Shaw
Yesterday, I wrote only 804 words on the first chapter of Cherry Bomb. And it was the most excruciating, tedious sort of writing day. Simple action. Two characters in a cluttered apartment. One on a sofa. One at the door. Someone on the other side of the door, speaking from the other side of the door. The problem of building necessary tension in an essentially static scene. All the while having to solve simple mechanical issues, such as, "How does one open the cylinder of a Smith and Wesson .44 Magnum?" And having learned how to do it, how does one describe it in the language of this book?

I'd rather be eating broken glass. But I don't get paid to eat broken glass.

I should be at the sea. Or, fuck it. Anywhere that isn't this desk. This fucking chair. It's 74˚F out there, and sunny, and fuck the sky. I'm sick of watching my life slip by from the vantage point of this one goddamn window.

If I'm not writing, I should be writing. The knowledge that I should be writing when I'm not writing makes it impossible for me to enjoy anything that isn't writing, and since I never enjoy writing – ever – well, the math is pretty elementary.

Wow. Until I began the entry I wasn't even quite aware how angry I am at the moment. A shame the government shutdown isn't putting me on furlough. I'd send a love letter to those Tea Party shitwits.

---

Please have a look at the current eBay auctions. Because even though the IRS is currently shutdown, I still have to pay my taxes this month. Thank you.

And if you haven't yet preordered a copy of The Ape's Wife and Other Stories, please do. Only $27 from Amazon.

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Last night's movie was Henry King's 1952 adaptation of Ernest Hemingway's "The Snows of Kilimanjaro." It's a film that raises an interesting question: Is a reader duty bound to feel the same way about a film adaptation as the author of the source material feels? I'm fond of the film. It has a lot going for it, despite having departed from Hemingway's story in many respects (the invention of Cynthia Green, the "happy" ending). Hemingway refused to even watch it. I will say that these days it's hard for me to see those beautiful shots Kilimanjaro rising above the African savannah (the film's cinematography is excellent) and think of anything but how so little of the volcano's icecap remains.

To quote from Wikipedia: The period from 1912 to present has witnessed the disappearance of more than 80% of the ice cover on Kilimanjaro. From 1912 to 1953 there was ~1% annual loss, while 1989–2007 saw ~2.5% annual loss. Of the ice cover still present in 2000, 26% had disappeared by 2007. While the current shrinking and thinning of Kilimanjaro's ice fields appears to be unique within its almost twelve millennium history, it is contemporaneous with widespread glacier retreat in mid-to-low latitudes across the globe. At the current rate, Kilimanjaro is expected to become ice-free some time between 2022 and 2033.

This is an icecap with a basal age of 11,700 years, which is to say it survived the retreat of the ice sheets at the end of the last glaciation. But humans will have needed only about a century to erase it. Which, given the protagonists obsession with big-game hunting of species now critically endangered, makes the mountain a very apt symbol standing vigil over the story...though one that is definitely at odds with the hopeful ending of Casey Robinson's screenplay. The ending, from the perspective of 2013, has become darkly ironic. I suppose the "politically correct" thing to do would be to reject this film, but I can't. Its artistic merits are intrinsic and are not negated to a changing climate and a decimated ecosystem. The human story it tells is as powerful as it was in 1952.

I need to be working...since I'm not outside.

Fuck It All,
Aunt Beast

"Shed these lung spires and breathe."

Shaw
We who revel in nature's diversity and feel instructed by every animal tend to brand Homo sapiens as the greatest catastrophe since the Cretaceous extinction. ~ Stephen Jay Gould

---

I don't trust new houses.

---

This morning I dreamt Kathryn and I were standing on the shore of one of the Great Lakes. I don't know which one. Foamy white waves were surging all around our feet, and I was telling her how those lakes were the remnants of an ancient sea. I was telling her they were exceptionally salty, the Great Lakes. A turkey fluttered past, settling on the beach not far away. It looked as if it had been molded from green milk glass, that precise color and opacity. There was also something oddly dragonfly-like about the bird, though I can't now say what. The sky was brilliant with noctilucent clouds, though it was the middle of the day. Earlier, I'd dreamt of finding the skull of a mosasaur*, but most of that dream has faded away.

---

Yesterday, I wrote 1,432 words, which got me halfway through the thirteenth and final installment of Alabaster: Boxcar Tales. Only four pages to go, and I'll be glad to put this one behind me. Well, I'm always glad to put them – the novels, short stories, etc. – behind me, but sometimes I'm extra glad. I also had to proof the art for #9 and then send my editor at Dark Horse my notes. Oh, and script notes for #10. And there was some weirdness involving tax forms for foreign editions, blah, blah, blah, but Spooky and Writers House kindly dealt with that.

The weather here was so-so yesterday. A little worse than so-so today. I was spoiled by Tuesday. Presently 72˚F and cloudy here in Providence. More eighties, please.

Last night, Spooky and I finished watching Hemlock Grove. Lots of fun and surprisingly well done. The acting has odd moments of unevenness, but that hardly distracts. All in all, the performances and writing are very good. Famke Jensen is especially delightful as the villainous matriarch. Some of the best werewolf transformation SFX ever. So, yes. Hemlock Grove. Angela Carter does Dark Shadows. I know I've invoked the name of Angela Carter twice in as many days, but she is, after all, one of my patron wantons. Also, we're watching Season Seven of Dexter. I've cut way, way back on gaming. It's all become horribly boring again. Even for a recluse, there must be be more to life than this (to quote Freddy Mercury).

