The Original Cover Of Arthur Byron Cover's An East Wind Coming - New Edition Coming Soon!

Take a look at this first edition cover of Art's An East Wind Coming - a new edition is coming soon from Digital Parchment Services!

Great Review of Arthur Byron Cover's Autumn Angels By Dude He's The Stallion

Here's a great review of Autumn Angels by Dude He's The Stallion (no, we don't make these things up).

Buying a copy of Autumn Angels has reawakened my mind to the pleasures of a good science fiction story.

Autumn Angels is a story set millions of years in the future where man has been turned into godlike man. Every being on the planet has powers that border on being all-powerful. As the people are so changed, their names have been changed to aspects. Example: our main characters, the demon, the fat man, the lawyer. The aforementioned characters decide that life if too boring with the godlike man and that godlike man should learn depression. With depression godlike man could learn to have hopes and dreams to counteract the depression. The book concerns the character’s attempts to make their plan work. The quest for depression takes them far across the universe, introducing a myriad of interesting characters.

I found the mental gymnastics engaging. All the characters in the book are fictional characters from another source. Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse are characters, but they aren’t called that. The Big Red Cheese is a character and not everyone will know that is Captain Marvel. The flip side of this is that I don’t know who all the characters are and I miss some of the jokes. There is a lot of humor in the book. I would classify it as a comedy.

The concept is explored to it’s logical (and comedic) end, with a peek at characters that have nothing to do with the main plot. My favorite section was the Donald Duck section. The book is filled with inventive characters, my favorite being the Crawling Bird. The poster child for depression, the Crawling Bird could star in his own book and I would read it. The scene where the Crawling Bird is unveiled to godlike man at a fair was one of my favorite passages in the book.

Publisher's Weekly On Arthur Byron Cover's Wild Scifi Ride Autumn Angels!

Here's a real treat: a review of the new edition (from Digital Parchment Service's Strange Particle Press imprint) of Arthur Byron Cover's fantastic scifi novel, Autumn Angels from Publisher's Weekly:

"This strange novel-parable launched Cover’s long SF career in 1975. A repulsive demon, a black-derbyed lawyer, and a white-suited fat man plot to bring morbid depression to their race of godlike men, giving them purpose to master the universe. Their instrument is a pathetic crawling bird, whose heart-aching song of lament at its inability to fly causes listeners to feel anger and disappointment. Out of this quirky start, Cover swirls a phantasmagoric slew of allusions, quasi-references, and escapist "sampling" into something Harlan Ellison’s introduction calls "entertainingly meaningful."
- Publisher's Weekly

Brand New, Never-Before-Published Story From Nebula Nominee Arthur Byron Cover!

Here's a spectacular treat: a never-before-published story from Nebula Finalist Arthur Byron Cover (and author of the newly re-released Autumn Angels): "His (Beloved) Revolutionary Sweetheart" up right now on Amazing Stories.

Here's a taste:

His (Beloved) Revolutionary Sweetheart
Arthur Byron Cover

The assassin strides through a residential neighborhood of mixed sentients. The condition of the houses varies – some are well maintained, while others appear to have rotted from the inside. They tend to be close together and tall, with railed porches and never less than six gables, front, back, or side.

The place isn’t exactly quiet; syrupy music emanates from a window – the music is sanctioned but the assassin could swear the resident inside is wearing headphones, and can easily be listening to something else entirely. Children laugh and a male can be easily heard from an open kitchen window – seems his toast is inappropriately puffed; there is much derision from the rest of the family.

The residents are mostly humanoid, their pigmentation usually dark brown or green. His goose yellow skin stands out slightly, but it’s still common enough in the neighborhood as to not be unusual.

Up ahead, kids play street hockey, while adolescents slack atop a retaining wall. A couple of winged inflator kids bounce across the street, oblivious to traffic. Their mother, with her greater lift, crosses in two efficient bounces and corrals them.

The assassin ignores the police vehicle passing by on patrol. The driver, a reptilian, holds the hot dog he’s eating in his tail.

He arrives at the target’s home, a multi-gabled abode with an unadorned yard and a transparent fence. Early in his career he’d attempted to climb a fence not unlike this one. His efforts attracted the notice of the neighborhood watch and he was nearly lynched.

He finds it ironic that a being whose recklessness had ignited so many fuses would reside in such a humble dwelling, in a typical neighborhood on an average world, smack in the middle of a less important grouping on the edge of the civilized worlds.

In times past, the target had purportedly lived underground, but in truth he’d lived publicly and large. Amours warranted top coverage in the ether. His personal intrigues were scrutinized. His out of control children had been scandals.

The assassin was of the opinion the target deserved to live in a monastery, where he’d pour gas on his conscience and light it up after every meal.

But he wasn’t here to judge. Merely to execute. He has no idea he has already been spotted – by his target no less, from the midway gable.

The target’s name is Edward Everett Laszlo, and for nearly a century he has been either a savior or a toxic influence, depending on who you talked to.

Ed has survived numerous assassin attempts, a dozen accidental overdoses, showers of firebombs, and more STDs than can be obtained during a thousand orgies. He has vacationed in warzones, slummed with degenerates, and, in the opinion of some, deliberately provoked the doubt and resistance that are at the heart of the wave of insurrections currently sweeping the empire.

Ed’s life has been long and fruitful, but right now he’s fracking tired. Exhausted. His mind is going, while his body feels like it’s already got up and went. He views the presence of this latest intrusion on his continued life with resignation. Maybe the time has come to get his ticket punched – let history have its say.

Even so, his favorite soaps start new episodes next week. They just might be enough to live for.


The assassin walks through the gate with the intention of starting with whoever answers. Suddenly the front door slams open with a thunderclap, and through the egress zooms a stooped, emasculated figure, so old he looks mummified. Laszlo. His arms are thrown open as if he was greeting an old friend, but unfortunately so is his bathrobe.

The assassin is not the only one to notice. A few yards down a little girl shrieks. She has blonde pigtails and blue skin. She holds her raggedly doll by the neck, shakes it in Edward’s general direction, and denounces him in terms so profane the assassin fears his ears will burn.

Edward is unperturbed. “Nita, how many times has your mother told you not to play in Timmy’s yard? Go home!”

Nita sticks out a forked tongue. She turns but just before leaving, wiggles her pinky at them.

Damn it!” Edward is horrified and contritely ties his robe. “Sorry, babe, it won’t happen again, I promise you!”

The kid laughs.

Edward takes the assassin by the elbow with inappropriate familiarity and whispers conspiratorially, “The girl has problems. I’ve recommended counseling, but her parents seem to think it’s not necessary. But trust me, that girl’s destined to have her face showcased in the crime section. Who knows? She might be a future customer.

