Friday, February 28, 2003

"Pattern Recognition"...William Gibson is at his best. "PR" is better than "All Tomorrow's Parties," suffused with a sense of paranoia and future-chic. When I read "Neuromancer," my world was irrevocably changed. I write science fiction. I've even sold some. (Some critics will inevitably argue that my forthcoming speculative nonfiction book is, in truth, science fiction...) "Neuromancer" redefined what I always knew science fiction could be, in the same sort of way that my elementary-school fixation with Max Headroom plucked prescient chords. Discovering William Burroughs had a similar effect.

I can't even recall when, exactly, I read "Neuromancer." But I remember that I purchased it in Florida, in a strip mall a walk away from my hotel at Cocoa Beach. Gibson upgraded my appreciation for the genre and his influence has had a considerable cascading effect on my creative life. He is the only author I regularly buy in hardback and almost certainly the most important living fiction writer, unmatched in style and cultural relevance.
Is consciousness analogue or digital?

Wednesday, February 26, 2003

Listening to "Pornography" by The Cure and hoping I can find enough time this evening to finish Neal Stephenson's book.

New blog to watch: Culture Observatory by Steve Melling. It's off to a sublimely funny start.

More progress made on my Mars book. Patrick Huyghe, my editor, is back from a vacation in Barbados, which doesn't sound too bad right now. Mars researcher Efrain Palermo, who's contributed images to my Cydonian Imperative website, was a panel member at a Mars conference hosted by the controversial and fascinating Richard Hoagland -- and I've got the digital photos to prove it.

Tuesday, February 25, 2003

Despite SETI's good intentions, we have no way of knowing what an alien transmission might hold in store for us. This calls SETI's international protocol into question. In the event that we receive an impartial beacon consisting of prime numbers or a digital schematic of the aliens' domain within the galactic disk, there would be little problem democratizing the transmission. On the other hand, what if the extraterrestrials sent a more ambitious message our way? Instead of sending us a series of conspicuous beeps, an alien civilization might feel inclined to help emerging civilizations by supplying "blueprints" for new technologies, offering new paradigms for communication, energy extraction, medicine, or even artistic expression.

Conceivably, any message encompassing unknown technologies would fall under the domain of national security. Suppose an ET message contained a coherent primer for extracting the fabled zero-point energy of the vacuum. Few would argue that a global, utopian society would eagerly accept such wisdom. But the Earth of the 21st century is far from utopian; the nation in possession of such knowledge would stand to benefit enormously in both economic and military spheres. SETI's protocol sounds completely just, but it naively assumes that incoming signals from faraway civilizations will be little more than cosmic Hallmark Greetings of no possible strategic importance. Would the United States openly share information leading to new energy sources to, say, Iraq or North Korea if it could be used to create new and more destructive weapons?

Monday, February 24, 2003

Last evening: slept, awoke surprisingly refreshed, and marched to the cofeeshop. Empty, silent streets.

Yesterday's snow is a grimy, cytoplasmic slush that threatens to freeze into a deadly lacquer. This morning: cars spinning in the relatively pristine layer of snow like deranged beetles, shedding curtains of white accumulation. Tuna salad sandwich for lunch (I'm a vegetarian but occasionally make exceptions for seafood) with bar-be-que potato chips and an unwanted Dr. Pepper. Almost bought Nick Pope's "Open Skies, Closed Minds," but, looking through it, I don't think there's anything new to learn (although I could be wrong).

No UFO UpDates so far today. The Cydonia mailing list is remarkably quiet. The Columbia disaster had it cranking out messages, but there isn't much left to say. Even vapid conspiracy theories have outlived their welcome. War fever hangs over the information landscape like portentous cloud.

Sunday, February 23, 2003

The anti-war protesters have made a valiant showing, but they're almost invisible, hidden behind a screen of languid snow like figures half-glimpsed through a fog of sleep deprivation. I read all afternoon and stopped when I realized I was starving. Brain crackling with coffee-induced lucidity, I trudged back to my apartment, ritualistically turned on the lava lamp, and plugged in the space-heater. I love the draft of ozone it gives off after staying unplugged all night.

So whaddaya think of the "robot" look?

Slow email day. I'm gonna eat some noodles before they get cold and/or coagulate into a slimy lump. "Share some grease tea with me..."
Testing out this new "robot" motif...

It's snowing, the flakes listing sideways and even veering up, like flecks of debris riding the slick veneer that encases your pupil. Spook the Cat is fascinated, her head twitching in an attempt to take it all in. Tiny airborne mice?
Circadian rhythms all screwed up, thanks to today's binge of lethargy and caffeine. Renewed protests tomorrow. (Actually, it is tomorrow...) I will log a report if I have any involvement with it. I managed a 10:00 coffee venture. Deserted streets; encroaching chill. I'm in need of a haircut.

Here's a blog just started by a college friend: The depiction of the college town where I spent four years is spot-on. (Note: "Sour Times" is the name of a song by Portishead.)

Saturday, February 22, 2003

I slept in late today and suffered a bout of recurring dreams: something about a train ride through a surreal and devastated Germany: fungal statuary emerging from the ground like drowning relics under a gray sky. Then I got up and lingeringly checked my email, managed to put together something vaguely resembling breakfast, and sat on my futon in not-entirely-unpleasant existential stupor. This is typical Saturday morning behavior.

