down where?” I asked. “There. Below the mast. Look: on each side of the boat there’s a beacon . The red light means it’s the port side. And a green light would mean you were seeing the starboard side. When I worked on the boats out of San Francisco, they gave us two ways to remember which was which. Red is on the left side of the ship, the port side, and red stands for the heart—on the left side of the body. They other way is just to remember that red stands for port, and port wine is red.” Out on the night water, the tug, with her single mast-light, completed her turn and started off through the fog, her red light occluded, her starboard beacon revealed now, growing a dimmer and dimmer green. He repeated: “Port wine is red . . .” Over the next minutes we watched the green light drift into invisibility while our boat pulled toward the bright windows and chained ramps of the Staten Island terminal. As friendships will, this one went on to some new highs, then hit some lows; I...


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