Can I offer you a cup of coffee? I know what you’re here for – a determinedly set jaw doesn’t work with your features, by the way – and I can’t stop you. But why the rush? I got nothing but time and it’s nearing rush hour. I’ve learned from bitter personal experience the species don’t mix well on crowded streetcars. Besides, you’ve got an aura blacker than a cosmic radio source. The empaths are going to look on you like a bonfire in reverse.”

Ed guides the reluctant gentleman through the front door. “So you might as well sit back and relax a spell, till traffic’s not so crowded. Furthermore, you might want to consider how much more pleasant it is chatting with someone than sitting around alone.”

The foyer extends several yards through the center of the house. Sitting and entertainment rooms lay on either side. Plastic plants abound. So do 3Ds – montages of Edward at various stages of his life: Ed receiving an honorary knighthood from a rebel queen; Ed on stage at a massive intra-species festival concert (attendance: half a million); Ed smoking a joint in a war zone (dead bodies lying everywhere); Ed surrounded by a bevy of naked babes, at least three of whom have tails (in a hot tub filled with a suspicious looking liquid).

Let’s talk in the kitchen, which is where the coffee is anyway,” says Ed. “Don’t worry; I’m not going to try anything. I couldn’t whup you in a rigged fight and the last mollusk I saw still moved faster than me. Nor, alas, am I permitted weaponry, be it activated verbally or sonically. The Home Owner’s Association won’t permit it. They actually send people around to inspect the premises for unauthorized weaponry, like we lived in the middle of a civilized cluster, can you believe it?”

Once in the kitchen, Ed, ever the dutiful host, pulls out a chair for his guest. “If you sit here, you’ll always have a good view of what I’m doing. I apologize for the silent ambience. I used to listen to music all the time, but I must have hit a fuddy-duddy stage, because all the modern stuff strikes me as derivative, in a bad way, and all the old stuff has become like time markers. Doesn’t matter. I always have these tunes bubbling up in my head anyway – hot lava in the brain! Know what I mean? Didn’t think so.

Hmm. Come to think of it, that’s tragic. In my experience, it doesn’t matter if you’re a leader or a grunt, a zealot or a drone, you never really discover yourself until you’ve immersed yourself body and soul in a first-rate piece of music. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve discovered myself in plenty of the most pleasurable second-rate ways imaginable, but music is still the best. For one thing, it helps you keep in touch with your emotions without ever having to actually to use them, which right there is something I think would appeal to you.

So sit back. Relax. Take a load off and return with me to those thrilling days of yesteryear.”

The assassin gazes out the window. It’s becoming dark. He sighs and switches on the outdoor lights.

Nebula Nominee Arthur Byron Cover Interviews SF Legend Hugo Winner Philip K. Dick!

Here's a wonderful interview that Arthur Byron Cover did with Philip K. Dick, the first with Dick in English!

From Vertex Magazine, Vol. 1, no. 6, February 1974 via Philip K. Dick Fan Site:

“He’s totally mad,” said one of his fans, “but it’s such a wonderful madness.” Philip K. Dick has been called everything from science fiction’s bad boy to the most creative mind in the field, but there’s one thing he’s never been accused of: Failure to entertain his readers! And what more can a writer ask than that?

ARTHUR BYRON COVER: Nearly every sf writer has some little fable about how he got hooked on the stuff. What’s yours?

PHILIP K. DICK: I went into a drug store looking for “Popular Science.” They were out of it and I saw something called “Stirring Science Fiction.” I thought, Well, shit, the title is similar. It’s closer than “Nurse Romance Stories.” And I took it home and read it.

ABC: What was it about the magazine that appealed to you?

DICK: Well, it was such awful writing that viewed from now you can’t take it seriously. You know what term they used then? Pseudo-science! It meant stories of science but not real science. Which of course was meaningless. I remember one story where they decided to find the center of the universe. It was a great flat plane which stretched out as far as the eye could see. Now I knew that wasn’t true, that nobody had ever built a rocket and flown to the center of the universe, yet it had a reality to me. Apparently I had this tremendous facility to suspend disbelief that was revealed as soon as I read that ghastly story.

ABC: Did you actually believe that stories of that type were entirely possible?

DICK: Science fiction involves a suspension of disbelief which is different than that involved with fantasy. In fantasy, you never go back to believing that there are trolls, unicorns, witches, and so on. But in science fiction, you read it, and it’s not true now, but there are things which are not true now which are going to be someday. Everybody knows that! And this creates a very strange feeling in a certain kind of person — a feeling that he is reading about reality, but he is disjointed from it only in temporal terms. It’s like all science fiction occurs in alternate future universes, so it could actually happen someday.

ABC: What sf writers have influenced your work the most?

DICK: I started reading sf when I was about twelve and I real all I could, so any author who was writing about that time, I read. But there’s no doubt who got me off originally and that was A.E. van Vogt. There was in van Vogt’s writing a mysterious quality, and this was especially true in The World of Null A. All the parts of that book did not add up; all the ingredients did not make a coherency. Now some people are put off by that. They think that’s sloppy and wrong, but the thing that fascinated me so much was that this resembled reality more than anybody else’s writing inside or outside science fiction.

ABC: What about Damon Knight’s famous article criticizing van Vogt?

DICK: Damon feels that it’s bad artistry when you build those funky universes where people fall through the floor. It’s like he’s viewing a story the way a building inspector would when he’s building your house. But reality really is a mess, and yet it’s exciting. The basic thing is, how frightened are you of chaos? And how happy are you with order? Van Vogt influenced me so much because he made me appreciate a mysterious chaotic quality in the universe which is not to be feared.

ABC: During each period of change in sf, people say that the genre is finally reaching maturity. Do you believe that sf will ever be mature?

DICK: What do you mean by mature?

ABC: Adult, philosophical.

DICK: Heavy?

ABC: Like Franz Kafka.

DICK: Think-piece stuff. Something that leaves a permanent residue in you. You are not quite the same. 

ABC: Like that.

DICK: Absolutely, sure, like I can think of an example right now. Tom Disch’s Camp Concentration. When I finished that, I was different, and I think this is what I would define as a mature work: we are made mature by it. I mean, you read Of Mice and Men, and you are never the same again. Not whether it educates in the sense that it gives you information, not that it is serious in that it is somber; it can be very funny. It’s like what Aristotle said about tragedy purging you. Camp Concentration relieved me of the burden of believing that I had to be smart all the time. All art of this kind is as if the author has given you permission to lay down a burden that you had somehow inherited. I won’t even speak of it any further. Science fiction definitely does that. Can and does.

ABC: What do you think is the current state of sf writing? Good, bad, or indifferent?

DICK: I think some extraordinary good writers are appearing: Sladek, Malzberg, Disch. I hate to name specific ones, because I’ll leave out one that I really like. Ursula LeGuin, for example. I think it is like the twerp fans say. “Gosh, wow!” It is really gosh, wow! Today. People are coming into the field today who are so much better than the older writers. Like Chip Delaney. At one time we had only one writer who was even literate, and that was Ray Bradbury. That’s the only one, I swear by God. Something about the Middle Ages: “We are only men, but we stand on the shoulders of giants and therefore can see more than those giants could see.”