The temperature drops. I'm at loose ends, wondering whether or not to brave the weekend crowd and enjoy (?) a cinnamon latte. I ate Mexican tonight in a place evidently designed by midgets. Pinatas grazing my forehead like imbecilic cherubs, chairs and tables like furniture designed for use in a tin-can Moon base. Ranks of ceramic pigs with ironic smiles...
This could be the plot of a Thomas Pynchon epic:

Friday, February 21, 2003

Reality is the ultimate anesthetic. I think we are all congenital amnesiacs; we're missing out on something of excrutiating importance, like the cubicle-dwelling drones in "The Matrix." There's an itch in my mind, but I can only find it occasionally. It's like rummaging through a box of ancient refuse and incomprehensible knick-knacks and suddenly feeling the two-pronged bite of a snake between your fingers; you recoil, shrieking, but your curiosity is irreversably picqued -- you want to empty the box into the light of day regardless of the danger...or maybe even because of it.

The fabric of waking reality is...lacking. I feel like a drill has been shoved through my brain, excavating some essential neural hardware and leaving the wound to fill in with bland synaptic meat. Jacques Vallee professed to harboring a "strange urge" to unveil his ufological conditioning system, revealing an existential disquiet as probing as Camus'. Rats pressing levers. Blind, maniacal clockwork spitting out gamma rays and diners, wisecracking technocrats and quantum foam, "orange" alert levels, Pentium chips, and faddish authors.

We cling to "reality," which dutifully adapts to our quaint definitions. Are we drafting our own experiential cryptosystem as we go, subconsciously confident that we'll never have to get too close to the projection booth?
Friday. At last. My mind-body interface feels weak. A slight fatigue shadows my movements...or is that just caffeine-augmented awkwardness?

I had a flavored latte last night for the first time in probably over a year. Usually I just get them plain. Espresso, when blended with steamed milk, actually calms me incredibly, transports me into an agreeable meditative state. Plain coffee, on the other hand, gives me a slight buzz if I drink a lot of it.

Thursday, February 20, 2003

I counted the beeps on my answering machine. Eight of them this time. Where does that leave the "obsolescent michrochip theory"? If it's a glitch from old hardware, why the sudden change?

I bought a cool-looking SF paperback called "Hyperthought" today. The end of "Cryptonomicon" is in sight. It's really not that overwhelmingly long (well, it is pretty long, actually...), but between work and messing around on the computer it's taken a while. I'm looking forward to writing a review. I enjoyed Stephenson's stab at the Extropians ("Eutropians" into hive-mind commune experimentation...)

I'm fumbling a bit with Blogger's archiving format. Certain posts seem to disappear for no readily apparent reason, and I have to retrieve them by republishing the whole thing. Hopefully I'll work the bugs out soon.
Guess what woke me up in the middle of the night last night? Loud beeping from my phone! I was too out of it to count them but I think it's a safe bet there were nine of the damned things.

The Dep't. of Homeland Security (or whatever it calls itself) has unveiled, your one-stop online source for endless anxiety. Don't have time to wade through the government's meandering list of precautions? Try these simple steps instead!

1. In case of a terrorist nuclear strike, run screaming into the streets brandishing bibles and frothing at the mouth.

2. In case of a terrorist chemical strike, run screaming into the streets brandishing bibles and frothing at the mouth.

3. In case nothing at all happens, run screaming into the streets brandishing bibles and frothing at the mouth.

But most of all -- be ready!

Wednesday, February 19, 2003

"Nine beeps" mystery solved

So it's like this: although my answering machine is up-to-date, fully digital, and user-friendly, it contains old-fashioned chips that cause it to give a nine-beep "low backup battery" warning. This is superfluous, as it gives me a battery warning in a human voice every time I check my messages. Needless to say, this anachronism isn't in the instruction books; evidently the chips serve some other purpose and the manufacturer (GE) decided to leave them alone rather than scrap them, hoping they wouldn't cause any confusion.

Tuesday, February 18, 2003

Real events, as opposed to confabulated or hynotically synthesized events, leave an unmistakable sensory signature in the brain that can be detected using PET scan technology. When events are "relived" verbally, brain centers responsible for processing input at the time of the event become active. This can't be faked as far as neuroscientists can tell. Whitley Strieber and others have suggested using this technique to see if alleged alien abductees are telling objective truth and not merely recounting fantasies.

Potentially, a single abductee with appropriate neural feedback could prove that close encounters are real. But would aliens intent on spreading confusion have an answer to PET scan reality-testing and operate on a mental or dream level, bypassing the brain's sensory input indicators?

We know little about consciousness and telepathy, let alone technologies that might exploit latent psi ability. Maybe visiting aliens have anticipated our high-tech efforts to separate truth from fiction. Maybe when they reportedly stick clinical-looking objects up people's sinuses and eye cavities they're shunting evidence of their intervention into the regions of the brain that govern imagination, like fastidious burglars making sure there's no evidence that could lead to their apprehension.

Your mind is a battleground. And I'm not talking about aliens.

Monday, February 17, 2003

Walking past Restoration Hardware tonight, I realized I could live there quite comfortably. The place is stocked with essentials.

I briefly joined the Extropians mailing list today. Same off-topic meandering that plagues any unmoderated list, unfortunately.

I've developed a fascination with other people's laptop computers, an inane urge to peer over their shoulders...

