Something New: Christmas Photos from Stewart and Twain Country

Since this year has a George R. Stewart connection (see photo of Ed Stewart near the end of the page), I’m posting the 2020 annual Christmas photos on the weblog.  Family and friends will enjoy seeing these online.  And  I believe that many of you who are faithful followers of the weblog will enjoy seeing some of the place where the posts are composed. 

The area around Carson City, Nevada, sits at the boundary of two of Earth’s great landform provinces – the Sierra Nevada and the Basin and Range Country.  It’s also George R. Stewart country.  Many of his better-known works are set nearby, including Ordeal By Hunger, Fire, Storm, and Sheep Rock. US 40 and The California Trail have large sections about the Northern Nevada and Sierra Nevada regions.  Some of the country in these photos was likely seen by George R. Stewart himself.

It’s also Mark Twain country.  Sam Clemens adopted the pen name “Mark Twain” while he was living in Carson City.  Roughing It is set partly in the area.   The photos may help readers of Twain visualize this area and its people.

The photos begin with images from the Pandemic Era – a much gentler pandemic so far than the Earth Abides pandemic; following those are images from the Basin-and-Range/sagebrush country in spring and summer images of a park set in a small eastern extension of the Sierra Nevada.  The album ends with photos of hiking friends (the Rocks),  Ed Stewart, (GRS’s grandson and Keeper of the Legacy), Ranger Phil of the Bureau of Land Management at beautiful 8100 feet (2470 meters) high Burnside Lake, and the first winter’s snow. 

Let me know what you think.  If this seems to be of interest, I can post the end-of-year/Christmas photos here next year. 


20200426_121641“Sheep May Safely Graze”

The annual ‘mowing’ of the cheat grass by Borda Ranch sheep


A Pandemic Gift From Paul Schats Bakery 


Reminder on the trail


20200215_145358Path into spring

20200515_133616Spring impressions – new life  along the trail

Red-headed thrush's spring songsThe Harbinger Sings


Wild mare and coltWild Horses – mare and her colt

P1080845The Local Outback

P1080953Washoe Lake Gazebo

Pelicans, Washoe Lake, Slide MtnWhite Pelicans, Washoe Lake, Slide Mountain

Davis pondDavis Creek Regional Park Pond

Cheeky cu
 Cheeky Steller Jay at Davis Creek

Davis Creek - Chinook - Slide MtnThe Good Chinook William Clark at Davis Creek Regional Park

P1090048Rockin’ friends on the Discovery Trail, Davis Creek Regional Park

P1090127Smokey Sun in a year of fire (Stewart’s Fire is set not far from here)

Monarch of our GlenThe Monarch of Our Glen has passed.  Requiescant in Pace, old fellow. And thanks.

with child actors Hollywood at the St. Charles:  Director Melissa Joan Harte with child actors and camera crew, working on “Feliz Navi-Dad” for Lifetime TV. (Premiere 11-21)

P1090134Birthday Balloon 9-26-2020

ed - church of mark twainEdward Stewart at the “Church of Mark Twain”  (The Orion Clemens House, Carson City)


The Chinook at Burnside Lake

Panorama liightRanger Phil at Burnside Lake

P1090199Sierra stream in Autumn

P1090209Washoe Valley ranch

P1090226First Snow 2020 (Earliest snow in 100 years.)    (Carson City is the only State Capitol with a deer crossing – and the deer use it.)


The More-or-Less Annual George R. Stewart Christmas Story

Here’s the annual re-post of a story of the close connections between George R. Stewart and Jimmy Stewart, and between the mythical town of Bedford Falls and the real  town of Indiana, Pennsylvania – the boyhood home of both Stewarts.  


  It’s A Wonderful Story

This is the time of year when most of us, regardless of our religious affiliations, watch classic Christmas movies.  A Christmas Carol with Alastair Sims, Miracle on 34th Street, A Child’s Christmas in Wales   (which is an almost unknown gem, produced in Canada, starring Denholm Elliot), and   It’s a Wonderful Life.    