---

An odd thing. I was complaining to Spooky about baffling online slang, and that led to a general discussion of slang as a phenomenon associated more with subcultures than with linguistic evolution, and to a discussion of slang that attended various times and scenes and geographical regions (the Jazz Age, hippies in the sixties, Cockney rhyming slang, surfer slang, etc.), and that led to a rather peculiar realization: As a child and teenager, I used very little – virtually none – of the slang that would be associated with the seventies and early eighties. Almost none. I began trying to list words. I came up with "cool" and "man" (before the ubiquitous "dude") and one two more. I used a tiny bit of older slang I got from my mother – "neat," for example. Hell, "cool" and "man" weren't truly of my generation. It's all became very confusing. Sure, I used Southern Appalachian/Alabama euphemisms and dialect, but there was very little that followed from pop culture/subcultures. I'm still racking my brain over this. I didn't even truly discover profanity – another facet of slang – until I was in my mid teens (which might seem odd, what with me now being such a connoisseur of dirty words and all).

But, this was long before the internet. I posit that the internet has forever changed the evolution, propagation, and longevity of slang. It's an interesting problem. One at which I'm sure a million graduate students with a million typewriters...well, computers...are banging away.

But...I have a script to finish. I have red velvet theatre curtains to close.

Uncool,
Aunt Beast

* I have some variant of this dream at least once every two weeks.

"Little Lamb. Smile." (Four Vicodin)

talks to wolves
Yesterday was an utter failure as a day off. The main problem is that Spooky's had a migraine since last Thursday night, which prevented us from doing...well anything. She's better today, but there was no planning yesterday. So...we're here, with incoming thunderstorms.

I've extended the "vacation" (hahahahahahah) until Friday, in hopes that tomorrow might yet bring some relief from the monotony.

Why am I still keeping this journal. No, yeah...I know you read it. You don't have to remind me that you do. But the blog is dead. Long live Facebook and Twitter and Tumblr! Long live the shortest imaginable attension span! You have a hundred friends! Less more is more! Who has time for blogs? How wasn't that true ten years ago? Fast! Speed! So little time! That toxin "quick and easy" wins over substance!

Where are you going in such a hurry?

Day before yesterday, my two contributor's copies of Centipede Press' Arthur Machen volume arrived. I wrote the afterward. Fuck, it's a beautiful volume, limited to two-hundred copies (I was given actual numbered copies). Seeing it lit a fire under my ass to get CP everything they need for their edition of The Drowning Girl. They have the revised manuscript...but there's still a lot of other stuff. As the book came about as the result of a deal between CP and Penguin and I'm not being paid for it, I've had to keep it low on my list of priorities. The afterward, by the way, was actually written for a Bloodletting Press edition of Machen stories, but was, inexplicably not used. My thanks to CP and S.T. Joshi for seeing it found such a spectacular home.

The Machen book is really the only news I have. I did, last night, finish Richard Ellis' superb Singing Whales and Flying Squid. The upshot of the book, concerned largely with marine fishery statistics, is that the seas – from which Homo sapiens derives most of the protein it consumes – aren't just dying from our depredations. They're almost dead. Ah, and for some reason I tried to watch Tom Holland's 1995 TV mini-series adaptation of The Langoliers (1995). The only good thing I can say about this mess is that it actually was better than Stephen King's awful novella. Still, I was just barely able to make it through half of it.

I now return you to the cataclysm that is the world, already in progress.

Smile,
Aunt Beast

Big Badda Boom

imapact1
dinosaur-comet

The ancestral Gulf of Mexico, one day or night ~65 million years ago.

Feb. 13th, 2013

Shaw
Not sure when exactly the phrase neurologically atypical originated, but it is surely one of the most absurd examples of newspeak I've ever run across. Anyway....

Weird thoughts this morning. If I'd had children in my twenties, today they'd be in their mid or late twenties, and they might have kids of their own (though I'd hope not), who could easily be somewhere around five years old. Now, it's possible I might live to see 2034. Those kids I didn't have, they might have lived to see 2054. Of course, all sorts of assumptions are being made here. I'm assuming, for example, they'd have a life expectancy of ~70, but, obviously, it could be much more or much less. Anyway, my hypothetical grandchildren – assuming my children bred – could live to see 2074. And were great grandchildren to have been spawned, we get to 2094. The great grandchildren I'll never have, they'd possibly live to see the next century. And we have at least some idea how unpleasant that world is going to be – by our own hands – and, so, I am very grateful that I never had children.

That's the thought I woke to this morning.

---

I am told that today is the street date for the Alabaster: Wolves hardcover, even though Amazon still says February 26th. So...well, I don't know. Street dates seem to mean less and less. Either the book is out there, or it isn't. But, regardless, if you do not yet have a copy, please find one. Thanks.

Yesterday, I wrote 1,128 words on Chapter Two of Red Delicious. This puts 516 words in the word bank.

Okay. Enough for now.

