Joseph Filice •
Solitary Pursuits •
Joe Filice was a physicist who read Trixie Belden books for fun. I knew him as engaging, low-key, witty, and intensely loyal; what I didn’t know until recently is that he was also a born raconteur.
The protagonists in these 17 whimsical stories are all fictionalized versions of Joe himself, somewhat more at home with differential equations than human beings. “I’ve always had a tendency to form profound attachments with inanimate objects,” acknowledges one narrator. “They do tend to be less capricious than people.”
The graduation prank described in the title story sounds exactly like something Joe and his two high school cronies would have cooked up. And Arlene, who offers to give Peter driving lessons, is surely based on Joe’s wife, Susan. Joe didn’t learn to drive until he was 30, and then only at Susan’s urging.
Throughout the book, Joe’s passion for science shares the spotlight with his far-ranging cultural interests. Jane Austen, M. Hulot’s Holiday, Tarzan comics, and obscure Charlie Parker recordings rub shoulders with alien spacecraft, geologic surveys, and nanophase engineering. “It figures that the only woman I’ve ever met with an appreciation for the Three Stooges comes from another planet,” sighs the hero of one story. Another character, given the opportunity to live behind the scenes of any television show he chooses, heads straight for Mexico to join forces with Kelly Robinson and Alexander Scott on an I Spy adventure. (An editor’s note tells us that the sole celebrity photo Joe ever posed for was with actor Robert Culp, who played Kelly.)
Joe’s final project, left unfinished at his sudden death in June 2017, was the construction of a time machine in his backyard. I wish I could step into it now to tell him how much I enjoy his writing.