ABC: Since you’ve been writing for about ten years longer than most of the people you’ve mentioned, does this ever make you feel jealous?

DICK: You know, the way I feel, if I read a science fiction book by a new writer which is a lot better than what I do, instead of going on a bummer right away and saying, “Oh Christ, I’m obsolete, I’m outdated, I’ve lost it.” I have this tremendous sense of joy. I don’t have to write all the great goddamn science fiction in the world. Somebody else is going to carry this torch. It’s such a relief to sit with my feet up on the wall and to know that if I never wrote another book science fiction is going ahead.

ABC: Let’s talk about the personal rewards of writing science fiction, economic and otherwise. Do you feel that the field has treated you properly?

DICK: I want to talk about the first thing you mentioned: economics. My first hard-cover novel, Time Out of Joint, sold for $750. And my agent was so excited that he sent me a telegram to announce this joyous news. That was a long time ago, and we are still being paid about as much money as if we were standing on a street corner selling apples in the Depression. There are exceptions, like Arthur C. Clarke. But in effect the publishers are saying, “You’re lucky we’re printing your book at all. We could charge you for the cost of printing it.” It is cruel and inhumane what they pay writers. It’s a disgrace.

ABC: Economics aside, do you think you’ve spent your life well?

DICK: I love writing. I love it. I love my characters. They’re my friends. When I finish a book, I go into post partem, never to hear them speak again, never to see them struggling and trying. And I’ve lost them, because a writer doesn’t really reread his own works. But then, other people will read them.

ABC: Why do you love writing and creating characters?

DICK: It’s not generally recognized that the author is lonely. Writing is a solitary occupation. When you start your novel you seal yourself off from your family and friends. But in this there’s a paradox, because you then create new companions. I would say I write because there are not enough people in the world who can give me enough companionship. To me the great joy in writing a book is showing some small person, some ordinary person doing something in a moment of great valor, for which he would get nothing and which would be unsung in the real world. The book, then, is the song about his valor. You know, people think that the author wants to be immortal, to be remembered through his work. No. I want Mr. Tagkomi from The Man in the High Castle always to be remembered. My characters are composites of what I’ve actually seen people do, and the only way for them to be remembered is through my books.

ABC: You are known as one of the first authors to experiment with LSD. What effect has it had on your writing?

DICK: I don’t know of any. It’s always possible that it’s had an effect I don’t know about. Take my novel The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, which deals with a tremendous bad acid trip, so to speak. I wrote that before I had ever seen LSD. I wrote that from just reading a description of the discovery of it and the kind of effect it had. So if that, which is my major novel of a hallucinogenic kind, came without my ever having taken LSD, then I would say even my work following LSD which had hallucinations in it could easily have been written without taking acid.

ABC: Isn’t “Faith of Our Father’s,” from Harlan Ellison’s Dangerous Visions, supposed to have been inspired by or written under the influence of acid?

DICK: That really is not true. First of all, you can’t write anything when you’re on acid. I did one page once while on an acid trip, but it was in Latin. Whole damn thing was in Latin and a little tiny bit in Sanskrit, and there’s not much market for that. The page does not fall in with my published work. The other book which suggests it might have been written with acid is Martian Time-slip. That too was written before I had taken any acid.

ABC: How much acid did you take anyway?

DICK: Not that much. I wan’t getting up in the morning and dropping acid. I’m amazed when I read the things I used to say about it on the blurbs of my books. I wrote this myself: “He has been experimenting with hallucinogenic drugs to find the unchanging reality beneath our delusions.” And now I say, “Good Christ!” All I ever found out about acid was that I was where I wanted to get out of fast. It didn’t seem more real than anything else; it just seemed more awful.

ABC: In the light of your own experiences with acid, how accurate do you think The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch is as far as drugs are concerned?

DICK: You remember what happened when they got on that drug? It was bad, wasn’t it? It was so bad it taxed my ability to imagine bad. And it didn’t do them any good to stop taking the drug because they had flashbacks. And nobody at the time knew LSD was going to produce flashbacks. I had it in mind that the ultimate horror would be to get an addictive, hallucinogenic drug out of your system and you would say, “Well, I’m back in the real world now.” And suddenly a monstrous object from the hallucinogenic world would cross the floor and you would realize that you were not back. And this is what has happened to many people who have dropped acid. It was just an accidental prophecy on my part.

ABC: Doesn’t your latest novel, A Scanner Darkly, also deal with drugs?

DICK: It’s about an undercover agent who must take dope to conceal his cover and the dope damages his brain progressively, as well as making him an addict. The book follows him along to the end until his brain is damaged to such an extent that he can no longer wash pots and pans in the kitchen of a rehabilitation center. I hope the reader won’t say, “Boy! I bet he did that!” This is the verisimilitude the author is trying to create, the sense that the novel actually is real. Now I was at a heroin rehab center in Canada, and I did draw from it, and I’ve had friends who dropped acid and became permanently psychotic. And a number who killed themselves too. But I wouldn’t say that if affected my writing directly, that the acid wrote the book.

ABC: Would it be fair to ask if your interest in people’s perceptions of reality and unreality is an outgrowth of the trick ending of the fifties?

DICK: Which was required of us at the time. That is a good question because it is one of those paradoxical questions that one can answer truthfully by saying yes and by saying no.

ABC: Well, it seems that eventually you worked in your surprises with a vengeance and transcended what Sheckley had done. It had become an integral part of your writing.

DICK: At the time in writing magazine fiction, you started the story conventionally knowing something the reader did not know until you sprang it on him at the end. That motif evolved out of the mystery story. And I did the same thing over and over again, and that was what the protagonist thought was real was not real, actually. That was my idea of the surprise ending. I did it so many times that it became predictable in my writing.

ABC: What was the reason for that?

DICK: Why I would surprise my reader with the same surprise a hundred times? Well, let me quote you from a text by Gilbert: “Things are seldom what they seem / Skim milk masquerades as cream.” It just seemed to sum it up in life. I think the main thing in my writing was that I was trying to show my characters taking things for granted, and then realizing that things were quite different, you see. And the clue there is that they had taken it for granted; they had accepted it without testing it out.

ABC: Do you use the I Ching as a plotting device in your work?

DICK: Once. I used it in The Man in the High Castle because a number of characters used it. In each case when they asked a question, I threw the coins and wrote the hexagram lines they got. That governed the direction of the book. Like in the end when Juliana Frink is deciding whether or not to tell Hawthorne Abensen that he is the target of assassins, the answer indicated that she should. Now if it had said not to tell him, I would have had her not go there. But I would not do that in any other book.

ABC: What is the importance of the I Ching in your own life?