The local theater in Arroyo Grande, California, owned by a man who loves movies, shows one of those classics each Christmas. The admission is a can of food or a toy, to be donated to those in need – in the spirit of the movie.To see such a film on the big screen, surrounded by friends and neighbors of all ages – to see how the children love the film – it is a reminder of what we’ve lost.  Today we watch movies on TV, often alone, and usually less intently than in a movie theater.  Yet at a showing of Miracle on Thirty-Fourth Street the audience clapped and cheered when the judge decided that, yes, Kris Kringle was indeed Santa Claus.  How long since you’ve experienced that?

For many people It’s a Wonderful Life   is the Christmas movie.  So those who are George R. Stewart fans will be interested in the connection between that classic film and GRS.


George R. Stewart spent his boyhood in Indiana, Pennsylvania, where his mother’s family lived.  His maternal grandfather, Andrew Wilson,  planned to be a teacher and even helped found a school nearby (it would become the prestigious Kiski School).  But he couldn’t earn enough to support his family so he went into the mercantile business.  He  had a hand in a hardware store there, owned by another Stewart.  That Stewart’s son was James Stewart, also born and raised in Indiana.

George and Jimmy looked alike.  With all the similarities in family history, geography, and physiology, you’d expect they were related.  But they  shared only one possible distant relative.  And they lived in different worlds.  The George Stewarts went to the middle-class Presbyterian church on the flats; Jimmy Stewart and his parents to the upper-class Presbyterian church on the hill.  GRS went to a public high school out west, Jimmy to a prestigious private school in the east.  Their paths apparently never crossed.  12-year-old GRS and his family left Indiana for California in 1905,  the year James Stewart was born. Out west, nothing in their interests or their work brought them together.

Still, the lives paralleled in remarkable ways.  GRS and his family moved to Pasadena; he went to Princeton; and after marriage moved his family to Berkeley, California.  Jimmy went to Princeton, then moved to Pasadena; and spent his life in Southern California.  GRS wrote books, two of which were filmed.  Jimmy made films, like that grand Christmas classic we all love.   GRS worked at the Disney studios for a time, an advisor to Walt himself.  Jimmy worked at many studios, creating characters and stories that touched the hearts of millions.  Ironically, GRS did not like the media, and apparently did not attend movies often, if at all.

Even though their paths never crossed, during the Christmas season we should remember there is one thing they shared:   The experience of life in a small American town in the early 20th century.  Like a trip to Disneyland, a viewing of It’s a Wonderful Life enfolds us in such a place.  For a time, we walk the streets and meet the people of the town and the time where both boys grew up.

Here’s a passage from the biography of Stewart,  about Indiana, Pennsylvania as Bedford Falls:

George R. Stewart’s boyhood town was so archetypically American that it could pass for George Bailey’s “Bedford Falls” in Frank Capra’s It’s A Wonderful Life. In fact, the town was “Bedford Falls” – at least for the movie’s male star. Indiana, Pennsylvania, was also the boyhood home of James Stewart,  “George Bailey” in Capra’s film.   Although the movie’s “Bedford Falls” was built on a studio backlot in the San Fernando Valley, Jimmy Stewart said that when he walked onto the set for the first time he almost expected to hear the bells of his home church in Indiana.

Although the film’s Producer/Director, Frank Capra, is said to have modeled his mythical town on the upstate New York town of Seneca Falls,  for Jimmy Stewart Indiana, Pennsylvania, where he and George R. Stewart grew up, was the place he had in his heart as he brought George Bailey to life.

Each year, Indiana holds an It’s a Wonderful Life Festival, with a parade, hot chocolate,  tree lighting, and continuous showings of the film at the Jimmy Stewart Museum.  It’s a winter festival so the people lining the streets in their warm clothing bring life to a snow-bound town, like the movie brings life to the streets of the movie set town.

As you watch Capra’s great film this Christmas, keep in mind that GRS celebrated his Christmases in a town which for another Stewart,  Jimmy, was the model for iconic,  Bedford Falls.

Merry Christmas to all.

  1. A Christmas gift, for 2019 readers – a link to the radio interview with “Tommy Bailey,” one of the Bailey children growing up in Bedford Falls, setting for It’s a Wonderful Life. 
  1. A Christmas gift  – a link to the radio interview with “Tommy Bailey,” one of the Bailey children  in It’s a Wonderful Life. 

