greygirlbeast: (cullom)
0. Comments would be very welcome today.

1. Chilly and sunny today. Our little Indian Summer has come and gone. All three days of it. I left the house only once, briefly, the entire time. I expect no more days in the eighties until June.

2. On this day, eighteen years ago, I began writing Silk. Weather-wise, it was a day much like today, though much farther south. Eighteen years, so that means babies born that day are, as of this day, old enough to vote. One of them picking up Silk today, would be like me, on the occasion of my eighteenth birthday, picking up a copy of a novel whose author began writing it in 1964. These are very strange thoughts. Silk is, lest anyone delude themselves into thinking otherwise, a snapshot of a time, culture, and place long vanished. I am not that person anymore. No, not really. There's a faint echo of her around here somewhere.

3. My mood is lower today than it's been in, I don't know. Months. These things happen, and we stay on our meds, and we speak of ourselves in the third person, and we ride them out.

4. Yesterday, you might have seen a news story with a sensational headline something like: "Giant 'Kraken' Lair Discovered: Cunning Sea Monster That Preyed On Ichthyosaurs.". People kept sending me links to it yesterday. And the best I can say about this affair is that if I were still teaching, I'd point to this as a sterling example of Really Bad Science. One does not find a peculiar pattern (in this case, the arrangement of ichthyosaur vertebrae) and invent an outlandish explanation with no evidence whatsoever. And call it something lurid and ridiculous like a "Giant Kraken." There's zero evidence for the existence of a giant Triassic teuthid (squid). Zero. No fossil evidence. So, to posit that one was moving ichthyosaur bones around is very akin to the Weekly World News having once blamed "Alien Big-Game Hunters" for the extinction of non-avian dinosaurs. In short, it's silly. I could write a long essay on this, but I won't. Even if Mark McMenamin could find fossil evidence for a giant squid of roughly the same age as Shonisaurus popularis, it would still be almost impossible to say it was responsible for moving those bones into that pattern.

5. Yesterday...I worked. Not as much as I should have, because...sometimes it's hurry up and wait. But I did work. Mostly, more planning for the book-trailer shoot this weekend. Only three days to go. And it looks like there will be rain on Friday, which is going to play merry havoc with our schedule.

6. Want to see the American Consumer at its least rational? Just look back over the recent fiasco with Netflix, and the damage its done to the company (a two-thirds stock drop since July, and still going down). Netflix CEO Reed Hastings has apologized for the proposed Netflix/Quickster division for rental/streaming services, which is absurd. That he apologized, I mean. People need to cut the entitlement bullshit. Better streaming services will cost more, and the industry is moving towards streaming. Period. I am far from being a financially stable person, but the original Netflix business model won't work forever, and it's wasteful, and is costing the USPS a fortune.

7. Frequently, people have asked me to blog my Second Life roleplay. Usually, I don't do this, because doing so leads to spending time writing that could be spent RPing. But I have begun keeping a journal of Ellen "Grendel" Ishmene's trials and tribulations in Insilico, the life of an illegal Level A clone/Class V AI. It's an excuse to keep myself limber with cyberpunk narratives. If you're interested, you can follow the journal here. Oh, and there are pictures. These days, about the only reason I can find to bother with SL is Insilico, and it's far from perfect. But the build is exquisite, and the RP is probably about the best ever in SL.

8. As for the non-work part of yesterday, I read two articles in the September 2011 issue of the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology: "Variation in the skull of Anchiceratops (Dinosauria, Ceratopsidae) from the Horseshoe Canyon Formation (Upper Cretaceous) of Alberta" and "A sauropod dinosaur pes from the latest Cretaceous of North America, and the validity of Alamosaurus sanjuanensis (Sauropoda, Titanosauria)."* And we read two more chapters of Shirley Jackson's The Sundial (we're nearing the end of the book), and played some Rift, and I read a rather awful short story by F. Paul Wilson, "The November Game," an extremely unfortunate "sequel" to Ray Bradbury's classic "The October Game." If you're going to attempt a sequel to one of the best spooky stories of the 20th Century, at least have the respect and good sense to mind the mood and tone of the original. And that was yesterday.

