Summer reading list

May 22nd, 2017 | Posted by Mush in Reading | Sci-fi | Spiritual - (0 Comments)

In which I’m not Bill Gates, but I have a book list, too!

I’ve finally started Cloud Atlas. I bought it months and months ago and it’s just been sitting five screens deep on my Kindle Paperwhite:

It is absolutely goddamned brilliant. No question.

A Calamitous Chinese Killing is still in the pile. Inspector Singh is adorable, as ever. I’m about halfway through:

The Dark Monk is next. I bought it because the book’s design looked cool. The cover is black and gold, and the pages are torn. It’s translated, so hopefully it’ll be a good read, as sometimes translations can be a little flat:

Contact, by Carl Sagan, because I really like the movie and I’ve never read the book:

Still reading my abridged 1970 copy of Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna with the gilded ink on the spine and cover and the ribbon bookmark. Might be reading it again, actually; I really don’t know if I’ve ever finished it, as I frequently set it down for months then just open it at random:

The Outpost, by Mike Resnick. Came part of a sci-fi humble bundle that remains, to date, mostly un-read:

The Shelf Life of Happiness. May not finish this one, depends on how it unwinds:

The Heretics of De’Ath:

The Sheep Look Up, because it was a Nebula finalist:

A Gitanjali re-read. I bought a physical copy because it’s so beautiful and maybe the power will go out or something and I’ll need something that’s not electronic to read:

There’s more unread stuff on my Paperwhite and on paper both, but these are the titles I care about now. My reading habits have become so erratic in the past couple of years that we’ll see how many of these I actually finish, and how many non-listed books I’ll read instead.

What’s on your summer reading list? Anything I’d like?

Chapter 5

June 16th, 2010 | Posted by administratrix in Sci-fi | Writing - (9 Comments)

In which there’s a finale. (See chapter 4.)

25.

“Oh dude,” I said. “That would be awesome. I don’t know how to test the water, or if the soil will support earth seeds–”

“I can teach you,” the baby said. “I have knowledge that was supposed to be accessible to you.”

Someone on my comm yelled, “All that shit’s in the wiki, Jenny! Ask him what he is!”

I turned down my comm speakers. “So, giant alien baby. What are you? And why do you look like a giant human baby?”

“I didn’t know that these were many dead individuals. I thought it was one dead individual and asked it how to be an infant. This is what they showed me. I’ve never seen many dead individuals.”

“Whenever you encounter dead individual, you ask it how to be a baby?”

“Yes, and then we’re a baby, and we grow up, and we die. Until someone else asks us how to be a baby!” Giant baby was overwhelmed with happiness by this and clapped his hands.

We talked for an hour, and then I took pity on everyone else and set up a board and read their questions from it, and the giant baby answered them, and the visit spawned about seventeen Martianbaby wikis as he talked. He was really good at telling us the human knowledge he had absorbed, but was maddeningly vague about himself.

Before I left the dome, he let me take a sample of him. I approached with a sample collection pack he had located for me, and touched his fat knee with a swab I then sealed into a tube. I also made a couple of slides. He wasn’t smooth; he was dusty and pink. His skin looked more like something you’d find in your shop-vac than anything else, and I had the impression that he’d blow away in a strong wind.

“Would you blow away in a strong wind?” I asked him.

“Um, yeah. No? We’re not sure. We’re very big!” He clapped again, but he didn’t disintegrate, so maybe not.

“Well, when the dust storm comes, you’ll have to wait it out in here,” I said.

(more…)

Chapter 4

June 14th, 2010 | Posted by administratrix in Sci-fi | Writing - (5 Comments)

In which there’s a fourth chapter. (Go to chapter 3.)

19.

“My dome? What?” I replied, grabbing my helmet so I could actually talk to the guy. “What do you mean?”

“There’s something wrong with the cameras, Fred,” someone said calmly.

“It’s a fucking Martian! Ye gods, even worse: some bastard child of human DNA and Mars!” someone else shouted.

“Can you see the video feed?” asked the man from Higher, who was apparently called Fred.

“Nope, I’m in the restaurant,” I said. I can just walk over there–”

“She can fix the cameras,” voice #2 said.

“No! Don’t go into the dome until we establish communication with it!” said voice #3.

“Restaurant?” said yet another voice.

“Listen, listen!” Fred said, and I could literally hear him flapping his arm for silence. “It looks like there’s a life form in the dome. We want audio. Can you manage that?”

“A life form,” I said.

