greygirlbeast: (Default)
And I begin this...here.

No. Here.

Happy birthday, David Lynch! And Federico Fellini!

The snow finally came last night, and more will come tomorrow. We're about to go forth and do what errands must be done. But first, I'll write this journal entry. Because I wish to remember yesterday, for one thing.

We left Providence a little after one thirty (CaST) and made it to New Haven (CT) by three-thirty (also CaST). There were snow flurries along the highway, from a sky that was as sunny as it was cloudy. But they were the sorts of cloud that drop snow. I read from Lightspeed: Year One while Spooky drove and kept me informed about the flurries and birds and dead racoons. We parked off Whitney, on Sachem Street (saw a bumper sticker at the labs: "Honk If You Understand Punctuated Equilibrium"), and I got about two hours with the dinosaurs at the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History. Mostly, I sat on the wooden benches and stared up at the creatures Marsh named, the legacy of Richard Swan Lull, and George Ostrom, and Rudolph Zallinger's famous The Age of Reptiles mural (1943-1947) bringing it all to life (no matter how inaccurate we may now know it to be; many of our own imaginings will be disproven in due course – and I am not surprised LJ doesn't know how to spell the past participle of disprove; of course, I maybe misusing the past participle, but that doesn't absolve LJ of its ignorance).

And sure, these are the old circa 1930s-40s "tail-dragging" dinosaur mounts. But those are the images of dinosaurs that I grew up with. Back before the Renaissance of the 1970s, before it was understood that most dinosaurs were active, endothermic creatures, not sluggish reptiles. Before it acknowledged that, not only did birds evolve directly from dinosaurs, but that "birds" are surviving theropod dinosaurs, and many Mesozoic theropods had feathers. And so forth. I am comforted by these old visions of blundering, ectothermic monsters.

At some point, I opened my iPad just to see if I could actually get reception in there. It felt a like horrible sacrilege, but I signed into the Yale server as a guest and posted to Facebook: "Writing from inside the dinosaur gallery at the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History. This is MY church." A testament to the cosmic circle. No beginning. No end. Life, being a transient state of matter, and so here is my church.

Spooky was off looking at taxidermied crows and archaeological doodads, but when she returned, we went upstairs together to see live snakes in the children's "Discovery Room." One thing that makes the Yale Peabody so precious to me is that, while acknowledging science education for children, it hasn't turned itself into a theme park, as have so many American museums. Those that have allowed budgetary panic to morph them into nightmares of "edutainment" (Oh, fuck. LJ doesn't know disproven, but it knows the vile portmanteau edutainment. Fuck.). The Peabody is still a place where I can sit in peace with the past. Where there is still a stately air of respect for science and its endeavors. Truth is, the Great Hall at the Peabody calms me more than any of my meds, or any story I will ever write, or any painting I will ever paint.

Here are some photos:

19 January 2012 )


We left about 5:30 CaST, and made it back to Providence around 8 p.m. The snow came in earnest about nine or ten. The sky was creamsicle. I love creamsicle night skies.

Since my last LJ entry, I have – in stray moments – been reading short fiction, all from the aforementioned Lightspeed: Year One. Tananarive Due's "Patient Zero" (2008), Kristine Kathryn Rusch's "The Observer" (2008), David Tallerman's Jenny's Sick (2010), Anne McCaffrey's "Velvet Fields" (1973), and Eric Gregory's "The Harrowers" (2011). I liked Gregory and Tallerman the best; most of the stories would have benefited by being a bit longer, especially "Velvet Fields," which felt like a synopsis. The McCaffrey piece is little more than an outline, really. The Gregory piece felt short, but mostly that's just because it left me wanting more, which is a good trick for an author to turn and suggests no obligation to actually provide more.

Also, here's a rather good entry by [livejournal.com profile] yuki_onna on the fluidity of names, on those of us who cast off our birth names before we become artists. And sexism.

I do mean to write about my feelings on internet piracy and SOPA/PIPA, but there's no time now. Spooky and I have to run errands before ice and more snow arrives, and I have email.

Like dinosaurs, the snow is helping.

Somewhat calmer,
Aunt Beast
greygirlbeast: (white)
He couldn't make a sentence stand up and be noticed if he put Viagra in the ink.

---

This the the sort of entry people do not like to comment on.

As this journal enters what I expect to be it's final three months as an entity that will be updated daily, my chief regret is that I have always held so much back. And that I have to continue to do so, probably, even now. From the beginning, I wanted this to be a blog where I talked about what it's like for me to be a writer, and, as much as I have been able, I've done that. But there have been many, many times when my hands have been tied by the politics of the industry. That is, I could say something true, true and useful to anyone with thoughts of trying to become a published author. But, as with all other arenas of human endeavor, publishing is ruled by politics, and telling the truth can be detrimental and even suicidal.

All writers lie about writing, and they do it for various reasons. But one reason that writers lie about what it's like to be a writer is their fear of repercussions that could end their career. Same with speaking openly and honestly about the work of other authors. To be able to do this would be immensely useful to anyone with aspirations in entering this shadowy realm. All those naïve wouldbes. But I've never been in a position to do this, to take those risks, and for that I apologize. Looking back, it's among those most valuable insights I could have imparted. I'll have to settle for old, familiar warnings such as Hic sunt dracones or, perhaps more appropriately, Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch'intrate.

---

As for my daily activities, writing and not writing and whatnot, the last couple of days that sort of thing has taken a backseat to getting the "teaser" trailer for The Drowning Girl out there. Let me see what I can now recall.

On Wednesday, I wrote 1,018 words on a piece for Sirenia Digest #73 called "Blast the Human Flower." Yeah, a lazy bit of titling, but not an inappropriate bit of titling. It may or may not stay on the finished vignette. I can recall nothing else of significance, or that's especially interesting, about Wednesday. Oh, we finished Season Six of Law and Order: Criminal Intent. How's that?

On Thursday, I awoke to the news that Penguin (Roc/NAL) had made on offer on Blood Oranges, and I spent part of the day discussing that with my agent. Nothing more was written on "Blast the Human Flower." I fucked off and left the house, and Spooky and I ended up at the Trinity Brew Pub, where I indulged in hot wings and beer. I don't often drink alcohol anymore (my meds), but I had a pint of their very excellent Belgian saison, made with a new variety of New Zealand hops. When I do drink beer, I want good beer. Later, Varla – my Sith Assassin – made Level 20.

