Friday, October 31, 2003

eWarrior's digitally manipulated portrait, "MacBot Singularity," has gone to hardcopy. This mildly freaky Warholian posthuman visage is actually tacked to someone's wall. I'm quite pleased. As eWarrior writes in his blog, there's something uniquely satisfying about midwifing a digital work into the analogue "meatspace" world. Analogue is inherently messier that digital, but singularly rewarding. (Would you rather read an "e-book" on your palmtop than crack the cover of a paperback? Neither would I.)

Thursday, October 30, 2003

I got this cool email from a reader of my Mars site:

I really enjoyed your "Cydonia Imperative" pages. Its a refreshing view of some of the research being done in the region. The part that I liked the most about it is that you attempt (if not always successful) to keep an unbiased point of view about the anomolies in the images.

I've read much of Hoagland's work in the area and it just seems too one-sided (more specifically it seems like he tries to stretch things into fitting his artificiality (is that a word?) argument). I've also read so-called debunkers' views on the issues and they tend to come from the complete opposite end of the spectrum (except its much worse, no reason or data generally to support their claims other than "look at it"). Its hard to lend credit to a rushed conclusion without considering the null hypothesis.

I salute you for presenting things from both ends in a rational manner which can be hard to do with such a subject matter. It seems that we either want or dont want these landforms to be artificial and get so wrapped up in what we want we fail to see what is there. If it turns out someday that none of the landforms are artificial, then hey it was a fun ride! I am working on a phD in Artificial Intelligence so all my monetary funds are heading into that, but if i did have the means to leave a tip i would (in a way this email IS my tip, its all i got to give at this point). Keep up the good work.

I responded:

I agree with you entirely. Culturally, we're conditioned to either "believe" or "disbelieve" in any given strange phenomenon. We suffer from a very binary outlook and leap to conclusions instead of evaluating the evidence.

The Cydonia inquiry is interesting because, as Carl Sagan admitted before his death, it's testable science. Ultimately, we can find out if there are artifacts on Mars. But until we land there -- or come across a conclusive photograph, which I doubt will happen -- we can continue approaching this as the scientific puzzle it is.

"Debunkers" will continue making distorted statements, as will "believers." But in the end none of it matters. Even if this is a false alarm, it's an excellent opportunity to examine the process by which we form hypotheses and arrive at conclusions.

I bought R.E.M.'s "Best Of" yesterday. It's the best musical purchase I've made in years. The outtakes and rarities on the bonus disc are incredible, including a haunting slowed-down version of "The One I Love," an ambient rendition of "Leave" (one of the best songs from "New Adventures in Hi-fi") and "Country Feedback" recorded live on the 2003 tour.

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

I find biomimicry fascinating. I saw a walking-stick crossing the jogging path at the park up the street an hour ago. I wonder if there are any confirmed cases of insects adopting the appearance of human artifacts. You know, like cigarette butts, loose change, toothpicks, bottle caps, used condoms . . . or bigger specimens evolved to look like Volkswagens and cellphones and Starbucks java-jackets.

I'm now reading "Edison's Eve" by Gaby Wood. It's an anthropological history of human simulacra and the barriers between human and machine. The writing is sharp, urbane, fresh; I'm going to enjoy this one a lot.

"In Time: The Best of R.E.M." is in U.S. stores now. I'll probably pick up my special edition copy tonight.

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

There's an enormous solar flare wafting toward Earth. Unfortunately, it's not expected to be terribly impressive viewed from the ground. Maybe some heightened auroral activity. I think it would be fantastic if it would turn the midnight sky beet-red or something like that. I'd love for the "end times" morons who dote on Tim LaHaye to get all excited about the impending "rapture" only to have their hopes dashed.

Choice graffiti from "28 Days Later": THE END IS EXTREMELY FUCKING NIGH.

Monday, October 27, 2003

Here's a global warming petition worth signing. It takes all of ten seconds and might help make a difference.

Or do you like it really hot?

Sunday, October 26, 2003

I ran into a pretty dark-haired girl on the way to the coffeeshop and we ended up talking for quite a while. Unfortunately, a bitter, incoherent old man sitting on the outdoor table next to us persistently interrupted with loud meditations on religion and his personal medical history while flashing his pink-painted fingernails. Encounters like this are inevitable in an urban environment, but I was extremely bothered by it. I happen to strike up a spontaneous conversation with a girl and some delinquent just happens to make the scene in order to make our encounter as awkward as possible. What are the odds?

