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Later Joyce Carol Oates will write that as they drag Hearns back to his corner, arms outstretched, he looks like a black Christ, just taken down from the cross. Lucius can't sleep that night; he knows he's just witnessed a masterwork of the sweet science, and so he sits down at the keyboard of his Mac and starts writing. Three weeks pass, no one sees Lucius and so the friend, concerned something has happened, stops by. There, lit by the wan gray glow of the little screen, in the middle of a heap of pizza boxes and crumbled bags of chips and dead Diet Coke cans stuffed with cigarette butts, Lucius stares at "R&R," another masterwork about war in Central America -- Guatemala this time -- that overwhelms the reader with its hallucinatory brilliance, a novella about death and the dread it inspires in the living, about courage and madness, a story that will win the Nebula and be called by many the best science fiction of the '80s.
Then there's New Year's Day, 1990. On that morning, Colorado is ranked the #1 team in college football, Miami #2, Michigan #3 and Notre Dame #4. All will play major bowl games, any can win the national championship. Lucius has his game face on as he settles in front of the tube. In part because of his strong Florida ties, he roots for Miami, but he also harbors a vast antipathy for Notre Dame. As long as the Fighting Irish suffer, he will be satisfied. Michigan loses in the Rose Bowl to California, taking itself out of contention. Miami barely gets by Alabama, 33-25 in a hardfought Sugar Bowl. In the premiere matchup of the day, Notre Dame crushes Colorado, 21-6. Lucius reels with horror; tradition holds that if a contending team beats #1 on New Years Day, that team becomes champion. He hears Notre Dame's coach Lou Holtz (a man he has unfavorably compared to a weasel) stake his claim in post game interviews.
Late that night, Lucius vows to move to Borneo if Notre Dame is #1. But on January 2, the AP names Miami the best team in the country. Controversy flares; Lucius gloats. Inspired by his brush with the Unthinkable, he settles in front of his computer and begins to write. In the weeks that follow, the Seattle fire department is called several times when smoke rising off the keyboard sets off the smoke detectors in Lucius's apartment. Fittingly, it is on Saint Patrick's day that he staggers down to the post office, his hair tangled like a nest of snakes, face the color of mayonnaise from his long confinement and posts KALIMANTAN to his agent. Instead of moving to Borneo, he set a tour de force of magic realism there, a tale of the edge of civilization and the men who are drawn to it. This one has everything: great characters locked in a dance of trust and betrayal, a bizarre wizards' battle, and an mystical ending that will resonate in your mind long after you turn the last page.
So you want my advice for chatting Lucius up? It's easy. When you run out of compliments for the work, just say, "How about those Mariners?" And stand back.
This essay was written for a science fiction convention which (I think) occurred in 1995. Unfortunately, I no longer remember which one it was. If you know, please e-mail me.