Still Looking for Don

Submitted the fourth re-write to Genghis Jayne today for her fourth evisceration. Wish us luck.

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Grab it While You Can


A free copy of The Ship to Look for God because, tout suite, it’ll be gone.

Why?

‘Cause it’s dreck.

A few months ago, I re-read it in prep for the next series of Ship stories and, man, it’s awful. Just awful. Poorly written, poorly edited, and, apparently, some of the text was dropped or twisted during formatting. Very unprofessional.

Some things you just shouldn’t do yourself.

So, I apologize to everyone who suffered through it. I’m revising it even as we speak and a much better copy will soon be available. For free, of course. It’s the least I owe you.

What about the other two, Ship Looking and Ship Finding? They remain because I haven’t checked them yet: too appalled by the first one. Besides, looks like no more than ten or twelve people have read them, anyway. Probably because the first one is dreck.

Dreck, I say.

But not for long. 

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Stephen King

Stephen King has written one novel of pure horror genius, three novels of almost genius, and a whole lot of crap. The one genius novel?  Salem’s Lot, followed by The Stand, Dead Zone, and Misery. The Shining was a near miss. The rest you know.

Salem’s Lot remains the best modern adaptation of the vampire tale since Dracula because it’s one of those rare recent vampire stories that actually has a vampire, monster of legend and nightmare, a terrifying relentless demon that generates a bit of sympathy but is evil and implacable and cannot be saved. Not a sparkly vampire, not a postmodern or progressive or romantically misunderstood pseudo-pubescent angst-ridden boy band member or a sexy power grrl striking fangs against the patriarchy and please, find me a bucket so I can throw up now. Vampires are bad. And not in the cool ‘bad’ sense, they’re bad like the coronavirus. 

I read Salem’s Lot in one afternoon after pulling it off a friend’s bookshelf and refusing to go home until I finished it. I hadn’t read this good a horror novel since I Am Legend, another vampire-themed book, and this King guy, whoever he is, gets it. He knows horror, that overwhelming sense of helplessness in the face of something out of kin, like a hate-filled murderous monster ten times stronger than you that shrugs off bullets like they were thrown marshmallows. Unless they’re dipped in holy water. The bullets I mean. Although I guess holy water-soaked marshmallows might give ‘im pause. 

Shortly after, I ran across The Stand, shortly after seeing Carrie, and I was convinced this King guy gets it, although…there was something a bit off about both. Carrie was a damn good movie, but a movie is a movie and a book a book and the twain rarely meet and I did not realize the differences until I read the book some years later. Gotta say, the movie was better although the book was pretty good, just not genius and it had those nascent elements of grossness that have come to dominate most of King’s other novels. The Stand was great, almost genius, but something’s a bit off. The ‘good vs evil” theme felt like a plot device employed by someone who didn’t really believe in good and evil, at least, the God and Satatn type. Still, damn good book.

Another damn good book: The Dead Zone. I do not know why this book and the subsequent movie don’t get more love. It was a fast paced thriller and yeah, okay, maybe the eeevil politician was a bit over the top, but that’s not the point: it’s King’s version of the Great Man theory, you know, that history will provide the right person at the right moment. Here, a flawed and fractured man willingly sacrifices himself to stop a nuclear apocalypse. Near genius. And c’mon, Christopher Walken? What’s not to like?

Then The Shining.

Everyone makes the mistake of conflating “Here’s Johnny!” with the novel, and no, book is book and movie is movie and Jack Nicholson is not in the book. You know who’s in the book? A five-year old kid with the sensibilities of a thirty year old and far too much maturity to be believable and has this gift, this shining, and I was stopped. Cold. No five-year-old is going to act like this. They’re just not. Yeah, I know, lots of people think this is one of King’s masterpieces but I think it is the beginning of his end. 

Because look what followed: Cujo; Pet Sematary; Thinner, and then that dreadful Peter Straub co-operation, The Talisman. The Tommyknockers. Dreamcatcher.

Oh good Lord.

It.

Oh. Good. Lord.