Yesterday, we went to an early (1 p.m. CaST) matinée of David Fincher's adaptation of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, and it's very, very good. Truly. And Trent Reznor deserves another Oscar for the soundtrack. The cover of Bryan Ferry's Is Your Love Strong Enough by How to Destroy Angels in exquisite, and, for that matter, the opening title sequence alone is almost worth the price of admission. No writing again yesterday. I don't think I've been slacking off; just too much anger and depression. Okay. Bullshit, no matter how I feel, I've been slacking off, and it ends today. Last night, I didn't get to sleep until after five a.m., sitting up late reading stories by Michael Shea and a very good piece by Kim Newman, "Another Fish Story." I don't usually care for Newman, but I did like this one.

And that, in a nutshell, is the past three days. Oh, except I've been watching documentaries on the Mars Polar Lander, cosmic collisions, and "ancient astronauts" (I'm ashamed to admit that last one, but sometimes we learn a great deal about good science by watching the crackpots who have no clue when it comes to methodology, reproducible results, outlandish claims, anecdotal evidence, and critical thought). There are some photos from Thursday, below, behind the cut. Oh, I did want to mention that in the next day or two, we'll begin a series of auctions on eBay which will include souvenirs from the shoot back in October and also a copy of The Drowning Girl. I'll announce those as soon as they go up.

Okay. Gotta go write.

Hands Tied,
Aunt Beast

5 January 2012 )
greygirlbeast: (Aeryn and Pilot)
00. I'm not feeling very bow tie this afternoon. Comments would be nice.

01. Yesterday there was email, and Subterranean Press needed some stuff from me for The Yellow Book, which, you may recall, is the FREE hardcover chapbook that accompanies the limited edition (but not the trade) of Confessions of a Five-Chambered Heart. Little odds and ends, nothing major. And I was still waiting to hear from an editor, so I proposed to Spooky that we proceed with a long, long delayed office renovation. We spent about an hour moving a shelf and books and stuff, then spent two hours realizing that the table we wanted to put in my office would never fit (this involved Spooky calling her Mom in South County to remeasure Spooky's sister Steph's old table out in the barn). Nope. No dice. So, I have resigned myself to being stuck in an office even smaller than my last (Mansfield Avenue, Atlanta, GA), which was, at best, a third as large as my office before that (Kirkwood Lofts, Atlanta, GA). A few years from now, at this rate, they'll have me writing in a restroom stall. Ah, well. At least then I'll never have an excuse to stand up. Anyway, in the end (no pun intended), yesterday was mostly a sadly and exhausting wasted day. Though, I did leave the house for the first time in five or six days.

02. In list of weird books to give the weird people in your lives for the holidays (that would be Solstice and/or Cephalopodmas), Ann and Jeff VanderMeer, over at the Weird Fiction Review website (virtual sister of the Centipede Press print digest of the same name), in their listing Two Worlds and In Between, write:

Standing as one member of the Triad of Infernal Weird – the three who clearly have signed pacts with demons to keep the quality of their story forever elevated – that also includes Thomas Ligotti and Michael Cisco, Kiernan has emerged since the 1990s as a master of the weird tale.

Clearly, we haven't been keeping those meetings secret enough. Regardless, the VanderMeers strongly recommend the book ("This collection from Subterranean only confirms her brilliance."), along with several other very wonderfully weird titles (kittens, the word horror, when used to denote a literary genre, is so very not bow tie; parentheses are, though – trust me).

03. Today will be spent writing a very whimsical piece for Sirenia Digest #73, "The Lost Language of Littoral Mollusca and Crustacea." Think Victorian flower language (id est, floriography) and you're halfway there. I intend to enjoy writing this.

04. A point of etiquette (unless you happen to wish to seem a douchebag):

a) When a kerfuffle is made over a company publicly insulting transgender persons, and there is outrage, and said company wisely apologizes (though, note, I don't consider an apology an exoneration), and a somewhat prominent transgender author notes that at least this is evidence that change is coming, even if it's coming very, very slowly, do not

b) post in that authors' Facebook that, while you sympathize, you also find the insult funny, and then

c) when said author explains why it's not fucking funny do not

d) dig in your heels and go on about how some people take themselves too seriously, or

e) you will find yourself banned from that author's Facebook, Matthew Baker. Because admitting that you find a joke at the expense of transgender people funny, but also understanding it hurts them, but you still find it funny, makes you a hateful and transphobic (here's that word again) douchebag. I'll not dwell on the coincidences that you are also male, white, and cisgender. Also, definitely do NOT begin emailing the author afterwards to call them names, because then you'll have graduated from douchebag to troll.

05. Last night, after sandwiches from the Eastside Market deli, we watched Scott Crocker's documentary on the mistaken resurrection of the (almost certainly) extinct Ivory-Billed Woodpecker (Campephilus principalis), Ghost Bird, with music by the amazing Zoë Keating. Ghost Bird is an exquisite film, not only because it documents this episode in the history of humanity's thoughtless elimination of other species, but because it serves as a case study of how science works: the theory, the methodology, responsibility, the politics, publishing, personal conflicts, and the perils of wishful thinking. See it; for the moment it can be streamed from Netflix.

After the film, there was Rift (which is to say, my social life), and Indus reached Level 40 (only ten to go). Then I read a rather good story by Ramsay Campbell, "Getting It Wrong," who needs no one to tell him how the Plight of Family X can, and usually does, make for a truly dull story. By the way, one day soon, I'll explain why several books, including Danielewski's House of Leaves, Anne River Siddons' The House Next Door, my own The Red Tree, and a few others, emphatically do not fall into the dreaded subgenre trap of "Family X Move Into the Bad House and Have Their Normative Domestic Bliss Wrecked by an Inconvenient Intrusion from Outside." The answer is surprisingly simple, though extraordinarily complex.

And now, the words.

Simply Complex and Complexly Simple,
Aunt Beast

Postscript (3:34 p.m.): Word from my editor at Penguin that the final and corrected cover of The Drowning Girl: A Memoir is now up at Amazon.
greygirlbeast: (walkenVNV)
Sometimes, I feel it's most important that people know and believe the truth – which is passion, but also no small degree of arrogance, to imagine I know such a thing. But other times, I feel it's best they believe whatever comforts them, regardless of my ideas of truth (and fact), so long as they do as little harm as possible. But that's pretty much the whole of the Law, isn't it? (Rhetorical question.)
greygirlbeast: (Narcissa)
Okay. It's sort of a nasty one, and I want answers in the spirit of Sirenia Digest: that is to say they must be weird, erotic, and respecting no boundaries of "decency."

Question: You're a scientist, of any stripe. Geneticist works nicely. I'm the subject of an especially unpleasant (but fascinating, yet perhaps pointless) experiment. You, as a scientist, have no scruples whatsoever. The experiment is all that matters. Science! Mad scientist science! These things said, what would be done to me? Describe the steps and the end result. My reactions. Only rules, it can't prove fatal, and I must remain conscious through almost all of it, and no writing or tea brewing or foot massages can be involved. Other individuals (or parts thereof) may be employed.

