The era during which Mars might have been most likely to have hosted habitable conditions is the first one, indicated by the presence of phyllosilicates. If indeed living organisms formed, these clay minerals could be the sites in which this biochemical development took place. The low level of the further surface alteration, in perennial cold and dry conditions, under a tenuous atmosphere, could have preserved most of the record of biological molecules, structures, or other diagnostic features in clay-rich surface or subsurface rocks. These areas of high habitability potential offer exciting targets for future in situ exploration.
Back here Earth, I spent much yesterday on various busynesses, but also managed to begin the new Dancy piece, a vignettish thing which will be published as a chapbook to accompany Alabaster (free to those who order the once-again-available limited edition). It's called "Highway 97" and is set a few days before Dancy's arrival at the old church south of Bainbridge, Georgia. Despite the fact that I was initially reluctant to write another Dancy story, I'm actually quite excited about it. The whole of the story occurred to me yesterday, as I was listening to Nick Cave's soundtrack for Warren Ellis' film The Proposition. Likely, I'll write the entire thing to that CD (which is quite awesome, by the way).
I wish I could say that I'd be spending all of today working on "Highway 97," but, unfortunately, this isn't the case. Instead, I need to spend it working on the cover copy for Daughter of Hounds. My editor at Penguin sent it to me a week or so ago. She wasn't very happy with it, and when I saw it I was very unhappy with it. The chief problem is that whoever wrote the copy (people get paid to do this, I suppose) was trying to present it as a genre horror novel, which it isn't. It might fairly be called dark fantasy, with some emphasis on the dark, but it's not whatever people mean when they say "horror". So, anyway, I have something like 150 words to try and synopsize/describe a very complex novel that's almost 700 typescript pages long. 150 words to accurately convey the plot, the mood, something of the central characters. And I have to have it e-mailed to my editor before five p.m. this evening. I'd much rather spend the day with Dancy. Or Martian mineralogy. Or wedging my head into the bowl of the Worst Toilet in Scotland, for that matter.
Yesterday, Sonya Taaffe (sovay) brought up a problem that I've been trying not to think about. A substantial portion of my writing time is now being devoted to the work I'm doing on Sirenia Digest. On the one hand, the digest is keeping the rent paid until the next book deal comes in, and there's no doubt that it's allowing my writing to grow in new and exciting directions. But it's also true that the majority of my writing is presently being done for a very small audience, and there is some danger of all this work "falling through the cracks", as it were, failing to come to the attention of reviewers and editors and suchlike. I've been worrying about this for a couple of months. Excepting "Bainbridge," the last full-length short story I wrote was "Night," in July 2005, and before that, "Bradbury Weather," way back in August 2004. And I see three primary reasons for this: 1) personal chaos over this past year; 2) the fact that most of 2005 was spent writing Daughter of Hounds; and 3) the energy that's going into Sirenia Digest. It's an odd situation to be in. I love the work I'm doing for the digest and that I did on Frog Toes and Tentacles, but it's all being written "off the radar," so to speak. For the foreseeable furture, I'm committed to the digest project and don't really see how I can address the problem. But I have recognized that it is a problem. To a degree, the release of Alabaster will help, as will the release of Daughter of Hounds, work which will help keep me in the public eye while I'm engaged in these more esoteric pursuits. Well, truth be told, writing short stories, even when those stories win awards or are chosen for "year's best" anthologies, is a pretty damned esoteric endeavor.
There were wonderful thunderstorms just after sunset last night, and there will likely be more today.