DICK: Well, the I Ching gives advice beyond the particular, advice that transcends the immediate situation. The answers have an universal quality. For instance: “The mighty are humbled and the humbled are raised.” If you use the I Ching long enough and continually enough, it will begin to change and shape you as a person. It will make you into a Taoist, whether or not you have ever heard the word, whether or not you want to be.

ABC: Doesn’t Taoism fuse the ethical and the practical?

DICK: This is the greatest achievement of Taoism, over all other philosophies and religions.

ABC: But in our culture the two are pitted against one another.

DICK: This always shows up. Should I do the right thing or the expediate thing? I find a wallet on the street. Should I keep it? That’s the practical thing to do, right? Or should I give it back to the person? That’s the ethical thing. Taoism has a shrewdness. There’s no heaven in our sense of the word, no world besides this world. Practical conduct and ethical conduct do not conflict, but actually reinforce each other, which is almost impossible to think of in our society.

ABC: How does it work?

DICK: Well, in our society a person might frequently have to choose between what he thinks is practical and what is ethical. He might choose the practical, and as a result he disintegrates as a human being. Taoism combines the two so that these polarizations rarely occur, and if possible never occur. It is an attempt to teach you a way of behavior that will cause such tragic schisms not to come to the surface. I’ve been using the I Ching since 1961, and this is what I use it for, to show me a way of conduct in a certain situation. Now first of all it will analyze the situation for you more accurately than you have. It may be different than what you think. Then it will give you the advice. And through these lines a torturous, complicated path emerges through which the person escapes the tragedy of matrydom and the tragedy of selling out. He finds the great sense of Taoism, the middle way. I turn to it when I have that kind of conflict.

ABC: What if a person should come to a situation in which the ethical and the practical cannot be fused under any circumstances?

DICK: One thing that I have never gotten out of my head is that sometimes the effort of the whole Taoist thing to combine the two does not always work. At this point the line says, “Praise, no blame.” Those are code words to indicate what you should do and the commentary says that the highest thing for a person to do would be to lay down his life rather than to do something which was unethical. And I kinda think that this is right. There never can be a system of thought that can reconcile those two all the time. And Taoism takes that into account, in one line out of over three thousand.

ABC: You mentioned that you spent some time in a heroin rehabilitation center in Canada. How did you get involved in that sort of endeavor?

DICK: It was one of the most important things that ever happened to me. I flew to Canada in February of 1972 to deliver a speech as the guest of honor at the Vancouver Science Fiction Convention. I felt a tremendous weight off me when I got up there. I was sick and tired of the oppressive air of the war back here. So I rented an apartment and cut my ties with the past. But I had no friends up there and after awhile I was very lonely. I tried to kill myself by taking seven hundred miligrams of potassium bromide. I had also written the phone number of a suicide rehabilitation center on a piece of cardboard as huge as a phonograph album, in huge letters, just in case I changed my mind. And I did change my mind. Fortunately the last number was a one and I could just barely dial it. Well, I talked with the guy for almost an hour and a half and he finally said, “Here is what is the matter. You have nothing to do; you have no purpose; you came up here and you gave your speeches and now you’re sitting in your apartment. You don’t need psychotherapy. You need purposeful work.”

ABC: And he directed you to the heroin rehab center.

DICK: Right. He told me that they would watch me twenty-four hours a day, that no matter what they would keep me alive. But I had to lie to get in; I had to pretend I was an addict. I looked in bad shape, you see, from all that potassium bromide. I did a lot of method acting, like almost attacking the staff member interviewing me, so they never doubted that I was an addict.

ABC: What did you do there?

DICK: They put me to work cleaning the toilets and scrubbing the floors. And it was wonderful. I really dug it. The first night there was the first good night’s sleep I had had in three months. After I had been there for about two weeks I started coming out of my depression and they discovered who I was. They had thought I was just some deteriorated bum. Well, a bunch of my books came in the mail and they immediately put me in an office with a typewriter and all that jazz to do PR work for them. So I left after awhile.

ABC: Exactly what did you do there that you liked so much?

DICK: Watching the junkies come in and watching their valiant struggle not to fall back into what they had been doing. I used to condemn junkies, like they could get off the stuff if they really wanted to, and that is about as stupid as saying, “You could grow eyes in the back of your head if you really wanted to.” The pain of getting off smack is so great that there are many times they’ll kill themselves just to get off the pain. I saw one chick who had been addicted by her brother when she was fifteen, and by the time she was sixteen she was a prostitute, for the money, you see. And she didn’t look sixteen; she looked twenty-five. Another chick who was twenty-five looked fifty. Half her teeth had fallen out; her hair was grey, wispy, straw-like stuff; she was just skin and bones. But these people wanted to live. I saw human strength. I saw the human being there as a magnificent creature. And when I saw that I realized that I had seen something which made the events preceding my life of very little importance.

ABC: What methods were used there?

DICK: Our method there was cold turkey. I mean, their bodies were so damaged from the heroin they had to get up and pee every two hours every night from kidney damage. But I watched those people forming a community and I saw human beings fighting with such strength against fateÖWe also had the hardest attack therapy. It was tough because it was mainly for criminal recivitists. It was for really tough guys.

ABC: And you didn’t want to do PR work? What did you really want to do?

DICK: I wanted to work directly with teenagers before they got onto the hard stuff, while they were still on the soft stuff. And I also was homesick. I wanted to come back to the United States.

ABC: In the light of that experience, what are your opinions of the way addicts are treated in this country?

DICK: I would never condemn an addict, but on the other hand I would condemn anyone who addicted someone. Like Julian Bond said — remember Congressman Bond — kill the pusher man, if you have to. If he is going to make your children into a junkie, shoot him. Now that’s an extreme view, see? Like a lot of people would lump the users and the dealers together. But I realized that the user is a victim. You cannot be any more of a victim than the user of heroin is. There is no slavery like it.

ABC: You’ve stated privately that your Vancouver speech is the most important thing you’ve ever written. Would you care to elaborate on that statement?

DICK: I worked on it for three months and I was very low in those days. I had thought that I would never write again. I had actually gone for two and a half years without writing anything. I decided that I should take all the ideas I had in my head that were worth anything and put them in the speech. It was finished in January 1972 and it said that the totalitarian state Orwell had predicted was already with us and that rebellion against this evil and corrupt state was already with us. The title of this speech was “The Human and the Android,” subtitled “The Authentic Person Vs. the Reflex Machine.”

ABC: What did you try to accomplish in this speech?

DICK: I tried to define the real person, because there are people among us who are biologically human but who are androids in the metaphoric sense. I wanted to draw the line so I could define the positive primary goal of stipulating what was human. Computers are becoming more and more like sensitive cogitative creatures, but at the same time human beings are becoming dehumanized. As I wrote the speech I sensed in it the need for people who were human to reinforce other people’s humanness. And because of this it would be necessary to rebel against an inhuman or android society.