Get your hands dirty! No minimum or maximum word limit; write as much or as little as you wish. The answers I like best will appear in Sirenia Digest #72.

Same rules apply as with the previous questions: All comments are screened.* That means, no one but me can read your replies. That's an extra incentive for you to leave the inhibitions behind. Only I will read these. The answers that are selected for the digest will appear without their authors' names attached, so there's complete anonymity from everyone but me. Be outlandish. Don't be afraid to step Outside.

* If you're reading this via Facebook, obviously I cannot screen your comments, unless you post them to LJ. However, I will be taking private messages through Facebook. Same with Twitter.
greygirlbeast: (talks to wolves)
Ugh. Yeah, we're awake now, right? I've been chattering away like Robin fucking Williams for an hour, and I think Spooky's ready to murder me. But, then, she usually is. Ready to murder me.

Hey, let's get off on the right foot. Here's some depressing-ass shit: "Police Seek Escaped Exotic Animals in Ohio." And while we're at it, since when is it acceptable to only capitalize the first word of a headline and any proper nouns? Who decided that? It's fucking idiotic. I think I only noticed this about a month ago, but it seems to be a New Internet Rule. I'm sure some bunch of cocksuckers are responsible, like the authors of the The Associated Press Stylebook and The Chicago Manual of Style, who have to keep making up "new rules" so people have to keep buying new copies. Linguistic evolution by way of capitalism, yes! Anyway, the proper way to write a headline...oh, never mind. World, meet hell in a hand basket, and you kids get off my lawn.

Yesterday, I worked. Can't say how or on what. I am told the beans will be spilled in only a few more weeks, you will all be happy, and I can stop keeping this particular SECRET.

Also, [livejournal.com profile] sovay reports having received her copy of Two Worlds and In Between, so folks who wisely pre-ordered (even the trade hb edition is almost sold out now, less than fifty copies remaining) should be getting it this week and next.

---

I was going to talk about Matthijs van Heijningen Jr.'s prequel to John Carpenter's The Thing (1982). Yes, I was. I said that yesterday. First off, the pros. This is a good movie, and remember, I may have seen the Carpenter film more times than any living being (easily a hundred times, start to finish). It's a terrifying, fun, awe-inspiring tribute to the Carpenter film and, for the most part, it gets it right, because the filmmakers had the proper respect for the original and convinced the studio/producers to permit them to make a prequel instead of a remake. Though we do not need to know what happened before Carpenter's film, or what happens afterwards (this is part of the film's genius), the prequel doesn't provide some sort of infodump that ruins the original. Oh, and no SPOILER WARNING; if you don't want to read this, then avert thine eyes. However, rather than fawn over the good points (which are many), I'll point out those things I found annoying or disappointing. You know, like any good internet "reviewer." Overall, Heijningen gets the continuity with the first film right, and his scientific gaffs are minor (no one has ever found a prehistoric carnivore preserved in tundra, though we're shown Mary Elizabeth Winstead's paleontologist, Dr. Kate Lloyd, examining what appears to be a frozen Homotherium near the beginning of the film). I loved the microscope view of the alien cells consuming human cells and converting them, and the understanding that the alien was single-celled virus capable of acting as a multicellular organism. Wait, I'm saying good things. What kind of internet reviewer am I?!

Anyway, the delightful isolation of the first film is broken when we cut to Lloyd's lab at Columbia University, whereas maintaining that sense of claustrophobic isolation was crucial to the film's success. Bad filmmakers. Also, this film isn't nearly as quiet or as slowly paced as the 1982 film, but if it were, 2011 audiences would probably walk out, having been trained for constant, unrelenting action. One thing I love about the Carpenter film is the pacing, which took a cue from Alien (1978). Also, while the special effects and creature design were very good, I still prefer the analog effects in the original. Give me latex and methylcellulose over pixels any damn day of the week. I liked how we were shown the alien's ability to absorb and replicate via ingestion, but also it's ability to infect and slowly convert a human. I loved that we are shown so much of the inside of the alien ship, but was annoyed that the original means of its discovery wasn't preserved. The prequel does a pretty good job of being set in 1982 (thank fuck it wasn't updated), but I missed seeing 1982 computer technology. That would have been charming in the right way. There are too many characters, and except for Lloyd, they have a tendency to bleed together (no pun intended), one into the next. A wonderful thing about the first film was its carefully delineated characters.

The ending is handled well. I very much like the sense that we're given the impression that Lloyd, despite having survived, knows it's best if she sits there in that snowcat and freezes to death. Ultimately, we're left with the ambiguities and fatalism of the original, the sense of impending apocalypse, and you better stay for the credits, because that's where Carpenter's and Heijningen's fuse seamlessly together (no pun intended), with footage from the 1982 version. Again, DO NOT LEAVE WHEN THE CREDIT ROLL BEGINS, or you'll miss where 1982 meets 2011. Tentative final conclusion: I'll give it 8 out of 10; definitely worth seeing in the theaters.

---

We finished Shirley Jackson's The Sundial last night. It's a wonderful novel, with multiple interpretations and a marvelously inconclusive ending. I learned so much from Jackson. Is this a statement on the Catholic Church (the Halloran House) and Protestantism (the inhabitants; remember that Jackson was an atheist)? On human idiocy in general? The hysteria of crowds? Jackson's strong dislike for insular New Englanders (which she repeats again and again in other works)? We have to draw our own conclusions, or draw none at all. And now, I will announce (though I may have already beat myself to it) that the next Aunt Beast Book Club book is Collin Meloy and Carson Ellis' Wildwood. Note that this is a beautiful hardback, and if you purchase it as an ebook, you're shooting yourself in the foot and will miss at least half the pleasure. Also, last night I read Peter Crowther's "Memories." And played some Rift. I miss the house guests. I need more of them.

Speaking of whom, here are some crappy, blurry shots I took on Friday night at Spooky's parents' farm in Saunderstown, before we stepped out into the torrential fucking downpour to get the first round of nude shots of Eva, when Imp finds her at the side of the road. We were ordering pizza (thank you Spooky and Geoffrey) and playing with Spider cat, the feline basketball:

14 October 2011, Part 2 )
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: (Ellen Ripley 1)
So...the weird news coming out of Arkansas. Or, rather, what we might perceive as the weird news coming out of Arkansas, if we set aside the certainty of coincidence*, and the inevitability of highly improbable occurrences:

1) "More than 500 measurable earthquakes have occurred in central Arkansas since September, and it's unknown if they'll stop anytime soon, seismologists say." (source).

