IN MEMORIAM — John Dalmas, author

In deep sorrow…

Most people may not have heard of John Dalmas but few who read science fiction in the last decades of the twentieth century can have missed his marvelous books of The Lion of Farside books, the Fanglith Series, or his military science fiction works, The Regiment, &c.

I first met the author while he was a university professor in the College of Forestry at Northern Arizona University. He attended a Scientology lecture on campus presented by my father, Rod Martin, and soon became a frequent visitor at our house.

Learning of my interest in writing, he invited me to a community writers’ workshop held once a week at the public library in Flagstaff. He would often read selections of his one published novel, at that time, The Yngling, as well as other projects he had underway.

He co-authored a novel with my brother, Carl Martin (Touch the Stars: Emergence, Tor Books, 1983), as well as one with my father, Rod Martin (The Playmasters, Baen Books, 1987), and he even used a chart devised by another of my brothers, the late Larry Martin, to assist the readers’ understanding the philosopy of the T’sel in the novel The Regiment (on p.209, Baen, 1987). He was gracious enough to proof-read a couple of my early novels and I had the pleasure of proofing a couple of his.

I only met his son, Jack, once but knew his daughter Jude well enough as my first wife was one of her best friends.

We stayed in touch over the years after I left Flagstaff, and he left as well to go to Seattle, where I got a chance to visit him and his wife, Gail.

Over the years I have been able to keep up with his output at the local bookstore. This was before the internet and I had no complete listing of his works, just nabbed one up when I found it. One day I picked up one called Walkaway Clause in a used bookstore. I wrote him and mentioned the find – it was several years old by that time – and he wrote back and asked if he could have it. Seems he did not get the usual author copies of that volume when it was released and he had never seen it. It took me a couple of years to find another copy in a used bookstore to fill out my collection.

Over the years, our communications have, quite naturally, gotten further and further between as his health declined.

I was hoping to hear soon that one of his historical novels from Swedish history had finally made it to print but it seems, now, that may never be happening.

If you have never read his works, I recommend you check them out. Some are available free online. All of them are good reads, in my opinion. I will probably be re-reading my collection again in the near future.

Those volumes and my memories are all that’s left of him on this side of the pale.

Thank you, John, and farewell.

Clueless and Classless

I have a neighbor with a large green field where his cattle graze daily, lazily keeping the grass trimmed.

This neighbor has never gotten involved in any political campaign that I have noticed before but this year he was interested enough to put up some very large signs in his field for the candidate he supports.

Within a week, someone had gone into the field and torn the signs down.

Yeah, I know… You’re probably thinking it was those clueless and classless supporters of Trump who did the dastardly deed.

Except these signs were for Trump.

So it was a clueless and classless supporter of Hillary who did the crime.

Many times, especially in recent elections, we hear much about the veterans throughout history who have fought – and died – to ensure us the rights we have, like voting for the candidate of our choice as well as supporting that candidate.

Now, I will admit that I do not support Trump (nor Hillary, for that matter… preferring to throw my vote away on another) but I cannot imagine the mindset of a person who thinks it is quite all right to break laws in support of their candidate. Veterans fought for our legal rights, not the right to break into someone else’s property and damage their goods just because we disagree with them.

“Clueless and classless” seems to own neither party this election.

Avoiding Comfort Zones

Experts on thinking tell us that people normally think the same things day after day after day after day. Their thought patterns have worn very deep ruts into their neural synapses and they rarely stray from “safe” and “comforting” thoughts, even if they are worries or concerns.

I am the opposite. Where I may shy away from the thrills associated with sky-diving, hang-gliding, and the like, I enjoy going into mental concepts and constructs that are out-of-the-ordinary.

Normally, when people encounter non-traditional world-views that cause theirs to go “pear-shaped”, they step back, shake their head, and go another direction.

I love my mind going pear-shaped! The sense of stepping through a portal and waking in a different dimension, some parallel universe where “up” and “down” are bizarre concepts waiting for you to decide what direction, if any, to which they might refer.

Reality IS what you conceive. It stems from your mind and your concepts and your judgments. Your world can only be as rich and diverse as you allow it to be.

Most feel safe within the small confines of their reality. You know, those same eight corners of the box they call a universe?

Step out! Live a little on the wild side! Grab hold of your hat and a firm handrail.

Open your mind and watch the pear shape forming.

And rejoice in the freedom.

Having a Positive Impact

Wanting to have a positive impact in the lives of many is an admirable objective in life.

Many like to take up the cudgel and go do battle with the dark forces of evil, whether the specters appear in environmental or economic vistas.

Having been among the homeless at one time, I know for certain that the bleak picture painted in the media is not completely correct. Food and political atrocities are major problems, of course, but many people who have what we would consider as absolutely nothing can still be quite happy because they are with family and do not have to depend on material things to sustain a degree of security.