Of Rattlesnakes and Pandemics: Once Again, George R. Stewart is a Prophet

Those who’ve read Earth Abides, by George R. Stewart, know of the connection between a rattler’s bite and protection against a pandemic’s effects.  Now, medical science reveals that there may indeed be such a connection.

A recent article in the Los Angeles Times reports that a medical scientist is close to the development of a small-dose vaccine that will be an antidote to many types of venomous snakes bites.  As he tested the vaccine, Dr. Matthew Lewin discovered it seems to have the potential to be a COVID treatment as well, since it reduces the dangerous acute respiratory distress syndrome inflation associated with the disease.

Once again, it seems,George R. Stewart is a prophet. How he knew or guessed this is not clear.  But since he worked at UC Berkeley and had friends in the medical sciences, he may have conceived of the idea by talking with one of them.  Be that as it may, it is another interesting example of how carefully he thought about his novel and how thoroughly he researched it — 71 years ago.

October, 2020 – A Stewartian lunch, and a new printing of Earth Abides

 A package arrived last week carrying copies of the new printing of Earth Abides, with its splendid “Introduction” by Kim Stanley Robinson.  Even if you have a copy of EA, this very affordable printing is worth buying for Robinson’s Introduction to the novel. (Buy from the non-profit and a percentage of the sales will go to support independent bookstores.) 

 I consider the cover of this printing one of the three best EA covers. (And there have been many covers)

The original cover, by H. Lawrence Hoffman,  is a fine piece of art depicting a ruined city after the fall – a city which looks to be San Francisco.  EA Morleys

But as wonderful as Hoffman’s cover is, images of ruined cities speak of loss.   My other favorites, which include the one on this new printing’s cover, focus on the Hammer of Ish — a powerful symbol of rebuilding, and thus hope.  One of them is the cover of this new printing, with the Hammer centered over what appears to be a view of Earth from above the clouds.  That overview encourages readers to keep a Whole Earth in mind as they read the gripping, encouraging story set during a pandemic not unlike the one Stewart describes. 

91PMvVHUlgL._AC_UY218_ML3_My third favorite is by Alan Ligda, a hero of Earth Abides. 

When Random House decided to stop publishing the book, Ligda acquired the rights from Stewart.  His edition is  a beautiful work printed by Hermes Press, his family’s small fine quality press.   

 Ligda centered the Hammer of Ish on the cover,  juxtaposed over an open book.   The cover makes an important point:  LIke the Hammer, books are tools — for such as Stewart, Ligda, and all writers and readers.  

(Sadly, as heroes often do, Alan Ligda died young.)

Hermes EA


My order of the new  Earth Abides was shipped on the publication date. October 13.   On October 14th, by coincidence (or Jungian synchronicity?) I shared lunch and conversation about things Stewartian with Ed, George and Ted  (Theodosia) Stewart’s grandson and the current keeper of the family rights. We hadn’t seen each other since his grandmother’s memorial service, about 30 years ago, so we spent some time catching up.Then we turned to matters of the GRS Legacy that he manages.  No need to go into great detail, but thanks to his request for advice about book contracts and followup suggestions from my agent, Sally van Haitsma, it looks as if Ed and the Legacy are about to get an excellent agent.  (The agent’s in Berkeley where most of Earth Abides takes place. He once managed a legendary bookstore, Cody’s.   And he’s looking for clients.) The agent is also familiar with film options and contracts.  Since there’s now  interest in filming another of GRS’s other books should be a marriage made in heaven (as they say)..

All-in-all, the middle of October 2020 has been a milestone time for the Legacy of George R. Stewart, and Earth Abides.


It’s been  6 decades since a kind, wise librarian walked into the stacks, pulled out a book, and said “Here.  I think you’ll like this book.”  The trail from there has been like that of Wendell Berry’s Jayber Crow:  winding, up and down and back and forth, often through the dense fogs of life.  But the winding path has always been  lit by the lessons George R. Stewart teaches in Earth Abides.   Learning that Kim Stanley Robinson generously mentioned the GRS biography in his Introduction to the new printing of EA, brings this life arc almost full circle –  from reading the book as a 12-year old to finding myself in the book.  It is a pleasant summiting.  Lunch with Ed while we chewed over things Stewartian were gifts of the summiting, after that decades-long wandering saunter. 