2) "Arkansas game officials hope testing scheduled to begin Monday will solve the mystery of why up to 5,000 birds fell from the sky just before midnight New Year's Eve." (source)

3) "Arkansas officials are investigating the death of an estimated 100,000 fish in the state's northwest, but suspect disease was to blame, a state spokesman said Sunday." (source)

The "bird fall" (to speak in Fortean terms) occurred about sixty miles west of the fish kill. Most (but not all) of the birds that died were of a single species, the red-winged blackbird. All of the fish that died were of a single species, the freshwater drum.

The earthquakes have occurred in the same general area, many north of Little Rock.

These things look odder than they likely are, if we insist upon viewing them as connected. However, the fish kill probably wouldn't have made it past the local news, if not for the "bird fall." Especially given that the fish seem to have died on Thursday night, or earlier that day, well before the birds. And the earthquakes have been being reported for months now, but I feel like I'm the only one who pays attention to geological news, and, near as I can tell, only one crackpot conspiracy website is trying to link the earthquakes to the fish kill and the "bird fall."

But the truth is, these things happen.

There are numerous non-mysterious ways the birds may have died (weather or fireworks are both good candidates). The fish kill clearly isn't the result of a pollutant, or more types of fish would be involved, so it's likely a species-specific contagion (virus, bacterium, fungus, or other parasite; my money would be on a viral or bacterial infection). And the earthquakes...well, while interesting, they need to be viewed in the context of the infamous New Madrid Seismic Zone and the recent discovery of a new fault line, roughly 100 miles east of Little Rock.

Near as I can tell, few have rushed to connect the storm front that stretched from Missouri to Mississippi and caused seven (human) deaths (and passed over central Arkansas) to any of this, even though it's the most likely explanation for the bird deaths.

I think the most curious thing about this— so far —is the connections humans see (myself included).

* Coincidence is a constantly occurring phenomenon with a bad rap. Lots of people treat it's like a dirty word, or something rationalists invoke simply to dispel so-called supernatural events. And yet, an almost infinite number of events coincide during any every nanosecond of the cosmos' existence. We only get freaked out and belligerent over the one's we notice, the ones we need (for whatever reason) to invest with some special significance. Co-occurrence should not be taken for correlation any more than correlation should be mistaken for causation.
greygirlbeast: (Default)
On this day last year, The Red Tree was released. And here I am, a year later, with no Next New Novel finished. Indeed, it's only barely begun. Of course, I know I have perfectly valid reasons for this. But the little voice in my head, the one that keeps me awake nights, keeps telling me I'm a bum, and there's no excuse, and anyone can write a book in a year...and so forth. But I can only do what I can do. I suspect the little voice believes I have it within me to be a factory. I wish it were right. However, I know I don't. But there's not much point in bemoaning this long, slow composition. It comes when it comes, and all the threats and deadlines on earth can't make it come sooner. This is the best I can do, but I still have to try to do better, and hope for patience from my editor.

Mornings and most of the afternoon, for weeks now, I've been struggling with very low blood pressure. I spend half the day sick, and only start feeling okay towards sunset. Turns out, it was because two of my meds cause low blood pressure, and I've been taking both at bedtime. Last night, I only took one, and I woke up feeling fine this morning. I'll take the second drug around 2 p.m., and hopefully the problem will be solved.

We begin to grow old. We talk about medication in our blogs.

Yesterday was an oddly productive day for someone who was supposedly taking a day off. After the journal entry, I answered email. After that, I went back to work on the painting I've been trying to finish. And then I spent about an hour on the Table of Contents for the "Best of CRK" volume. Turns out, my very tentative ToC is already up to 181,203 words (out of a target word count of 200k). So, I'm going to have to shuffle, and choose carefully from here on. Then I went back to work on the painting. Then the new Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology arrived. I read for a while and almost fell asleep. I went back to work on the painting, and feared I'd made a horrible mess of it. I stopped and took a bath and washed my hair. I went back to the painting again, and fixed what I'd hated (I dither as much while painting as while writing).

After dinner, I overindulged in rp in Insilico. But there were two great scenes, and my thanks to Nina, Hibiki, and Dr. Ang Faith (and Jake the hovering robot). Before bed, we watched two more episodes of Nip/Tuck. This show confounds me. Every time I think I'm fed up with rich white people whining about their problems, Nip/Tuck gets amazing again. I got to bed about 3 a.m., and dozed off to Blade Runner.

And that was yesterday.

---

The new JVP (Vol. 30, No. 4) includes the paper "Torosaurus Marsh, 1891, is Triceratops Marsh 1889 (Ceratopsidae: Chasmosaurinae): synonymy through ontogeny" by John Scannella and Jack Horner. Unlike most papers in JVP, this one's been getting a lot of press, and like most science that gets a lot of press, the story has often been misinterpreted by the media. Late last night, William Gibson tweeted, "No, Virginia, there never was a Triceratops." And I found myself correcting him, which was surreal, indeed.

Two things about this paper (since it seems to have caused such a fuss). First off, the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature, by which all biologists (neobiologists and paleobiologists) have to comply, dictates that whenever a situation like this one arises— one where a single animal has been given two or more names —the first proposed name has priority over all later names. Later names become junior synonyms. The object of this is to preserve taxonomic stability and avoid confusion in the scientific literature. So, in this case, the name Triceratops, erected in 1889, is conserved, and the name Torosaurus, erected in 1891, is abandoned. Which is to say, "No, Virginia, there never was a Torosaurus." Only, this isn't really an accurate way of looking at the problem.

People are used to looking at species as static entities. But biologists work with species (and all other taxonomic units— the case of Triceratops is a genus-level problem) as hypotheses. And any given hypothesis may be discarded by future discoveries. That is, the name Triceratops is a hypothesis seeking to explain a collection of seemingly related fossils of a Late Cretaceous horned dinosaur. The hypothesis says that all specimens of Triceratops are more closely related to one another than they are they are to any other genus of chasmosaurine dinosaur. But, like all hypotheses, it can be falsified in light of future discoveries. In this case, the discovery of new fossils giving us a more complete picture of Triceratops as a living population of animals, and allowing us to realize that the morph we used to call "Torosaurus" is actually only the very mature form of Triceratops. As an hypothesis, "Torosaurus" appears to have been falsified. Now, it's possible that Scannella and Horner are wrong, and that future discoveries and/or research of old discoveries will show that Triceratops and "Torosaurus" really are two taxa (though I've read the paper, and this seems unlikely). All hypotheses are provisional. Nothing is ever certain. Never. The best argument may be in error. That's how science works, even if the press seems unable to grasp this.

And it's time I get to work. The platypus is growling, and the mothmen are livid. Here are a few more photos from Monday, taken at Spooky's parents' farm:

2 August 2010, Part Two )
greygirlbeast: (Default)
The cool weather is still with us. A mere 71F Outside at the moment. It's cool enough inside that I can actually wear pants. But the heat's supposed to make a comeback in the next day or two, I think.

