May 8th, 2008

Tyrannosaurus rex

Late Night Science Strikes Againe!

A couple of paleo'-related news items i wanted to pass along. First, a new confuiusornithid bird (avian theropod) from the Early Cretaceous Dabeigou Formation (131 Ma) in Fengning, Hebei Province, northern China. It has been named Eoconfuciusornis zhengi. This fossil is about 11 million years older than all previously known confuiusornithids, such as Confuciusornis sanctus, which are known from the famed Chinese Liaoning fossil deposits. In May 2001, I was fortunate enough to be at the American Museum in NYC, examining mosasaurs these, when an exquisite feathered specimen of the dromaeosaurid Sinornithosaurus millenii (a non-avian theropod, also from the Liaoning deposits) was briefly on display. In fact, there's even a rather fuzzy, low-rez photo of me with the specimen (I swear, my nose doesn't actually look like that):



Part and counterpart.


Also, paleontologists at Brigham Young University have discovered evidence of dermestid beetle larvae having fed on the carcass of a Late Jurassic-aged ornithopod dinosaur Camptosaurus. Cool stuff!
Early Permian

Falling Behind, Leaping Ahead

Yesterday, I was reading John J. Pierce's Odd Genre: A Study in Imagination and Evolution (Greenwood Press; Westport, CT, 1994), when I came across this rather wonderful passage:

Cordwainer Smith's opening passage from "Scanner's Live in Vain" (1950) may be the acid test of a reader's taste for science fiction. A genre reader, coming across this scene for the first time, will think, 'I don't know what a "scanner" is, or how he adjusts his blood away from anger, or why he has to "cranch," but I've got to find out.' A nongenre reader, by contrast, is more likely to think, "This is gibberish — I don't know what's going on here, and I don't even want to know.' Smith's technique of plunging his readers into such a strange situation is not universal in science fiction even today, yet "Scanners Live in Vain" illustrates a principle that is universal to sf: It is a literary juxtaposition, even a synthesis, of the strange and the familiar.

I wrote somewhere around 1,000 words yesterday. I don't have an exact count. I spent the entire day trying to write an afterword to A is for Alien. And then, finally, having finished the first section, and having had Spooky read it back to me, I realized that it was pedantic, and wearisome, and that mostly I was grinding an axe I have with a particular reviewer at Locus, which is not the sort of thing that a) I should be doing in public or b) expect anyone else to want to read or c) should burden the collection with. I'd had in mind an afterword that accomplished a number of objectives — justification of dystopian sf, examination of mankind's innate hatred and fear of the alien in itself (making the idea of "first contact" with an extrasolar civilization absurd), an explanation of why I feel science fiction should not be expected to have predictive value, and, lastly, confess that it does not bother me that I wear my literary influences on my sleeve. But...it would have gone on for at least four thousand words, and, as I said, it was terribly pedantic. I stopped writing and called Bill Schafer at Subterranean Press. We talked about the problem. I suggested I find someone else to write the afterword. He agreed that would be a good idea. A number of authors were discussed, people we might approach, and finally we settled on one we were both pleased with — Elizabeth Bear (matociquala). I asked her last night, and she kindly agreed. So, that's one thing I don't have to do in May.

Actually, I also spoke with the fellow who's publishing Joshi's Machen collection, and my deadline is not until July 30th, and he'll settle for 2,000 words, so that's something else I don't have to do this month. This means that today I can go back to work on The Red Tree (thanks, in large part, to the package of reference material and photos of the Moosup Valley region of western Rhode Island, which Spooky's mother helpfully gathered and sent to me). So, huzzah!

Also, note that subscribers can expect Sirenia Digest #30 a week or so early this month, sometime around the 21st, as I'm going to have to get it out of the way well ahead of the move (we leave Atlanta on the 29th, a mere 20 [!!!] days away, if we do not count today). And if you are not a subscriber, now's as good a time as any to correct that.

A couple of links. I wanted to repost the Green Porno link, Isabella Rossallini's bug porn, as it really is marvelous stuff. I've been making myself watch only one or two a day, so it'll last a few days (so far, my favorite is "Snail"). Also, my thanks (again) to robyn_ma for this link to Evan Dorkin's take on the phenomenon of furcons. Spooky and I laughed until we bled. Truthfully, I had nothing at all in particular against furries until I started Second Life, where they are, quite simply, a plague. Just try helming the bridge of a Federation starship when your captain is an anthropomorphic "funny animal" fox. Just try! Sure, I'm a pervert, and I have more than my fair share of parahuman and paraphilic turn-ons (Isabella Rossellini bug porn, for example), but really people.

My cold is much, much better.

Last night? Byron dropped by with Season Two of Millennium on DVD, so we can watch it as quickly as we want and don't have to wait on Netflix. We watched the first three eps — "The Beginning and the End," "Beware of the Dog," and "Sense and Antisense." As good as Season One was, Season Two is much better. Later, I did maybe an hour, an hour and a half of SL rp, so my thanks to Pontifex and Omega. Then Spooky read to me from House of Leaves until we were too sleepy to think anymore.

Postscript (3:05 pm): I meant to include this in the morning's entry, and forgot. The opening monologue for the first episode of Season Two of Millennium, which gave me shivers (behind the cut):

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