April Fools Melange

No jokes here, no tricks. At one time, back in February, I was tempted to create a hoax for April Fools’ Day, but exhaustion and wiser thoughts (this year) have intervened. Simply, I’m the April Fool (although not, sadly, by birth).

Today’s Sci-Fi Birthdays (and other reading notes)

Two of my favorite science-fiction writers, especially in my teens, are April Fools babies: Samuel R. Delany and Anne McCaffrey. Happy birthday, both!

Delany’s Babel-17 in an almost-first edition perforated for some reason with dart-holes

The first I’ve mentioned several times on the blog, so I hope you have been doing your research and clicked the links that were available then (and the two I just provided can take you to those previous references). He is an interesting man, however unexpectedly different in so many ways from what I guessed as a youth. I still like his writing. I intend to reread The Einstein Intersection, Babel-17 and Nova very soon (maybe also The Jewels of Aptor—my first guidepost toward Robert Graves and The White Goddess).

Of the two, however, Ms. McCaffrey probably flashed my imagination more when I was young. She’s the woman who created the Dragonriders of Pern, a series which I still devour, although I haven’t jumped on the newest books co-written with her son. I reread the first three books again just a few years ago, intending to go all the way through the series, but I only made it through the first three before other reading ripped me away. I actually enjoyed them almost as much as when I was a boy.

McCaffrey’s Restoree — a first edition — I wonder if any of my ancient paperbacks are worth anything; I did write in most of them

I began with McCaffrey, however, with her first-published science fiction book, a then-strange blend of traditional romance fiction and science fiction, Restoree. It was one of many books that I read because of my sister’s influence, which explains my sometimes strange reading experiences. That was not my first novel with a female protagonist, presumably thanks again to Margaret, but it was a unique book for me. I reread it again about the turn-of-the-century, and it has held up extremely well. If  you clicked the link on the book, you know what I did not, that the book was intended to provide a critique of the standardized simpering-female-in-boots-and-bikini subject to the slavering lust of bug-eyed monsters from outer space. What I did get out of it, even as a child, was an appreciation for an active, even heroic female protagonist. Of course, at nearly the same time I encountered John Norman’s Gor books—which although beginning well as Edgar Rice Burroughs-style planetary romance, degenerated quickly into sadomasochistic porn (really). Although I kept reading them through about ten books in the series—far from the complete list—even my slavering, hormonal adolescent self realized there was something wrong there, perhaps thanks to Ms. McCaffrey! Appropriately or perhaps ironically, both series—McCaffery’s Pern and Norman’s Gor—were published originally by Ballantine Books.

Speaking of reading. I have a good, solid start on my Sepharad research book I mentioned buying on our recent overnight trip to Illinois, and learning true stuff for once hasn’t seemed to stall me out writing fictitious stuff on the same (or related) subject(s)—a bad issue with me ever since college. I subbed for the Andrew art teacher on Tuesday, and while sitting—watching two or three students draw, paint, scratch—I added half a dozen more handwritten pages to Søren and Nathan’s first adventure. (I am still not sure about Nathan’s name. How about Adnah? Affrah? Akam? Tahmid? Uryon?)

I Find My Grade Level

Now speaking of substituting, I was at school on both Monday and Tuesday, the latter being the day I taught Art. I also donated blood again after school that day, gratified to encounter so many former students taking the needle as well. The exciting part, however, was my teaching experience on Monday. I had accepted almost a month earlier the opportunity to spend the day for the first time in my life teaching elementary students.

So I started this week, having awakened before dawn to take my run, heading off for a full day with third graders. I was nervous and apprehensive. However, once I had dealt with some of the basics—attendance, hot lunch count, Pledge of Allegiance and Character Counts opening ceremonies—with the kids’ help and guidance (and I am not joking about that; they explained to me how to dismiss them in small groups, something someone trained to deal with small children would know that I did not, and how to read aloud to them and what was expected in grading their practice spelling tests [I had to show the correct spellings in cursive!] and how to supervise them at lunch and even when I was supposed to eat while they were at recess) I had a very good time. The kids were very enthusiastic, something this high school veteran did not at all expect, and eager to share their experiences, participate in discussions, and even learn. They were delightful, and I got a glimmer of what parents feel about their offspring.

I had intended to decorate this post with their photograph, but the lump in my suit coat pocket that I had thought was my camera was only my cell phone, so I could not take the picture. On the other hand, I will get to see that same group the next time I substitute in Art, so maybe I will take a snapshot then. —Thank you, third graders!

On Tuesday, I was grateful I had taught little kids already because I started the day with twenty-some kindergartners. Enthusiastic and excited kindergartners who each wanted to show me every new development in their “free drawing” pictures they were creating! If I hadn’t already survived the third grade, I don’t know how well I would’ve coped. My big problem was understanding what they would mushily say to me, but I developed a bright smile and nod for everything, so long as the kid looked bright-faced and happy him or herself.

I had heard that parents and teachers sometimes have trouble realizing what a child has drawn. Oh boy, did I! So I tried not to be too specific in my positive comments for each picture, although I think I guessed right on most of the images I complimented by name. Once again this childless old man really enjoyed working with the little ones.

The other amusement about my elementary experiences was realizing that nearly every child was the offspring of former students! April Fools, John.

It was me dealing with children that gave me the idea for an April Fools’ Day post.

©2010 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

2 thoughts on “April Fools Melange

  1. I would have loved to have been a spider on the wall watching you with the little kids. They are really cute, but they do demand a great deal of attention. I was a preschool teacher for over 10 years and sometimes I wonder how I did that for so long- 8 hours of kids a day Monday through Friday. I was not one of the teachers who had a class for a few hours in the morning and then again in the afternoon; that might be fun.

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