All of yesterday was spent on the editorial pages for "The Maltese Unicorn." But I saved all the really hard stuff for today. And today is the very last day I have to work on the story, so it's going to be a long, long afternoon. Speaking of long, did I mention this is probably my longest short story since "Bainbridge" back in December 2005?

I've been alerted (thanks, John Glover et al.) to the fact that Amazon.com is now saying that The Ammonite Violin & Others won't be shipping for 1-2 months. No, I don't know why. But I have just emailed Bill Schafer to see if he knows, and I'll pass the news along as soon as I have it.

---

There's an announcement I need to make, and I see no point in putting it off any longer. This will likely be the last year I do conventions. I have Readercon 21, and then another con this autumn, and I don't expect to do any more after that. They're just too expensive, require too much time and energy and time away from work, and my health isn't what it once was. And, truthfully, I've only rarely enjoyed doing conventions. Dragon*Con was fun those years I costumed, and Readercon is nice, because it's laid back and feels a little more like an academic conference than a sf/f con. But yeah, consider this my last year for cons.

---

What else about yesterday? I watched an episode of American Experience about the Donner Party, via PBS online. And later, Spooky and I marked the 150th anniversary of Thomas Huxley's 1860 debate with Samuel Wilberforce by watching Jon Amiel's Creation (2009; based on Randal Keynes' 2000 novel Annie's Box).

It's a beautiful, marvelous film. Yeah, it has its share of fictionalized and synoptic history, but it very effectively communicates Darwin's struggles with his own loss of faith, his health problems, the death of a daughter, and the tensions between him and his wife, all leading up to the composition of On the Origin of Species. Both Paul Bettany (Charles Darwin) and Jennifer Connelly (Emma Darwin) are superb in their roles. And Toby Jones was an inspired choice for Thomas Huxley. The film captures all the wonder, confusion, and terror that must have attended Darwin's protracted epiphany. Excellent cinematography, which often makes great use of bright splashes of color against drab canvases. I very strongly recommend this film.

You may recall the kerfuffle that preceded Creation's US release (it was eventually picked up by Newmarket Films; the US was one of the last countries where it found a distributor). To quote producer Jeremy Thomas, "It is unbelievable to us that this is still a really hot potato in America. There's still a great belief that he [God] made the world in six days. It's quite difficult for we in the UK to imagine religion in America. We live in a country which is no longer so religious. But in the US, outside of New York and LA, religion rules." It is, indeed, unbelievable, and a tragedy that anyone would try to prevent this powerful and powerfully humane film from being shown anywhere. It is unthinkable to me that 151 years after the publication of Darwin's great book, Americans have yet to come to terms with the fact of evolution, and that so many of them cling to the absurdities of Biblical literalism, and, in doing so, contribute significantly to scientific illiteracy in this country. Darwin wasn't wrong in fearing the storm he would ignite, but I don't think even he imagined that we'd still be weathering it this far along.

Now, the mothmen, the platypus, and the dodo are telling me there's a unicorn with my name on it.
greygirlbeast: (Neytiri)
I go to bed angry, and I wake up angry. Last night, I was near tears when I got to sleep about four ayem. Which leads, inevitably, to certain dreams. I go to bed angry about BP and whaling and a thousand other human crimes against the world. I wake up with the same anger. Angers that can never be resolved.

I dream of towering waves, crashing down on cities. I dream of fire. I dream of a world cleansed of the filth of mankind by fire and water. I dream of a world that, in time, is allowed to begin over again.

---

No actual writing yesterday, but a metric shit-ton of email. I spoke with Vince about #55. I spoke with editors. All this speaking is via email, of course. I rarely employ my physical voice when speaking to anyone Outside. I looked through my preliminary schedule for Readercon 21 (I'll post it here as soon as I have the final schedule). When I'd made it through all the email, Spooky read "Tidal Forces" aloud to me. She'd not read the ending. I was relieved to find that the story works. The heat in the House was not nearly so bad yesterday, and is better still today.

My thanks to Ron St. Pierre, for letting me know that my novels are once again available in Japan for the Kindle. Which is good in terms of sales, but I still loathe the Kindle and, on some level, am utterly indifferent to the whole matter of ebooks. I'd much prefer people to read my novels as books.

---

Last night, we watched Avatar (second viewing; first since the theater). I love this film so much. Truly. My complaints remain few and far between. Sure, it's a pretty obvious reworking of Frank Herbert's Dune. If you're gonna steal, steal from the best. This time through, I couldn't help but think about how much better Will Smith would have been than Sam Worthington in the role of Jake Sully (and this might have silenced a few of the "race fail" naysayers). My only other significant quibble is a biological one.

There seems to be an evolutionary disconnect between the Na'vi and the rest of Pandora's wildlife (which is especially annoying, since the Na'vi are so much a part of their world). We see so many wonderfully realized species, thanators and dire horses and viperwolfs and hexapedes, and they form a convincing extraterrestrial ecosystem. All these animals are, in effect, hexapods. Now, here on earth, all land vertebrates are tetrapods. What this really means is that they all share a common ancestor (something like Tiktaalik roseae), and one of the major features of this common ancestor is that it had four limbs. That's why humans have four limbs, and why most terrestrial vertebrates have four limbs (biologists call these shared "primitive" characters symplesiomorphies). There are exceptions, where one set of limbs has been lost (whales, manatees, some squamates, etc.), or where a pair of limbs has been highly modified (as with birds and bats, whose arms function as wings), or where all limbs have been lost (snakes, for example). Now, assuming that natural selection and genetic mutation (these two things equal evolution) works the same way on other planets, I look at Pandora and I see a world where "vertebrates" have evolved not from a four-limbed tetrapod ancestor, but from a six-limbed hexapod ancestor. So...thanators and whatnot have six limbs. This is all well and good. Might have happened here on Earth. By chance, it didn't.

But...the Na'vi have only two sets of limbs, not the three they ought to have. In the film, we see one other "primate" species (this is, of course, only a species analogous to a terran primate, not an actual primate, as it shares no common ancestor with earthly primates). It's the six-limbed "lemurs" that Grace points out to Jake. Maybe the Na'vi are meant to have evolved from an ancestor like these "lemurs." Maybe not. We're never told. But...somewhere along they way, the Na'vi inexplicably lost a pair of limbs. This isn't impossible (see the examples of lost limbs above), but given the ecology of the Na'vi, it's very unlikely. An extra set of arms would come in very handy for an arboreal species, and would not have been selected against. Also, most Pandora species seem to posses "nostrils" in their throat, instead of at the front of their skull. But not the Na'vi.