ABC: What do you believe defines a human being?

DICK: For example, the capacity to say no when what one was told to do was wrong. Someone saying, “No, I won’t kill. I won’t bomb.” A balking. And this balking I saw in the teenagers, in the so-called “punks.” A non-political rebellion of the youth which in the long run, without their realizing it, had very great political significance. Not in terms of elections and parties, but with the emergence of kids who could not be bribed, who could not be intimidated, who would not listen to propaganda. I saw the need of an illegal rebellion against what was basically an illegal system. In other words, you can’t say to a kid, “Don’t break the law. Always obey the law,” because the law was in itself unjust.

ABC: Do you feel that recent events such as the Watergate hearings have supported the ideas expressed in the speech?

DICK: I think — and this is perhaps a strange thing to say — that those people in the Administration who broke the law should be forgiven, also, for breaking the law, just as those I feel should rebel should be forgiven. Everybody on both sides is sort of saying that the law in no longer meaningful, that it is no longer equated with justice. I think it was Jeb Magruder who said, “We found it frustrating to have to operate within the law.” Perhaps that is just an indication that a vast revision of our legal system is in order. Nevertheless, my speech did advocate rebellion and breaking the law in the name of morality. And like the I Ching said, if practicality and morality are polarized and you must choose, you must do what you think is right, rather than what you think is practical.

ABC: Thank you very much, Mr. Dick.

Rave Review of Nebula Award Nominated SF Novel Autumn Angels By Arthur Byron Cover From Revolution SF

Check out this rave (and then some) review for Arthur Byron Cover's brilliant Autumn Angels - out now in a brand new author-author-authorized new edition from Digital Parchment Services/Strange Particle Press - by Ivan Lerner, from Revolution SF

At one point during Autumn Angels, the lawyer, one of the novel's three main characters, says, "In a world where anything can happen, rest assured, it will." This, coupled with his "But what's the use in being alive if you can't mingle with people no good for you?" fundamentally sums up in a metaphorical nutshell this fantastic and unfortunately nearly forgotten work of satirical fantasy.

One of my favorite novels, Arthur Byron Cover's Autumn Angels is one of the wildest and weirdest books to be printed. One critic has referred to Cover as a "rock 'n' roll James Joyce," which is very nice, but an almost left-handed compliment. While definitely one of the "great works of Western Civilization," how many people have actually had the fortitude to finish Joyce's Ulysses, yet alone Finnegans Wake? Autumn Angels is a breeze and a hoot to read, and if you don't catch all of Cover's playful references (and there are many), don't worry. They all exist with a specific purpose in the novel itself; it doesn't matter if you don't know that the godlike man with no name is a allusion to Clint Eastwood's character in Sergio Leone's spaghetti westerns, or that the insidious oriental doctor is Fu Manchu, or the talking blood-drinking flowers from the planet of the Ebony Kings are referring to the human-eating plant from The Little Shop of Horrors. There's even a reference to the old commercials of infamous L.A. car dealer Cal Worthington -- talk about obscure! 
Of course, catching and recognizing these references is loads of fun, but some characters, like the aforementioned Ebony Kings, are solely creations of author Cover's fevered imagination. So I think it is beside the point to simply reducing this witty and marvelous book to the status of "just a game." Autumn Angels is not some joyless post-modern wankfest where the author is showing off his grad school degree and his ability to construct convoluted sentences that only exist to satisfy his perverse desire to torment an unfortunate audience. Autumn Angels is beautiful weirdness that needs to be read, written in a clean and direct style, that tells the almost-existential story of how three godlike miscreants try and re-introduce depression to the race of godlike men.

The following quote is from Harlan Ellison's almost frenzied introduction to the book's 1975 Pyramid Books paperback edition (the novel was the second in Pyramid's "Harlan Ellison Discover Series"). The fab Mr. Ellison wrote this about 26 years ago, but it still directly pinpoints the novel's positives: "It is a great many things, most of them silly and funny and memorable…" 
It takes the materials of everyday entertainments-pulp heroes, movies, comics, detective stories-and transforms them. It melds them into a gestalt that is fresh and different and entirely meaningful… I take Autumn Angels and its brilliant young author very seriously… And despite the seeming silliness of the story, it is a profound and singular examination of some of the basic questions that confound us today: the meaning of our existence, the value of pain, the rationale for the search of individual destiny. And Autumn Angels speaks directly to the value of role-playing in our society; it says something lucid and fresh about the value of persona, the need to be other than what we seem, the need to seem to be other than what we are. 
Nominated for a Nebula upon its initial release ("When I told my father it had been nominated for the best SF novel of the year, he said he'd have to read it again -- he was more a Louis Lamour fan," says Cover), the book takes place eons in the future, at some point long after the bems (who are eventually brought back to earth and the story) have granted godlike powers to the race of "mere man." People no longer identify themselves by name but by character (or persona or archetype, if you will): our three misfit protagonists are the lawyer, the demon and the fat man (who is, according to Ellison, modeled after Sydney Greenstreet's character in The Maltese Falcon).

The demon and the lawyer (who is the book's most fallible and "human" character, and a great audience surrogate) are fed up with the stagnation of the race of godlike man ("the routine of life was rarely broken," writes Cover), and are trying to convince the great mover-and-shaker, the fat man, to help them on their quest:

"Without depression, [asks the demon] what good is happiness? These days happiness is no longer a goal, but merely another state of being. As for myself, I find no joy in seeing other people happy. The race of godlike man has become lazy. The only ambition is for fame and glory. There is no striving for unobtainable goals. There are no adventures. And may I remind you that our very identities come from our past? Why shouldn't they come from our own culture, our own present? And what is our future?"

The fat man rubbed one of his chins. "I do not care for your goals. I, for one, am completely satisfied with things as they are." 
"And for eons," said the lawyer, "you have been concerned with petty intrigues. Why, a man with your skills in the old days would have fought and schemed for a planet, for a solar system, for more! Your skills are wasted on this dreamless planet. With the return of depression will come the return of dreams, of hopes for better times. All godlike men will be searching for something, and then your skills will not be wasted. You will be at the top of a young and worthwhile race." 
The fat man is convinced ("I like the way you two come right to the point," he chortles to his co-conspirators), and becomes the trio's de facto leader. However, even with his great powers (and the assistance of the shadowy gunsel, the fat man's henchman; based on Elisha Cook Jr.'s character in The Maltese Falcon -- remember him?), this crazy troika fails miserably, with an angered godlike mankind stripping them of their collective fame and glory.

Shamed and shunned, the friends eventually realize that this state of disgrace actually can be a boon: being out of the public's eye, now they can really do whatever it takes to bring back depression! Cover writes, "These three possessed a confidence alien to all other godlike men… despite their godlike powers, they resembled mere man in that they would let nothing stop them, even if it meant their doom."