I saw It Part 1 and had the same reaction to the movie as I did from the first part of the novel: man, this is GOOD! King is back!! Then I read the second part of the novel and…what. The. HELL?? This is why I haven’t seen It Part 2. Don’t want to have the same reaction.

Somewhere in all of this, I saw Misery and was quite impressed and so I read the book and was quite impressed and thought, finally, King’s back to writing again because Misery was pert near genius: horror without the supernatural, which is the best horror of all. Is King back?

Nah.

Misery is a glaring exception to the dreck that King churned out during this time period. Dreck. Yes, that’s what it is. Looks to me like King succumbed to his own success, turning into a book factory assured that everyone would buy anything he wrote because he is Stephen King and everything he writes must be good and must be horror and no, it’s not. Gross is not horror. Ick is not scary. It is revolting, and is much easier to write than actual pulse pounding horror. The looks and smells of a corpse takes about a paragraph to describe, three or four paragraphs if you’re getting paid by the word. Describing the evil spirit or beast animating that corpse takes a bit more effort. And when you’ve got deadlines and lunches and meetings in New York, then you just phone it in.

This is what happens when a writer forgets his calling and follows Mammon, believing money is the sign of ability and that everything your publicist tells you must be true. You become self-defining, you decide what is good, not readers. Screw the readers. I’m Stephen Freakin’ King!

I mourned the passing of Stephen King. The guy who wrote Salem’s Lot. The guy who once cared about horror.

And then I picked up the Gunslinger.

Now, I am not read up on the whole Dark Tower saga, what novel or novella was first or last and in what order which part of what story is supposed to go, but there’s another  movie out, surprise surprise, and I spotted this paperback Tor-lookin’ little novel with a comic book cover and the movie looks interesting so what the hell, picked it up.

And was impressed. Greatly.

The first part of the story made no sense and I was rolling my eyes so far back in my head because, oh my God, it’s Randall Flagg in another guise and then I got to that marvelous middle section with the falcon and said, my God, King is back.

Or, maybe, he never left. Is a voice crying in the wilderness. Hoping we’ll hear him.

This way, Steve, we’re over here.

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Even Readers get the Blues

I’ve known about Tom Robbins for awhile, although I’d not read him until very recently, like six months ago when I picked up a copy of Tibetan Peach Pie on one of those Amazon Prime free deals or something. Yeah, I’m on Amazon Prime. Shoot me. Anyways, I’d always relegated him to the “gonzo” side of writing, alongside the sillier Ken Kesey (any of the Merry Prankster stories), Confederacy of Dunces, that stuff, but Pie was good, really good, laugh out loud good, so when I ran across this one, purported to be Robbins’ best novel, I said, what the hell. And read it.

What the hell?

There’s a certain type of  writing that simply wearies. It’s a self-regarding style in love with itself, with how clever and precocious and insightful the author is, and look how precocious we are for admiring it and we’re really sticking it to the man and the rubes and, really, that stance is good for about ten pages and then it’s boring. Just. Boring.

About ten pages into this novel, I was bored. Why? 

Because it’s not about anything. 

Now, having no plot is actually an excellent plot, like Catcher in the Rye and Ulysses, but the difference between that and this is having a point. This doesn’t. It’s the Seinfeld of novels: clever and layered and complex and completely directionless. But unlike Seinfeld, not entertaining. At all.

The story centers on Sissy Hankshaw, who is a world class hitchhiker because she has oversized thumbs. Grossly oversized. They’re like German sausages, so whenever she sticks one out, she immediately gets a ride. Anywhere. Around the world. Up and down the US. She even taught Jack Kerouac a thing or two.

Now isn’t that ironically funny and absurd and amusing and ha ha hee hee and ho ho we’re really sticking it to the man with this absurd big thumbed babe hitchhiking all over the world by the power of her mutant thumbs and getting molested at 12 years old when she hitchhiked around Richmond her hometown but ha ha hee hee and ho ho that’s just one of those funny little absurdities when kids with big thumbs do all that anti-establishment hitchhiking, doncha know. And there’s naked cowgirls rioting on a dude/dudette ranch which they commandeer from the trans owner of a cosmetic company who has hired Sissy as a model because, despite the monster thumbs, she’s beautiful and somehow ends up on the ranch during the naked cowgirl riot. What’s the riot about?