My guess: Cameron knew that six-limbed, throat-breathing Na'vi would be too inhuman for humans to identify with, and so they have four limbs and breath through nostrils. Also, animating an extra set of limbs on all those characters would have made the production of the film more expensive and time consuming. So, Na'vi have four limbs, even though it makes no sense from a biological perspective.

Now, this hardly detracts from the film. It's only gonna bug zoology geeks like me...and it only bugs me a little. How many people even noticed that most Pandoran animals breathe through three sets of nostrils in their throats? It's very easy to become unreasonably pedantic about "getting the science right." My favorite example, someone who complained about a tiny detail in Danny Boyle's superb Sunshine (2007). I'll quote this bit from IMDb:

In the scene where four crewmen are forced to go into outer space, with no protection, Corazon states that the temperature outside is -273 degrees Celsius. This is not exactly true, because though outer space is near absolute zero (-273 degrees Celsius) it is in fact about 3 degrees above absolute zero. She should have said -270 degrees Celsius, or 3 degrees Kelvin.

This is correct, of course. But who the hell cares? Not me, and I actually care about science. We're quibbling about three degrees, three degrees that would not have changed the story. My rule of thumb, get it right when getting it right doesn't interfere with telling a good story. The story comes first. Hence I put zeppelins on Mars in "Bradbury Weather," even though there was absolutely no way I could make the aerodynamics work (I tried for days, and even enlisted the aid of physicists). Zeppelins on Mars "look" damn cool, so I used them.

Anyway...didn't mean to go on for so long. But the mothmen and the platypus do love a good rant.
greygirlbeast: (Default)
Some eight and a half hours sleep last night. Clearly, I'm making up for lost time. Vague memories of a dream, standing on a bridge looking down into crystal clear water (a recurring dream), somewhere in Florida. I watched shoals of fish and huge crayfish scuttling along the bottom.

Yesterday, I did 838 words on "The Maltese Unicorn," and found myself much nearer THE END than I'd expected I would. I'd thought I'd be at least Monday getting to the conclusion. Now, I'm planning today to make a big and merciless push towards that last word. I've been working on this story much too long. It's time to be done with it.

Please have a look at the current eBay auctions. Also, The Ammonite Violin & Others is still available in the trade hardback edition.

Last night, after dinner, I watched a new Nova documentary on Mount St. Helens (I was only 15, almost 16, when it erupted on May 18th, 1980). And then we watched Joe Johnston's The Wolfman (2010), which was actually quite good. It was refreshing to get an old-school werewolf film, instead of all the nonsense about clans, otherkin, "lycans," and such (and for that, I blame White Wolf's werewolf rpg, the Underworld films, and a host of crappy paranormal romance novels that have reduced werewolves to "shifters"). Though ostensibly a remake of George Waggner's 1941 The Wolf Man (scripted by Curt Siodmak), Johnston's grandly atmospheric film pays homage to both the classic Hammer films and Coppola's Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992). A great score by Danny Elfman (again, very reminiscent of Wojciech Kilar's score for Coppola's Dracula), and the cast is excellent through and through. It doesn't hurt that Benecio del Toro bears an uncanny resemblance to Lon Chaney, Jr., and Anthony Hopkins is nicely creepy. The transformation sequences are excellent, though I didn't find the end result nearly as menacing or otherworldly as the old-fashioned werewolf makeup effects from (again) Bram Stoker's Dracula. In fact, if I have any single gripe with Johnston's film it would be its reliance on CGI. Why was the trained bear in the gypsy camp done with CGI, and the stag that's used as bait for the werewolf? In both those cases, the sfx fall flat, though they usually work with the monster. The actual makeup was done by Rick Baker, by the way. Anyway, yes, I strongly recommend this one.

Afterwards, we watched a Dutch film, Ole Christian Madsen's Flammen & Citronen (2008), which was also excellent, and there's a lot I could say about it, but I've gone on so long about The Wolfman that I really need to wrap this up.

Yesterday was the birthday of the father of sociobiology*, E. O. Wilson (born in 1929). Today is the 100th anniversary of the birth of Jacques-Yves Cousteau.

The platypus is ready for the home stretch.

* Yes, I know that John Paul Scott was likely the first to use the term sociobiology, but it was Wilson who brought the field into its own (and took so much flack early on).
greygirlbeast: (white)
1. Now that the word is public, congratulations to Neil and Amanda (yes, they're tying the knot)!

2. My great thanks to Ellen ([livejournal.com profile] ellen_datlow) and everyone at the Montauk Club in Brooklyn for one of the most thoroughly pleasant readings I've ever been a part of, ever. We read in the old library (the building was erected in 1890), by candlelight. It was magical. I read sections one and two of "Houses Under the Sea," same as at Readercon in July, only I think I did a much better job this time. The other authors— Micheal Cisco, Brian Evanson, and Richard Bowes were wonderful. And afterwards we were given a tour of the building. I'll write a full account of the evening tomorrow. Right now I am dehydrated, exhausted, starving, and achy, and I'd only muck it up. But it was a grand evening. We got back to Providence about 5 a.m. (CaST).

3. My thanks to Geoffrey ([livejournal.com profile] readingthedark) for going along, as these days I seem to need at least two handlers.

4. I resolved yesterday to make an itemized list of the expenses incurred yesterday. People are constantly asking me to come read in places very far from Providence. One reason I don't, of course, is that I'm just not much up for travel these days. But another reason is the expense, even when the reading is as close to Providence as is Brooklyn. So, here you go (I did not include new clothes, though they were purchased to wear to this reading, because I will continue to wear them for years and it hardly seems fair to count them as part of the cost of last night):

$20.00: Gasoline (Providence to New Haven and back)
$10.21: Snacks for the road and hand sanitizer
$56.00: Commuter rail from New Haven, CT to Brooklyn and back
$ 9.00: subway fare for two from Grand Central Station to Brooklyn & back again
$ 2.50: two Cokes
$ 9.00: parking in New Haven
$ 2.50: Coffee (McDonalds)
$ 2.25: More caffeine in Mystic, CT
Total: $111.46

And that's only one reading, fairly close to home, and we didn't even have dinner. Had we driven into Brooklyn, instead of taking the commuter rail from New Haven, it wouldn't have been much (if any) cheaper. So...that's one reason I don't do lots of readings and cons. They're terribly expensive, and virtually never cost effective. The value of last night is entirely subjective. I had a magical evening, and I deserve one of those a few times a year. We'll likely have an eBay auction or two to defray this expense.

5. Last night, as Michael Cisco read from his story, "Machines of Concrete Light and Dark," I scribbled in my Moleskine notebook, "Watching Michael read, seeing him read, is like hearing a ceremony conducted by a high priest of Azathoth." Maybe that's just a little hyperbolic, but I really do adore hearing him read.