To make the day even more unpleasant, the Kansas City Chiefs are playing tonight. Evidently they're on a winning streak. This means that a disturbing percentage of adult males are strutting around decked out in fire-cone-red Chiefs attire. Not T-shirts -- actual jerseys, like they're on the damned team. The last I checked Halloween was on the 31st.

I could really do without these imbeciles and their decorated vehicles. The other night I walked by some forgettable truck with a prominent sticker on the back window: "Official Vehicle of the Kansas City Chiefs." Oh, really? Strange, seeming how members of the actual Chiefs franchise are probably driving Porsches and Jaguars that they can afford because our society's collective self-esteem is so low that its members regularly cough up hundreds of dollars for season tickets and stadium parking and overpriced beer. All so they can "root" for a bunch of mentally deficient strangers in make-believe gladiator outfits who wouldn't bother speaking to their self-proclaimed "fans" unless it involved a photo-op.

I hope the Chiefs fucking lose. Badly. Better yet, I hope the Midwest is plunged in a blackout that forces hoards of befuddled suburbanites in Chiefs sticker-emblazoned SUVs to find something to do with their time other than staring dimly at televised corporate iconography and trying their hardest to transplant their egos to some fictional "team" that they've been trained to entrust with their emotional lives.

But, of course, if these poor sods didn't exist, the machine would fail to function. People might be less inclined to purchase needlessly elaborate cellphones and long-distance packages because corporate sponsors wouldn't bother wasting advertising money on the "big game." People might start kindling sparks of unsuspected creativity instead of leading their usual precarious media-addled existence. Then maybe I could find a job that's actually rewarding instead of slaving in a harshly lit prefab cubicle so I can afford to buy an occasional book.

"Right," you're thinking. "Like Mr. Posthuman here doesn't have a TV." I don't. I can't stand the sight of them. I'd be overjoyed if all the televisions in the United States spontaneously exploded, taking their ostensible owners with them in big orgasmic blossoms of flame and broken glass.

It's very fashionable right now to worry about Iraq. And we should worry. But we're looking down the stainless steel barrel of a cultural apocalypse every bit as life-destroying as a rocket-propelled grenade. Idiots in little-boy costumes parade our streets like shock troops for some malign invasion while, up the street, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art fires eight employees because of budget cuts.

Sports nuts bitch and moan about spending a patently ludicrous $6 on a cup of watered beer at Arrowhead Stadium, yet someone's still coughing up the cash for it. And Kansas Citians continue to kvetch about the price-gouged parking that's heaped on top of the price of tickets. To me, the solution to this problem is absurdly simple: stop going. Stop "supporting the team." Not just until the price of beer goes down, but for good. Burn sports arenas to the ground. Even better, use them as ready-made landfills for the televisions you won't be needing anymore.

Good news for my Mars book. My publisher made inquiries after the chilly reception from MSSS and now, it appears, securing official permission to use Mars Global Surveyor Mars imagery should be a cinch. And probably free.

Saturday, October 25, 2003

Late trip to the ATM across the street. Children's artwork -- none of it interesting -- adorns the cement flanking of the still-skeletal Plaza Colonnade. $60 in crisp, sticky twenties, watermarks like puddled oil under the bleak outdoor lights. White limousines glide past storefronts like metal sharks, cold and purposeful.

Sitting next to a pretty Latin medical student in the coffeeshop, so close we're almost touching. Intermittent flashes of digital cameras. Thick espresso lodges in my cracked lips like tar. My reflection in an adjacent mirror is bloodlessly pale.

New purchases: Natalie Merchant's "The House Carpenter's Daughter" and "Edison's Eve," a book on the history of mechanical simulacra: the sort of text I imagine J.F. Sebastian from "Blade Runner" poring over in his cluttered office-laboratory (scuttling white rats and Petri dishes of designer chromosomes).
This week was almost entirely worthless, but I sort of made up for it by buying "The Essential Simon and Garfunkel" tonight while wandering around and catching up on reading "The Day of the Triffids."

I wish I knew how to play the theremin. I harbor vague hopes of eventually getting one. The theremin is arguably the world's first "techno" instrument, which partially explains why it features so largely in 1950s flying saucer movies. In "Eclipse," John Shirley describes an ostensibly futuristic electronic instrument that actually sounds quite a bit like a theremin as conceived by Stelarc.

