December 16th, 2006


In Memorium

Maybe the subject line for this post is premature. But some scientists are calling Lipotes vexillifer, the Yangtze River Dolphin (nicknamed "長江女神" or "Goddess of the Yangtze"), functionally extinct. This after a month-long expedition consisting of 30 cetacean researchers failed to locate a single specimen. In fact, the last known sighting of the species was in 2004. As some biologists have rightly pointed out, the absence of a sighting does not mean we can be certain of the species extinction. So, maybe the subject line for this entry is premature. But, at this point, it still seems an inevitability that it will be accurate one night soon, if it is not so already.

Here are a couple of stories:

First from National Geographic, China's Rare River Dolphin Now Extinct, Experts Announce. The baiji's demise is attributed to overfishing, dam-building, environmental degradation, and ship collisions.


Rare Yangtze dolphin may be extinct: After a month, scientists fail to locate species; pollution named as main culprit

Chinese River Dolphin (Baiji) Feared Extinct, Hope Remains for Finless Porpoise

Fossils indicate that the ancestors of Lipotes vexillifer entered the Yangtze during the Miocene Epoch (some 20 million years ago) from the Pacific, adapting to life in freshwater. Not only is this the loss of an ancient lineage, it's the loss of an intelligent and likely sentient one. You can read more about the Yangtze River Dolphin and extinction at Wikipedia.

Reading these reports this evening, I started thinking about an sf novel, stealing a bit from The Day the Earth Stood Still and a few other sources, in which a nomadic alien species obsessed with cataloging the galaxy's biodiversity arrives at Earth. After conducting their own survey of life on this planet and discovering that man has pushed the biosphere to the edge of collapse, the aliens deliver an ultimatum to the people of Earth: Each time a species — any species — goes extinct and the cause can be traced to direct or indirect human activity, precisely 1,000,000 human beings will be executed. The aliens have technology far beyond that of early 21st Century man (this is a space opera, after all), and to prove this is no idle threat, they depopulate a couple of major cities as a demonstration. But all hope is not lost! After all, there are currently 6.5 billion humans. At only 1,000,000 per extinction, let's see...Homo sapiens sapiens might survive a a year or so before The End. Afterwards, once humanity is culled to a population of only a few hundred thousand "wild" individuals, they will be maintained by the aliens on a preserve in East Africa, near where the human species might have originally evolved. After all, this is a civilized and "humane" alien race. They will not be the cause of human extinction. Before departing to continue their galactic survey, they leave a base ship whose purpose is to restore Earth and keep humans from ever again developing the technology needed to cause ecological havoc.

Maybe once I'm done with The Dinosaurs of Mars...

Stay away from the future...

The comments to the last entry were much appreciated. Though I think the idea for that novel first occurred only as an angry, vengeful rant, by the time I crawled away to bed last night (4 a.m. CaST), I'd started looking at it much more seriously. If nothing else, it is a safe place where I can pour all my frustration and anger and spite for humanity. Better than going postal with a pointy stick or turning the violence inwards upon myself (my usual strategy).

I started thinking, the story will likely begin a few centuries after the aliens have completed their clensing of the planet. The central character would be an unsuspecting human girl, a teenager who has been befriended by one of the aliens. The aliens would be something completely non-humanoid. insectile, perhaps. This girl lives on the African preserve where humans have been allowed to survive, co-existing with other wildlife and getting by with only the most rudimentary sort of tech (stone tools, at best). All memories of the World Before have been lost. It would seem to the reader, at first, as though we are looking at the Earth in the latest Pleistocene, not the Holocene. These would seem like pre-agricultural humans, hunter-gatherers surrounded by elephants and giraffes and zebra and so forth, who have been visited by an alien civilization. But then this girl is befriended, and the alien teaches her things, and she begins to learn about the purge. She is eventually given access to historical records. This way, it becomes more a novel about the consequences and cultural evolution and conflicts than a space opera about alien invasion. These are, of course, only the most initial ideas. All is yet in flux, back there in my head where stories slowly, slowly take shape. My agent will tell me that there's no money to be made these days in publishing "literary sf" (she's told me that before), but I might just write it, anyway. I feel like it's a book that I need to write, and these days I feel that need all too infrequently.

Today was my first productive day since Tuesday. It has been a black and futile week. An ugly week. The deep trough between the towering waves which bear we forward. Here I cannot afford to lose even a single day, and this morning I had to sit down and mark three full days L. I do not know for sure what dragged me down this time. I never do know for sure. I strongly suspect that proofing Low Red Moon — rearranging those deck chairs — played a role. But it "had" to be done, or I'd have just had to deal with all that nasty regret. Now, at least I know the book that comes out in August will be better than the version released in 2003. And I suspect the nightmares and insomnia played a large role, as well. On Monday, I go back on the damned Ambien. Anyway, I've already canceled plans to see my family in Alabama on the 23rd-24th, to help make up for those three lost days.

The most productive thing about yesterday was an hour or so I spent tinkering with Second Life. I couldn't get very far in my investigations, however, as my iBook's OS is too antiquated to run the requisite software. Once a certain publisher sees fit to finally pay me, there will be a new Mac in Casa de Kiernan y Pollnac, and I won't be limping along on OS 10.2.6 any longer. I can play with the big kids again. Anyway, the thing with Second Life, it's actually research for the piece I started writing today for Sirenia Digest 13 (December), an sf story called "The Path of Silence." Though I'm intrigued by these attempts at creating cyber-environments, I am appalled that they are all so goddamned obsessed with commerce. Linden dollars and the buying of virtual land, the paying of taxes on that virtual land. Shopping in virtual malls, even. What the frell? Isn't there enough tedium in the real world? Is this the best humans can do in their fantasies? Shop? Spend pretend money? Are the masses really that imagination deprived? I'm sure there's more to Second Life than that, but the commercial/capitalist aspect seems awfully front and goddamned center. That shit interests me about as much as fantasy football. Leave the mundane behind, people. It'll still be there when you have to come back.

I believe that the Immaculate Order of the Falling Sky is adopting -H as it logo, in opposition of the singularitarian, transhumanist use of >H and H+.

I wrote 1,101 words this afternoon on "The Path of Silence." Spooky and I had a walk, as it was very warm and sunny, and I'd not set foot outside this dismal house since Wednesday. I read William Gibson's "The Winter Market," which is one of my very favourite sf stories.

All 274 copies of the numbered state of Tales from the Woeful Platypus have, at this point, sold out at Subterranean Press. But there are still copies of the cloth-bound trade hardcover ($20) available.

Also, please have a look at the eBay auctions. These are genuinely unique items. I know Xmas is not the best time to be eBaying (actually, Poppy says it's an excellent time for eBay), but I already explained about the belated check, etc. I really want to see the green-haired boy go to a good home. I'm going to try to list some other items tomorrow, once the writing's done.

As all the gloom began to lift last night, I did get in a couple hours of Final Fantasy XII. Fran, Penello, Ashe, and Co. made their way through the Stilshrine, found the lair of the beautiful Mateus the Corrupter, and kicked her butt. We'll, since she's sort of mermaid-like, maybe it would be more accurate to say we kicked her tail. Either way, we prevailed. Sure beats virtual shopping and paying virtual land taxes.