If you're into interviews, that's another reason to pick up Subterranean #2, as it will include the first interview I've given "live and in person" (as opposed to dead and channeled by a medium, I suppose), in many, many years. Indeed, I could probably count on one hand the number of interviews I've given that I didn't insist were done by e-mail. I know one was to Writer's Digest, way back in November 1995, and I think there have been a couple more. I dislike doing them. I'd prefer to be able to choose my words more carefully. Anyway, like I said, if you're interested, order the zine. It'll also, of course, include the new sf novelette, "Bradbury Weather," and "Andromeda Among the Stones" (the latter with a new illustration by Richard Kirk), along with fiction by Charles de Lint, Robert Silverberg, and others.
I stumbled across the following comment online the other day (online I stumble a lot, and, in fact, offline, too): There are, unfortunately, plenty of bad writers clogging the shelves of bookstores throughout the country like fat hardening on the walls of arteries... Well, yeah. This is no grand revelation. But then the individual in question proceeds to include me in this list. Just when I think I've heard all the possible bizarre comments about my work possible, here some genius compares me to arterial plaque! Wow. Anyway, I do take issue with the comment, if only because I seem so unlikely a target for someone complaining about writers who get more than their fair share of shelf space in bookstores. I mean, honestly. If you walk into a bookstore and find that it has a single copy of each of my four novels from Roc, you're doing really well. And together (I just measured) they take only about 3.5 inches of space. So, I've hardly earned the right to be included alongside the likes of Stephen King, Laurell K. Hamilton, Dean Koontz, and Robin Cook. I can only aspire to someday so clog the arteries of bookstores. I shall have nothing before it's due me.
Reader reactions to my comments regarding What the [Bleep] Do We Know have been curiously mixed. On the one hand, I've had some very nice, considered, articulate e-mails (one of which I will quote from in a moment). On the other, some people were angry enough to unfriend me. I have received a number of e-mails asking that I not give up seeking truth and mystery and suchlike, to which I reply, I will only be able to do that when I am dead. But I thank everyone for taking time to write, even if we are at loggerheads on the worth of the film. In the end, though, there's seemingly no denying the dishonesty of the filmmakers, in their misrepresentation of Dr. David Alberts, if nothing else, and on that score alone the film loses almost all credibility.
Dr. David T. Kirkpatrick, a biologist at the University of Minnestota, writes (it's long, but worth the time):
I read with interest your posts today about ‘What the Bleep Do We Know’, and some of the reasons behind your initial acceptance of their assertions. I was also taken with Anne Sexton’s phrase; I had not heard it before. Your discussion of needs, beliefs, and the desire for meaning strikes a chord with me, as I have been mulling over similar issues recently. Some thoughts I’ve had, as they pertain to your posts:
Humans are adept at seeing patterns in everything, even if the patterns aren’t actually there. This tendency is often coupled with our propensity to see everything in a human-centric manner. I think that everyone, consciously or unconsciously, feels (or hopes) that there is more to the universe than is readily apparent to us. All of this combines to make us believe that those mysteries are linked to us. Unfortunately, I doubt that is the case. The universe is still much more complex than we understand, and probably much more complex than we can even currently imagine, but that complexity is not directly tied to humanity. This outlook is inimical to many, because their world-view requires that they remain at the center of the action, and thus act as a controlling element, rather than a peripheral component with no way to impact the larger universe.
I’ve always felt that, consciously or subconsciously, your writing reflected this knowledge. The majority of the beyond-normal events/situations that are introduced into your writings are not particularly human-centric, except those that flow directly from a character’s mental state. I’ve thought that this outlook was tempered by your paleontological training, which had to demonstrate that humans are not likely to be immune to the forces that act on all organisms that have been spawned by this planet. One might argue that we are unique in our ability to reflect upon our own actions and their motivations, but this ability doesn’t necessarily mean that we have control over any of those external forces acting upon us. (And, in fact that ability may be the ultimate reason for our demise as a species, because it allows us to ignore the natural forces that we disrupt, pretending that we are above them and therefore immune to them.)
People either choose to continue learning and advancing throughout their lives, or they accept themselves as they are, and stop questioning. You’ve chosen a profession that requires a constant assessment of your ‘being state’, both physical and mental, and then the translation of that assessment into a delivery system, with the goal of informing those willing to expend the necessary mental and physical energy of the outcome of your assessments. It’s a horribly complicated procedure, but you make it look easy – your prose is compelling, intriguing, and lyrical. Don’t berate yourself over perceived lapses, as they’ll just be incorporated into the future body of your work, and hopefully inform the rest of us in a wonderful story or novel.
There ARE enormous gaps in our understanding of the workings of the universe, at any level at which you care to think about it. Careful evaluation of the data already collected, coupled with careful, rigorous, and intelligent scientific experiment, will hopefully continue to reveal aspects of those gaps. If we as individuals or as a species benefit from those revelations, it will not be because the universe was set up to benefit us, but rather as a consequence of us existing in a universe that is ordered and has rules that apply equally to all. Quantum theory (or some as yet unnamed and unknown mechanism) may eventually give us those connections and abilities that chaos magick and the like seek to provide. I personally rule very little out; the universe is an infinite place, and more things may be possible than I can possibly imagine. Molecular biology (my field of endeavor) offers a salient example: It has become apparent that there is a species of RNA molecule that has an enormous range of function, but was undetected until the late 1990’s. These microRNAs (as they’re called) are very short RNA chains that appear to act as regulatory molecules for a very diverse range of cellular functions. The genome has always encoded them, but they were overlooked – thought to be part of the large stretches of non-coding DNA that had no discernable function (‘junk’ DNA). The scientists who first identified them are likely to win a Nobel Prize within a decade, I’ll bet. The microRNAs have always been there; we just failed to perceive them. Who knows how many other fundamentally important processes are going on, unperceived by us, in biology, chemistry, physics, etc?
Finally, I would like to thank you for continuing your journal posts. I find your writing, whether it be in the form of a book, short story, or journal entry, to be insightful and stimulating. You make connections and linkages that I have not considered, or address issues from an angle that is novel to me. You make me think, and that is a quality that I value highly. Having your thoughts and musings available on a daily basis increases the rate and breadth of that stimulation relative to your output in novels and short stories. The latter two forms allow for a greater depth, and an expansion upon a theme, but cannot match the journal for sheer number of topics addressed.
Thank you, Dr. Kirkpatrick. But now I have to go. I have arteries to clog...