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What you are about to read is a collection of all my stories about movies (dream factories) and television (radio pictures) from my first four collections, plus an unpublished article and a new story. There'll be an introduction to each category. The movie part's divided into Dream Factories: The Past, stories about motion pictures from the beginning circa 1895 to one set in an alternate 1970s. Dream Factories: The Future is a couple of my 1980s stabs at where films and (well ...) famous characters were going or could go. There's an Interlude for the new article; then we plunge together manfully forward into Radio Pictures, three stories dealing with television since before the beginning in the 1920s to now. (Well, June 2000 anyway, one that didn't happen.)
There'll be a new introduction to each story (I always do that, usually to give people who've read all the stories a reason to buy a collection of mine). My introductions usually deal with the actual writing, Strange But True facts uncovered while researching them; you know, writer stuff.... There'll be some of that here; mostly the new intros will be about the stories as they fit into (or outside or alongside) the history of motion pictures and television.
Why am I telling you this up front? First, I'm an upfront kind of guy. Second, this is my first eBook (and the far-seeing and astute Robert [Bob] Kruger at ElectricStory.com should be congratulated on his taste [and his quick contract and check]). I don't own a computer, a telephone, or, up until a year ago, a refrigerator; that being said, I do have a website (kind friends set it up) athttp://www.sff.net/people/waldrop (last time I looked, the bibliography hadn't been updated since mid-'98, but any day now I hear ...). This is also the first (mostly) retrospective collection of mine. Stories here come from all four (Howard Who?, Doubleday 1986; All about Strange Monsters of the Recent Past, Ursus 1987; Night of the Cooters, Ursus/Zeising 1991; Going Home Again, Eidolon Press, Perth, Australia 1997/St. Martin's 1998, with various American paperback and foreign regroupings and additions and subtractions) of my previous short-story collections.
Most readers have the general impression of me (if they have any at all) of being a guy who writes about extinct species (only two stories), rock and roll (only three and a half stories), or alternate history (well, touché--a lot, including some overlap in all the other categories, including this one).
But as this collection shows, a lot of my stories have been about film and television; their evolution, their heights and depths, some side channels they could have or should have taken but didn't; actors, directors, technicians, hangers-on, all that Raymond Chandler/Nathaniel West Southern California stuff; other places, too, where movies and television evolved; what effect they have had and will have on us. These kinds of things will be in the individual sections.
There's more stuff from film, TV, etc., popping up in other stories of mine that aren't here. "The Sawing Boys," for instance, which is essentially the Bremen Town Musicians partly told in Damon Runyon style, set in the early 1920s, which allows a backwoods Kentucky musical-saw quartet to come on like a bunch of Beirut klezmorim because of the spread of mass communications (radio). But that's buried so deep in the story that when I tell most people what it's really about, they look at me funny. "It's the Bremen Town Musicians, with musical saws," they say. They could be right.
Anyhow: These are the stories that are directly (or mostly--see the individual intros) about movies and television; personalities, history, projections, alternatives, guesses, and the effects they had on everybody, especially me.
And, as John Barrymore said, after staggering up the center aisle, still in his street clothes, after they'd held the curtain for him thirty minutes, turning to the audience: "You sit right there. I'm going to give you the goddamndest King Lear you've ever seen...."