A Science Fictional Tinge to the News

Climate change refugees. How’s that for a frightening thought?

It’s not like the world doesn’t already have plenty of refugees fleeing from war. Or a not inconsiderable number of people who might be considered economic refugees — people immigrating legally and illegally in search of a decent standard of living.

But climate change refugees? People who have to find someplace else to live because their home is no longer habitable because the climate is changing? Sounds kind of like science fiction.

The PBS program Now had an update April 3 on the multi-island nation of Kiribati, which is literally sinking into the Pacific Ocean.

And the minute they introduced the show, I thought of Kim Stanley Robinson’s series of novels that begins with Forty Signs of Rain. Some of the main characters in those books are Tibetan monks who resettled on an island off India after being forced out of Tibet. Their island is sinking into the ocean. Continue reading

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My Guilty Pleasure: Interview Magazine

Yup, that’s right, I have a subscription to the gossipy, Paparazzi-driven, ad-ridden Interview. My motives are pure, though. I bought it for my SO, a SoHo man from way back. Style and famous people are his milieu. Peter Frampton once gave him a Hamer guitar designed especially for Frampton. Later when Frampton was going through a divorce and needed the cash, he asked for it back. The SO, a Tele fanatic, didn’t mind. He said it was just a Hamer anyway.

 Besides the fact that the SO is into that sort of stuff, though, there’s another reason why I subscribed to Interview: the salesman was irresistible.

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Mango. Tree. Note Where Fallen.

My father, when I was a kid, used to bake onions in the fire, and upon serving them would quote Frank Lloyd Wright, who reportedly said, “What a boon to the creative imagination is the baked onion.”*  That’s sort of the way I feel about children.  When I had my kids I began to look at the world through their eyes, which gave me a knee-high perspective on all sorts of things I’d fallen into the habit of regarding from five feet up, and that perspective had a way of inching into my work.  To its betterment, I must add.

Having kids also gives you an appreciation for nature and nurture, both.  The other day my younger daughter sent me a text begging me to pick up the next book in an SF series she has started reading.  The text ended, “I am your daughter, after all.”  Well, she had me there–I started them early on books, and both of the girls got hooked which makes me very happy.  What startles me, sometimes, though, is that it’s not just the reading that got passed along, but the writing.  And this ventures into family history and Mommy Kvelling. Continue reading

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Golden Lion Tamarins – Feminists?

GoldenliontamarinGolden lion tamarins are a beautiful species of monkey that live in the Brazilian rain forest. Their scientific name is leontopithecus rosalia. Golden lion tamarins are not just beautiful, they are unique in behavior and fascinating for those who study them.

While still highly-endangered, tamarins were at the brink of extinction in the 1960’s and 70’s, with only about 200 individuals surviving in the wild. The cause of their decline is one we know all too well today: destruction of habitat for human use. Their rainforest habitat is now completely scattered and they live in about 18 different groups separated from each other, in isolated patches of forest. Today, there are about 1,500 tamarins in the wild, thanks to captive breeding and re-introduction programs, and increased national pride and awareness in Brazil of the precious nature of these beautiful creatures that call Brazil home. Continue reading

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Is BVC Fiction Good For You?

Do you do things that are good for you? Or do you do things because you like doing them?

Mikey got it right: he does it because he likes it. Don’t tell Mikey, but, by the way, breakfast cereals can be good for you, too.

Keith Oatley, a Toronto based psychologist, has been working the problem of fiction: Is fiction good for you?

In a recent article in the Greater Good Magazine
Oatley reports, “It (fiction) measurably enhances our abilities to empathize with other people and connect with something larger than ourselves.”

Fiction is about characters and trying to understand how characters act and feel and why they do certain things. By reading fiction we start to understand the possibilities for human actions and motivations. Oatley’s research concludes that fiction is good for you.

So, you want to read some of the Book View Cafe fiction? Go ahead, you’ll enjoy it.

Darcy Pattison

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Warning: Cleanliness Can Be Hazardous to Your Health

This has been a wheezy week for me, replete with headaches and extra fatigue. (Which I need, by the way, about as much as an extra navel.) And the reason is a bit of overly enthusiastic housecleaning down at the church where I’m organist.

This is Holy Week for Christians, and within such traditional denominations as the Roman Catholic and Episcopalian Churches, it is a Very Big Deal indeed. As a corollary, this means Eastertide calls for a copious amount of musical preparation. Even though I started several weeks back, I’ve still been swamped. Continue reading

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Superman/Batman #57: A Very Short Review

Say what you will, there is something classic about teaming up Superman and Batman.  Complementary in characters and strengths, stories with both heroes can do things and go places that are quite different from the individual titles.  sb A case can even be made, that it is when the characters become like each other — when Batman goes to outer space to fight aliens, for instance — that quality dips drastically.  In difference is strength.

DC has been well aware of this for decades, naturally.  The old World’s Finest comic was in publication for decades and had an entirely different dynamic from the various team titles, Justice League of America and so forth.  The current incarnation, more simply titled Superman/Batman, often suffers from many of the modern comic book ailments like decompression and the four or six-issue straitjacket dictated by the need to republish in trade paper.  Another persistent flaw is a weakness in the endings — why does a great start frequently tail off into mild disappointment?  A kick-ass ending should be as essential as spandex.  I wonder if this does not stem from how the story is sold to the editorial staff; are the writers hoping that a great ending will just appear as they go along? (When will they learn that this happens about as often as a new roof spontaneously generating from the rafters of your house?  You want a roof, you have to plan it, support it with the proper framing, and pay for it.)

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My Year in LA: The Sci Fi Channel Interview, or, Vonda Encounters Makeup

The Moon and the SunThe Chesterfield Company called me at more or less the last minute to tell me I’d been accepted into the Writers Film Project, a year-long screenwriting workshop at Amblin and Universal. Perhaps they had somebody drop out, or possibly they just took a while to make up their minds about accepting a genre writer into the group.

We did joke about “Chesterfield Time” over the course of the year.

I had to pack up a few changes of clothes and my laptop and find a place to live and get down there in a hurry, with my current project wagging its tail behind me.

Before I heard from the workshop (which I didn’t expect to get into), I’d contracted to write a Star Wars novel. The deadline was quite tight. For the first few months I was in LA, I was working on the novel as well as going to daily WFP sessions.

This was all made somewhat more stressful when the powers-that-be started rumbling about an “unacceptable” plot point, which happened to be the point the entire novel balanced on. Once I was so upset about the situation that I put my head on Jacques Cousteau’s desk and cried.

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Everything I Need to Know I learned from American Folk Songs

Awhile ago, I was pointed towared the magnificent Everything I Need to Know I Learned from British Folk Ballads.  I have since come to feel we need the American version.  This being the new world, we learn quite a different set of lessons.  Here are some:

1) He don’t love you.  He never did.
2) She don’t love you.  She never did.
3) Because he/she don’t love you, he/she will do you wrong with an unspecified 3rd party.
4) Killing the 3rd party will not help anything.
5) Neither will killing the stranger that she says wants you dead.  See 1).
6) Caliber of gun used to kill 3rd party is immaterial.
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Measuring Failure

Measuring Failure:

Recently I received a fan letter from a 16 year old high school student.  Unlike most of my mail from readers, this was hand written and sent snail mail to my publisher, then forwarded to me.  Most people contact me via email through my website.  I’m sending a copy of this blog back to her with a personal letter.

This student confessed to me that she wanted to become a veterinarian.   Not just normal small pets.  She wanted to work with exotic animals.  But all the adults in her life told her not to bother.  She’d never succeed. Continue reading

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