Wishing She Were Otherwise,
Aunt Beast

"Abraham’s daughter raised her bow." 3

SteveDancy1
This morning, reading back over LJ entries from this day in years past, following links, links from links, I came across this headline: "Can We Save the Tastiest Fish in the Sea?". Now, this is actually on Discovery News, a more or less respectable source for science news (March 4, 2010). Just seeing the headline – "Can We Save the Tastiest Fish in the Sea?" – my reaction was something like, "Yeah, because that fucking matters, worries about saving what tastes good to humans while the world's fish populations and marine ecosystems collapse, while an essentially fishless ocean by 2050 has become a very real possibility...let's worry about the tastiest fish." Which, by the by, turns out (no surprise) to be Bluefin tuna. The article is actually a short piece on declining tuna stocks, Japan's role in pushing the bluefin towards extinction, and efforts employing the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITE, drafted in 1963) treaty to try to ban commercial fishing of the species internationally, at least until we see if bluefin populations can recover. Two years later, key nations – those who profit the most from tuna fishing – continue to block legislation to protect the fish, while stocks plummet perilously. And so it goes.

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Yesterday I felt like one of those directors who's always rewriting the script on the set, while actors and cameramen and whatnot sit around twiddling their thumbs. I have so rewritten Alabaster: Wolves #5 that it's beginning to look like the original script only in its broad strokes. No one asked me to do this. My editor requested fairly minor changes. But, suddenly, a couple of weeks back, I decided that I could do a lot better. And that's what I'm trying to do. At the very last fucking minute, even as Steve draws #4, and Rachelle finishes coloring #3, and #2 is on the shelves, and #1 is on eBay, and...

Anyway, that's what I did yesterday. Today, I need to make an end to this. Complete this second version of the script so my editor can have it on Monday. Oh, and I also proofed the inked pages for #4 yesterday. Spooky sent a mountain of corrections for The Yellow Book (FREE with the limited edition of Confessions of a Five-Chambered Heart) to Subterranean Press, all to "Ex Libris," which we discovered, reading it aloud on Wednesday, was fairly riddled with mistakes.

And, also, production on the audiobook for The Drowning Girl: A Memoir is finally complete. It's thirteen hours long, and I'm having to listen through the whole thing, so that I can sign off on it before release. It's great be given genuine creative control on projects. Final say, et al. But I've only made it through about an hour and a half, so far. And I'm listening to it out of order. But, I have to tell you, hearing 7/7/7, I almost cried. Spooky, too. It's that good. I chose a very good reader.

Only eight days remaining until -08. Holy fucking fuck.

Last night, Spooky and I began reading The Return of the King. Poor Pippin has no idea what he's gotten himself into. I also spent about an hour and a half yesterday on a virtual jigsaw puzzle (yes, I finished it).

Gonna go take the blue pill now. I think, ironically, we call it Red Bull.

Superannuated,
Aunt Beast

"Love is watching someone die."

Aeryn and Pilot
00. I'm not feeling very bow tie this afternoon. Comments would be nice.

01. Yesterday there was email, and Subterranean Press needed some stuff from me for The Yellow Book, which, you may recall, is the FREE hardcover chapbook that accompanies the limited edition (but not the trade) of Confessions of a Five-Chambered Heart. Little odds and ends, nothing major. And I was still waiting to hear from an editor, so I proposed to Spooky that we proceed with a long, long delayed office renovation. We spent about an hour moving a shelf and books and stuff, then spent two hours realizing that the table we wanted to put in my office would never fit (this involved Spooky calling her Mom in South County to remeasure Spooky's sister Steph's old table out in the barn). Nope. No dice. So, I have resigned myself to being stuck in an office even smaller than my last (Mansfield Avenue, Atlanta, GA), which was, at best, a third as large as my office before that (Kirkwood Lofts, Atlanta, GA). A few years from now, at this rate, they'll have me writing in a restroom stall. Ah, well. At least then I'll never have an excuse to stand up. Anyway, in the end (no pun intended), yesterday was mostly a sadly and exhausting wasted day. Though, I did leave the house for the first time in five or six days.

02. In list of weird books to give the weird people in your lives for the holidays (that would be Solstice and/or Cephalopodmas), Ann and Jeff VanderMeer, over at the Weird Fiction Review website (virtual sister of the Centipede Press print digest of the same name), in their listing Two Worlds and In Between, write:

Standing as one member of the Triad of Infernal Weird – the three who clearly have signed pacts with demons to keep the quality of their story forever elevated – that also includes Thomas Ligotti and Michael Cisco, Kiernan has emerged since the 1990s as a master of the weird tale.

Clearly, we haven't been keeping those meetings secret enough. Regardless, the VanderMeers strongly recommend the book ("This collection from Subterranean only confirms her brilliance."), along with several other very wonderfully weird titles (kittens, the word horror, when used to denote a literary genre, is so very not bow tie; parentheses are, though – trust me).

03. Today will be spent writing a very whimsical piece for Sirenia Digest #73, "The Lost Language of Littoral Mollusca and Crustacea." Think Victorian flower language (id est, floriography) and you're halfway there. I intend to enjoy writing this.

04. A point of etiquette (unless you happen to wish to seem a douchebag):

a) When a kerfuffle is made over a company publicly insulting transgender persons, and there is outrage, and said company wisely apologizes (though, note, I don't consider an apology an exoneration), and a somewhat prominent transgender author notes that at least this is evidence that change is coming, even if it's coming very, very slowly, do not

b) post in that authors' Facebook that, while you sympathize, you also find the insult funny, and then

c) when said author explains why it's not fucking funny do not

d) dig in your heels and go on about how some people take themselves too seriously, or

e) you will find yourself banned from that author's Facebook, Matthew Baker. Because admitting that you find a joke at the expense of transgender people funny, but also understanding it hurts them, but you still find it funny, makes you a hateful and transphobic (here's that word again) douchebag. I'll not dwell on the coincidences that you are also male, white, and cisgender. Also, definitely do NOT begin emailing the author afterwards to call them names, because then you'll have graduated from douchebag to troll.