Basically, a very uneventful Monday. I've reworked portions of my website: new links, reviews, fiction, biographical tidbits, must-read books, et cetera. Eventually I'll probably merge this blog with my site but I've forgotten what little I knew about FTP.

Discs in my CD player at this very moment:

"My Early Burglary Years" (Morrissey) (excellent retrospective/rarities collection)
"Us" (Peter Gabriel) (contains "Blood of Eden," featured in "Until the End of the World" but conspicuously absent from the soundtrack...)
"Until the End of the World" motion picture soundtrack
"Wish" (The Cure)
"Kid A" (Radiohead) (moody electronic art-rock)

Sunday, February 16, 2003

I strolled down to the Memorial Fountain today to meet a friend at Kansas City's big antiwar protest. I never found her, but was swept along the Country Club Plaza by a stew of protesters with upthrust signs and banners, all coolly scrutinized by news cameras. Relentless honking from passing cars accompanied by approving cheers.

Some endearing slogans: "No More Bu$hit," "Drop Bush, Not Bombs," "Eat the Patriarchy."

I swilled a cup of coffee and attempted to read, but the swarm of marchers rendered concentration impossible. Plus, I felt rude by ignoring the demonstration. Someone might think it was deliberate and decide to brain me with a "No Blood for Oil" placard.

So I drifted back into the chanting crowds, brandishing Neal Stephenson's "Crytonomicon" like some subversive piece of anti-war propaganda, fingers growing steadily numb. A news helicopter circled overhead like a metallic gnat, taking in the throngs though darkened windows. Theoretically, at least, I might be on TV.

Bruce Sterling has referred to the Bush regime as a postideological technocracy. But I think the sickness runs deeper. W. appears to lack genuine empathy or reason, like a junkie desperate for a fix and willing to suspend higher brain functions until he gets it. Cheap patriotic sentiment and clever slogans aside, the pending war is sickeningly wrong. But can protest really avert it? Stooping to examine a newspaper vending machine, I was slightly heartened by the sheer numbers of war opponents taking to the streets.

Some useful antiwar sites:,
Sundays don't proceed with the same dependable chronology of other days of the week. They're just big chunks of time that suddenly end, like large, ponderous animals downed by anti-aircraft missiles by invisible poachers.

There's a peace rally as well as a pro-war rally happening today, although not at the same time. I have a great view of this from the ninth floor.

I have a new review of Scott Mandelker's "From Elsewhere" on my UFO Book Reviews page...

Saturday, February 15, 2003

I just read some disturbing news. It turns out that if the Authorities detect a global-killer asteroid heading our way, and there's absolutely no way of averting it, then the populace will be kept in blissful ignorance. The reasoning is that there will be nothing that anyone can do, so we might as well avoid mass panic. I can't help but feel strangely cheated. If there's a big chunk of rock about to collide with Earth and exterminate all life except for some nanobacteria, I want everyone to know. I want to see some panic in the streets. I want looting, screaming, mass suicides, rampant craziness. Religious goofballs waiting to be "saved." Stupified suburbanites hoarding groceries. That sort of thing. The public has a right to know.

Friday, February 14, 2003

The storm stopped and I was able to get my latte and read a chunk from "Cryptonomicon" (I'm now over half finished). Richard Dolan (author of the excellent "UFOs and the National Security State") is going to provide a blurb for my Mars book. Very cool. I queried Whitley Strieber but somehow doubt I'll get a reply.

Zakas sent me an assortment of demo CDs in the mail today. I encourage you to check out his website at -- it's like a macabre funhouse. May cause seizures. His upcoming CD has a song called "Gods Black Space" about the Face on Mars. It's got faced-paced narration culled from my website: my small contribution to the music world. I hope it goes platinum.

In the news...Austrian scientists have shown that quantum entangled particles can be used to transmit information after all. This opens the possibility that alien intelligences may use quantum teleportation to communicate instantaneously, speed of light be damned. And SETI has the audacity to think civilizations a million years ahead of us are using radio.

Quick plug: I'm Assistant Editor for a new print magazine called Mysteries. Look for it on bookshelves in the near future or, better yet, subscribe and help ensure my literary career. I'll be glad you did.
Today I wrote some pretty good (in my opinion) material for the Mars book. It obliquely raises the question: Is consciousness analogue or digital?

There's a bad thunderstorm in progress. Will I be able to make it out for my nightly coffee? I have the "Edward Scissorhands" soundtrack playing: one of my all-time favorites.

Thursday, February 13, 2003

Here's an excerpt from a fairly old story I'm preparing to add to my website. Here's the URL, in case you want to take a look: (Contents subject to change/revision.)


"Look," Sterope said, staring at the faux-windshield. I followed her eyes. On the horizon, the blistered, warped tresswork of a radio telescope gleamed like a spider web slashed by wind or an errant footstep. The dish itself looked wilted and charred: a diseased flower.

A blackened infrastructure surrounded us as we drove closer. Thermal bunkers protruded from the ground near the few intact antennae, glistening like Mylar as they shrugged off the impossible heat. I noted mammoth stores of liquid helium and networks of throbbing pipes. A few suited figures stalked the landscape like fat, awkward robots from a child's drawing.

Two of the figures stopped whatever they were doing and dragged a white, wrinkled modular corridor toward our car, which braked and parked neatly between two tree-sized clumps of unfathomable machinery.