Twiddling Her Thumbs,
Aunt Beast

* Looks as though there's only a single species of Anchiceratops, A. ornatus, and that Alamosaurus is a valid taxon.
greygirlbeast: (europa)
So, yeah. To quote Yervant Terzian, the David Duncan Professor in the Physical Sciences and former astronomy department chair at Cornell University (taking the position after Sagan's death), "Carl was a candle in the dark. He was, quite simply, the best science educator in the world this century. He touched hundreds of millions of people and inspired young generations to pursue the sciences."

I discovered the works of Carl Sagan when I was still in high school, probably around 1980 or so. PBS was airing Cosmos, and it absolutely blew me away. I even went out and bought the Vangelis soundtrack (on vinyl; I still have it). At the time, I was in the middle of that messy divorce from the Xtianity that had so dominated and stifled my childhood, and I wanted nothing in the world but to spend my life studying the genuine mysteries of the universe and the evolution of life on Earth. And, along with Stephen Jay Gould, Carl Sagan gave me the road map I needed. After the wonders of Cosmos, I backtracked and read Broca's Brain: Reflections on the Romance of Science (1974) and The Dragons of Eden: Speculations on the Evolution of Human Intelligence (1978). Contact came along in 1985 and pleased me immensely, as it articulated so many of my hopes and curiosities. Only recently have I read Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space (1994), published only a month or so before his death, and I still haven't gotten around to the posthumous volume, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark (1996).

Sagan's work — as a scientist, as a humanist, as a rationalist, as an enemy of ignorance and superstition, a peace-activist, and freethinker — had such a profound and far-reaching effect upon me that I cannot possibly hope to sum them up here. He showed me that there's good reason to believe that life is common in the universe, and that even our own solar system may harbour it in places other than the Earth. He helped me to see the beauty of Nature and that there is no greater wonder. He helped me learn the difference between science and pseudoscience. Very few men or women have had such a tremendous influence upon the path my life has taken. Ultimately, I think the best I can do here is to provide a few of my favorite quotes from Sagan. He will always speak for himself better than anyone else might speak for him:

The truth may be puzzling. It may take some work to grapple with. It may be counterintuitive. It may contradict deeply held prejudices. It may not be consonant with what we desperately want to be true. But our preferences do not determine what's true. We have a method, and that method helps us to reach not absolute truth, only asymptotic approaches to the truth — never there, just closer and closer, always finding vast new oceans of undiscovered possibilities. Cleverly designed experiments are the key.

from "Wonder and Skepticism", Skeptical Enquirer Volume 19, Issue 1, (January-February 1995)

Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. It is up to us. It's been said that astronomy is a humbling, and, I might add, a character-building experience. To my mind, there is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly and compassionately with one another and to preserve and cherish that pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known.

from Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space (1994)

The choice is with us still, but the civilization now in jeopardy is all humanity. As the ancient myth makers knew, we are children equally of the earth and the sky. In our tenure of this planet we've accumulated dangerous evolutionary baggage — propensities for aggression and ritual, submission to leaders, hostility to outsiders — all of which puts our survival in some doubt. But we've also acquired compassion for others, love for our children and desire to learn from history and experience, and a great soaring passionate intelligence — the clear tools for our continued survival and prosperity. Which aspects of our nature will prevail is uncertain, particularly when our visions and prospects are bound to one small part of the small planet Earth. But up there in the cosmos, an inescapable perspective awaits. National boundaries are not evident when we view the Earth from space. Fanatic ethnic or religious or national identifications are a little difficult to support when we see our planet as a fragile blue crescent fading to become an inconspicuous point of light against the bastion and citadel of the stars. There are not yet obvious signs of extraterrestial intelligence, and this makes us wonder whether civilizations like ours rush inevitably headlong to self-destruction. I dream about it, and sometimes they're bad dreams.

from Cosmos (1980)

Those afraid of the universe as it really is, those who pretend to nonexistent knowledge and envision a Cosmos centered on human beings will prefer the fleeting comforts of superstition. They avoid rather than confront the world. But those with the courage to explore the weave and structure of the Cosmos, even where it differs profoundly from their wishes and prejudices, will penetrate its deepest mysteries.

from Cosmos (1980)

—————

That says a lot. More wonderful things than I shall likely say in all the years of my life. And I just want people to remember this man who was worth remembering, who showed me that we really are, all of us, star stuff.