05. Last night, after sandwiches from the Eastside Market deli, we watched Scott Crocker's documentary on the mistaken resurrection of the (almost certainly) extinct Ivory-Billed Woodpecker (Campephilus principalis), Ghost Bird, with music by the amazing Zoë Keating. Ghost Bird is an exquisite film, not only because it documents this episode in the history of humanity's thoughtless elimination of other species, but because it serves as a case study of how science works: the theory, the methodology, responsibility, the politics, publishing, personal conflicts, and the perils of wishful thinking. See it; for the moment it can be streamed from Netflix.

After the film, there was Rift (which is to say, my social life), and Indus reached Level 40 (only ten to go). Then I read a rather good story by Ramsay Campbell, "Getting It Wrong," who needs no one to tell him how the Plight of Family X can, and usually does, make for a truly dull story. By the way, one day soon, I'll explain why several books, including Danielewski's House of Leaves, Anne River Siddons' The House Next Door, my own The Red Tree, and a few others, emphatically do not fall into the dreaded subgenre trap of "Family X Move Into the Bad House and Have Their Normative Domestic Bliss Wrecked by an Inconvenient Intrusion from Outside." The answer is surprisingly simple, though extraordinarily complex.

And now, the words.

Simply Complex and Complexly Simple,
Aunt Beast

Postscript (3:34 p.m.): Word from my editor at Penguin that the final and corrected cover of The Drowning Girl: A Memoir is now up at Amazon.

Red walls, white shelves, black frame.

Shaw
Yesterday, I wrote 1,731 words, and I found THE END of "The Prayer of Ninety Cats." The story is presently 9,918 words long, but I suspect it'll be well over 10k after the polish I'll be giving it tomorrow. Structurally, it's something I've not done before, in that it's second person and partly written as a screenplay. I think it's a story I've been trying to write for a very long time. I'm sort of amazed that I finally did it. The effort has left me a bit off balance. As soon as I'm done tweaking it, and Sirenia Digest has gone out to subscribers, I'll be getting back to work on The Drowning Girl.

There's been too much news lately. Too much news pollution. North Korea. A projected date for the extinction of tigers in the wild— 2020 (which pretty much is the same thing as a projected date for the extinction of tigers). The American police state and the TSA*. Fantastic strides in medicine that will only ever be available to the wealthy. Black Friday.

I mostly try to avoid the news. Mostly.

After the writing yesterday, and after dinner, we watched three more episodes of Doctor Who, up through "Vincent and the Doctor." I thought I would hate the latter, and it turned out to be one of my favorite episodes ever.

We also watched an episode of American Masters, "LennoNYC," which was very, very good.

Sleep wouldn't come, and finally I broke down and took a pill, and read this Aleister Crowley biography I've been reading. I dozed off sometime after four-thirty ayem, and slept fitfully until eleven this morning. Something like six and a half hours.

Turns out the Julie Taymor adaptation of The Tempest is only being released in Minneapolis and LA on December 10th. Whether or not it will ever see wider distribution is anyone's guess.

I have a list of the people who've asked for a PDF of the blog, November 2001/April 2004, and I'll see those go out next week.

Today, I'm changing my Twitter username from @greygirlbeast to @auntbeast. Yes, I still hate Twitter.

And today I'll be working on the layout for Sirenia Digest #60. I need a little space between me and "The Prayer of Ninety Cats," so I'm going to wait until tomorrow to get back to it.

Time to make the doughnuts,

More or Less Yours,
Aunt Beast

*Until such time as the TSA backs the fuck off, I'll not be traveling anywhere I cannot reach by train, automobile, bus, or boat.

World Turtle Day '10

goat girl
Yes, today was World Turtle Day. I suspect not a lot of Americans spend a lot of time thinking about turtles. But they've always been among my favorite reptiles, even when I include all those wonderful extinct groups. Indeed, turtles are a relic of an all but vanished branch of the Reptilia, the Parareptilia. Of all the many and varied forms of parareptiles that once thrived, only the Order Testudines (turtles and tortoises) survived beyond the Triassic Period. Long before the evolution of either lizards or snakes, there were turtles. There may have been turtles even before the first crocodylomorphs appeared in the Late Triassic. The oldest known turtle, Odontochelys semitestacea, was described in 2008 from 215/220-million-year-old fossils from the Late Triassic of Guizhou, China. Unlike all living (and most known fossil) turtles, Odontochelys had teeth.

Turtles are, evolutionarily and ecologically, a success story. They've survived two major extinction events (the Triassic-Jurassic extinction and the Cretaceous-Tertiary extinction) and many less catastrophic mass extinctions. They've diversified, from terrestrial ancestors, to take advantage of fresh-water and marine environments, and many species (mostly within the Superfamily Testudinoidea) have returned to dry land, and include the modern tortoises and box turtles. Over the course of their evolution, turtles have produced some giants. The largest-known turtle is Archelon ischyros, from the Upper Cretaceous of North America, which more than four meters (13.5 feet) long, and about 4.87 meters (16 feet) wide from flipper to flipper. The largest-known freshwater turtle, the living Asian softshell turtle (Pelochelys cantorii), is only about half that size, but still measures a very respectable six+ feet (about two meters) in length. The largest land species known is the bizarre horned Meiolania of Australia and New Caledonia, which reached lengths of eight and a half feet. And they are among the longest-lived of vertebrates, with some individuals of a few species boasting a longevity in the neighborhood of 200-250 years.

