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Lesley Stahl: So, what you're telling me is that Barron's claim about how he lost his eye is--

Steve Berman: A lie. A deception. Call it what you will. After he started attending conferences with this menacing eyepatch, his reputation skyrocketed. He didn't dare tell the truth, but he had to be cautious with just any lie. He deals with hundreds of authors, most of whom can sniff out a bad storyline in a matter of moments. The editors--they're worse. They would correct his lie. To his face! So cancer seemed like a safe bet. Everyone has heard of the big "C"--cancer hushes folk, even horror writers.

LS: Then what is the truth behind his missing eye?

SB: I only learned because we share some vices. In 2009, I developed an addiction to what they call on the street "mush"--it's a blend of methamphetamine and benzimidazole used as an ersatz steroid by professional dogsledders. I would empty my bank account trying to "whip the K-9" on the weekend. I knew that Laird had been part of that scene and, while at Readercon, I was aching for another finnmarksløpet-face. I stumbled into that Irish pub and found Laird half-drunk at the bar.

I ordered him whiskey after whiskey until his words slurred down. Like the phonograph in his jaw was out of whack. I handed over a hundred dollar bill and asked him if he could get his hands on some mush real fast.

LS: Was he a mush addict?

SB: [shrugs] Don't know. Laird dabbled in lots of pseudelics. Mush. Nevermore. Red mercury. Nepenthe. Leng dust.

So he takes the benjamin from my hand and leans in close. He said, "This will buy only the truth." His mouth smelled like the oldest oak barrel they ever used at a distillery. Not a bad smell, but you know that one of his teeth would be considered a relic by an AA fresh off the wagon.

LS: Did you ever get the mush? I mean... [pauses to wipe the beads of sweat forming on her brow] I was just curious. I've heard it's potent stuff.

SB: I'm getting to that. [leans back]

So he said, "Ever hear the myth about Wotun?"

"Wu-Tang Clan?" I asked. You have to remember I was strung out.

LS: I-I can imagine. Go on.

SB: Laird laughed in my face. "No. Wotun. He's the founder of Wednesday. Did so during the era of Ancient Vikings. Was their god or pilot or motivational speaker. Anyway, he only had one eye. He claimed to have traded it to a yeti that guarded one of the Poland Springs."

I thought he was pulling my leg. Vikings in Poland? But I kept quiet. Had to because lack of mush had locked my teeth shut at this point.

He went on: "That spring was the font of wisdom and poetry. That's where they get the term fontain pen." He nodded like a sage. "I tried to write years ago and could only sell a couple flash pieces to Vampire Dan's Story Emporium and only after I changed my name to Elizabeth Valente. Shit. So I signed up to race the Pierdzieć, which is in the northern tundra of Poland. Took a lot of mush, let me tell you. At one point, I didn't know who was whipping whom. I learned to bark that winter. Bark like no man has ever barked before. Not even Frank Welker.

"I didn't find any yeti despite listening to some Polish sherpas gossip on and on about the local creature they referred to as the "Cold Miser." No, I found some footprints in the snow, some blood and spent cartridges and a Guicci purse with the initials SLP near where a helicopter set down. I used one of the cartridges to gouge out my eye and dropped it into the icy-blue water."

LS: What happened?

SB: That's what I asked. Laird chuckled. My remaining eye began to throb. Suddenly the world crystalized, as if the very air froze around me. And on the facets were writing. So much writing. Words, terrible words. I'd never lack for them. Oh, the horror, the horror," he said with a grin.

LS: So... you don't have any mush on you? Er, I mean, he never dealt you any sweet, sweet mush?

SB: Nope. He slipped the hundred dollar bill underneath his eye-patch--I had the sudden vision of a stripper from the 9th layer of the Abyss tucking an electrum piece into her THAC0 and shuddered.

Fortunately, Nick Mamatas had some really good lotus on him--he's Greek and grows the best. That helped me come down.

LS: Fascinating. Do you have This Mamatas fellow's number?


( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 16th, 2011 12:22 pm (UTC)
*lol* This totally makes my morning. I got to hang out a bit with Laird at Boskone, it was one of the highlights of the con.
When I was 14 and lost my first eye, I had to wear a big medical patch for a month, and whenever people asked what happened to my eye, I would say, "I traded it for wisdom." This is when I realized how truly f***ed Odin had it, because after you trade your eye for wisdom, the response you get to most of what you say is a blank stared "What?" and that's when it comes to you that the only guy who gets what you say hates your guts and is set on starting Ragnorak.
Mar. 16th, 2011 09:03 pm (UTC)
This is fabulous.
Mar. 17th, 2011 02:12 pm (UTC)
Ah, Mr. Berman, you still can make me smile.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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