Whooping cranes. And vaginas.

Tom Robbins seems a bit obsessed with vaginas. Not that I blame him, but I suspicion that a lot of what drives the postmodern anti-authoritarian anti-establishment gonzo journalistic absurd picaresque self-regarding dadaist crowd is a fascination with sex. Of any kind. With anything. What’s that old saw? Six to sixty, blind crippled crazy…it’s Harvey Weinstein and Michael Epstein wrapped up in a good natured worldwide shtupp and anyone who objects to being so shtupped is simply not cool and simply doesn’t get it because that’s how we stick it to the man, man! By sticking it in you! 

Which is fine. Whatever floats your boat. And if that is your position, so to speak, and your theme and motivation for writing, well and good. But how ‘bout doing so in a coherent story that presents your points and concepts in an amusing and absurd manner exposing the foibles of society, a la Slaughterhouse-Five or One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, not this mess. And it is a mess. A self-regarding overwrought and overwritten stream-of-conscious mess that I basically forced myself to finish. 

And somebody actually made a movie out of it.

Oh good Lord.

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Forsooth and Budweiser

Jack Vance

Everyone knows the scifi grandmasters- Asimov, Clarke, Heinlein- but there’s another set, not so heralded- Moorcock, Wolfe, and Vance. Who? Oh, c’mon guys, you know: Michael Moorcock wrote The Dancers at the End of Time series (and a couple of Blue Oyster Cult songs); Gene Wolfe wrote the extraordinary Book of the New Sun novels, and Jack Vance wrote…Jack Vance.

It’s kinda hard to describe the guy. “All-over-the-place” Cervantes would just about sum him up. The Dragon Masters is stunning and probably the best thing he ever did, a hard scifi story that reads like fantasy and, okay, so Vance is like Heinlein, but then there’s “Cil,” a short story that’s magic and fantasy so he’s Poul Anderson and, well, no. He’s Jack Vance. Pretty much his own category and I’ve long admired him. It’s almost automatic reflex for me to pick up anything I spot of his. That’s how I got Araminta Station

There it was, cheesy cover and all, sitting on the shelf at Blue Plate Books and I had never heard of it but it was Jack Vance so, mine. And about ¼ of the way I am shaking my head ruefully and laughing out loud because…well, here’s an example: 

“Would you like to travel and visit other worlds?”

“I have not thought too much about it. I wonder why everyone asks me that question.”

“I’m sorry if I’m boring you,” said Glawen (page 262)

Seriously, who writes like that, I mean, since the early 1800s? Only genteel Victorian drawing room readers appreciate such conversations. Which is exactly the point here because Vance has created one of the most stolid post-Victorian Victorian societies in his Gaean Reach novels, of which Araminta Station is the first of a trilogy set in that far future, far flung locale.

The little snippet of conversation presented above is between our hero, Glawen, a resident of Araminta Station, and a Yip prostitute. Glawen has been sent “undercover” into Yipton by his uncle, a chief of Bureau B, to sniff out possible revolutionary inclinations by the Yips, a sort of weird peasant working class imported to the planet Cadwal to do the heavy lifting and now intent on making Deucas their own and what in the blue blazes am I talking about? I don’t know! You pretty much have to pick out the plot and backstory and culture and history from context, and it ain’t easy, primarily because Jack Vance insists on using a picaresque, stultified very old fashioned language in this novel. It’s not the first place and time he’s done so: “Cil” referenced above is a classic example, but if you’re not prepared for it, it’s off-putting. Think of Jack Vance as beer: an acquired taste but, once you like it, you really like it.

And I really like it. There are adventures galore in this novel as the intrepid Glawen gets himself into one pickle after another in his effort to acquire Agency status so he can stay on Cadwal or get booted off as excess baggage. There’s murder mysteries and cults and witches and kidnappings and heroes riding to the rescue and it’s like a Robert E Howard and Sax Rohmer story combined into a Lord Bulwer/Jules Verne hybrid. And that’s just the first book. I can imagine what the next two are like.

