The best part of the week was spending two days at the Hay, in the Willis Reading Room, proofreading the ms. for Houses Under the Sea: Mythos Tales (Centipede Press, 2016). All these years I've been here and I had no idea that marvelous space existed, which is what I get for not thoroughly exploring my surroundings. It was closed for renovations from June 2013 to September 2014, but I've been here since May 2008. So, I've only myself to blame. I'd never have found it had Brown University not asked for my papers. Anyway, yes, a fine and quiet place to work. The Willis Reading Room is almost as good as sitting beneath the Ezra Winter murals in the Linn-Henley Research Library in Birmingham. I've made it through only 131 pages (the ms., without the unwritten novella, is nearly 600 pages long), because I'm the slowest reader alive. I hate proofing, but at least I now have a comfortable, pleasant place to do it. There are a few photographs from Thursday, behind the cut:
The Willis Reading Room, view to the west.
Proofreading beneath the watchful eye of Mr. Poe. I didn't even notice the identity of the bust until my second day at the library. View to the south.
For all posterity, the weird thing I do with my left hand while i proofread. An impromptu chin rest.
The spire of the courthouse, from one of the westerly windows.
More of Mr. Poe.
I find myself wondering who sculpted this (and the many other busts in the library), and I find myself wondering if anyone knows.
There's a little exhibit on unicorns up at the Hay, and the only part I really found interesting was the bit about narwhals.
All photographs Copyright © 2015 by Caitlín R. Kiernan and Kathryn A. Pollnac
Abstract from "Accelerated modern human–induced species losses: Entering the sixth mass extinction," Gerardo Ceballos et al., Science Advances 19 June 2015 (Vol. 1, no. 5):
The oft-repeated claim that Earth’s biota is entering a sixth “mass extinction” depends on clearly demonstrating that current extinction rates are far above the “background” rates prevailing in the five previous mass extinctions. Earlier estimates of extinction rates have been criticized for using assumptions that might overestimate the severity of the extinction crisis. We assess, using extremely conservative assumptions, whether human activities are causing a mass extinction. First, we use a recent estimate of a background rate of 2 mammal extinctions per 10,000 species per 100 years (that is, 2 E/MSY), which is twice as high as widely used previous estimates. We then compare this rate with the current rate of mammal and vertebrate extinctions. The latter is conservatively low because listing a species as extinct requires meeting stringent criteria. Even under our assumptions, which would tend to minimize evidence of an incipient mass extinction, the average rate of vertebrate species loss over the last century is up to 114 times higher than the background rate. Under the 2 E/MSY background rate, the number of species that have gone extinct in the last century would have taken, depending on the vertebrate taxon, between 800 and 10,000 years to disappear. These estimates reveal an exceptionally rapid loss of biodiversity over the last few centuries, indicating that a sixth mass extinction is already under way. Averting a dramatic decay of biodiversity and the subsequent loss of ecosystem services is still possible through intensified conservation efforts, but that window of opportunity is rapidly closing.
The sun's out. I should go.