The motivations of alien beings

Goat-Red-Surprise
Ever wonder what an alien thinks? Well, aliens may be in short supply in our daily experience, but life in the country recognizes alien beings all the time.  It’s just that they typically have four legs.

So, today we’re driving along the road on top of the holler and we see a good-sized goat trotting diligently down the middle of the (deserted) pavement. We pull alongside and ask it what it’s doing, and it pauses to consider the question, but continues on its determined way.

The next driveway belongs to a neighbor, and we think he may keep goats, so we pull in and, sure enough, the goat (following us) turns in, too. So we head to the house to let the neighbor know he’s got a goat loose, but no one’s home. Meanwhile the goat trots into the one-stall barn, and takes up his post next to the horse there, good buddies that they clearly are.

It's those horizontal slit pupils that betray their alien heritage

It’s those horizontal slit pupils that betray their alien heritage

We shrug, head on home, and later give the neighbor a call to tell him about his goat’s travels. Only it turns out, it’s not his goat. It belongs to one of his neighbors and is in the habit of paying his horse a visit from time to time.

That goat had places to go and people to see.  Wasn’t lacking for motivation at all.  Wonder if it borrowed a cup of oats while it was there?
 
 
 
 

Novel considerations

facesofthenovel-webOnce again, the humor of Grant Snider.  There’s my work, down at the bottom, next to the end.

Too many distractions

Oatmeal_procrastination

Word Crimes

WordCrimes
I’ve become a recent Weird Al Yankovic fan.

Here’s one that has the writing community in stitches.

 

 

 

 

 

Of brownies & of bogles full is this book

Tam o'Shanter 1

Tam o’Shanter (Abraham Cooper)

Online Scots Dialect Dictionary

Tam o’Shanter: A Tale by Robert Burns (1790)

Where sits our sulky, sullen dame

Where sits our sulky, sullen dame

WHEN chapman billies leave the street,
And drouthy neibors, neibors, meet;
As market days are wearing late,
And folk begin to tak the gate,
While we sit bousing at the nappy,
An’ getting fou and unco happy,
We think na on the lang Scots miles,
The mosses, waters, slaps and stiles,
That lie between us and our hame,
Where sits our sulky, sullen dame,
Gathering her brows like gathering storm,
Nursing her wrath to keep it warm.

This truth fand honest TAM O’ SHANTER,
As he frae Ayr ae night did canter:
(Auld Ayr, wham ne’er a town surpasses,
For honest men and bonie lasses).

O Tam! had’st thou but been sae wise,
As taen thy ain wife Kate’s advice!
She tauld thee weel thou was a skellum,
A blethering, blustering, drunken blellum;
That frae November till October,
Ae market-day thou was na sober;
That ilka melder wi’ the Miller,
Thou sat as lang as thou had siller;
That ev’ry naig was ca’d a shoe on
The Smith and thee gat roarin’ fou on;
That at the L — d’s house, ev’n on Sunday,
Thou drank wi’ Kirkton Jean till Monday,
She prophesied that late or soon,
Thou wad be found, deep drown’d in Doon,
Or catch’d wi’ warlocks in the mirk,
By Alloway’s auld, haunted kirk. Read More →

Where I spend my time

WritersRetreat-GrantSnider

Who can resist Grant Snider?

Breaking the logjam

LogjamMen
Sometimes I’m asked, “How do you come up with these invented worlds so you can write about them?”

I don’t think that’s the right question. I think the real question should be, “How do you make these invented worlds seem real?”

I’m working on Structures of Earth, the first book in the series The Affinities of Magic. I plan to write several books in this series, and I’m approaching the first book as the foundation story, the prequel to the long string of stories to follow. I have a plot and a team of characters, and a good bit of the book written, but for the last while my brain has been raising alarms, saying “Stop. Something’s wrong.” Read More →

Books vs Banking

Aby_Warburg

Book & Art Collector: Abraham Warburg

Max_Warburg_1905

Banker & Patron: Max Warburg

From a review by Ingrid Rowland of Dreamland of Humanists: Warburg, Cassirer, Panofsky, and the Hamburg School by Emily J. Levine (Chicago)

For more on Aby Warburg’s fascinating life see here.

A school photograph taken in Hamburg in 1879 shows thirteen-year-old Abraham Warburg among his classmates, conspicuous for his dark coloring and the mischievous, bemused expression on his face. Aby is obviously a handful. He dominates this solemn group portrait as definitely as he dominated his boisterous and numerous family, seizing attention with his quick wit and his tempestuous moods.