"We're expected," I said, somehow less than enthusiastic. We listened to muffled snaps from outside as the corridor was attached to the car.

"We're here," Sterope said with satisfaction. She began unbuckling her coolsuit, tossing the gloves to the upholstered bench seat with a faint grimace of distaste. "We won't need the suits anymore. Go ahead; take yours off. I can't even see your face through that damned silver visor . . ."

I followed Sterope's example. The cab's gullwing door folded open as I peeled away my leggings, accidentally tearing some of the cooling ductwork. Freon leaked onto the floor like phosphorescent blood.

The door stopped short where the insulated corridor had been attached. We dashed out of the cab's back seat and over the doughy foam floor laid out before us, our arms brushing against the sagging, claustrophobic walls. Ahead of me, Sterope wore only her sarong and turban; her bare feet were silent on the cheap modular tile.

Within seconds we reached a refrigerated dome at the opposite end of the corridor. Blinking, I made out computer flatscreens, a bunk-bed, luminous starcharts that winked and pulsated with unguessable cosmic agendas.

The entrance hissed shut behind us and we were abruptly alone and vulnerable, somehow more so than we had been in the privacy of my apartment or that first encounter with the virtuality rigs. I heard the chugging of an airlock; I must have missed it in our hurry to escape the tunnel. The door reopened and two men entered, dismantling their coolsuits with practiced, unthinking ease. Both were bald and anemic-looking, with craned necks and furtive unblinking eyes that glinted phosphor-blue in the murky light. Hackers of some sort.
Rise of the lizard-slayer

I nominate David Icke as prototype 21st century man. He's got the necessary survival skills for today's post-X-Files zeitgeist. He's even politically correct inasmuch as his disdain for Jews is masked by a loathing for interdimensional reptiles. Icke, like John Edward, is a smarmy pseudoprophet who delights in smearing his own face across his publications. Image is everything; Icke knows this, realizes it with an acuity the politicians he despises only sense from a distance.

Icke knows how to package idiocy, and it's the package, not the contents, that is so eagerly swallowed. The covers of his books have all of the graphic subtlety of a box of laundry detergent. His audience is a reeling mass of paranoid media symbionts: the human aftermath of the Heaven's Wake suicides, late-night radio conspiracies and the shoot-out death of professional doom-monger Bill Cooper.

Wednesday, February 12, 2003

The future isn't an inevitability; it's a process. It reaches back in time with delicate, enveloping fingers and beckons. We proceed into the future like slender pseudopods straining to break free of a parent cell. The transition is amorphic, dangerous and continuous. We are always on the front lines, waging temporal war within the privacy of our own skulls. The future is not ours, although it can be. Maybe this is what a multiversal intelligence seeks: not the chatter of electromagnetic transmissions, but the intricate lacing that occurs when spacetime is tempered with conscious intent. Finding us, it insinuates itself into our ontological flow. It replicates until its presence is so familiar we cease to even notice. We are silent partners, weaving new matrices of causality.
When the hell is Morrissey coming out with a new record? It's been years!

More NPR listening today. Great driving material. Nukes in North Korea, heightened terror alerts, mystery tapes from quasi-mythical bad guys...and hysterically out-of-place commentary on books I'll never read and obscure restaurants. Quite the spectacle. The millennium didn't really begin on Jan. 1, 2001. It began on Sep. 11, 2001. The fall of the towers was a fittingly bleak celebration, ushering in a national paranoia worthy of Philip K. Dick.

Listening to Howard Shore's soundtrack for David Cronenberg's "Crash," based off J.G. Ballard's novel. This one really grows on you: mechanical yet lyrical and foreboding.

I bought new toy mice for my cat, Spook, the other day. She likes the ones with fur because she can sink her claws into them and really maul them.

Editorial deadline for Paraview Pocket Books less than a month away. In the meantime, a former Boeing employee has emailed me with plans for a private Mars mission. If he gets his way, I get to go.

No follow-up "phantom phone calls" or mystery beeps. In fact, the power in my apt. went off while I was away yesterday and the digital recording of the nine beeps (see earlier entry) was erased. Thankfully I'm not paranoid enough to attribute this to snooping ultaterrestrials.

I'm off to get a latte and read some Neal Stephenson.

Tuesday, February 11, 2003

Whitley Strieber has posted a disturbing piece on his site re. massive proposed expansion of the "Patriot Act." An American dictatorship? Why not? It's not nearly as implausible as it sounds. Strieber makes an emotional show of it, as always, but I really don't blame him.

I'm frustrated by my Yahoo! account, which is denying me access to a mailing list that I moderate. I thought I wasn't getting as much email as usual... Anyone know what's going on? My address is

I've become an NPR listener sometime in the last couple months. The spoken word editorials are a blast; I crank up the volume for those. I'm a terrible orator. I skip from topic to topic, sever my own arguments in mid-sentence and apologize on behalf of the person/political entity I'm attacking only to realize that I'm allowing myself to be manipulated, which makes me bitter and vindictive. I prefer to hover at the margins, taking it all in like a holographic camera, letting it settle and ferment of its own volition. I'm a locus of weird memes, a biohazard, an ambiguous and decidedly nonpartisan singularity.

