Carl Zimmer’s At the Water’s Edge is an excellent introduction to the complexities that lie behind (and support) evolution, a subject too often simplified to the point of trivialization. So it was great to see that he has a blog, and amusing to see him bring his particular spin to “cat blogging”.
Blog posts tagged "science"
I’m currently reading Mike Davis’ “The Monster At Our Door: Global Threat of Avian Flu”, and finding it very interesting.
In particular I’ve been unexpectedly struck by how much like raving, leftist loonies dedicated moderates sound when they start writing comprehensively about current events. First Jared Diamond with Collapse, and now Mike Davis. (also, unfortunately, I think this book will firmly cement Davis, one of my favorite authors, into the “Prophet of Doom” ghetto)
Turns out that the key factors pushing the evolution and possible pandemic rise of an avain flu super killer (best case says 50 million dead, worst case as many as 1 in 6) are crony capitalism, and big multi-nationals (global agribusiness). Meanwhile preparedness has been dramatically damaged by the incompetence, and duplicity of the current administration, its phony war on terror, its headline grabbing disaster, the Dept. of Homeland Security, and its deeply incestuous relationship with “Big Pharma”. (in fairness, it was also damaged by the previous administration, and the previous one, clearly traceable, like many modern ills, to the days of the Great Gipper)
I haven’t decided if its alarming or comforting to find our old friends, these familiar horsemen of modern apocalypse lurking behind yet another potential global disaster.
Crooked Timber is really my favorite group blog of late, occupying largely the same spot randomWalks did when I was first getting into blogs.(ah, that distant past) It’s intelligent, and insightful, and funny (I’m constantly wanting to quote bits), and the range!
Case in point, I just found a lovely thread on China Mieville, starting with CT’s post, Speculative Economics: if the scifi/fantasy you’re reading isn’t dealing with economics, then you aren’t reading the right books.
Which links to an earlier piece by Henry, Goblin Markets, reiterating that Meiville is a frickin world building genius.
From there the thread is picked up by John Holbo (another CT contributor), acknowledges China’s world building, but questions how subversive his story telling is, but I just have to call out this bit, but it’s so perfect
Even while I was reading, I remember having a distinct ‘can we just slow down this exciting chase scene so I can take in the scenery?’ reaction. Meiville should seriously consider writing a thumping great historical political economy of his world â€“ Marx’s Das SilmarilWhere do I sign up, I’d pre-order right now!
I’ve made a handful of passing references over the years to the genre I call “New Wave Socialist Scottish Sci-Fi” of which the principle proponents are Iain Banks and Ken Macleod, but also Charlie Stross, and (though he comes from a bit farther south) China Meiville. While there is some obvious accuracy to the moniker, I mostly used it to amuse myself, and as a way to speaking about this group of authors who are currently producing some of the most interesting, amusing, creative and yet relevant literature anywhere.
However reading Stross’ blog this evening, I found that there is significant truth to my turn of phrase. Checkout the Edinburgh Writers Bloc. They’ve got a whole movement going on up there. (no word on whether they do their readings in balaclavas)
p.s. it’s worth clicking through to read the related entries on this post.
Lion’s BloodApparently Steven Barnes, whose Lion’s Blood I recently read and enjoyed and whom Kendall saw speak today (lucky bastard) and whose Zulu Heart was supposed to come out in March (come on people its almost April, you’re making me wait!), has a short story in the conjure tales anthology next to Gaiman. This is a good sign. Lion’s Blood is a much more intriguing and rich alternate history then Ruled was; I recommend it highly. One minor quibble, occasionally its ambitions as a parable get in the way of its story telling, leading, I think, to a time line with too many parallels to this one. Really only noticeable if you compare it to a master alternate history like Card’s Pastwatch.(which has a much subtler, is not nearly as enlightened, agenda)
Ruled BritanniaRuled Britannia ended predictably I’m afraid. I hoped until the very end for some surprise of substance, but it was not forthcoming. The 3 page historical end note on the other hand was fascinating. Turtledove talks about what would have been required for Spain to have invaded England at that time, and where the verse for the fictional Boudicca came from. In his estimation if the Armada had gotten lucky enough to land the Spanish infantry would have trounced their English counterparts. I wondered about Boudicca, as it seemed awfully good, and in fact Turtledove borrowed much of it from a play Bonduca, by Shakespeare contemporary John Fletcher, and from Marlowe’s Tamburlaine.
This is both clever and cynical, for the effect would have be utterly ruined if the reader had recognized the words. (as was the case with his more obvious borrowing from Titus to account for the bulk of King Phillip) I wonder as the body of human literature grows with the passing years if each literary age will be boiled down to a single known author, the rest forgotten?
A Storm of SwordsAfter I finished A Clash of Kings, I told myself I was done with George Martin’s Ice and Fire series. The books were nasty, brutish, and grim; favored characters die like flies, 10-15 pages will be spent introducing a new player sympathetically merely to kill them off, good deeds are consistently punished, and much of the action is very, very dark. They are however, anything but short, and when you’re on a serious reading jag its nice to have some book whose length you measure in inches between covers (without being as insipid as Jordan’s Wheel of Time novels).
A Storm of Swords takes an entirely new turn in the plot. Many of the now 1600 page old subplots advance, but the really innovative new material comes from the new subplot about the Starks, recently cast from their ancestral home, and their new mercantile endeavors. Seems Brandon (you remember, the boy who Martin lavishes praise on for 30 pages in the first book, then cripples) is a wizard for marketing, and the few remaining Starks spend most of Storm launching a line of winter outerwear under their famous family words, “Winter is Coming”(tm). Storm closes with Brandon masterminding an innovative new line of winter sports gear under updated classic, “Winter is Now!”(tm), in an effort to battle off the encroachment of the “big box” stores from the South, and online, discount e-tailers from the North. Martin is really doing something new, and unprecedented with high fantasy. I’m looking forward to his take on the gentrification of King’s Landing in the upcoming A Feast for Crows.
Was reading Gaiman’s journal and he mentioned he had a story in a recently released anthology, Mojo: Conjure Stories. Conjure stories are a problematic sub-genre of local color fiction. One I happen to be impressed by. And I think Gaiman is amazing. But he is also as white (if not as pure) as driven snow. I don’t know. I’m skeptical but intrigued.