In our western society, it seems the majority have a materialistic attitude, especially the young, where everyone seems more intent of getting the latest iPhone or tablet than helping out the less fortunate. But you have to remember that many of the “less fortunate” are actually living very happy lives unaware that not having these “things” is a deprivation.

Still, wanting to help is admirable. Though most governments and charitable organizations throw money at the problem, the solutions can be achieved much more simply.

I am not talking about campaigning to change societies. Although the social conditions that lead to homelessness and poverty are like some mammoth Gordian knot, progress can be made on a smaller scale without having to move heaven and earth.

As a writer, I could write marvelous copy to draw people’s attention to the issues and the types of solutions that could blah, blah, blah…

As you can tell, that is not my idea of a productive method.

Artists understand better than politicians and lawmakers how to leverage hearts, how to motivate people to DO something rather than sit passively.

I am not saying my works will do any such thing but I can only hope that something I have written will reach a person in need of it.

Yes, that would be nice – like the author in the movie “Lady in the Water” – to know you had an effect.

But I really write because it makes me feel whole.

Sad, I know.

I’m so selfish.


Sometimes people are charged with plagiarism when it was unintentional.

Not for those instances when segments are reproduced word for word for several pages but in other times, shorter passages, and even ideas.

Newton is credited with the old saw about seeing further than his contemporaries because he stood on the shoulders of giants.

He probably paraphrased an earlier quote that was quite similar. It does not mean it wasn’t his thought.

Many times in history we have seen parallel creations going on at the same time.

And we have all heard that imitation is the sincerest form of respect.

Still, after reading a lot one can find it difficult to recall exactly where certain thoughts came from.

Citation becomes impossible. Nor should it be a big deal.

It is the nature of human thinking to latch onto a thought that resonates with us and we may carry it around as part of our psyche for years before it is put to paper perhaps in a phrasing different from the original but in some wording more peculiarly our own.

This does not mean it cannot be construed as an “original thought” – many assume there are no such, anyway – but it can be claimed as one’s on if stated differently.

Avid readers often have this problem.

When younger, I kept a bibliography of all the books I had read for several years. Later I lost track of the list and the urge to keep track of such things but when I came across the pages many years later I was amazed to see the list topped out just over twelve hundred volumes.

That’s a lot of books!

And I can guarantee that bits and pieces of many of them have found their way into my own writing. A thought here, a phrase there, but (hopefully!) no fully developed stories.

It is the nature of writing that we use words that are already in use and some of them seem to string together nicer than others.

Of course, when too many writers string the same words together it becomes cliche and anathema in subsequent writings. Such as using “golden orb” to describe the Sun. *shudder*

We cannot help but mimic what we know, what we learn, even if certain combinations of ideas seem “original” or “unique” by some readers.

Even some of the best modern writers fall into the trap of “repeating themselves” with characters, situations, events, and even whole sections of dialogue from one of their books to another.

Yes, they plagiarize themselves.

We shouldn’t take it so hard if we seem to accomplish the same but we should strive to veer away from that slippery slope.

(And I sincerely hope I have not posted something similar before!)

Writing Genres

There is a perception among many writers that the rules of writing change from genre to genre and a writer can only truly master one genre.

Unfortunately, that is just one opinion.

In 1972 there was an interesting book by an author who had sold moderately well by the name of Dean Koontz. Since that time, of course, he has done much better for himself.

I got a copy of the book way back then and read it, a couple of different times. What he wrote was so simple, so elegant, so logical, that it made perfect sense.

The rules of writing do not change from genre to genre. The stylized formats may change but the writing itself must follow the same rules as any other well written work: character development, plot, conflict, and so forth.

One does not have to learn an entirely new artform when changing genres. But one should be familiar with the styles currently represented in the field.

Mister Koontz then went on to show how this worked by taking the same basic story line and re-writing it in several different genres. It was ingenius.

Anyone who has mastered the basics of writing well should be able to convert the story into a different genre, if need be. The styles of the new genre woulod have to be studied (of course!) but other than that small adjustment, there should really be no problem.

As always, it helps to read a lot in that genre and write pieces to test with readers of the genre but none of that is a very hurdle.

Of course, you first have to master writing. And character development.

The rules do not change merely because you changed the sets or the costumes. People are – and always will be – people.

Inspirations and Ideas


I have been very fortunate in the jobs I have had over the years. And there has been a wide variety of them even so.

But they have primarily been “left-brain” work, very analytical stuff. So while my left-brain has been occupied getting the job done, my right-brain has been able to indulge itself in unfettered flights of fancy.

And I have learned to keep a small notebook with me at all times to jot down the ideas as they come.

Somedays I may not have any inspirations but other days I run on for page after page.

I’ve checked and, yes, it has a lot to do with planetary positions and bio-rhythms.

Still, my wife wonders why I bother to keep all these ideas as I already have over a thousand book ideas outlined.

But I still keep accumulating them and they have sometimes helped me combine two different concepts into one, better, story.

Gee, only six hundred books now…