Estimates of the number of living turtle species vary widely, from 250 to 330 (depending of variations in classification schemes, and never mind species as yet discovered). And worldwide, an enormous number of these species are currently endangered or threatened. It has been estimated that about 75% of Asia's ninety tortoise and freshwater turtle species have become threatened.* All marine species are endangered. And even those taxa not officially listed as endangered face vanishing habitat, climate change, human predation, and threats from pollution on such a scale that it's not unreasonable to consider most living turtles in danger of extinction. Numerous species have already become extinct due to the actions of human beings.

Around the globe, turtles figure prominently in our myths, folktales, and religions. In Hindu mythology, the world is believed to rest on the backs of four elephants, who stand on the shell of a turtle. In Hinduism, Akupara is a tortoise who carries the world on his back. It upholds the Earth and the sea. But, in truth, at this point in the history of life of earth, the fate of all turtles (and elephants, for that matter) rests on the back of humanity. Will a single species of primates, and one that only dates back 195,000 years, be the end of a reptilian dynasty stretching back to the earliest days of the "Age of Reptiles"?

*Hilary Hylton, "Keeping U.S. Turtles Out of China," Time Magazine, 2007-05-08.

(Portions of the entry were adapted from relevant Wikipedia articles.)

"My little world and all I see..."

Narcissa
We who revel in nature's diversity and feel instructed by every animal tend to brand Homo sapiens as the greatest catastrophe since the Cretaceous extinction. — Stephen Jay Gould

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The first half of yesterday was spent getting "A Redress for Andromeda" ready to send away to the anthology's editors, typing in all the corrections and changes I made on Friday. Well, that was after the two hours I spent on the blog entry. I think yesterday was a red flag, as regards my blog entries. Well-written and well-illustrated blog entries are nice, and I will appreciate them in years to come, but I cannot afford to spend two hours composing them. Anyway, I think it took a couple of hours to finish up with "A Redress for Andromeda," and now it's a much better story than it ever was before, in any of its previous incarnations.

It was after four p.m. before I finished. We'd thought about driving down to Sakonnet Point, in the extreme southeast corner of Rhode Island— a part of the state we've not much explored —but I'd thought I'd be done with work by two, not four. So it was really too late for such a long drive, and we decided we'd save Sakonnet for another afternoon. Instead, we headed downtown. I've spent so much time exploring the coasts and rural areas of Rhode Island, I find that, in two years, I've hardly looked at Providence, save College Hill. And it's really a beautiful city, as cities go. Much of the architecture dates back to the late 19th Century and before, despite the terrible flooding caused by the 1938 hurricane (before the flood barrier was erected at the mouth of the Providence River, to protect against storm surge).

We parked on Washington Street, a couple of blocks east of the Public Library, one block east of the Trinity Repertory Theater. We walked up Mathewson Street and discovered a marvelous used and antiquarian bookstore, Cellar Stories, up a dark, narrow flight of stairs. I think we spent the better part of an hour there. But we were both very good and bought nothing. Not even the first-edition copy of Steinbeck's Sweet Thursday. We continued up Mathewson to Westminster. We walked a little ways east, because Spooky wanted to check out Craftland. But there was some sort of "rock-and-roll flea market" clogging up the street, so we soon headed back east to Mathewson. We walked south and east to the intersection with Weybosset Street, and turned back west, then turned north and west again on Snow Street, until we were back to Washington Street. The day was warm, but not hot, and though there were far too many people, it was good to see places I'd not seen before, or not seen up close. On the way home, we got burgers from Stanley's for dinner.

I forgot to mention, yesterday, that we saw the season finale of Fringe on Friday night. Very, very good. I was relieved to see it's been renewed for another season. Last night, we played a little WoW, and Gnomnclature and Klausgnomi both reached Level 15.

Toady, I try to get started on "The Maltese Unicorn." There are photos from yesterday behind the cut. Oh, also, please have a look at the current round of eBay auctions. Some of my harder-to find chapbooks are listed. Thanks.

22 May 2010Collapse )
goat girl
Today is International Biodiversity Day. This year, the theme is "Biodiversity, Development and Poverty Alleviation." Good luck, I say. Good luck. Here we stand, in the latter days of the Holocene Extinction Event, at the dawn of the Anthropocene. It's hard to hold out much hope for the preservation of biodiversity. We're losing too many species too quickly, and, what's worse, the continuing growth of the human population and human industry is wiping out habitat at an unprecedented rate. We are witnessing one of the six greatest extinction events* in the history of Earth's biosphere, and the only one triggered by another species. So, yeah, it's hard to trumpet World Biodiversity Day, when I cannot help but believe the battle was already lost a hundred or two hundred years ago. That the battle cannot be won, humans being what they are.

---

Work cut a grand swath of tedium across yesterday. First, I finally got around to the first batch of questions for the Clarkesworld interview. I recall a time, not so very long ago, when I really didn't mind doing interviews. Hell, in August 2002 I did an interview for Cemetery Dance wherein I answered a staggering sixty-five questions! I think only about a third of the questions actually made it into the printed interview, and that one taught me never to agree to such a fool thing again. Anyway, I don't know what happened, but, at some point, I began to feel like an asshole every time I do an interview. All my replies seem ridiculous. This is, by the way, the first one I've given since the moratorium on interviews I imposed after the great barrage of interviews following the release of The Red Tree last summer. And it will likely be my last for a while.