6. I wanted to link to this CNN article, "Why Haiti is Not Like New Orleans," by Kathleen Tierney (professor of sociology and behavioral science director of the Natural Hazards Center at the University of Colorado at Boulder). This passage is especially apt: To get an idea of the distinction between the two events, imagine that all of the U.S. west of the Mississippi were to be destroyed or extensively damaged by some immense catastrophe in one minute, with absolutely no warning. That is the situation Haiti faces.

7: Spooky and I took a total of ninety photographs last night. I'll be posting them for days. For now, I'll leave you with these two:

15-16 December 2010 )
greygirlbeast: (Neytiri)
1. I made a truly baffling error regarding the population of Haiti yesterday. I said it was about three million, when it's more like ten. I still don't know where I got that figure. Anyway, I'm trying to stay abreast of the events in Haiti, but I think I've seen too much already. It's a level of devastation and personal suffering that our minds can only just begin to comprehend, I think. Also, yesterday I stated that casualties were estimated at somewhere between 100k and 500k. The lower number came from CNN, the larger from the APA. Someone questioned the numbers (which is fair, seeing how I somehow lost seven million Haitians). I just found the following in a CNN article posted bout an hour or so ago: "Precise casualty estimates were impossible to determine. Haitian President Rene Preval said Wednesday that he had heard estimates of up to 50,000 dead but that it was too early to know for sure. The Haitian prime minister said he worries that several hundred thousand people were killed." Truth is, it's going to be a long time before there's a solid estimate, and the true number will not ever be known. I will also say that I have been disappointed with President Obama in several respects— most notably the joke (really, worse than a joke) that he's allowed health-care reform to become through successive compromises. But I have to say, I admire his response to the Haitian disaster.

2. There's not a lot to say about yesterday. I answered email. I bathed and washed my hair. I went to the market with Spooky, and we had leftover chili for dinner.

3. Last night, we watched Pete Docter and Bob Peterson's Up. While I think I liked it more than did [livejournal.com profile] readingthedark (we talked about it this past weekend), it's far from the best Pixar's done. The first fifteen or twenty minutes were marvelous, and would have made a wonderful short. But the rest of the film just sort of careened about, bumping off itself and doing these weird somersaults. In some ways, the film was swamped by the perceived necessity for a clever, action-packed plot. Ratatouille (2007) remains Pixar's masterpiece, the one they have to beat to make a better film than their best.

4. Spooky found a rather nice piece yesterday on Fringe at i09, which I think manages to put its finger on one of the reasons I've come to love the show. Specifically, how Fringe uses bad science and pseudoscience to make real science interesting, how it catches the spirit of real science, and also the spirit of that time before sf was more obsessed with trying to get the science right than conveying wonder and awe at the intricacies of the universe.

5. Before the movie last night, I got in about two good hours of rp in Second Life. I've learned that it works best the smaller the group, so right now it's just me and one other, letting our characters grow, fleshing out backstory, only tentatively making contact with other players. Mostly, it's conversation (which is always the best rp, anyway). Thanks, Melissa. That rough spot in me is being soothed just a little by this.

6. And now I should go. Geoffrey will be here sometime after two, and we need to leave for Brooklyn about 2:30 p.m. (CaST). We're driving to New Haven, then taking the commuter rail into Manhattan, and then the subway to Brooklyn. We hope to be home by four a.m. or so on Saturday morning. See you afterwards.
greygirlbeast: (Mars in space.)
I meant to post this yesterday, on Carl Sagan Day, the 75th anniversary of his birth. But lots of stuff happened yesterday, and so I am posting it tonight. It makes me feel just a little better:

greygirlbeast: (Mars in space.)
This is very, very cool and funny (and I'm not just saying that because I think she's hot and we happen to be in the same WoW guild):



Of course, Felicia fails to point out what makes worrying about the Milky Way colliding with Andromeda in three billion years truly silly. Homo sapiens will have long-since become extinct, if not by our own hand, simply through the inexorable cycles of biological and planetary evolution. We will be long, long, long gone. To put this in perspective, the oldest ancient fossil microbe-like objects are dated to be 3.5 billion years old, just a few hundred million years younger than Earth itself. That's the timescale we're working with here.

Of course, there are the grotesquely optimistic idiots who imagine all the galaxy as our future suburban sprawl...
greygirlbeast: (The Red Tree)
I am especially not awake this morning.

Yesterday, somehow, I did 1,487 words and found THE END of "Charcloth, Firesteel, and Flint." Today, I'll read back over the whole story and make corrections. I also have an interview to get to today (maybe).

---

My thanks to everyone who commented yesterday. The "I"m afraid you'll think I'm a stalker" thing always surprises me, but I suppose I see where it's coming from. [livejournal.com profile] ellen_datlow made the suggestion that, if I wish to see more comments, "You need to post something provocative once in awhile..." And she's absolutely correct, of course. Provocative comments certainly do seem to lead to an increase in comments for any given entry. All you have to do is look back at entries from my early years on LJ to see this. There was a time, I frequently made provocative comments, and people would prickle, and there would be arguments. Twenty-five people a day would "unfriend" me for refusing to support Bush's war against Iraq or for condemning factory farming or for disapproving of disposable uranium-enriched diapers, or whatever.

But, as time went by, I tired of the arguments. I was once a very, very argumentative person, and now...I'm not. I haven't mellowed (just ask Spooky), it's simply that I no longer possess the requisite energy for these...let's be polite and call them "discussions." Thing is, I wasn't trying to be provocative back then. I just thought, "People reading this will want to know what I actually think and feel about things." But I think a lot of them didn't. I think a lot of them were appalled to learn that a writer whom they admired did not think as they did. So, gradually, the journal became less prone to address controversial subjects.

So, while I agree that posting provocative statements would certainly increase comments, I'm just not certain I'm up to it any longer. All that energy I wasted on internet arguments, it now goes into writing fiction, and that seems more constructive to me.

I'll just have to live with the comments I do get. And no, I have no plans to abandon this journal. I've said that before. I do not care how much the world loves Twitter and Facebook (both of which I am now using); actual blogging is much more to my tastes. And I was given a "permanent account" by [livejournal.com profile] thingunderthest a few years ago. So here I stay, so long as here stays. And should the Russians tire of hosting LiveJournal, I've been backing it all up to Dreamwidth, and I'd just move over there.