Along the way, among a multiplicity of other oddities, we are treated to a day in the life of the duck (versus the cigar-smoking frogs), a wonderful and exciting basketball game between the lawyer and the fat man before the fuzzy ("yet boring," describes Cover) little balls of Sharkosh, the painful odyssey of the sad crawling bird, and a death duel between the godlike man with no name and the lonely hawkman where the loser ends up in the anti-matter universe. Despite its length (the Pyramid paperback is only 190 pages), Autumn Angels is a fantastically dense book.

Meanwhile, Cover is wonderful at supplying hints and traces of the growing friendship between his three godlike outcasts, especially with the in-jokes and playful teases of one to another. The demon and the fat man become roommates, and delight in teasing the lawyer about his obsession with pigs and his unrequited love for his never-seen girlfriend "Kitty" (which might be a sly jab at most males' pursuit of "pussy"). Soon the reader feels honored to be included in the shenanigans and strange logic of this insular trio, as if you were watching a good Marx Brothers' film.

He plunges us into a unique and original world, and has the faith that we'll keep up. Like one of the better magicians, the author works hard to give the audience the feeling that they're in on the gag, while using delightful sleight-of-hand to keep surprising them. Cover's dialog is witty and sharp, his descriptions are clear and imaginative, and his plotting is masterful. A fantasy for adults (rather than yet another adolescent power trip wish fulfillment testosterone fest), Autumn Angels evokes the smart playfulness of a Rudy Rucker, a Philip Jose Farmer or a Kurt Vonnegut. Fans of the work of comic book author Alan Moore (especially his Watchmen, Top Ten or The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen series) should really express an interest in Cover's work.

If I might appropriate Terry Southern's statement about Tom Wolfe, Arthur Byron Cover needs to be showered with money and other fine things. Attracted by the Pyramid paperback's beautiful Ron Cobb cover, I discovered this book back in the late-1970s in a used bookstore in the basically illiterate section of Brooklyn where I grew up. Since then, I've read Autumn Angels at least five times. I love this book so much that every time I'm in a used bookstore, if I find a copy of it, I buy it. I've found copies in used bookstores in Aspen, Colorado, Chicago and London, England. I'm not sure why I do this (either I'm trying to preserve copies for future generations or else this is one of the few times I'm willing to be transformed into pure collector scum), but I guard my copies jealously, only giving (as opposed to lending) one copy away so far.

The novel initially "began as a short story for an original anthology series that was cancelled," Cover told me recently, "but by then I was wondering what should happen next. I really had no idea how to write a short story, much less a novel, so I was faking it." 
Cover states that the novel got published through "Nepotism. Harlan Ellison had made a deal with his publisher to edit a series of books. I was bothering him a lot in those days and he told me he would look at something. When he did, he figured it was okay and he would edit it. The second time he read it, with an eye toward what editorial work it needed, he thought it was the worst piece of dreck he'd ever suffered through… The charitable way of putting it is that he was unwilling to suspend his disbelief for it. Fortunately for us both, the third time around something clicked and his opinion became somewhat more favorable, which is sort of a quiet thing to call any feeling Harlan might have." (See Ellison's quote above.) 
Unfortunately, critical and financial response to the novel was poor. "Except for a few who really didn't like it, it was pretty much ignored by what passed then for a literary science fiction establishment," says Cover. "The arts are a profoundly Darwinistic enterprise. When you look at what my then-contemporaries were writing, particularly those who have gone on to lucrative careers in writing commercial SF, you should thank Harlan for giving the work the benefit of the doubt when he doubted it the most."
Although a fabulous fantasist, Cover is quite earthbound when it come to the realities of the contemporary publishing industry. "I run a bookstore [Dangerous Visions in Southern California;]. [Ordinary] SF books are a common product. Every literary trend that has ever existed now exists in the cultural matrix in some form or another, and even co-exists with artistic sensibilities once thought to be mutually exclusive. The trends of the past will be the trends of the future, but while the field [remains] dominated by middle-class writers and a middle-class audience (insiders as opposed to those who once believed themselves outsiders, whether or not they actually were), the era of dependable literary conceptual breakthroughs is history. You never know though. For years I've been saying the bottom will drop out of the Stephen King collectible market. Ten or twelve more decades, and I might be right." 
A new print editions can be ordered right here on Amazon. Take a risk, order Autumn Angels today.

Free Chapter 1 of Nebula Award Nominated SF Novel by TV Scripter Arthur Byron Cover

Author Byron Cover is a highly-regarded science fiction and television animation writer whose work includes scripts for Defenders of the Earth, The Real Ghostbusters, Bionic Six, The Transformers and Phantom 2040 and the novels Autumn Angels and An East Wind Coming.

Arthur Byron Cover 

Introductions by 
Harlan Ellison® & A.A. Attanasio 

Strange Particle Press 
Digital Parchment Services 

Copyright©1975, 2005 by Arthur Byron Cover 

The Crawling Bird Copyright©1975 by Ron Cobb 


It was early morning; orange sunlight broke through yellow clouds, and the jungle, forgotten by all but two godlike men, came to life again. The jungle: red trees, black apes, golden singing snakes wrapped around weak, crooked limbs. The jungle: on a planet five thousand square kilometers large, with a core so dense its life and atmosphere could not fly off into space. Mere man would have called it a miracle, but it was much less than that. It was a toy; it had cost a lone godlike man five hours’ labor.

The demon sat in the air. He allowed the wind currents to take him anywhere. He looked down, angry that the object of his search had eluded him for several

minutes. The demon was five meters tall; he had four nostrils and he did not have a nose; instead of a mouth he had a beak. He reached down with a thin green arm and fondled the huge penis hanging below his folded legs. He had four white nipples, yellow eyes, and long red fingernails that looked as if they would break should he scrape something; but they never did. He did not have joints in his fingers. His toes were three orange birdlike claws. (Yet his appearance was not repulsive; it was fascinating. Godlike men could not help but stare as he floated past them, and as he noticed them staring at him, silently acknowledging his daring imagination, he felt a warm glow of pride and confidence which convinced him that it was his duty to shape the destiny of others.)

The lawyer materialized beside the demon. He tipped his black derby at his friend. He was a meter and a half tall; he carried a sword-cane; he wore a red vest, a ruffled white shirt, and a black suit with a plastic flower in the lapel. He twirled his sword-cane and said in a nasal voice, “I found one. I believe the others are underground, trying to make a new life for themselves.”

“You mean they’re underground so they won’t have to look at the sky.” The demon rubbed his hands.

“Yes, that’s what I mean. You know and I know it won’t make much difference, but they don’t know it yet.”

“Now that’s funny,” said the demon. “It just breaks me up. I can see them now, looking at the ceilings in the caverns and wondering, as they wondered out here, how they can get up. Will they think they’re crippled bats? Will they think their purpose is to hang upside down?”