Bureaucracy is a parasitic lifeform. It will continue feeding until human existence is a mere shuffle of commodity and idiotic smiles. A splinter faction must enter space. Escape before the planet goes nova. Burroughs and Leary. Gerard O'Neill and Robert Zubrin. Their memes must survive long after the bureaucrats are so much radioactive bonemeal.

Monday, February 10, 2003

Today in UFO UpDates Colin Bennett ("Politics of the Imagination") likened my postmodern slant on forteana to the working philosophies of Paul Devereaux and Jacques Vallee: quite a compliment.

Rereading yesterday's comment about "asexual techno-nerds," I realize this sounds like I'm making fun of the Extropians and others like them. Not so. (If you doubt it, see my transhumanism page.) But the fact remains that extropian concepts appeal to both intellectually vigorous and shallow escapist mind-sets. There's even a large zone of overlap.

I've had online run-ins with members of the self-proclaimed transhumanist elite: embarrassingly shallow, thick-skulled collectivists who have simply substituted "cyberspace" for the archaic notion of "heaven." The vocabulary has changed, but the Will to Believe persists, evolving as certainly as demons and fairy-folk morph into extraterrestrial visitors to camouflage themselves among our expectations.

Sunday, February 09, 2003

The Internet is nothing less than an artificial extension of the human nervous system; we are all cyborgs.

Today I found old editions of Suzy Charnas' "Walk to the End of the World" and "Motherlines" in a used book store. I also picked up my reserved copy of "Pattern Recognition" from Barnes & Noble (finally).

The weather is cold and rainy. In the coffeeshop, watched marching protestors and read briefly from "The Mysterious Valley," which I like so far. (The other day I studied the cover of "USA Today". The two main stories were NASA's post-Columbia options and Bush's reiterated demands for pointless death. I am most assuredly living in the 21st century. In the rain and the cold, among the silenced fountains, dystopian overtones are as quietly unnerving as the mystery beeps on my answering machine.)

Email from Natasha Vita-More: she's going to link to my site. I relish the idea of asexual techno-nerds stumbling across my thoughts on UFOs and extraterrestrial archaeology and fleeing in ontological terror.

New links added to MTVI. Come visit.

Saturday, February 08, 2003

Speaking of Men In Black...

My digital answering machine recorded nine beeps today (or possibly very late last night). The odd thing is that no one had called. The phone never rang; the beeps (accompanied by modulated static) were somehow recorded directly into the memory chip.

In UFO lore, this might qualify as a "phantom phone call." Similar calls are sometimes received by close encounter witnesses (see John Keel's "The Mothman Prophecies" for post-encounter weirdness galore). But what interests me is that I knew how many beeps there would be before counting them. In "Transformation," Whitley Strieber recounts how he was startled to hear "nine knocks" high on the wall of his cabin in New York. This spurred him to try to discover not only how the impossibly high knocks had occurred, but what the knocks represented -- if anything.

Strieber's knocks occurred in three sets of three. My mystery beeps didn't. Strieber, if he is telling the truth, has a history of unusual encounters with apparent nonhuman beings. I don't. However, the beeps took place in what I can only describe as a synchronistic framework. Months ago, right after reading Keel's book, I received my first mystery call (and although I thought it was weird, I erased the "message" before counting the beeps). Today's call was the second such I've ever received. The first incident took place in the midst of an alarming -- albeit subjective -- degree of synchronicity. Today's occurred while finishing a book that specifically dealt with phantom phone calls, so one could argue that there's an acausal relationship there, a Jungian "meaningful coincidence."

Or just possibly something stranger.

Friday, February 07, 2003

The "Men in Black" phenomenon might be the clue that unlocks the holographic hall of mirrors that is forteana/ufology. My thoughts on apparent aliens have detoured slightly from Jacques Vallee's theories and into the "superspectrum" of John Keel -- not that Vallee and Keel are mutually exclusive. We are spatially biased; we speak of multidimensional intelligences without grasping the ramifications of four-dimensional awareness. How to address a mind that exists in all points in time simultaneously? Is communication possible or are we doomed to fevered speculation? (Marc Davenport's "Visitors from Time" just might be vitally insightful.)

Charles Fort: "If there is a Universal Mind, must it be sane?"

On my immediate to-read list:

"The Secret History of Ancient Egypt"
"The Elements of the Qabalah"
"Kane of Old Mars"

"Everybody's lost but they're pretending they're not."

--Morrissey, "Lost"

Thursday, February 06, 2003

I am increasingly convinced that the human species is interacting with an intelligence capable of traveling through time. UFO events are linked by webs of acausal phenomena, implying an implicate realm in which our 3-D world is a malleable shadow. Our skies and minds are being breached and exploited in a transtemporal context.

Sample case from Jenny Randles' fascinating "The Truth Behind Men in Black": A curious "spaceman" inexplicably appears in a photo taken near a rocket manufacturer in Britain. At least twelve days later the launch of a British rocket in Australia is accompanied by an unindentified object. At some point, another launch is grounded due to manifestations that lead two anonymous "government investigators" (referring to themselves as number 9 and number 11...) to the doorstep of the photographer who unwittingly took the "spaceman" photo...
Exterminate all rational thought

A friend produced the following "cut-up" (a text-collage technique pioneered by William S. Burroughs) based off a recent excerpt from my forthcoming nonfiction book and part of a science fiction story published by "Alternate Realities." There are some great juxtapositions here and there...

to the same observatory. the sand with its glowing backwash. This time, there was no mistaking the It looked something like an enormous big-headed visage of a classic Gray, metal brain embedded in the center extending a hand to clutch a sphere of a gray, convex disc. Bulbous or disc inscribed with ASCII computer code. objects lined the central structure like The message, readily translated by armchair cereologists parasitic growths, each glowing a different convinced they were dealing either with an color. What I initially mistook for ambitious hoax or irrefutable proof of alien landing gear were actually bright, metallic intelligence, was cryptically intriguing. It tentacles that flexed and curled in reads: "Beware the bearers of FALSE gifts unknown gesticulations, sometimes grazing the sand & their BROKEN PROMISES. Much PAIN but or dipping (cautiously, it seemed) into still time. EELRIJUE. There is GOOD out the tainted sea. We joined each there. We OPpose DECEPTION. COnduit CLOSING [bell other on the beach just as sound]" the strange craft rotated and glided casually away from us, tentacles bunched at its sides like trained snakes. Then, suddenly, there were more of them: hundreds, silhouetted against the bleary ellipse that was the sun. They made no sound, but the that while humans used radio telescopes to We had known what was coming communicate with possible extraterrestrials, the aliens choose since the Halo disaster. Our remaining to communicate via grain-based telegrams. While this time together was like one of didn't indict actual aliens as the messengers, the vertiginous waves that hammered the it did suggest a long-term hoax. Concentrating shore at night, unseen but for on the 2001 Chilbolton face, investigators applied the odd, skittering crabs. 3. When Gaussian blur filters to reveal a startling the machines began descending, I was human likeness. Although very low-resolution, the Chilbolton at first convinced someone had survived face was an actual photograph, achieved by the orbital cataclysm. The machines didn't flattening grain stalks to produce an effect look like anything I remembered, but identical to half-tone printing. Hoax or then again it had been a "real," the Chilbolton images constitute two of long time; our isolation dilated the the most technically impressive crop formations since flow of days, confusing circadian rhythm, the phenomenon received wide pubic exposure melting away the imaginary partitions that in the early 1990s. But they were delineate night and day. The first exceeded only a year later, when another machine descended late one morning, stirring "cereoglyph" appeared next natural color, but glyph-like designs with boards and wire, inserted a harsh, not-quite-right blue like something their initials as part of their designs. out of a bottle. That night, Online analysis of the crop formations as we cooked mollusks from the was fast and furious. Graphic designer Chris vantage of the shallow, earthen seawall, Joseph produced the first digitally accurate "bit-by-bit" the ocean actually glowed, rivaling the version of the Arecibo message, clearly demonstrating Halo's ubiquitous yellow. When we began how the Chilbolton image reproduced the format vomiting, the realization of what was originally transmitted in 1978. Attempts to decipher happening to us came like the the message's alleged origin resulted in one slap of cold water, leaving us particularly strange insight: where humans had placed numb and alienated from one another. a schematic of the radio dish at Retreating into private worlds, we sat Arecibo, the agency responsible for the apparent with our knees clutched to our "reply" had inserted a simplified version of chests for hours on end, eyes an intricate crop formation that had appeared tearing from the smoky, chemical haze a year earlier in the same that drifted across the shore. We area. The implication seemed to be had never explicitly spoken of it. if something actively perishing could be The Chilbolton face, though fundamentally human-like, said to have urgency -- and was also likened to a Gray alien once more we were alone and by some observers due to the deep, naked, basking in an embrace that unfathomable black shadow beneath the brow. lasted until the dull yellow of It crossed few minds that the morning. 2. We knew the ocean crop face was not intended to represent was poisoned, of course. Even after either the quintessential alien face or the the smog had descended it was Face on Mars. Perhaps it was hard not to notice the lurid simply a face -- maybe even a scabs that flecked the water's surface. clever dot-matrix reproduction of its creator, assuming Once, while fishing, I had come the Chilbolton formations were human-made. It wouldn't across the sunken wreck of a have been the first time crop artists charred pod of some sort, still have inserted a subtle signature into flashing brief, animated logos for forgotten their handiwork; the infamous hoaxing team consisting Halo industries. The water around the of "Doug and Dave," who demonstrated to downed pod was noticeably blue -- the media how they could create extensive not the ocean's minimalist image of the Halo's slow disintegration, our muscles one of the presumed extraterrestrials. Not surprisingly, tightening as fragments succumbed to gravity it featured a short body (in and plummeted to the horizon with comparison to the crude human image transmitted a faint dopplered roar that reached in 1978), an oversized head and conspicuously us only many seconds afterwards. Once large eyes. In other words, a we had seen a Halo fragment Gray. Even while crop circle researchers (or "cerealogists") explode in mid-air; we instantly curled debated the origin of the two into ridiculous fetal postures as we strange formations -- both of which were waited out the explosion. Thunder issued most unlike the characteristic circles and fractal from the ocean as chunks of designs that have baffled cerealogists -- the debris punched the surface, blasting out Cydonia community was attempting to integrate the new clouds of acrid steam that eclipsed formations into a Martian context. Heavy the Halo like a heavy gauze shadow over the eyes of the stretched tight over the night sky. crop-face recalled Viking frame 35A72, leading to As the steam faded, the Halo the assumption that the face in the reappeared with seeming renewed urgency -- crops depicted the Face on Mars. Another example of cross-germinating memes appeared The world had emptied and, for in a field in England in 2001 all intents and purposes, we now across from the Chilbolton Observatory. Consisting had it to ourselves. At night of an elaborate dot-matrix face and binary we'd make love while the Halo schematic, the crop formations were instantly regarded flowed silently overhead, burning yellow-white and by some as evidence of alien intervention. throwing thin shadows across our sand-encrusted Proponents argued that the artistically rendered bodies. The tide would come crashing face looked something like the Face in after the day's yellow-brown had on Mars. But the schematic design, shrunken to a knot on the while not as visually enchanting, captured most horizon, chilling us, hissing and churning of the attention. Whoever made it, between entwined limbs. Tiny crab-like creatures it was clearly modeled on a emerged from the hard-packed sand, eyestalks SETI signal transmitted from Arecibo, Puerto Rico glinting, and waded out onto the in 1978. Encoded in the rectangular glyph chilly beach, avoiding us. We would are tantalizing references to alien biochemistry, a lie on our backs, the sand diagram of the aliens' native solar system, molded to our bodies, and watch
I was tempted to write about the horrible customer service at Fazoli's, or why Borders bookstores find it necessary to put barcode stickers on books that already have barcodes. But these essential topics must wait. Right now, go to Warp Records and listen to George Bush's (strategically altered) State of the Union Address. It's hilarious.

Wednesday, February 05, 2003

Ten favorite pop songs of the moment:

"The Lifting" (R.E.M.)
"Everday Is Like Sunday" (Morrissey)
"Mysteries" (Beth Gibbons and Rustin Man)
"Sour Times" (Portishead)
"Charlotte Sometimes" (The Cure)
"Let's Dance" (David Bowie)
"Washing of the Water" (Peter Gabriel)
"Smooth Operator" (Sade)
"There Is a Light That Never Goes Out" (The Smiths)
"Planet Claire" (The B-52s)
The Face on Mars, as image and metaphor, is wildly powerful, but it has yet to eclipse the dominant "extraterrestrial" archetype: the ubiquitous "alien head" that entered the idea pool upon publication of Whitley Strieber's "Communion" in 1987. The alien portrait on the cover quickly became synonymous with aliens and close encounters, and was eventually minimalized into a tapered oval with black ellipses for eyes and a straight line for a mouth (thanks, in large part, to the work of underground cartoonist Bill Barker). Today, the "alien head" icon is as pervasive as Nike's "swoosh" or Tommy Hilfiger's patriotically colored "T." It's emblematic of the unknown. By rendering it into a caricature, vendors of the "intelligent extraterrestrial" meme have fostered a communion the likes of which Strieber couldn't have possibly guessed.

Alien iconography inundates popular culture. Even children (who have never heard of Betty and Barney Hill, let alone new-wave abduction researchers such as Harvard's Dr. John Mack) immediately recognize the minimal "alien head" as something strange and portentous . . . as well as imminently stylish. It's no coincidence that the characters in recent video games and animated television series bear an uncomfortable resemblance to the "alien" a la Strieber and Barker. From Japanese anime to the Powerpuff Girls, the consummately "cute," bug-eyed motif has played a quiet but important role in demystifying what was once unthinkable. Like a fish with embryonic lungs, the alien meme has crawled ashore and flourished, populating the zeitgeist with consumer-friendly weirdness.
Kindness is a cheap commodity. All too often, compassion takes the form of a "patriotic" bumper-sticker or theatrical "peace rally." It's a most convincing show, but that's all it is. Activism obviously has its place, but don't try to pass it off as heartfelt and genuine. It's sentimental politics, nothing more.

Tuesday, February 04, 2003

Maybe transcultural myths of catastrophic global floods aren't garbled memories but genetic signals evolved to catalyze profound, visceral unease with living on Earth. We're terribly vulnerable. Maybe some aspect of our collective mind -- assuming we have one -- is crying out in existential anguish. To quote Arnold from "Total Recall": "Get your ass to Mars."

I added new stuff to page 36 of the Cydonian Imperative.
William Gibson's new novel "Pattern Recognition" hit U.S. bookshelves today. I'm hooked and I haven't even started it yet!

Monday, February 03, 2003

Lava lamp observations:

When turned on, nothing happens for while as the wax heats up. Then, abruptly, jagged, organic-looking tendrils and stalks shoot up from the lump of puddled wax at the bottom of the flask like synapses in an eager brain. As the heat increases, the stalks collapse and settle to the bottom, where they melt into obvlivion. Soon, myriad spheres are seen moving up and down, only to fuse into a single tentacular column that exchanges mass with its hemispherical counterpart floating above. Given time, this column prevails against smaller bits of molten wax. It's like watching a patient, peristaltic mollusk. The amoeboid shapes inside the flask act out a sort of prebiological evolution.
"All around me are familiar faces
Worn out places, worn out faces
Bright and early for their daily races
Going nowhere, going nowhere
And their tears are filling up their glasses
No expression, no expression
Hide my head I want to drown my sorrow
No tomorrow, no tomorrow..."

