movies

Life Story Part VII

At the “African American Fantastic Imagination” conference at Clark Atlanta University, I met my current wife, Tananarive Due. She’d only published her first novel, The Between, at that time, but her next, My Soul to Keep, was on its way. At the time she was the relationship columnist for the Miami Herald, but I only had to read a single page of her writing to know that this was a brilliantly skilled novelist. And . . . wow, she was cute, and could dance like a dervish.

It was about as close to love at first sight as anything I’ve ever heard of. Within two days we were holding hands at the airport, leaning our heads together, talking about how we could create an empire.

The road was bumpy—her mother, civil rights pioneer Patricia Stephens Due, met me with the words, “Well, I’m not impressed by you at all.”

“It’s not your job to be impressed by me. It’s your job to protect your daughter.”

I sat back and enjoyed watching her try to pretend I hadn’t said the perfect thing.

After we were married, we moved to Longview, Washington. My daughter, Nicki, needed me to be there until she graduated high school. It was still far from Hollywood, but I did manage to keep my hand in a bit.

A German television show called Ice Planet flew me over to Munich. The streets were as clean as Disneyland. I remember walking through those deserted streets at midnight, thinking that if the little boy I had been had any idea at all where I was going to end up in life, how delighted he’d be.

During this time I wrote for a number of shows that filmed up in Vancouver, British Columbia: Andromeda, Stargate, and Outer Limits. Amanda Plummer won an Emmy in my “A Stitch In Time” episode. (more…)

Life Story VI

During this time, I had a seriously fascinating encounter with a mugger in Oakland, California.

I was walking to my car at about 2 a.m., and a huge man loomed up in front of me.

“Gimme your money, man!” he said.

I looked at him calmly. “What do you really want?” I asked.

His eyes widened. “What?”

“I’m a human being, you’re a human being. If there’s something you need, and I can do it for you, maybe I’d be happy to do it. In which case nothing has happened.”

He looked at me, and time seemed to freeze. Finally he said: “Five dollars?”

“Sure,” I said, opened my wallet, and gave it to him. “Take care of yourself.”

I can’t even say how happy I was with that exchange. I felt no fear. I saw his entire body as one big playground I was going to tap-dance on if he made the wrong move. But for five dollars, not only did I not have to hurt him . . . or risk being hurt myself (always a possibility), but I got a great story I’ve been able to tell for twenty years.

That’s what I call a bargain.

##

Some time around 1990 I taught a science fiction symposium at UCLA with Robert Bloch, Octavia Butler, Larry Niven, and . . . Ray Bradbury.

I picked Ray up at his house, and we went to dinner together in Westwood. Here was my chance to talk with him more personally. I was plagued by the idea that I may have made too many commercial choices in my career. And I unburdened my soul to this great man. (more…)