Seeing Ish’s Hammer beautifully displayed on the book’s cover makes my spirit sing.  During those many years, the Hammer of Ish has been an encouraging (if symbolic) companion.  Like a lantern or a grail, it has been a life-gift.  As has Earth Abides

Ish's Hammer(1)

Ish’s Hammer

….By gifted artist, schoolmate of Lennon and McCartney, and playing an important role in the story of George R. Stewart and Earth Abides, Steve Williams (AKA The Pilgrim). 

Want to buy a print of the painting?  Here’s Steve’s  website; contact information is near the bottom:


Three Days and Counting


If you’ve been waiting to buy the “glorious” 2020 Mariner Press edition of Earth Abides, with an Introduction by distinguished author Kim Stanley Robinson, this is the week.  The new printing of Earth Abides will be released on October 13th.    (But not necessarily shipped;  Amazon sent a notice that they would alert buyers when pre-orders ship.  Other places to buy the book include your local bookstore.   Or Bookshop, which helps support local bookstores.)

Even if you have a copy, you may want to purchase this new edition — published 71 years after George R. Stewart predicted a major pandemic which would affect the entire human race.  This is the novel that inspired Stephen King to write The Stand, and poet/novelist James Sallis to write a poetic review of the power and glory of Stewart’s novel.

Sallis writes, in part,

This is a book, mind you, that I’d place not only among the greatest science fiction, but among our very best novels.

Each time I read it, I’m profoundly affected, affected in a way only the greatest art — Ulysses, Matisse or Beethoven symphonies, say — affects me. Epic in sweep, centering on the person of Isherwood Williams, Earth Abides proves a kind of antihistory, relating the story of humankind backwards, from ever-more-abstract civilization to stone-age primitivism.

Everything passes — everything. Writers’ reputations. The ripe experience of a book in which we find ourselves immersed. Star systems, worlds, states, individual lives. Humankind.

Few of us get to read our own eulogies, but here is mankind’s. Making Earth Abides a novel for which words like elegiac and transcendent come easily to mind, a novel bearing, in critic Adam-Troy Castro’s words, “a great dark beauty.”

Note to Facebook Followers

WordPress is a fine site and one I’ve used for years.  But now the site has decided to change the way we enter or edit posts.  Fortunately, we can still use the previous editor, which is much more intuitive than the new one; HOWEVER, when I published my first post in the classic editor the site warned that  I needed to log into FB to renew the link to that site.  Since I no longer use FB, except for re-publishing of my WP posts I do not intend to log in.  (We’ve learned much about FB’s theft of our data and many are leaving that site.)

My hope is that these WP pages will still go to that FB page.  If not, I apologize to those followers who are inconvenienced.  You can, of course, follow this WP site instead, here:

Again, sorry for any inconvenience this may cause.

New Edition of EARTH ABIDES will be released on October 13th

The new “glorious” paperback edition of Earth Abides will be released in mid-October.  It can be pre-ordered now  through your local, friendly, independent bookseller via BOOKSHOP  or via Amazon.  

This new printing is from Mariner Books (A division of Houghton Mifflin).   It has, I think, the best cover for the book since the cover on the first edition in 1949:

91PMvVHUlgL._AC_UY218_ML3_Mariner Press Printing 2020

EA Morleys

Cover of the  First Edition, Random House, 1949

It also includes an Introduction by distinguished author Kim Stanley Robinson.   He offers a brief but focused biography of Stewart; then describes the novel in terms of its place in similar literature and in Stewart’s fine body of work.  He also makes the obvious and timely comparison between the events of Stewart’s novel and the current pandemic – a reminder that this is the best of times to read Stewart’s encouraging novel. 

Even if you already own a copy, this edition is worth buying for Robinson’s excellent Introduction. Or to read or re-read Stewart’s fine novel, to see how the amazing thinker and writer George R. Stewart imagined our time, 71 years ago, and wrote a novel to help us deal with it. 

The Year 71

This is certainly the Year of Earth Abides, Year 71 to carve on Indian Rock, and there will a new printing of Earth Abides in October to celebrate.  It will be notable for two reasons:

Most of the previous covers for the novel have focused on people or the ruins of a post-pandemic world. The new printing has a distinctive, beautiful cover featuring  Ish’s Hammer.(The Hammer of Ish is one of two major symbols in Stewart’s work.  The Pitcher in Sheep Rock is his female symbol.  The Hammer of Ish, his male symbol.)



to be released October 13, 2020

Its “Introduction” is by distinguished writer Kim Stanley Robinson.  Even if you already have a copy of the novel, buying this edition will bring the Hammer of Ish and Robinson’s excellent survey of the book and Stewart’s life and work to your library.  (You can preorder it from Amazon or your local independent bookseller.)