Sax Rohmer

So if you get a chance, pick it up. But go easy. Beer ain’t for everybody.

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It’s in the Blood

I watched the first episode of the BBC Dracula series on Netflix, and that’s probably the last episode I’ll watch because…well, because. What? The artistic license they took? No, I’m all for artistic license, especially between different mediums. Book is book and film is film and it’s often best the twain do not meet. I’m not one of those guys who believes the source material must be slavishly attended, otherwise I couldn’t watch the Avengers movies. So my complaint isn’t with the BBC’s extraordinary deviation from Bram Stoker’s original story line; it’s with the extraordinary deviation from the zeitgeist. This is revisionism at its worst.

Starting right off with homosexuality. No Victorian era wink wink nod nod here, no sir; blatant, in your face, 21st Century gayness. Within the first ten minutes we’re discussing lesbianism and multiple partners. In the late 1800s. 

No. 

That simply wasn’t done. Yes, yes, there are  examples of letters written between Victorian men and women containing playful references about playing for the other team but that wasn’t for general consumption. It’s private, which is why a lot of letters were burned and yeah, yeah, this is a private letter between Mina and Jonathan but there’s nothing like this in Stoker’s story. Nothing at all. It is completely out of Mina and Jonathan’s – and Stoker’s – Victorian character and is only done as sop to our decadent, degenerate times. Got a Brave New World to build here, people! That’s why a lot of stuff in this production comes completely out of left – far left – field.

For example, Van Helsing asks Jonathan if he had sexual intercourse with Dracula, a question you’ll not find anywhere in Stoker’s original. You won’t find this 19th Century nun version of Van Helsing anywhere in Stoker, either, but that’s okay, I like her. Ignore that she’s a thoroughgoing anachronism (a liberation theologist nun in the late 1800s? Uh, no) and you’ll like her, too, even though she’s a plot device for the writers or director or whoever is responsible for this mess to advance their post modernist, post 20th Century concepts. See, vampirism is a blood borne pathogen, like AIDS, transmitted through intimate contact, certainly not an evil curse (hey, wait a minute, didn’t that Dark Shadows movie explore that theme?). Because, see, there are no evil curses. Because there is no such thing as evil. 

Which brings us to the second desperate revisionism in this adaptation: the desperate need to eliminate any and all references to God and faith and gasp! Christianity. That’s a little difficult to do, given the centrality of Christian faith to Stoker’s novel, but the BBC is sure gonna take a whack at it. Can’t have vampires shunning a cross because the power of Christ compels them. Oh no. There is no power of Christ. Christ doesn’t exist. God? Puhleeze. God is some nebulous muffin, that fairly good feeling you have when everything is going to crap…according to the Mother Superior in an astoundingly wishy washy homily that would make any Unitarian or Methodist proud, delivered right before evil shows up and everything goes to crap. Wonder if the nuns got to experience those good feelings as their throats were getting ripped out? 

Our postmodern Van Helsing has never seen any evidence of God in her many years as a nun, and Harker’s little mention that Dracula recoiled rather harshly from the sight of a cross has got her intrigued. Is this the proof of God she’s sought her whole life, a life spent becoming an expert on vampires, by the way? Funny, you’d think that the existence of vampires was pretty good evidence for the existence of the supernatural and evil and its personification in the person of the Devil who is the antithesis of God so…maybe God exists? Well, no. Somehow this nun concludes vampirism is a virus, which is damned advanced scientific thinking for the time, doncha think? So there’s got to be some other, mysterious, scientific reason why Dracula avoided Harker’s cross, and why Dracula needs an invitation before crossing the nunnery threshold and making mincemeat out of everyone. What could it be? We viewers already know: the sun reflected off the cross and the sun is antiseptic and kills pathogens and since Dracula is nothing but a bag ‘o pathogens, he avoids sunlight. Scientific. And rational. If Harker had just mentioned that whole reflected sunlight thing, then Van Helsing could have a V8 moment. As for the invitation, Dracula is nothing if not well mannered.

And this is what’s most wrong with this adaptation, the frantic effort to avoid the supernatural. Which is baffling as hell because there’s immortals and bloodsucking and unfortunates nailed inside wooden boxes for eternity and babies turned into vampires and, buddy, you can’t get much more supernatural than that. 