I've recently rediscovered Tori Amos. A couple years ago I had downloaded her cover of The Cure's "Lovesong" that I liked and wish I could relocate (along with the extended version of "One Night in Bangkok" and a few other gems). I don't trust my computer enough to download any new music programs since Napster's epochal demise; it's reached a stage of competent but doddering silicon senility.

I've created a web page for the various images graphic artists have sent to me. It may take a while to load. Be patient.

William Gibson's blogging farewell:

"I've found blogging to be a low-impact activity, mildly narcotic and mostly quite convivial, but the thing I've most enjoyed about it is how it never fails to underline the fact that if I'm doing this I'm definitely not writing a novel -- that is, if I'm still blogging, I'm definitely still on vacation. I've always known, somehow, that it would get in the way of writing fiction, and that I wouldn't want to be trying to do both at once. The image that comes most readily to mind is that of a kettle failing to boil because the lid's been left off."

Friday, October 24, 2003

The decor at my place of work is a drab patchwork of beige and yellow, the color of nicotine-stained teeth. You can buy aspirin upstairs. Would you like your coffee strained through one or two filter packs? See that gray screen? We'd like you to stare at it . . . all day long.

Thursday, October 23, 2003

A month or so ago I received an email by a person calling himself Pavel, who claimed to have found a strange object (shown above) buried in the woods near his home in Perm, Russia. According to Pavel, the object had been ejected from a UFO. During my subsequent correspondence with him, Pavel rejected my suggestion to take the mystery object to a properly equipped lab for analysis and, inexplicably, decided to send the artifact to me via international post. Pavel described the object's anomalous physical characteristics: the Braille-like figure (shown in the upper right-hand corner) had supposedly changed by itself and the cylinder's metallic surface would grow hot after being touched with no evident mechanical cause. These and other properties apparently worried him that the object's original owners would return for it, possibly endangering his family.

I shortly received an email from Pavel claiming that overseas shipping was more expensive than he had expected and requesting me to send money to assist in the artifact's delivery. I declined and email from "Pavel" immediately ceased. I had realized that the possibility of my being hoaxed was very real, and Pavel's request for funds seemed to cinch the matter. But I had become interested in the cylinder's basic resemblance to similar objects associated with the infamous UMMO hoax (see Jacques Vallee's "Revelations: Alien Contact and Human Deception"). Even the "Z"-shaped glyph on the object's underside bore a vague resemblance to UMMO's trademark stylized "H." Was Pavel operating as an agent for a Russian offshoot of the ostensibly defunct UMMO cult?

After appealing to the UFO community via the UFO UpDates email list, I discovered that at least two other parties had been approached by "Pavel." I now tend to doubt any explicit UMMO/cult connection; the more likely explanation is the desire for quick cash from gullible UFO researchers.
I took in "Tempus Fugit: Time Flies" at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in 2001. I'm not sure this online version does it justice. One of my favorite pieces was a doll with a webcam in place of one eye. It was accompanied by a computer screen showing the artist's website, which showed still-frames of gallery onlookers at ten-second intervals. (I made sure I was plainly visible.)

I think "interactive," Net-based art generally spooks people. Which is really anomalous for a society addicted to cellphones. Americans want to be global but they also want the illusion of anonymity.

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Today was an unnecessary, parodic waste of time. I take full blame.

It's a sponge!

I did discover one interesting thing. The Eltanin "Antenna" -- a strangely shaped object that has baffled researchers since its appearance in an underwater photograph in the 1960s -- has been identified as a sea sponge.

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

I just read that psychologist/abduction "therapist" Constance Clear died today. I'd read her book and was on her radio show, "Clear Talk," a couple years ago to discuss Mars anomalies. Clear wasn't the best radio host in the world; the best part of the experience was talking with her on the phone after the "interview" was over. I personally have grave doubts regarding support groups of any kind -- let alone groups created specifically for swapping alien stories. While I think abductions are real, I find the idea of abduction support groups shallow at best and damaging at worst. Some people claiming uncomfortably close encounters seem entirely normal, but some are fucking nuts. While this is true of any cross section of the population, I suspect that the nuts occupy a privileged niche in the abductee subculture, muddying the waters of objective research.

I don't know for sure where Clear fell into this scheme. Frankly, I found her entirely too credulous. Or was that merely her showbiz persona?
There appear to be two principal ways of approaching the alien abduction enigma, provided one doesn't brush it off as psychological aberration. One camp sees abductions as the workings of physical space visitors who are here to harvest genetic material, apparently for an obscure reproductive agenda. (Think "hybrids.") The other laments our Western fixation on materialism and addresses abductions as "imaginal" events -- that is, real events that somehow don't fit into normal waking ontology.

But both outlooks are beginning to merge. In his latest online journal entry, Whitley Strieber reveals that when he was stuck with the infamous "rectal probe" in 1985, a jolt of electricity stimulated him to an unwanted and unpleasant orgasm. He now suspects the aliens wanted a sample of reproductive fluid. This is something of a revelation coming from Strieber, who has always dodged the question of what, exactly, his "visitors" are for the admirable reason that he isn't sure. But now he describes an unmistakably physical scenario that wouldn't look out-of-place in Temple University professor/abduction researcher David Jacobs' "Secret Life." Strieber makes no attempt to attach any metaphorical interpretation to his unsolicited sperm sample; he thinks his abductors sincerely wanted to get their hands on his DNA. In other words, the event was physical, and so were the beings orchestrating it.

Meanwhile, materialist Budd Hopkins ("Intruders," "Sight Unseen") is recounting bizarre case-files that read like episodes from Strieber's books. Strange figures in bizarre costumes walking the streets of contemporary America. "People" in outlandish garb who appear and disappear in unlikely places like John Keel's beloved Men In Black. Apparently if a researcher sets off to prove a nuts-and-bolts explanation for UFO abductions, he's eventually forced to acknowledge the weirdness factor that leads other, more spiritually inclined researchers (i.e., Harvard's John Mack) to think that aliens are far more challenging to empirical analysis than "mere" extraterrestrials.

The growing acceptance of multiverse theory is welcome to both groups, and is possibly the single-most important factor leading to a "grand unified theory" of alien abduction. Who needs outer space when you have unlimited parallel universes? In a very real sense, beings from a coexisting universe would satisfy criteria for "nonphysical," since they're presumably able to duck back and forth at will, eluding our eyes and instruments. Our science isn't up to this challenge yet, but perhaps -- if we keep doggedly pursuing our strange guests -- it will be eventually.

What the UFO world needs now is a new book by Jacques Vallee, who anticipated all of this a long time ago.

Monday, October 20, 2003

I've written about neurologically integrated media before, but this wasn't quite what I had in mind . . .

I tried to trade in my old Dr. Martens today. A split had formed on the sole. Unfortunately, it had been over a year since my last trade-in, so I settled with 40% off a new pair. (I'm not being a cheap-shot, either; contrary to their advertisements, Dr. Martens will disintegrate just like any other pair of shoes if you wear them regularly. That said, they're still good shoes.)

Work was unexpectedly tolerable today.

Sunday, October 19, 2003

I'm halfway done with "Sight Unseen." Unexpectedly good. I might have to give Hopkins' "Witnessed" a try.

Yesterday I woke up to find that my replica Mars Pathfinder lander was missing from its customary spot beneath my lava lamp. I found it behind my fridge where my smallest cat, Ebe, had deposited it -- miraculously without breaking off the solar panels in the process. Along with the miniature Pathfinder, I discovered a veritable graveyard of abandoned fake mice. I hadn't realized that cats stockpiled things. In any case, they're not nearly as habitual about it as ferrets.

Outside my window a strange annual spectacle known as the Duck Derby is in progress. This involves dumping industrial quantities of floating toy ducks in the artificial creek that winds past my street and betting on the outcome. The winner gets a Volkswagen or something. We Kansas Citians really know how to live it up.

I purchased a huge chunk of disk space for my website the other night and am gleefully uploading graphics that I'd been sitting on for fear of exceeding my quota. No chance of that now.

Saturday, October 18, 2003

I couldn't help myself: I bought Budd Hopkins' "Sight Unseen" in hardback. And I don't regret it; it's shaping up to be very good, regardless of my quibbles with Hopkins' slant on alien abductions.

I almost bought "The Essential Simon and Garfunkel," a two-disc set, but decided to hold on; "In Time: The Best of R.E.M." comes out on the 28th. I reserved a copy of the bonus disc limited edition. Can't wait.

Friday, October 17, 2003

The Mars image fiasco continues unabated. I emailed a guy at Cal Tech; the plan is to circumvent MSSS entirely and get permission from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). It's their spacecraft, after all; MSSS's Mars Orbiter Camera just happens to be on board. Meanwhile, Patrick Huyghe and I are at our wits' end. Actually, I suspect he's getting the worst of it, since he's got Simon & Schuster breathing down his neck and I've got something of a buffer zone. I'm signing an addendum to my original book contract dealing with "theme park rights," among other things. Jesus Christ. Can you imagine a theme park inspired by my Martian ruminations? So can I!

Yesterday I received a phone call from the author of a website dedicated to the idea that aliens are flesh-and-blood extraterrestrials abducting humans to produce a race of hybrids. He objected, with some justification, to the review I'd written about his research. Afraid of coming across as flippant and dismissive (I don't think the UFO/alien phenomenon allows such luxuries), I retooled my review with an emphasis on making up one's own mind.

Lastly, I've survived my first week at my new job. It's ended on a much better note than it started -- not that that means terribly much. My plans for this weekend are to finish "Day of the Triffids" and sleep in late.

Thursday, October 16, 2003

I just got the following spam message and couldn't resist posting some of it. You never know when stuff like this will come in handy.

Subject: Drink bitch

Need a fake id to get into the nude bar and see some pussy?
Too young to get your girl drunk and screw her?

Really -- don't you just hate that?

By the way, I desperately need to see "William Gibson: No Maps For These Territories." Fortunately a friend videotaped it for me. Now if someone would just give me a TV and a VCR I'd be in business.
Imagine a new Space Race with the ultimate goal of extraterrestrial contact. I think this is conceivable. No more Apollo-esque dramatic gestures; there may not be time. The first political entity to "claim" ETI just might inherit the universe.

Michael Moore famously declared that we are living in a fictional era. More accurately, we're living in a science fictional era.

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

China has launched its first astronaut and returned him safely. Read all about it.

The new issue of Mysteries magazine is out. I have two capsule book reviews in it. Most news-stands should carry this. And if they don't, you can ask them to. (Do you see what I'm getting at here?)

Oh, yeah: MSSS = Malicious Scum-Sucking Shitheads. (Not bad, huh?)

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

The wonderful gang at Malin Space Science Systems wants to charge me/my publisher $1400 for use of NASA images that have already been paid for by American taxes. Apparently they know my book is about the Face on Mars, etc. and want to make things as difficult as possible. They wouldn't even respond to my publisher's repeated email and post-mail inquiries until Simon & Schuster paid them an unannounced phone-call. According to MSSS, they've been "backlogged." Doing what? Stealing from other authors who dare to question the official verdict on alien architecture?

The irony is that if I hadn't asked permission I could have used all the MSSS images I'd wanted and they wouldn't have raised a fuss -- other authors have done it. This is what you get for playing it straight.

If NASA stands for "Never A Straight Answer" and JPL stands for "Just Plain Lying," what does MSSS stand for? Hmmm . . .

Monday, October 13, 2003

My new job is worse than I could have possibly expected. It's a fucking Kafkaesque nightmare. Brain-chilling motonony.

Carlin was damned funny last night. He has misanthropy down to an art.

Sunday, October 12, 2003


I almost forgot -- this evening I paused in my reading of "Triffids" in the midst of a chapter called "A Light in the Night." I then walked down the street to Barnes & Noble, where I went to the New Age section and opened a book whose first chapter was also called "A Light in the Night." Moreover, I've actually been thinking about nightlights recently; just the other day I was checking out the selection in a drug store and almost purchased one.

Things like this happen quite often to me. Is it all sheer coincidence or am I glimpsing some sort of underpinning beneath the veneer of normal consciousness?
I begin a new job on Monday. And while I'm fairly certain it will be better than my last one, I'm finding it extremely difficult to get excited; I have an authentic horror of corporate America and everything associated with it. Working a job is very much like serving a prison sentence for me, and my only possibility of "parole" is to become self-sufficient through my writing.

I see George Carlin Sunday evening. Carlin is one of my heroes; stand-up comedy's answer to Kurt Vonnegut.

Saturday, October 11, 2003

"Day of the Triffids" is one of the scariest books I've read. Oddly plausible and well-realized, it's easily as good as other Cold War apocalyptic disaster fiction (i.e., Shute's "On the Beach," Ballard's "The Wind From Nowhere"). "28 Days Later" totally ripped off Wyndham's opening. I wonder if I'm the only one who's noticed. Maybe it was a deliberate homage.

Budd Hopkins has an new book out, "Sight Unseen," co-written with a woman I've never heard of. I disagree heartily with Hopkins' assessment of the "alien abduction" phenomenon, but I'm still curious to see what he has to say.
What I'm reading: "First and Last Men" by Olaf Stapledon, "Day of the Triffids" by John Wyndham

What I'm listening to: various Cure, David Bowie's "Heathen," Bjork

Inside Starbucks, embalmed in ersatz serenity. The furnishings and posters and sale items are dangerously immaculate: ranks of stainless steel thermos bottles and miniaturized espresso machines with sports-car curves . . . I admit to a strange longing for Starbucks' spurious sense of order, where the most difficult decision I have to make is whether to have my espresso topped with steamed milk.

Friday, October 10, 2003

If this is a virtual reality, as I suspect all realities must ultimately be, how does one unplug himself from the system?

I think I might start "Day of the Triffids" today.

I've got to get my circadian rhythms under control. I'm exhausted and on the brink of despair. The world is groaning at the seams like some haphazard structure losing an inevitable war with gravity. System crash. White noise. A new pattern emerges from the chaos, the informational equivalent to a quick-growing vine. Blindly we stumble into the pungent green embrace of sentient plants.

Going, going, gone.

Thursday, October 09, 2003

I've been mulling over the "Dust Hypothesis" advanced in Greg Egan's "Permutation City." The DH suggests that innumerable alternate universes exist, flawlessly creating themselves from random "noise" to match prespecified template patterns. This implies that our seeming existence could rapidly blink on and off; we'd never be the wiser. Are our physical "constants" being rewritten and introduced into "our" spacetime by an external force? I don't think there's a way to tell short of finding a blatant flaw (or deliberate message) in the universe's system architecture.

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

This afternoon at the coffeeshop: fat, balding man and his ugly wife throw a tantrum about the price of the coffee. I was dizzy with anger at these morons and I don't even work there. The male specimen was really getting into his role as Defender of the Common Consumer, yelling at the top of his lungs, requesting completely irrelevant biographical details from the manager and punching numbers into his cellphone. He wanted names, dates. He wanted to know who owned the place. He was consumed in a righteous frenzy of masculinity and totally fucking enjoying it. He even threatened to take his business to Starbucks. How original.

Displays like this are the last refuge of the ineffectual. How temptingly easy it is for these meat-headed bastards to play Hitler to some blameless, anonymous face behind a counter. I don't believe in "hell." But if such a thing happened to exist, I sincerely wish such people would promptly go there, preferably to rot.

In other news, "Ah-nold" has predictably won the California election. Here's a guy who openly expresses his admiration for Adolf Hitler . . . and people vote for him. American democracy is an ugly farce. George Bush could spend his 2004 campaign promoting genocide and he'd still win so long as he's framed by the proper iconography. Americans pay lip-service to this love of "freedom" that we supposedly have, but most of them are as empty and fragile as the man in the coffeeshop, ready to abandon any loyalty to principles at the drop of a hat if it means a quick ego-massage or the chance to make-believe they're somehow important or noteworthy in the depersonalized milieu that is the early 21st century.

John Brunner was right. We have more information than we know what to do with. We're all solipsistic tyrants thrashing and twitching in choreographed planetary death-throes and pretending we're having a good time. We can order pizza online, so who gives a damn if our armed forces are busy slaughtering an entire culture to prove the machismo of a single worthless, unelected politician?
Started "Big Planet" by Jack Vance: a pretty quaint "planetary romance." Robert Charles Wilson has a new one out. I'd like to see him win both of the big genre awards. "The Chronoliths" certainly deserved the utmost praise.

Tuesday, October 07, 2003

I finished "The Shockwave Rider." Great book, and not just for its cybernetic trappings. I didn't know whether to put my review on my SF page, my Postmodern page or my Dystopian page (there's ample room for overlap), but settled for the latter.

"Life is very long when you're lonely."

--The Smiths, "The Queen Is Dead"

I'm convinced Morrissey has a quote for everything. This could be symptomatic of some as-yet unclassified psychopathology . . .