“There are bats in the caves. They’ll look at themselves and they’ll see they’re different from bats.”

“Perhaps the more intelligent will,” said the demon, turning his head one hundred and eighty degrees to look at the cliffs behind him. “You must remember that most of them are, by our admittedly high standards, retarded.”

The dapper young lawyer created a lit cigarette and puffed at it. “Perhaps, friend demon, perhaps. I don’t know.” He paused, a sudden smile coming to his face. “Did you know there are pigs here?”


“Big fat ones, with long pink quills instead of hair, but pigs nevertheless. They have orange eyes and snouts so large and so heavy they can’t lift them from the mud. I killed four of them and watched the others try to run away.”

“I’m not surprised.”

“That I killed four?”

“No. That they find it difficult to run with such huge snouts. If you had not killed any, I would have been disappointed in you.” He started to say something else, but a hasty gesture from the lawyer interrupted him.

“I don’t want to hear another joke about my hating pigs and what my birthright has to do with it.” The lawyer grimaced. Normally his handsome features, his high cheekbones, his wide, smiling mouth, his blue eyes, and his short black hair made him appear to be twenty-five years old; his skin was smooth and pale; his lips were thin and very red. But when he grimaced he looked as if he were twenty years older.

“All right, but that makes me disappointed in you.”

“Nothing new.”

“Which doesn’t make it right. You should be tough-skinned by now. I don’t complain when people joke about my penis.”

“They joke from envy, not from distrust and dislike.”

“Some of them distrust and dislike me.”

“They envy you, too,” said the lawyer. “Let’s find our bird.”


A crawling bird rested at the precipice. His tiny, darting eyes surveyed the treetops below. He whimpered; something inside him wished he could fly to the singular tree that had grown twice as tall as the rest, almost parallel to the edge of the precipice.

The godlike man who had built the jungle eons ago had given him the instinct to fly; he did not understand what flying was, nor did he understand why he felt empty and useless; he only knew he wanted to spend hours looking at the yellow clouds and wishing he could be close to them, feeling their mist on his wings, and looking at the treetops, seeing them from above. His plumage, save for his red wings, was deep blue; his brittle beak and claws were yellow. The only hunger he felt was to fly; he desired few insects and worms. He could neither hop nor walk; his legs hung uselessly behind him. His wings were equipped with primitive appendages used to grasp rocks and stumps, and to drag him in the direction he wished to go. Because the ground he usually crawled over was covered with sharp pebbles and thorns, his belly was matted with mangled feathers, blood, and broken scabs.

For the first time in his life the crawling bird was alone in his misery. The collective intelligence of his kind had discovered a possible cure for their suffering, and the crawling birds had left the surface for the caves. He had once had a mate, and the closest they had ever known of peace was their mutual consolation. They had sung to each other, trying to forget the incomprehensible desire which haunted and pained them. Now he had no one to sing to but himself; and he did not know if he would receive any comfort from that.

Not knowing what else to do, he sang. The golden snakes in the forest below heard his hideous wailing, and they were angry because one crawling bird could sing louder than a hundred of their kind. The snakes fought back in the one way they could, by singing their songs of evil. The crawling bird heard their song underneath his and, shocked, he stopped singing. The snakes laughed at him; he could hear them even though he was far above them. Their laughter grew louder and louder as his silence lengthened. The bird had no desire to sing if the snakes were to be his only audience. He wondered what else there was for him to do. He had to do something to stop the gnawing inside him.

He crawled down the path leading to the jungle. He whimpered, no longer able to ignore the pain caused by the pebbles and thorns. He halted, realizing he had been crawling too fast. He felt fortunate that he could not lift himself and bend his neck to look at the wounds on his belly. He groped toward a sapling and pulled himself toward it; he would take his time now.

The crawling bird looked up, intending to gaze at a yellow cloud, and saw instead the demon hovering above him. He whimpered; something inside, something which did not quite communicate to him, was envious of this strange new creature. He reached toward the demon and whimpered again. He realized that no matter how hard he tried, he could never touch the demon.

He stared at the creature wrapped in black that was materializing beside the demon. He whimpered. He tried to understand their language, or anything about them, and could not.

“Do you think he suits our purposes?” asked the lawyer, flicking away his cigarette. The cigarette landed beside the crawling bird, who backed away from it.

“Indeed I do. He’ll have to be cleaned up. And look at the trail of blood he’s left behind him. Oh well, that won’t take much effort.”

“Yes, yes. No question about it.”

And they took the crawling bird to Earth, home of the godlike men.


The crawling bird found himself in a silver-walled apartment adorned with paintings of scenes from Hell. Each painting had been signed with a pentacle by the demon. One depicted a lovely woman kneeling in front of the devil; the devil bent over to touch her breast; his erection touched her stomach; a troll knelt between her legs and drank torrents of blood. Another depicted trolls’ delight in scurrying over the devil’s throne; they ignored the fires burning their heads. A third illustrated a minstrel singing to the devil’s mate, a medusa with tremendous breasts that sagged below her navel. Yet a fourth, the most puzzling of all to the crawling bird, was of a huge black bat crashing into a cavern wall and of trolls and witches laughing at it. The bird was filled with a disquiet he could not understand. Finally he could look at the paintings no longer. He crawled to a corner, delighted by the sensation of the furry rug on his belly. He noticed that for the first time in his life his belly was cured, whole. He did not feel whole inside, but at least it was good to feel whole outside.

The bird wanted to study the two creatures who had brought him here. He wanted to understand them or their language, though he doubted he could. There was nothing to do but watch them and feel the gnawing inside.

The lawyer twirled his sword-cane; he stopped when the cane almost hit and shattered a glass statue of the demon sitting on an ebony pedestal. “This is a cheery place,” he said.

The demon snorted. “It’s better than the bright world outside. The only reason I have green bedspreads is to remind me of dead babies. I need some contrast in my life. Do you want something to drink?”

The lawyer sat in a Morris chair and rested his sword-cane on his lap. “Lemonade, if you please.”

The demon conjured a glass of lemonade into the lawyer’s hands and then sat in the air, folding his legs and making sure his penis was comfortably dangling below. He stared at the crawling bird cowering in the corner. He rubbed the tip of his beak, pricked his finger, and watched the black pus oozing from the cut; it welled up, he turned the finger over, the pus formed a tear and fell, making a spot on the rug.

“I wonder,” said the lawyer, sipping his lemonade.

“About what?”

“About this creature. I wonder just how much he understands. He appears to inspect everything, no doubt searching for a clue to the meaning of his existence.”

“Right now he’s inspecting the light fixture,” said the demon. “In that respect he’s like a moth.”

After finishing his lemonade and causing the glass to disappear, the lawyer said, “That doesn’t answer my question.”

“I didn’t know it was a question.”

“A speculation.”

“Well, to answer your speculation,” said the demon, “I say he probably understands very little. And he’ll understand even less when we’re finished with him.” The demon paused. “Something else to drink?”