Tut. 

All of what you great unwashed peasant bitter clingers consider supernatural is merely the results of illness, and we must study the illness to find a cure. Remember, there is no evil, just rational explanations we haven’t discovered yet. 

Which is exactly what evil wants you to believe.

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Bands I’ve Seen

1967, Enterprise, Alabama– 

The Buckinghams

They rocked. They truly rocked.

1970’s- can’t be more specific. It was the 70’s.

Philadelphia, Dallas, Alabama, Atlantic City, upstate New York, DC…can’t be more specific. It was the 70s.

Chicago, at least twice. Maybe 3 times.

Mahavishnu Orchestra

J. Geils Band

James Gang

Lou Reed

Jefferson Starship

Commander Cody and the Lost Planet Airmen

Mark Almond Band

Flash in the Pan

Jo Jo Gunne

Charlie Daniels Band

Black Oak Arkansas

Bob Dylan

Joni Mitchell

Cat Stevens

Doobie Brothers

Pablo Cruise

Paul McCartney and Wings

Chuck Mangione

Maynard Ferguson

Santana

Crosby Stills Nash and Young

Average White Band

1990s through the 2000s: DC, Arizona, other places

Sade (twice)

Traffic

Phil Collins

Hugh Masekela

Alice Cooper

Blue Oyster Cult

Jethro Tull

Kid Rock

Aerosmith

Run DMC

Hiroshima

Scorpions

Randy Crawford

Stanley Clarke

Offspring

Cypress Hill

Three Doors Down

Creed

Springsteen- twice

Probably missed one or two, but I think that’s about it.

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Where’ve I been?

Lost?

On a mission?

Just plain lazy?

Nah. Busy.

I got Southern Gothic up and running and available for pre-order.



I’m halfway through Genghis Jayne‘s first edits of Looking for Don.

And I took a full time job. Yes, I know, slap me.

Anyways, I’ll be updating this a little more often from now on. After all, the one or two of you who accidentally stumble across this site need something to read.

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What 4?

Toy Story 4 is out, and I don’t mean available for viewing in your local theaters … which it is … but ‘out’ in the sense that I’m not going to go see it, not even  when it eventually shows up on Netflix. Why? Well, for one, I’ve already seen it, back when it was called Toy Story without even a “1” to designate it from the follow-ups. Woody has to convince Buzz Lightyear that he is not Buzz Lightyear but a toy. In #4, both Buzz AND Woody have to convince some new toy that it is, indeed, a toy. At least, that’s what I gather from the previews and maybe I have it wrong. Maybe. But I don’t care because it’s close enough to be of no difference and besides, the whole Toy Story story ended perfectly, just perfectly, in #3. There’s simply no reason for another chapter. So, why’d they do it?


Mammon.

The execs and managers and actuaries and sheet-and-ledger people at Disney cast their louped and green-shaded eyes at accounts receivable and concluded there was even more filthy lucre available from this most recent class of children now reaching movie-going age, and since they had not seen Toy 1-3, at least in theaters, then let’s invite them to the party. After the party is over, of course, but, hey, the kids don’t know that. And by the time they’re old enough to figure out how ripped off they were, Toy Stories 5-7 will be floating around, aimed at the subsequent sets of hatchlings and will, no doubt, like the recent spate of Star Wars movies, be regarded as the main franchise.

Oy.

I don’t have anything against making money, cold hearted capitalist that I am, and if Disney statisticians have figured on a quick buck this way, fine. But at what point do you trade bucks for soul? Because 1-3 were soul, were art. This latest iteration is like painting a Dayglo version of the Mona Lisa, turning a masterpiece into parody.

And all three movies were masterful…well, maybe not 2 so much, but it had its moments. And 3 had the most perfect ending of a trilogy ever, yes, even better than Lord of the Rings and especially Star Wars (the real Star Wars, not the silly crap before and after). The last ten minutes of 3 was the closest a cartoon…er, animated feature…brought me to tears. The passing of the torch, the putting away of childish things for the dreary numbness of adulthood and isn’t it nice to know that, a few streets over, your childhood still lives? The circle of life, the seasons go round and round, and fade into the sunset. End of story. End of Toy Story. How many other movies do you know that ended so perfectly?  Phoenix is one. Avenger’s End Game another, not for what happened to Cap, but for how it closed the Marvel Universe. 