“Yeah,” he said.

“In the dome.”

“Yeah.”

“The dome is filled with dead people, Fred,” I said. “All my friends’ bodies are in there, Fred.”

“Get somewhere you can see the video feed and call back, okay, kid?”

“Okay,” I said.

“And then we’re totally gonna need audio,” Fred said.

“Whatever,” I said.

(more…)

The sci-fi novel I'll never write.

September 22nd, 2009 | Posted by administratrix in Sci-fi - (5 Comments)

In which there’s a vague overview.

The character that’s been living in my head for the last decade is an alien.

The premise is that extraterrestrials have always been here; a ship (which happens to be self-aware and is currently hidden from human satellite surveillance at the bottom of the ocean) crashed on earth during the time of the pharaohs. The beings on it were capable of extreme self-directed genetic mutation. Being bilaterally symmetrical, they made themselves look like humans and have been here the whole entire time, a secret subculture among us.

They have their own government and social hierarchy. They have wealth, access to advanced tech they can use but not produce, and lab-like enclaves around the globe. They live among us, worldwide. There are about five million of them.

They had their own version of the Prime Directive, but they certainly didn’t hesitate to direct the shape of human science. After all, they had a freakin’ supraluminal spaceship and we didn’t even have steam engines yet, let alone anything that would help them get their boat back into space, so one could argue that they had to help where they could.

Some of our greatest scientists? Are them. Reinventing the wheel.

Languages around the world contain words we’ve learned from them. Insert a lot of sci-fi genre jokes… Roddenberry would have known one of them, for instance, and many Star Trek words and concepts would actually be out of their culture. They’d be the source of Heinlein’s “grok,” as they’d eat portions of their dead in order to avoid genetic flaws.

Human behavior that makes little sense would have been learned from them. They mate for life. When one of the pair dies, the other dies as well, so it turns out that they actually introduced humans to life-long commitments because they have a biological drive to pair up even though we don’t.

They’re dual-gendered like humans, but for reasons unknown to them they quit having daughters a generation after arriving and have been breeding with us for thousands of years. They breed true because they have incomprehensibly long, complex DNA. I have no idea how to explain that, but humor me here.

They’re called T’Kaa (though it would probably be better if I chose a well-known alien race name out of sci-fi cannon). They even go into kemmer (nod to LeGuin), a hormonal/sexual state during which they achieve, say, adolescence, or mate-bonding, or conception.

The character in my head is one of these aliens. His family has been breeding for beauty and intelligence for well over five thousand years; he is an omnibus prodigy and has multiple unrelated PhDs by the time he’s a teenager, including one in music performance of classical guitar. In his early twenties he blossoms into a phenomenon that even his own species hasn’t seen in three thousand years: massive strings of dormant DNA activate and he becomes a walking miracle… or menace, depending on how you look at him.

He can manufacture anything he wants in his own body and secrete it any way he likes; he can compel all members of his own species at will, and humans too (only with less subtlety), by simply sweating or breathing. He could, if he wished, manufacture a plague and exhale it into the world, wiping the face of the earth of all life. He can heal his own body of any illness or injury. He’s a genius. He’s insanely rich. He’s terrifyingly powerful.

He’s also a pop star, who basically keeps himself famous by filling concert halls with excellent pheromones. Everybody loves him. His orgies are legendary.

He’s called a sh’corne, which is a type of creature that only emerges when there’s a great need for one. Past bearers of the title have stopped plagues, healed millions, and changed the course of T’kaa history.

He has authority among his own kind by virtue of his House (although he’s House Mondavi, not Atreides), what he is genetically, and their own biological imperative to obey him because of both, but most of them think he’s fairly ridiculous. No one knows why a sh’corne has manifested since there doesn’t seem to be a particular threat against the T’kaa.

Then it turns out that the ship – repository and Archive of all things known to both species – needs to be moved; seismic activity indicates that she’s about to fall into a terminally deep fissure in the bottom of the ocean.

So a flurry of activity among the T’Kaa occurs and the upshot is that our hero, the pop icon Jake Mondavi, goes on TV amd says, “Hey, I know y’all think I’m a rock star, which I am, but it turns out I’m also not human. Here’s the documentation of my weird physiology etc etc etc. Oh, and we need help from several earth governments to move our mothership before she falls into a freakin’ chasm where we can’t get to her ever again.”

And hilarity ensues as humanity realizes that it’s been manipulated by aliens for all of recorded history, and that a bunch of us are actually them.