The lawyer burped, belatedly covering his mouth with his fingertips. “No, thank you.”

“To whom shall we show him first? On what segment of godlike humanity will he have the most effect?”

“Eternal children, if they weren’t artificial, immature brats.”

“Women, if they weren’t quickly given to pity.”


“Executive types?”

The lawyer drummed his fingers on his sword-cane. “We do have a problem. And our problem is that we have a probable solution and no way to use it.”

“Something like that,” said the demon.

“We need help,” said the lawyer, pressing a button and looking at the silver tip of his sword. “We need help desperately.”

“We’ve reached a moment of indecision. Very bad for godlike men with hobbies such as ours.”

The lawyer pressed another button and the blade withdrew into the cane. He opened his mouth and stared at the demon. His blue eyes were wide and full of fear. “What about the fat man?”

The demon drew back in shock. “The fat man?”

“Can you name a better ally, one more respected by the dull, unthinking masses? Can you name someone else who is more a manlike god than a godlike man? A more gifted master of intrigue? A more imposing figure? Think of how much help he could give us! Why, even his tactful approval would set forces in motion which ... ” The lawyer’s voice trailed off; he was deep in dreams of ambition.

The demon scraped the dried pus from his finger with his beak. “But there will be nothing in it for him. There’s certainly nothing in it for us.”

“Only satisfaction and hope if we succeed. The fat man needs no hope, but he loves to be satisfied.”

“I don’t know if he will want to work with us,” said the demon, causing his finger to heal. “I have my doubts. He cares nothing for my beloved appearance of evil and sorcery; he cares nothing for my lifestyle.” He caused the spot on the rug to vanish.

“He has a grudging respect for you.”

“But he admires you, friend lawyer, as he showed when he bailed you out of that despicable affair with Kitty last year. If we get to him, you must do the talking.”

“He cares for my schemes, but he cares nothing for my talking,” said the lawyer.

“That’s true. Your voice does grate on the nerves. If your voice became more piercing, one could crucify oneself on it.”

The lawyer flushed. He lifted himself four inches from the Morris chair and pointed a thin finger at the demon. Before he could reply there was a knock on the door. Immediately forgetting his anger, the lawyer said, “That sounds like a fateful knock. Do you want me to answer it?”

“It would be nice.”

The lawyer opened the door and the fat man entered, taking off his large white Borsalino and tossing it on the golden hat tree shaped like the ancient demon Behemoth, an elephant who walked on two legs, who had a tremendous round stomach and hands with six claws. The Borsalino landed on one tusk and spun about; on the other tusk was the lawyer’s derby.

“The fat man!” exclaimed the lawyer.

“The fat man!” exclaimed the demon.

The crawling bird was frightened by the arrival of this new, imposing figure. Although he had understood nothing the demon and the lawyer had said, something inside had hinted that he was the pawn in a childlike game. He sensed that the fat man had suddenly endowed the game with a sinister aspect. He had hoped to somehow comprehend the events swallowing him; he now knew he never could. He pushed himself tighter into the corner and hoped the fat man would ignore him. He shivered, wanting to whimper or sing. The gnawing inside became worse, much worse, and the bird wished he could look again at an orange sun and yellow clouds.

The fat man smiled, showing four gold teeth and a tongue wriggling like the tail of a snake. “You are surprised to see me? You should not be. My gunsel is everywhere and he informed me that you have a proposition to make.”

The fat man patted his great bulk, admired the lawyer’s sword-cane, and took off his white gloves. He was dressed completely in white except for his black tie and grosgrain leather spats. He was balding and had deep green eyes that suggested he had no compassion anywhere in his heart. His eyes were not deceptive. He looked down at the lawyer. “I realize that Morris chairs are your favorites, but they are mine also. If it will not offend you — ?”

“Of course not,” said the lawyer. “Sit down.”

The fat man did, crossing his thick legs at the ankles and pulling his trouser cuffs over his white socks. “I have a grudging respect for you, demon. I always have a grudging respect for someone whose schemes are not concerned with fame and/or glory. Unlike you, I believe that the best way for a godlike man to serve the devil is to ignore him. That is all he deserves — and you keep your immortal soul in the bargain. Speaking of bargains, what of this proposition?”

The lawyer opened his mouth and the demon opened his beak at the same time, but before either could speak, the fat man silenced them with a gesture. “One at a time, please. I deplore eagerness.” He noticed for the first time the crawling bird in the corner. He smiled and pointed.

“May I suspect that your proposition has to do with this rather emotional creature?”

“You may do more than suspect, friend fat man,” said the demon. “You see, we don’t have exactly a proposition, but we’re asking for advice. We want the masses to see him and learn from him.”

The fat man steepled his sausage fingers. “Learn what?”

“Depression,” said the lawyer.

“Depression. There has been none of that since the old days. Disappointment, dissatisfaction, yes, but no genuine depression. Everybody is happy; which is as it should be. You two are not living in the past, are you?”

“I disagree with your views,” said the demon. “Without depression, what good is happiness? These days happiness is no longer a goal, but merely another state of being. As for myself, I find no joy in seeing other people happy. The race of godlike man has become lazy. The only ambition is for fame and glory. There is no striving for unobtainable goals. There are no adventures. And may I remind you that our very identities come from the past? Why shouldn’t they come from our own culture, our own present? And what is our future?”

The fat man rubbed one of his chins. “I do not care for your goals. I, for one, am completely satisfied with things as they are.”

“And for eons,” said the lawyer, “you have been concerned with petty intrigues. Why, a man with your skills in the old days would have fought and schemed for a planet, for a solar system, for more! Your skills are wasted on this dreamless planet. With the return of depression will come the return of dreams, of hopes for better times. All godlike men will be searching for something, and then your skills will not be wasted. You will be at the top of a young and worthwhile race.”

“You would appreciate my wife,” said the fat man. “She has hinted as much to me, but she is very dull and stupid. You two are bright and philosophical; you express things directly. I like directness; I like the way you two come right to the point. It is as if you are running out of time.”

“I assure you,” said the demon, “we have all the time in the world.”

“Don’t we all?” The fat man stood up with difficulty and pointed at the bird. “An unusual creature. I am the only one who could possibly be unaffected by its predicament. I think I can help you.”

“How?” asked the lawyer.

The fat man put on his gloves and retrieved his Borsalino. He admired an ivory lamp carved in the shape of a voluptuous mermaid. He walked to the door and turned around. “We shall hold a carnival, a rodeo, a fair. There has not been one for centuries. The crawling bird will be our main attraction.”

“And what is your price?” asked the demon.

“One hundred per cent of the fame and glory.” He closed the door gently behind him.

Arthur Byron Cover At Westercon '63 (2010)

Here's a very fun little video of Arthur Byron Cover at Westercon 63 (in 2010) ... via NeverendingPanel: