Archive for August, 2011


Science Fiction and Fantasy Quotes

Contexts for the last week’s tweets:

“I don’t think you’re ugly. I think you’re beautiful.” Alan Dean Foster, For Love of Mother-Not. Flinx to Mother Mastiff, just after she had bought him.

“I do not profess to agree with every aspect of the system.” Piers Anthony, Bearing an Hourglass. Thanatos (death) explaining why a baby’s soul could be in balance between good and evil.

“What you don’t know can’t get you in trouble.” Poul Anderson, Satan’s World. Falkyn suspects the beautiful girl he is talking to is a spy for a rival corporation. (Anyone else think that Anderson’s Polesotecnic League, which I believe was modeled on the Hanseatic League, forecast today’s multinationals?)

“I do not believe wisdom is ever wasted.” Marion Fisher Bradley,  Stormqueen! Dorilys’ final statement, from the overworld, as she accepts the necessity of staying there forever.

“The best writing is done with the gonads.” Robert Heinlein, The Cat Who Walks Through Walls. Richard Ames, just after Hazel has convinced him she is indeed Hazel Stone, writer behind “The Scourge of the Spaceways.”

“Mercy need not clash with justice.” Kathleen Kurtz, The King’s Justice. Morgan talking to Kelson and reminding him that even the most guilty should have a chance to see a priest before they are executed.

“She remembered how painful it had been to admit peccadilloes to her parents.” Sue Ann Bowling, Tourist Trap. Penny, when she agrees not to tell Roi’s parents about the stupid things he had done.

Again?

Well, the class from this summer will be reading at the Fairbanks Arts Association Literary Reading at the Bear Gallery, Pioneer Park, this coming Saturday evening at 7.

Further, Tanya Mendelowitz, who helped us with the Porchoir and bookbinding, e-mailed out a photo of the class, with each member holding up his or her pages of the book, Feathers, we made together.

Now I have a dirty little secret to confess. I cannot recognize faces very well. It’s one of the reasons I can’t remember names. I can watch a movie and get very confused because if two actors look vaguely alike, say the same color hair and similar clothes, I can’t tell them apart. I still get Merry and Pippen mixed up in Lord of the Rings, and I’ve probably watched it dozens of times and they don’t even look that much alike.

Face recognition is localized in a very specific part of the brain. (I’ve used that in the trilogy, if I ever get that published.) Evidently that part of my brain is not very well developed. As a result, I can look at a photo of people I’ve spent every day with for two weeks, and not be at all sure who’s who.

In fact, when I used to teach dog training, I could get the dogs’ names within the first week. The handlers? Mostly “Rusty’s owner.”

In Tanya’s photo, thank goodness, most of us are holding up our pages of the book we produced—so I can use the illustration each of us put on our own pages to identify people. I’m reasonably sure of those who weren’t holding books where I could see the pages, but I had to have help.

Photo courtesy of Tanya Mendelowitz

First Row:

Kristen Smith: “Within” and “Perfect Execution;” Anita Stelcel: “Cradle;” Frank Soos (faculty) ”Wreckage;” Sue Ann Bowling: ”To the Poet, From His Cat” and “Krakatoa.”

Second Row:

Margo Klass (faculty) “Found Object.” Phyllis Movious: “I Will Come Back” and “Cinquain;” Karen Stomberg: “Running Downhill” and “Smelling Labrador Tea;” Rachel Andrea Elmer: “Becoming Boreal” and “September Birth;” Charley Basham: “Garden Degas” and “Inspiration;” Patty Kastelic: “He Comes Back as a Joke” and “Work in Progress;” Abby Kasarskis: “Outskirts of the Village: and “Fields of Jordan;” Priscilla Delgado: “I am Related to Music.”

Third Row:

Jeanne C. Clark (faculty) “Rescue” and “Finding Miles Homer;” Peggy Shumaker (faculty) “One Piece;” Arvia Glass: “Salt;” joan parker webster:  “Waiting for Saint Cecilia;” Logan Biden: “How a Poem is Born;” Susan Campbell: “Gravity.”

Back Row:

Rob Childers: “From a Steam House;” George Paris: “Prairie Song” and “Meadowlark;” Libby Mullenberg: “Full Circle Flight;” Jonny Gray (faculty) “Kitty Euterpe;” Ron Smith: “I Swiped a Few Hours” and “Heads up;” Jim Babb: “Transitive and Intransitive;” Monte Lynn Jordan: “Second Time Around;” Rebecca D. Morse: “Where Rock Moves;” Bonny Lynn Babb: “I am Related to Water.”

The sun rose at 6:18 this morning, and will set at 9:24 this evening, for just under 15 hours of potential sunlight. The sun is not quite 35° above the horizon at noon, but it now gets almost 16° below the horizon at solar midnight. Patchy clouds today, but there is still no frost in the forecast. Not that I haven’t gotten out the row covers, or that I’m not keeping a careful eye on the forecast nighttime temperatures!

The wax beans (the ones planted first) are growing faster than I can harvest them, as are the beets. The green beans, the ones I planted late, are in blossom and are showing their first tiny beans. If the frost just holds off for another couple of weeks, I might get a harvest from them. Zucchini? I think another trip to the food bank is in order. At least it’s not like one year when they refused to take any more zucchini!

On their way to the food bank. Those are 8"x16" pavers, for scale.

I really need to take some time off from the internet and trim up and fertilize the plants I plan to bring in for the winter. I have several pots and hanging baskets of geraniums, a hanging basket of fuchsias, and that “Arizona” rose to bring in. And I need to clean up the plant room, too. Funny how retirement (and trying to market two books) leaves you with so little time.

P.S. at 1:30: the sky is clear blue without a cloud in sight, and the obscenely large zucchini (Hey, how much can one person eat?) are on their way to the food bank.

P.P.S. 5:00: I knew I shouldn’t have said without a cloud in sight. Cumuli are building up all around, though it’s still clear overhead. The food bank was happy to have not only the obese zucchini, but several empty boxes I wanted to recycle. If your garden is overproducing, consider your local food bank.

Continued from last week:

The sense of urgency intensified, and she groaned and fumbled in the pouch. Emergency blanket. She worked it out of the pouch and struggled to unfold it, finally giving up and draping the wet and still half-folded blanket around her shoulders. Fire-sparker. She dug deeper, and found a handful of the waxy fuzzballs that would ignite even when sopping wet and burn long enough to start even green wood burning. And the driftwood, while a bit damp on the river side, didn’t feel soggy.

Tourist Trap is now available at Barnes and Noble and Amazon. Reviews would be greatly appreciated.

Other Six Sentence Sunday authors:

Be Careful What You Ask For

Watching Brigadoon the other day, and reflecting on age distribution in a society, got me to thinking. What are the influences of age-specific death rates on population age structure? More specifically, what would an “ideal” society look like if all of our dreams could come true?

Suppose every child was born healthy, lived for 80 years, and then died. Preferably peacefully, in her sleep. Suppose further that population is neither growing nor shrinking. What would the age distribution be, and what would be some of the consequences?

In this ideal world, each woman would have on average one daughter. (That would average out close to two children, if the ratio of boys to girls was even.) No doubt some would choose not to have children, and others would want more than two, but the average for a steady population with no premature death would be close to two children per woman.

Since there is no death before age 80, this would give an even age distribution—the number in any age category will be the same as in any other age category. The number under 5 would be exactly the same as the number 75 or over.

We do not expect children to support themselves. In our modern society we can hardly expect them to be truly self-supporting without a college degree—say 22 years of age, and for some careers even longer schooling is needed. And surely some respite from a lifetime of work is reasonable for those who have worked most of their lives. Let’s assume the average working life is 40 years. That would imply that half of the population was supporting the other half—whether through the relatives paying or through taxation and the government paying. It also implies a somewhat longer working life than is now considered ideal. (Note that support may well be work—such as raising and educating children—and not only money.)

In this country, most of the deviations from this picture are health-related. Our elders are often in need of care as well as support—especially for the last few years of their lives, and children are born with crippling health problems. People of all ages die, giving a pyramid-shaped age structure with more young people than old.  Wars can take out most of an age cohort. And we are certainly not keeping our numbers constant!

Let’s look at America in pre-revolutionary days. Assume that half of the children born do not live to have children of their own. Death at all ages is an accepted hazard—in particular, women often die in childbirth. Children are an economic asset—not only as farm labor, but as old-age insurance. The result will be a growing population if the average number of children per woman is more than 4. (From my own family history, it was often a lot more than 4.) It will also be a young population. There will be twice as many newborns as young people of an age to start families. There will be a further reduction through the child-bearing years, especially of women. While the maximum age may not change much, there will be far fewer older people.  Some variant of this as been the norm for most of our existence as a species. We almost expect slow growth in population, speeding up whenever new land is available.  This acceleration is often at the cost of populations formerly inhabiting that land.

What is happening now in third world countries follows neither of these models.

We try to avoid the deaths of children. Thanks to what we now know about epidemiology, immunization, such physical factors as mosquito netting, and the importance of clean drinking water we have cut down considerably on these deaths. Famine relief tends to be targeted at children.

But the inevitable result is the development of a population structure very heavily weighted toward the young. In particular there is a tremendous age bulge among adolescents and young adults, sometimes with little or no education, and sometimes with an education that leads them to despise the very culture that has kept them alive.

We have also exported our technology, which often means that jobs are available only to those with the education needed to operate the machines that do the labor.

I don’t know what the answer is, but in many ways we seem to have painted ourselves into a corner globally.  Is there an answer?

I can’t stand it any more! I should not interfere – but how can it be right to abandon a child to such pain and thirst? How can I have the right to stay aloof while she is dying, and I could save her?

There are problems quite aside from the ethical ones. It is unlikely that I can teleport her from where she is to my shelter – it is at least a five-day journey, walking. She certainly cannot walk that far, nor do I trust myself to build nightly camps where she would be safe.

I find myself quite unable to think of her as another species. Perhaps I could go to her, stay there until the infection is gone and the leg properly set? The thorns around her hut would be some protection, and there is no reason I could not take the warnoff. That, together with the thorns, should make the hut safe enough.

What am I thinking? I cannot interfere.

I find that while I was recording my body was gathering food, water and the crude blankets I have made, and packing the medical kit. I cannot shut out the child’s thirst, pain and despair. It seems my decision is made.

Sunrise

Sunrise

©Sue Ann Bowling

The scarlet sky repeats itself in the glass river below.
Wind rustles the grass on the banks–
A broom on a dirt floor might make such a sound.
High above birds circle, black flecks against the lightening sky.
Eagles, perhaps?  Kites?
Far off a radio babbles, mere noise against the wind.

An eddy moves toward shore, spinning a dismembered hand.
A torso follows, cleaver-hacked, trailing the coppery odor of blood.
Blue sky, sun risen now, the river
Still dyed scarlet with blood and anger.
The radio rises to a scream; cuts off.
Kites and eagles gather for a rare feast.

Another poem from 2007  Summer Arts Festival. I’ve forgotten the exact prompt, but I believe it involved specific words like glass, copper, radio. Somehow it came out as this image of conflict. Poems, for me, quite often form themselves into something totally different from anything I have in mind.

“A natural therianthrope in his beast shape isn’t quite as invulnerable as most people believe.” Poul Anderson,  Operation Chaos, originally written as short stories between 1956-1969. This is a group of connected tales of an alternate world in which the chief character is a werewolf in an American army that flies broomsticks instead of planes.

“The woman’s story threatened a whole structure of comfortable beliefs.” Jean Auel,  The Mammoth Hunters. Ayla has just told the Lion camp of her upbringing by the Neandethals, whom they know as “flatheads.”

“The difficulty of translation from a language that doesn’t yet exist is considerable, but there’s no need to exaggerate it.” Ursula LeGuin,  Always Coming Home. This is from the First Note, warning that the book is supposed to be a group of translated bits of the future.

“Men are not all alike.” Andre Norton, Voorloper. One of the first things his father teaches Bart.

“Being a horse and riding a horse are two different things.” Sherri Tepper, The Song of Mavin Manyshaped. Mavin has shaped herself into a horse, but now for the first time she must try riding one.

“Someday it would be nice to have something who loved me! ” Anne McCaffrey, The Rowan. The Rowan in adolescence, feeling she is valued entirely for her psychic talents.

“He could kill with his mind alone. He knew that, from his early experience as a slave.” Sue Ann Bowling, Tourist Trap. Roi has just had one of his nightmares about being Zhaim.

Brigadoon (DVD)

My taste in movies tends to run to the fluffy.

My parents used to load us all in the old woody station wagon and take us out to the drive-in. Often as not the movie was a musical, and I still love the old MGM song and dance films.

Drive-ins have never been practical in Alaska. If it’s dark enough to see the screen, it’s too cold to sit in a parked car, and most of my movie watching nowadays is DVDs while pedaling away on my stationary bicycle. I still love the MGM musicals, though, from The Wizard of Oz on. Especially Gene Kelley.

I watched Brigadoon the other night, and marveled again at the musical numbers with Gene Kelley and Cyd Charisse. Oh, the sets are rather obviously painted, and the plot is pretty weak, but the dancing is wonderful. Still, I found myself wondering about a few things.

Not the willing suspension of disbelief that always is necessary to enjoy a fantasy. I’m a science fiction author, and that comes naturally. This was more the world building. Where were the children? Brigadoon was supposed to date to a time before the Revolutionary War. At that time, the death rate, especially among children, was high. One result was large families – more than two children per family, because some would not survive to have children of their own. As a result the age distribution should have been skewed toward the young, as it is today in developing countries — lots of children, numerous adolescents, a moderate number of adults, and a very few old people.

Oh, there were a handful of children shown. But for the village to survive, there should have been at least three children – probably more – for each adult woman.

That’s not true today. Most children born today survive to have children of their own – we consider it a real tragedy when they do not. But that wasn’t true in pre-Revolutionary times.

I’ve done a certain amount of genealogy on my own background, and I have ancestors who gave three children the same name, because the first two died. And women died in childbirth all too often – again hinted at by the fact that many of my male ancestors were widowed when the wife died in childbirth, and then remarried.

No, the society shown in Brigadoon is unlikely, to say the least. But that doesn’t make the singing and dancing any less enjoyable.

Sunrise this morning was 5:59 am, and sunset tonight will be 9:46 pm for a mere 15 hours 46 min of daylight. We’re losing a little less than 7 minutes a day, there are touches of yellow in the trees, and the sun is never more that 37° above the southern horizon. It now dips 13 ° below the horizon at night, though, so it gets pretty dark. Certainly dark enough to see stars and aurora, if the clouds would just clear up. According to the forecast, it should clear up a little by Thursday, but I’m not counting on it.

At least the forecast has no frost warnings – it’s gotten late enough in the year that cloud cover is our best protection from frost, given the cold air overhead. I’ve put the plastic ready for use, and fastened if over the squash even though I’ve pulled it back to let the rain in.

The garden, as usual this time of year, is producing faster than I can eat it. The beets will keep, but I may take some zucchini and beans by the food bank tomorrow if it’s dry enough I can pick them. Still no trace of red on the tomatoes, though I have lots of green ones. Potatoes? I haven’t dug any yet, but they’re certainly producing leaves enough!

It’s foggy out this morning, the leaves are showing the first signs of turning, and the highbush cranberries are almost ripe. It may still be hot where you are, but here we have definitely started the slide into winter.

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