And yeah, yeah, I know, Spiderman and Black Widow are coming and yeah, yeah, I am going to go see them but that’s because they deal with Marvel sideshows, where things haven’t quite ended yet. They tidy up loose ends. They don’t sell out.

Like 4 does.

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Not better, different

I moseyed over to the Gaylord Convention Center last Saturday to do my traditional one day attendance of Escape Velocity, the best little sci-con out there. ‘Mosey’ best describes it ‘cause I didn’t get there until about noon. Slowing down in my old age. Dagnabit, you young whippersnappers, get off my lawn.

I stumbled into the ends of a presentation called The Quantum Revolution, which may as well have been held in Klingon for all I understood of it. Guess I shouldn’t have missed the first 55 minutes or so. I did learn that quantum computers are not better computers, they’re just different computers. Good to know, especially since I have no idea what a quantum computer is. They are a tool for certain purposes, much like using a saw instead of a hammer to cut things. You can cut things with a hammer but the saw is much easier. See?

That certainly clears things up.

The next full presentation, the one I was most looking forward to, was from Dominique Tipper.

You know her as Naomi Nagata from the Expanse and I figured this would be along the lines of Cas Anvar’s presentation a couple of years ago, a discussion of how the show incorporates  science and the techniques for so doing. Well, no. This was more a Q&A, with the enthusiastic Tipper taking questions from the audience the whole time. Of course, you know what that means: several members of the audience vying to prove which of them are the smartest, with long preambles designed to establish credentials and/or superiority before getting to an actual question. We had an hour, and I think a total of six questions got asked, along the lines of “What scenes from the Expanse best illustrates my cutting edge, highly advanced and rather enlightened view of (pick your favorite social or physical science)?” Much virtue signaling, there was.

But it wasn’t a complete eye roll fest. Tipper announced that yes, indeed, there will be a Season Four, something which everyone but me already knew and which everyone dutifully applauded but I dunno. I think Season 3 ended on a good note and maybe it’s best to go into the long good night before the desperate need to keep the franchise going causes Holden to jump some protomolecule shark.

Yeah, I’m gonna watch it.

Tipper has been acting for only three years. Before that, she was a backup dancer in London and, yes, that is a genyoowine Cockney accent ‘cause she’s from East London.  Which gave her an empathy for the Belters, because she knows what it’s like to be the underclass. And no, she does not speak Belter so stop walking up to her and asking for a demonstration. A linguist created Belter and they have a language coach on set but she doesn’t speak it. She goes full on Cockney when she’s with her Mom or drunk, so watch it.

She was working some bit parts in Australia when she heard about the Expanse auditions, and was like, “What’s this shit?” but sent in a tape anyway. A job is a job. She had to tape it again and again and did some tests and what’s this shit and surprise, she got the part. “Honestly, I took the job for the money,” but now it’s turned into something bigger than she expected.

James S. A. Corey is in the writers room during every shoot, but she doesn’t really want to know what’s going to happen because she wants to be surprised. She has no idea what the plans are, if any, for Seasons 5 and 6. After all, the show was canceled once already.

She regards the show as a cautionary tale, that human behavior repeats itself, no matter where we go and what we try to do. Quite validating, that. One of the show’s main authenticities is its willingness to throw hard punches at the silly scifi trope that we’re all getting better and better as science advances. The Belter, Martian, and Earth societies in the Expanse are as venal, cruel and ruthless as any prior medieval group you’d like to mention. Because of that, she has no enthusiasm for going into space herself. Things don’t really change, so why add the complication of space survival? There’s a real effort to not “pretty up” the show, and she doesn’t mean in the special effects department. Human behavior remains as crappy as it ever was.