The rest of yesterday was spent reading through "A Redress for Andromeda" and rewriting it, though I'd promised myself I wouldn't do that. But it's about to be reprinted in an anthology of weird fiction, and the story's now more than ten years old, and I just could not bear to see it reprinted as is. My voice has changed too much. I'm a much better writer than I was in 1999. This is, of course, not the first time this sort of thing has happened. I did a pretty thorough revision of Silk before the release of the most recent edition, and, to a lesser degree, I revised Threshold before the release of the 2007 paperback. The old prose grated too much for me to allow it to be reprinted. There were too many things I knew I'd done wrong. Same with the 2008 Subterranean Press edition of Tales of Pain and Wonder. Almost all those stories were rewritten to one degree or another. It was such a chore that when Bill Schafer agreed to do A is for Alien, he made me swear I'd not rewrite anything (my health was shit at the time, and he knew I didn't need that stress).

Anyway, when S. T. Joshi asked to include "In the Waterworks (Birmingham, Alabama 1888)" in American Supernatural Tales, I rewrote it. When Peter Straub asked to reprint "The Long Hall on the Top Floor" in American Fantastic Tales, I rewrote it (never mind I'd already revised it in 2007 for the aforementioned subpress edition of Tales of Pain and Wonder). And now...now, I've heavily revised "A Redress for Andromeda." Yesterday, I read it aloud to Kathryn, pausing every few words to bitch about what a lousy writer I was a decade ago, pausing to rewrite sentences and paragraphs. Today, we still have to make the changes I marked yesterday, so I can send the ms. to the anthology's editors.

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After I could endure work no more, Spooky and I went to College Hill and wound up back on Canal Street. This time, I was smart enough to bring the camera. We parked on Benefit Street, in front of 187 Benefit Street, which was once Knowles Funeral Home, where Lovecraft's funeral was held in 1937. We strolled down Thomas Street towards downtown and the Providence River, past the Fleur de Lys Studio (which appears in Lovecraft's "The Call of Cthulhu"). RISD students had left charcoal sketches (mostly studies of nudes) taped to telephone poles and fences and walls, and they fluttered in the evening breeze. We walked along the waterfront as far south and east as the towering stone monument at Water Place Park. We watched the sun set over the city, then headed back to the car.

Oh, before the walk, we stopped by Utrecht on Wickenden Street, because Spooky needed art supplies. I wound up getting two canvases for myself, and a modest set of acrylics. I haven't painted in long ages, but I suddenly found myself in the mood. I'll keep you posted. Anyway, here are eight photos from the various stages of yesterday:

21 May 2010Collapse )


* In order from oldest to youngest, the extinction events considered by biologists and paleontologists to be the most severe in the earth's history are the Ordovician–Silurian extinction event, the Late Devonian extinction, the Permian–Triassic extinction event, the Triassic–Jurassic extinction event, the Cretaceous–Tertiary extinction event, and the Quaternary-Holocene extinction event (currently underway).

"No moon, no pale reflection."

white
We awoke to a dusting of new snow.

Yesterday, I managed to write what might be the first 1,255 words on the prologue of The Wolf Who Cried Girl. I won't really know if I'm on the right track until I read it again today, but I do have some faint hope of finishing the prologue this afternoon. Unless I have to throw these words out and start anew; I am having a great deal of difficulty finding the tone of this novel, finding its voice.

But yeah, a much better day, as far as writing is concerned.

Also, well...there is some really cool news regarding the Audible.com adaptation of The Red Tree, but I haven't yet asked permission to share it, so that will have to wait. But...it's cool.

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Also, yesterday I started reading "A reevaluation of the manus structure in Triceratops (Ceratopsia; Ceratopsidae)," and finished Alan Weisman's brilliant The World Without Man (Thomas Dunne Books, 2007). It's not an easy book to read, even when you already have a pretty good idea how much human beings have loused up this planet. And yet, despite the catalog of extinctions and poisons (including dioxins which will still be here when the sun finally novas, billions of years after humans have finally become extinct), it is a book laced through and through with hope. Because it calmly and with good science assures us that life on Earth will continue long after Homo sapiens is gone, even if Homo sapiens will have forever altered the course of evolution. As marine biologist Eric Sala put it (quoted by Weisman), "If the planet can recover from the Permian, it can recover from the human." And that is a comforting thought, indeed. I strongly urge you to find and read this book, and again I thank David Szydloski for kindly sending me a copy.

There is a passage I would like to quote, if only because it tackles a problem that virtually no one is even willing to discuss, even as we see ecosystems collapse and the climate change accelerate, that of voluntary human population control:

"Yet the biggest elephant of all is a figurative one in the planet-sized room that is ever harder to ignore, although we keep trying. Worldwide, every four days human population rises by 1 million...

The intelligent solution would require the courage and the wisdom to put our knowledge to the test. It would be poignant and distressing in ways, but not fatal. It would henceforth limit every human female on Earth capable of bearing children to one.

The numbers resulting from such a draconian measure, fairly applied, are tricky to predict with precision: Fewer births, for example, would lower infant mortality, because resources would be devoted to protecting each precious member of the latest generation. Using the United Nation's medium scenario for life expectancy though 2050 as a benchmark, Dr. Sergei Scherbov, who is the research group leader at the Vienna Institute of Demography of the Austrian Academy of Sciences and an analyst for the World Population Program, calculated what would happen to human population if, from now on, all fertile women have only one child (in 2004, the rate was 2.6 births per female; in the medium scenario that would lower to about two children by 2050).

If this somehow began tomorrow, our current 6.5 billion human population would drop by 1 billion by the middle of the century. (If we continue as projected, it will reach 9 billion.) At that point, keeping to one-child-per-mother, life on Earth for all species would change dramatically. Because of natural attrition, today's bloated human population bubble would not be reinflated at anything near the former pace. By 2075, we would have reduced our presence by almost half, down to 3.43 billion, and our impact by much more., because so much of what we do is magnified by chain reactions set off through the ecosystem.

By 2100, less than a century from now, we would be at 1.6 billion: back to levels last seen in the 19th century, just before quantum advances in energy, medicine, and food production doubled our numbers and then doubled us again. At the time, those discoveries seemed like miracles. Today, like too much of any good thing, we indulge in more only at our peril.

At such far-more-manageable numbers, however, we would have the benefit of all our progress plus the wisdom to keep our presence under control. That wisdom would come partly from losses and extinctions too late to reverse, but also from the growing joy of watching the world daily become more wonderful. The evidence wouldn't hide in statistics. It would be outside every human's window, where refreshed air would fill each season with more birdsong."

Of course, I do not believe this is remotely possible. Weisman is essentially correct, in theory, but I think he vastly underestimates humanity's hardwired need to reproduce, and reproduce, and reproduce, even if reproduction, ironically, means its own present misery and premature extinction (and that of so many other species). He ignores selfishness and short-sightedness. He ignores greed. He ignores all those countless differences in religion and ideology that keep humanity divided and always at one another's throats. Ultimately, it is a solution humans are neither smart enough nor humane enough to choose. But it is a grand thought, that human beings would willingly step back from the precipice and start putting things back together again.
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Yesterday was almost, and perhaps actually, a total loss, so far as writing is concerned. I managed only 285 words on "The Jetsam of Disremembered Mechanics," and then I just...locked up. I couldn't tell if what I was writing was good enough. I was suddenly no longer certain if any part of the story was anything but trite, hollow...and so I locked up. I sat here another hour or so, angry and baffled and aware that it might all have stemmed from my having used Ambien to get to sleep Tuesday morning. Finally, Spooky said I should get up, that we should get out of the house. And so we did.

Though it was late in the day when we left, we headed across town to the Bell Gallery (Brown University) at 64 College Street, which is currently featuring Rachel Berwick's installation "Zugunruhe." Berick's work generally concerns species that have recently become extinct, or were thought to be extinct until recently, or may soon be extinct— the Tasmanian tiger, the Galapagos tortoise, the coelacanth, etc. "Zugunruhe" is devoted to the passenger pigeon (Ectopistes migratorius), a bird that once inhabited North America in almost unimaginable numbers, but was wiped out during the 1800's by hunting and deforestation. The species was effectively extinct in the wild by the early 20th Century. The last captive specimen died at the Cincinnati Zoo on September 1, 1914 (the last authenticated sighting in the wild was made in Pike County, Ohio, on March 22, 1900).

The instillation is startling in its simplicity. First, we are greeted by an enormous copy of Audubon's 1840 Birds of America (five feet wide when opened), displaying his life-sized illustration of the passenger pigeon. And then there are grey walls on which have been recorded excerpts from the writings of 19th Century naturalists and hunters, describing the almost unbelievable size of Ectopistes migratorius flocks. On a pedestal stands a glass bell jar or globe, inside of which is an odd contraption with a large brass needle which rotates erratically, almost compass like, both recalling migratory instincts and pointing to the quotes on the walls. The final part of the instillation is a great heptagonal glass case in a darkened room. The case contains a tree, and the branches of the tree are festooned with hundreds of passenger pigeons cast in orange copal (a million or so years old, an immature form of amber).

By the way, "zugunruhe" is a an obscure German ornithological term for the nighttime restlessness displayed by migratory birds.

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Leaving the gallery, just as the bells at Brown were tolling four p.m. (EST), I had a minor absence seizure. Which may explain the trouble I'd been having with the story, as work often becomes difficult before a seizure. We stopped by the market before heading home. There was Chinese takeout for dinner, as no one felt like cooking. We streamed a truly dreadful film from Netflix, Thora Birch and some other people in Sean McConville's Deadline (2009). This has to be one of the dullest films of the year, and I'm not sure why we didn't shut it off after the first twenty minutes. I will say, the ghost story is one of the most difficult supernatural tales to pull off effectively, especially in film, and one does not manage that trick by regurgitating every tiresome gimmick from the last decade of American and Japanese cinema (most of which never worked to begin with). Avoid this film. And you might also want to avoid WoW until after the "holidays," as its been infested with inappropriate Xmas idiocy again. We quested a bit in remote parts of the Howling Fjord and reached Level 71. There was a genuinely creepy encounter with the Lich King inside a sepulcher at the Vrykul city of Gjalerbron. Shaharrazad and Suraa slew the Vrykul queen Angerboda as she was attempting to resurrect King Ymiron. But the Lich King made a brief appearance and spirited the two giants away.

And that was yesterday. But there are photos:

15 December 2009Collapse )
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Yesterday...

Well, I learned that December is Cthulhu month at Tor.com, and ellen_datlow has included both Threshold and The Red Tree on a list of selected Lovecraftian fiction (you can get a discount on the books via Tor.com, I think).

Also, Sirenia Digest #48 went out to subscribers late last night. Comments welcome (mostly).

But yesterday was mostly an unexpected trip to Boston. For a week or so, we'd been planning to see John Hillcoat's adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's The Road on December 1st. Little did we know that immediately before the November 25th release date, The Weinstein Company decided to radically scale back the number of theatres where the film would be screened. There's all sorts of confusion, apparently, about what's happened. But what it amounts to is that instead of getting a wide release, as planned, it opened in only "31 markets" across the US. And none of those were in Rhode Island. Yesterday morning I discovered that the nearest easily accessible theatre to us showing the film is Kendall Square in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

So...yesterday we went to Boston.

And I am not sorry that we went to such trouble to see The Road on a big (well, biggish) screen. All last night, I tried to decide how to write about the film, but I don't think I can say anything that will do it justice. I can say that it does McCarthy's novel justice. It is far more faithful to the book than I'd expected. It is, possibly, a perfect adaptation. Perfectly cast, perfectly acted, perfectly scored (by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis), just damned near perfect all the way 'round. It is one of the most terrible, beautiful, and true films I've ever seen. And no, I'm not ashamed to say that I was in tears through most of The Road. Viggo Mortensen (Man), Kodi Smit-McPhee (Boy), Charlize Theron (Woman), Robert Duvall (Old Man) all give pitch-perfect performances. Indeed, there is no miscast actor in the film. Hillcoat has translated McCarthy's film...well, I just don't have the words. I said that much at the start. You need to see this movie, not hear me talk about having seen it, even if seeing it means you have to go out of your way. It is not just art. It's important art. We should not be reluctant to inconvenience ourselves for important art. In this film, man confronts the face of all gods, which is Mortality and Extinction, Loss and Despair and Endurance. This film will hurt you, if you're still alive, and it will remind you that the best art does us harm, in one way or another. Harm we need to feel to know that we're alive, and to understand, fully and without reserve, how brief life is, and how frail.

As we left the city, the almost-full moon rose over the Charles River, and it looked as cold and empty and distant from the world as I felt.

Nothing lasts forever
That's the way it's gotta be
There's a great black wave in the middle of the sea
For me
For you
For me

("Black Wave," Arcade Fire)

Earth Day '09

earth
We seem to have made it through the whole winter without contracting anything vile, but now, as the spring begins in earnest, Spooky and I both appear to have come down with something unpleasant. Which just figures.

Yesterday, I wrote a very respectable 1,451 words on "At the Deeper Gate of Slumber." It's coming out a sort of sequel to Lovecraft's "The Haunter of the Dark" (1935). I think I'm liking where it's going. Anyway, it'll appear later this month in Sirenia Digest #41.

We had rain last night, and it was a fine, hard rain. The sort I just want to lie in the quiet and listen to for hours. The sun's back this morning. There was a moderate seizure late yesterday. Which I should have seen coming, after two nights of bad insomnia (and last night made night #3).

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In last year's Earth Day entry, I noted that as of "...14:57 GMT (EST+5) today, the Earth's human population had reached 6,662,970,347 (with the US population accounting for 303,912,188 of those humans; that's one birth every 7 seconds in the US)." This year, the human population has risen, as of 14:35 GMT (EST+5), to 6,775,017,443 worldwide, with the US population weighing in at 306,268,833*. Humanity has radically outstripped the carrying capacity of its environment. "Carrying capacity" is defined as the population of a given species that can be supported indefinitely in a defined habitat without permanently damaging the ecosystem upon which it is dependent. For humans, the Earth’s carrying capacity is estimated by ecologists to be about 2 billion people. And we passed that number 4,775,017,443 people ago. As I wrote last year (quoting my entry from 4/22/07):

"And today is Earth Day. And it seems to me that people are more concerned with finding 'green' solutions that will permit business as usual, and continuing technological escalation, rather than drastically scaling back this runaway civilization, which is the only truly 'green' solution. The only solution at all. I might as well be asking for world peace, and I know that. Humans hate. Human breed. Humans consume. Humans spoil. There are other things that humans do, and some of them are wonderful, but the global effects of these wonderful capabilities pale by comparison with all the hating, breeding, consumption, and spoilage. I do not hate humans, and I don't want to give that impression, but I see no point in denying that today, on this Earth Day, I'm rooting for the other team."

* courtesy the US Census Bureau's US and World Population clocks.

More thylacine footage.

Shaw
Here's another Tasmanian "tiger" clip I found on YouTube. This is actually the one that's gotten the most exposure, which is why I used the other one last night. In this clip, there are a couple of good views of the thylacine's very wide gape.



Last night, after I posted the clip, I began to think about the strong possibility that polar bears may be extinct in only another century, having lost the ice sheets on which they rely to global warming. And of course it won't only be the polar bears. Worldwide, predators are at the top of the list of threatened species. The Bengal and Siberian tigers, cheetahs, snow leopards, the Eastern Timber Wolf, Komodo dragons, the Tasmanian Devil, most sharks, and on and on and on. There are few extant large to medium-sized predators that are not threatened — except, of course, man, the super-predator. And watching the clip of the last thylacine, I could not but wonder about future clips of the last tiger, the last polar bear...

The platypus, sheheit says these are not fit thoughts for late at night, but sometimes the platypus lies.

We who revel in nature's diversity and feel instructed by every animal tend to brand Homo sapiens as the greatest catastrophe since the Cretaceous extinction. — Stephen Jay Gould