Lisa Goldstein: A Personal Appreciation

No one could say we speculative fiction writers don't have our fond and rather sad delusions. One of the fondest, most deluded, and perhaps saddest is the one that has taken on the flavor of a sort of mass psychosis and finds its expression as a kind of party game whenever writers get together and have too much time on their hands.

The delusion is this: that someday popular culture will find us so brilliant, prophetic, fascinating and charismatic as a group that yes, even movies will be made about us, about the speculative fiction "literary movement."

Once this has been established as rule #1 of the party game, the group hastens on to the second and most important part. To wit, of the current great pool of actors and actresses worldwide, who will play whom in this film?

There hasn't been a lot of consensus on the casting so far (and I won't tell you who's going to play me if you'll be kind enough to forgo telling me who's going to play you), but there is total agreement on one writer and one actress. Lisa Goldstein will be played by Winona Ryder.

There. Now that you know that, you'll have no trouble recognizing her if you run into her at this convention, just in case you don't already know what she looks like.

Maybe you didn't know that you needed to know that. But you do. Lisa is a master of illusion.

She doesn't look like a master of illusion. She's on the petite side, with outrageously thick black hair, pale skin, an impeccable bone structure, and can usually be found wearing all black or otherwise dark-hued plumage. In other words, she looks like the archetypal New Yorker.

Wrong! Illusion numero uno. She's from California, born and raised in Los Angeles, fer gawdsake. There was at one time, deep inside of her, a long-legged tan beach-baby blond screaming to be let out, but Lisa killed her with a silver bullet to the head and a stake to the heart. The blond hasn't been heard from since.

Many people think that Lisa is shy. Wrong! Illusion numero duo. Lisa is humorously cynical. She's also a proudly self-confessed depressive. She's just modest and won't brag about it much. She can be snapped out of it by the application of much chocolate or the mention of the name "Spark" (her dog).

She looks like a pale wraith who only lives ephemerally. In fact she practices Tai Chi and volunteers time at the Oakland public library.

Her brother Larry is a university math professor who practices aikido and once kept a rabbit the way you or I keep cats, just so Lisa could practice pulling it out of hats.

Her husband Doug is a musician, computer programmer, and kung fu movie connoisseur. He makes sure Lisa stays supplied with caffeine and arcane oriental inspiration.

Lisa eats, drinks, sleeps illusion. She writes about labyrinths, ladders, and countries that may or may not exist. The last is perhaps an inherited trait: her mother came from either three countries or none, a nebulous area that may have been Austria, or Hungary, or Czechoslovakia, and was all of them at one time or another.

Lisa writes about magicians, masquers, escape artists, miracle workers, and the good who endure. Miracles and endurance are in her bloodlines: Both her parents survived the concentration camps of the Holocaust.

Starting out from Oakland, Lisa and Doug once embarked on a great walkabout, taking several years to traverse the greater Bay Area, looking for the perfect place to live. They moved from place to place to place until they got to the Pacific Ocean and found they'd run out of places. So they clicked their red heels together and said, "There's no place like home," and were instantaneously transported back to Oakland, where they live happily, probably ever, and probably after. Gertrude Stein once said about Oakland: "There's no there there." Which of course makes it about the most perfect place in the world for a great illusionist to live.

I most recently met clandestinely with Lisa in the midst of a loud crowded art show opening in San Francisco. It was the perfect cover. We quietly exchanged paper bags with no one there the wiser. What was in the bag Lisa gave me? I won't tell you.

That's my business. What was in the bag I gave Lisa? I'll only tell you of a couple of items: what looked to be fluffy stuffed toy dogs but which were actually shoes, and a set of grainy, dim Polaroids of the tunnels of the London underground. It's up to you to figure out what uses she will put these items to.

She was wearing black, of course. She'd also just had her hair cut. Very short. "Holy shit, Lisa!" I said. "Now you really look like Winona Ryder." "I know," she said, in a humorously depressed voice. "Isn't that the pits?"

Reprinted from the ReaderCon 10 program book
with the kind permission of the author
Michaela Roessner
The Stars Dispose
The Stars Compel
Tor Books
Copyright © 1999 by Michaela Roessner