Aby knew his own mind. At thirteen, around the time the photograph was taken, he made a deal with his twelve-year-old brother Max: if Max would promise to buy Aby all the books he wanted for the rest of his life, Aby would hand over his designated position in the family bank. Both brothers were as good as their word. Max Warburg, the illustrious banker, would later declare that “this contract was certainly the most careless of my life,” and it would cost him dearly over the years. By 1914, Aby Warburg’s personal library numbered 15,000 volumes, many of them manuscripts or rarities from the earliest days of printing. Max and the three younger Warburg brothers, Felix, Paul, and Fritz, continued to subsidize their eldest brother’s bibliomania up to and beyond his death in 1929. Aby called the resulting collection his Kulturwissenschaftliche Bibliothek Warburg or Warburg Library of Cultural Science.

Not long after making his pact with his brother, Aby Warburg decided to become an art historian. This was a brand-new profession in the late nineteenth century, a profession greatly facilitated by the new medium of photography, which enabled scholars to keep extensive, informative visual records of the things they had seen as a supplement to written notes. Aby collected photographs as eagerly, as imaginatively, as he collected books. He assembled his photographs for a specific purpose: he wondered how and why images could trigger such powerful emotions. Hamburg’s most famous Enlightenment intellectual, Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, had addressed the same question in his essay “Laocoön,” a poignant meditation on the relationship between beauty and suffering that focused on an ancient marble statue group unearthed in Rome in 1506. The sculpture, signed by its three Greek creators, portrays the Trojan priest Laocoön and his two sons wrapped in the coils of two gigantic deadly snakes, slowly suffocating to death. Lessing marvels that the figures can provide such pleasure with their beautiful bodies and exquisite surface polish as they writhe and grimace in their private agony. (Lessing, amazingly, might have worked from engravings and a plaster cast of the sculpture rather than the real object.)

Like his contemporary Bernard Berenson (they were born one year apart, Berenson in 1865, Warburg in 1866), Warburg took special delight in the sinuous lines of late-fifteenth-century Florentine painting and sculpture, aware that these works had been inspired in turn by the era’s reawakened interest in ancient art (including the remains of frescoed walls as well as works of sculpture in marble and bronze). Both men revered Botticelli, and Warburg also admired Botticelli’s contemporary Ghirlandaio. (Baroque artists such as Bernini, Borromini, and Caravaggio struck them both as monstrous corruptors of the classical ideal.)

Read the whole review.

Circus Train Wreck

Circus Train wreck 1Our farm is on the top of a hill on the edge of the Allegheny Front, and at one time a railway ran along the base of the same hill, descending the front. Every day we cross the trackway (now bare earth) at McCann’s Crossing, and pass the memorial for the Walter L Main’s All New Monster Shows Train Wreck of Memorial Day, 1893, claimed at the time it occurred to be the worst tragedy in circus history.

There are local verbal accounts, not all of which seem to be substantiated by the on-the-spot news coverage of the day.  One rumor claims the wreck was caused by one drunk Jake Friday, sleeping on the tracks (which may tell you more about the reputation of the extensive Friday clan in the area than about the disaster).  Apparently the circus elephants were harnessed to help pull the wreckage apart.  There is supposed to be a large pit grave for the dead animals at the memorial site (most of the circus horses died, as well as a few others).  Hannah Friday meeting the tiger while milking her cow is still a popular story, no doubt partly because the official memorial refers to it.

As the memorial declares:

All the animals that were not shot were finally accounted for.  The snakes were never recovered.

(A nice bit of writing, that.)

Excerpts from a variety of contemporary news accounts…

Read More →

The Technology of Magic

Thomas Edison's lab

Thomas Edison’s lab

The Fantasy and Science Fiction genres are distinct in several ways, but there is a certain degree of overlap as well. Both of them specialize not in things as they are but in things as they might be. They may differ in where the emphasis of the story goes — SF is notorious for typically making “the idea” and its consequences the point of the story, not necessarily the characters — but in this post I want to concentrate on what they have in common.

I’ve read SF&F all my life, and the two genres are cross-fertilized for me now. I like my SF best when it has moral characters as well as ideas, and I like my Fantasy best when its magical or supernatural elements are treated consistently, as though they were science.

It’s a truism in an SF story that you can change just one thing arbitrarily (time travel works, men live for centuries instead of decades, there are sapient aliens we can meet) and, if you can do an adequate handwave in the direction of scientific plausibility, the reader will accept it, as long as the notional basis is scientific (rational). For example, there may be religion in SF societies, and there may be powerful beings who seem to be indistinguishable from gods, but you can’t have real gods (supernatural entities) as agents in SF (though you can have a belief in them). That’s because god(s) may or may not exist, but science has nothing to say on the subject. That’s why they are literally “supernatural”, not “natural”.

What you must do in SF, however, is deal with the change consistently, e.g., if men live for centuries, there will be social and economic consequences. The story can be about those consequences, or they can be a background to the story, but they must be consistent, and a very great part of the pleasure of reading SF is the exploration of the consequences of such an idea.

Fantasy is a broader category. It accepts that those areas where it differs from quotidian reality may not be capable of rational explanation. Hence you can have supernatural entities (gods, elves, demons) as well as beings that might or might not be supernatural (vampires, werewolves, dragons). Read More →