Robinson’s  “Introduction” joins two other essays on Earth Abides to make a trilogy of considerations of novel and author.    Kim Stanley Robinson’s “Introduction” is a wonderfully-written, well-researched essay about the book as influenced by Stewart’s life, and in comparison to his other work.  James Sallis’s fine essay is a poetic consideration of the book as great literature.  Pat Joseph’s article for California, the University of California  Alumni Magazine, is written with an eye to Berkeley and the University’s role in the novel; and  it examines the parallels with Jack London’s The Scarlet Plague.

Pat Joseph’s article is a fine contribution to the book’s data and lore.   His research turned up a few things I wish I’d found in my George R. Stewart scholarship.  But better late than never, and his discoveries have enriched my understanding of the great work.

Joseph’s framing of the article in the context of U. C.  Berkeley means this will be of special interest to those who know the University.  For those who don’t, his article, like Stewart’s novel, may well act as a draw when our pandemic ends.  At least one Stewart scholar, Steve Williams, was so drawn by his reading of Earth Abides; his trip from England to the Bay Area resulted in a lengthy article and substantial contributions to the Bancroft Stewart Papers – gifts for future scholars.

Joseph’s comments about The Scarlet Plague are provocative.  The parallels are strong.  The major differences I note – and they are significant – is that there’s more science and deeper philosophy in Stewart’s book.  And there’s no Em, one of Stewart’s greatest characters, in London’s novel.

 James Sallis’s essay  in the Boston Globe, “Earth Abides:  Stewart’s dark eulogy for humankind,” gives a more global look at Earth Abides.  It also emphasizes that the novel is far more than a science fiction book.  It’s great literature – one of our finest novels – and has a profound effect on readers.  It’s a beautiful bit of writing, musical in its effects.  No accident, since Sallis is a poet and a novelist.

The third essay in the trilogy, Kim Stanley Robinson’s,  gracefully surveys Stewart’s work and life, putting Earth Abides into the context of both.  As Robinson is careful to point out much if not all of Stewart’s work can be considered, in the truest meaning of the words, “science fiction.”  Storm, Fire, Sheep Rock, are works with strong underpinnings of science – that is to say, works of fiction about science.  Other books, like Ordeal By Hunger and  The Years of the City,  also have that sense of human events dramatized within Stewart’s seminal belief that “….the land is a character in the work.

The “Earth Abides Considerations” trilogy now joins other essays about Stewart’s work, focused on different books or more general appreciations.   Matt Weiland’s “Introduction” to the New York Review of Books Press printing of Names On the Land. Christine Smallwood, “Stewartsville,” The Nation, December 8, 2008, pp. 25.  Patrick T. Reardon’s overview of Stewart’s work in The Chicago Tribune, “George R. Stewart:  Unrestrained by Literary Borders”.  Wallace Stegner’s “George R. Stewart and the American Land,” published in his collection of essays, Where the Bluebird sings to the Lemonade SpringsErnest Callenbach’s “Introduction” to the California Legacy printing of Storm.

You may want to pre-order Stewart’s fine novel from your local bookstore or Amazon and re-read it; then review the “Trilogy of Considerations.”  Compare Robinson’s “Introduction” to Pat Joseph’s article and Sallis’s essay.  The three complement each other, so when you finish you’ll have a much deeper understanding of the novel, its relationship to the University of California, Berkeley, and Stewart’s life and work.


On October 13 of this year, the new Mariner Press printing of Earth Abides will be released.  Since the book was originally published on October 7, 1949,  the date puts it just inside the boundary of its 71st year.

If the Tribe was to record it they’d carve “71” on Indian Rock near Ish’s House in Berkeley.  Modifying a phrase borrowed from Kim Stanley Robinson’s “Introduction,” they might decide to name Year 71  “The Year Earth Abides‘ time has come.”