Monday, October 06, 2003

I'm reading "The Shockwave Rider" by the late John Brunner ("The Sheep Look Up"). Curiously, portions of this protocyberpunk novel take place in Kansas City. This book is most famous for predicting computer viruses (or, as Brunner calls them, "tapeworms," which is a really good metaphor; indeed, many real-life computer viruses are known as "worms"). Brunner also appears to have anticipated "phreaking" and today's preoccupation with identity theft. And although his imagined future has something very much akin to the Internet, it's more Orwellian than the real thing -- or so I'd like to think.

Sunday, October 05, 2003

Flocks of teenagers materializing like thought-forms borne on the cool night air. An edge of autumn -- brisk but not cold. The Cancer Survivors' Park like an apocalyptic oracle, its touch-activated television screen locked against the encroaching chill, its statues frozen copper silhouettes.

A couple making out in the passenger side of a new Porsche; I glide by clutching my coffee, libido twitching sullenly somewhere in my skull. I find myself rediscovering a close-knit labyrinth of fountains and staircases and charming apartment buildings named after long-dead writers. The lights of Saturday traffic and gaudy horse-drawn carriages are mercifully eclipsed. The world is all shadowed architecture, suddenly shattered as I reenter the realm of the living, coffee cooling steadily. The usual anonymous hordes and casual lovers refracted through caffeinated synapses.

I buy a smoothie at a coffeeshop (Depeche Mode playing in the background) and gradually lose myself in John Brunner's "The Shockwave Rider." The immaculate sidewalks, sparkling as if pregnant with diamond, steer me home, past hotels, across the dark scabrous flow of Brush Creek. My apartment building has a new entry keypad, sans telephone handset. Made of reinforced stainless steel, it has the worrying appearance of something designed to survive an imminent nuclear attack.

Through the abandoned lobby with its fading pink carpet and neatly arranged couches.

Into the elevator.

I punch 9.

Friday, October 03, 2003

I started James Blish's "A Case of Conscience" today . . . and not much else. I was going to see Al Franken this evening, but a petulant student assistant at the University of Chicago's Oriental Institute drove me to distraction by stating that I owed the Institute a cool $40 for an archaeological image I have posted on page 25 of my Mars site. Give me a goddamned break. I'm making absolutely no money from the image; moreover, I've linked to the Institute's source pages. This practice is commonly known as free advertising. Yet they're troubled because of some pre-Internet fine print.

My editor is requesting permission to use the image in my book and I get chills thinking what absurd price he'll be quoted. I personally think we've lavished quite enough time on securing permission for various images as it is. The U. of Chicago can stick it up its bureaucratic ass. Let's get the book on the shelves, already.

Thursday, October 02, 2003

Damnit, why can't I see stuff like this?
I finished Silverberg's "Dying Inside," probably the best book of its kind that I've read since Walter Tevis' "The Man Who Fell to Earth." I highly recommend this one. Fortunately it's in reprint, with a new introduction by critic John Clute.

After straightening my bookshelves, I've decided to stick to science fiction of the 60s and 70s instead of continuing with my present postcyberpunk diet. I've been wanting to read James Blish's "A Case of Conscience" for a while now. And it will be fun rediscovering Clifford Simak and Brian Aldiss.

Non-fiction wise, I'm sort of at a crossroads. I need to finish "Strange Secrets" so I can provide a review for Mysteries magazine, but I'm also torn between Vallee's "Anatomy of a Phenomenon" and John Fuller's "Incident at Exeter." Not to mention Jung's "Man and His Symbols."

The steam radiators in my apartment have been turned on. I woke up the other day to the smell of hot, aging metal and wondered half-heartedly if the building was on fire.

Some not-so-recent science fiction everyone should read:

1.) "Quicksand" by John Brunner
2.) "Thorns" by Robert Silverberg
3.) "Seetee Ship" by Jack Williamson
4.) "Slan" by A.E. Van Vogt
5.) "Childhood's End" by Arthur C. Clarke

And since I'm waiting for my Yahoo Mail account to come back online, here's what I've got in my CD player:

1.) "Naked Lunch" motion picture soundtrack
2.) "Alien 3" soundtrack
3.) "Crash" soundtrack
4.) "Blue" soundtrack


5.) "Lux Vivens" by Jocelyn Montgomery and David Lynch

No words on any of these except some snatches of dialogue (in French) on the "Blue" CD. If words are indeed viruses, then my apartment is the sonic equivalent to a biohazard cleanroom.

I have a sudden urge for Cap'n Crunch . . .

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

My friend Corey Mohn announced today that he's running for Congress. Personally, I wish he was running for President, but one thing at a time . . .