--Tears for Fears, "Mad World"

Sunday, February 02, 2003

Here's a fiction fragment that's been gathering dust (or its informational equivalent) on my hard drive. The intention here is shock value a la William S. Burroughs' "Naked Lunch." I wanted to render a weird science-fictional environment without being hindered by machinations such as plot and character; it's a decent writing exercise that forces you to think organically. Here we go:

The habitat's docking spires pierce the vast canopy of green membrane, needles through the viscera of an embryonic city. Gaping bone-white shafts lead to the atmosphere generators deep underground; passersby lounge at their rims, plucking drinks and syringes from the backs of giant modified insects. Multi-level stores and endless restaurants huddle around the sprires, connected by translucent skywalks that shine with the membrane's jade glow. The sun is a blotch of eye-stinging yellow-green, like a phosphorescent lesion on some exotic deep-sea fish.

Every available surface is thronged with a mishmash of pedestrians and small, unassuming vehicles that clamber over one another with adhesive tires, leaving trails of noxious resin that degrades into fine blue powder. Silvery robotic cameras dart about like birds, bobbing and weaving in vertiginous flocks before exhausting their fuel and falling to the ground, where they burst and are scooped up by patient custodial insects. Prostitutes with animated tattoos beckon from automatic sidewalks, striking poses, feigning copulation with ambling waist-high beetles with bar-coded shells.

Zoom out. The membrane flashes by and recedes into a dappled disk-shape, like an algal pond seen from a great height. All around it is red-orange desert and scattered rock. The spires poke through the disk's surface like hermetic wands, tips bristling with parked vehicles. Spindly helicopters with impossibly stretched rotors ply the yellow sky in winking convoys, their shadows thin and insubstantial on the Martian surface. Blimps, pendulous with imported coffees and raw meat and choice microelectronics, extend resinous antennae that curl around the docking spires like the arms of a drowning man around a passing tree-limb.

The membrane habitats dot the landscape, encapsulating craters, interconnected by satellite uplinks and whispering monorails...
Great weather today. Gibsonian dead television sky. Two functioning fountains; receding ice. I bought Jenny Randles' "The Truth Behind the Men in Black"...giant metal donuts in the sky over Maury Island? This weekend was criminally short. Ominous contrails on the covers of newspapers, the smell of thawing sewage hovering like a painful memory above Brush Creek.

I feel poised in the brink of a familiar existential malaise. A vague sense of nostalgia and vertiginous longing like the prescient tickle in the back of your throat when a cold's coming on...
I received a wall-mounted clock today. It's square and features a cup of coffee with the words "Best Coffee in Town." Here's the weird part: this thing actually ticks. It makes audible, almost Victorian sounds as it performs its designated function of informing me of the time. This is in stark contrast to all the other electric devices I own, with their mute LCD displays and anonymous plastic carapaces (i.e., my Sharp microwave oven, alarm clocks, stereo system, printer, computer...) I like the ticking; it's oddly reassuring, like a healthy heartbeat.

Saturday, February 01, 2003

I've written briefly about today's loss of the Space Shuttle Columbia:

This morning a friend called to let me know that the space shuttle Columbia had disintegrated before a scheduled landing. Somehow, this news came as more of a punch in the face than when I learned of the terrorist attacks of 2001. Flawed and short-sighted as it is, NASA is a uniquely American institution capable of doing truly awe-inspiring things given the budget and initiative. The recent announcement of Project Prometheus, a long-overdue effort to use nuclear energy in space in the peaceful pursuit of knowledge, is an example.

Columbia's disintegration is a profound loss that raises important questions about the future of our already tenuous manned presence in space. It could be argued that better technology could have prevented this setback; the shuttle program utilizes laughably obsolete craft that properly belong in the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. The loss of the Columbia's crew is a monumental waste of human potential that transcends national boundaries. The seven astronauts killed in the mishap were humanity's envoys, avatars of our inherent exploratory spirit. We badly need more people like them.

The demise of the Columbia and its crew shouldn't hold us back. Their death should be a rallying call for new, more efficient and more reliable space transportation systems. The space shuttle concept, as presently manifested by NASA, begs replacement. The time has surely come to broaden our conception of space and the definition of our role in its uncompromising vastness.

Perhaps I'm being foolishly optimistic about this. The loss of Columbia was a grotesque blow. But maybe NASA needs a grotesque blow to wake it up to the fact that it's using risky hardware and getting very little in return. The shuttle program is largely a charade, a manned spaceflight program in permanent standby mode. Yes, it's better than nothing at all, but now we're seeing how fragile it really is.

This could be a chance to introduce a real reusable shuttle instead of the cumbersome, wasteful, horribly inefficient mutation we call the Space Shuttle. But will we rise to the challenge or revert to the status quo?

Let's continue to expand, establishing permanent beachheads in the sky, never holding back for the sake of bureaucratic whim or political myopia.

See the Cydonian Imperative.
This blog has survived a week of daily posting. I haven't lost interest. As I remarked to a friend, it makes much more sense than keeping yet another wire-bound journal that I'll eventually lose or spill (presumably overpriced) coffee on. That, and the fact that my handwriting is incredibly strange and unreadable, like alien hieroglyphs. It's more of a personal shorthand than an attempt to write ciphertext (word running through my head as I read "Cryptonomicon"...), but sometimes I can't even read it after a week or so. Getting a laptop is imperative.

Presently waiting for a check (one of three) from Pocket Books.

Looked at computer-generated science-fiction art on my lunch break today. The guy who did the first digital cover image (for Gibson's "Neuromancer") reminds me of the abstracted, neon-tinged portrait eWarrior produced for his article. (Click here to see it.)