GEO.S: George R. Stewart and Earth Day

am earth


Many people credit the Sierra Club’s Exhibit This Is The American Earth and the subsequent Sierra Club book based on the exhibit as the foundation of Earth Day.  Others credit the first Whole Earth photographs taken by the Apollo 8 crew.  Both are important events.  I believe, however, that the initial inspiration came from the widely-read works of George R. Stewart – published and widely read decades before the exhibit or Apollo 8’s photograph.




In 1936, Stewart’s Ordeal By Hunger opened with a view of Northern Nevada from low Earth orbit, so precisely described that eventual ISS images of the area closely matched his text.  And Stewart closed the history with the comment that “…I consider the land to be a character in the work.”  That is a remarkable statement of the ecological viewpoint 34 years before Earth Day I.   Since the book was (and is) widely read, readers were learning the Whole Earth viewpoint long before there was a Day to celebrate it.

In the next decade, Stewart wrote 3 ecological novels.  Two of them – 1941’s Storm and 1949’s enduring classic Earth Abides – included passages with the view of Earth from space.  All three were profoundly ecological in nature.  In fact, in 1948, before Fire was published George R. Stewart identified himself as “what might be called an ecologist” –  – 22 years before Earth Day I.

Storm gave us the practice of naming storms.   To make the point that the storm in his novel was the main protagonist Stewart didn’t name most of the human characters, but named the storm.  It’s a excellent read, still frequently re-printed, as is Fire, his novel of fire ecology.   Both novels are tour de forces of ecology, weaving lifeforms, landforms, climate, humans, and human history and myth together with a deep sense of “the land.”

EA Morleys

Earth Abides is Stewart’s extraordinary never out-of-print classic.  It prophesied the current coronavirus pandemic 71 years ago.  When protagonist Isherwood Williams learns most humans have been wiped out by disease he decides to survive so he can observe the ecosystem adjust to the removal of humans — in what we would call the post-Anthropocene.  Ish observes what we are now seeing – the return of wildlife to human areas and humans experiencing a world without the noise, pollution, and similar nonsense of the Anthropocene.

(Earth Abides  is scheduled to be reprinted next October; it can be pre-ordered now.)



Stewart published a fourth ecological novel, Sheep Rock, in 1952. It was the first work he called ecological – “in the older sense, that is, all the things that go to make up a place.”  It is possibly his most controversial novel, praised by some, criticized by others.  He stretched his already innovative style beyond the limits of the day – it’s been called the first post-modernist novel – and did not have the enduring and widespread popularity of Storm, Fire, and Earth Abides.

The other three ecological novels had and have huge readerships.  They were best-sellers,  and two were Book-of-the-Month Club selections.  Those two, Fire and Storm, were also made into Disney TV films; Disney kept their ecological underpinnings, especially with Fire.  Other authors referred to them in their works.

So long before This is the American Earth was printed in book form and  Apollo 8’s Anders, Borman, and Lovell took the photo of Earth from the moon,  George R. Stewart was educating his huge readership in the principles of ecology, and doing it in the best manner, through dramatic narratives.    He was a prophet, in an intellectual wilderness, preparing humans for Earth Day I.

It’s interesting (and disappointing) that there’s been so little honoring of this great ecological prophet. But Stewart would be fine with that.  A teacher above all, he would know that his work taught millions upon millions about ecology and the land and that would be sufficient.


(A personal note – on Earth Day I my students and I worked on a Golden Gate Park cleanup.  It was an eye-opener.  No litter was visible.  But under the shrubs, out of sight, it was voluminous.  The City simply did not have the manpower to clean up after humans.   In our two hours, they filled several large leaf bags with trash.  Discussing it later, the students decided their tiny efforts locally were the key to solving such problems globally.  I hope and believe that stays with them.)


Ish's Hammer(1)

If I had a hammer
I’d hammer in the morning
I’d hammer in the evening
All over this land
I’d hammer out danger
I’d hammer out a warning…


George R. Stewart had a Hammer. Ish’s Hammer.  He used it well, preparing us for Earth Day I AND the current pandemic.

One final comment:  “Geo,” the abbreviation for George, means “Earth.”  How appropriate for this pioneering ecologist and geographer, who taught so many of us about our Earth system.

On this day,  Earth Day 50, we honor him.