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Academic Papers & Essays

Book Reviews

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"Letter from Hardscrabble Creek" -- the columns

NOTE: Columns are in printer-friendly format

"How they Confessed" (October 1994). If you want a feel for the old witch trials, forget the historical novels. Go to a good video rental store or library and rent Brother's Keeper, a documentary film about the 1991 trial of Delbert Ward for the murder of his brother William, made by Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky.

"Training Your Soul Retriever" (May 1995). Probably the greatest error soul-retriever owners make is not starting the dog soon enough. Often they are victims of their own high standards--if the dog does not perform well or follow instructions, they give up, terrified by the image of showing up in a shamanic competition only to have some grizzled old practitioner sneeringly remark, "That dog's barking up the wrong World Tree." No, your emphasis in puppy training should be simply to exercise Pup's natural soul-retrieving abilities, not to mention his or her innate interest in dead people.

"The Ka of Mrs. Benson" (October 1995). I had a rough time with the priestess. She simply was not going to cut me any slack. It was the temple's way or no way: she made that perfectly clear, and she had the Legal Affairs department to back her up. All I had was a piece of paper from the probate court appointing me as "special administrator." That got me into the inner sanctum, all right, but I couldn't take anything out with me but the one sacred scroll mentioned in the appointment letter.

" A Pilgrimage to the Parthenon" (April 1994). Starting out on an empty stomach was appropriate. I had gorged the night before anyway: blackened catfish, fried potatoes, corn cakes, ice cream, and several bottles of Market Street, a local beer. I could wait to eat until after I had visited Athena's temple.

"Chasing Margaret" (June 1997). Needing some back-cover copy for a new paperback novel, a Bantam Books editor typed triumphantly, "Women are writing science fiction!" When Margaret St. Clair's novel Sign of the Labrys came out in 1963, this indeed was news. "SF" definitely stood for science fiction then, although of course it was speculative too. It was the age of "space opera" starship troopers and slim-finned rockets pulling G's as they strained to leave planetary gravity.

"Amy's Night" (July 1994). Almost everyone in the encampment except Amy knew what was going to happen to her that night. She was running around with some older friends, going topless in the section of the campground away from public view, smoking cigarettes, and generally acting like she was 15 going on 28. She had no idea what was coming.