Mars House

Oct. 25th, 2006 11:14 am
greygirlbeast: (alabaster2)
I may need to do two entries today. There's just too much stuff. I make little notes on my engagement calendar thingy during the day, things I might mention in the blog. The lists are rarely very long. But today's list, in the space delineated for 25 Wednesday, takes up a column and a half. Such a momentous day yesterday. For example, tempted by a Tootsie Fruit Roll (they used to be called Tootsie Flavor Rolls, I'm pretty sure), I bit the frell out of my tongue. Way back in the back on the left side. There was a meaty crunch as molars met tongue, then there was lots of blood. Which is what I get, I suppose, for being tempted by candy I shouldn't be eating in the first place. Damned trick-or-treaters. I was lisping last night, but this morning the swelling's down. I wish it had taken the pain with it. But, see what I mean? Exciting day.

Not long after I posted yesterday's entry, Bill Schafer called to say that Alabaster was sold out. He said he even had to turn some people away. What this means is that the collection is no longer available directly from the publisher. You may still purchase it from Amazon.com or other bookdealers, but probably only for another week or three. So, if you want a copy and don't have it yet, try a bookdealer, but don't wait too long to do so. Oh, and if anyone out there happens to have the issue of Locus (October '06, I think) with the full-page ad for Alabaster and could bear to part with it, I would love to have a copy for my files. I would send you some little token of my gratitude in exchange.

Yesterday was pretty evenly divided between e-mail (of which there was a veritable hillock) and The Dinosaurs of Mars. I'm trying to actually begin writing the novella, but I keep getting sucked into additional research. I spent a couple of hours yesterday reading the various crack-pot assertions posited by Richard C. Hoagland via his The Enterprise Mission website. I think I spent the most time on the pages devoted to "proving" his claim that Saturn's moon Iapetus is an artificial world. All this stuff is directly relevant to The Dinosaurs of Mars, but I still feel like a fool reading it. I actually find myself feeling sorry for Hoagland. It's obvious that he believes these things, and he believes them with passion, and they are wonderful fictions. If these things were true, if there was the science to back him up, what a wonderful lot of marvels we'd have. I can forgive his desire to believe, just not his sloppy logic, self-delusion, and endless ad hoc reasoning as he tries to dodge falsification. Also, it should be noted that Hoagland has abused the ellipse, both in print and online, as no other person writing in the English language has ever dared.

Perhaps today the first few sentences of The Dinosaurs of Mars will come to me, and then the flood of words will follow. Since I know this novella needs to be about 35,000 words long, I may use one of those goofy Zokutou word meters, mostly to keep me from letting the story sprawl over to 40,000 or 50,000 words. It's the sort of story that could easily do that. Sprawl. And having to go back and edit for length is worse even than having to write in the first place. Oh, I think I may try covering all the windows in the house with a film of orange-coloured acetate. Not only will this get rid of the wan autumn/winter light that tends to depress me, it will also give me nice orange Mars light. All the world is my holodeck.

Late yesterday, there was another trip to Emory, for yet more for research.

Sirenia Digest #11 will be along before too much longer. Vince is working on the illustration for "The Ammonite Violin (Murder Ballad #4)," which he has declared a "creepy" story. I should hope so!

Anyway, yeah, perhaps I'll do another entry later this afternoon or this evening, because there are a couple of films I'd like to talk about, and it's noon and I should be getting to work. I will leave you with the dazzling cover of Subterranean Magazine #6, which will include my new sf story, "Zero Summer" (formerly known as "Night"), behind the cut:

Mimas or Bust )

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Caitlín R. Kiernan

February 2012

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