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):
[Blackness. Fade in slowly, as we listen to Frank Black, to a scene of asteroid debris in space and a solitary, distant sun.]
FRANK: In number, there is one for every life which ever was, or ever will be. And like most lives, they wait for a moment, the moment, when it will be sent on its journey back toward the yellow sun.
[A single asteroid spins, falling away from Saturn's rings.]
FRANK: Approaching the sun brings definitive change.
[An asteroid veers away from the planet, trailing vapor.]
FRANK: It will never again be the same.
[A comet soars over the Earth.]
FRANK: Appearing in our skies, it is believed to be the prophecy of extraordinary events.
[A religious painting depicts a comet in the sky, and below it the Madonna and Child.]
FRANK: The birth of kings.
[The Bayeux tapestry shows an ornate comet.]
FRANK: The death of empires.
[An asteroid moves in space.]
FRANK: After centuries, or millennia, the journey must end.
[An asteroid again, falling towards Saturn's rings.]
FRANK: Perhaps smothered by its own dust, the dark, soulless body continues eternally through space and time.
[The asteroid breaks up in the planet's gravitational field.]
FRANK: It may disintegrate and crumble into inconsequential rubble.
[Another asteroid passes by, moving towards the sun.]
FRANK: Or it may be lost forever, crashing, burning, into the yellow sun.
[A view of the bright sun fades and we see Frank Black's face. He is staring up into the night sky.]
FRANK: And as I look into the sky and it looks back on me, I want to know, which am I? I need to know. Is this the beginning of a journey –
[A twin-tailed comet flies in the starry sky. Frank's bloody hand holds a gun. Frank stands, still looking skyward. Blood stains his left shoulder.]
FRANK: – or the end.