James D. McCallister

author of the Edgewater County series

UPDATED: Fellow Traveler Event in ABQ!


My talk yesterday went so well—everyone seemed to really respond to my description of the process of conceptualizing and writing Fellow Traveler! I’m among wonderful folks I admire and love (and with whom I have a lot of fun), so coming to this annual meeting of likeminded scholars has already been a fulfilling and wonderful experience. More great sessions to come, but my time onstage here is done.

And for a touch of travel flavor, here’s a clip I shot of the dramatic approach to the ABQ Sunport on yesterday’s smooth-as-glass Delta flight from the ATL.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GEM-WLhSeYA&w=560&h=315]


As part of the 2013 SW/TX Popular Culture Association conference this week in Albuquerque, NM, I’m thrilled to give a talk on the origins and intentions of my novel Fellow Traveler. This conference is the longtime home of The Deadwood Society, a sub-caucus of Grateful Dead scholars celebrating their 16th annual meeting, and which holds a special place in the annals of Deaddom as the first group of academics and independent scholars to begin to deconstruct and examine the Dead experience in all its interdisciplinary glory.

In many ways returning to present at this conference represents for me a full-circle moment: not only did the paper I presented in 2004 give me fresh confidence in my abilities to write (as well as the state of my hard-earned and diligent Deadhead scholarship), being published the next year in Dead Letters Vol. 1 represented the first real publication of anything meaningful I’d written since my early literary and journalistic efforts in high school.

When I returned a few years later, in 2008, it was as a freelance journalist who wanted to write about the Deadhead scholars group and the conference; the results of that trip may be read here, in the profile of Nick Meriwether I wrote once UC Santa Cruz created the position of Grateful Dead Archivist, when the informal work many of us had been doing suddenly gained credibility in a manner that it’d lacked before—now we were bona fide, in a sense. We had arrived.

Some of the other scholars may remember how I once discussed at those earlier conferences my dream to not only complete Fellow Traveler to my satisfaction, but to see it published and discussed one day among these folks for whom I have such respect and gratitude. As my friends the Zen Tricksters once sang, it looks as though ‘Someday is here.’

So, to the PCA conference organizers and my colleagues, let me just say that the honor is real, and the honor is mine, to be back among you this week.

Here’s my session clipping from the overall conference program:

FEBRUARY 13, 2013

Session 3 (4:30–6:00 p.m.) Grand Pavilion I-II “To Walk On Air”: The Grateful Dead in Fiction

Chair: Nicholas G. Meriwether, University of California–Santa Cruz

James D. McCallister, Independent Scholar
“‘A Song of My Own’: Deadhead Fiction and the Writing of Fellow Traveler.”

Robert Cooperman, Independent Scholar “Grateful Dead Poetry.” 

And lastly, Robert Hunter’s elegy for his friend and songwriting partner, written in the immediacy of Garcia’s death. In the absence of the singer, to whom we’d all turn for the song loomed as a motivating factor in writing Fellow Traveler.

An Elegy for Jerry (by Robert Hunter)

Jerry, my friend,
you've done it again,
even in your silence
the familiar pressure
comes to bear, demanding
I pull words from the air
with only this morning
and part of the afternoon
to compose an ode worthy
of one so particular
about every turn of phrase,
demanding it hit home
in a thousand ways
before making it his own,
and this I can't do alone.
Now that the singer is gone,
where shall I go for the song?

Without your melody and taste
to lend an attitude of grace
a lyric is an orphan thing,
a hive with neither honey's taste
nor power to truly sting.

What choice have I but to dare and
call your muse who thought to rest
out of the thin blue air
that out of the field of shared time,
a line or two might chance to shine --

As ever when we called,
in hope if not in words,
the muse descends.

How should she desert us now?
Scars of battle on her brow,
bedraggled feathers on her wings,
and yet she sings, she sings!

May she bear thee to thy rest,
the ancient bower of flowers
beyond the solitude of days,
the tyranny of hours--
the wreath of shining laurel lie
upon your shaggy head
bestowing power to play the lyre
to legions of the dead

If some part of that music
is heard in deepest dream,
or on some breeze of Summer
a snatch of golden theme,
we'll know you live inside us
with love that never parts
our good old Jack O'Diamonds
become the King of Hearts.

I feel your silent laughter
at sentiments so bold
that dare to step across the line
to tell what must be told,
so I'll just say I love you,
which I never said before
and let it go at that old friend
the rest you may ignore.

About dmac

James D. McCallister is a South Carolina author of novels, short stories, and creative nonfiction. His latest book, a story collection called The Year They Canceled Christmas, releases in November 2017.

3 Replies

  1. hell and damnation! I may be arriving too late on Wednesday too catch your session… grrrrr.

    1. Dang. I’ll just have to give the talk again at the Blue. 😉

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