---

Yesterday, I finished reading "A re-evaluation of Brachiosaurus altithorax Riggs 1904 (Dinosauria, Sauropoda) and its generic separation from Giraffatitan brancai (Janenesch 1914)." It isn't often that one gets a laugh at the end of a paper in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, but there was a nice laugh at the end of this one. But...you sort of have to be a dinosaur nerd to get the humor. See, there's this very large sauropod dinosaur, Brachiosaurus altithorax, that was named by a guy named Riggs, way back in 1904, from Late Jurassic-aged sediments in the American west. Ten years later, a German paleontologist, Janenesch, named a second species of Brachiosaurus, B. brancai, from rocks of the same age in East Africa. Many, many years later, in 1988, another paleontologist, Greg Paul, decided that the African and American species were too dissimilar to be contained in a single genus. Unfortunately, he did something that vertebrate paleontology usually avoids, he created a subgenus. Now, I won't get into the lack of utility inherent in the concept of fossil subgenera, but it's generally frowned upon. Regardless, Greg Paul erected the subgenus Giraffatitan, and placed the African species, B. brancai in it, so that the species became properly known by the rather unwieldy name Brachiosaurus (Giraffatitan) brancai. Now, along comes another paleontologist, Michael Taylor, twenty-one years later (and 105 years after Riggs first recognized Brachiosaurus altithorax), and makes things a bit less messy by demonstrating that Paul was right: two valid taxa were once contained within the single genus, Brachiosaurus, but because of the problems posed by subgenera, we need to consider them two distinct genera, Brachiosaurus and Giraffatitan. If you're still with me, here's the funny part, at the very end of Taylor's acknowledgments:

"Finally, I beg forgiveness from all brachiosaur lovers, that so beautiful an animal as 'Brachiosaurus' brancai now has to be known by so inelegant a name as Giraffatitan."

No, really. I literally "laughed out loud."

Yeah...not provocative, I know. But it does give you a great deal of insight into how this particular writer thinks.
greygirlbeast: (white2)
The thing about entries like this one, wherein I need to describe the day before, when nothing much happened, is that it tempts me to write about all the stuff I need to do during the day that lies before me. Which only serves to subvert the next day's entry.

There are a few things about Readercon 20 that I forgot to mention. For example, during the "Meet the Pros(e)" thingy on Friday night, when all the authors in attendance have sheets with peel-off stickers, and each sticker contains a single sentence the author has written. Con guests roam through the crowd, asking authors for sentences. Some authors exchange sentences with other authors. I gave lots away, but only received three stickers this year (I wasn't asking for them in return for my own). One reads, "Obsessives, doubters, workaholics: When the world ends, we will die, too." The second reads, "'We wage our deadliest battles,' Gundack said, 'against ourselves.'" Finally, the last reads, "Our words are the death masks of dreams." A theme is immediately apparent, and that I received these completely at random makes it all the more curious. I do not know who wrote these sentences.

Also, my thanks to [livejournal.com profile] readingthedark, who gave me a copy of Placebo's Battle for the Sun the last day of the con. And there were other people I met for the first time, and that was cool. Catherynne Valente, for example, and Jeffrey Ford, and, gods, I forget. My mind is a sieve. Only, it's a selective sieve, which is the way of most sieves, now that I think on it. I expect there are other things I wanted to mention, but now I can't recall what they are. Oh, I did, once again, arrive at the conclusion that I will never be considered a "great" sf author, because I'll never concede that ideas are more important than characters, and I'll never be a technofetishist, and I'll never confuse the purposes and nature of literature with the role and nature of science.

I got the news yesterday morning that Charles N. Brown, co-founder and editor of Locus magazine (begun in 1968), died in his sleep on the way home from Readercon. I didn't know him well. We were once part of the same little dinner gathering in Chicago (2002), but that was about it. Nonetheless, his passing leaves a peculiar void in the world of sf & f publishing, and I was stunned at the news.

As I said, not much to yesterday. We had to make the drive back down to Spooky's parents' place in South County to check on things. Things were fine, except for a catbird trapped inside the netting that covers the blueberry bushes. The netting is there to keep the catbirds out. We call this irony. Spider cat was getting grumpy from all his time alone. More and more, I wish we'd rented a place in Kingston or Peace Dale, instead of Providence. Anyway, Spooky's parents return from Montana on Thursday.

What I was supposed to do yesterday was rest and recover from the weekend, and that's what didn't happen.

So...I have about a billion things to do today. Okay, maybe only about thirty, but still. Too much. July is swamped. Turns out, there will be a re-relaunch of the website later this week. It'll retain the same look and minimalist feel, but there will be a bit more content, especially relating to The Red Tree. So, please keep a weather eye on the website. And there's an interview I have to do, and a mountain of email to answer, and some promo stuff I need to get to for my editor, and preparing to shoot the book trailer, and I have to get started on Sirenia Digest #44. It really is a bit of a train wreck, is July. I didn't think it would be so bad. I was wrong.

Oh, and I should say, it has been decided that my next novel will be only 140-characters long.

Postscript (2:28 p.m.): Thanks to Franklin Harris for bringing this Readercon write-up ("Some important things/people that I saw/met/learned/heard about at Readercon" at Time.com) to my attention. I quote: "I didn't talk to Caitlín Kiernan, but I watched her swanning around in a tentacled mask and grey lipstick, and I felt awe. It is so important that cons have freakish people at them." I'm going to take this as a compliment. Did I "swan" around? There is an Old English meaning of the word, "to wander about without purpose, but with an air of superiority." So maybe I did swan around. Bjork and I, we swan. Also, the lipstick was green. Regardless, good to be mentioned, and yes, I am a freak, and I'm pleased the author included the fada in my name.
greygirlbeast: ("Dracorex")
So, here I am still excited by Limusaurus, the herbivorous ceratosaurid, and up pops a previously unknown form of the speciose ceratopsian genus Psittacosaurus (presently 10-11 valid species known), from the Cretaceous of Inner Mongolia. Psittacosaurus gobiensis, like living macaws, may have fed on nuts.



Comparison of the skull of Psittacosaurus gobiensis and a modern-day dinosaur, the macaw.



Life restoration of Psittacosaurus gobiensis.
greygirlbeast: (Mars from Earth)
So, I'm still processing the news of the discovery of hard evidence of an enormous lake that existed in the Martian Shalbatana Vallis region some 3.4 billion years ago, when I get word of an exciting new herbivorous Chinese ceratosaur, Limusaurus inextricabilis. So, it's been of of those "will wonders never cease" sort of days.




Artist's life restoration of Limusaurus inextricabilis.



Photograph and line drawing of holotype specimen of Limusaurus inextricabilis (scale bar = 5 cm). This specimen is believed to be a juvenile, about five years old.



For lots more, visit one of my favorite science blogs, Pharyngula.

Wow...I know, not as exciting as my endless complaints about the term "Mary Sue," but...wow.

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Caitlín R. Kiernan

February 2012

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