Dance training helped a lot with the zero g scenes because she could pose her limbs in float position without a lot of discomfort or distraction. They use a lot of green screen devices, like a chair that makes it look like someone’s floating. The special effects guys paint the chair and wires and whatnot out later. She admits to being a bit “particular” when taking direction and others may call her difficult, but she wants to get it right. And be true to Naomi, who is the moral compass of the group. So we all took group photos with her and I got to say, she’s quite personable, Down to earth, if you’ll forgive me.


I then stumbled into the Mars as a Home for Past or Present Life seminar, put on by NASA peoples who know what they’re talking about. We earthlings have a soft spot for Mars because any backyard telescope can bring up its features and we see dark and light and things moving and it’s gotta be like here, with oceans  and canals and Deeja Thoris running around. So a lot of the science history involving Mars has been filled with wishful thinking, right up to 1964 when Mariner IV showed us that Mars was deader than a doornail, a lot like the moon, at least that portion of Mars that Mariner photographed, which turned out to be a crater strewn area and not really representative of the topography.

Still dead, though. Even then, we could not let go of the myths: Carl Sagan thought Mars went through periods of being wet. It doesn’t. It’s dead. No Deeja Thoris.


Yet.

Because they’re gonna go look. There’s all kinds of Mars missions planned for 2020, and not just NASA: the Euro Space Agency, the Chinese, even the UAE has got something in the works. Is that because we still can’t let go of the myths? No.

It’s because there might be something there.

We know a lot more about life, its possible forms and developments and conditions. You need water and nutrients and a form of energy. Not that the presence of all three means you’ll find life, but when milk and flour and an egg beater are sitting on the counter, there’s a potential for pancakes. Water flowed on Mars before: one of the Rovers shows rocks that have been moved by water. There’s sedimentary levels and river deltas, and there is the sun, although a weak sister of itself at this distance. Nutrients? Well…maybe. There’s perchlorate in the soil which is toxic to plants as we know them. Besides that problem, nutrients have to be biologically available and, on Mars, they ain’t. But, still, something’s there. Could be Deeja Thoris.

And it’s not like we’ve done the whole place yet and know for sure. There’s a lot of Mars to look at. Mars has no plate tectonics so the soil doesn’t go through the sifting and mixing that it does on Earth. Martian rocks are older than the ones we can find on Earth so they contain a clearer snapshot of what was going on in the solar system 3.5 million years ago, when life on Earth started. We can see things in them we can’t here, and since there was water and nutrients and energy on Mars back then, who knows what awaits? A Deeja Thoris skeleton,perhaps?

Yes, yes, I know, let go of the myths.

They designed Curiosity to assess a local region as a potential habitat, which gives us a backhanded way of assessing any past habitats but that isn’t the main mission. Other Rovers are necessary, including one extraordinary project where they intend to drill core samples, launch them back into orbit, retrieve them and bring them back to Earth. Wow.

I love the 21st Century. Everything that enthralled me as a kid is coming true.

I then moved onto Space Opera, arriving about fifteen minute late because a technical glitch in the Mars show held us over. I wish I hadn’t missed the beginning because apparently they had outlined a definition of Space Opera to which I do not subscribe. Has to have aliens and melodrama. What? As one very astute audience member said to me, what about Foundation? Yes, Space Opera mavens, what about it? Nary hide nor hair of aliens yet it’s space opera at its finest. The panel included Stargate under the category, if you can believe it. So let me help you out: Space Opera is galactic wide movement and intrigues of empires and civilizations, not necessarily alien ones, and not necessarily melodramatic. Ann Leckie’s Ancillary series is a good example. Stargate isn’t. How ‘bout The Expanse? Well, given the most recent events, it is now.

I then went through the displays:

Look at this: Deckard’s gun.



Star Trek stuff:

A stillsuit, among other stuff:


Had a sudden hankering to smack people with a jawbone.

And that pretty much ended it. There was another panel about the supernatural in scifi but I had misread the description and thought N. K. Jemison was going to be ON the panel and was all atwitter and had brought some books for her to sign but, no, it was a panel ABOUT N. K. Jemison, among others. Never mind. And, speaking of stillsuits, there was a chance to play the original Dune game against the original designers but I’d have to stay later, like a whole day later,  and I was too tired.

Dagnabit.

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