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Of Books and the Sea

Some days, I haven't enough for a good blog entry. Some mornings, I have enough for three. This morning is of the latter sort. Full-on spring seems finally to have come to Providence. Sunny with a chance of thunderstorms today, and a bit warm in the House. I have the fan going in my office, and the window open.

There's a very nice new review of The Red Tree up at Green Man Review.

Also, Lou Anders emailed me the Publisher's Weekly review of Swords and Dark Magic, the anthology that includes my story "The Sea Troll's Daughter" (mentioned prominently in the review). Here it is:

Swords and Dark Magic Edited by Jonathan Strahan and Lou Anders. Eos, $15.99 paper (544p) ISBN 978-0-06-172381-0

Editors Strahan (
Eclipse 3) and Anders (Fast Forward 2) present 17 original stories that recall the classic works of Robert E. Howard and Fritz Leiber. To earn the book’s subtitle of “The New Sword and Sorcery,” Gene Wolfe puts on literary airs (“Bloodsport”); Tim Lebbon contributes some of the graphic horror and moral twists of the New Weird (“The Deification of Dal Balmore”); and Caitlín R. Kiernan introduces a complicated heroine rescued by the ostensible villain (“The Sea Troll’s Daughter”). But most of the stories are more traditional tales of apprentice mages coming-of-age and down-on-their-luck mercenaries facing unexpected perils. Fans of the classics will appreciate the tie-ins to familiar series by Michael Moorcock, Glen Cook, and Robert Silverberg, plus a “fully authorized” Cugel the Clever cameo by Michael Shea. (July)

And here's the cover from the Subterranean Press limited edition of the book. I'm very pleased that the cover art (by Dominic Harmon) was clearly inspired by "The Sea Troll's Daughter," a story which is, essentially my lesbian/feminist reworking of Beowulf:


Yesterday, we took advantage of the excellent weather to get out of the House. I'd not been Outside in about a week, what with all the work on Sirenia Digest giving me such a seemingly valid excuse not to leave. Spooky needed more beach glass for her jewelry-making endeavors, so we headed to West Cove, the best place we've found in Rhode Island for glass. As we made the familiar crossing of the Jamestown Bridge to Conanicut Island, over the West Passage of Narragansett Bay, we could see that the water was rough and choppy. There had been thunderstorms all morning. We drove to the ruins of Fort Wetherill. Instead of immediately going down to our usual spot on the beach, we spent some time exploring the granite cliffs just south of the sprawling concrete remains the fort (ca. 1940). In some places, the bluffs here tower a hundred feet above the sea. There's a clear view south and east to Beavertail. The wind was wild, but I got right up on the edge.

The rock here is a porphyritic granite (porhyritic meaning that the stone has large-grained crystals, such as feldspar or quartz, dispersed in a fine-grained feldspathic matrix or groundmass). According to my geologic map of Rhode Island, the age of the granite here is uncertain, and it's dated only as "?Late Proterozoic," so let's say 1,000 to 542.0 million years ago. That means the rocks are quite a bit older than the Cambrian and Ordovician slate and phyllite at Beavertail, two miles to the southwest.

Heading back towards west cove, walking northeast through the woods, we found a fantastic ravine the sea's cut into the granite, maybe thirty feet deep and some sixty or seventy yards long. The waves rush into it and crash loudly against the walls, throwing spray high into the air. A little north of the ravine, we investigated a beach we'd seen from a distance, but never tried to visit, as the path down to it is steep. I suppose we were feeling intrepid yesterday. The small "beach" (all cobbles, no sand) was alive with tiny wolf spiders, so we dubbed it "Spider Cove." We found a few interesting bits of glass there, before moving on to our usual beach farther north.

I needed to relax, clear my head, and let the sea soothe my nerves. But my mind was too filled with the news of what's happened and is happening and will be happening for a long time to come in the Gulf of Mexico, in the wake of the sinking of BP's Deapwater Horizon rig. I sat on the rocks, trying to hear and see nothing but the wind, the sound of the breakers, the colors of the day, but there was no way to push back the horrors of the oil spill. I felt an odd guilt, sitting there with the bay lapping at my feet. In less than an hour, I'd seen fish crows, cormorants, egrets, gulls, all manner of songbirds, a rabbit, a turtle; the woods and water and sky were alive. How easy it would be, I thought, to lose all this. How quickly a single mishap of technology could devastate and change this ecosystem, possibly forever. I stopped looking for beach glass and sat writing in my notebook:

How do I explain to someone that it is the ocean itself that I worship? Not some deity of the ocean, some anthropomorphic thing that resides in the sea, but the whole of the sea itself (Panthalassa). How do I explain how my "goddess" has been and is being defiled?

Anyway, I have some photos from yesterday (more tomorrow):

Granite cliffs south of Fort Wetherill.

The view from the cliffs, looking southwest towards Beavertail.

Porphyritic granite with calcite inclusions.

Lichens and other hardly plants.

The southeast end of the ravine, where it opens onto the bay.

A view into the ravine.

Looking down the length of the ravine from its northwest end.

Photographs Copyright © 2010 by Caitlín R. Kiernan and Kathryn A. Pollnac.


( 7 comments — Have your say! )
May. 4th, 2010 07:11 pm (UTC)
Having seen most of the worlds oceans and seas, it is alive in a different way. Each has its own personality and color and texture, salinity and visability. But, it is all connected.

loved the pictures.
May. 4th, 2010 07:24 pm (UTC)
Excited to have received Sirenia Digest, although I haven't read it yet. It's there though, waiting for me.

I keep hoping mother earth will take this planet back from us humans. If it isn't, of course, too late. The planet would be much better off without us.
(Deleted comment)
May. 4th, 2010 10:10 pm (UTC)
excuse me while I squee to death over the lichen and other plants picture!!

I've been trying to avoid thinking about the Gulf Coast. Emphasis on trying. I'm failing pretty miserably.

My heart hurts so much when I think about it.

Edited at 2010-05-04 10:12 pm (UTC)
May. 4th, 2010 11:55 pm (UTC)
I'm curious - given your obvious connection to the sea, what drew you to become a paleontologist instead of a marine biologist?
May. 5th, 2010 02:52 am (UTC)

I'm curious - given your obvious connection to the sea, what drew you to become a paleontologist instead of a marine biologist?

Not sure I can answer that. However, pretty much all the paleo' I ever did concerned marine reptiles.
May. 5th, 2010 12:36 am (UTC)
Oooo, Swords and Dark Magic looks good. Nice cover. I'll see if I can drop my usual "subtle" hints as I have a birthday coming up. ^_^

The pictures of the ocean are so beautiful. You always post such excellent photos that make me all nostalgic for the days I spent as a child on horseneck beach in MA. I miss the ocean and the dunes.

( 7 comments — Have your say! )