Shoulder-Fired Reforestation

I have a story out in the new issue of The Future Fire, a politically-oriented online SF magazine featuring a super-awesome ironical Nietzsche quote (perhaps the best kind of Nietzsche quote) about the value of escapism.

To invent stories about a world other than this one has no meaning at all, unless an instinct of slander, belittling, and suspicion against life is strong in us: in that case, we avenge ourselves against life with a phantasmagoria of another, a better life.

—F. Nietzsche, Götzen-Dämmerung

“Maryann Saves the World” is a piece of full-on, unapologetic, angry environmentalist escapism I sat down and wrote in a huff after watching some of my favorite woods in the whole world (in Westwood, a little town where I grew up, named for its awesome, under-appreciated, steadily vanishing woods) get knocked down and dynamited and replaced with landscaping and mcmansions. Writing it was a wonderful catharsis, which will completely justify that Nietzsche quote—and in by-no-means ironic fashion—unless, by some miraculous stroke of wish-fulfillment, a few complacent armchair environmentalists find their way to it, read it, and are re-energized to change their evil ways.

If you fit that description, please go read!

Here’s a little piece of the super-cool angry mansion-eating thicket illustration the story got from crafty artist Carmen:

Circular Time

In which I digress (much) further about the not-coming apocalypse.

This is long. Sorry. I tried to break it into two parts, but it just wasn’t happening. Thanks in advance for your kind attention.

The Popol Vuh is the Mayan creation myth. The version available to us today was written in secret between the years 1554 and 1558 by three anonymous philosopher-priests of the Maya religion, during the early years of the Spanish occupation of Mexico, when Catholic missionaries under Friar Diego de Landa were systematically destroying all evidence they could find of indigenous religion and culture. In order to preserve it, the authors of the Popol Vuh spirited it away somewhere in the Guatemalan city of Chichicastenango (underneath a Christian altar, perhaps, as was a favorite tactic of the Maya, preserving the old beneath the new) until 1701, when it was discovered, copied, and translated from the original Roman alphabet transliteration of Quiché into Spanish by Francisco Ximenes, another Catholic friar. His copy is the only one that survives today.

All of which is to say that the contents of the Popol Vuh as we know them have been deeply, irrevocably compromised by the influence of a conquering culture. Some evidence mitigating against this has come to light fairly recently: a stucco frieze dating from before 100 BC has been uncovered in the ruined Mayan city of Mirador, which depicts in detail a scene from the Twin Gods cycle of the Popol Vuh myth. That’s some impressive continuity, considering what an incredibly diverse range culture and belief can be seen across mesoamerica—even from one Mayan sacred site to the next. Still, there is a huge gulf of uncertainty in the 1600 years between those two points, and in the 450 years between then and the winter solstice, 2012. And it’s exactly that kind of gulf from which new-agey doomsday conspiracy theories are born.

Continue reading »

F&SF Oct/Nov 2008 Review

I signed up to get a free copy of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction‘s October/November “All-Star Anniversary Issue”, in exchange for which I am supposed to blog about it in some capacity. (See Gordon’s post about it in the F&SF blog, though I believe it’s now too late to sign up for your own.) I did this once before, last year sometime. Not sure if this means it’s an annual thing or if he does it all the time. I only ever hear about it when posts about it in his LJ. Anyway, it’s a good deal. Try it sometime.

So here we go.

The “All Stars” are as follows: Geoff Ryman, Robert Reed, Tim Sullivan, Albert E. Cowdrey, Steven Utley, Stephen King, Scott Bradfield, Laurel Winter, Terry Bisson, Carol Emshwiller, M. Rickert, Michael Swanwick, Sophie M. White. Woo. Those are indeed a lot of all-stars. And I actually read every one of those stories. I felt obliged, what with the free copy and all. I did not, in fact, enjoy them all. Surprise. Out of 13, 5 made me happy.

I will mention some of the other 8 only in passing. Stephen King delivered what he can be relied upon for: readable prose and an endearing character. Terry Bisson’s one-handed read, “Private Eye”, actually entertained me significantly more than any other story of his I’ve read. Carol Emshwiller is one of those people I feel I ought to love, but whose writing never grabs me. Robert Reed and Tim Sullivan’s stories both had enough interesting stuff in them to be maybe a third as long as they were. Albert E. Cowdrey’s “Inside Story” made light of Hurricane Katrina in a way I just couldn’t get behind… also, all his deep-southern characters talked like they were from New Jersey. Couldn’t figure that out, ’cause apparently he is from there.

On to the good stuff!

Geoff Ryman’s “Days of Wonder” was cool. Far-future thing with human-animal hybrids carrying fragments of human knowledge hidden in their DNA. Awesome idea, stretched just a little too thin, so the sharp edges of the story’s bones stuck out and poked me a handful of times. Had it been 2,000 words shorter I would have perhaps been awestruck.

Steven Utley’s “Sleepless Years” was about a suicide resurrected by science to be poked and prodded, full of interesting philosophical ruminations on the nature of life and afterlife, and the indistinguishability of hell from institutional medicine. A bit light on impact, but the ideas carried it for me.

Mary Rickert, as far as I’m aware, is incapable of writing a less than phenomenal story. “Evidence of Love in a Case of Abandonment: One Daughter’s Personal Account” freaked me the hell out. A totalitarian future USA in which abortion is not only illegal, but punishable by death. Profoundly unsettling. Somebody should give this lady a Tiptree.

Michael Swanwick’s “The Scarecrow’s Boy” was a fun far-future thing with a robot scarecrow hero and a sentient car sidekick helping a little kid escape political persecution in another totalitarian US by fleeing to Canada. What is it about totalitarian USses that makes them so fun to hate? Possibly their plausibility? Thank you, Mr. Swanwick.

Sophie White’s poem “December 22, 2012” takes some enjoyable potshots at those sitting around twiddling their thumbs waiting impatiently for the Mayan apocalypse. Accurate and fun.

I mostly skipped the nonfiction, as I usually do. Lucius Shepard doesn’t much like comic book movies, I gather. And as usual, I wish those plodding introductory paragraphs that come before each story would just go away and not come back. Sadly I doubt it will happen.

To sum up: Swanwick! M. Rickert!

Same Old Friends the Wind and Rain


Cultivar at Smith

Though it is not yet spring in New England, I’m calling it spring on the Mossy Skull, which entity exists in spirit over a scattering of many latitudes between the 49th and 20th parallels. There are weeds coming up in my garden and snails on the undersides of dead wood. Among other things this means the gallery photos at top shift to the Spring catalog (go WordPress plug-ins!).

I went to the Lyman Conservatory for their annual spring bulb show a couple weeks ago. As usual I took no pictures of the bulbs because they pale compared to everything else. Even the greenhouse itself is a crazy victorian lotus wrought in glass and metal. Meh tulips.


Giant lemon – Apparently not a cultivar? Scifiest looking lemon I ever saw.


Some orchid or other…. The orchid room is pumped full of atmosphere and special effects smoke, and there are coi swimming around at about hip level. The wading-through-Everglades effect is sufficient to make me utterly unable to retain species information. If only they would cut it with some flashing blue lights and pumped-in prog rock, maybe I could provide more competent captions.